How We Confront Self-Deception

by Neil Anderson

Satan tempts us to sin and stops us in our tracks by accusations, but his most insidious weapon is deception, because we don’t know when we are being deceived. Through deception, the father of lies has led the whole world astray (see Revelation 12:9).

That is why truth sets us free and why the belt of truth is the first piece of our protective armor. Jesus prayed that we would be kept from the evil one by being sanctified in the truth of God’s Word (see John 17:15-17). James admonished us not to be deceived (see James 1:16).

There are three primary avenues through which we can be deceived: (1) self-deception, (2) false prophets/teachers and (3) deceiving spirits. Scripture identifies at least eight ways that we can deceive ourselves.

First, we can deceive ourselves if we listen to the word of God but don’t do it (see James 1:22-25). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We will be self-deceived if we think the Bible is just a textbook that provides us with knowledge. We will hardly be aware of how self-centered and self-righteous we are, but others will likely see the hypocrisy. When the Bible is a mirror it knocks us down a notch, picks us back up, and trains us in righteousness.

Second, we can deceive ourselves if we say we have no sin (see 1 John1:8). Having sin and being sin are two different issues. We are not sinless saints; we are saints who sin. If we keep saying that we have done nothing wrong, we may start believing it.

Third, we can deceive ourselves if we think we are something when we are not (see Romans 12:3; Galatians 6:3). We are children of God, by the grace of God, who are living our lives before God. Those who think they are special don’t know they really are!

Fourth, we can deceive ourselves when we think we are wise in this age (see 1 Corinthians 3:18-19). In professing ourselves to be wise we become fools (see Romans 1:22). “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective, not ours. Someday we shall see fully, but right now we have one eye starting to slightly open. We don’t have a clue what is going right around us in the spiritual realm.

Fifth, we can deceive ourselves when we think we are religious but do not keep a tight rein on our tongue (see James 1:26). Spirit-filled Christians exhibit self-control and only use their words to build up others (see Ephesians 4:29-30). Those who can’t control their tongues are denying the anger within them.

Sixth, we can deceive ourselves when we think we will not reap what we sow (see Galatians 6:7). Everything we think and do has consequences, and we will one day give an account for our words and our actions.

Seventh, we can deceive ourselves when we think the unrighteous will inherit the kingdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). We cannot defend a sinful lifestyle and claim to be Christians by calling sin something other than what it is.

Eighth, we can deceive ourselves when we associate with bad company and think it will not corrupt us (see 1 Corinthians 15:33). Sin is contagious. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12, NASB).

Dr. Neil     For Spanish see

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