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The Danger Of Self-Deception

Updated on February 26, 2013

Two very Dangerous Alternatives

In Matthew 7:21-27, Jesus begins to redirect His attention. In the previous verses, He was addressing false prophets and teachers who were wolves in sheep's clothing. These were men and women who, through false preaching and teaching, would lead many of His people astray.

But He switches topics in verse 21. He begins to address, not false prophets, but false professions. He begins to target unsound hearers rather than false teachers. In the next six verses Jesus begins to call every one of His hearers to serve Him through radical faith.

Jesus presents two dangerous alternatives to real faith:

A Mere Verbal Profession

Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!

Intellectual Knowledge

Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.

Neither of these alternatives can be substituted for obedience. In both of these passages, neutrality is impossible. You must make a decision. You see, Jesus isn't emphasizing works at the expense of belief. He is warning against the danger of self-deception and self-delusion.

The Righteous Judge

Jesus claims to be Lord! We can see this clearly in Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven." What Jesus said in this verse can be backed up in Philippians 2:11 "...and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

It's interesting that the Greek word for "Lord" is the word "kyrios." It is true that this word can and does often mean "earthly lord" as in king or ruler. But it is also true that this word also applies to God Himself - after all, God is THE earthly Lord! When the Old Testament was translated to Greek, the name Yahweh was almost always translated as "kyrios." So which applies to Philippians 2:11? What will every tongue confess about Jesus? Will they be confirming His earthly lordship or acknowledging His identity as Yahweh?

In Philippians, Paul was quoting from the Old Testament, specifically from Isaiah 45:22-23 where Yahweh said:
Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath.

Paul said that Jesus is Yahweh!

Back in Matthew 7:21, Jesus calls Himself "Lord." He claimed that He was going to judge all men. Do you understand this? He claimed to be nothing less than the One to whom the entire world would be answerable!

He also calls God His Father in verse 21. We know that He often claimed to be the Son of God - but we don't particularly know what this implies. The Jews knew what Jesus meant when He said He was the Son of God. We see this in John 5:18 where they took this claim to mean that He was making Himself equal with God.

Based on Jesus' own claims, you can't merely say that He was a good man. If you believe that He was just a good teacher or a great prophet, then you're making Him into a liar! If you want to understand His words, you must take Him for Who He claimed to be.

The Second Danger - Fleshly Energy

There are multitudes of people who go to church zealously and are very emotional about their faith. But many of these people are deceived because the things that they're holding on to are the traditions of men and not the Word of God.

The flesh will try to counterfeit almost everything. The Pharisees are a good example of flesh-power religion. They had the Bible, tradition, ceremony, and outward righteousness. Many people strove to follow their teaching and live up to these great men. But when the new move of God came, these religious people weren't aware! Why? Because their faith lacked the personal relationship with the One they worshiped. These Pharisees have spiritual descendants still today.

These people serve God in the power of the flesh and always resist the Holy Spirit. You would never be able to begin operating in the gifts of the Spirit or teach about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in their churches. Why? Because that's way too far into the things of the Spirit!

"Let's just sing some songs and learn how to live a good life - let's not get too weird!"

There is more to the Christian life than simply attending a building or having your name on a church roll. Baking pies, taking communion, being baptized, completing your confirmation and being active in your church have absolutely no bearing on your eternal destination! You must be born again!

The First Danger - All Talk, No Walk

Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

"Not everyone who says..." - this verse is still connected with the warning about false prophets. Just because a man proclaims some truth doesn't prove that he is a true prophet. The real test is the fruit that they produce.

Many people believe the right things about Jesus but have never entered His kingdom. They've have learned all about Jesus; about His virgin birth, about His divinity, that He died for their sins and that He rose again and ascended back to Heaven. They know all the right things, but they're not born again! They're just churchgoers - they have no personal relationship with the One they know so much about.

When "that day" comes, these people will be shocked! Why? Because someone told them that all they had to do was attend church. They never learned that there are going to be many people facing eternal judgment even though they professed Jesus as 'Lord, Lord'.

Millions of people claim to believe in Jesus - but their life is telling a drastically different story! They claim Jesus as their "Lord" but their actions claim lordship for themselves. What we must recognize is: if salvation has truly taken place, then the believer's life will begin to harmonize with their profession.

On "that day" these false professor will discover something. They may have had others fooled - they may even have fooled themselves - but no one can fool the Judge!

James 1:22 But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

The Judges Verdict

Matthew 7:23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness.'

God wants our hearts. What an insult it is to say "Lord, Lord," - to be fervent in service and busy about the kingdom of God - and yet to withhold true allegiance and submission to Him! Why would we ever insist on retaining control of our own lives and refuse to submit to the Word of God? The greatest insult to God is a will that has never been surrendered to Him.

When Jesus said, "I never knew you" - understand that He's not admitting a lack of knowledge. He isn't saying that He didn't know who these people are; after all, He's God! The knowledge that He is talking about here is an intimate friendship. The knowledge that's lacking in these people is the knowledge of the heart.

While they referred to Jesus as their friend, Jesus Himself says, "Never for one moment have I acknowledged you as my own or known you to be my friends." Yikes! What a terrible thing to hear on "that day"!

He then expels these fakers from His presence and calls them "workers of iniquity". Who are these people? These are people who truly did many mighty things in the name of Jesus. They truly did prophesy, perform miracles and drive out demons in His name. But they were never connected to the Head of the church. Look at how the New Living Translation (2004) phrases verse twenty-three: "the things you did were unauthorized."

I don't know about you, but I don't want to labor in vain. I DO plan to use the power of God to do miracles, to drive out demons, and to prophesy. But more than that, I long to KNOW the One who commissioned me to do these things!


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    • shofarcall profile image

      shofarcall 4 years ago

      Dear Brother,

      Blessed are those who find a home in a church with a pastor such as yours! They are truly scarce these days, and it is even easy to get led astray there with the 'wrong' teachings of man - for all the reasons you mention above....'good little pastors' with no connection to the sheep, no love for God's word (common) and therefore, no power from the Holy Spirit so what we get instead, is 'clever' man-thought, intellectual sermons. So you are blessed Mattheos to have had Dr. Lacey put in your path by our Great God. For many of us at this time of apostasy, it is safer not to be at 'church' but to gather often together in fellowship (the body of Christ) and worship the true head of the Church, Jesus Christ. Amen.

    • mattheos profile image

      mattheos 4 years ago

      Yes maam! There is also another part to keeping yourself in truth, and it's found in Ephesians 4:11-14. According to this passage, God gave the fourfold (usually called the fivefold) ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor/teacher to equip the saints for ministry, to build up the body of Christ, to bring us to the full measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ - all so that we won't stay spiritual children, carried away with every doctrine under the sun.

      In other words, these men and women are given to us by God to help us grow up. Sadly, too many believers are lacking the sound doctrine that can only come from these gifts. Too many churches are being led by "good little pastors" who have no connection to the sheep, no love for God's Word, and no power from the Holy Spirit. As a result, their growth is stunted and their lives unproductive.

      On one hand it makes me very sad for the millions of people who don't realize that they need to grow up spiritually. On the other hand, it makes me very grateful for my pastor and father in the faith, Dr Lacey!

    • shofarcall profile image

      shofarcall 4 years ago

      Amen to that. And yes, I do know about the deception and apostasy that is going to abound in these times. Going to? It already does. One of the first things - or is it the first thing - Jesus says to His disciples is to beware of being deceived.

      I agree....noses to the grindstone....what a joy it is to read the Lord's word, and we need to do so daily to familiarise ourselves over and over again with exactly what the word says. It is after all the double edged sword that will protect us. God Bless.

    • mattheos profile image

      mattheos 4 years ago

      Thank you! This was based on a message my pastor has taught for years...did you know that the number one sign of the end times (according to Matthew 24) is deception? Most people think that it's wars or earthquakes or disease...and all of these are definitely part of the last days! But over and over again in Matthew 24, Jesus warns us of the biggest danger in these times - deception. We need to keep our noses in the Book and not let ourselves be carried away by smooth-sounding doctrines that tickle our emotions!

    • shofarcall profile image

      shofarcall 4 years ago

      Hello Mattheos,

      Thank you for tackling Matt: 7:23 so deeply. It strikes terror into my heart that I might hear those words from my Lord and Saviour. It sends me to my knees, again, in prayer that by His grace, whatever scales there are over my eyes, will be removed so that I can see and lean into Jesus ever more. God Bless