Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13, NKJV.)
What is it about sin that makes it deceitful? Satan the devil, who got our first parents to sin against God by disobeying His command not to eat the fruit of the tree He forbade them to, has since deceived the whole world! (Revelation 12:9.) Not just a tiny minority but the entirety of mankind! As 1 John 5:19 echoes: “…the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one [Satan].”
As the apostle Paul put it: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Paul said further: “Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12), for “the wages [consequence] of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). How Satan deceived Eve into swallowing and following his lie is instructive to all of us her descendants, who have also been deceived into following Satan instead of God our Creator.
The pleasures of sin
Paul [see: Who Wrote the Letter to the Hebrews?] wrote about “the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). It isn’t an empty adjective which describes how Eve saw the forbidden fruit after Satan (in the guise of a serpent) had given his “sales talk”: “…the woman [Eve] saw that the [forbidden] tree was pleasant to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6).
Satan’s “religion” has spawned many organizations whose worship oozes with the pomp and pageantry of rituals and rubrics. The colors, the odors, the tangible shapes and images, the alluring music, the impressive movements and drama in their worship — all these hit the eye and other senses of most people as “beautiful” and “pleasant” — and often “lots of fun.”
In comparison, True Worship often looks rather drab, plain and devoid of much “audio-visual” aids (except for the now trendy power point and video/audio presentations to enhance the Word). Preaching about the sins of the congregation (Isaiah 58:1) makes many cringe uncomfortably in their seats. When the “two witnesses” are finally revealed and will testify to the world for God, the people that will not believe them will feel “tormented” by the message of these witnesses (Revelation 11:10).
Most people want a message that is “smooth” (Isaiah 30:10) — no burrs that could hurt the ego, make one uncomfortable and even torment one. This does not mean that true worship has to major only in the wrath of God, and sermons have to be of the “hell-fire-and-brimstone” variety. Nor is true worship only looking at the grace and mercy of God. Paul instructs us to consider both “the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). [See: Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time? and The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]
All religions that are in opposition to God’s truth in His Word fall under the rubric of “Babylon the Great.” God calls this Satan-backed human device “the great harlot” (Revelation 17:1) who has made “the inhabitants of the earth…drunk with the wine of her [spiritual] fornication” (same Verse). Revelation 18:3 says that this “harlot” has made “all the nations” drunk with the “wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Such spiritual “wine” has deceived those who get drunk by it, thereby causing them to forget God’s law and Word (Proverbs 31:4-5).
The children of Israel were warned by their God not to be attracted to and snared by the colorful worship of the pagan peoples whom God drove out of the Promised Land in order to give way to His own people, the Israelites (Deuteronomy 12:29-31). But, sadly, as their national history shows, the children of Israel forgot their covenant with God and “worshiped” Him according to the abominations of the people He had driven out of the land. That same history, thankfully, also shows how God punished the children of Israel for their sins in order to bring them back to Him. [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.]
A case in point
Proverbs 9:17 demonstrates why sin is deceitfully “pleasant”: “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret [because also stolen] is pleasant.” As most everybody would know, stealing is a sin against God, who commands all mankind [not just Israel]: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19).
How many of us have seen, like here in the Philippines, people secretly making illegal connections to a commercial water pipe, and congratulating themselves for being so “smart” as to put one over the water supplier? And who has not heard about robbers who run with their heist, “laughing all the way to the bank?”
Proverbs 9:17, however, does not speak merely about physical water and physical bread (in idiomatic language, “bread” symbolizes money, which is also called “dough”). Stolen “water” is symbolic of adultery.
Proverbs 5:15 says, “Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your well.” Verses 16-20 explain what this means: a person needs to be faithful to the wife of his youth and not to share her with another man; nor should he be “enraptured” in the embrace of another woman, especially an immoral seductress — a harlot — with all her charms and allure.
Isn’t this what Satan’s spiritual harlot “Babylon” [meaning “confusion,” of which the author cannot be God (1 Corinthians 14:33)!] — is all about, seducing mankind into drinking her pleasant wine? [Compare with Proverbs 5:1-23, and see: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and Drunk With Strange Wine.]
Proverbs 5:4-11 shows the dire consequence of falling for an “immoral woman” (both an actual harlot and a spiritual “harlot” — false religion): a “bitter” end, in death, with one’s flesh and body “consumed” (Verses 4-5, 11).
As Paul describes it, the pleasures of sin are “passing” — only for a brief moment, until their automatic consequence backfires, as we will explain.
Spiritual “bread eaten in secret” is spiritual “food” stolen from God’s Word and misused for purposes other than God’s purposes. Satan is a master manipulator of God’s Word — making it say what God does not mean at all. That’s what deceit is — a whole bunch of lies! Satan has his “ministers” (2 Corinthians 11:15) who, with “good words,” “fair speeches” but “vain words” have deceived many (Romans 16:18; Ephesians 5:6). [See: Beware of False Prophets and Switching Positive and Negative.]
As a result, many people have come to believe in false “christs” — misrepresentations (lies!) about who Jesus really was — and is — and what He really taught (and teaches still). [See: The True Christ, The Law of Christ, Moses and Jesus — Are They Contraries ? Spiritual Dyslexia, and Is Jesus Your Lord — Really?]
The deceitfulness of pride
In the prophecy of Obadiah, God condemns Edom (Jacob’s brother — see the story in Genesis 25-33 — whom God has judged to be “profane,” Hebrews 12:16) for his pride. God told him: “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Obadiah 1:3). It is that attitude of mind and heart that “exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
To our Mother Eve, God’s word to her and Adam was not good enough. With Satan urging her, she took the devil’s bait that disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit would make her like God — deciding for herself what is good and what is evil, apart from God’s standards — and thus supposedly making her “wise” (Genesis 3:5-6).
Men and nations have since devised cultures and societies that exalt themselves above and against God’s way of life as revealed in His Word, the Holy Bible. This has resulted in mankind being sorely divided against itself! [See: No Walls, No Ceiling? The Great Wall, and “The Next Chapter of History.”]
Along with pride go whatever “riches” mankind has acquired — whether material wealth, or intellectual wealth. Jesus spoke about the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:29).
With the explosion of mankind’s store of knowledge about our physical world and universe, about human and other past history (Daniel 12:4), many people now put their trust in man instead of in God.
Satan’s principal human instrument, “Babylon the Great,” is associated with both physical, material wealth and intellectual knowledge (Revelation 18). Verse 7 testifies that this “Babylon” has “glorified herself” — the sin of pride!
Such human pride blinds mankind from seeing what we really are as God sees us: we have set up “strongholds” (deep-seated beliefs) that make men exalt themselves “against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Such is the pride that has affected even the very Church of God! [See: Laodicean Christians.]
The “long arm of the law” (in a just society) eventually catches up with what secret stealers of water and “bread” have done, prosecutes them and penalizes them accordingly. So also, the more powerful hand of the Almighty God will punish unrepentant sinners.
We should never think for a moment that we can escape God’s judgment with our sins (Romans 2:3). To those who willingly choose to continue in sin instead of responding to God’s goodness by their repenting of sin, the apostle Paul says: “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, ‘who will render to each one according to his deeds‘; …to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil” (Romans 2:5-6, 8-9).
Satan has deceived too many people into thinking that God — in Jesus Christ — is some “toothless tiger.” [See: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]
All kinds of “perverted sex” (or sexual “deviance” — departure from the Biblical norm) — condemned in God’s Word as “abominable” (Leviticus 18 lists these) — are surely “pleasurable” to most of those who engage in them. But, as many are now coming to realize, such perversions earn for their perpetrators the due “penalty of their error” (Romans 1:26-32) — in the form of horrific STDs [sexually transmitted diseases, the most disturbing and most debilitating so far being HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune disease syndrome], mostly (if not all) ending in certain death!
Unless they wholeheartedly turn to God and away from their sins, they will suffer the ultimate consequence of sin: death in the lake of fire. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 shows that it is possible for such people to change and become justified (made righteous) and sanctified (made holy) through Christ and God’s Spirit. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]
Other sins may not bring about drastic consequences such as sexual immorality does, but the momentary pleasure often results later in feelings of guilt, self-hatred, and broken relationships.
Those who — after being enlightened in God’s way, having repented, and having received God’s Spirit — will go back to their sin are compared to a sow washed that goes back to her wallowing, or a dog to his own vomit (2 Peter 2:21-22). They can only look to a latter end worse than their beginning (Verse 20). Revelation 21:8 declares, in no uncertain terms, that such impenitent and unrepentant wicked will end up in the lake of fire and suffer the “second death.” [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]
Before one’s heart becomes irreversibly unrepentant and “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13), one needs to earnestly “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).
While God’s Word is available, seek it earnestly! To one whom God is calling to salvation at this time, His Word is “not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
May this website bring you God’s Word of life! May you find a good life in this present age, during which Jesus promises that His people will not feel deprived of or lack provisions (see Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30). [For more enlightenment on the subject, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, choose Plain Truth (1934-1986), select 1970-1979, scroll down to the PT June-July 1974 issue, and see Personal from Herbert W. Armstrong, “Is it Wrong to Be a Cultured Individual?” (pages 1, 10).]
And — even better — may you find fulfillment in God’s kingdom, where you can enjoy everlasting life in the fellowship of God, at Whose right hand “there are pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11).
Why exchange these for the fleeting pleasures of sin? Don’t be taken in by “the deceitfulness of sin!”
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.