Don’t Deceive Yourself
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” 1 Corinthians 3:18
To deceive someone is to purposely mislead them with false information, convincing or persuading them that a false thing is true. The idea of someone deceiving themselves is then an oxymoron, or a seemingly contradictory combination of terms. How does one convince oneself that something they know to be false is true? What motivates them to do so?
I would speculate that there are varying degrees of self deception with some people purposely and knowingly blocking out the truth, and others who do so subconsciously. The real issue is the deception, or allowing yourself to be deceived, whether self inflicted or done by others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Christians, especially, should have a strong resistance against deception as we mature in Christ, as Paul exhorted the Ephesians:
“…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,..” Ephesians 4: 13-14
It is important to realize how serious it is to allow yourself to be deceived by others or to deceive yourself. Remember that Adam and Eve’s sin and fall from paradise was due to their being deceived by the serpent (i.e. Satan). It is still Satan’s desire to deceive us and have us believe his lies.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells us about Satan steeling the truth of the Word out of some people hearts:
“The sower sows the word, and these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.” Mark 4: 13-14
We need to be aware of Satan’s tactics and understand that he will be attempting to deceive us or to lend support for us to deceive ourselves. And it’s not just the world that Satan has blinded to the truth, Christians too are vulnerable to Satan’s ploys and can be deceived. Christians are constantly confronted with false teaching, false doctrine, miss-information, old myths, and worldly philosophies, and therefore we must be constantly on guard.
“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3: 13-17 (Paul writing to Timothy)
The same advice is applicable for us today, to be well versed in the Holy Scriptures, so that we can weigh the things we hear against the truth from God’s word to either verify or reject it.
So what motivates us to want to deceive ourselves? Why do we not want to face the truth? We know that facing the truth can be painful, but why? Let’s look deeper into this.
False, deceptive teachings can appeal to our flesh, supporting our desires for material or worldly things or possibly feeding our pride, or giving us an excuse to continue in sin. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us or to show us clearly the sin in our lives, but we have a tendency to resist from turning the spotlight on ourselves, whereas we are quick to turn the spotlight on others. It’s interesting that we can hear a message or warning for correction and immediately think about other people who should be hearing it so they can straighten out their bad behavior when we are the ones who need it most, who the Holy Spirit is trying to get though to, yet we don’t allow the message to penetrate into our minds and hearts. Lord help us to be open to examining our own selves as quickly as we look at others.
I have observed that any truth that invokes a negative emotion will cause us to want to block it out or reject it, even if deep down we know that it is true; somehow we just don’t allow ourselves to accept it because we think it will be too painful. Some of us have been so sheltered that even the slightest discomfort will cause us to want to block out the truth. Sadly, there are some who have been emotionally abused by parents or spouses and therefore cannot endure any further negative emotions and therefore block out anything that invokes these emotions, including the hearing of the truth. As Christians we need healing from any emotional instability and we need to be mature, able to face the hard truths that life brings to us.
Guilt is one negative emotion that causes pain for us, but God in His wisdom and mercy has also given us a means to deal with our guilt. He has offered forgiveness through the blood of Jesus that washes away our sins. All of our sins that occurred before we came to Jesus are cleared from our record and fully forgiven. Any current sins can be brought to Jesus, confessed to Him and removed also. And He has made a way for us to live our lives with freedom from sin.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1: 10
It is amazing that God has removed the negativity of guilt from our minds and hearts, and from our conscience, so that we can be completely open to receive the truth and to enter into an intimate relationship with Him. Praise God!
Fear is another negative emotion that could cause the truth to be blocked from our mind or cause us to not want to believe it, but rather believe a lie. The prime example of this is the fear that we all have of death. When we face the reality of death and its finality, we are then forced to come to grips with the futility of life that ends in death, leaving us with nothing and faced with the unknown afterlife. We must somehow convince ourselves of a reason to exist in this world for such a short time (I am speaking of those who don’t believe in the resurrection), only to end in death. For many, they block this reality out of their minds, or accept a false philosophy to allow them to function through life without the fear of death. Only the Christian can stand firm on the established truth of the promised eternal life through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Related to fear, we also have a resistance to change in our lives, so that any truth that we encounter that suggests a need for us to change is resisted fearing that the changes will be too difficult or too painful. As Christians though, we really need to embrace change and prepare our hearts to be open to change. God is doing a work in us and it will require changes in us. We are constantly being uprooted from the world’s ways into God’s ways. The old things have to be done away with and the new things established. And, yes, sometimes the changes are painful and difficult. These are both external and internal changes; if we resist them we will most likely end up deceiving ourselves in some way.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
And finally, we must recognize that it is our pride that is the most likely thing to hinder us from receiving the truth, and contributes to our self deception. We don’t like to be told that we are wrong or to be corrected, and therefore we resist. As Christians though, we should love to be corrected, realizing that it is for our own good and advancement in spiritual maturity, and that it is really the Holy Spirit that is correcting us, not the people who are being used to convey the message of correction. In fact, I have found that the Lord will sometimes use someone who we don’t respect to be the messenger for correction to test us. We must therefore look beyond the imperfections of the messenger and weigh the message based on the truth it holds.
“He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.” Proverbs 9: 7-10
In the opening quote above from 1 Corinthians 3, Paul is warning against the self deception that comes from holding to the wisdom of this world, that I believe is rooted in and motivated by our pride. As Christians we must humble ourselves and become like fools in the worlds eyes so that we can embrace the truth and the true wisdom that comes from God. We must remove our predetermined biases and associations that we are proud of and be completely open to receiving truth based on God’s wisdom, with His influence and guidance.
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise I this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘ He catches the wise in their own craftiness’, and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’ Therefore let no one boast in men.” 1 Cor. 3: 18-21
“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ ” Matthew 18: 2-4
At the time of this writing there is a very large separation between the two dominant political parties in the United States. It is therefore very obvious how the predetermined biases and prideful association with either party influences the determination of truth. If one political candidate does something, all the supporting people praise it and all the opposing party people condemn it; when the candidate from the other party does the same thing, the support and opposition aligns exactly along party lines. Sadly, there is no real search for truth but rather a desire for the associated party to be right or win the argument; again, this is rooted in pride.
Let me close by saying that each one of us is responsible as individuals for our determination of truth. We must open our minds to hear from the Holy Spirit, putting aside any fear of change or painful emotion, and especially putting aside our pride and biases. We must reject the wisdom that comes from this world and know that true wisdom comes from God as revealed through His Scriptures. We must guard ourselves against the enemy who will attempt to deceive us by any means possible, taking advantage of our weaknesses. We must put to death our fleshly desires and not allow them to influence our determination of truth, or to keep us believing lies. We must also recognize that the process of transformation is ongoing for us as children of God so that there is always truth to be learned so we must constantly be open and willing to learn or to be corrected.
My prayer for you is the same as Paul’s for the Ephesians:
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3: 16-19
If you have this, you will not be deceived, nor will you be deceiving yourself.