Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Take a Good Look

Take a Good Look

In the Old Testament God noted that the northern kingdom of Israel was prematurely old and gray and yet the nation was completely oblivious to this reality (Hosea 7:9). A New Testament parallel would be the church located in the city of Laodicea. The Christians here considered themselves very put together, apparently spiritually rich and in God’s favor and yet the reality was they were not pleasing to God, they were lukewarm and He was ready to spew them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:17). I like manner, the Pharisees and the scribes looked very religious and yet were full of robbery and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:25). This last phrase is shocking, because most people would have considered such religious experts as great examples of self-control.

The ultimate deception is found in Matthew 7:22 in which Jesus predicts that many at the judgment will claim to have worked miracles, done great things in His name and been very faithful and active Christians, yet they were never Christians to begin with. It wasn’t that they had fallen away, but that they had never started: “I never knew you”.

Self Deception

The depths to which we can deceive ourselves, when our mind is not in the Scriptures, is simply amazing, and even head spinning:

  • During the time of Jeremiah, many people thought as long as they showed up at the Temple for worship this made up for all the sins they were committing during the week (Jeremiah 7:9-10).
  • During the time of Malachi, the people were actually bringing animals to sacrifice to God that were diseased, blind and even stolen while apparently thinking such was acceptable (Malachi 1:8). 
  • During many of the epic failures among God’s people, especially during the period of the wilderness wandering, while the people were sinning and grumbling, they apparently thought they were standing on safe ground, they thought they were justified. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Thus, the Bible often exhorts us to check our motives, and take a good look within, and honestly compare ourselves to what the Bible actually says:

  • “Search me, O God, and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me” (Psalm 139:23).
  • “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Common Forms

I often find the following rationalizations connected to attempts to deceive ourselves:

  • “Well, times are hard and what I am doing is better than nothing”.
  • “I know this isn’t actually what God wants, but I think He understands my situation”.
  • “Well, nobody is perfect”.
  • “I am trying the best I can or doing the best I can… right now”.
  • “If I am okay with it, God must be okay with it”.
  • “I am doing better than most”.

What is Easy

“Failure is easy to understand. No explanation for its existence is required. In the same manner, fear, hatred, addiction, promiscuity, betrayal, and deception require no explanation. It’s not the existence of vice, or the indulgence in it, that requires explanation. Vice is easy. Failure is easy, too. It’s easier not to shoulder a burden. It’s easier not to think, and not to do, and not to care. It’s easier to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, and drown the upcoming months and years in today’s cheap pleasures… Success: that’s the mystery. Virtue: that’s what’s inexplicable. To fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits. You just have to bide your time” (12 Rules for Life, Jordan B. Peterson, pp. 80,81).

  • Adam and Eve: It is easier to blame someone else rather than accepting responsibility for our actions.
  • Cain and Abel: It is easier to get angry and stay angry than admitting that one is part of the problem.
  • Noah’s Generation: It is easier to just keep on filling one’s life with daily routine stuff than repenting and getting in the ark.

Surround Yourself With Good People

  • “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).

“If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself? If you surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness. Make friends with people who want the best for you” (12 Rules, pp. 82,83). “People choose friends who are not good for them for other reasons, too. Sometimes it’s because they want to rescue someone. But not everyone who is failing is a victim, and not everyone at the bottom wishes to rise” (p. 76). In other words, look for people who want redemption, who want salvation, who want wisdom, who want God. Even more seriously, “Do I want redemption?”.

Look at What You Do In Other Areas

When you are buying a home you will hire a home inspector, and he might tell you some bad news (this and that needs fixing) and you will even pay him for such “bad news”. The same is often true when we are buying a car. We might take a used car to a trusted mechanic to see if he can find anything really wrong with it. Why is it that we will spend a lot of effort to make sure that our cars and homes are safe and reliable, but we often don’t want to hear any bad news about what needs fixing in our lives?

Good Self Examination

  • “You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act” (12 Rules, p. 103). Or as James said it so well, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (3:13). What you do is the real you.
  • You desperately need the word of God as a guide in this area, for you are the most complicated thing made of matter in this universe.
  • Stop interfering with the opportunity you have to go to heaven. 
  • Learn from the past, but remember the past is fixed, it cannot be changed, on the other hand, the future can be better.
  • Do not overvalue that you presently do not have and do not undervalue what you do have.
  • If you are only winning at what you do well, you are not winning.
  • That little voice in your head that it constantly telling you what you can’t do. Guess what? The same voice is running down everyone else in your life. So stop listening to it. It is not wisdom, but just empty chatter.
  • Step back and just watch yourself for a week. If you have never met yourself before, what impression of “you” would have after that week? Would you accept your excuses or justifications? Would you agree that you are doing “the best you can”?
  • Beware of doing nothing about aspects of your life that “you don’t like”. When we ignore those areas of our lives we typically end up on the bitter, cynical, negative and resentful side. The land of “self-disgust” is not an enjoyable place to live.
  • Do you want to be safe or strong? For you can’t be both.
  • Are you presently responding to challenges or bracing for catastrophe?
  • Do not waste time debating with yourself about whether you can change or improve in an area. If there is a debate going on inside your head over an aspect of your life that you really do need to improve, the person who are debating is the “old man” (Ephesians 4:22)

“You need to consider the future and think, ‘What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly?’ What career would challenge me and render me productive and helpful, so that I could shoulder my share of the load and enjoy the consequences? What should I be doing, when I have some freedom, to improve my health, expand my knowledge, and strengthen my body?” (12 Rules, pp. 62-63)

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017