Self-Deception and How to Avoid It, by A.W. Tozer

 Self-deception and How to Avoid It By A.W.Tozer

OF ALL FORMS OF DECEPTION, self-deception is the most deadly, and of all
deceived persons the self-deceived are the least likely to discover the

The reason for this is simple. When a man is deceived by another he is
deceived against his will. He is contending against an adversary and is
temporarily the victim of the other's guile. Since he expects his foe to
take advantage of him he is watchful and quick to suspect trickery. Under
such circumstances it is possible to be deceived sometimes and for a short
while, but because the victim is resisting he may break out of the trap and
escape before too long.

With the self-deceived it is quite different. He is his own enemy and is
working a fraud upon himself. He wants to believe the lie and is
psychologically conditioned to do so. He does not resist the deceit but
collaborates with it against himself. There is no struggle, because the
victim surrenders before the fight begins. He enjoys being deceived.

It is altogether possible to practice fraud upon our own souls and go
deceived to judgment. "If a man think himself to be something, when he is
nothing," said Paul, "he deceiveth himself." With this agrees the inspired
James: "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his
tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."

The farther we push into the sanctuary the greater becomes the danger of
self-deception. The deeply religious man is far more vulnerable than the
easygoing fellow who takes his religion lightly. This latter may be deceived
but he is not likely to be self-deceived.

Under the pressure of deep spiritual concern, and before his heart has been
wholly conquered by the Spirit of God, a man may be driven to try every
dodge to save face and preserve a semblance of his old independence. This is
always dangerous and if persisted in may prove calamitous.

The fallen heart is by nature idolatrous. There appears to be no limit to
which some of us will go to save our idol, while at the same time telling
ourselves eagerly that we are trusting in Christ alone. It takes a violent
act of renunciation to deliver us from the hidden idol, and since very few
modern Christians understand that such an act is necessary, and only a small
number of those who know are willing to do, it follows that relatively few
professors of the Christian faith these days have ever experienced the
painful act of renunciation that frees the heart from idolatry.

Prayer is usually recommended as the panacea for all ills and the key to
open every prison door, and it would indeed be difficult to overstate the
advantages and privilege of Spirit-inspired prayer. But we must not forget
that unless we are wise and watchful prayer itself may become a source of
self-deception. There are as many kinds of prayer as there are problems and
some kinds are not acceptable to God. The prophets of the Old Testament
denounced Israel for trying to hide their iniquities behind their prayers.
Christ flatly rejected the prayers of hypocrites and James declared that
some religious persons ask and receive not because they ask amiss.

To escape self-deception the praying man must come out clean and honest. He
cannot hide in the cross while concealing in his bosom the golden wedge and
the goodly Babylonish garment. Grace will save a man but it will not save
him and his idol. The blood of Christ will shield the penitent sinner alone,
but never the sinner and his idol. Faith will justify the sinner, but it
will never justify the sinner and his sin.

No amount of pleading will make evil good or wrong right. A man may engage
in a great deal of humble talk before God and get no response because
unknown to himself he is using prayer to disguise disobedience. He may lie
for hours in sackcloth and ashes with no higher motive than to try to
persuade God to come over on his side so he can have his own way. He may
grovel before God in a welter of self-accusation, refuse to give up his
secret sin and be rejected for his pains. It can happen.

Dr. H. M. Shuman once said to me in private conversation that he believed
the one quality God required a man to have before He would save him was
honesty. With this I heartily agree. However dishonest the man may have been
before, he must put away his duplicity if he is to be accepted before the
Lord. Double dealing is unutterably offensive to God. The insincere man has
no claim on mercy. For such a man the cross of Christ provides no remedy.
Christ can and will save a man who has been dishonest, but He cannot save
him while he is dishonest. Absolute candor is an indispensable requisite to

How may we remain free from self-deception? The answer sounds old-fashioned
and dull but here it is: Mean what you say and never say what you do not
mean, either to God or man. Think candid thoughts and act forthrightly
always, whatever the consequence. To do this will bring the cross into your
life and keep you dead to self and to public opinion. And it may get you
into trouble sometimes, too. But a guileless mind is a great treasure; it is
worth any price.

(From "Man, the dwelling place of God, by A.W.Tozer)