Deception 11

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,

Since deception of the soul is spread throughout the professing Church, it would be vital for each local church to remind people of these things and to help people search their own hearts. It would also be vital for each person to engage in self-examination as Paul said in II Corinthians 13:5. We can know with certainty that Paul did not engage in statements like that for no reason, but that he thought that people should examine themselves. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they were faithful in their attendance at church. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they read the Bible and said prayers more often than not. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they had joined a church. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they were doctrinally correct. He did not say that they should examine themselves to see if they were moral.

What Paul said that they should do is to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith and to see if Jesus Christ was in them. Here is the real issue and all else can contribute to self-deception. All the things listed in the previous paragraph can be used as self-deception, but the real issue is whether Christ dwells in the person or not. Being religious, and even religious to the extreme, can be a way of self-deception. Religious exercises can be ways of self-deception. What we must know is if Christ really and actually lives in us or not.

What is clear or should be clear is that many are deceived by the information they have in their heads. Paul also taught us that knowledge puffs up, so great amounts of religious information can puff us up as well. The soul that is puffed up is also a soul that is blinded by being puffed up. Pride does lead to a fall and the more pride the greater the fall. The soul that is puffed up with religious information and religious activity is the soul that is deceived and will be in for a great shock on judgment day. It is utterly no evidence at all that a person has a lot of information about Christianity stocked in the brain, but what is needed is Christ in the heart.

This is so vital. It is not that having a creed is wrong or that teaching a catechism is wrong, but when people learn those things and only store up the information in the brain and do not have a changed heart, that very information can be a way of self-deception. Some of the Dutch branches of the professing Church are required to teach through the Heidelberg every year. That may or may not be a good plan, but those things do not in and of themselves produce spiritual fruit. They can be ways of puffing up the soul with pride as any other method. It is not the information that we have in our heads, it is the Christ we must have as the life of our soul. While knowledge of Scripture is important, it may only be used as a way of self-deception if we don’t have Christ truly.

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