One of the more interesting concepts I’ve seen on the big screen in the past few years was a movie released in 2010 called Inception. The film was directed by Christopher Nolan and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief named Dominick “Dom” Cobb, an “extractor”, who performs corporate espionage by infiltrating a target’s subconscious and stealing valuable information from their mind while they are in the midst of a shared dream world. Going into a person’s mind and stealing thoughts is difficult, but Cobb is tasked with doing something even more challenging. He’s asked to go into a person’s mind and “plant” a thought (inception) that will ultimately cause the person to make certain decisions when they come back into the real world. Cobb’s assignment is to break up the energy conglomerate of an ailing competitor named Maurice Fischer by convincing Fischer’s son and heir, Robert, to dissolve his father’s company after his death. Through an elaborate sequence of events, Cobb infiltrates the son’s subconscious where he shows him a fake message from his father telling him to “be his own man.” This thought puts a series of things into motion. Thought planted. Course set. Damage done. The movie gives you the distinct impression that this one thought is now going to cause Robert to make the catastrophic decision to break up his father’s energy company and do things his own way. One thought planted…so genuine…so noble…so personal…so believable, yet so defective. As I watched the movie unfold I couldn’t help but think about the passage of scripture in II Corinthians 10:3-5 where the apostle Paul instructs us, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Paul tells us to take captive every thought because thoughts have power and thoughts have consequences.
So what voices are you listening to? What is your primary voice? In our culture today there are a vast array of voices we can listen to. We can listen to the voices of entertainment, we can listen to the voices of media, we can listen to the voices of peers, we can even listen to the voices of those claiming to be Christian or religious who want us to see and understand a better, more evolved way or we can listen to the voice of God through his word and through his Holy Spirit.
Over the past month we’ve been going through the book of I John as a church to see what the apostle John has to say to us about this subject because we, too, live in a day when it’s hard to know what is true and what isn’t. As a matter of fact, the Oxford dictionary named their 2016 new word of the year post-truth because truth is no longer as important to any narrative as to how you emotionally feel about a subject. So back to John. He is near the end of his life and is living in the city of Ephesus (modern day Turkey) when he gets word of some “inception” trying to take place among the churches of the region. It appears as if some false teachers were introducing wrong ideas about who Jesus is, what He has done, and what it means to authentically be in a relationship with Him. He writes to these churches to help them know the true from the false so they can be grounded in their faith.
This past weekend we looked at John’s words in I John 4:1-6, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” There it is. John says there are many different voices in the world and the one’s we choose to listen to are critical. I’m sure Robert Fischer wished he never would have acted upon the planted information.
Think about it for a minute as we go back to how the original inception or shall I say “deception” took place. In the first two chapters of Genesis we see God creating the world and everything was good. But then in chapter three we see an “extractor” introduced into the story (a different voice) and the serpent begins to introduce new ideas to Adam and Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The thing that is interesting about this original encounter is how the enemy engages Adam and Eve. It’s the same way he was engaging people in John’s time and the same way he’s engaging people today–deception. What he said sounded reasonable, it sounded logical, it sounded like it had their best interest at heart, it sounded freeing and empowering, it sounded beneficial, it sounded convincing, it sounded enlightened, it sounded right, but it wasn’t. All it brought to Adam and Eve and the world was death and bondage and confusion and chaos. As I studied this passage of scripture this week I was amazed at how many times in the New Testament we are warned about false voices. Galatians 1:6-7 says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” II Peter 2:1-3 says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.” Romans 16:17-18 says, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” And finally II Corinthians 11:3-4 says, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you received, you put up with it easily enough.”
As I simultaneously read these passages of scripture I watched a video of Louis Farrakhan, from the Nation of Islam, talking to a Baptist church letting them know that Jesus was a Muslim, that he (Farrakhan) personally was both a Christian and a Muslim, and that Muhammad was actually Jesus. I listened to him twist scripture and watched as the audience stood and applauded him for his wisdom and insight. Inception. I watched a video of Oprah Winfrey as she talked about how you don’t need Jesus to have a relationship with God. That you can have incredible spirituality without Jesus. That there are millions of ways to find God. I watched then as Christian pastors agreed with her that you don’t need Jesus to have a relationship with God. Inception. And lastly, I read article after article of people who have left the Christian faith over the last few years because of a thought or comment that got implanted in their mind and spirit at some point in their journey. “You know, I just can’t believe in a God anymore who….(you fill in the blank). Inception. They wake up one day never realizing who it was that planted the thought. As the inception team casually leaves the scene undetected they get up and begin to break up their father’s company fully believing they are doing the right thing.