Spotting Deception Before It Traps You


A Study of 1 John 2.24-29

Introduction 

Jennifer De-Stefano is a woman in Arizona who got a terrifying phone call not long ago. She recognized the voice at once. It was her daughter’s voice. The 15-year-old girl was named Briana, and she was sobbing. Through her tears, she said, “Mom, I messed up.”

That would be a nightmare call for any parent, but it got worse when Jennifer heard men in the background telling Briana to shut up. “Mom, help me!” was the last thing Jennifer heard. And then a man came on the phone and threatened to pump her stomach full of drugs and drop her on the other side of the Mexican border if Jennifer didn’t give them money. 

Fortunately, Jennifer put the phone on mute and screamed for help. A neighbor heard, called 911, and people gathered at Jennifer’s house as she tried to negotiate with the kidnapper. One of the neighbors was smart enough to pull Jennifer aside and tell that Artificial Intelligence can now duplicate anyone’s voice, and this was almost certainly a scam—which it was.

Imagine going through that! No, we don’t even want to imagine it.

We’re living in a world of deception, and the deception is becoming more and more difficult to discern. Your loved one has a video on social media, and AI can replicate so closely you can’t tell the difference. Someone imitating your loved one’s voice exactly!

When the apostle John was alive, he didn’t have to worry about Artificial Intelligence, but he was facing the same exact issue. People were claiming to speak for God. They were pretending to speak in His voice, but it was a message of deception. People would say, “This is the real Gospel,” and they would sound apostolic in their tone. But they were deceivers. John was concerned that many of his church members would be deceived by these false teachers, so he told them how to spot deception in the paragraph we’re coming to in our study of 1 John. Today’s passage is 1 John 2:24-26: 

Scripture

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us—eternal life.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has been taught you, remain in Him. 

Background

In this series from John, I’ve repeatedly mentioned the background scenario. Apparently John sent out his Gospel—the Fourth Gospel, which we call the Gospel of John—sometime late in the first century to his churches in Western Turkey. Some of those attending these churches did not agree with John’s high Christology—that Jesus Christ was fully God and truly human. They began leaving the churches and telling the other members that John was old and foggy in his thinking. They rejected the apostolic view of Christ and were spreading a low view of Jesus Christ among the churches. 

The apostle Paul had dealt with something similar in his letter to the Colossians. There were deceivers who sounded authentic, but their message was wrong.

We’re facing an even bigger problem today because the voices of deception are coming in so many different ways and from so many different directions. Everywhere we turn, we are hearing lies that sound like truth. And some of these lies are seeping into our churches. 

How, then, can we spot deception before it traps us. In this paragraph, the apostle John gives us a pair of glasses with two lenses. I’ve worn glasses since I was in college. Over the years I’ve had many pairs of glasses, but every one of them has had two lenses—one for each eye—and they have enabled me to see with accuracy. In this passage, John gives us a pair of glasses that enables us to spot deception before it entraps us.

1. The Apostolic Message

The first lens is the apostolic message, the Gospel that was proclaimed by Jesus Christ and by His apostles. Look at verse 24: “As for you….”

That’s an important biblical phrase. Whenever you see the phrase, “But as for me” or “But as for you” in the Bible underline it, because it is showing us the contrast we’re to present to our culture. It’s like when Joshua said, “If you want to serve false gods, go ahead and do it, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15, my paraphrase). We cannot control what our society or our culture or our nation does. But we can say to them: “Go ahead! Live as you choose. But as for me, here is how I am going to live. Here is how I am going to think.” We can be graciously defiant. We can be counter-cultural. 

As for you, we know that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.

He is referring to the Gospel message, which they had heard at the beginning of their spiritual journey with Christ. 

Jesus Christ of Nazareth was supernaturally born of a virgin. He fulfilled hundreds of predictions and types about Him in the Old Testament. The angels sang at His birth. He had grown up without sin. He was anointed as Messiah at the Jordan River when He was thirty years old. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Him. He taught with authority. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He was rejected, arrested, falsely accused, and crucified. He physically rose from the dead on the third day. He now had a glorified and imperishable body. He spent the next 40 days teaching His disciples further truths about the Kingdom of God, then He ascended back into Heaven, whence He had come. He did so with a promise to return when the times reach their fulfillment. His death and resurrection was a work of redemption, and all who take Him as their Lord and Savior are forgiven of their sins and have eternal life. This is the Gospel. This is the apostolic witness. All four Gospel writers testified to this.

  • Matthew said about Him that He came to the disciples in a storm, walking on the water, and He rebuked the waves and wind, and those in the boat worshiped Him (Matthew 14:33).
  • Mark said about Him that the people of His day were amazed and said, “What manner of man is this?” (Mark 4:41, KJV).
  • Luke said, “A Savior has been born to you; He is Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

But no one spoke of Him the way John did. John said:

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-4, 14 NKJV).
  • “The One who comes from above is above all” (John 3:31).
  • “This man really is the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
  • “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46).
  • Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this Book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 21:30-31).

Peter said: “There is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).

Paul said: “(He) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or powers, or rulers, or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-16).

This the apostolic message. Jesus is true God and true man—God who became flesh so that as God He might have the power and purity needed to save us; and as man He might shed His blood to make that salvation possible.

Now John said here in our text in 1 John 2:24: As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning—[the Gospel message from the apostles] remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us—eternal life.

The word “remain” is the word that is translated in the older translations as “abide.” It’s the same word Jesus used in John 15, when He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches…. Abide in Me and you will have a very fruitful life” (my paraphrase.” If a limb is cut off from a tree, it’s going to die. As long as it stays in tight union and connection in the tree, it will be fruitful.

If we’re going to spot deception we have to have a worldview that is based on the uncompromised and uncompromising message proclaimed by the apostles—the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, which abides in our hearts and minds.

2. The Anointing

The second lens that enables us to spot deception is the anointing Jesus gives us. Look at the entire paragraph again.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us—eternal life.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has been taught you, remain in Him. 

Verse 26 says, “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.” He’s talking about the deserters, the people with a low view of Christ who were leaving the churches. Earlier in the chapter he had called them anitchrists, and he said, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.” These people weren’t just leaving the church; they were trying to take others with them. They were trying to intimidate and persuade those who were remaining true to John’s Gospel and his high view of Christ.

In verse 27, John repeats the phrase, “as for you,” and he again tells them they have an anointing.

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you.

He had talked about this anointing earlier in the chapter. Almost every commentator sees this as a reference to the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus poured out on the church on the Day of Pentecost.

Now, at this point I want to bring in two cross references, two other passages, in the Bible.

First, let’s go back to John’s Gospel and to the Upper Room Discourse, which Jesus spoke to His disciples the night before His crucifixion. 

John 14:25-26 says, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said.” 

And John 16:12-15 says, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from Me what He will make known to you.”

Jesus promised that His people would be anointed with and would receive the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit would teach them and help them to remember, understand, and apply His teachings to their lives.

Now let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:10-16:

These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Jesus promised to send His people the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit would guide us into all truth. Paul said the Holy Spirit enables us to understand what God has told us in His Word, so that we can make judgments about all things, developing the mind of Christ.

This is exactly what John is saying as well. Do you see how consistently this teaching unfolds in the Bible? John knew what he had written in his Gospel, and he knew what Paul had written and the truth behind it. So he told his readers:

I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has been taught you, remain in Him. 

Now, when he said, “You do not need anyone to teach you” he didn’t really mean they didn’t need teachers. After all, he was teaching them. And in his little letter of 3 John, he told them to make sure they received the teachers he was sending to them. This is a reference back to the deceivers and the deserters. He was saying, “You don’t need to be intimidated by these so-called teachers. You don’t need what they are trying to tell you. “But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has been taught you, remain in Him.” 

Conclusion

Now let’s bring all this together. What John is saying here is that there are many deceivers, many antichrists, and we have to protect ourselves against them. We have to spot them before they trap us. We have two lenses in our glasses. We have the Gospel and we have the Spirit—the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit. That means…

First, we must be filled with the Scriptures. We must study our Bibles, know our Gospels, and become students of theology. There’s a sense in which we must all be theologians. You may be thinking, “Oh, I can read my Bible, but I’ve never thought of myself as a theologian.” Theology is simply the study of God and His Book. It comes from the Greek word theos, which is God. It is God-ology. 

I’ve come to believe that most Christians in America have a very shallow knowledge of the Bible. And most churches aren’t really helping. In our pulpits, we emphasize exhortation and motivation; and in our small groups we emphasize relationships. But where are we really laying forth hard-core, solid Bible information and teaching? 

Here’s what I would suggest to you. Get yourself a very good study Bible—one with notes that introduce each book and that have marginal notes and footnotes. Pick one of the 66 book installments that make up the Bible—right now I’m doing this with the Old Testament prophet Zechariah—and spend a half-hour each day pouring yourself into that book, seeking to understand why it was written, what it says, and what it all means to you. If you can’t find half an hour, start with ten or fifteen minutes.

The ESV Study Bible is very good. The MacArthur Study Bible is also a winner. The NIV study Bible is very good. A good study Bible is like a Bible College education within two covers. Use a pen or pencil, or a set of colored pencils, and make notes. Try to master each book of the Bible, one at a time.

The Bible says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell richly within you.”

Nick Proell is a student who was witnessing about his faith in Christ at the University of Wisconsin. It was at an event discussing human sexuality, and Nick was sharing the Gospel and engaging students about the evils of radical gender ideology and child mutilation. Suddenly he realized his Bible was missing, and he saw an individual literally ripping out the pages of the Bible with his teeth. Nick said, “It was my personal study Bible that I used every single day.” This opposing student was ripping out pages, chewing them, and spitting them out.

Nick kept his perspective. He said he was glad to see the fellow digesting God’s Word.” And later he saw individual students picking up and reading the pages that were blowing across the campus.

Nick got himself another Bible and he continued to devour it in the way that we should!

Second, be filled with the Spirit. You can study the Bible for years—some people do—but without the Holy Spirit it’s nothing except an ancient textbook. But everything changes when you have the author of the book meeting with you, opening your mind to its message. 

When you sit down for your daily Bible study, offer a prayer. Say: “Dear Lord, as I approach this wonderful Book, fill me with the Holy Spirit and give me illumination and spiritual understanding as to how to apply this message to my own life.” The Psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your Word” (Psalm 119:18, my paraphrase).

It’s truly amazing how God will show you truths in the Bible that hit you just as personally as if He were sitting there beside you, speaking to you audibly.

Yes, there are agents of deception all around us—but we have the message we have heard from the beginning and we have an anointing. 

The devil has a hard time deceiving the followers of Christ who, on a habitual basis, are filled with the Scripture and filled with the Spirit. And that’s the best way I know of spotting deception before it leads you into a trap.