Deceived in Plain Sight

Riding the Netflix wave of trending documentaries, I recently watched two that blew my socks off. The first, Abducted in Plain Sight, relates the horrifying story of a young girl’s abuse, brainwashing, and kidnapping, right under her parents’ noses, by a trusted family friend. Without giving away more of the story, let me just say that the levels of deception, denial, and compromise in this bizarre tale are utterly stupefying. With red flags so obvious and treachery so egregious, the viewer can’t help shouting at the TV in dismay and disbelief. At least, Henry and I couldn’t.
The second documentary, about a crash-and-burn music festival that embezzled millions of dollars out of investors and millennials, is equally astounding, though far less tragic than the first. It’s called Fyre, and this recent debacle is so unbelievable, it’s merited two independent documentaries. Fyre knocks you speechless, especially the final scenes. It’s a sad indictment on “influencer” culture, where the seductive lifestyle of one-percenters and supermodels can entice perfectly normal people to spend $12,000 on a fantasy weekend that blows up in their faces.
Both films feature deception: insidious deceit and blatant arrogance. They made me think about my latest project, memorizing the book of 2 Peter. (For more about my memorizing journey, check out my Mind Full, Mind Change series on this blog.) I’d been wanting to tackle the ‘sequel’ to 1 Peter for a while now, drawn by the magnificent first chapter, which begins with these words: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness….
What a profound assertion! According to Peter, we already HAVE everything we need to navigate life in a godly way – we just need to access what He’s given us. We don’t need extra-Biblical teachings, further revelations, angelic interventions, or a magic ‘spiritual’ gene that maybe God forgot to give us. It’s all there: …through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
I’d hesitated at memorizing the whole book (only three chapters) because of chapter two. In the NIV Bible, these 22 verses are headed False Teachers and their Destruction, and that’s exactly who they denounce, with savage imagery. Dear old Peter, the fisherman/disciple known for jumping out of boats and sticking his foot in his mouth so we don’t have to, devotes a hefty chunk of his letter to exposing false teachers, both past and present, with prophetic venom. He’s a powerful writer, and the chapter reads like a condensed Book of Curses. His assessment (and God’s) about those who lead believers astray is crystal clear: Blackest darkness is reserved for them.
If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to read the chapter.
And I’ll continue.
My hesitation was this: Did I really want to devote hours and hours of repetition, reflection, and meditation on words about destruction, corruption, condemnation, and judgement?
Wouldn’t I rather stick with encouraging books, like 2 Corinthians, chock full of promises and spiritual role models?
No, and yes. It’s that whole smorgasbord mentality of choosing only the verses that make us feel good.
The psalm we always go back to. The favored passages that promise invincibility, provision, protection, and abundant grace. I once had a friend who read Psalm 90 every single night before she went to sleep. For years and years. And that’s ALL she ever read, until I compelled her to go further.
Psalm 90 is a beautiful psalm, and well worth memorizing, but as a stand-alone, it fails to give us the full counsel of God. Just like eating only one perfect apple a day will eventually fail to keep you alive.
In fact, a lot of Bible – both Old and New Testaments – is full of warnings and denunciations, especially towards false teachers. I learned this early. 40 years ago, as a new Christian, I bought myself an RSV Bible and devised a color-coding system to track specific topics as I read through the New Testament for the very first time. I remember some of them: Black, the authority of God’s Word; Red, the Person and work of the Holy Spirit; Green, the path to salvation; and Orange, everything about God’s judgement. The color that filled up a surprising number of pages throughout the New Testament was Yellow: False Teaching. Jesus condemned it soundly, as did Peter, Paul, John, and Jude – most of the New Testament writers. James preferred to call out rich, selfish, and hypocritical believers, perhaps knowing his brother, Jude, had the false teachers thing covered in his fiery, two-page letter of warning. You can find that little gem right before the book of Revelation.
I decided to go for it. Chapter 1 was a breeze: how refreshing to meditate on the virtues of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, brotherly kindness, and love! How faith-building to be reminded of Jesus’ transfiguration, of Peter’s eyewitness, and of the ancient prophets, “carried along by the Holy Spirit” as they left us words of proof!
Chapter 2 (which I’ve almost finished memorizing) has grown on me, as all memorized Scripture does, and deepened old convictions. It’s made me think more about the nature of deception and about the invisible, spiritual war we often forget, one with far greater consequences than any earthly wars or factions. It’s made me think about how easily we’re fooled – even when the lies are outrageous and the falseness should be obvious. It reminds me of Abducted in Plain Sight and Fyre: two cautionary tales that may or may not prevent similar deceptions for the viewers screaming at their TVs and taking note.
How many of us would sit through a documentary about false Biblical teachers? Would we be open to hearing what God has to say?
Next post I’ll share more about what I’m learning.

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