Deception 2

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,

When we think of the certainty of eternity and that each person will spend eternity in heaven or hell, eternity is of an enormous consequence. If people are so disappointed with such minor things on earth, how will they be plunged unto utter despair when they enter into eternal flames? When we think of how people are deceived in order to get property and money and how they respond in anger to that deception, how will they respond when they are deceived as to their eternal destination? How will they respond when they are totally deceived and find out that their destination is so different than what they thought? This points us to remember times when we were deceived and because of that deception we lost things we valued. How much more should we value our souls and think of the degree of loss it will be if we lose our souls?

The Scriptures are so very, very clear as to the fact that so many people will be deceived on that day. They are deceived by preachers and teachers. They are deceived by false prophets. They are deceived by friends and enemies. They are deceived their pride and their lusts. They are deceived by the devil. On top of that, they are deceived by their own hearts. We must also know that though we don’t think of God as deceiving people, those who are deceived as to who He is have their hearts hardened by Him so that they are more and more deceived.

It appears that the vast number of those who are self-deceived are religious people. While it is true that open sinners and unbelievers are deceived in some ways, they are not deceived that they are Christians. In the context the statement above, the deception that we are talking about is that people think that they are Christians and they are not. These people are preachers, teachers, elders and committed members; but these people are deceived by the things of Christianity and their own pride and self-righteousness. You may wonder why this point is made over and over. It is because so many people are deceived and do not realize it. It is because so many people are deceived by their morality and their outward acceptance of doctrine and of church membership.

The outward appearance of people is not a necessary sign of salvation. This is something that we have to get into our heads and our hearts. Just because a person is smart, religious, and outwardly moral does not mean that the person is a Christian. When we begin to see things through the lenses of the biblical teaching that people are deceived and self-deceived, we will begin to see the externals of Christianity far differently. It is the case that true believers and true unbelievers may appear the same and have the same religion and the same morality, but inwardly they are far different. One is a child of the devil and one is a child of God. The child of the devil has all his or her religion from self and pride, the child of God has all his or her religion from God through Christ. The child of the devil uses religion to deceive self; the child of God is religious for the glory of God. Yes, the externals are so close to the same, but the internals are far, far different. We must be careful that we are not deceived by the externals of Christianity and deceive ourselves that our real self is what we see on the outside.

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