Deception 9

Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception. The number who are ruined by false views of religion is doubtless great even when compared with those who perish in avowed infidelity of careless indifference…Many are deceived by mistaking the mere dictates of the understanding for the gracious affections of the heart. This class of persons may be distinguished by the correctness of their sentiments and their opposition to error. Early instructed in the principles of christianity, their minds have become stored with evangelical truth, and they will, perhaps, even “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The doctrines of entire depravity, of a vicarious atonement, of justification by faith, of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and of an eternal state of retribution, have their unqualified assent, and constitute most essential articles in their creed. It may be that their speculative acquaintance with these doctrines is superior to that of many humble believers, and instances are not wanting in which unsanctified men have written in defence of doctrines with great ability and effect. (Self-Deception by Jacob Helffenstein)

The most deceived man of all is he whose mind is influenced by the Evil Spirit and yet he believes that he is besought by the Good Spirit (Sermons by the Devil, W.S. Harris)

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,

Once again the quote from a man who was quite famous in his own day and to some degree an experienced minister and evangelist hits with power. Could it be that a day (at least in appearance) that was far better in terms of Christianity could still have said about it that “Nothing is more common, and certainly nothing more fatal than self-deception” and that have nothing to do with us? Was self-deception really a common thing in the 1800’s? Is it common in our day as well?

When we view things from the eternal perspective, being ruined is not just losing all of our financial resources or personal property, it is our soul being lost and ruined for eternity. This type of “lostness” means that our soul would never know the slightest joy again as it would be under the wrath of God. This means that there is nothing of more importance than seeking the Lord and having Him find us. It means that should give our whole beings and efforts at seeking the Lord that we would not be deceived. It means that many (even multitudes) around us are deceived and that of those who are orthodox, conservative, and quite moral. It means that perhaps many in our churches are deceived.

If nothing is more common than self-deception, then it is a common thing among even the most religious people to be deceived. If nothing is more common than self-deception, then it is a common thing for ministers to be deceived. If nothing is more common than self-deception, then it is a common thing for committed church people and those around “me” to be deceived. If nothing is more common than self-deception, then when little or nothing is said about it then myriads of people will remain in their self-deception. Those who are deceived need to see that they are deceived and how they are deceived.

When Helffenstein says that there is a great number of people who are ruined by false views of religion, he is not speaking of intellectual views or doctrines alone. He is speaking of the nature of the heart. People are ruined by false doctrines, yes, but many are also ruined by trusting in true doctrines and not taking into account what it means to have a changed heart. It does no good to have perfect doctrine (in an academic sense) if our hearts are not changed by the free-grace of God.

It does no good to have perfect church order if the hearts of the people are not changed by the free-grace of God. It does no good to focus on the externals when the souls of people are fast asleep in the grips of self-deception. They are asleep to the idea that they are dead in their sins and so they go on in their false views and false hearts while listening to orthodox sermons in an orthodox church. They are not saved by their Reformed denomination and their Reformed doctrines. Christ alone can save sinners and it is not the intellectual doctrine that saves. It is the true Christ who truly saves. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

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