Saturday, June 22, 2013

Do Not Be Deceived

When I was preparing the walls of our new house for painting, I discovered the oddest thing: the new off-white paint and even the reddish paint beneath were added over the blue painter's tape around a light switch.  Who paints over painter's tape?  It seemed like no big deal, especially with the tape buried under two layers of paint and concealed by the switch cover plate.  That is, until I tried scraping the wall and taking off the paint. Now that tape is making it a lot harder, and its removal will probably do a lot more damage.

Have you ever done something wrong and tried to cover it up with a lie?  Of course you have.  We all have.  This leads to one of two almost inevitable additional steps--or both: You add to that lie by fabricating an entire deception-filled ruse so that your original lie won't become uncovered, or you repeat that original lie over and over again with greater force and confidence.  Either way, the original truth becomes so buried under a mountain of lies that we cannot even find it anymore.  Eventually we get to the point where we think it would require more work and damage to unravel our wicked web than to maintain the facade.  We come to the point where we've lied so much that our minds become reprogrammed, and the lie becomes our new functional truth.  We become no longer able to tell the truth from the lie; we believe the lie we keep telling is the truth.

Rather than deceiving others, you now have deceived yourself.

This is the very danger the Bible sets forth when we try to gloss over the ugly truth of our sinfulness.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you: that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  (1 John 1:5-10)
Did you catch that?  When we say everything's okay and try to put forth a facade that we know God and have it all together and that we've done no wrong, we're trying to deceive others.  We want to hide in the darkness because we fear exposure for being sinners.  We're afraid others will judge us and run away from us.*  But what does verse eight say is the result of being dishonest with others?  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

This is an exceedingly dangerous thing.  Deceit and dishonesty are antithetical to the God who is the very essence of light and truth.  Lies cloud our vision of what's true about God, so it becomes harder and harder to reach out in hope for the very key to our freedom: the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin.  This is why we need extreme vigilance to any seeds of duplicity.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14)
Falling away from God doesn't just happen.  It's not passive.  You don't simply wake up one day and find you no longer believe that the gospel is true.  That day comes after years of choosing to put yourself first, suppressing God's voice in unbelief, and then lying about it day after day without repentance and honest searching and revealing of your heart (see Psalm 139).

But as long as it is called "today"--which it is if you're reading this--we have a greater hope by which we can draw near to God.  We have the promise from God that if we come into the light and agree with him and others about our sin (confession), we regain fellowship with him.  God is not unjust; he will not discard his Son's sacrifice for sinners.  Jesus died to bear the punishment due upon sinners (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2), and God will be true to validate that his demands of justice have been fully met for all time on the cross.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:9).

The beautiful truth is that while it's impossible to cover our sin with a web of lies (see Isaiah 59:1-8), when we give up on maintaining the facade, God is faithful to cover what we uncover.  "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. ... I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity.  I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:1-2, 5).**

*Note that verse seven actually says the result of honesty is that "we have fellowship with one another."  Humility creates a band of brothers who can reach out to one another rather than keeping others at arm's length for fear of being found out!

**In Hebrew, the verb meaning "to atone" (kpr) essentially means to cover over a wrong and thereby bring about reconciliation.  In 1 John 2:2 Jesus' death is a hilasmos (ESV "propitiation," NIV "atoning sacrifice"), which is closely related to hilasterion.  In the Greek Old Testament hilasterion was used to refer to the atonement cover or "mercy seat" atop the ark of the covenant on which blood was sprinkled to cover over the wickedness and defilement of God's people and placate God's holy wrath (see Leviticus 16).

No comments: