With the delightful celebration of All Hallow's Eve approaching, we are easily drawn in by dark and scary things. Which is cool with me; Halloween is one of my favorite festivities of the year. But one cannot help noticing there is another dark presence becoming more visible, one that is malignant and has our world in its tenacious grip with the erosion of Christian values and traditions. Today’s Scriptural passage of 1 Tim. 4:1-5 from the Office of Readings provides several noteworthy insights on how to recognize the predominant source of such false teaching that erodes our faith in God. And useful resources like Bible.org can help extricate the meaning that God’s Word holds for us.  So, let’s take a quick look at these Biblical bullet points of St. Paul to help ward off real and not just pretend evil: false teachers who successfully mislead the faithful.
V. 1. “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings…” St. Paul assures us, as Moses  and Our Lord  have also done, that many will fall away from the faith. It is a sad testimony, but one that shouldn’t surprise us, viz., that deception is ongoing, and we ought to be concerned with this “now,” today, and not just reserve concern for some vague “end time.” One way to be prepared for misdirection is to realize that it is Satan and the demons are constantly behind the ongoing deception directed at believers. They want your faith and will lead you in baby steps with arguable issues like validating homosexual relationships or accepting transgenderism. Maintaining an awareness that it is powers and principalities that are after us will help one to resist false teachers and instead to always seek and follow God’s will.
V. 2. “influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.” Apostasy, heresy and schism will come about not only through demons but from their operatives, men and women who align themselves against God, misleading with elements of truth: “the child is unwanted;” “but they love each other!” Recall Our Lord’s advice: “you shall know them by their fruits.” Moral integrity has been whittled away slowly, and that is how society finds itself so immersed in decadency and marred by sin.
A quick note on this “searing of consciences:” Scriptures uses the same word that means “to brand cattle,” suggesting that those who work for Satan are nothing more than chattel to him. The father of lies will promise everything to those willing to cooperate with and even for him. It is our responsibility to ignore those hypocritical seductions as you would ignore Satan himself.
V. 3. “They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” False prophets will propose human precepts over divine law, deceiving by promoting either license over legality. No wonder marriages are at an all time low. Who wants responsibilities that are burdensome? Another ready lie society has fallen for is: “It’s your body, you can do what you want with it.” And when that fails, then comes denial: “Who am I to judge?” If we would but return to an ethics of virtue rather than license, we would more readily reject the lies that lead one away from God.
V. 4-5. “For every creation of God is good and no food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.” St. Paul is still talking about created goods like marriage and food. Here he shifts dramatically from the commonly accepted Judaism of his day to the new covenant in Jesus’ blood which raises created goods to become sources of spiritual good as well. False teachers promote a world without public prayer or social-cultural values like purity before marriage and prudent moderation use of this world’s goods. Christians have a duty to bring these values back to society, by calling out deceitful practices and holding the world to higher standards. With God, all of this is more than possible. In Jesus, it becomes, after the fashion of the saints like Francis, a joy about which we have nothing to fear.
 Dt. 13:12-18: “Suppose you should hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you as a place to live, that some evil people have departed from among you to entice the inhabitants of their cities, saying, “Let’s go and serve other gods” (whom you have not known before). You must investigate thoroughly and inquire carefully. If it is indeed true that such a disgraceful thing is being done among you, you must by all means slaughter the inhabitants of that city with the sword; annihilate with the sword everyone in it, as well as the livestock. You must gather all of its plunder into the middle of the plaza and burn the city and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It will be an abandoned ruin forever—it must never be rebuilt again. You must not take for yourself anything that has been placed under judgment. Then the Lord will relent from his intense anger, show you compassion, have mercy on you, and multiply you as he promised your ancestors. Thus you must obey the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am giving you today and doing what is right before him.”
 Mt. 7:15-16: “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. But the person who endures to the end will be saved.”