It is one thing to be deceived by another, but to deceive yourself must be totally blind. Self-deception comes in many forms and shapes. Allow me to draw you to a few of these …
(a) I can believe I am better than another or others. Maybe I am able to do some things better than others, but when my feelings are that in general I am better than other people, I have deceived myself. This is where arrogance starts leading to isolation or grouping with people who think the same. Such an attitude leads to the way of discrimination. The sadness here is that no one is better than anyone else. In God’s economy, we are all the same. The only difference is the environment we have grown up in and the educational opportunities we have had.
(b) I can believe I am God’s leader and servant, standing shoulders and head taller than others. Some who are like this become spiritually arrogant and in reality demonstrate their lack of spiritual leadership, God’s presence and calling. Some are gifted to lead but the difference between spiritual leadership and worldly leadership is huge.
(c) I can believe I am more spiritual than others. One of the marks of a spiritual leader is never to think he or she is more spiritual than others. In reality, a spiritual person will be one who feels they are struggling, sinful and keeps learning, praying and developing in Jesus Christ. They will be the first to say they have not arrived yet!
(d) I can believe I am more wise and insightful than another or others. This is a terrible deception … to think I am able to discern spiritual matters and Biblical truth better than others. Like under the previous point, no one can claim this because true wisdom and insight acknowledges the “little” one actually knows.
So … where does the Christian Church find its authority? What makes the Church of Jesus the Church of Jesus? How does the “Church” deceive itself?
(a) The True Church of the Lord Jesus Christ finds its authority, marching orders and operational program in the Word of God. Today is Reformation Sunday. Today we remember with thanksgiving to God for His intervention, raising up such leaders like Martin Luther, John Knox and other great men to intervene, standing against the Church of Rome, exposing their unbiblical control of the then Church. Knowingly or unknowingly, the Church of Rome did not lead the Church Biblically. The Christian Church finds and must find its authority and operational plan from the Bible.
(b) As soon as man introduces his “human” wisdom, business models and secular strategies into the Church, it is no longer the Church of God. Such a Church might draw the crowds, secure the money, have the ministries and multiple buildings … but do they shape their ministry from the Bible?
(c) The Church therefore deceives itself as soon as it moves away from the Bible and introduces other means by replacing Biblical doctrine, theology, the gospel and having the Lord Jesus as King with the Holy Spirit as the Chief Operational Officer. Now let’s read the letter to the pastor and congregation at Laodicea and over a few days see what happens to a Church that is self-deceived.
Rev 3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
1) Laodicea was the wealthiest and most important city in Phrygia. She existed on a trade route where three major roads intersected. This helped Laodicea to become a bustling trade center as well as a as a Roman administrative center. This city was so rich that when it was totally destroyed by an earthquake around AD 60-61, they refused help from the Roman Empire to rebuild the city. Most other cities of the time accepted help. She was famous for three things …
(a) Banking. Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic Skeptic, who believed his greatest achievement was political. He help shape the banking world of Laodicea by supporting its “money exchange system”. Financially she was stable with much cash reserves.
(b) Linen and wool production. Her factories produced cloth and carpets. She used glossy black wool from sheep reared in the area.
(c) Medical School and Pharmaceutical Factories. She was noted for the eye salve (ointment) she produced. In the greater region many people suffered with eye infections caused by wind blowing various foreign bodies around that often affected the eyes causing a terrible itch with puss oozing out of the eyes. The eye salve produced worked wonders and people came from far to purchase it. It seems as though these three: banks, factories and medicine are addressed in
Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
I’m certain by now you get the self-deception matter. Economic wealth cannot replace spiritual wealth!
O Lord, mercifully keep us from such self-deception that we think our secular democratic world is the real world to live for. Save us from deception. Amen.