It’s possible to think we are one thing, but actually be another.
It’s also possible to say we are one thing, and in fact, be something completely different.
Likewise, it’s possible to start out as one thing and then end up as another.
For many of us, we do not consider ourselves beyond what we think we are. We are comfortable stopping here.
Others never get past their profession. Even though they know their thoughts betray them, they must continue to call themselves by the same name. It’s who they’ve always said themselves to be, and perhaps the saying provides them access to a group or certain social status. For these, it’s more important to maintain the profession than to come to terms with the truth.
Still more will begin as one thing and end as another. Somewhere along the journey, the change happens. Often subtle at first, a new idea introduced, a seed of questioning watered, followed by an exploration of options, and then a shift. Footsteps headed in one direction pivot, point, and step in another.
These three situations, while different in their expression, are similar in their cause - deception, either of ourselves or of others, lies at the core of all three.
Sometimes this deception is from ignorance, others it’s hypocrisy for convenience, and worst of all it is an acceptance of the deception, blinding us from the truth.
Whether we are foolish, faking or fully convinced, it is all deception still the same.
We must ask ourselves then, “Are we deceived?” And if so, “Where and in what way?”
It is on this topic of deception and purifying ourselves with the truth that I write to you today.
There are two challenges with removing deception. First, in seeing it. And second, the costliness of exposure.
Proverbs, considered to be the book of Wisdom in the Bible, uses the English word ‘heart’ 85 times over 31 chapters. The writers implore us to search it out, consider it, apply their heart to understanding the truth, to not be deceived by it, and overall to keep a diligent and careful watch upon our heart.
If we are to be a people who live free of deception, we must follow the same course. Begin even today by reading through all 85 heart references in Proverbs. Prayerfully consider them, apply your heart to understanding the truth of the verses, and be diligent in your study, do not give up easily.
The second matter, the cost of exposure, is much more simple, yet far less easy. It’s hard and it hurts, which is why we tend to avoid it.
Some of you may remember the account of Keith Green confessing openly:
"I've already gotten these things right with God, now I want to confess them to you and ask for your forgiveness because my sins have affected you.”
He went on for several minutes, pouring his heart out and crying.
"I know my sin has broken God's heart. I know it's hurt you, too--and I'm really, really sorry. I'm not worthy to bear the holy name of Christian. Please forgive me."
And then the effect his exposure had on the group:
Suddenly one of the women burst into tears. She'd been sitting on the floor and now she was on her face, her whole body heaving with deep uncontrollable sobs. A few others started to weep, and the next thing we knew we were all on our faces, crying, and calling out to God. Actually, some of us could do little more than moan. The feelings were so deep it was hard to even put them into words. It was a gut-wrenching time of conviction and soul-searching. The sound of wailing started to rise and fill the room--and it went on and on.
Not only does open confession benefit those hearing, it also leads us into purity, true freedom, joy, unbroken communion with God, greater love for Jesus and undefiled worship.
We met again later that evening and over the next few days-- day and night. We had hours of prayer, weeping, and humble open confession. Everyone was being broken. They'd read their list of sins and ask forgiveness of God and those who'd been affected. There was such an awesome sense of God's presence in the room, sometimes overwhelming.
And more often than not after someone shared, tears of sorrow ignited into tears of joy-- and even laughter as many broke through to God at deeper levels than ever before. They said they felt cleansed and refreshed in a brand new way--like their souls had just come alive and the weight of the world was lifted off their shoulders. It seemed like, one by one, this was happening to everybody.
The command for all of us is to, “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
Does He have all my heart? Are my longings and affections satisfied fully in Him or do I turn to other sources, indulging as a temporary substitute?
All of my mind? Do my thoughts constantly fix on Christ, whatever part of the day I’m in?
Is all of my strength poured out to Him? In whatever I do, am I doing it as unto the Lord?
I must personally confess. No.
I’ve had presentation but without power. The proper words but lacking the purity of singular attention and devotion to Christ.
And lacking the power and purity, I’ve allowed a little old leaven to leaven the whole lump. I’ve told myself that I have no choice at night, at the end of the day when I’m tired, but to enter into unbelief all while pretending during the day to be one who lives solely by faith.
This is an unbelief that fails to hold onto hope, that wants to escape, to turn it all off, to indulge in the temporary things rather than to abstain and wait for the greater things, the eternal, spiritual and unseen things.
As I wrote about previously, the temptation to indulge stands in direct opposition to the purity of exclusivity to Christ:
“Likewise, in the pursuit of this exclusivity, the concept of self-indulgence must become foreign to us. What is meant by indulgences? Anything which we use in place of Christ to bring ourselves temporary enjoyment or happiness.” -source
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3
When we refer to leaven, we know it only takes the tiniest of amounts to impact the entire loaf of bread. So it is with the purity of our lives before Him.
Compromise sneaks in through this door of tiniest amounts. We open the lock and turn the handle ourselves, “It’s not that bad. It’s only a little.”
Rather than casting out the old leaven, we invite it in. There was a purity, a sanctity of home, and then, almost unknowingly, our home is overrun.
Through this neglect of “sincere and pure devotion to Christ,” I’ve become the bound speaking to the bound as if I were one set free. And as a result, powerless.
Bound to bound, there can be no power. Power only comes through those who have been truly set free, as we go forth as disciples of Him to whom, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given.” Only then can we plunder the strong man’s goods, plunder his house, and set the captives free.
This commission of power is described by John Piper as, “God sends us to do what only he can do — give spiritual sight to the blind.”
And as recorded in Acts 26, Paul recounts the commission that came to him from Jesus on the day of his conversion, “I now send you to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:18
In examining my own heart, my life, my presentation, my purity, I confess to you that I found myself lacking. I’ve gotten these things right with God and now I ask for your forgiveness as well.
In closing, I implore all of us, search your hearts today.
…”the LORD looks at the heart.” What will He find when He looks there? Deception or truth? Unbelief or faith? Presentation or power? Compromise or purity?
Leave no stone unturned. List every sin in detail.
“After a long time, Keith asked everyone to go and take some time alone with God. "Go home and make out a list. List every area of sin that the Lord is showing you and will continue to show you. List it in detail. Let the Lord shine his spotlight into your hearts."
For there is something far more costly than the cost of exposure, and it is to be found wanting on that day when He comes to, “Judge the world with righeousness.” Psalm 96:13
For He is coming. I urge you, be ready!