What Is the Greatest Deception Against the Church?

Last week I wrote a post called The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled. A lot of people disagreed with me and some wondered if my title was just hyperbole. Sadly, it wasn’t. I meant every word I wrote:

I believe the “existence of denominations and factions within the church is the greatest deception Satan has ever committed against the church.”

But here’s the thing–I’m just one person. One little blogger in a giant blogosphere. One member of the Body sharing my thoughts and feelings. Like I’ve said before, I never want to claim that I have the corner on Truth.

None of us does.

So, with that in mind, I thought I’d turn the question over to you. You, my beloved readers, are always so thoughtful and refreshing. You challenge my thinking weekly and I’m thankful. But, I’m also curious as to how you would answer the same question:

What do you consider to be the greatest trick or deception the devil has ever pulled against the church?

There is no right or wrong answer. Feel free to answer openly and honestly. We will all be respectful and considerate in our responses and discussion (won’t we?). What has God spoken to you about this question?

I can’t wait to hear and discuss. So, please share…

45 thoughts on “What Is the Greatest Deception Against the Church?”

  1. Division.

    All division.

    Starting at race, gender, socio-economic, theological, doctrinal, denominational, etc. He uses anything he can to make sure we keep walls between us, and he will support and endorse any division we run with that segregates us by our own choosing into separate camps (the denominational lie).

    But the cherry on top of that pie is how he has convinced so many believers that The Holy Spirit is no longer active today, and whose ministry stopped many years ago. Ouch.

    1. Have you ever butted heads with Jesus? Have you ever argued with Him or debated Him based on what you think He said as opposed to what He is actually saying? That right there is the seed of division, and is easily watered with our own pride and arrogance.

      Job shook his fist against Heaven and was promptly put into his place, but it ended well for Job due to God’s mercy. However, let none of us ever become as Job. Let none of us ever challenge His goodness and His power. Let none of us ever sit down in our ashes and seek to confront God our Father like petulant children, thinking we know better than He does.

      Division. Brought to you for thousands of years courtesy of the original arrogant one, puffed-up with his own glory, who had the audacity to believe he knew better than God. Surely none of us, bought and paid for at a terrible price and filled with the very wisdom of God, could ever be so foolish as to follow in his footsteps, right?

    2. Donald,
      Yes and yes. Division of all kinds in a disease within the church, toxic and rampant. As for the quenching of the Holy Spirit, well, I’d say that is right up there for me as one the biggest lies the church has fallen for…

      “Do not quench the Spirit” is followed by “do not despise prophecies.” We know how the church has responded to these two things. [Sigh] It’s just heartbreaking, isn’t it?

      1. “heartbreaking” is the PG version of what it is. What’s worse is that The Church has always responded positively to The Voice of our Father, (how can She not? He is to be Her Father-in-Law, indeed!), but the mere churches of men have vilified The Spirit because their “God in this box” denominations have taught them to be cowards and suspicious.

        Just. Give. Me. Jesus. Everything else is merely white noise and window dressing.

  2. Glad you asked Nicole! Kind of in line w/your mentioning denominations, I believe the greatest deception is tradition. Why? This is what makes the living, powerful, 2-edged sword non-effective!

    ..making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. Mark 7:13

    1. Sydney,
      Ahh, that is so true…As I read that verse, my spirit grieved. I think the traditions of man grieve the Lord when they stifle His Spirit, render His word ineffective, and bind His people. Yes, sadly I agree and I think that yes, denominations fall within the category of tradition. Really anything that man has elevated above the Lord or used to control others.

      Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2Cor 3:17

  3. I think one of the subtle deceptions is perpetrated through our old nature and this is to think that we can know God the same way we learn other subjects. We with lots of zeal seek to know him, only to realize that the old nature is a master in self preservation. I think Paul had seen through this when he said, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” (2Cor 5:16)

    1. This: “that we can know God the same way we learn other subjects.” This is a powerful revelation to me. I have never considered this before. You have given me something to think and pray on. I’m challenged and encouraged. Thank you, Maina!

      1. You mean The LORD doesn’t come with an instruction manual? Dang it. I guess I wasted all that money on my “Christianity For Dummies” series I just bought. heh. ;)

        Maina, you made an excellent point, indeed. Thank you!

  4. The Greatest Deception is…
    that leading a good life is “good enough”

    (this leads to comfort, which leads to apathy, which leads to indifference, which leads to us waring against God, if we are not for Him we are against Him)

    so what does for Him look like?
    not passively sitting by doing nothing for the proclamation of His Kingdom.

  5. In my view, the “greatest deception (whether it’s against the church as a Body of Believers or individuals within that Body) is “The One That Works.” The one that accomplishes the purpose of his wiles. Deception is deception. Different strokes for different folks. What deceives you may not deceive me and vice, versa. In the current discussion, (although I am a non-denominational pastor that helps care for a group that looks more like a “home church,”) I am not deceived, as it were, by the denominational structure. But, there are many others that have been casualties of, or have discovered the fresh flavor of a denominationless approach to worship and life that are highly offended and see denominations the way you do. One reason is anecdotal rather than the result of parsing verses, but I’ve known a good many folks who are a part of a denominational structure that are not at all divisive or exclusive. For them, “The Greatest Deception of Denominations” didn’t work. On the other hand, there are very large numbers of people who have adapted themselves to the “us and them” deception. It worked on them.

    Whatever works on a person or group is the greatest deception. For me, the greatest danger of any group is being blinded to the deception that they’ve arrived at truth’s destination, or they are closer to the destination than x,y,z people. I will absolutely agree that denominations provide fertile ground for responses of the flesh. But, fire can be used to cook, and heat, or do the bidding of an arsonist. It’s not the steeple on the outside that’s the problem (or deception, in my view) it’s the dead heads and hearts on the inside.

    1. Hi Gary

      These 2 scrippys came to me while reading your last paragraph :)

      Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. Jn. 12:24

      I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Gal. 2:20

  6. The church bought into the right-wing “Cult of America” hook line and sinker, and those chickens are coming home to roost.

    1. Yep, that’s true Joe. I’ve subscribed to a blog entitle, “The American Jesus” that’s very good. I’ve also been considering starting a second blog myself that I’m planning on calling, “The Evangelical Jesus.” All of us, denoms, non denoms, et al are far more influenced by American Culture than we realize. A close second to that would be Evangelical culture, which is what I grew up in and am thankful for some primary beliefs. But, anyway…yep…the Cult of America with all of its “children” would stack up as one of the greatest deceptions.

      1. Gary,

        I kinda liked the whole, “Jesus was a Socialist” or even better, “Jesus was a Liberal”. Or better yet, when pro-deathers say that abortion-on-demand is actually an act of God’s mercy. Yeah. I just love that.

  7. To narrow it down to just one is tough, especially in the different contexts we face. I would say that in America one of the biggest deceptions is that God is someone to know, knowledge to be collected and studied, but not experienced. If more people sought after experiencing God instead of knowing about God, we would react a lot differently to what God reveals.

    1. Mark….absolutely! Couldn’t agree more. See, I’ve responded to several things about what I think the greatest deception is. And, to me, this proves the point that to narrow it down to THE greatest deceptions is very tough, if not impossible. In fact, no disrespect to Nicole because I very much appreciate her writing….but, it’s the wrong question and attempting to narrow it down to a specific – depending on where one falls on the definition – actually contributes to the division.

  8. I think you are on to something. I would say that it’s claiming to be like Jesus without loving like him. Right doctrine without love makes a merely clanging symbols.

  9. I think the greatest deception is the idea that we can and ought to figure out EXACTLY how to be christian. We worry ourselves so much with whether everyone else is doing it right that we lose the natural unity that comes from loving God and one another. The expressions of the church on earth are varied and different for a reason: Christ’s body is made up of varying and different people. When we start squabbling over how worship is done, or what we believe on this that or the other theory of ecclesiology we create disunity.
    So, I guess my answer is that the greatest deception is worrying about how other communities of believers choose to worship and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

  10. works, in all of its deceptive nuisances:

    your standing with God depends upon you
    God only loves the ‘good’ folks
    right doctrine
    God is pissed off at you because ________
    you can do what is asked of you in yo flesh

    works…”could it be satan??” ~ the church lady

  11. Hard to pin it down to one but I would say:

    A lack of belief that people can actually get saved where we are in the communities we live. It’s something that seems to happen in other places, other churches but not where we are.

    So we find ourselves focussing our efforts in other areas because we find it hard or almost impossible to believe that our neighbour, friend, colleague could come to Christ.

    1. Paul,

      Great observation. Too many times (speaking for myself, of course) I see countless believers gravitate towards foreign missions, perhaps out of a romanticized sense of service and position, yet will not minister in their own areas of influence. Too many “christian missions” are merely Christian Tourism Trips, showing up, taking photos with the indigenous populace, writing a couple notes to the folks who supported your trip, and then back home to feel as though accomplishment was achieved. Just a thought.

      But, (and I am thinking out loud here), perhaps it is a sense of being without honor in one’s own hometown, in a loose fashion…I mean, there are certain things I cannot say to my family members because of my relationship/familiarity with them that would be received if, say, you yourself addressed my family members.

      The folks you elude to above might live in Podunk, KY, and I might be called to Podunk, KY to minister because those who live there cannot do so, according to the plan of our Father. And they in turn would come to my hometown to minister because of the same issues I have here. Hmmm. Like I said, I’m just thinking out loud here.

      1. Thanks for the helpful insight and I definitely get your point with family…and interesting to ponder on that with regards to the neighbourhood.

        I guess I was I thinking more generally in that within my church it feels like we focus more on our works such as meeting community needs (possibly because that is measurable) but is it right to focus much of our efforts in this way if at the same time we’re not seeing people come to faith?

        And when I have these conversations it often seems to be that we just struggle to believe that we could see people come to Christ right where we are. It’s almost as if the feeling is, ” someone get saved – could that really happen here?”

        Great point on mission trips!

        1. Paul,
          Let’s roll with this:

          Are you speaking about the “well, instead of actually telling people about Jesus, let’s instead do the ‘undercover Christianity’ thing, and minister to them without really mentioning Jesus unless He happens to come up in the ministering, because we don’t want to come across as being too ‘Bible-thumperish'” mindset?

          Like taking the whole “everyday evangelism” to such an extreme that we forgo speaking directly of Jesus for fear it will scare others away from Jesus when what we really (falsely) want is for them to come to our local church, when they see how kind and generous we are, and become a member?

          1. Pretty much I guess in the sense that should we not be as much about soul-saving as serving? Should we not be seeking to do both in building the Kingdom? I wouldn’t be in the church if a number of people hadn’t at some point taken the time to tell me about Jesus.
            I think the fear of speaking about God and possible rejection or damaging a friendship is significant and because we don’t see people coming to faith with any regularity, we become even more reluctant to say anything about Jesus.

  12. That because the ‘worlds’ liberties, or morals, or whatever ‘pc’ term applies, have changed, or grown, or advanced. God’s, and His Spiritual ‘invisible’ Church should change with it. HE will be the same as yesterday, as HE will be today, and continue to be tomorrow!

    1. Rodney,

      Indeed, should The Church reflect society or stand as the perfect Holy opposite of The World? Exactly. For truly, what does The Kingdom have to do with The World? When local institutionalized churches modify and water-down The Gospel for the sake of becoming seeker-friendly, they are basically taking ice cream and mixing it with dog feces; it doesn’t ruin the dog feces but it sure messes up that vanilla ice cream.

  13. Dear Nicole,

    Hello :-) I am a fairly new subscriber. Just popping in to read the interesting answers here, which seem all very good. Not sure if this was brought up yet, but the “law of first mention” (I just made that law up, but it may make good sense in some courtroom somewhere) is the first deception ever. In Genesis Satan’s first words were, “Did God really say…?”

    So much is just so simple, if we only just took God at His word.

    As Soren Kierkegaard said,

    “The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

    We must guard against thinking we are now safe from deception in that we got away from the bear. There’s something worse out there, and I have found this enemy to be more my self, than the system.

    1. Technically speaking, it does. There will come a moment in time when our Father’s love, grace, mercy, and patience are exhausted. But that is His version of grace based on His utter Sovereignty.

      Grace, for me and you and those this side of Heaven, should ne’er run out. Agreed!

  14. I actually think Kaiser Soze had it right… Making the world think the devil doesn’t exist. Very few take eternal or spiritual things seriously because they’ve forgotten he is prowling around like a roaring lion. So, we become apathetic, not only to that reality, but also to the Holy Spirit.

  15. I don’t know if this is really the greatest deception Satan has used, but I was thinking about this the other day. One of the greatest lies Satan has used against the church is that God does change and therefore the church has to change with the changing times. I see churches failing so much these days because they believe the lie that God changes. For example, I have heard of churches now accepting gay marriage because the times have changed and deep down they are saying that God changes as well. Hopefully that makes sense.

  16. I think one of the biggest deceptions the devil has used against the church is our own sense of right and wrong, justice and judgement. The church has had a really hard time understanding that Jesus came and fulfilled the Law for us, and gave us His holiness and righteousness as a free gift – it’s not something we have to pay for by our “good works”. It doesn’t seem right to us, that our good God would so something like that for us and we wouldn’t have to earn it in SOME way. So we add to the Gospel and perpetuate an Old Testament theology couched in New Testament terms, talking about Jesus while believing He must need our effort added to His sacrifice. We’re not comfortable getting something for nothing, and yet that’s what our God did – made a covenant with Himself representing both parties so that WE COULD NOT SCREW IT UP. When are we going to get that our requirement really is to just receive what Jesus accomplished for us, love God, and love people?

  17. I think one of his greatest deceptions is the idea that we need to keep our battles in the dark and fight them on our own…cleaning ourselves up before we can be in relationship with Christ.

  18. Nicole, My opinion is several characteristics could qualify for the “Greatest Deception”.

    One from the OT, “27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. 29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’S people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

    Moses seemed to understand the inherent danger of strict corporate structure. A pastor, I know, was exhausted, frustrated and in a humble state of mind spoke to his congregation and asked, “Where did we get the idea that ONE Man or Woman is supposed to do everything in the church?”

    I agree with the intended purpose of government/community structure and leadership. Unfortunately, our carnality is difficult to restrain under normal circumstances and almost impossible when given the staff of power. I have had to explain to each of my pastors I do not surrender my position of husband, father or citizen to them or anyone. They are my pastor, not my owner, God or employer.

    Deception? “You can CONTROL these people without believing you are God!” Joshua told Moses, “you are losing control.” Moses reply was, “I do not want control.”

  19. Since The Church is made up of its individual members, I think the biggest trick the Devil always plays is to make us think we are alone and forsaken and that we have to do things on our own power and strength. The second biggest trick is to get us involved in a land war in Asia. No, wait, that is the trick He plays on kings and rulers. :-D

    Actually, I think the second biggest trick is leading the Church and its saints to be of the world rather than in the world. For instance, we just finished studying the Middle Ages. At the start, the church stepped into the vacuum caused by the Romans Empire collapsing under the weight of debt and depravity and worked to preserve information and protect its members and share the gospel in troubling times. This is when the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds were developed, too, to prevent a corruption of the gospel. Not a bad thing. However, by the end, it had gained so much power over the people that it started getting involved in power struggles with kings. It twisted the concept that God is in charge of kings and rulers and believed that It, as “God’s ambassadors,” were in charge of kings and rulers. As a result, The Church fell into corruption, extra-Biblical doctrines and maybe a bit of depravity. Then, God took total control and brought people like Wycliff, Luther and others to cleanse His Church.

    And yet, the evangelical church in America did what the early church did in trying to get involved in politics rather than trying to tell people about Jesus, which is what everyone truly needs and who is the True Libertarian (i.e. person who can set us free with the truth).

    My two cents, which in these times is probably worth more like 0.005 cents. :-D

  20. Division is certainly a good answer. I think that’s huge. It can be difficult to try and say one thing is the greatest though. I think reality is complex and a number of things are tied together. A couple of things which come to mind are the re-institutionalization of the church along with the clergy/laity divide and increased focus on doctrine to determine who is in and out, which really take off in roughly the fourth century. I believe this led to the first major church divisions at that time, and though all of the protestant denominations don’t come until over a millennium later, it does lay the groundwork for them. And basically this is a result of a shift from living by the Spirit back to living by religion.

  21. What is the greatest deception against The Church?

    The false myth that mere men should be its leaders, thereby wresting Headship of Her from Jesus so they can have it for their own.

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