“Self deception is preceded by the decision to move truth out of the realm of the objective and into a realm where it is weighed in one’s own eyes. This opens the door to deception!” This quotation was chosen to end this column a few days ago. Self-deception is frequently a fatal error; by that I mean that it is a self-willed act which effectively closes the door to truth and opens the door to error.

Listen to what Jesus had to say about some of His perennial opponents: “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’” (Matthew 13.13-15). Note carefully that Jesus said that Isaiah was right when he said that they closed their eyes so that they would not see nor hear the truth. Question: Who was responsible for the fact that they could not see, hear, nor understand? Jesus and Isaiah made it clear that the hearers of truth had acted in a way so as to make understanding and submission to the truth impossible. They were self-deceived!

Listen to what Paul had to say about many of the Jews to whom he frequently tried to minister. “So when they [the Jewish leaders] had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, “Go to this people and say: ‘Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’” Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!’” (Acts 28.23-28). Once again we ask, “Who was responsible for the fact that they could not see, hear, nor understand?” Again the scriptures make it plain that the people who could not hear had willed it so through their self-deception!

Concerning those who refuse to heed God’s appointed means of confirming truth, Paul said, “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2.11-12). God does not will that the self-deceived remain in that state, but He certainly will allow them to determine their own fate; He will even seal their self-determined fate by strong delusion just as He hardened Pharaoh’s heart when he decided to play fast and loose with the truth! Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? There are actually several correct answers to this question, but the first person to negatively impact Pharaoh’s heart was none other than Pharaoh himself! Like Pharaoh of old, we are our own worst enemy when we play fast and loose with the truth!

“Self deception is preceded by the decision to move truth out of the realm of the objective and into a realm where it is weighed in one’s own eyes. This opens the door to deception!”

Questions:

1. Why could the people hearing Jesus’ parables not understand them?

2. Why could the Jews Paul addressed in Acts 28 not understand the gospel and obey it?

3. Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?

4. Is it true that in each of the cases just mentioned, the people involved decided to “…move truth out of the realm of the objective and into a realm where it is weighed in one’s own eyes?” Why or why not? Do you agree that this opens the door to deception?