We have all been deceived at one time or another. Most of us by someone we already know who wants to take advantage of us. Sometimes by a professional fraudster. We all know that the professional fraudster makes himself appear very plausible and true. But deception works because we are willing to believe something which is not true.
The fraudster offers us something out of the ordinary and tells us we can only gain, not lose. We want to believe that, and that is our weakness. Instead of calmly asking rational questions we suspend our brains and put our faith in a person or a project.
There is an appeal to something within that we want. Usually it is to make money quickly and easily, or else to gain some product or position which is really beyond our normal means.
The fraudster is a charmer, and we want to be charmed. But in reality we should soberly reflect on all aspects of the matter, including the person making the appealing proposition. The fraudster, the conman, takes our money and our trust, but then fails to deliver on his side of the bargain. He gets what he wants, and we are left disappointed, abused and worse off than before. If only we had used our brains and our commonsense; instead of the promised gain, we suffer a serious loss, not just materially, but personally psychologically. If we are wise, we will learn from that experience.
But I am not concerned today with the professional fraudster out there. I am concerned to alert you to the highly experienced conman within each of us. SELF.
The I WANT within us. The I MUST HAVE. The I CANNOT DO WITHOUT. That grasping longing within which eats away until it gets what it wants – but then finds that what it wants does not satisfy. It doesn’t live up to the original expectation. We feel disappointed and deprived when we had expected to feel happy and fulfilled.
The prophet Jeremiah records God’s timeless diagnosis of the problem. In chapter 17 and verse 9 he says:
THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL AND DESPERATELY WICKED: WHO CAN KNOW IT ?
Of course God knows our hearts intimately. He knows what we are. The apostle Paul repeats God’s truth about our natural inner selves when he wrote to the Romans in chapter 3 and verse 23:
FOR ALL HAVE SINNED AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD
The inner corruption of the human heart is the fundamental problem we all share and which none of us can escape. It is a slavery to SELF by which we subject ourselves to evil and so become estranged from God.
That of course is why Jesus Christ came. To deliver us from this slavery to SELF and to free us to love and serve God – to come into true liberty and self fulfilment by coming to God who made us and knows us; God who knows what we really need far better than we know ourselves. Because apart from God, our perception and our desires are warped by sin.
The worldling thinks that by indulging their sin, they are free. But they pay a heavy price for listening to the fraudster within who promises so much but disappoints. There is always a price to pay for sin. Or as the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians in chapter 6 verses 7 and 8:
BE NOT DECEIVED. GOD IS NOT MOCKED. FOR WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH, THAT SHALL HE ALSO REAP.
FOR HE THAT SOWETH TO HIS FLESH SHALL OF THE FLESH REAP CORRUPTION; BUT HE THAT SOWETH TO THE SPIRIT SHALL OF THE SPIRIT REAP ETERNAL LIFE
If you indulge in telling lies, you will become a habitual liar, and you will find that people cease to trust you. If you indulge in fornication, it will master you and you will become known as someone who cannot be trusted and you will likely suffer other undesirable consequences too.
Habitually indulge any immoral impulse and you will suffer consequences which only make your life worse. It becomes a downward spiral and God gets further away.
Actually God does not move. He is everywhere at all times. The deception of our wicked hearts puts him further away from us in our perception and in our experience.
Which means that to escape the downward spiral, we have to do something. We have to
- recognise where we are
- recognise how wrong and foolish we are
- consciously turn away from indulging what we know to be wrong
- consciously ask God’s help, knowing that he alone can break the power of sin and enable us to live as he calls us to live
The Christian life – the normal life for all who want to be free from slavery to their own selfish instincts – is a life of dependence on God’s power by the Holy Spirit; a life growing in that dependence and a life forsaking the self centredness of our natural selves. To avail ourselves of that power, we have to submit to the teaching of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
That teaching requires a total surrender to God. To live as he says, and not as we want.
To begin that life means a total repentance – a complete change of heart and mind to stop living in disobedience and start living in obedience to God. It’s a life long process but it starts with
- Attention to the message about JESUS CHRIST and his verdict on what you are
- Believe in JESUS CHRIST as the one and only answer – demonstrating that your faith is real and active by being Baptised by full immersion in water
- Conform your life by word and deed to the teaching of JESUS CHRIST and his apostles – that by the way is a life long process; don’t expect to be perfect overnight !
If you have already responded to the gospel message outlined here, then you need to do as James recommends in his diagnosis in chapter 4 of his letter.