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Deception: When People Are Not As They Appear

Looking out from my kitchen I spotted a zebra. Grazing greedily on the grass, it looked as if wandering in my neighbor’s paddock was the most natural thing to do. In disbelief, I dropped a plate into the dirty dish-washing water and yelled out to my husband,

“There’s a zebra in the neighbor’s paddock!”

A soft chuckle came from the next room. “Look harder” he answered. “The horse has a new summer coat.”

And sure enough as I gazed at the zebra, I noticed that only his feet revealed the secret of what type of four-footed animal I was really seeing. From the tip of the ears and nose to the ankles I saw black and white strips, but the feet gave away the true identity. No longer was a zebra looking back at me, but the neighbor’s familiar pony. Such a masterful art of deception.

That’s just like some people we meet. Jesus warned us about them, didn’t he?

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Some people are not as they appear, and we need to study them closely to discern what they are really like on the inside. Underneath their external covering, they may be someone else. But often looking is not enough. We need to examine the fruits of their lives.

Matthew 7:16-17 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?

In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.’ It takes time for a tree to bear fruit. Often, we may not know the truth that lays within a person until we have observed them for some time and then are able to identify what they are really like.

Proverbs 20:6 Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness; but a faithful man, who can find?

Best not to rush in and put all our confidence and trust in another until we have discerned in the course of time, what they are really like. Until they have proved their worth as a trustworthy acquaintance.

Matthew 7:18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

What are the ‘diseases’ that identify a bad tree? Or rather what is the distinguishing characteristics of those who prove to be false and not sincere? The New Testament epistles have much to say about these ‘false prophets’ and how to recognize them. They often cause controversies and advocate a different gospel to the one Jesus taught (1 Timothy 1:3). They bring division through their words and are puffed up and self-assured, resulting in futile strife and disputes (1 Timothy 6:3-4). They are greedy for their own gain and inconsiderate of the needs of others (1 Timothy 6:5-10). They undermine the faith of others through corrupt teaching even to the point of denying the resurrection of the LORD Jesus (2 Peter 2:1). Diseased ‘trees’ such as these will not bear good fruit.

Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

The end result of these people cannot be clearer. Jesus means what He says and says what He means. An eternal fire awaits those who mislead God’s people for “their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).

1 John 2:26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you.

In light of the fact that there are false teachers who seek to misguide and seek their own glory, we need to be all the more diligent to take care, and with a discerning spirit, prayerfully wait to witness the real fruit that such people will bear.

‘Heavenly Father, please keep me from deceivers and those who twist Your Word for their own selfish end. Teach me to be wise and discerning. Help me to wait patiently as Your Spirit leads me in all truth and with a heart of love. Give me a deeper devotion to You and Your Word so that I will know the truth in a greater measure. This I ask in your Son’s dear name. Amen.’

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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  1. Jennifer,
    I was smiling at your opening! That was a great segue to the deep message from your article.
    Thank you for sharing and bringing us to deeper contemplation of God’s Word.
    God Bless~

  2. great article

  3. Jennifer,
    Great message and reminder. The warnings you gave are appropriate any time, but especially in this present time.
    Thanks and God bless.

  4. Thank you dear Jennifer for such a wise and encouraging text. It reminded me to be aware about false teachers and to look for their fruit.. I am grateful for your input.
    Looking forward to your next article!

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