“Be Not Deceived”
At the packing house where sheep are slaughtered and processed, hundreds of nervous sheep will huddle together with a sense of danger in their unfamiliar setting.  To calm the fears of the sheep, there is a goat known as “The Judas Goat.”  Knowing that sheep have the peculiar habit of following any member of their herd who seems to know where to go, the Judas Goat is placed within the herd and trained to associate with the sheep in the field.  It grazes with the herd, lies down with the herd, rubs shoulders with the herd, and in all respects acts as though it is one of the herd.  It ultimately gains their trust and is accepted by the herd.  At the appointed time, the Judas Goat confidently walks up the ramp where it repeatedly stops and looks back to reassure the herd all is fine.  The herd then follows the confident goat to the top of the ramp where the goat passes through a little gate on the left, but the herd is forced to turn right where they are led into specially marked pens, the back of trucks, or right to their death in the slaughter house itself.  It is a dramatic illustration of the deadly consequences of deceiving those with the herd mentality.   
When you hear people speak of the signs of the end of the age, they quickly mention wars and conflicts, national disasters, persecution of Christians, and unbridled iniquity.  However, when the disciples asked Jesus, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?”, the first words Jesus spoke are often overlooked.  In Matthew 24:4, Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.”  The word “deceive” means “to lead astray, to lead aside from the right way.”  Deception has become pervasive in our society.  From slick marketers, iconic entertainers, Supreme Court justices, to charlatan pulpiteers, the purpose is the same and that is to remove the conscience of the masses.  Warren Wiersbe once said, “You can tell a lot about a man by what makes him laugh and what makes him cry.”  Sadly, our generation now laughs at those things that caused our forefathers to blush and weep.  The more we laugh the more we are desensitized to any sense of danger and the faster we race toward despair.  It is a tactic that dates all the way back to the dawn of time in the Garden of Eden.  So, it should be of no surprise that Jesus said one of the marks of the last days would be great deception.  It takes wisdom, discipline, and discernment to combat the growing deception around us.  With the stage being set for the antichrist, and our world being primed for a holocaust unlike any in our history, where must our focus lie to avoid being a victim of deception?   
We must beware of misguided people.  In 1 Corinthians 15:33, we read, “Be not deceived: evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners.”  The choice of whom we allow to occupy a place of influence in our life is one of the most critical of decisions we make in life.  As believers, we want to be  loving and trusting, and always give the benefit of the doubt.  However, we have grown accustomed to being lied to, conned, manipulated, betrayed, and duped.  Such experiences have left us suspicious of most everything and everyone.  Scripture has warned us of coming wolves in sheep’s clothing, but how can you determine the trustworthiness of those who carry spiritual authority in your life?  In Matthew 7:16, Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits...”  There is a vast difference between a fruit tree and a Christmas tree.  A Christmas tree may be decorated with sparkling lights and garland, but they are merely a disguise to cover the reality that the tree is dead because it has no roots.  A fruit tree is less dazzling, but it will produce continual fruit because it possesses life from within.  A good rule of thumb to remember is this; gauge a man’s life more by what it produces than what it portrays.  Adrian Rogers said, “We have no right to be believed as long as we can be explained.”  Without any “had it not been for God” moments, a man’s testimony will be hollow.  Beware the man who can only tell you what he did and how he did it!  
We must beware of misleading philosophies.  In Galatians 6:7, we read, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  The word “mocked” carries the idea of someone turning up their nose in disregard and to sneer at in disbelief.  The world has always made it a practice to distort, dissect, and deny God’s Word.  They love to borrow the line from their father, “Hath God said?”, to raise doubts in the hearts of those lacking firm convictions.  Make no mistake about it, the root of all deception can be traced back to challenging the authority of God’s Word.  Cultural changes may introduce new beliefs and behavior, but the principles and precepts of God’s Word are timeless and trustworthy.  Falsehood is most appealing to those who hold unsound biblical views.  Charles Stanley said, “The best way in the world to deceive believers is to cloak a message in religious language and declare that it conveys some new insight from God.”  The security blanket for the believer is to be deeply rooted and grounded in a knowledge of God’s Word.  A good rule of thumb to remember is this; if it is new, take time to prove it is true.  If the words do not add up, then there is a good chance truth was left out.  The world may never give God the first word on matters, but rest assured, God will always get the final word!
We must beware of misrepresented performance.  In Luke 21:8, Jesus said, “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ...”  Anytime God has the genuine and the authentic, Satan will always have his clever counterfeit.  The phony will always be used to give the false appearance that success implies godliness.  We must ever be mindful that everything that looks, sounds, and smells spiritual is not of God.  One can become so enchanted with effort and achievement that he may overlook the motive and intentions.  In 1 John 4:1, John writes, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God...”  The word “try” means to examine, scrutinize, and approve as authentic.  In order for anything to be tested, there must be a standard by which to measure.  D.L. Moody said, “'The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.”  The level of our trust in others is in direct relation to what they confess to believe about Jesus Christ, and how loyal they are to Him.  A good rule of thumb to remember is this; a life that is not true to Jesus Christ will never be true to you.  There is no way that a man can ever be right with God who is wrong about Jesus Christ.
The call that Jesus extended to His disciples is the same call He extends to you and I.  It is a request to “follow Me.”  Alexander the great said, “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”  A man is never more safe when he is following the Lord.  When the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant approached the miracle at the Jordan River, they were paced far enough ahead that all who were following could confidently see.  What a tragedy it would be to think you are following the hero only to discover, when it is too late, that it was merely an old goat!   
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2015 Alan Stewart
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