Remember those stories of hellfire that scared you into salvation as a kid?
Yeah, me too.
For me it was a Sunday, maybe around 1999. I was stuck at home with a high fever, and though my mom generally assumed care-taking duties, it was my dad who stayed home with me that day while the rest of the family went to church. I remember us in our NY apartment—Dad sitting on a chair and leaning in towards me as I lay sick in a tiny twin bed, buried under a large and faded floral print comforter. My sweet dad spent Sunday morning with me and carried out a little church service for the two of us, sermon and all.
I’m sure he did it right—I’m sure he talked about Christ’s love and sacrifice and all the other important parts to the gospel.
But all I processed were the scary
descriptions of a place called h-e-l-l,
and I was scared.
Moved by fear, I got out of my little bed and, kneeling on the floor, prayed a salvation prayer.
Some days I think that was when I actually became a Christian. Some days I doubt it. Faith is simple, right? So maybe that was the moment when, in my simple understanding, I was truly saved. Who knows.
Regardless, after that day, nothing about my life really changed.
I continued in temper tantrums and unrestrained bouts of anger towards my family, continued in lustful thoughts that were granted full permission to run rampant in my mind, continued in a life without prayer or time in the Word or even considering Christ in my day to day—all the while externally portraying the image of a good Christian girl who had it all together.
How could I live at peace with the two people that seemed to dwell within me—the person I was versus the person I portrayed?
Here’s the thing: despite being very aware of my concealed sin, I truly believed that I was a somewhat decent person. In the process of deceiving others about who I was, I had somehow deceived myself.
Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel at a time when the nation was stuck in a similar sort of self-deception. They had wandered so far from God, but were oblivious to the error of their ways. Jeremiah says this:
People of Jerusalem, run through your streets! Look around!
See for yourselves! Search the marketplaces!
Can you find one person who does what is right and tries to be faithful to God?
…Even though you claim to worship the Lord, you do not mean what you say. | Jeremiah 5:1-2, GNT
Jeremiah could find many religious people in Israel. But he could not find anyone who sought the Lord in sincerity.
Could we be living the
same lie of self-deception?
Are there ways in which we may be externally religious—doctrinally sound, outwardly well-behaved, “godly” in character and lifestyle—yet insincere behind the curtain, and before the Lord?
Could we even be deceived
about our own salvation?
At the end of the day, Jesus is the only one who can convict our hearts and reveal to us any self-deception. As we seek to check ourselves, let’s ask Him for the clarity that only He can give.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. | Psalm 139:23-24, NLT