“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13)
The final condition of a man or woman who trifles with deception is self-deception. Deception is lying; and self-deception is lying, but with the added dimension of the surreal.
I have a little booklet by Watchman Nee in which the latter part deals with the insidiousness of self-deception. As he puts it, “What deceives others is a lie, while that which deceives oneself is an obsession.”[i] In other words, some individuals have tried to convince others of something that is untrue for so long, they have succeeded in convincing themselves to the point of mindless obsession.
A good example of this is found in Malachi one. Here, God through Malachi tells Israel, “I have loved you,” but their reply is “Wherein hast thou loved us?” (v.2). When He says, “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar,” they counter, “Wherein have we polluted thee?” (v.7). In both cases, they challenged God’s veracity while taking for granted their own. We see from this that it is possible to have an image of ourselves that even the Word of God cannot dispel.
In the same way, we can hold onto a doctrine or principle, not because it has been fairly weighed against an opposing view that has perhaps as much or more Biblical justification, but because it has become inflexibly fixed in our minds. In short, we are obsessed with it.
The Bible gives us the source of self-deception, and you will not be surprised: “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee” (Obad. 3). Once one has offered an untruth in place of the truth, pride reasons that the deception was needful, and therefore, may actually be true. For instance, often the picture we have of our past is the one we have painted ourselves, whether it be in glaring technicolor or dreary grays and browns. Either way, it can become an obsession that we ourselves have come to believe. After all, it’s easier to convince others of an untruth, if we believe it.
The best safeguard against self-deception is a concentrated vigil against any deception. All of us have told a lie; but there are far too many of us who have become really good at it. Once we are truly able to comprehend that the end of deception is self-deception, it will go a long way toward making us shun the any deception.
But if we cannot, it may already be too late.
[i] Nee, Watchman. Spiritual Reality or Obsession. New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc., 1970. p. 48.