Satan is the master of subterfuge, he specializes in deceiving people into believing something is one thing when it really something quite different. He loves making a lie look like the truth and the truth a lie. He especially gains sweet delight from deceiving Christians into denying fundamental truths they actually think they are affirming. It is in his work on the Christian’s perception of truth, that he unleashes his most destructive deception. This is a deception that undermines not only the content of the truth, but the very nature of truth itself.
In biblical Christianity, the message of truth and the method of truth cannot be divided. Indeed, the Bible advocates that a person cannot claim to believe truth about God without allowing that truth to have a real and practical moral claim over the believing person. In short, faith in God’ truth must show itself as practical obedience to that truth.
Knowing this Satan makes a concerted effort to conceptually divide the believing and the doing in the mind of the believer; discrediting the value of either or both. Moreover, once dividing them, he specializes in getting the Christian to actually think that the act of believing truth is synonymous with the practicing of the truth believed. Of course, this deception is never more effective than when applied to the revealed truth presented in the Bible.
Satan, by manifold and secret means, advances the error that upholding God’s Word as true is just as good as obeying the truth it commands. As such, a theoretical belief in the truth of God’s Word comes to be viewed, by those who fall for this deception, as being synonymous with practical obedience. If it were framed in slogan form, it might read something like: Good intentions are just as valid as good deeds or it’s the thought that counts!
Do you recall the account of the Garden of Eden temptation, where Eve affirms the authority of God’s Word when tempted by the Serpent? “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'” Genesis 3:2-3 (NIV) She affirmed the truth! But, no sooner had her thoughts been twisted by the tempter’s smooth deception and filtered back through her own logic, she acquiesced to the subtle temptation and disobeyed it.
Incredulously, she disobeyed the very command that only moments before she had upheld. She was duped into believing that knowing God’s command was simply enough; what she did or didn’t do in relation it, didn’t really matter. It’s the thought that counts, right? However, Eve only found out the horrifying truth of failing to obey the known truth when the pangs of her conscience drove her to hide from God’s presence, and the shameful reality of sin bit hard when she and her husband were cast out of paradise.
Not only did it not stop with Eve, but the passage of time enabled the potency of this deception to escalate. In fact by Jesus’ day, the Jewish religious elite, under Satan’s gaze, had developed this nefarious error into a sophisticated art. They could now systematically uphold the theory of scriptural authority for other people whilst simultaneously denying its personal moral claim over their own lives.
The Pharisees were so adept at subtly modifying the meaning of God’s truth to suit their hypocritical practices, that they could, for example, affirm the letter of the law when condemning a woman caught in adultery; even as they reinterpreted the divorce requirements of that very same Mosaic Law to enable them to ‘legally’ commit adultery. In their scheme, the idea of the truth could be upheld even as the fundamental essence of it’s meaning was practically denied in the most heinous way, and this without even the crisis of conscience that Eve wrestled with!
But, let’s not be too hard on the Pharisees. Even the modern orthodox religious elite are not immune from this deception. Especially academics who reflect on the doctrine of Holy Scripture; those who resolutely defend it by means of theoretical notions such as inerrancy. So passionate are these people that they will do anything to defend it, and in the process of defending this idea ‘at all costs’, ignore the specific moral injunctions of the truths defended, often treating with contempt sincere Christians who don’t share their narrow theoretical framing of Holy Scripture’s revelation. Yes, even defenders of the truth can uphold the idea of scripture as truth whilst disobeying its truth content. It would be funny, if it were not tragic.
All this gives Satan the greatest delight.
Furthermore, though it pains me to say it, this this deception is also rife among ordinary Christians. Those grass roots believers who willingly agree that the Bible is true, but allow the necessities and urgencies of their daily lives to override the fundamental belief that truth must be obeyed to be valid. They allow noble intentions toward to the truth to become a cheap substitute for the real thing. Rather than allowing the Word of God, divine revelation, to set them at odds with the world and its agendas, the Bible’s ethical and pastoral commands are taken as optional in the face of life’s pressures: ignored, dismissed, or reinterpreted to suit the their own situational ethics.
Sadly, in downplaying the practical commands of Holy Scripture, these Christians unconsciously treat people with indifference and God’s will as practically irrelevant; except of course on major issues that cannot easily be hidden. To put it bluntly, they affirm God’s truth but live how they want!
In acquiescing to Satan’s subtle modification that truth becomes simply an idea that demands no moral response, their God given role in life is fundamentally compromised. Though they may not be fully aware of it, they can no longer be assured of a favorable response from God on the final day of giving accounts.
Now, having critiqued this subtle deception and some of its implications, let us now give our attention to the truth as God sees it. God’s revealed truth as set forth in Scripture, was never intended to become an abstract doctrine, a principle to be mentally acknowledged whilst being practically ignored. Rather, it is a living revelation of divine truth that demands practical obedience: on a daily basis, in all situations, and in the most mundane of details.
In fact, Jesus explicitly warns his followers about the error of thinking that theoretical truth is a substitute for practiced truth. He does so through the parable of the wise and foolish builders—a teaching immediately following his discussion on false teachers.
He teaches that the person who hears His words and obeys them, putting them into practice, is like the wise builder; one who lays a solid foundation of life well lived before God. Such a person has nothing to fear on the day of giving accounts. However, in contrast, the person who hears the word, recognizing it as truth, but failing to obey it, is like one whose life is without a solid foundation—having an appearance of security whilst actually having none. On the great day of giving accounts to God, this person will find out that the horrifying truth: “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘ I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’” (Matt 7:23 NIV)
Furthermore, the apostle James makes a similar point when challenging his readers to also put their faith into practice. He writes, “Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.” James 2:18-19 (NIV) James is asserting that claiming to trust God and his truth without putting that trust into practice is little more than a devil’s faith— that’s right, even Satan and the demons believe in the truth of God’s word!
In essence, a faith in God’s truth that does not manifest itself in practical, loving, and devotion to God and his people, in James estimation, is simply non-existent. Belief in the revealed truth of God’s word must therefore manifest itself in practical obedience to that same truth, to be in valid before God.
The message is clear: Even an apparent sound theology of the Word of God and its truth content is no substitute for obeying its revealed commands. Good intentions about divine truth do not equate with good actions. Faith in God and his Word must be actually lived out in ethical conformity to God’s will, to be counted as acceptable before God. All the good intentions and noble beliefs of the religious life count for little when it comes to giving an account to God on the final day. The only thing that really matters is, what actually was ‘done’ in response to what is ‘known’.
To put it bluntly, knowing the will of God and not doing it, is effectively doing the will of Satan! Did I just say that? Well, now the nature of the deception has been made clearer, such a statement should no longer shock or surprise us.
Therefore, the sober challenge is before us. Don’t allow the enemy of your soul to continue deceiving you with the error that noble thoughts about God’ truth equate with practically living out that truth–they simply do not. God’s truth as revealed in Holy Scripture, is actually divine revelation that demands a practical/moral response. It is not a theoretical suggestion requiring rational reinterpretation before it can be considered worthy of application. It is God’s truth, did you get that, truth originating from God the source of all truth.
Therefore, resolve today, if you have fallen for this deception, to break away from this malignant ideology and make a concerted effort to start practicing what you know of God’s revealed truth. In fact, resolve not to study any more theology about God ( in whatever form it takes) until you are willing to practically obey the truth you already know.
I want to say from practical experience, that once you overcome the fear of doing it, you may be pleasantly surprised at the joy it brings. Not only so, but the desire for the revealed truth of Holy Scripture (as divine revelation) will begin to grow in you, as your readiness to practice this truth draws you into an ever increasing thirst for God’s wisdom, and of course a love for the one who gives that wisdom.
God’s truth is not simply an idea to believe; it has hands, it has a heart, and it has a voice. It has a form that needs to be grounded in such a way as to honor God: living rightly before him and by loving those well before you.
May God bless your new endeavor to walk in the freedom of the truth.