Three times Paul exhorted the Corinthians, “Don’t be deceived” (3:18; 6:9; 15:33). The Corinthian church may have been a very gifted church, full of manifestations of the Spirit and power, but they were a gullible church. They were prone to be mislead and lulled into error. They were not a shrewd church, or wise. They were petty, divisive, and boastful of things even pagans didn’t boast of. In truth, however, the Corinthians were probably more like me than I realize.
The fact is, left to my own devices, I deceive myself on a daily basis. In my mind I put up paper mache walls and straw men that would crumble in a moment, if I weren’t hell-bent on keeping them upright. My heart – the human heart – is a foundry of deception. It is deceived by sin, and further deceives itself to maintain the lies it has created and the fictions it has believed.
This deception is rooted in mankind’s suppression of the truth that Paul speaks of in Romans 1. Because we suppress God’s truth, we must erect something in it’s place; and thus, deceive ourselves. In his book, Fools Talk, Os Guinness quotes Soren Kierkegaard, who wrote, “But spiritually understood, man in his natural condition is sick, he is in error, in an illusion, and therefore desires most of all to be deceived, so that he may be permitted not only to remain in error but to find himself thoroughly comfortable in his self-deceit.”
You see, what’s so astounding and terrible is that somewhere in our hearts we want to be deceived, so that we can remain ‘comfortable’ in our suppression of God’s truth, living according to the untruths and half-truths that we’ve accepted as truths. After all, our hearts wouldn’t prolong our deception, if we hated it. But, because of our sinfulness, we delight in being deceived.
It’s not that we enjoy being conned or incorrect, but that we must ‘die with the lie’ so as to live comfortably and not be proved wrong. Because we are deceived by sin, we must perpetuate our deception, in order to avoid being confronted with our own error.
What lies are you holding on to? What fictions have you believed? What untruths and half-truths direct your life? Perhaps you’ve been living according to racist assumptions and attitudes. But the truth is God created all races and has created in Jesus Christ a new multi-racial people to live with him forever. Perhaps you’ve been persuaded that God doesn’t really care about your sin. But the truth is God hates your sin. Perhaps you’ve latched onto the idea that you have to clean yourself up before you come back to God. But the truth is we come to God dirty; he’s the one who does the cleaning.
What we must realize is Satan has been at this since the beginning when he deceived our first mother, Eve (1 Tim. 2:14). It is one of his favorite tactics against God’s church. And not only this, but our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Therefore, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-13).
We must fight our own deceptions together, lest any one of us find himself delightfully deceived and falling from grace.