Fortunately,’ we may say to ourselves, ‘the elect are in no danger. For Jesus’ words [Matt.24:24] imply that we are incapable of falling prey to Satanic deception.’ But to read the text in this way is to miss the point, for two reasons:
It fails to take account of the evidence of history. Christians have been, and are, capable of being deceived. Have none of the elect been deceived in recent years into supporting ‘ministries’ that have proved so tragically different in reality from what they professed to be? Sadly, we are more easily addicted to the spectacular (‘signs and wonders’) than to the substantial, to novelty (‘false prophets’) than to wholesome orthodoxy. If we think Christians cannot be deceived, the deception has already begun.
It misunderstands the nature of the impossibility. Jesus did not say the elect were incapable of being deceived. We are all only too capable of it. Nevertheless, we are given this assurance: God will protect and preserve His people. Like Simon Peter, they will be shielded by the prayers of Christ and the power of God (Luke 22:31-32). This is accomplished through the activity of faith (1 Peter 1:5).
And so Ferguson continues by showing us how to avoid such deception:
But how can we guard ourselves against spiritual deception?
By developing sensitivity, we become aware of Satan’s strategies in our lives (2 Cor.2:11).
Have you learned what they are?
By developing self-knowledge, we recognize how weak we are. Since nothing good dwells in our flesh (Rom.7:18), we need constantly to depend on the Lord.
By developing an appetite for God’s Word, we are ‘trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’ (Heb.5:14 ESV), and we grow in discernment.
Is that true of you today?
Taken from Chapter 42 of Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone (Kindle ed.).