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Jesus said to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you,” as they were sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple and Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things happen?  And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” before He began to teach them of the things to come, which are His prophetic utterances, His prophecies.  See that He said, “Watch out that no one deceives you,” which also means, “Let no one deceive you,” if you are truly listening… no one.

Certainly, had Peter kept these words in the foremost of his mind, then the argument between him and Paul recorded by Paul in Galatians 2.11 would not have happened.  For when Jesus told us to let no one deceive us, He meant no one, not even if he is a brother of His like James the Younger.  For Peter was deceived into hypocrisy when men from James caused him to draw back from the gentiles.  Paul’s account of the incident is there for you all to read… read it.  Even Barnabas, as Paul testified, was led astray, that is, deceived.  Paul had to have a discussion with Peter that would not have been needed if Peter had remained true to Jesus’ words first rather than the doctrines and customs of James’ men.

As this advice/command of Jesus was the first words of Jesus to His four apostles (and presumably the other eight were also listening) before He began to speak to them of the signs of the end of the age, then likewise this is the precaution all should first take in these end times… “Watch out that no one deceives you.”

Who then is the one person who will never deceive you, not even send a powerful delusion so that you would believe the lie if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ?  Surely it is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit alone.  For if men from James, who purported to be an apostle, can cause one of the twelve to be guilty of hypocrisy and Barnabas, whose name appears in the chronology of the early church way before James the Younger (Acts 4 rather than Acts 15 as an active contributor), to be led astray, then it is critical we recognise this one point:  The Holy Spirit is the only One who will not deceive you.  Not only because He is the Spirit of Truth who guides you into all truth, but because He loves Jesus and would never harm or deceive those who love Jesus.  It is not whether Jesus loves you, for Jesus loves even sinners, but it is whether you love Jesus that protects you from deception.

Look at Peter’s answers to Jesus’ first two questions… and bear in mind these were questions to a man who declared three times he would never deny Jesus, but yet, not only did he deny three times that he knew Jesus, but also denied that he was a Galilean and a disciple… a man who denied his birthright, his history or origin, a Galilean; and his fellowship, being a disciple and his knowledge of Jesus.  Truly, Jesus’ treatment of Peter is the portrait of grace from a forgiving Friend, Master and Saviour… and if the tradition that says that Peter requested to be crucified upside down is true, for he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same manner, you can see why.

So when Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?” where the word love is agape in Greek in John 21.15 and again in John 21.16… He was not looking for an answer of “Yes, Lord, You know that I phileo You,” rather, a simple yes or no to agape.  Can you see what Peter did when he answered the Lord?  Without answering the question asked, he gave an answer to a question that was not asked, as to give the impression he had answered the question.  Jesus did not ask, “Simon son of John, do you truly phileo Me more than these?”  If He had, then Peter would have answered truthfully and correctly, but Peter gave an answer, a correct answer, to an imaginary question… and in so doing, deceived himself.

When you give an answer to an imaginary question, that is, give an answer that sounds or seems to answer the question but in truth you have not, you deceive yourself.  Peter did exactly what Martha did to herself a few months earlier when Jesus asked her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?” and Martha replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” Martha gave an answer, a good answer, but it was not the answer to the question asked, but an answer to an imaginary question that was not asked.  Martha deceived herself with her own answer just as Peter did.

Hoping to correct Peter, Jesus asked again, “Simon son of John, do you truly love Me?” using the word agape, and again Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You,” using the word phileo… again the correct answer to an imaginary question.

When you are able to deceive yourself or are willing to deceive yourself… then you can be deceived by others.  So when Jesus said to them, “Watch out that no one deceives you,” that one person you must watch out for is you.

But to show you first the sufficiency of God’s grace to all who believe, Jesus then asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” changing the word He used for love in Greek to phileo… the same word that Peter had used for his first two replies… so that this time when Peter answered, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You,” Jesus helped Peter to answer the question correctly, and Peter was no longer giving an answer to an imaginary question, but to a real question.  See that it was Jesus who changed the question, not Peter who changed the answer, yet John recorded for us that Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time… Have you ever wondered how much it hurt Jesus to have to ask not only a third time, but to change His question to help Peter from being wrong?  Peter changed the word agape used by Jesus to the word phileo in his mind and heart so that though the word agape was spoken, the word phileo was heard and responded to from Peter… for his heart was filled with phileo, not agape.  Peter heard agape, but presumed to reply phileo as being sufficient to answer the question and to satisfy the Lord’s enquiry.

When anyone of us do likewise when we hear what Jesus said, but presume to respond to it in a manner that befits our hearts, we, like Peter, have deceived ourselves, for we have replied to the imaginary and not to the real.  Whenever we respond to the word of Jesus we have heard in a manner we imagine that it should be responded to, like Peter we have deceived ourselves… and if we have deceived ourselves, then we are already deceived, and anyone who comes along will find us hapless victims.  That is why the men from James in Galatians 2 had no trouble in causing Peter to enter into hypocrisy and be deceived about the truth about himself, as Paul wrote and said to him, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.  How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” The lie that Peter indulged in himself was the refusal to see that as a man who practised the words of the Man who told him to eat His flesh and drink His blood, Peter himself was cut off from God’s people according to the law.  He could no longer live as a Jew.  He was, in truth, no longer a Jew… not a gentile but yet not a Jew… but rather, a ‘neither’, a man who was to learn and then teach the new rules and customs of those who are neither Jews nor gentiles because they have been born again – a new creature through their faith in Jesus Christ, a new creature, a new person who must learn to live a new life.

Indeed, the angel of the Lord that set the apostles free from jail reminded them, “…tell the people the full message of this new life.” A life so new, so different, not only because of what they now believed, but also because of what they could do.  A life that included raising cripples, raising the dead, driving out demons and so on.  Not just a life of going up to the temple for prayer like the rest of the Jews, but a life that no Jew had lived since the days of Elisha, and indeed a life no Jew had ever lived.  For Elijah’s and Elisha’s life of power and miracles were lived as Jews under the law.  Peter and the other ten were to live a life of miraculous signs and wonders as former Jews cut off from God’s people according to the law.

Hypocrisy, which is doing what you do not believe or say, or saying what you do not practise, comes when you deceive yourself… not because others have deceived you.  If you have been deceived by others, you are doing what they say, and in so doing, you are being true to yourself.  However, when you deceive yourself you are deluding yourself, and anything you do or think is nothing but a vain imagination of your own making.  Peter thought that he had answered the question when he had not and was not prepared to answer the question, but rather, gave an answer that made him sound right even when he was not… that is hypocrisy.

Like Peter, we all do it every time we give an answer to the Lord or choose to listen to the Lord in the manner we consider is correct without enquiring of the Holy Spirit what the Lord meant.  And how can you enquire of the Holy Spirit if you do not wait to listen to Him with the ability to recognise His voice?  You may read the scriptures and search the scriptures all you want and come up with an interpretation and put it into practice… but if you do not have the sincerity and humility to check on the results of your faith and practices, that it is producing what Jesus said it should produce, then you are deluding yourself.  And since you have deluded yourself, you can be deceived by anyone.

Israel indulged themselves with self-delusion and deception so that when the end came for them… their indulgence in prophecies of deliverance and prosperity was smashed with the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar and his army.

So then, as we approached the end of this age, approach it with these words of Jesus clearly in front of you… “Watch out that no one deceives you.” And before you accuse anyone of deceiving you… ensure that you are not deceiving yourself.  Listen to Jesus and remove all presumptions to change the meaning of His word to one that suits you.  Do not be like Peter who changed Jesus’ word of agape to phileo because it suited him.

If you are lazy, confess the truth.  If having to face the days of distress and overcoming them is too hard for you, be truthful and repent… let the Lord remove you from the arena by His mercy and grace, but do not hinder those who are determined to enter the arena and prove to Satan as in the days of Job, so it is now… as in the days of Noah and Lot, so it is now and even more… for there walks on this Earth a new creature, a new creation, who has the power of signs, wonders and miracles without having to be under the Law of Moses, who does not only believe in God but knows and understands God, that the greatest expression of His mercy and kindness is to fulfil the scriptures of Jesus and have Him reign on this Earth for a millennium.

So if you agape Jesus, then agape Him all the more, but if you really only phileo Him, then say, “No, Lord, You know I only phileo You.”  For then you will have saved yourself from the woes that are prepared for hypocrites and no one, not even yourself, has been able to deceive you.

As the psalmist testified of God:  To the faithful You show Yourself faithful, to the blameless You show Yourself blameless, to the pure You show Yourself pure, but to the crooked You show Yourself shrewd, so you can testify, “To the true You show Yourself true.”  For God may send a powerful delusion, but it is still you who chooses to believe the lie, and when you deceive yourself in the presence of the Truth Himself, little wonder God’s powerful delusion will help you to believe the lie.

Who then is the deceiver?  He who does not answer Jesus what He asks.

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