December 5, 2014
Matthew 24:21-25 (NIV)
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
I was thinking about Tom this morning, and praying for him and his family. I haven’t seen him for a long time, but over 40 years ago I met Tom who owned a hardware store in the town where I pastored my first church. I immediately liked this outgoing man, and I would stop in often just to ‘chew the fat’ with my friend. Tom was Roman Catholic, and we often talked about spiritual things. But he felt he was missing something in his life, and one day in the store he said to me, “Chip, I want what you have. I want Jesus as my Savior. What do I have to do? ” I told him, “You just have to ask Him into your heart and life.” And I quoted Revelation 3:20 where Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in….”
Just then a customer came in and Tom – being the only attendant available – had to wait on him. He hurriedly told me, “Just a couple of minutes, Chip, and you can help me pray to ask Jesus to come in.” But before he was finished with that customer, the bell on the door rang, and another person in search of some hardware came in – then another, and then another! Tom apologized and told me, “I don’t know what is going on. It never gets this busy this early in the day!” I told him I would wait. In my mind I could almost see one of the devil’s demons out on the sidewalk steering people into Tom’s store! The evil one surely did not want to lose a soul to the Savior!
Finally, with about six people in the store looking for assistance with their various projects, Tom came over to me and said, “Aw, to heck with it! Let’s go into the back room so I can accept Jesus as my Savior!” And so we did! Tom prayed a short prayer inviting the Lord into his heart and life – said, “Amen!” – and went out to help his customers! I left the hardware store with its busy owner, and all the way home I was rejoicing that a new Christian had come into the kingdom of heaven!
It was a few months later that Tom invited me to drive with him to Pittsburgh to a hardware merchandise show. As we made the 100 plus mile trip, I started telling him about a new idea that business and banking leaders were talking about. You have probably heard about it, but remember, this was 40 years ago!
I laid out the plan in a bit of a devious way! I knew where I was going with the presentation, and I wanted to bring an important Biblical teaching home to Tom concerning what I was telling him. I told him how cash money and credit cards could be lost or stolen, and identity theft was beginning to make its appearance. So economic leaders had come up with a plan for encrypting a computer chip with a person’s information – both personal and financial – and implanting it under the skin of the one to whom such information applied. That way, it would be extremely difficult to lose one’s money, credit cards, identity and/or other encrypted information. Tom thought it was a great idea! It would help his and many other businesses, plus be a boon to financial dealings in general, as well as making available all sorts of critical information, especially in emergencies.
Then I turned in the Bible to Revelation 13:16 and 17 and had him read it:
And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to
receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one
may buy or sell except the one who has the mark of the name of the beast,
or the number of his name.
Tom read it, then read it again. He looked up and stuttered, “But…but…but…isn’t this the antichirst? Isn’t this bad?!” I said, “Yup!” And then I proceeded to tell my friend how important it is – especially as a new Christian – to get into God’s Word and learn what the Bible has to say about life!
Here is what Jesus said about the devil’s tactics. The setting is the Tribulation – the last seven years of this earthly age – but it applies to us all here and now! I chose the NIV for this scripture from Matthew 24:21 through 25 because I think it presents the idea in a way easier to understand:
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the
world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been
cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will
be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’
or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will
appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if
that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.
Yes, Satan tries to deceive people! And he is good at it – so good that it says he can almost “…deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” (verse 24). Thank God it is not possible for Christians to be to that extent deceived that they can forfeit their salvation – their eternal life!
As I rather dramatically showed my friend Tom, the best way to keep from being deceived in your Christian faith is to get into the Bible – and stay in it! That way, “…you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). You will be free from the devil’s deceit!