Text: Galatians 6:7
By: Bro. Ezekiel Oghenekaro
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7
The noun self-deception is the action or practice of allowing oneself to believe that a false or unvalidated feeling, idea, or situation is true.
Have you ever noticed how many times and how many ways the Bible warns of being deceived? By clear admonition as well as by graphic example God repeatedly calls us to be on our guard against believing lies. That’s what deception is–believing what is not true. It is one of the great works of the enemy of our souls. So the Lord repeatedly warns us about it in Scripture:
Luke 21:8, Jesus warned His disciples: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am [He],’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.”
Romans 7:11, Paul describes the role of deception in his spiritual bondage: “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed [me].”
OF ALL FORMS OF DECEPTION, self-deception is the deadliest, and of all deceived persons the self-deceived are the least likely to discover the fraud.
The reason for this is simple. When a man is deceived by another he is deceived against his will. He is contending against an adversary and is temporarily the victim of the other’s guile. Since he expects his foe to take advantage of him he is watchful and quick to suspect trickery. Under such circumstances it is possible to be deceived sometimes and for a short while, but because the victim is resisting he may break out of the trap and escape before too long.
With the self-deceived it is quite different. He is his own enemy and is working a fraud upon himself. He wants to believe the lie and is psychologically conditioned to do so. He does not resist the deceit but collaborates with it against himself. There is no struggle, because the victim surrenders before the fight begins. He enjoys being deceived.
It is altogether possible to practice fraud upon our own souls and go deceived to judgment. “If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing,” said Paul, “he deceiveth himself.” With this agrees the inspired James: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
The farther we push into the sanctuary the greater becomes the danger of self-deception. The deeply religious man is far more vulnerable than the easygoing fellow who takes his religion lightly. This latter may be deceived but he is not likely to be self-deceived.
Under the pressure of deep spiritual concern, and before his heart has been wholly conquered by the Spirit of God, a man may be driven to try every dodge to save face and preserve a semblance of his old independence. This is always dangerous and if persisted in may prove calamitous.
If deception is dangerous, self-deception is disastrous. When you have been deceived by another, that person shares the blame for your condition, but when your deception is self-imposed, you alone are accountable. Further, self-deception is perniciously (cunningly) destructive. It is hard to detect and harder to eliminate.
Think about it. Have you ever met a person who admitted to being self-deceived? The very nature of self-deception is that there is no conscious awareness of believing lies. Self-deception emerges from living on a self-referential basis. Such people measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves to themselves and, Paul says, “are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
This is the problem that Jesus exposed to the church at Laodicea. They were self-deceived. Their evaluation of themselves was radically different from Jesus’ evaluation of them. Their self-assessment went like this: “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” But Jesus’ assessment of them was this: “[You] do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). They believed lies. Their press reports on earth were completely opposite of their record in heaven. In this regard their condition was the same as that of the church at Sardis, to whom Jesus said, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1).
Can you imagine a more spiritually dangerous position to be in? To have a reputation of being alive—well known all over as a model church – and yet, in the eyes of the Lord, to be dead! To think that all is well when in fact, according to Jesus, all is rotten!
The mere possibility of falling into this kind of deadly trap ought to be enough to breed extreme humility in the most experienced believer and most accomplished church. It ought to call us to radical commitment to measuring our lives by what the Scripture calls us to be and do and by nothing else. It ought to make us willing to listen to criticism–even criticism from those who openly oppose us (in this regard some of our strongest opponents have served us best because they have no interest in sparing our feelings, as friends sometimes do, and therefore have spoken honestly, if harshly, about our faults).
I believe there are many people in the world who are deceiving themselves when it comes to spiritual things. Deceiving themselves that they are saved. Christ statement to them is, “—I never knew you: Depart form Me, ye that work iniquity.” It is more painful that true believers deceiving themselves in their Christian walk. They think they are spiritual when they are not.
Matured believers look introspectively (inward) and admits their needs, whereas the immature ones think they have everything. They lack nothing. Spiritual reality (not deceiving yourself) results form a proper relationship to God through the Bible. God’s word is truth, and if we have a proper view of that truth we cannot be dishonest or hypocritical
The Dangers of Self Deception
- It leaves us in a state of painful uncertainty. Those who are under the power of it will still be in suspense, and never attain to full satisfaction: they will be continually fluctuating between hope and fear, neither enjoying the pleasures of sin nor the contentment of piety.
- Remember, God cannot be deceived. He knoweth them that are His, and them that are not so – 2 Timothy 2:19“19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of [a]Christ depart from iniquity”.
- Those who are deceived will one day be undeceived, and that perhaps when it will be too late.
- Self-deception discourages from the use of means. Those who fancy themselves safe and right, though they have the greatest need of a Saviour, are not likely to apply to Him.
- Present deception will aggravate future misery. None sink so deep in hell as hypocrites and self-deceivers. Hence, we may learn —
- The necessity of self-examination.
- The advantage of a soul-searching ministry.
- When we have examined ourselves, and have been tried by others to the utmost, still there is a need to prostrate ourselves before the throne, and to pray with the Psalmist in Psalms 139:23-24,
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Spiritual reality results from a proper relationship to God through his revealed Word. The Bible is God’s truth (John 17:17). James states three responsibilities toward God’s Word, and if we fulfill them, we will have an honest walk with God and others:
Receive the Word (James 1:19-21): here it is the grafted Word, which mean implanted. Jesus talked about the parable of the sower (Matthew 19:1-9, 18-23) comparing God’s Word planted in the human heart.
Practice the Word (James 1:22-25): it is not enough to just hear the Word, we should do it. Hearing a sermon or attending a Bible study is not enough, it is applying and doing what we learn. James presents the Word of God as a mirror:
- Examination (James 1:23-25): this is the main purpose of a mirror. As we look into God’s Word, we see ourselves for who we really are. James mentions a couple mistakes we must avoid when looking into God’s mirror:
- They merely glance at themselves: this is not studying or examining themselves. A casual reading of God’s Word will not reveal the deepest needs in our hearts.
- They forget what they see: if they looked deeply into their hearts, they would not forget what they see. Isaiah had a great attitude toward being in God’s presence (Isaiah 6:5). Peter had the same reaction (Luke 5:8). Even Job (Job 42:6).
- They fail to obey: they think hearing is the same as doing. We are good at substituting reading for doing; talking for doing; attending for doing. Our education far exceeds our obedience. Look intently into the Word, not just a quick glance (James 1:25); and blessing comes from doing (literally “blessed in his doing”). Why is the Word called the “perfect law of liberty?
Share the Word (James 1:26-27): Pure religion practices God’s Word: this is one area we are not doing well. We some times deceive ourselves by asking, is it only those that come for Saturday that preach the gospel. Ask yourself, do you really find time to preach the word outside this arranged time. It’s just a thought.
Jesus remained spotless (1 Peter 1:19) even though he got involved with sinners and outcasts. When we go out into the world, it is important to go in pairs, like Jesus did with his missionaries (Luke 10:1). There is strength, safety and accountability is numbers.
Finally, the ever-present danger of self-deception should keep us running to Jesus Christ as the great Shepherd of our souls. We desperately need Him to secure our standing and our walk. We need His protection and provision at every step of our journey. Our only hope and our certain supply are His righteousness and His sacrifice which is ours through faith and faith alone.