Repentance and the Danger of Self Deception
Read Jeremiah 17:5-18
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick”
If sin robs us of joy and forgiveness is readily available, then why do we find it so difficult to confess our sin? If repentance is the prerequisite for worship, how many times do we approach God under the guise of worship only to have him reject our worship because of our refusal to deal with sin? The answer lies deep within the dishonesty of our soul. The reason we fail to deal with sin is because in our self-deception we fail to recognize its presence in our life.
In Jeremiah 17 God, through the prophet Jeremiah, confronts the southern nation of Judah with their sin. In verse 5 he pronounces a curse upon them because they trusted in themselves and in their own strength rather than Gods. Rather than look to God to provide their moral and spiritual compass, they looked to themselves, trusting in their own wisdom. As a result, they became like a drought-stricken bush in the wilderness that is shriving up and dying.
These individuals stand in stark contrast to the one who trusts is the Lord and looks to God and his word for spiritual and moral wisdom and direction. In contrast to the dying bush, these individuals are like a tree planted by a stream that provides a continual source of nourishment. Even when the heat of adversity comes, it does not fear for it has a wellspring of water supplying its need.
But we are no different than the people of Judah. In an age of moral confusion, we continually look to “social influencers” and the opinions of social experts rather than God. As a result, we fall prey to our own deceit (vs 9). We are not honest in our self-assessment. We fail to recognize how corrupt our thinking really is. Proverbs 14:12 warns, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Left to ourselves, our moral and spiritual compass is inherently flawed. Our heart (i.e. our conscience and the center of our thoughts and ability to determine right from wrong), suffers from an incurable sickness.
Because our ability to know right and wrong is intrinsically corrupt, only God can remove the blinders of our own self-deception. He searches the heart and tests the minds. He is the one who can bring healing to our spiritual blindness (vs 14). If worship is our response to God, then the heart of worship is recognizing our need for God to break down the walls of our self-righteousness so that we can see our need for God’s transformational work. Genuine worship begins with the prayer uttered by David, “Search me, O God and know my heart; try men and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24).
To truly discover the joy of the Christian faith, we need to recognize our need to rely upon God to bring moral and spiritual clarity. Worship is not just singing a song and experiencing some emotional euphoria. Worship is bringing our lives into conformity to his will. This requires that we recognize the subtlety of our self-deception and the necessity of repenting of not only our sinful actions, but also of our natural inclination to follow the inclinations of our own thoughts. Daily ask God to penetrate the fortress of your own heart and reveal areas in your life needing to be brought into conformity with his will.