Deception 1

There are many people in both evangelical and reformed churches today who are self-deceived. This self-deception is at the deepest level and in the most important area of life—their eternal soul. The people I am talking about are not the open hypocrites, but those who seem to be very religious. They may be church members, some of the most regular attendees, elders, and even pastors. These are people who, by outward appearance, seem to be godly, but they are not genuinely converted. They have never been deeply convicted of their sins or humbled in any way; their pride has not been broken, nor have they submitted to the true demands of the gospel. Quite simply, they are religious people who are on their way to hell and they do not realize it (Self-Deception by Jacob Helffenstein, from the Intro by William C. Nichols)

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

1 John 2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.

Ephesians 4:22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

The concept of being deceived is somewhat self-evident, which is to say that a person is led astray under false pretenses. For example, a person does something because s/he is told what it will do for them and yet what they do does not do what they were told. Another example is when a person is told certain actions will lead not lead to certain consequences and in fact they do lead to those consequences. However, the author (William C. Nichols) writes that there are “many people in both evangelical and reformed churches today who are self-deceived.” In other words, these people are not so much deceived by other people, but in fact they are deceived by themselves.

In the words of Helffenstein, “Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception.” This is not pleasant to think about and certainly not something we commonly think about, but if Helffenstein and Nichols are correct, then people should be awakened and alarmed as they think of their own souls. It may be that myriads of people who do not claim to be saved are self-deceived in a sense, but that is not what Helffenstein and Nichols are getting at. They are saying that it is common for religious people to be self-deceived. Well, we may think, that would be those of the other denominations or the other religions. Once again, however, we must go deeper and dive into our own hearts. Their discussions are not about other religions and liberal denominations, they are talking about conservative evangelical and reformed churches and people as well.

When a person hears about the dangers and reality of self-deception it is easy to think of others, but we must each take this to heart. We may be deceived and even self-deceived ourselves. If there are many who are deceived, then perhaps I am one of the many. A person that is self-deceived and does not understand what it means to be self-deceived is certainly at risk of it. If person A completely trusts person B and believes all that person B says, person A does not believe that s/he is deceived about anything regarding that person. But if person B is truly a liar but is good at hiding it, then person A is deceived and simply has no idea that s/he is being deceived. Far worse, however, is when we deceive ourselves and have no idea that we are deceived. People live in self-deception trusting themselves and yet their deceptive hearts deceive them about the most vital of things most of the time. That person is deceived and is in the prison of self-deception. This describes many, many people.

An aspect of our being born in sin is that we are dead in sins and trespasses. A spiritually dead person lives in the lusts of the flesh and indulges in the desires of the flesh and the mind. The spiritually dead person loves self and lives for self at all times. The spiritually dead person is a proud person, though indeed can be quite proud and hide it underneath a false humility. The spiritually dead person is deceived by desires, by good feelings, by the warm desires and thoughts s/he may have when s/he hears something biblical. The spiritually dead person, however, out of pride will refuse to die to self, refuse to humble self, and will refuse to believe that s/he is so dead that s/he does not have the ability to please God or to save self. That person lives in self-deception and will find reasons and justifications to excuse self for any and even all things. The self-deceived person will and can use religion to deceive self. In that case religion is used to keep the conscience quiet. What a deception that is when religion is used as a means of self-deception. Only God can open our eyes to see how we lie to and deceive ourselves.

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