We hear so many empty promises:
"You will become a world-class violinist.” “Melt 10 pounds in 10 minutes! A workout so easy, you can do it in your pajamas!” “Look better and feel younger in just minutes a day!”
Our culture is riddled with deception. It's everywhere, as illustrated by the outlandish advertising claims above. Sometimes it's easy to see through the falsehood. Unfortunately, most of the time, it's not quite so simple to detect.
Deception in advertising appeals to our natural human longings. We want to believe that somehow, mysteriously, those unwanted pounds really could melt away in just 10 minutes — no sweat, no discipline, no cost, no effort, no pain. That’s why we buy the pills, the diet drink powders, and the infomercial exercise equipment.
It all started in the garden
The first ever advertising campaign was designed by a clever and cunning pitchman, whose intention was to change Adam and Eve’s thinking about God and his ways. Satan’s objective was to drive a wedge between God and his creatures. He rightly assumed that Adam and Eve weren't likely to support anything that appeared to be an all-out assault on God. Instead, Satan knew that he would have to subtly trick them, to deceive them, to seduce them by making an offer that appeared to be reasonable, desirable, and not entirely “anti-God.”
So, he deceived Eve through a clever combination of outright lies, half-truths, and falsehoods disguised as truth. He began by planting seeds of doubt in her mind about what God had actually said: “Did God really say...?” (Genesis 3:1).
Next, he led her to be careless with the Word of God and to suggest that God had said something that, in fact, he hadn't. God had said, “Do not eat the fruit of the tree.” However, Eve quoted God as saying, “You must not touch it” (Genesis 3:3).
Satan deceived Eve by causing her to question the goodness, love, and motives of God. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” he asked. The implication was: “Has God put restrictions on your freedom? Sounds like he doesn’t want you to be happy.”
The truth is that God had said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden — except one" (Genesis 2:16).
The truth is that God is a generous God.
In that entire, vast garden, God had posted only one Keep Off sign. And that one restriction God imposed was in the best of interests of the couple and was intended to guarantee their long-term blessing and happiness. God knew that when they ate of that tree, they would die: their relationship with him would be severed and they would become slaves — to Satan, sin, and self.
But Adam and Eve took the bite. And instead of the promised rewards, they found themselves with a mouth full of worms — shame, guilt, fear, and alienation.
The master deceiver
As Thomas Brooks puts it,
"Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honor, and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure, and pays with pain; he promises profit, and pays with loss; he promises life, and pays with death.
From that moment to this, Satan has used deception to win our affections, influence our choices, and destroy our lives. In one way or another, every problem we have in this world is the fruit of deception — the result of believing something that simply isn’t true."
Satan holds out the glittering promise of “real life”; he knows, however, that those who respond to his offer will certainly die (Proverbs 14:12).
So why do we fall for the devil's deception? Why do we go for the lure? One reason is that Satan’s lies don’t usually appear in the form of words spoken by a serpent — instead, they are wrapped in a New York Times best-seller, a movie, a TV show, or a Top 40 pop song. They may also permeate counsel offered by a relative or friend, a therapist, or even a Christian writer, preacher, or counselor.
Regardless of the immediate source, anytime we receive input that is not consistent with the Word of God, we can be sure Satan is trying to deceive and destroy us. What we read or hear may sound right or even feel right — but if it is contrary to the Word of God, it isn’t right. If we could only see that the forbidden fruit, fruit that looks so ripe and tastes so sweet in the first moment, always leads ultimately to death and destruction.
Moving from bondage to freedom
Most of us have areas of our lives where we are in bondage because we have listened to, believed, and acted on lies. How can we escape being enslaved by these lies and begin to move toward freedom?
Here are three steps we can take.
1. Identify the areas of bondage or sinful behavior.
Chances are, you already know what some of those areas are. But there may be others that are not as obvious. Ask God to show you where you are not free. The Scripture says, “A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2 Peter 2:19).
What are the areas in your life where you are not living in freedom as a child of God? Are you in physical bondage (overeating, an eating disorder, substance abuse)? Are you in emotional bondage (anxiety, fear, depression, chronic emotional disorders)? Are you in sexual bondage (lust, pornography, sex outside of marriage)? Are you in financial bondage (overspending, greed, stinginess)? Are there sinful habits that plague you (anger, lying)? Are you in bondage to the need for approval, excessive shyness, talking too much, or an addiction to TV or romance novels? God may bring other areas of bondage to your mind.
Once you identify those areas, don’t just try to eliminate them. In fact, you may have already tried to deal with these behaviors, failed, and been tempted to give up. If you want to get rid of poisonous berries growing on your property, it’s not enough to go out and pick all the berries off the bush. More will just grow back in their place. The only way to permanently get rid of the poisonous fruit is to pull the bush out from the roots. That’s why this next step is so important.
2. Identify the lies at the root of that bondage or behavior.
What lies have you listened to, believed, or acted on that have put you in bondage? The answer to that question may not be immediately apparent — roots are generally hidden beneath the surface, and lies, by their very nature, are deceptive. We need the Lord to help us see the deception in what we have been believing.
3. Replace the lies with the Truth.
Satan is a powerful enemy. His primary weapon is deception. His lies are powerful. But there is something even more powerful than Satan’s lies — and that is the Truth. Once we identify the lies that have put us in bondage and repent of believing those lies, we have an effective weapon to overcome deception — the weapon of Truth.
Each lie must be countered with the corresponding Truth. Where we have listened to, dwelt on, believed, and acted on lies, we must begin to listen to, meditate on, believe, and act on the Truth. That is how we will move from bondage to freedom, by the power of the Spirit of God. As Jesus declared, "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).