Delightfully Deceived

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.

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2 thoughts on “Delightfully Deceived

  1. Hi Jon,

    Is the new heart of flesh, mentioned in Ezekiel 36:26, also desperately wicked? If so, it sounds hopeless.

    Blessings, Grandpa

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  2. That’s a great question, Grandpa. Unfortunately, the answer is not a plain ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and also opens the wide door to questions about the nature of sanctification (about which Christians disagree). Trying not to dive too deep into it, I’d answer this way, ‘no, but…’
    The new heart in Ezekiel 36:26 certainly does not appear to be ‘desperately wicked’. And I do believe God will fulfill his promise as Ezekiel declares. So, no, it’s not desperately wicked. But, while I believe that believers in Jesus receive this new heart, I also believe the New Testament teaches that we still have abiding sin – and as such we live in tension between perfection and fallenness. This is why Paul must exhort the church to not be deceived, to put death what is earthly in them, to keep in step with the Spirit, and so on. It’s also why Peter encourages us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
    Theologians commonly refer to this tension in the New Testament as “already and not yet”. There is a sense in which believers in Jesus are already sanctified and perfected in him. But there is another sense in which we are not yet fully and finally sanctified as we will be in the resurrection. In that way, I think Scripture is quite hopeful that one day we will be perfectly righteous and that we can make real progress in this life. But it is also realistic about our present struggles with sin.
    So, to answer the question, we might say, “No, our hearts (i.e. the new heart) are not desperately wicked, but they are not yet perfectly righteous either.” In Christ we’ve been given a new heart, nevertheless we must continue to fight against the remaining presence and influence of sin in us.
    What do you think about that?
    Furthermore, I will admit that I did not do a great job of identifying at all times in the post either to whom or of whom I’m speaking. For surely, the heart of someone in Adam (an unbeliever) is desperately wicked, but the heart of someone in Christ (a believer) is not exactly so. Perhaps the second to last paragraph especially could be stated more precisely.

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