“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…” – 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
As Christians, we need to be constantly on the lookout for enemies in disguise. We must be alert every day and every hour because the arch-enemy of mankind – incredibly powerful and utterly evil – dresses up as an angel of light. He pretends to exude goodness and truth and wisdom to everyone around him. And not just him, but his servants, too – both demonic and human – all try to look purer than Ivory Soap’s 99.44%.
You know, I’d rather that the enemies of the Cross always looked like the bad guys in Lord of the Rings: ugly and hideous on the outside and therefore easily recognizable. But we don’t have it that easy. The enemies of the Cross frequently look like “good guys.” Their appearance can be very appealing. Their words are often tremendously attractive and can sound very plausible. They may even do some good things while leading their victims down the garden path of deception.
Let’s make this very practical in terms of what is happening in the world today. There are:
--- Leaders at every level of government who do and say some good things but whose true agenda is dangerous and destructive.
--- So-called “medical experts” spreading disinformation about health issues, misleading and even harming people.
--- Speakers who appear, on the surface, to be calling for peace and equality, but whose words and actions really support systemic racism and oppression.
--- News and social media sources that give biased reports that cater to people’s wants and inflame emotions, rather than delivering the objective reporting needed to make wise and informed decisions.
--- Religious leaders who disguise political affiliations, personal and systemic sin, or outright heresy with the use of “Christian” lingo and Scripture twisted out of context.
You’ll notice that I don’t “name names” here. The reason is this: I want to challenge ALL of us to examine who we are listening to, who we are believing, and who we are giving our loyalty to. I repeat: ALL of us need to engage our “discernment muscles,” regardless of our political stance, views on the pandemic and protests, preferred news outlets, or favorite speakers and authors. It is very easy to be infiltrated with lies and deceptions in this world where we are constantly bombarded with information. That is why we ALL need to examine – and continue to examine! – what we believe, why we believe it, and how we act based on what we believe.
We absolutely MUST strengthen our discernment skills as the people of God. Here are the tools of discernment:
1. Scripture. The Bible is our absolute guide to good and evil, truth and lies. See II Timothy 3:16 and Psalm 19:7-13.
2. Reason. Reason complements the Scripture. We use reason to apply biblical principles to specific situations. See I Thessalonians 5:21-22, Hebrews 5:14, I Corinthians 14:20.
3. Counsel. You may come across situations where you aren’t sure what the Bible says about an issue or how to apply biblical principles. In that case, someone else’s experience and counsel can be of great value. See Proverbs 19:20 and Proverbs 12:15.
4. The Spirit. The Spirit helps us to understand Scripture, helps us to reason properly, and helps us to recognize godly counsel. See Isaiah 30:21.
CHALLENGE: Does someone you respect hold a differing view from you on some topic? As part of the discernment process, consider engaging them in conversation to learn why they think what they think. Be respectful at all times, be willing to listen without jumping in with your own thoughts, and be open to changing what you believe, how you think, and how you act if you see through the light of the Scripture, reason, counsel, and the Spirit that you were taken in by disguise and deceit.
Remember, the purpose of discernment is not to “prove that we are right.” It is to distinguish between truth and lies, and to recognize good and evil. Having done so, our goal is to align ourselves with what is true and good – His name is JESUS.