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Avoiding Spiritual Deception

"All Scripture is . . . profitable for . . . reproof" (2 Tim. 3:16).

Scripture is the standard by which you must measure all teaching.

In November of 1978, United States Representative Leo Ryan of California visited the People's Temple (a California- based cult) in Guyana. He went to investigate reports that some of the people were being held there against their will. The world was shocked to learn that the congressman and his party had been ambushed and killed.

Even more shocking was the grim discovery that followed a few days later. Authorities who entered the compound at Jonestown, Guyana were horrified to find the bodies of 780 cult members who had been shot or had committed suicide by drinking cyanide-laced punch. Their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, was found lying near the altar—dead from a single bullet wound to the head.

For many, it was the first time they had witnessed the deadly effect of satanic teaching. Editorials and articles for months attempted to explain how such appalling deception and genocide could occur in this day and age. But as tragic as the Jonestown deaths were, most observers missed the greatest tragedy of all: the spiritual damnation that Jim Jones and all other false teachers lead their followers into.

Spiritual deception is a very serious issue to God. That's why in Scripture He lays down the truth and reproves anything contrary to it. The Greek word translated "reproof" in 2 Timothy 3:16 means to rebuke or confront someone regarding misconduct or false teaching.

If you have a thorough grasp of Scripture, you have a standard by which to measure all teaching. Then you can easily recognize false doctrine and avoid spiritual deception. That's what John had in mind when he said, "I have written to you, [spiritual] young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:14).

False religions will always attempt to distort Scripture because they must eliminate God's truth before they can justify their own lies. Beware of their subtleties, and be strong in God's Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for protecting you from spiritual deception.
  • Pray for anyone you may know who has fallen victim to false teaching. Take every opportunity to impart God's truth to them.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15. How did Paul describe false teachers?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,