Joshua 9 – Part II – Preached at Ebenezern church on 22 Nov 2009)
Last week, we looked at 4 different groups of people in Joshua 9.
These were 1) The Nations in Canaan
2) The Gibeonites
3) The Israelites; &
4) The Leaders of Israel
Today, I want to zero in on the Gibeonites.
Last week, we saw the deceptive behaviour of the Gibeonites.
And we learned that we need to be very wise so that we won’t fall into such deception in our lives.
Today, I want to focus on another type of deception that is even more dangerous.
And this is spiritual deception that the devil, Satan has cast upon the world.
Spiritual deception is very subtle.
And its effect on us is eternal if fall into its trap.
There are 2 types of spiritual deception that I want to point out today:
1) Worldly deception and 2) doctrinal deception.
1) First, Worldly Deception
The devil has packaged the world and all that is in it as such an attractive place to pursue and attain.
But listen to what the Apostle John has to say about this.
Please turn with me to 1 John 2:15-19.
(15) Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
(17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
(18) Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour.
(19) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us.
The Apostle John tells us that “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” are what the devil will be tempting people with.
And there will be a group of people who will ultimately succumb to this temptation.
And they will leave the Church.
And the Apostle John tells us that we must not be alarmed if this happens.
This is all part of the great deception of the devil.
These people were not part of us in the first place (verse 19).
The test of the genuineness of a Christian is how he stands in the face of this deception.
The danger of all these lie in the fact that because it is a deception, most of the time, the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life” may not come in the form of direct temptation where you can easily recognise.
Let me quickly go through each of these types of temptation to explain what I mean.
a) The Lust of the Flesh
The lust of the flesh may not come in the form of a direct breaking of the 7th commandment “you shall not commit adultery”.
Remember what our Lord Jesus said in Matt 7:28 “but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
We may not break the 7th commandment physically.
We may also not be tempted in a direct manner to break the 7th commandment.
But the various media that we encounter everyday may present to us a subtle breaking of the commandment even without us realizing it.
TV programs, commercials where the actors behave promiscuously may subtlely infect our minds.
Many times, we watch them innocently without any intent.
But the contamination of the mind may take place sub-consciously in the degeneration of our minds.
In magazines and newspapers, we see models promoting all kinds of dressing that appeal to the flesh.
Sometimes, without asking questions, we just dress like them or accept their way of life as normal because they have been drummed into our minds sub-consciously as being appealing.
And this is not problem just for young people.
Young and old alike can fall into this deception.
So beware this great deception of the devil.
Many things come packaged like the way the Gibeonites do: very convincing, very legitimate.
But the end of it is the breaking of God’s precious commandments.
2) The lust of the eye
What is the lust of the eye?
Our eyes are delighted when we see riches and rich possessions.
This is the lust of covetousness.
From the latest gadgets, cars, fashion to beautiful houses, our hearts will desire to get them all.
Our hearts will tell us there are very good reasons to have them.
They will appear to be legitimate needs and not just wants.
Even if they appear to be beyond our financial reach, we will strive to acquire them.
And to possess them, it may cost us a life-time of loans and mortgages.
Sometimes, it may mean breaking the law or silencing our conscience so that we can possess them.
Friends, beware the lust of the eye.
3) The Pride of Life
What is the pride of life?
It is the love for grandeur, pomp and glory.
It is the thirsting after honour and applause.
You may have heard of this person called Tiger Woods – the top golfer in the world.
He was once interviewed as to why he continues to play golf and what he enjoys most when doing it.
He is not a Christian and obviously has no concern about glorifying God in what he does.
He says that he is motivated by the good feeling of victory and the sound of the roaring audience when he sends in a winning putt.
What motivates you to do your best in competitions, in your studies & in your careers?
Is it for honour and applause or is it for the glory of God?
We need to be very careful because the lure of self glory and self actualization (those who have studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) is a great deception Satan uses to lead us away from God.
And in this aspect, sometimes we may end up doing things we may not be gifted in or called to do.
For example, many people desire to be managers and leaders.
Many people have it in their minds that when they reach 30 years old, they must reach the position of a manager in their career.
And they would do whatever it takes to seek those positions so that they get the grandeur, pomp and glory associated with such positions.
Some even set themselves a target to make a million dollars before they reach 30.
But they never ask themselves whether they are gifted and called to be such.
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life.
These are worldly temptations that the devil will tempt us with.
They will often come dressed in a very convincing and legitimate manner, just like the Gibeonites.
But they will lure people into ultimately breaking the commandments of God.
The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Pet 5 that “the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour”.
The devil will appear like a friend because he is out to deceive you.
But he is not a friend – he is described as a “roaring lion”.
If you are not a Christian today, know well that you can only escape this if you flee to Jesus Christ, to take Him as your Lord and Saviour.
For only He alone has withstood this temptation of the “lust of the flesh, the lust the eye and the pride of life when he was on earth”.
The true Christian, when tempted with the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life”, if he falls, he will repent and return to the way of the light.
If he is not a true Christian, he will continue the way of the devil and finally leave the Church.
This is what the Apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:19.
2) Secondly, let us look at doctrinal deception.
We have seen the first form of spiritual deception – worldly temptation.
Let us now look at the 2nd form – doctrinal deception.
In 1 John 4:1, the Apostle John warned us explicitly: “Believe not every spirit but test the spirits whether they are of God, for many false prophets have come into the world”.
In other words, there will be many people who claim to teach the truth about God, but in effect are actually false teachers.
Some of these false teachers know very clearly that they are not promoting the truth about Jesus Christ.
An example of this would be the extremist cult groups.
But some of these false teachers may not even know that they are teaching falsehood.
So they may be teaching these falsehood with great conviction in their heart.
How can it be?
The answer lies in what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 4:3-4
(3) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: (4) in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them.
You see, the eyes of these false teachers are blinded to the truth.
The question we want to ask is this: with so many false teachers around, how are we to tell the difference between who is true and who is false?
In Deut 13:1-3, Moses provided us with some guidance on how to tell a true prophet from a false one.
Turn with me to Deut 13:1-3.
(1) If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and he give thee a sign or a wonder,
(2) and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
(3) thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams: for Jehovah your God proveth you, to know whether ye love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
So, you conclude whether a prophet was from God by determining whether his prophesy will come to pass.
You also tell whether he was a real prophet by whether he promotes the glory of God and draw people to God, rather than to himself.
And note that prophesies in the old testament are not generic, but specific.
For example, when Elijah prophesied that it would not rain, he was specific on how many years there would be no rain.
James 5 tells us that this was exactly 3.5 years.
It was precise and specific – this is a sign of a true prophet.
As reformed Baptists, we do not believe that there are any more Prophets in the world today.
What God has chosen to reveal to us has already been revealed and recorded in the Bible.
However, many charismatic Churches still claim to have supernatural gifts of prophesy.
I have been to some of these churches and heard how they proclaim their prophesy.
They will say something very generic, something that cannot go wrong.
For example, I heard one of the “prophets” stand up and proclaim “God will bless the Church”.
We know that God will bless His church who honours Him and gives Him glory.
You can’t go wrong with this.
Now, I am not generically put down all charismatics.
But I can tell you that these who claim the gift of prophesy today are not true prophets.
They do not pass the test that Moses laid down for us.
The danger in all these lies in the fact that many of them appear very Christian.
They use the same bibles, sometimes sing the same hymns and address God through Jesus Chirst in the manner we are taught in the Bible.
Now, again I want to say that I am not trying to put down or judge other Churches.
I personally know some very fervent Christians in Charismatic Churches.
But some of these practices are dangerous because they are not biblical.
Worse still, some of these practices can be very appealing and therefore deceptive.
For example, many of you may have heard of this term “cell groups”.
In practice, many people attend “cell groups” and not local Church worship.
Some of these “cell groups” meet on other days of the week only and not Sunday to facilitate the schedule of their group members.
So, is “cell group” a local Church?
How does it stand against the doctrine of a local Church?
Recently, we also hear of some Churches doing video conferencing.
So, some people can attend worship remotely and need not be physically present.
This is very appealing to technologically savvy people.
It seems to provide a solution when we have situations like SARS.
I also remember that I once attended our Church prayer meeting via skype when I was in Korea.
But the danger of all these is that if you adopt it without questions, it soon gives people an excuse for not being physically present in Church.
Doesn’t this contradict the teaching in Heb 10:24 where we are exhorted to regularly meet together?
I hope you can see that the devil is using many such things that appeal to people as a great deception to lure them away from true and sound doctrine.
Again, they come dressed like the Gibeonites with a legitimate and convincing story.
So, we need to be very wise.
Let me give you yet another example of doctrinal deception.
I once received an email from a Christian circulation.
It hyperlinked me to an interesting web site.
It started a slide show: Sceneries of beautiful nature, mountains, lakes, golf courses; tranquility at its best.
In the background was soothing music; accompanying words telling you to slow down your pace and enjoy your life.
Think about the beautiful nature around you. Think about wonderful life.
Mean while, the soothing music continues.
Before I became too absorbed into it, I realized that the site was promoting yoga and meditation.
Looks very Christian; very appealing to people like me who are trying to slow down my pace.
But it is all a subtle deception.
New age philosophies, having a form of godliness by their tranquility.
Watering down the Christian faith to just having a sense of tranquility.
But they speak nothing about sin and the atonement by Jesus Christ.
What true peace can there be if there is no forgiveness of sin?
What can Jesus mean to you if there is no preaching against sin and the holiness of God?
I hope you can see why I say these things are so deceptive.
We must be very alert to detect them.
And I want to tell you that you must arm yourselves with a sound understanding of Christian doctrines.
You need to study the bible and know your faith.
Else you will not be able to tell between what’s genuine and what’s false.
I hope in this short span of time I have managed to sound out the dangers of spiritual deception to you.
Like Peter said, the devil is like a roaring lion, out to seek whom he may devour.
We need to be wise; we need to be watchful.
Worldly deception and doctrinal deception.
These are 2 forms of spiritual deception that we looked at today.
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life are worldly deceptions that often come dressed in a very convincing and legitimate manner.
But they will lure people into ultimately breaking the commandments of God.
Spiritual deception requires us to be alert to the clear doctrinal teachings in the bible.
Let us be wise and alert to these deceptions.