Self Deception is a topic that we do not hear very much about these days. Yet it is perhaps more important than ever that we consider what the Bible has to say about it. Self-deception is linked into what we fail to do with that which we hear from God.
One of the keys to our relationship with God is in our ability to hear and recognize when God is speaking to us, personally. Without that ability we will never grasp the principles by which God works in our lives. Yet, far too often, there is such negativity taught about hearing God’s voice, and as a result doubt floods over us, whereby many Christians remain ignorant to the amazing benefits of hearing from God in a personal way.
In James 1:19-27 we see how important it is to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. It commences by saying, “Let every man be swift to hear . . .” (v.19). Hearing from God is so vital and necessary if we are going to fulfil His will in our lives.
Why is this so? If we do not hear, recognize and know the Holy Spirit’s voice when He speaks to us, then we will not be able to become “doers of the word”! The doing or the fulfilling of our obedience to what He says comes only after we have heard what He has said. Verses 22-24 develop this principle:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
These Scriptures are telling us that it is our responsibility before God to “hear and do.” We cannot “do” if we do not “hear.” If “doing” does not follow the “hearing,” then we deceive ourselves!
For the follower of Jesus there is no other “final authority” than what He says. If we are unable to commit to what He says, then we are demonstrating that we are still trusting our own thinking and ability, rather than trusting ourselves to Him and His Word to us. And that is self-deception.
I am convinced and deeply concerned, that many professing believers live in the perceived darkness of false faith and self-deception. Yes, they sit under strong biblical teaching and they know the gospel message inside out. They are immersed in church and ministry activities. They appear to produce spiritual fruit. They look and sound like the authentic believers around them.
But exposure to familiarity with the true gospel does not guarantee true conversion. Knowing the facts of the gospel and having it penetrate the heart are two different things. Scripture is clear on the matter: it is possible to have a perfect knowledge of the Bible, and still not be saved. A person can have a head knowledge but not a heart knowledge of who Jesus is; they do not have a true relationship with Christ!
The most frightening part is many people who are in that situation do not even know it. They are self-deceived. They wear a mask of genuine conversion that fools others, and eventually even fools themselves. They have played the part so long they have convinced themselves their salvation is real. Tragically, many sincerely believe they are saved and headed for heaven will be surprised to find themselves in hell.
……While I never want to raise unnecessary doubts in people’s minds where genuine conversion has taken place, I am bound by Scripture to lovingly warn about the reality of self-deception and call people to spiritual self-examination.
So what does that self-examination look like? Where does it begin?
In a word, it begins with truth. You and I need to continually bring ourselves to God’s truth and His Word. Bathing ourselves in truth and allowing the Holy Spirit free reign in our hearts is the best way to guard against self-deception. While constant exposure to truth may harden the hearts of those who are self deceived, it is a key ingredient to effective self-examination and all true conversions.