D. L. Moody
We have all lived long enough to know what it is to be deceived. We have been deceived by our friends, our enemies, our neighbors, our relatives. Ungodly companions have deceived us. At every turn of life we have been imposed upon in one way or another. False teachers have crossed our path, and under pretense of doing us good, have poisoned our minds with error. They have held out hopes to us that have proved false — apples of Sodom, fair without, but full of ashes within. They have told us that there is no God, no future life, no judgment to come; or they have said that all men will be saved that there is ample time to repent, that we may be saved by doing the best we can.
Sin has deceived us. Every sinner is under a delusion. Sin meets him smilingly, and holds out to him pleasures and delights, but they are not pure and lasting.
During our meetings in Boston, a young man came into the tabernacle. He looked around, and he thought to himself, “The people who come here are great fools — those who have businesses and comfortable homes, and good clothes.” He had nothing in the world — he was a tramp and went in there to keep himself warm. But to think that people who had homes would come and spend their time in listening to such as I preached was more than he could understand.
One night after he had been coming there for two weeks, I happened to point right down where he was sitting, and I said, “Young man, be not deceived!” God used that as an arrow. He began to think about himself. His mind went back to the time when he had a good situation in Boston, when he was a young man getting a good salary, when he was in good society and had a great many friends.
Then he looked at his present condition. His friends were all gone, his clothes were gone, his money was gone; and there he was, an outcast in that city. He said to himself, “I have been deceived” and that very hour God waked him. As in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, friends gathered around him again, and the Lord restored him to position and to society. His eyes were opened to see how he had been deceived.
How many men all over the world are being deceived by Satan, the god of this world It has been asserted that during the Franco- German War, German drummers and trumpeters used to give the French signals in order to deceive their enemies. The command to “halt,” or ‘cease firing,” was often given by the Germans, it has been said, and the French soldiers were thus placed in positions where they could be shot down like cattle.
Satan is the arch-enemy of our souls, and he has often blinded our reason and deceived our conscience by his falsehoods. He has often come as an angel of light, concealing his hideousness under a borrowed cloak. He says to a young man: “Sow your wild oats. Time enough to be religious when you grow old.” The young man yields himself to a life of extravagance and excess, under the false hope that he will obtain solid satisfaction; and it is well if he awakens to the deception before his appetites become tyrants, dragging him down into the depths of want and woe. Satan promises great things to his victims in the indulgence of their lusts, but those promises are never realized. The promised “pleasure” turns out to be pain, the Promised “Heaven,” a hell.
Beware lest Satan deceive you as he deceived Eve in the beginning. “There is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of It” (John 8:44).
We have been deceived by our own heart most of all. Who has not proved the truth of the Scripture: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). How many times have we said that we never would do a certain thing again and then have done it within 24 hours! What a gross self-deception proceeds from our hearts! “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool,” said Solomon (Proverbs 28:26). Luther once said he feared his own heart more than the pope and all the cardinals.
Many a weeping wife has come to me about her husband, saying, “He is good at heart.” The truth is — that is the worst spot in him. If the heart were good, all else would be right, “for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Christ said; “Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).
A Jewish rabbi once asked his scholars what was the best thing a man could have in order to keep him in the straight path. One said a good disposition; another, a good companion; another said wisdom was the best thing he could desire. At last a scholar replied that he thought a good heart was best of all. “True,” said the rabbi, “you have comprehended all that the others have said, For he that hath a good heart will be of a good disposition and a good companion and a wise man. Let every one, therefore, cultivate a sincerity and uprightness of heart at all times, and it will save him an abundance of sorrow.” We need to make the prayer of David — “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew aright spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Bear in mind, the God of the Bible has never deceived anyone, never can, and never will; that is the difference between the God of the Bible and the god of this world. God beholds the ways of men; He looks into their hearts; He knows their secret ways; they need not try to conceal anything from Him.
However successfully we may deceive or be deceived by ourselves or others, we cannot deceive Him. Adam and Eve tried it in Eden when they hid themselves amongst the trees of the garden. Saul tried it when he spared the best of the sheep and oxen of the Amalekites under the pretense of sacrificing them to God. Ananias and Sapphira tried it when they kept back part of the price of the land they sold. “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to (deceive) the Holy Ghost? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:34).
Men try it every day. They have got it into their heads that God can be mocked. Because they can deceive their pastor, their employer, and their friends, they think they can deceive God. They put on false appearances; they use empty words; they perform unreal service; they make idle excuses; they indulge in all kinds of hypocrisy. But it is to no avail. God cannot be imposed upon. He sees the corruption inside the whited sepulchre.
You remember that in the parable of the sower some seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. Our Master, expounding this parable, said: “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches) choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). Who would have expected this result of the world or of riches? But it has been said that Christ never spoke of riches except in words of warning. We are not apt to regard riches in that light today. Men are trampling each other down in the pursuit of wealth. Be not deceived; he who sets his heart upon money is sowing to the flesh, and shall of the flesh reap corruption. “Adversity hath slain her thousands, but prosperity her tens of thousands.”
It has been noticed that there are more accidents in Switzerland in fine seasons than in stormy ones. People are apt to undertake expeditions that they would not take under less favorable conditions and they are less careful in their conduct. And so it is that moral and spiritual disaster usually overtakes men when they are off their guard, careless against temptation. They become proud and self-reliant in seasons of prosperity, whereas adversity drives them to the living God for guidance and comfort.
The Persians had an annual festival when they slew all the serpents and venomous creatures they could find; but then they allowed them to swarm as fast and freely as ever until the festival came around once more. It was poor policy. Sins, like serpents, breed quickly, and need to be constantly watched.
We ought to watch on every side. Many a man has fallen at the very point where he thought he was safest. The meekness of Moses has passed into a proverb. Yet he lost the Promised Land because he allowed the children of Israel to provoke him, and he acted unadvisedly. Peter was the most zealous and defiant of the disciples, bold and outspoken; yet he degenerated for a short time into a sneaking coward, afraid of a maid.
There is an old fable that a doe that had but one eye used to graze near the sea; and in order to be safe, she kept her blind eye toward the water, from which side she expected no danger, while with the good eye she watched the country. Some men, perceiving this, took a boat and came upon her from the sea and shot her. With her dying breath, she said: “Oh, hard fate! That I should receive my death’ wound from that side whence I expected no harm, and be safe in that part where I looked for most danger.”
Let danger and need drive you closer to God. He never slumbers or, sleeps, and in His keeping you will be safe. Seize hold of Him in prayer. “Watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41).
Christianity is not responsible for the deception that exists among its professing disciples. The illustration has been used before that you might just as reasonably hold the Cunard company responsible for the suicide of a passenger who jumps into the sea, from one of their vessels. Had the person remained on the vessel, he would have been safe; and had the disciple remained true to his principles, he would never have turned out a hypocrite. Was anybody ever more severe in denouncing hypocrisy than Christ? Do you want to know the reason why, every now and then, the church is scandalized by the exposure of some leading church member or Sunday school superintendent? It is not his Christianity but his lack of it. Some secret sin has been eating at the heart of the tree, and in a critical moment it is blown down and its rottenness revealed.
It is impossible for the deception to last forever. Lincoln had a saying that you may be able to deceive all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you will not be able to deceive all the people all the time. Death will uncover the deception, if it has not been detected sooner; and the unfortunate victim will stand in the presence of a God Who cannot be mocked.
One of nine children, Dwight n Lyman Moody was born February 5, 1837, in Northfield, Massachusetts. Because of his widowed mother’s limited income, he went to work when he was 13, and by the age of 19 he was a salesman in Chicago, The turning point of his life was a visit by his Sunday school teacher in the shoe store where he was working. His life was never the same after he surrendered it wholly to his Lord and Saviour.
In 1860, Moody dropped business life to become a lay preacher and made it a practice to speak to at least one person every day about his soul. As an evangelist, Moody traveled throughout Great Britain and the United States, Called the “General” by his co-workers, he founded an orphanage, two schools, a publishing house, and the Moody Bible Institute. He remains an example of what the Lord can accomplish with a yielded man.
This message was published in Faith for the Family, September / October 1974. It is republished here by permission.