Deception has been a powerful part of warfare even since the Trojan Horse. During the days of America’s Civil Cavaryman General Nathan Bedford Forrest attained near legendary status for his ability to “hoodwink” (deceive!)Union commanders. So much so that Northern commander William T. Sherman referred to him as “that devil Forrest.” A publication called Today in the Word (June 27, 1993) related that in 1864 Forrest was leading his troops north from Decatur, Alabama toward Nashville. But at Athens, Alabama, Forrest encountered Union forces at Fort Henderson under the command of Colonel Wallace Campbell. When Campbell refused to surrender, Forrest requested a personal meeting. Campbell acquiesced, and Forrest allowed Campbell to inspect the Confederate troops. But each time, as soon as they left one detachment, the Confederate soldiers hurriedly packed up and moved with speed and stealth to another position, carrying cannons with them. Forrest and Campbell would arrive at the new encampment, and Campbell continued to add up the number of Confederate troops and weapons. And it worked! By they time they returned to the fort, Campbell was convinced (but mistaken) he was far outnumbered and couldn’t possibly win. He unconditionally surrendered his troops and the fort to Forrest. Later he realized he’d been duped by, as Sherman described him,”that devil Forrest!”
Deception has been around for a long time. War has, too. I’m referring, not to physical war, but the age-old warfare between God and Satan, good and evil, right and wrong, truth and falsehood. How does the devil so often convince people to surrender? The answer is found in his power of deception. From the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3 to this present moment, the devil has worked to seduce and deceive people away from God’s word and way. How? In 2 Corinthians 11:1ff the apostle Paul writes of his fear Christians may be duped by the devil just as “the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness.” Then in verses 13-15 he warns that false teachers are “deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself as into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” The devil traffics in deception! Elvis Presley had a song by the title, “You’re the Devil in Disguise.” In it, Presley crooned, “You look like an angel, walk like angel, Talk like an angel. But I got wise, you’re the devil in disguise.” The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). There is only one devil (Revelation 12:7-9), but he has “deceiving spirits” and “demons.” And in this text Paul plainly avers the devil’s demons have “doctrines.” In the next verse he reminds Timothy those “spirits” and “demons” speak “lies in hypocrisy” because “their conscience is seared with a hot iron.” These passages may not answer every question we have about the devil and how he deceives. But what is crystal clear is that the devil is out to hoodwink us morally and spiritually – to make lies look so true and bad look so good and sin look so harmless that we buy the lies he is selling. But we must not. His lies lead away from the faith to a hopeless end (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). God’s word is the truth (John 17:17). The Bible’s ancient words will guide us home. Follow it to avoid being duped by the devil.