“ Obadiah 1:3
Self-deception occurs when people who are committed to certain values act against those values while convincing themselves that what they are doing does not in fact violate those values.
We exhibit an amazing agility in avoiding the truth about who we are and what we do. Our failures in being honest with ourselves are instances of self-deception. All of us are, have been, or could be self-deceivers and we are prone to it, capable of it, and never more likely to be in its grip than in those moments when we are sure we are not. As people of faith, we are called to be honest in our dealings with God, with others and with ourselves.
Self-deception lurks in denials, double-mindedness, rationalizations, cover-ups and cover stories, elaborate and almost convincing justifications, excuses, attributions of blame and evasions of responsibility.
The fact that we are easily self-deceived should surprise no Christian for, as the inspired prophet Jeremiah wrote centuries ago, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)
Jeremiah quickly adds, “I, the Lord, search the heart and I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (v.10). However, this deceitful heart, which each of us inherits as a result of the fall of Adam, leaves us in a bit of a quandary. We are people with deceitful hearts, and at times incomprehensible motives.
If even the best and most sincere can be deceived by their own hearts, then how can we have confidence that any of our actions, thoughts or motives is pure? How can we be sure that we are not deluding ourselves no matter how hard we try to live in integrity? How then can any of us hope to live in such a way that we please God?
The key is the infallible revelation found in Scripture. Perhaps James explains it best when he compares the Word of God to a mirror;
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25 NIV
The only means we have to free ourselves from habitual self-deception is the mirror of the Word of God. The Scriptures reveal God’s objective standards by which we can examine our actions, thoughts and even motives, to determine if they are in compliance with righteousness.
If we were to determine our standing before the Lord by feelings and guesses we would be drifting on a sea of subjectivity. God has graciously not abandoned us to such folly but has given us clear detail and understanding in the ways that He would have us live. We are to examine ourselves in the light of God’s mirror and determine if we are living as He desires. Every area of our lives should be given careful attention in Scripture so that we might live with assurance before our Lord.