Deception 3

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,

As human beings we are fallen and as such we tend to look at things from a fallen perspective, which is to say that we look at things from our own self-absorbed and self-centered perspective. We think of things as good if they bring good to us and bad if they make us uncomfortable or bring what we think of as bad to us. A religious person can think very highly of self and yet be deceived about the nature of pride and sin. When we think of religion in terms of the Pharisees, it is clear that their wicked hearts used religion to deceive themselves.

We have to fight our own hearts and keep the true issues of depravity before our own eyes. The true issue of depravity is not just acting in an immoral way in the externals, but it has to do with pride and self. The heart that is controlled and driven by self and pride (whether those things are recognized or not) and be very sinful externally or very religious externally. The very pride and self that will drive one person to external sin will drive another to religion. Jesus Christ did not come to save the righteous, He came to save sinners. This is to say that He not only did He come to save sinners, He came to save sinners that He reveals the truth of God to them and makes them feel the weight and burden of sin. A person that is very religious but has never been deeply convicted of sin by the Spirit and broken from pride and self is simply a religious person.

A proud person is an unconverted person whether that person is very religious or an open sinner. The pride is the problem in either case and both ways of living for self is still living for self. The Great Command is to love God with all of our beings, but self is what we live for and our pride blinds us to that until God works in the heart to deliver us from that pride (not completely of course) and give Christ as our life. It is Christ who must be our life or all things will come from that hideous and idolatrous self. Instead of having the love of God in us through Christ by the Spirit, the proud heart full of self will do all it does out of love for self.

In other words, as the quote above says, “quite simply, they are religious people who are on their way to hell and they do not realize it.” This is a profound statement and yet one that if read would still be ignored. If we think through this statement even for a moment, it is precisely the same thing that the Pharisees did. They were very religious men who were on their way to hell and they did not realize it. Their proud hearts used their religion to blind them and deceive themselves. Pastors and preachers and seminary professors can use their knowledge of religion to blind themselves to the truth of religion. Paul tells us ( I Cor 8) that knowledge makes arrogant or knowledge puffs up. The more a person knows about Christianity the prouder that person gets whether that person has a lot of external or even natural humility or not. Religion, even the externals of Christianity, blinds people to the truth and is used to deceive. The religion about Christ cannot save, only Christ Himself can save. We must learn this distinction or we will be deceived.

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