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The Power of Spiritual Deception

When we turn away from the truth, we deceive ourselves—and will finally believe anything.


Jim Jones was the founder of the People's Temple. More than 900 of Jim Jones' followers died in a cult murder/suicide in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. Over 300 children were murdered. It was the greatest loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until the 9/11 attacks.

The FBI recovered a 45-minute audio recording of the suicide in progress. It is disturbing. Demonic. I don't recommend it. On the tape, Jim Jones calmly urges his followers to drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid (technically not Kool-Aid) after giving it to their children.

Jim Jones is one of the most extreme examples of spiritual deception. But he is certainly not alone. History is marked by those who—in a hundred different ways—have influenced people away from God and damaged, even destroyed, their lives.

In the Bible there are repeated warnings about those who will seek to deceive us spiritually. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns about false prophets. There are two things that characterize them:

  • They are genuinely deceptive. Jesus said they will come to us in sheep's clothing. Paul writes that they "masquerade as servants of righteousness." More often than not they are religious, winsome, seem sincere. We find them speaking in churches, giving religious seminars, teaching religion courses in universities and seminaries.
  • Further, they're dangerous. They're not neutral, harmless, stretching. Jesus says they come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they're ferocious wolves. Wolves are the natural enemies of sheep. These false teachers will damage us.

We're looking at Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians. In the second chapter of the second letter, Paul is concerned that his readers are being drawn into false teaching. He wants to ...

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I. We are vulnerable to spiritual deception.

II. The most extreme form of deception is currently being restrained.

III. Truth rejected leads to even further deception.

IV. Our protection against deception is a commitment to the truth.