Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

As many of you know, I nearly died in May due to a seemingly harmless sinus infection that suddenly spread to both ears, went very deep and resulted in severe vertigo. If you’ve ever experienced extreme vertigo, you know what happens next. Nothing stays down. In my case, I was violently ill from a Friday night to Sunday morning. During that time, Krista and Rayola exhausted themselves taking care of me, and, with other friends, prayed fervently. I knew that once again I had come face-to-face with death.

I’d love to be able to tell you that I saw the Lord, or heard angels singing, or received visions of heaven, but I didn’t. All I knew was that a major battle was going on in the spiritual realm. I have to admit, there were dark times when I wondered if God had forsaken me. (Before you pick up a bucket of rocks, remember the anguish and same agonizing experience of many of the Old Testament prophets, along with Job, John the Baptist and even our Lord on the cross.) I can also tell you that no matter what we go through, God is faithful. You see, just a day or so before I was “shot out of the saddle,” as I call it, I received an email from a Christian friend who lives in Arkansas. In it she wrote that God had spoken to her as she drove to work telling her to pray for me, which she did. Thank God for her obedience to the Spirit’s prompting!

I have to admit, I had forgotten about her email until I was able to sit at the computer once again, and she reminded me. This time, I came face-to-face with not only the faithfulness of Almighty God, but His intimate care and foreknowledge.

Even though there are dangers and pitfalls in this life, most of us try to avoid coming face-to-face with anything that will strip us down to the very essence of our existence. In other words, we shy away from those things over which we have no control, such as life and death. Instead, the natural thing for people to do is to fill their life with excitement, entertainment, and excess. Such deceptive recourses are of this present world, but, let’s face it; most professing Christians are also immersed in the same things. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the mega churches are mega.

We all can be clever at self-deception. Admittedly, it can be frightening, and sometimes downright maddening, to see ourselves for what we really are. Therefore, is it any wonder that the self-esteem propaganda has been so enthusiastically welcomed by both the world and the church? If I highly esteem myself, then I don’t have to come face-to-face with my sin, right? Self-esteem is nothing more than the pride that God resists, yet it is a leaven of self-deception that results in destruction.

Psalm 36:2 tells us, “For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.” Self-esteem is nothing more than self-flattery that tries to conceal iniquity (moral deviation.) The words coming out of the mouth of such a deceived person will give him or her away. Such a person is not only a fool, but his or her life will not represent Christ, who was the greatest example of humility the world has even seen.

This reminds me of a certain individual we once knew who spoke up one day and said, “I’m a good person. We are good people.” We were stunned into silence. How can you present the truth to such a self-deceived soul?“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” Romans 3:10-12. This person had never come face-to-face with her own sinful disposition, need for repentance and true salvation. Yet, she considered herself to be a Christian.

Sadly, many people share in this woman’s self-deception. And, why not? After all, we live in a time of great spiritual harlotry, brought about by the marriage of the church to the world. The offspring produced by this unholy union (which Satan has fought long and hard to achieve) are an undesirable blend of self-deluded individuals whose spiritual blindness prevents them from coming face to face with the reality of their lost condition. The philosophical drumbeat of the world declares, “You’re okay, I’m okay,” “love yourself,” “forgive yourself,” “accept yourself,” and the modern church rushes to join the parade. After all, the successful marketing methods that the world has to offer bring success. What pastor or church in their right mind would choose to remain separate from the world and thus risk being obscure and, worse yet, financially poor?

“So,” you may be asking, “what is wrong with being “okay,” loving yourself, forgiving yourself and accepting yourself?” The answer is everything! Either God means what He says as recorded in His Word, or He is a liar. You cannot find a single verse in Scripture (in context) that backs up such a philosophy. Any individual who chooses to believe the vain philosophies of the world is a person who rebels against coming face-to-face with truth. Truth and falsehood can no more be joined together into one harmonious whole than can light and darkness, good and evil, or the wrong spirit and the Holy Spirit. Such unity is the dangerous agenda of the world and the deceived church, and it very much resembles the goal of the builders of the tower of Babel. True unity can only be achieved for discerning Christians through separation (from the spirit of the world) to the right Spirit. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

Concerning the spiritual bondage that comes as a result of self-deception, Isaiah 44:20 declares: “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” All that the deceived soul feeds on is “ashes.” There is no real life, joy or hope in it, yet because the heart is deceived, such a person cannot deliver him or herself, or even recognize that a lie has been bought. Even ashes, after awhile, become “normal” for the deceived. The tragedy is they simply do not know the difference because they have never been willing to come face-to-face with the truth.

One example of people under such spiritual bondage is the Insect Tribe of New Guinea. These primitive people, unknown to the outside world until 50 years ago, worship the preying mantis—hence the name, “Insect Tribe.” By now you may be thinking, “Of course they are deceived. They don’t know the difference!” However, this tribe did have missionaries living among them for some time, but they refused to forsake their idolatry and receive the Gospel.

Of course people in our so-called “civilized” world have taken idolatry to a whole new level where it’s barely recognizable for what it really is. This includes countless people who call themselves Christians. Immersed in the excitement, entertainment and excess that the modern, “successful,” “emergent,” churches enjoy today, these deceived hearts are feeding on spiritual ashes while proclaiming to “love Jesus.” But, they do not know Him, for they have never come face-to-face with their sin and their lost state.

Another area of great self-deception is in the area of pride, or conceit. Galatians 6:3 puts it this way: “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” This brings us right back to the self-esteem issue, and tells us that a high opinion of self is deceptive. Not only is it deceptive, but it sets a person up for a fall. A self-deceived person who thinks highly of self will not be able to rightly divide the Word of Truth, exercise sound judgment, or have spiritual discernment. As a result, such a person is a sitting duck for spiritual deception. How much better it would be for a person who tends to think highly of him or herself to humble self, and come face-to-face with his or her need to repent.

Another way to deceive ourselves is through disobedience to the Word. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” James 1:22. How many people sit and listen to the Word of God being preached week after week, month after month, year after year, yet they do absolutely nothing that God tells them to do? I have to admit that in our 17 years of ministry, we have known perhaps a handful of people who have actually applied the Word to their lives and lived it, consistently, without turning back. Jesus explains the reasons for this in Matthew 13:18-23. Again, most people refuse to come face-to-face with the fact that hearing is not enough. They must be obey, or they are merely deceived unbelievers.

An unbridled tongue is another form of self-deception. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” James 1:26. This verse cuts right to the heart of the matter. Gossip and evil speaking reveal the heart condition. Jesus proclaimed that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh” Matthew 12:34b. The terrible truth is such self-deception blinds a person to the fact that his or her religion is in vain. In other words, it is empty and worthless. An unbridled tongue should cause us to come face-to-face with our spiritual state, and bring us to our knees in repentance. Sadly, the deceived heart will continue to go on its hypocritical way, completely unaware of the judgment that lies ahead.

Sin is not a popular subject today. You don’t hear it preached by the popular preachers in the popular churches. You don’t read it in the popular books written by the popular writers. You don’t hear it sung in the popular songs by the popular singers that have replaced the old hymns. You don’t find many Christians today who are concerned about their own sinful disposition, failure to do right, and failure to be right, even though many are concerned about the sins of others. Could it be that the worldly philosophy of self-esteem has indoctrinated professing Christians, or can the finger of blame be pointed at the church for allowing this insidious dogma of self-love to permeate the church, along with all of the other worldly philosophies and activities?

We need to come face-to-face with the truth about ourselves. We need to come face-to-face with the fact that this present world has nothing to offer—that it is passing away. We need to come face-to-face with the reality of Jesus Christ, of judgment to come, and with the fact of heaven.

The question is are you prepared to come face-to-face with who you really are in the face of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to meet Him face-to-face, either when you leave this present world, or when He returns in the clouds with great power and glory? Will you run to Him with your arms spread wide, in great joy and rejoicing like the little six-year-old boy whose daddy returned from Iraq, surprising him and his classmates at school? As I tearfully watched this video clip and listened to the heart sobs of the son while in his daddy’s arms, it reminded me of how wonderful it will be when our struggles are finally over, when we shall be safe in the arms of Jesus, and, at long last, see Him—face-to-face!