The Road That Leads Away from Self-Deception

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Have you ever known someone who is delusional about themselves? They claim to be a whole lot of things, but you can see right through them and know that very little of what they say is actually true. I’m not talking about hypocrites – people who say one thing and do another. I’m referencing people who sincerely believe something is true of themselves, when it’s clearly not.

This is a common reality for many, evidenced by the constant conflict we experience in relationships. Many of the arguments we have with others end up revolving around a problem that’s obvious to us, but seems unfounded to them. I’m sure we all have people like this in our lives. Maybe some of us are those people. The truth is that it can happen to anyone, so we shouldn’t judge. Instead, we should be careful and watch ourselves so that we don’t fall into the trap of being self-deceived (1 Corinthians 10:12).

I think it’s so common for people to be self-deceived for at least two reasons. The first is that we all want to be loved, and when there is something about us that causes conflict with others, it doesn’t make us feel very good about ourselves. Therefore it is easier to put up a front and pretend that we have a certain kind of character, than to admit we don’t, or that we didn’t in a particular situation, and thus open ourselves up to correction. Correction doesn’t usually feel good, but the Bible says it is good, and we need it in order to grow.

The second reason we end up self-deceived is because we don’t keep a steady diet of God’s Word. Really! Did you know that the road which leads away from self-deception is found in the Scriptures?

Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 in the Passion Translation says, “Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on Him to guide you, and He will lead you in every decision you make…”

Psalm 19:12-14 particularly stands out to me in regard to avoiding self-deception, and is the passage which inspired this blog (also in the Passion Translation):

“Without this revelation-light, how would I ever detect the waywardness of my heart? Lord, forgive my hidden flaws whenever you find them. Keep cleansing me, God, and keep me from my secret, selfish sins; may they never rule over me! For only then will I be free from fault and remain innocent of rebellion. So may the words of my mouth, my meditation-thoughts, and every movement of my heart be always pure and pleasing, acceptable before your eyes, my only Redeemer, my Protector-God.”

The essence of this passage is that, when left to our own opinions and devices, our hearts will always lean toward deception. It is in the core of our human nature, and it takes God, through His pure and powerful Word, to change that and to help us walk out the new lives we’ve been given. It also takes us becoming willing to open ourselves up to His Word consistently. Sometimes we pray prayers like the one above, asking God to keep cleansing us, but we don’t show up for the shower! Deception is not easily detectable, unfortunately. It is hidden and secretive, thus aiming to deceive us into thinking that we are alright, when we’re really not. We must therefore be continually cleansed by the Word of God, in order to avoid self-deception.

Ephesians chapter 5 speaks more to this, using the imagery of a husband (who is also a representation of Christ) washing/cleansing his wife (a representation of us, the church and bride of Christ) with the water of the Word, helping her to become pure and holy. It’s such a beautiful picture, an act of true and committed love. But is it a reality we know? Are we allowing ourselves to be washed and cleansed daily? Do we recognize our need to be? Do we come to the Word of God and allow Jesus to wash the dirt off of our lives with His truth? Is our life demonstrating the fruit, or the evidence, that we are rooted in His Word and thus becoming more and more purified? Or is it an just an empty confession in our mouths, or a desire unattached to any kind of action that is moving us closer to the reality of knowing and becoming more like Jesus?

The above passages of Scripture find their connection in the exhortation to stay rooted in God’s Word so that our hearts will not drift into self-deception. When we are not rooted in God’s Word and committed to living it out daily, we all too easily allow ourselves to become comfortable in sin, in identities and behaviors which are not at all like Jesus. From that place, we fall into the error of thinking we’re ok and it’s all good because we love Him, when in reality we are moving further and further away from the anchor of His presence, blinded by the veil of self-deception, and drifting into the danger of being eternally cut off from Him.

We don’t like to think that far ahead or make it that serious of a topic, but it is serious! Not long ago, I spoke with a woman who talks like she is full of faith, but admitted she had been cut off from God and His Word, from prayer and His presence for a long time. An alarm went off in my soul for her! She had drifted so far into the shadows that she couldn’t see the danger she was in. I wonder how many of us live like this, or are in danger of getting there?

James 1:22-24 compares the Word of God to a mirror in which we see our reflection. If we hear God’s Word but don’t obey it – if we don’t actually live it out – then we are like people who look at themselves in the mirror and then walk away, forgetting what we just saw. We deceive ourselves, the Bible says.

I’m sure we’ve all seen someone who should have looked twice in the mirror before leaving home…but didn’t. It makes you wonder what reality they live in, and why there is no one who loves them enough to snap them out of it, right? Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way, but the looks I get from my husband sometimes when we happen to see someone like I just described tell me I’m not alone on this train of thought.

So, reading the Bible, and hearing it taught and preached, but not applying it to our lives every day means that we have basically taken a look into the mirror of Scripture – intended to give us a clear and honest picture of ourselves, and walked away as if we didn’t see the mess. We ignored the glaring spots and wrinkles all over our gowns and opted to just keep on about our daily business the way we are. Some people are fine with living this way, but the Bible promises that it is a dead-end ditch (Proverbs 14:12).

It reminds me somewhat of the evil Queen in Snow White who insisted that the mirror tell her how beautiful she was, and found her solace in its confession….until it recognized a greater beauty and told her the truth. We like it when we find the Scriptures that make us feel good about who we are, but we tend to avoid going too deep or too often, because we’d rather not look at the ones that confront anything in us that’s not good. We would rather not hear or see that there is room for improvement.

The tragedy is that we don’t understand the value of the Word’s ability and purpose to expose what’s wrong or out of place/alignment. It’s not to make us feel bad or to condemn us, or even to hold up a seemingly impossible standard for us to try and reach. It is to show us the pure and true image of Christ, Whose Spirit lives within us, and Who we are created to look like. The Word of God is our mirror, reflecting our true image, and calling us back to that reality. And the beauty of this is in the promise of God to empower us, by His indwelling Spirit, to actually become what we were made to be.

The problem with a user-friendly approach to the Bible – one that takes or leaves it according to how it makes us feel – is that we will end up self-deceived. We will call ourselves Christians but everyone will know we’re really not. Even unbelievers know what believers should look and act like. They may not wish to join our walk, but they will sure hold us to the standards we profess to live by. And they will actually be turned more away from God by our compromised identities and lives.

When we aren’t reading, hearing and obeying the Word of God consistently, we’ll claim to be loving when we’re really selfish. We’ll say we’re sacrificial and committed when we really only commit and sacrifice so we can feel good about ourselves, or in times when it might be convenient for us.

I know this sounds harsh, but I can say it because it used to be me. And I can say it because I see it in so many women’s lives today. They have a sincere love for God, based on an initial encounter with Him, and maybe even a string of such encounters. But somewhere along the way, they’ve gotten unrooted, unanchored in His Word, and their lives have begun to drift. They possess a form of godliness, because they’ve learned how to act Christian, but they reject the very power of God’s Spirit to make them truly like God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 warns us that this will characterize the culture of our day. If we aren’t careful to remain in His Word, and to be committed to living it out, we can find ourselves described in this passage:

“But you need to be aware that in the final days the culture of society will become extremely fierce and difficult for the people of God. People will be self-centered lovers of themselves and obsessed with money. They will boast of great things as they strut around in their arrogant pride and mock all that is right. They will ignore their own families. They will be ungrateful and ungodly. They will become addicted to hateful and malicious slander. Slaves to their own desires, they will be ferocious and belligerent haters of what is good and right. With brutal treachery, they will act without restraint, bigoted and wrapped in clouds of their own conceit. They will find their delight in the pleasures of this world more than the pleasures of loving God. They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power. Stay away from people like these!”

Ouch, right? You might think that sounds a bit extreme and would never think you could be described by any such words, but that’s the hook of self-deception: we can’t see the truth about ourselves. This passage seems so extreme and ugly that we can be tempted to take it all together and conclude that the whole description definitely doesn’t describe us, so we must be safe. But if even one aspect of it might characterize my life – if I might be leaning even a little toward loving the pleasures of this world more than I love God, then I’m on dangerous ground. If I’m unthankful, or tend to talk about others, I’m in the path of self-deception.

Anyone can claim to be a lover of God, but the Bible says that if we love Him, we will obey His commands. What characterizes true Christians is a love that leads us to trust and obey God in everything. And the truest, most reliable opinion of my life in Christ cannot come from myself, especially if there is a possibility I can be self-deceived. It must come from God and from the people of God whom He has called me to live in connection with, because they are there to keep me from falling into deception. They will remind me who I am called to be, and gently redirect me when I am drifting. They will point me back to God’s Word when an area of my life is straying from it.

Now, I’ll be honest about my journey with the Bible, because I think a lot of people struggle with reading it daily, nevermind hungering for it. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes it still isn’t.

I don’t always understand everything I read, and therefore have to dig deeper and study harder. Time for that doesn’t just magically appear in my schedule. I’ve had to learn to value the Word of God so much that I prioritize time for it. That time includes listening to it being taught in my home church and at conferences. It especially means opening it daily and reading it for myself. It means disciplining myself to love what sometimes hurts or frustrates me. It means not giving up, and believing that it is more than a quick fix for an emotional slump. It means I take it as my daily bread, as nutrition for my spirit that is necessary, even when I can’t see or feel the immediate benefits, because I trust in the long term promise that it will heal, strengthen, correct, and build my life in God. Above all, it means believing and trusting that the Holy Spirit in me will help me to do this because it’s what He said I need in order to grow in Him. I don’t possess the natural ability or discipline to do this on my own. I have to rely on Him and agree to partner with Him, and doing so has made all the difference in my life.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, this is a lot to ponder. I hope you will not yield to the temptation to gloss over it or ready quickly through and file it in the “that was a good article” pile of your memory bank. I pray that you will get out the Word of God and look up these passages, as well as others the Holy Spirit may lead you to, and thus reinvest yourself in the process of being transformed into His image. I pray you will realign your priorities with His Word in the center, and commit to living your life from its pages so that you can avoid the dangerous path of self-deception. And I hope and pray that you will begin to help the other women all around you who may not realize they are in danger of drifting.

Remember, we need each other! Be blessed in your pursuit of more of Him shining through you!!

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}

 


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