It is tricking people to believe something is true when it isn't, maybe by altering the facts (counterfeit truth). This subtle and underhand twisting of people’s thinking is aimed to mislead them. Deception resembles the truth, and appears plausible. No one sets out to be deceived, but by not comparing everything back to the standard of God’s Word we can depart from the truth. We can both deceive others and be deceived ourselves.
Hiding the truth, whether by half-truths, white lies, blatant lies or exaggeration are all dishonest measures, that don’t present the correct situation. Untruthful statements often compound like a snowball and just get bigger and more damning. The Bible says, “Do not give false testimony…Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” (Ex 20:16; Lev 19:11). Lying is a trait of the old life which we have discarded so we must speak truthfully (Eph 4:25; Col 3:9). When we have only half the truth, we have deception.
Willful deception says, 'I can get away with it!' Nevertheless, there are consequences for all our actions. “A false witness won’t go unpunished” (Prov 19:5,9). Rebecca deceived Isaac by substituting Jacob for his brother Esau (Gen 27:1-46). From that time, the family separated and was never a family unit again. Ananias and Sapphira were judged harshly for lying, with the verdict, “You were lying to God not us” (Act 5:1-10). Honestly and truthfulness are always very important in our relationships with God and other people to avoid disastrous consequences. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8,10).
If we are not living a changed life, we are lying if we say we are walking in closeness with Jesus (1 Jn 1:6). Actions and appearances can give false impressions, causing us to understand situations differently from the reality. Contrast this with “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” (Num 23:19). How often do we fall short of His standard? Man looks at the outward image; this superficial impression can be like a hypocrite’s mask giving a completely inaccurate and misleading picture of the real state within, yet “God looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). He sees the real deal! We can’t fool Him.
It is possible to have sincere but wrong convictions (Jn 16:2). Paul was convinced he was doing right by persecuting the Christians (Act 26:9). Then he literally saw the light and the error of his belief (1 Tim 1:12,13).
Eve was deceived by Satan who inferred what God had said was incorrect by introducing a doubt, “Did God say that?” No wonder he is called the “father of lies” as he is always manipulating the truth as he did when tempting Jesus (Gen 3:1,13; Mt 4:3-9; Jn 8:44; 2 Cor 11:3).
How it comes about
Lies and deception originate with Satan (Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9). He uses a variety of means to mislead, entrapping people in what is counterfeit and not true:
1/. “The old self is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” (Eph 4:22). Sinful people choose to exchange the truth for a lie by not wanting to walk in the truth because they love their evil ways, and so become deluded believing the lie to be the truth (Isa 5:20; Rom 1:25; 2 Thes 2:11).
2/. “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Deut 11:16; Ob 1:3). This is a subtle tactic of Satan to turn people away from following and serving Christ. They think they are walking with Him when in fact they have actually missed Him, considering themselves “pure in their own eyes and yet not cleansed of their filth” (Prov 30:12). At the judgment seat they will say, “Lord, we have prophesied in your name”. The divine response will be, ‘You have not done the will of God so I can’t let you into Heaven’ (Mt 7:21-23).
3/. False prophets and reports will be spread in the last days, deceiving many, and even Christians will fall into error (Mt 24:4,5; Lk 17:23, 21:8; 2 Thes 2:9,10; 1 Tim 4:1). People in cults have been deceived in this way. Often this has come about by a wrong emphasis or interpretation relating to a Bible topic. Pay attention so you will not be deceived because you have ignored God’s rules (1 Cor 3:18). Disregarding the conviction of the Holy Spirit when you have sinned diminishes your spiritual hearing capability. God's punishment on those who continually refuse to believe the truth is He sends them a powerful delusion (2 Thes 2:11,12).
Keys to guard against being deceived
Are you walking in the truth? – 3 John 1:4
2 Tim 3:16). Study the whole Bible not just selected parts. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set free” – and keep you free as you walk in it (Jn 8:31,32).
* Listen to and do what the Bible says otherwise we deceive ourselves (Jas 1:22).
* Search out God’s ways and yield to His Spirit’s voice and your conscience. He will give the witness of peace.
* Be alert to Satan’s strategy by watching and praying (Mk 13:33).
* Have a vital relationship with God and ask Him to protect you.
* Seek wisdom and understanding – the ability to perceive truth.
* Attend a Bible-believing and teaching church.
* Don’t accept all that you hear or read without confirming it by Scripture (Act 17:11).
* Walk in the Spirit, living by faith and not by sight (Rom 8:4; 2 Cor 5:7; Gal 5:16,25).
* Have close relationships to others who will speak lovingly to you if they see you going astray (had there been accountability between Adam and Eve things would have been a lot different!). Ideally, this should be across different denominations and localities too.
* Don’t act or speak quickly, obtain the full facts first. Get sound advice rather than just blindly accepting the opinions of others.
* Don’t deceive others, but walk in honestly and sincerity. The sowing and reaping principle typifies Jacob’s life. He lived by deception and he reaped it throughout his life.
Questions to consider. Does the teaching I receive glorify God or the person giving it? Is there balanced teaching from the Word or is there the projection of human reasoning and philosophy? Is the emphasis on Christ, the path to holiness with a diminishing of self and giving up carnal ways? What place is given to the blood and cross of Christ?