This is a small extract of a larger series on deception. The complete series by Pastor Wagner on Deception is also available.
1. Deceive v. - 1. trans. To ensnare; to take unawares by craft or guile; to overcome, overreach, or get the better of by trickery; to beguile or betray into mischief or sin; to mislead. Obs. (or arch.) 2. To cause to believe what is false; to mislead as to a matter of fact, lead into error, impose upon, delude, ‘take in’. b. absol. To use deceit, act deceitfully. c. refl. To allow oneself to be misled; to delude oneself.
2. We are prone to self-deception because we love lies (Isa 30:10; Jer 5:31; Jer 38:3-4; Mic 2:11).
A. Men deceive themselves by telling themselves things that are false because they don't want to believe the truth (Jer 37:9).
B. We love lies because:
i. The truth requires effort to obtain (Pro 23:23).
ii. The truth hurts (Joh 8:40; Act 7:54).
iii. The truth is depressing (Ecc 1:18).
iv. The truth will cause us to lose friends and be rejected by others (Gal 4:16).
v. The truth about ourselves is hard to accept (Mat 26:34-35).
vi. The truth is not flattering.
vii. The truth is inconvenient; it makes life difficult.
viii. The truth gets in the way of our plans, desires, and lusts.
ix. The truth requires us to change.
C. "Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened." – Winston Churchill
D. "Truth is treason in an empire of lies." - Ron Paul
3. We are prone to self-deception because our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9).
A. God asked rhetorically concerning our deceitful heart, "who can know it?"
B. If we can't know our own heart, how easy then is it to be self-deceived!
C. To resist being deceived we must guide our hearts by the word of God (Pro 4:23; Pro 23:19).
D. We must never trust in it (in our emotions) (Pro 28:26; Mar 7:21-23).
4. Sin will deceive us (Rom 7:11).
A. Our lusts are deceitful (Eph 4:22).
i. Our deceitful lusts are desires for such things as money, possessions, sex, power, prestige, attention, recognition, leisure, or pleasure.
ii. They trick us into thinking that we will be better off if we satisfy them.
iii. Our flesh tries to deceive our spirit into doing what we should not (Gal 5:16-17).
B. Sin uses our own lust to entice us and to draw us away from the keeping God's commandments (Jam 1:15-16).
C. Sin is deceitful (Heb 3:13).
D. Our sinful lusts will deceive us into thinking that we will not lose our place in the church if we sin (1Co 6:9-10).
5. We are commanded to not deceive ourselves (1Co 3:18).
A. If we think that we are wise before we have realized that we know nothing, we have deceived ourselves.
B. If we say that we have no sin, we have deceived ourselves (1Jo 1:8).
i. There is not a person on this earth that does not sin (Rom 3:23; Ecc 7:20).
ii. Therefore, if we think that we don't ever sin, we have deceived ourselves.
6. Many religious people are self-deceived.
A. People that claim to be religious but don't control their tongue have deceived themselves (Jam 1:26).
i. Their religion is worthless.
ii. They will only fool others for a while until they get to know them and hear them speak.
B. Men dream up dreams that they never had to deceive themselves (Jer 29:8).
7. Know thyself
A. A wise man understands his own way, but fools deceive themselves (Pro 14:8).
B. I know people who don't know themselves.
i. They make statements about what they are going to do, and in many cases they probably believe themselves.
ii. But I can discern very easily that they will never do what they say they are planning to do.
C. We must examine ourselves (2Co 13:5; 1Co 11:28; Lam 3:40).
i. We must pray that God would search our hearts and reveal to us what we really are (Psa 26:2; Psa 139:23-24; Job 6:24; Job 13:23; Job 34:32; Psa 19:12).
ii. We must think about where we're going in life and make sure we are on the straight and narrow (Pro 4:26-27).
iii. We will never grow as Christians until we take an honest look at ourselves and admit the truth about ourselves.
D. Our own strength and success can deceive us into thinking we are greater than we are (Jer 49:16; Oba 1:3-4).
E. We often deceive ourselves into thinking we are something when we are nothing (Gal 6:3).
i. This is called delusions of grandeur.
ii. Delusion n. - 3. a. Anything that deceives the mind with a false impression; a deception; a fixed false opinion or belief with regard to objective things, esp. as a form of mental derangement. b. delusions of grandeur: a false belief concerning one's personality or status, which is thought to be more important than it is.
iii. We've all met people who think they are great singers, writers, intellectuals, sports players, musicians, etc. that objectively are not.
iv. They view themselves highly because of their pride.
a. Pride n. - B. Signification. The quality of being proud. I. 1. a. A high or overweening opinion of one's own qualities, attainments, or estate, which gives rise to a feeling and attitude of superiority over and contempt for others; inordinate self-esteem.
b. To admit the truth about themselves would wound their lofty self-image.
v. Such people have only deceived themselves, but not others.
vi. Such a man needs to honestly evaluate and prove his own work before he rejoices in it (Gal 6:4).
8. People often deceive themselves when they want to do something, even though they know that it's not godly or wise to do so.
A. The reason for this is because children of God have a conscience which accuses them when they do something they know is sinful, wrong, or foolish (Rom 2:15; Heb 10:2).
i. This creates a feeling of guilt and uneasiness which makes them feel stressed and uncomfortable.
ii. They don't like having that feeling, but at the same time, they want to do what they want to do.
iii. What then are they to do?
iv. They must deceive themselves and convince themselves that what they want to do is actually okay.
B. They talk themselves into it by rationalizing away the reasons that they should not do it.
i. Instead of saying 'no' to themselves quickly, they keep mulling it over in their mind.
ii. The more they think about it, the more acceptable it becomes to them.
iii. Watch out for this!
C. They talk to other people about it whom they know will validate what they want to do (2Ch 18:3-5).
i. This feeds into the self-deception.
ii. They now have validation from other (likely foolish) people for what they want to do.
iii. Now they can tell themselves and others that they sought advice before making the decision.
D. They avoid talking to anyone about it whom they perceive will disapprove of it and would try to talk them out of it (2Ch 18:6-7, 17).
i. This feeds into the self-deception.
ii. They can now tell themselves that nobody thinks this is a bad idea.
E. They avoid getting the pastor's advice on the matter.
i. They instead inform the pastor of their plans or decision as a courtesy to him, but never actually seek his counsel.
a. This feeds into the self-deception.
b. They can now tell themselves that the pastor is okay with it, even though the pastor didn't say he is okay with it.
ii. If they do ask for the pastor's advice, it is merely with the hope that he will rubberstamp what they have already decided to do.
a. If the pastor advises them against it, they will then rationalize away his advice by telling themselves that he doesn't really understand the situation.
b. They can then tell themselves that they didn't disregard or go against the pastor's advice because his advice was based on his lack of understanding and experience.
F. Their ideas are right in their own eyes (Pro 12:15).
i. They are not wise enough to seek counsel (Pro 12:15).
ii. Their ways are clean to them, but God (or wise men around them) is not fooled (Pro 16:2; Pro 21:2).
iii. Their way seems right to them, but in the end it leads to destruction (Pro 16:25).
iv. If they reject offers for advice from friends, their friends will stop offering it (Job 32:1).
v. This is why it's crucial to get good counsel early to avoid self-deception (Pro 11:14; Pro 15:22; Pro 20:18; Pro 24:6).
G. It has been my observation during my nearly 38 years of life, 15 years of being a Christian in true churches, and seven years of pastoring that very few people sincerely seek counsel before deciding to do something they want to do.
i. And this is true even of people who have heard me repeatedly exhort the brethren from the scriptures of the importance of seeking counsel before making major life decisions.
ii. Other men of God have told me that they have had similar experiences, so I don't think that my experience is a result of my age.
iii. I have just had to accept the fact that I am contending with human nature which is very hard to overcome.
9. People often deceive themselves concerning why they did something.
A. Remember, there are usually two reasons why someone did something.
i. There is the presented reason that they tell others and often tell themselves.
ii. And then there is the real reason which rarely gets admitted to, but is often not hard for others to perceive.
B. The presented reason
i. Another name for the presented reason is the BS excuse.
ii. We tell the presented reason to ourselves because we don't want to admit the truth to ourselves.
iii. An example of this was the servant that was given one talent and hid it in the earth instead of investing it (Mat 25:24-25).
a. His presented reason for hiding the talent in the earth was fear of his hard master.
b. The real reason was that he was lazy (Mat 25:26).
(i) Lazy people use fear as an excuse for their laziness (Pro 22:13).
(ii) Many people today are using fear of the Coronavirus as an excuse for not going back to work and staying on unemployment because they are lazy!
c. His lord did not accept his BS excuse and neither will our Lord (Mat 25:27-30).
iv. We tell others the presented reason because we don't want to be embarrassed about what we did or why we did it.
v. In order for us to not be convicted in our hearts about lying, we must first convince ourselves that the presented reason is the real reason before we try to convince others.
vi. Many times we give the presented reason because we are afraid of what people might think if they knew the real reason (even though they usually know the real reason despite of the smokescreen we have tried to erect to cover it).
C. The real reason
i. The real reason is usually not virtuous.
ii. It is usually embarrassing to admit, or at the least casts us in a negative light.
iii. The real reason often comes down to simply wanting to fulfill our lusts and desires.
D. Examples of presented vs. real reasons.
i. You bought the latest iPhone
a. The presented reason: My old one didn't have enough memory, or it was getting slow, or it was going to die any day, or...
b. The real reason: I wanted it.
ii. You buy your children smartphones.
a. The presented reason: They might need them to contact me in an emergency.
b. The real reason: The children wanted them, and I capitulated because I was tired of hearing their whining, I didn't want to look like a mean parent in everyone's eyes, and I didn't want my kids to be picked on by their peers for not having one.
iii. You close down a business that you were trying to get going.
a. The presented reason: I didn't really like products I was selling, or I don't feel like working for myself anymore.
b. The real reason: I was losing money and was not profitable.
iv. You post a picture of your family on Facebook.
a. The presented reason: I want our relatives to be able to see them.
b. The real reason: I want to show off to all of my "friends" and show them what an awesome life it appears that I have.
v. You stay at home and don't go out and work.
a. The presented reason: It's dangerous out there (Pro 26:13).
b. The real reason: I'm lazy.
vi. You run for political office.
a. The presented reason: I want to serve the public.
b. The real reason: I want a cushy job with power, prestige, and fringe benefits.
10. How to recognize if you are self-deceived.
A. If you have avoided truly asking advice from wise people who you think will not agree with your plans or decisions, then there is a high likelihood that you are self-deceived.
B. If you automatically dismiss the idea that you have deceived yourself, then you have probably deceived yourself.
C. If you rationalize away the fact that you did not truly seek wise counsel before making a decision, you are most likely self-deceived.
11. How to avoid self-deception
A. Truly seek wise counsel before making an important decision (Pro 11:14; Pro 15:22).
B. If you know that what you are contemplating to do is sinful or unwise, tell yourself 'no' immediately, and keep telling yourself 'no' every time the thought arises.
C. If you have doubts in your conscience about a decision, stop and seek counsel before you sear your conscience (1Ti 4:2; Eph 4:19).
D. Sincerely ask God to give you wisdom to make good decisions and to save you from yourself (Jam 1:5-8).
E. Be honest with yourself.
i. Quit telling yourself BS excuses for doing things you do.
ii. Quit believing yourself when deep-down you know better.
iii. Ask yourself, "what is the real reason I did that?".
iv. Ask yourself, "am I really going to do what I just said I was going to do, or am I just telling it to myself or others so that I look good?".