Ten Signs of Self-Deception

I have been following the sermons of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In the last few posts, particularly on Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus has told us straight out that at the judgment day many will be surprised when He tells them, “I never knew you.” Hence, they have been self-deceived probably their entire life. They believed they were Christians but were not. What makes a person think he is a real Christian when he is not? What are the signs of self-deception in this matter? Lloyd-Jones gives us ten signs. I will abbreviate them in my own words.

1. When a person counts on attending church meetings. I don’t understand this point, but I suppose some may think that attending meetings will give them good standing with God.

2. When a person takes an interest in his denomination or fellowship. For some reason a person may think that to be interested in the church in this way, this will make him a Christian, that it puts him high on the totem pole so to speak.

3. When one is caught up in the phenomena of exalted feelings, guidance, physical healing, and so on. One may regard these things as a sign of being Spirit filled, and therefore a Christian; however, even the demon possessed have experienced some of these things.

4. When one is caught up in the social events of the church. I have personally witnessed people who take great pride in certain social activities, and even very worthwhile things, but that in itself does not make you a Christian.

5. When one is caught up in apologetics—the defense of the faith. This is a worthwhile interest and it may for some seem to be a sign of a Christian; but again, this interest will not make you a Christian; it will do nothing for the saving of your soul.

6. To have an interest in theology. The grave danger here is that a person may become so engaged in his studies that he forgets about a need for a personal relationship with God.

7. To have an over interest in prophetic teaching. This is one of my interests, and so, I can see that if one is not a Christian already, it may deceive you. That is, if you have become a student of bible prophecy, it may so build you up in bible knowledge that you may take on a self-pride in yourself where it may be impossible to find true salvation.

8. A person that becomes a student of the bible, but his knowledge is only an intellectual pursuit. One who is highly knowledgeable in the bible may not even be a Christian. In fact, his knowledge may do more damage than good; as his pride is built up, he may at some point turn against true Christianity.

9. A person who has a great interest in various bible translations and in choosing one over another. This is another case of one building up in himself a sort of intellectual bible pride, which may be very damaging to the soul, and in the end, if he is not a Christian he may never be.

10. One who is only interested in grace. This may be a sign that one is not a Christian and is fooling himself. For a true Christian, sin is a serious matter and one’s reaction to it should be of deep penitence. If a person seems always to be restored quickly by grace, his love of the Lord and salvation is questionable.

Unconscious Hypocrisy

Unconscious Hypocrisy is actually the title of a sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, which was recoded in his book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. The following is just a few notes I took on that sermon.

Lloyd-Jones began by saying that there are many people who are not aware of the fact that they are not really Christians when they are convinced that they are; and so, they have a kind of unconscious hypocrisy. They think they are good Christians but they are in fact reprobates.

  • They are of the “many” who have passed up the narrow gate and have instead gone down the broad path with most of the world.
  • They are like the five foolish virgins, and like the man who built his house on the sand.
  • They are of those whom Jesus spoke of (in Matthew 7:21-23) who did wonderful works, but yet didn’t know Him.
  • They are people who are praised by men.
  • They are considered as outstanding servants.
  • They are happy about themselves.
  • They are assured of their salvation.

God says of them, “I never knew you.” So, they have been deceived. And they will be surprised at the judgment. Here is the passage that we have been considering:

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I think the most important thing we can do is to list the causes of self-deception to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap that so many have fallen into. Here is the list of six, which I gathered from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermon.

  1. They have a false assurance of their salvation, which they have persuaded themselves to believe. This false assurance is based on a false belief system. A system that says that if I say I believe often enough and strongly enough, that it will take hold. But James says that the Devil also believes this way, and he certainly will not be saved from hell.
  2. They refuse to examine themselves periodically to see if their faith is true.
  3. They live on their activities of good works. They think this will save them.
  4. They balance their good works with the bad. This is a Muslim system, and a system of all false religions, but it doesn’t work.
  5. They fail to heed the plain teaching of Scripture. To take it as their guide.
  6. They fail to realize that the one thing that matters is a relationship with Christ. He wants our heart, our submission, our time; and He wants us.

Those who say to Him, “Lord, Lord”

The narrow way and the broad way

The Bible says that on the judgment day it will be revealed that some who think they are Christians are really not. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

This may seem to you to be a very strange thing, that some people will be so self-deceived, that they think they are Christians when they are not. How can this happen? How does someone not know that he is not a Christian? How does he or she live so much of a life thinking that they are Christians when they are not?

The only answer is that they haven’t really known what a Christian is. They evidently have allowed false prophets to influence them; and they, at the beginning, entered not at the narrow gate but at the broad gate and went down and lived in the broad way—the way of the world. And all along in their journey, they never at any point got to know the Lord and to be changed by Him. What a tragic deception.

But how is it that they are so deceived?  And also, how is it that true Christians are also deceived into thinking that some false Christians are true Christians? Here are a few reasons why:

  • Knowing Him does not mean saying the right words. It is possible for a person to say all the right words, to have a very holy and righteous speech, and yet not be a Christian. A changed language does not mean that there is a changed heart.
  • Some unbelievers may use Scripture and Scriptural teaching as a kind of philosophy, but they don’t really know Christ or are converted.
  • Some may speak and even preach the Scriptures fervently, but it may be entirely of the flesh and not for the sake of Christ.

The test of course is whether a person has the fruit of the Spirt, and also whether they know Him or not. Do they pray and read their bible regularly? Do they have a growing love relationship with Him?

 

Ten Descriptions of a False Prophet

Matthew 7:15

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

This verse (and the following few verses) follows directly after where Jesus spoke on entering by the narrow gate and walking along the narrow way (v. 13-14). Hence, what Jesus is suggesting here is that we beware of those who will try to persuade us not to enter at the narrow gate and walk in the narrow way. These are false prophets.

We will now take a closer look at these false prophets, according to what D. Martyn Lloyd Jones has preached on in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In my reading and note taking, I have come up with ten descriptions of the false prophet.

1. They will appear as Christians. They will come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they will be ravenous wolves. Therefore, they will look like good people and no one will suspect anything false from them. They will be nice and pleasant and appear to be Christians. They will use Christian terms and talk about God, and Jesus, and about the cross, and about the love of God, etc.

2. We will know them by their fruit. When we really get to know them, we will discover that their teaching is wrong and also their life (their conduct).

3. We may recognize them by what they do not teach. As far as recognizing the falseness, it is not so much recognized by what they say, but rather by what they do not say. They will tend to leave out or pass over certain important biblical teachings. And they do this in order to not offend you or to be more popular.

4. His teaching is absent from doctrine. His preaching is almost entirely absent from doctrine. He does not like doctrinal preaching, and when he does preach doctrine, it is vague and in error.

5. He does not speak on holiness. The false prophet rarely speaks about holiness and righteousness and justice and the wrath of God. He will not say that he does not believe these things, yet he says next to nothing about them.

6. He leaves out bible prophecy. The false prophet fails to talk about bible prophecy and future things. This is true of most preachers these days. But I have a remedy for them. If they would just preach through the bible one verse at a time, they would be forced to preach on bible prophecy, since almost one-third of the bible is prophetical.

7. He fails to preach on sin. He will not emphasis the doctrine of sin and the sinfulness of sin.

8. He will not preach on what Jesus did for us on the cross. He will talk about the cross and about the death of Christ, but he will fail to preach on what Jesus’ death did for us—that God made Him to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21) and that He paid the penalty for our sins.

9. He dislikes self-examination. He will not emphasize the necessity of entering the narrow gate or walking in the narrow way. He is not interested in true holiness; thus, he dislikes the process of self-examination and the mortification of sin as taught by the Puritans.

10. They reject the idea of being a Christian warrior. They reject talk about fighting the good fight of faith, and they do not see the need for putting on the armor of God. They would rather practice easy salvation and living an easy and prosperous Christian life.

Making a Decision for Christ – Matthew 7:13-14

Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14 “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

If you have been following along you know that I have been using D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons from his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount as my reference. Hence, the main points and teaching are from his book (which are his sermons); and then I bring some of my own ideas into it. This sermon is much like the previous one, using the same text, but we go deeper into the meaning of it. In these two verses of Jesus’ sermon, we will discuss now the meaning of entering into the Christian life, based on His description here of the narrow gate as well as the narrow way. And we will also discuss a few things that will go along with the entire process of becoming a Christian. Please be attentive now to the following four principles on this subject.

1. Becoming a Christian demands a decision and a commitment.

When a person begins to understand some of the teachings of Christ and when God begins to tug on his heart so that he desires to follow Him, the gospel demands that he make a decision right then to leave whatever he is doing (and all of the old life) and go follow Him. You may remember how it was with Jesus’ first followers. Jesus met Peter and his brother Andrew on the beach of the Sea of Galilee as they were casting their nets into the sea. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” What did they do? Did they think about it? No! Scripture says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” Apparently, they knew enough about Jesus and had heard enough of His words to know that they wanted to be around Him and to learn more of Him. So they were not hesitant when the opportunity came to follow Him.

2. Look for the narrow gate and go through it.

Having made a firm decision to be a Christian, the next step is to look for the way of entrance. It is described by Jesus as a strait (or narrow) gate. And so, it is not very public or visible or even desirable by many. It is small and unpopular; yet to the one seeking it, it will be desirable, because Jesus will be there, waving at him to come in. and he will be excited to enter.

Now there have been many who think that they want to be a Christian and they have somewhat committed themselves to that goal; yet when it came to actually entering into it (the Christian life) they did not. Why?  Because they did not put the effort into looking for it—for the narrow gate. As verse 14 says, “Few are those who find it.” This implies that they were not looking very intently—or maybe not at all. Perhaps they were looking for the wrong kind of gate. They may have envisioned it as a very large and majestic gate. Hence, they may have passed by the narrow gate without even knowing it.

3. Talk to yourself regarding what you have done and what things are different.

(This is something I wouldn’t have thought of, but Lloyd-Jones includes it; and now I think it is a good thing to do.) So, after a person has decided to enter, and he does find the way and enters in, and so gives his life to Christ, he will probably begin to ask himself certain questions: what did I just do? Who am I now? So, the point is that a new Christian should be always reminding himself every day that he is a child of God, a unique person and belonging to the family of God. Also, he should remind himself that Christ has died for him and that he is going to heaven and that he is just passing through this world, with its many temptations and trials.

4. For those who are disbelieving and doubtful.

Here in our text Jesus shows us two different ways and where they lead to. He is trying to take away the reasons for not entering in by the narrow gate. The obvious reason He gives is that the broad way leads to destruction—hell.

Some may reason that there are two choices to make: to take the narrow way or the broad way. However, if you examine other Scriptures, you will discover that by man’s nature he is already on the broad road, and God’s wrath is already on him (Jn. 3:36).

Another thing to consider is that since all (all those who have not believed) are already traveling on this broad road leading to destruction, that they know nothing of the narrow way that leads to life. And so, they may be satisfied with their life, having seen no other way. For this reason the Christian must do all he can to warn the unbeliever to where he is going, also he must tell him about a better way, a narrow way, yet a way that leads to life.

The Narrow and the Wide Gate – from Matthew 7:13-14

Beginning in Matthew 7:13 and 14 we come to the application of Jesus’ Sermon. The main part of the sermon ends at verse twelve, and here in verse thirteen Jesus begins to point to the application—how we are to apply it.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14 “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

So Jesus tells us that there are two different applications, or ways we can proceed: through the narrow gate or through the wide gate.

Well, Jesus beckons us to go through the narrow gate, because, He says the wide gate leads to destruction, the way most people are going. But the narrow gate, though it is difficult, leads to life.

Now why do you suppose the way of life is narrow? And why is the way of destruction wide?

Well, what is most obvious to me is that the size of the gate (and the way) has to do with the amount of people who will enter there. I think the narrow gate, the way of the true Christian, is narrow mainly because God knows that not too many will be coming through it. And the wide gate is wide because God knows that many will be coming thought it.

But there are a few other reasons for the size of the gates (and for the size of the path). For the Christian, he does not require a wide gate because he is called to a life of holiness and suffering and difficulty just like Jesus was. He does not have many possessions—Jesus had no where to lay His head. Yes, the Christian is called to leave the world behind. But the non-Christian carries many worldly goods with him. He is full of love for self and all his possessions, and so he needs a wide gate and a wide path to make it through.

Another way to look at is to see the gate as the kind of people we are, or that we are to be. A Christian is called to narrowness, which suggests someone who is different, peculiar, or exceptional—just as Jesus was. But the non-Christian is drawn to the broad way because he would rather be more acceptable to all and popular and comfortable and as normal as can be.

Narrowness here may also point to the fact that the teachings of Jesus are narrow, or, as some would say narrow-minded. They don’t allow for any other view. After all, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn 14:6). And the wide way may indicate the way of those who are less narrow-minded, and more tolerant of many other views, even other religions.

Which gate do you prefer?

Seeking and Finding — Matthew 7:7-8

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.

Here is an absolute promise made by the Son of God. It tells us very directly and strongly that God wants to and will answer our prayers. But there is a right way to ask and a wrong way.

How Not to Ask

1. I think, generally speaking, we should not ask Him to remove our problems from us or take us out of a bad situation. It is always better to ask Him to help us deal with our problems where we are.

2. Never use these verses as a psychological treatment or a way to comfort ourselves. The Lord has given us an absolute promise. If we ask correctly, He will answer us—give us what we need.

3. We must not take verses 7 and 8 out of context. They have a connection to verses 9-11. Verses 7 through 11 all go together.

What to Ask for and How to Ask

1. we should always try to ask for what we think is His will in any given situation. Ask for His wisdom.

2. Ask with persistence. The words ask, seek, and knock indicate persistence and importunity. And if we are truly praying with persistence this attitude will also be a part of our life—we will be persistent and diligent in our work and in our holiness.

3. Ask realizing that God is our Father and that He wants to give us only what is good (verses 9-11).

4. Ask for the Holy Spirit. In the parallel passage in Luke 11:9-13, Luke adds the Holy Spirit (in verse 13). So, whatever we are asking for we ought to include the Holy Spirit. He is the ultimate good thing that the Father offers us. And the Father will never deny us the Holy Spirt.

Spiritual Judgment and Discrimination — Matthew 7:6

In Matthew 7:1-5, our Lord has been preaching on judgment. He tells us not to judge others; and whenever we try to correct another we must first look at and purify ourselves, then we can see clearly to help them.

In the sixth verse, most bibles put this verse in a special paragraph on its own. But D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggests that that is not right, that it should connect to the previous five verses, that it is the final statement on judgment. Indeed, I agree. It tells the spiritual Christian how he must judge another—with “a spirit of discrimination.” So, Jesus says in verse six…

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

What is meant here? First of all, pearls are the Christian message. And the dogs and the swine are all that is unholy and unclean, or all those who are unworthy to hear the Christian message. And we know that all of us have sinned, but in this context, Jesus was referring to those sinners who reject the gospel and the truth of God and those who hate Him and even snarl at the message of His truth.

So, Jesus is telling us that we ought not to just spread His word of truth to everyone, but only to those who are worthy of it—or who are seeking it. This may come as a surprise to some people. Some may say that since God loves all people, all should hear the gospel. But the end of verse six gives an explanation of why not. Jesus says that some who hear the gospel will “trample them [our words] under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” In short, they reject the truth and even do damage to it and to you.

If you need an example of this, we can look at Jesus teaching. First, we can compare how He answered Pilate with Herod, in Luke 23:3 and 9. With Pilate, in verse three, Jesus answered him; but with Herod, in verse nine, he answered him nothing. Why? Because Jesus judged Pilate to be a genuine seeker of truth, but He knew that Herod cared nothing for the truth. He knew it by his attitude. And there are other examples. Many times Jesus would not speak to the Pharisees, or at least answer their questions. He instead would go and minister to the Gentiles and to the sinners, as also Paul did.

In all our evangelism efforts and when we seek to teach the truth to people, we should always learn who we are talking to, to see if they are worthy of hear us. Here are three sets of instructions that may be helpful to you in your speaking to others.

  • Learn to know what to give each person in each particular situation.
  • Learn to know the way to present the truth to each person. Learn to assess people.
  • Learn which aspect of truth is appropriate in each particular case.

Also, know that our presentation to unbelievers must be different than to believers. An unbeliever only needs one thing, the doctrine of justification by faith. They need only to know of their sinful life and their need of salvation. Any other bit of truth will have no meaning to them; or we should say that they will take it wrong because of their unregenerated state.

To believers, some have a need for basic truth only—the milk of the word; others should be fed more solid food—the meat of the word.

True or False Judgment – Matthew 7:1-5

In this seventh chapter of Matthew, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about judging others—or criticizing and condemning others.

Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge lest you be judged. 2 “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 “And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Just previously (in chapter 6) Jesus spoke on worry. Now He turns to judging others. This is an interesting transition—from worry to judging others. But I think this is what we tend to do in our sins. At first, we think inwardly at all we have to do and worry about it; then we will turn our sins and frustrations outward toward others. Thus, when we get tired of looking inwardly at ourselves, we try to console ourselves and make ourselves look and feel better by condemning others. How sad.

But Jesus sets us straight as to what is going on. First of all, He tells us that whenever we point the finger at others, the same judgment will be pointed back at us—by others, and also, more importantly, by God.

His judgment will come to Christians in three ways:

1. There will be a final and eternal judgment to determine if you are really a true believer or not. If your name is found in the book of life then you are saved from eternal hell; if not, then you are not really a Christian at all and you will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

2. There is a judgment for disobedience and sin. Scripture tells us that some are judged with sickness and even death; and in some cases, God will deliver them to Satan to let him carry out His will (1 Cor. 5:5).

3. When He comes to take believers to heaven there will be a judgment of rewards, where our works will be manifest (1 Cor. 3). And this judgment is so important because it will affect us for eternity.

So, we should be careful about judging others, because God will certainly judge us. And that judgment will be just. And interestingly, it will be measured to us by the same standard we use on others (v. 2).

Romans 2:1 says, “In whatever you judge another you condemn yourselves; for you who judge practice the same things.” Isn’t that interesting. Paul is saying that whatever we are guilty of, we tend to condemn others of.

James 3:1 says, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. Here, similarly, God judges us with the same judgment we set for others.

Looking at verses 3 and 4 of Matthew 7, we see that we, in many cases, should not be judging others at all because we are incapable of doing it. We can’t do it because we are not right in ourselves. If we were really concerned about righteousness in others, we would deal with that same sin in ourselves.

What Is True Judgment?

Yes, there is a true or correct judgment. What does it look like?

1. In true judgment there is no prejudice or personal element. It is an objective judgment based on principles of truth, not on personalities.

2. In true or correct judgment the one who judges will first judge himself. A great singer or actor is always more critical of himself than others. A good judge sets the correct standard for others. In fact, one who is good at his game, say a Mikael Jordan, does not need to say anything to others. His good game will say more than any words will ever say. But if he does give his team mates any words of correction, believe me, they will listen!

3. True judgment cares about the righteousness of God, in others and in the one judging. The true judge has already dealt with sin in himself and sees clearly to help another.

“Judge Not” – from Matthew 7:1

When our Lord says, “judge not,” in Matthew 7:1, He is using the term only in its negative sense—as the Pharisees judged. Certainly, we are to have discerning judgment, as to who is a false prophet and who is a true one, and to judge doctrine. And the state has judges and magistrates that are appointed by God to judge. And the church also is to judge its people in certain matters of discipline.

The kind of judgement our Lord is speaking of when He says “judge not” is a condemning judgement—a judgment we see in the Pharisees. This negative, condemning judgment can be seen in six ways.

  1. It has an evil spirit attached to it. I would say that, for this reason, it is of the devil and it works to destroy us.
  2. It condemns and despises others for no good reason. We have seen this toward the Samaritans, and also toward the Jews. Certainly, we see it toward Jesus and toward Christians. Recently we see it from some toward Donald Trump; and we also see it toward entire races of people—toward blacks and toward whites.
  3. It has a spirit of self-righteousness and supremacy. This spirit of judgment is based on the lie that one person or persons is better or more righteous than another. It is what condemned an entire race of people (the Jews) to extermination.
  4. It hopes for the worst in others. Hence, we see its evil, diabolical nature; a nature that is the opposite of love.
  5. It focuses on personalities instead of principles. In correct judgment we always judge according to biblical principles, but in wrong judgment it is always according to something we just don’t like about a person—according to our personal preferences.
  6. It is expressing an opinion about someone without gathering knowledge of all the facts. It is a snap judgment. It is a first impression that is often wrong.

Source: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones