People can delude themselves into believing whatever they want. For example, before I became a Christian (when I was 21), I was out driving my truck when I needed to turn around and go back to where I left. When I did so, I backed into a street sign and scraped up and dented my truck. Of course, I thought I would get in trouble for this, so I invented a story saying that someone hit my truck in the Wall-Mart parking lot. I had repeated this story that I knew was false so many times over the following months that it got to the point that I actually believed that it happened and fooled myself into believing it. The cliché is right that says that if you repeat a lie enough times, you are going to believe it.
Self-deception is a common thing that happens in some way to all of us, especially when it comes to trying to justify or rationalize something that we want to do that may be contrary to the will of God. This is even more true when it comes to those who claim that they do not believe in God. The Atheist, naturalistic worldview will do whatever is necessary to suppress any truth or evidence that God or His people present. This is so clearly seen in Romans 1:18-32.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever … 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:18-25, 32).
God says in this text through the Apostle Paul that sin is very deceptive. Those who love it and do not want to give it up will do all that they can do continue it, even if that means rejecting the Lord. This text teaches that sin leads people to suppress the truth and the knowledge that they have of God (21, 32). If left unchecked, it leads to the total rejection of the God that they know exists (21). The end of such a path is vanity. When people reject God, they walk in darkness and in the futility of their foolish minds (21).
When people profess to not believe in God, what I have seen when you press the issue a little bit is that their rejection of God is not an intellectual one, but a moral one. Their love for self and for sin is what darkens their hearts and makes them foolish in their thinking. Why does Psalm 14:1 call the one who says that there is no God a fool? The reason seems clear to me. It is because they are suppressing what God has made so clear. They are suppressing all of the treasures of wisdom and truth that are found in Christ to live in futility. But Paul makes it clear, they are without excuse for denying our God who has made Himself and His power so clear.
We Are NOT Exempt!!!
But we need to understand that just because we claim to be believers does not mean we are exempt from the danger of self-deception. Sin can do the SAME thing to us!!! Sin can lead to a downhill slide in us, even to the point where we love our sin so much that we will not only do whatever we can do in our minds to justify. We may even be willing to suppress the truth of God’s existence. James warns us about this in James 1:19-25:
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does (James 1:19-25).
We can delude ourselves into believing we are just fine with the Lord when we really are not! Just the fact that we are coming here and acting like Christians when we are here does not in any way fool God if we are not listening to His word outside of these walls. We may deceive others. We may even deceive ourselves. BUT WE WILL NOT DECEIVE THE ONE AND ONLY GOD OF HEAVEN!
Those who suppress the truth to accept lies and to live in sin need to remember this one fact: If they continue on this path, there may come a point of no return where even God gives you up to do what you want. He will “give you over” to your desires and sins (Rom 1:26, 28), and He will send upon us a strong delusion so that we would believe the lies that we are holding to so we can be rightly judged for our lack of love for Him and His truth (2 Thes. 2:9-12).
So how do we guard ourselves against self-deception? Here are a few pointers:
- Believe what God says;
- Remember that we serve the certain God, not a God that “probably” exists;
- Love the truth;
- Approach God’s word each time with a desire to know what He says no matter what you may believe about that topic
- Delight in obeying God for His glory;
- Remember that there is NO EXCUSE for rejecting God;
- Submit our minds to Christ. Bring every thought in subjection to His Lordship (2 Cor 11:3);
- Don’t let what is called “knowledge” in this world lead you to doubt the God of knowledge and wisdom;
- Repent of the masks that you are wearing. Be transparent and genuine.
- Remember that just because we can “justify” or “rationalize” something in our own minds does NOT mean that God approves of our justification.