The Great Deceiver, Chapter 1: The Battle for Truth

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3)

I remember the first time I was pulled over for a speeding ticket. I was in high school. I will never forget how my heart leaped into my mouth when I saw those flashing lights behind me. The officer was not interested in having a conversation, “License and registration please” he said dryly. It was not a pleasant experience. Those radar guns have a nagging way of telling on you. Special pleading does not help. He walked back, gave me the ticket and told me to slow down. My parent’s insurance company was, no doubt, not interested in special pleading either. Pay up or ride your bike.

Life is like that. No one really complains that a police officer pulls over teenage kids driving too fast. In fact, most people are grateful for that. Kids need to learn to drive safe; and that means learning to drive by the rules, speed limits included. I’m still a student.

Radar detectors were invented to speak truth when otherwise the truth would be clouded by all the excuses inventive teenagers can muster. Unfortunately for the kid driving, the speed limit is not a suggestion, it’s the law. Black and white. You either comply or you break it. When you break the law, you pay the piper.

But, while no one today would argue with an officer about the legitimacy of a radar’s ability to accurately track speed, many people, most really, want to argue that there is no such thing as truth that should guide how we live. There are opinions, and various points of view but nothing as solid as Truth by which real things can be defined. The sad reality is that this is accepted as perfectly normal today.

I don’t know when people began to accept this en mass, but historically speaking, it has not been long. This absurd way of thinking began in our institutions of “higher education.” The supposedly brightest minds got together and had an epiphany: they discovered that the one truth that holds it all together, kind of like a unification theory of life, was that there is nothing holding it all together. Everything is just random. Life is an accident with no apparent purpose or design.

Of course, there is a consequence for such thinking that appeals to many people: a world that produced life by accident is a world where everything is permissible. And this is really the point. The thought of living a life where there is no accountability is appealing to many people. Because it is so appealing, the one thing not permitted is to question that vision of life.

Those who hold to this point of view claim this grand discovery is a valid “truth.” And they are willing to fight over its legitimacy. In fact, according to them, this “truth” helps us see life the way it was meant to be seen. Weird right. So, consider: the discovery that there is no truth is the greatest truth of all? And in a world with, supposedly, no purpose, this vision of life helps us to understand our destiny? So, the meaning of life and our purpose is defined by a “truth” that cannot really exist, but, it must be true? That’s what our world is being taught and what many are glad to accept.

Unfortunately this absurdity is being codified into law and shapes public opinion. Prayers have been outlawed from school. The name of Jesus is exiled from most public forums. You simply aren’t allowed to have your own opinions any more – at least not in the public forum where others might be influenced and (gasp) offended. We are all familiar with really absurd stories where kids as young as elementary school have been told they can’t write about books of the Bible, or talk about Jesus, or pray, or do anything that might mention anything related to Jesus Christ, as a school assignment. Not long ago we learned that a student was kicked out of class because she said, “Bless you,” to someone who sneezed!

But consider this contradiction: if all thoughts are random, as must be the case if everything in the universe is random – including life, how can someone say that someone else’s thoughts are wrong? Unfortunately, every day a new story emerges where those who are fighting for a universe that has no purpose, truth, destiny, or a god, can deny someone the opportunity to share their beliefs. Instead, they demand that they write the story the way they think it should be written – you know, according to the “truth” of how they want life to be defined.

And that’s really the rub. Their efforts are self-refuting; and any intellectually respectable person over the age of, oh let’s say four, can understand the contradiction. But the issue is not one of intellect, or a lack thereof. People have been talking and writing about this subject for decades. People get it. Even the ones who are fighting to outlaw God. Those who deny God don’t care about the contradiction. They understand it. The problem is not that they are stupid, it’s that at the core of who they are spiritually, they hate God.

Yes, I wrote that. Hate, as we were told as children, is a strong term. But, here it needs to be emphasized. It’s really not strong enough. There is a spiritual war raging, and there are two sides, and only two. Those who are for God, and as a result submit, follow, and obey Him. And there are those who are against God, hate Him, and seek to deny Him at all costs.

The problems we are facing as a culture, therefore, are not intellectual in nature. They are spiritual in nature. We have a spiritual problem. And it can be defined very simply: man is in rebellion against God. He does not want God to define life or the boundaries of life. Instead, man wants to do those things for himself, according to the dictates of his own desires. In short, mankind has declared war with God; and he has done so because he wants to be God – and there can only be one. It’s really that simple.

Every day we hear pundits on TV passionately arguing over some new policy, or new grievance, or some new political maneuver, or issue – with no end in sight. They argue with great zeal and passion.  But they always miss something very important: they miss the real problem. They argue over the endless issues of day, but never stop to consider what it is that really informs their point of view. The dirty little secret is that our intellectual beliefs flow from our spiritual convictions. You cannot argue someone into God’s kingdom. You cannot “rationally” lead them to see the truth of an issue. You cannot change their mind without first changing their understanding of God.

What I believe about God will inform (obviously) what I believe about the world and life in the world. If I believe life is “red tooth and claw” with no purpose, then I will act accordingly. If I believe God is real and has spoken, then, again, I will act upon that truth. Therefore, what I believe spiritually will indicate where I come down on any particular issue, how I vote, and how I interact with life.

People need to stop talking about political issues as a starting point, and begin talking about God and His truth. Why? Because only then you will see what shapes their understanding about life in general and about issues in particular. Intellectual pursuits are always informed by spiritual convictions. For example, if I foolishly believe life is a cosmic accident, then what wrong can there be in killing your baby. But if human life is truly created in the image of God, then killing a baby, at any stage of development, is a catastrophic sin against God. What we believe about God informs what we believe about life – all of it. God talk, even the absence of it, informs how we think about the issues of life.

Therefore, when we survey the intellectual landscape we discover that people fall into two categories: for God or against God. Those who are for God respond to the various issues of the day based on what they know is true about God. Those who are against God, even when they claim no belief in God, usually respond to the various issues of the day in a way that denies God.

Rarely do you find the person today who claims no religious convictions and discover that they respond to issues in a way that upholds what God has revealed to be true. The reality is that there is no neutrality when it comes to the arena of truth. Since God is the source of truth, an acknowledgment of truth is an acknowledgment of God. And those who claim no belief in God do not want to acknowledge truth because at the core of who they are, they do not want to acknowledge God.

Of course, there are those who claim belief in God but then act in a way that clearly contradicts what God declares to be true and right. The best way to know if someone is for God or against Him is to look at their actions. Like the radar detector, life tells on us. The way we live reveals what we believe about God. But the point remains, there is no neutrality when it comes to the issue of God. Either you are for Him or you are against Him. Jesus made this point clear Himself (Luke 11:23).

It’s interesting to note that when God talk is interjected into a topic, the people who are arguing for a position that is contrary to what God desires will respond with anger. The idea that people can be guided by “reason” alone is a myth. It is impossible to be neutral. The use of reason is always at the employ of passionate spiritual beliefs.

Consider an interesting fact. People do not get angry when children are taught fairy tales in school or are encouraged to use their imagination to create grand tales and adventurous stories. But, they do get mad when these same children are taught that there is a God who loves them and wants them to know Him. When was the last time you heard of a law suit where the local Anti-Unicorn League sued the local public school to have all images of unicorns removed from public property? Or, how many law suits have you seen where the Easter Bunny is banished from school properties. No, the Easter Bunny and Unicorns can stay; and children can be encouraged to believe in, and even write about these fairy tales. But teaching them about Jesus is offensive! He must leave. Write about Him, and you can leave too.

The reality is that as a culture we have no problem teaching our kids ridiculous fairy tales, but teach them about God and specifically about Jesus and watch people get very angry. The truth is that people do not get mad or offended at what is not real. They do, however, respond with anger to what is real. They may respond with laughter or sadness at the make-believe stuff, depending on how crazy the story seems. But the real reason people get angry at God talk is because God is alive and they want to suppress His truth in unrighteousness. They want to deny Him – because if they don’t deny Him then they must respond to Him.

The battle betrays the reality. Truth is real; and people are offended at truth because they are offended at God. They eagerly want to remove Him from every avenue of life by not acknowledging Him. At its core, this sad reality reflects a dark spiritual truth. People hate God. The cultural battles we experience today reflects this reality.

But, there is a built in barrier in nature that God has created. In the Bible God says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). It also says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, NKJV). This is a universal truth that is built into the fabric of the universe. Everything leans in this direction. Because of that, those who are against God must fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening. And fight they do.

But, denying God is like arguing the sun is a figment of our imagination. Sure, convince yourself it’s not there, but then put on your sunglasses and stand under its heat and, if you are like me, lily white without the ability to tan, become scorched and seriously burned. There are a lot of sunburned atheists out there arguing God is not real. But, despite the sunburned face, the sweaty brow, the nice farmers tan, there they stand day and night screaming that those who offer them suntan lotion and an umbrella are closed minded bigots who must not influence public opinion. The way to confront such people is not to argue the merits of suntan lotion. They need to hear that sunburns are caused from the sun.

Why have we seen an exponential increase in sexually transmitted diseases over the last fifty years? Why have teen pregnancies increased by a ridiculous amount in the same period? Why is the family disintegrating? Why has violent crime increased dramatically over the last generation? Why is poverty and government dependence on the rise? Why is the crime of abortion accepted as a right? Why is marriage being sacrificed in the face of homosexual intimidation? Why is our economy on the brink of collapse? At its core, the answer is because we ignore the obvious: truth denied leads to chaos, suffering, and every form of misery. Ignore the heat of the sun and watch your skin burn by its rays. Ignore the fundamental truths about life as defined by God and watch your life, culture, and civilization crumble around you.

The great deceiver has done a good job convincing people that truth is a matter of preference, and is only the result of opinions and limited perspectives. There is no need to fret over consequences, they don’t exist – so he says.

But truth is the most important thing we have. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The direction to God cannot be separated from the truth that He has revealed about Himself through Christ; and the life of God cannot be separated from the life given through Christ. Everything pivots on Truth. Jesus is its embodiment.

Jesus is our source of truth, and our source of life. You can speak to Him and He will respond. If you are in error and seek guidance He will correct you. If you seek life He will gladly give it away. He is Love’s foundation. Hope rests on Him. Purpose and meaning in life are discovered in Him. Forgiveness is only possible because of Him, and because of what He did on the cross for sinners. Companionship and friendship find their source in Him. Joy and happiness spring forth from Him. He is the living embodiment of truth. At the end of the day all we really have is Him. We can either embrace Him, or deny Him. Deny Him and forfeit your life. Embrace Him and discover the real meaning of life.

However, Satan wants peoples, cultures, and civilizations to forfeit their lives. He wants you and me to embrace the ridiculous, self-refuting lie that truth is only a matter opinion and personal preference. But consider the history of creation as God has recorded it for us in the Bible. God said, “Let there be…” and based on the power of His Word (Jesus), and the defining boundaries He placed upon all that emerged, life became a vibrant, brilliant, and beautiful reality. It was truth mixed with the awesome life-giving power of God that created life. God needed nothing to begin His work, and He was dependent on no one to finish His work. When God speaks, truth goes forth and life is the result. Truth created life, but truth also sustains life. The Bible says that Jesus “Upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).

When Satan speaks, however, life withers, hope vanishes, beauty fades, sin multiplies, disease and death rule. God’s words are the stuff of life. When life is hard, sprinkle your life with God’s Word and watch things grow. It’s like putting Miracle Grow on fading flowers and then watching as the flowers come to life with a vengeance. Satan’s words are like putting Round Up the flowers. Sprinkle just a little bit and death is not far behind.

Truth is the substance of life. When Satan enters our lives the very first thing he attacks is our commitment to truth. We live in a culture that as a matter of principle denies truth. Can anyone seriously argue that we are the better for it?

The great deceiver seeks to convince humankind that truth does not exist; and we need not worry about the consequences of ignoring it. But God clearly teaches that how we respond to truth is of eternal significance. Indeed, the greatest need people have in this world is to find the truth and embrace Him with all their might. From God’s perspective that is to be our first priority in life.

The world is in desperate peril. Mankind is drowning in a sea of deception and sin, all the while being led to believe that all is good. “They give assurances of peace when all is war,” said the prophet Jeremiah to a culture in similar peril (Jer 614, NLB). They didn’t listen then, they are not listening now. But, we can listen and learn the secret that many have ignored: truth will save our life. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

As a Christian, our first priority is to embrace truth with every fiber of our being. The battle for the souls of all people begins here. The battle for our soul begins here. When we deny truth we die. When we embrace truth we live.

So, how does Satan get us to deny truth? He leads us to believe that the whole idea of truth is of little consequence. What matters is not that we find truth, but that we strive to be satisfied in life. A desire to be satisfied drives much of what we do. Material things, the things that bring comfort and security, are what we are led to focus on. Get a good education. Expand your opportunities. Learn good skills. While these things are not bad, they can become a deadly detraction. Consider that there are many well educated people in hell wishing they had focused on truth as a first priority in life.

Jesus told a story about a man who is not named, but who was an educated ruler of his people. We know the story as Lazarus and the Rich Man, and it can be found in the sixteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. He was rich in education. He was rich in influence. He was revered by the people. He was not only an educated man with many resources, but he was also a man who believed he had religious credentials as well, which would serve him well before God. But like all men his time came and he died. To his utter shock and dismay none of the things he was in possession of did him any good. He went to hell. And think about a sobering truth: he is still there today.

We know he did not focus on truth, because had he done so he would have known that God’s Word says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). In other words, his lack of mercy was clearly seen in his treatment of Lazarus. Had he been in possession of truth he would have help this poor sick man who begged at the rich man’s front gate. But, since he was not a disciple of truth, he ignored the poor man’s plight and let him die in his misery without lifting a finger to help him.

The interesting part of the story, however, is not that he is in hell, nor that he didn’t expect to be there, but that he tried hard to convince Abraham to bring the truth to his brothers so they would not end up in that place with him. Thirty seconds in hell made him a fervent evangelist. One taste of the suffering of that place made him long for a truth he never paid any attention to in life. Truth matters. It is the substance of life, and Satan wants us to ignore it.

The great deceiver also gets us to deny truth by leading us to think more of ourselves than we ought to. One of his tactics is to help us become consummate critics of everything. He wants us to become skeptical of things; and he wants us to make our skepticism our authority in matters of truth. Keep in mind, this applies only to the things of God. When it comes to so called scientific claims, like evolution, we are encouraged to readily accept their bogus conclusions without the least bit of critical thought. No evidence is needed to prove such claims that life is an accident, all things are random, and most importantly in keeping with their desire to deny God, God is not needed in explaining the origins of life.

But, for matters concerning God, one must filter all claims of truth through one’s infinitely wise and all-knowing powers of skepticism. Of course, one need not know why they are skeptical, nor do they need to be in possession of enough knowledge by which to compare claims of truth. All they need do is ask a very simple question, “Has God indeed said?” That question can be said in many different ways, but the important thing is to demand that unless God parts the skies and comes and speaks directly to you, then you have a right to reject His claims of truth.

Never mind that DNA has enough information to fill thousands of volumes of books, and that every cell in your body contains those volumes, and that God created that information, which are the building blocks of our complex bodies. But, according to the logic of the world, it is simply absurd to believe that God can write a book we call the Bible where He reveals truth.

But, though one rejects God’s truth because they claim they weren’t given enough proof that the Bible is God’s Word, they will still be judged by its content. Truth is truth no matter how hard one tries to dismiss its validity.

When Jesus was being interrogated by Pilate, Pilate asked Jesus a question: “What is truth?” Of course he was making a statement and not really asking a question. His statement was meant to reveal that he did not believe in Truth. He was too smart to allow someone to teach him. His skepticism was his authority. You can’t fool Pilate, by golly!

Jesus responded to Pilate’s arrogance by saying, “For this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:37). I believe he was giving Pilate an opportunity to repent, renounce his skepticism as his authority, and really hear truth so he could be saved. But Pilate’s heart was hardened against truth because he was using himself as the standard by which to recognize it.

During the course of His teaching, Jesus said, “Let the blind lead the blind.” Two skeptics living in the dark, are at the end of the day, still in the dark. We have many in our culture today. A thousand such people cannot make a spark of light. But, as Solzhenitsyn once said, “One word of truth will outweigh the whole world.” A simple peasant with no formal education, but armed with knowledge of God’s Word, is wiser than all the educated masses living in darkness.

Another way the great deceiver gets us to ignore truth is by leading us to be overwhelmed by the many claims to truth. After all, everyone has an opinion. There are like bellybuttons. But a claim to truth is obviously not the same thing as being the truth.

So what can one do? Look at the evidence. The greatest argument for the truth of Christ is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But, someone will say, “We weren’t there, and isn’t that claim just another claim to truth.” Yes on both counts. It is a claim to truth – a grand one at that! And no, we were not there. But, there were many who were and they wrote about it.

The gospels are not given to simply tell us nice pithy stories that inspire better living. While they have that effect, they were written primarily as a testimony to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The men who wrote the gospels did so to tell the story of His amazing life. And they put special emphasis on the most amazing part of His life – His resurrection. It is not uncommon for men to die. However, it is altogether alien to the human race to witness one rising from the dead.

Understand that we are not talking about one who was revived when close to death. We are not talking about one who recovered after appearing dead, but was somehow still alive. We are talking about one who was stone cold dead. The Romans knew what death looked like. They were masters of administering death. When the Roman soldiers took Jesus off the cross there was no doubt that He was a corpse. When Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus, they had no doubts as to His condition. They laid a dead man in a grave with no hope of seeing Him alive again.

But, they did see Him alive again. It is important to note that He did not recover from death. Jesus defeated death. In doing so He demonstrated the truth of everything He said concerning Himself. Jesus was not just a man who happened to live once. Jesus, as the second person of the Triune God, is the very source of life. If life is like a stream, then Jesus is the fountainhead of that stream. Life originates in Him. He is the author of life, and His resurrection is the proof that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Whoever listens to Him will live.

The disciples did just that. However, a careful reading of the gospels reveals that they did not, at first, believe the reports of the Jesus’ resurrection. They thought the women who brought the first reports had lost their minds. Even when the disciples saw the empty tomb, they were reluctant to believe. But, in due time they themselves saw the Master alive. They spoke with Him, spent time with Him, and broke bread with Him. By the time He went back to the Father, they knew that He was truly alive and they knew that He was the embodiment of life and truth. As a result, these men spent the rest of their days telling everyone about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were so convinced of that truth, that they were willing to suffer painful deaths in making Jesus’s resurrection known. And while we can readily acknowledge that someone will foolishly die for a lie they believed to be true, the disciples were willing to abandon everything they had and live the rest of their days in light of the truth that was revealed in the resurrection of Christ.

The battle for truth is real. The Great Deceiver seeks to lead people away from truth because his main goal is to lead people away from Christ. If he can succeed, then he can ensure the destruction of every person who accepts his lie.

Therefore, it is important for Christians to understand that first, there is a real battle that is taking place, and second, they must be prepared for the fight. The only way to be prepared is to know the truth that has been once and for all entrusted to the saints. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!

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