Do Not Be Deceived (James 1:16)

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.
-James 1:16

Have you ever been deceived?  The first time my parents left me and my brother alone, while they went to a Christmas party two doors away, the doorbell rang.  I looked out the peek hole and saw men with bags over their heads.  I ran to the telephone and called my parents, at the neighbors house.

My dad hurried home and there was no one at our door or at the front of the property.  They must have left.  I was not pulling a prank and my dad could see that I was genuinely frightened.

My dad discovered that the paper Christmas wreath, made by my granddad, was in front of the peek hole.  My little eyes thought they saw several shadowy figures standing on the doorstep, with bags over their heads.  But it was an optical illusion!  We never found out who actually rang the bell and stood there that December night.

Some people are deceived, as in they just don't know.  Other people are willfully deceived, in that they push back and avoid the truth.  A person is willfully deceived when the lie is more comfortable than the truth.  The willfully deceived person will have some painful, hard work to do, if they choose the truth.  You might lose friends, lose your identity, lose you platform, or your lifestyle.

To come out of willful deception will cost you, but you will be free.  

"Don't be deceived", is a word to believers, to people in the church, to people in the tribes of God.  We can be and many of us are deceived.  That's right, many Christians are deceived.  That is why James says, "Don't be deceived", because many people, who are Christians, can be and are deceived.

What was the original deception, that caused Adam and Eve to fall?  That God was not completely good.  God's character was impugned.   What God commanded was questioned.  The serpent suggested this and tempted this.

Faith and trust was broken in the fall.  Only God could restore it.  Jesus completely restores us to relationship with God.  This is the good news, that eternal life begins now in Christ, if we repent and follow him.

There are many things we can become deceived about, but what James is talking about here is the deception that God causes evil, trials, or temptations.  Allowing and causing are not the same thing.

God sovereignly allows bad things, but God is always good and does not cause them.  And with every bad thing that happens to us, God is there, with us.  God provides provision for us attached to anything that happens to us.

This is the Christian life.  Fellowship in suffering.  We are never alone, never cut off from help.

Instead of turning to God, by faith, and knowing that God loves me no matter what happens, and is with me and has provision for me; if I instead blame God, see God as not good, but judge God; then I am deceived.  That is what James is saying here.

Do not be deceived.  God is always good.  God is not evil.  Do not judge God.

Judging God as bad will bring a curse into your life and hamper you and make everything worse.  This is exactly what the enemy of our souls wants.  The dark world wants us to live believing God is not good, maybe even bad to a degree.  Repent now, if you have judged God, blamed God, or have a grudge (judgement) against God.

God allows things to happen.  We are born into a fallen world, that is being restored, but is still fallen and in process.  We are born into a war, where God has an enemy who hates people who bear Christ; and we immediately have a target painted on our backs.

But we have God protecting us and there are angels fighting on our behalf.  One of the battlefields is our mind.  The enemy wants us to think wrongly about God, to be deceived about God, God's character and how God is.

"Do not be deceived", is a 'hinge verse', that connects the former and latter ideas from James:

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

In particular, James is saying, "Take responsibility".  Yes, Christians can be tempted.  Saved people have desires.  We can 'go evil' by sinning.  I can lie, cheat, steal, or hurt other people.  I can abuse others or I can abuse myself.

I can sin in a thousand different ways and have a rationale for each one, excusing myself or pretending that, "I am entitled to this".  And what is really insidious is when we bring God into it and say, "I know this is ok with God", about the sin.  We are deceived.

Think about David.  The king, the worshiper, the poet, the songwriter, and the man after God's own heart.  He ended up stealing another man's wife, possibly raping her; and then murdering an innocent man.

How could he do such a thing?  He was deceived.  One of the most famous persons in the Bible became massively deceived.

When Jesus told the disciples that he was going to be executed and Peter said, "no way, I will never let that happen", and then Jesus called him Satan; Peter was deceived.  Later, when Peter denied Jesus three times, that was a trial that he was going through, that he failed.

Jesus warned Peter that it would happen and told Peter that he was going to pray for him:

“Simon, Simon, look out. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

“Lord,” he told him, “I’m ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”

“I tell you, Peter,” he said, “the rooster will not crow today until you deny three times that you know me.”

-Luke 22:31-34

You know the story.  Peter denied Jesus, was afraid and ran away, but Jesus restored him and he continued on his path as a leader of the church.

The greatest deception is that God is not good.  God is good and God does not tempt us to do evil.  I have to take responsibility for myself and live from Christ, from God's provision for me, in every trial or temptation.

Why is this happening to me?  I don't know.  Who is tempting me?  Not God.  What is the answer or the solution?  That God is good, no matter what.  Remember Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not just save us so that we can go to heaven when we die, but he saves us to live in him now and forever.  The Christian life is not that we just have tickets for heaven, but that we are disciples, servants, and children of the king, now and forever.

Temptation is part of the life.  We get tempted and we turn away from it and turn to God.  And if we sin, we ask for forgiveness and we are restored.  But we never blame God or judge God.  We are not deceived.