Chapter 2

Are You Deceiving Yourself?

From the booklet How to Be an Overcomer
By Gerald Flurry

Did you know that you can hear the word of God—and at the same time, deceive yourself? Out of everyone on Earth, very few ever even hear the true word of God. And a great majority who do actually deceive themselves.

Self-deceit destroys your happiness and deprives you of blessings. It makes your Bible muddled and confusing in many ways—in fact, God says He will actually hide His revelation from you!

However, if you overcome self-deceit, you will have a strong spiritual house that can weather any storm. Your life will overflow with joy and happiness, God will pour out blessings on you. You will understand your Bible better. These are all promises from God!

So, are you deceiving yourself? How can you know? And how can you break away from self-deceit?

Here is the plain, direct answer from your Bible: “[B]e ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

You deceive yourself by hearing and not doing. And you break free of that deceit by doing God’s word.

How to Be Happy

God has revealed the way of life that gives us wonderful blessings. When we violate that way, we bring misery and unhappiness into our lives.

Jesus Christ led an exemplary life so we can have a picture of the way we ought to live. “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you,” He said (John 13:15). “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (verse 17). Hearing God’s word does not make us happy. What makes us happy is the doing. That is a promise from God!

How many truly happy people do you know? Many reject Christ’s example and successfully gain temporary pleasures. But those pleasures do not bring real happiness, and they do not last. God created us to be continuously filled with hope, joy and vision! How much of those qualities do you see in the world today? A big reason for the prevalence of unhappiness is self-deception.

Jesus also said, “[B]lessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28). We must go beyond simply hearing God’s word. We must guard it, protect it, live by it. When we do that, Christ promises we will be blessed.

‘They Will Not Do Them’

This truth that Christ emphasized also appears in Ezekiel 33. This prophecy has a powerful warning about the hazards of being a hearer only.

In this passage, a mortal threat is approaching the nation. This prophecy actually describes the serious dangers facing our modern nations—problems that are becoming visible in world events today! God prophesies that He will commission a watchman to warn the people. He commands: “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me” (verse 7). This man must hear God’s word—and then do something: warn the people from God. If that man fails to warn, God will hold him bloodguilty (verse 8).

Verses 10-11 show that the people who need warning are steeped in sin. God cries out: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” God is trying to get sinning people to turn—to change—to do something about the wickedness that is leading them to death! These people don’t think they are wrong. They believe they are right! But they have the same problem the Apostle James discussed—and it is a fatal problem!

Verse 30 adds a striking detail: These people actually endorse God’s message! While most people in the world reject God’s message, these individuals are talking about it, speaking to others about it, and saying, “Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord” (verse 30). They realize that this is God’s own word, and actually encourage others to come hear it! They probably feel righteous for doing so.

But something is still lacking. They are flagrantly deceiving themselves!

You can see this in what follows: “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words [from the watchman], but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (verse 31). As Christ said, these people will hear, but they will not do. They talk about God’s word, but their hearts, their attitudes and their deeds remain wicked. They go after their own lusts. They hear where God teaches against a sin—but they still commit that sin, and won’t even slow it down! That is a terrible problem!

God emphasizes this in the next verse: “And, lo, thou [the watchman] art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not” (verse 32). These people love to hear God’s messenger; they admire him the way they would a skilled musician. But they have deceived themselves into thinking that if they hear the word, and talk about it, and encourage others to hear it, this alone will make them righteous, and they will not have to do anything more. They think of themselves as spiritual people. But the truth is, they are not doing the word!

That is serious self-deception! If you don’t apply what you learn in God’s Word, it is of no value!

Every one of us needs to examine ourselves because we have all made this mistake. We must keep and do all the words of God. Nothing else counts!

“And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them” (verse 33). The terrible prophecies discussed in Ezekiel 33 are coming to pass! Once they are fulfilled, people will realize just how important the watchman’s warning was—they will know God sent a messenger with His message. Finally they will begin to repent and turn to God. But by then it will be too late to be protected physically.

Is it possible you will be one who only takes action when it is too late?

Like a Little Child

Here is an important biblical teaching that few people realize. In order to understand God’s truth, God must open your mind to it. He must reveal it to you.

Christ made this clear: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25). How many people believe that? God hides His truth! He hides it from the powerful and scholarly of this world—and as a result, His Word has no value to them. They are not humble enough to listen to what He says and obey like obedient little children. They will hear, but they won’t do! So the truth remains hidden to them. They can hear it and read it from start to finish, but it only confuses them, and even after such a close brush with such incredible truth, they remain self-deceived.

God only reveals His truth to “babes”—those who approach God with childlike attitudes.

“[N]o man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (verse 27). These are Christ’s own words! He said you cannot know the Son or the Father unless God is revealed to you. And that only happens if you listen to Christ and obey.

Some people were following Jesus and even calling Him “Lord,” or master. That surely seemed right and good. But here is what Christ said to them: “[W]hy call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

This is shockingly serious! These people felt very righteous! They followed Jesus around. They wanted to hear His words. They regarded themselves as His followers. But they would not do what He said! They were self-deceived! Christ boldly told them, I’m not your master if you don’t do what I say! There’s no point in calling me Lord unless you obey what I’m telling you to do!

How do you explain those people’s behavior? Well, it is simply human nature. It is what we all naturally tend to do! We must overcome that carnal tendency or we won’t receive the blessings—the happiness, joy and biblical understanding—that God promises. He will not reveal His truth to you!

Built on a Rock

Christ went on to emphasize the importance of what we do with what God teaches us. “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:47-48).

What a marvelous picture! When you do as God commands, your life becomes stable and grounded—because you are building your life on the Rock! Hearing and then doing the word of God gives you great spiritual strength. Violent storms, difficulties and trials can arise, yet they will not shake you. No problem can cause you to leave Jesus Christ!

What happens if you don’t do as God commands? “But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” (verse 49).

This man didn’t build on the Rock—Jesus Christ. He may have heard Him. He may have agreed with Him. But he did not do what He said. Matthew 7:26-27 say this man built his house on sand. When the flood came, the foundation of this house washed away in an instant. Many people who hear what God says fail to concentrate on applying it. Because they are not doing these words, they have no strength. Once a trial comes, their house quickly falls in, and they leave Christ.

God promises that if you take action and build your house on Jesus Christ’s words, nothing will dislodge you! Nothing will take you away from God! That is a wonderful group of verses to encourage us! Nothing can stop us from doing and obeying God.

Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that finding the truth, hearing the words, and talking about them is all God requires of you. Hear—and then do! As you do, God will pour out blessings on you and bring tremendous happiness into your life, even amid trials and storms. He will reveal more and more truth to you; He will supply you with greater biblical understanding. And He will give you an abundant, joyful life! This is a promise from God: If you know these things, happy are you if ye do them.

Continue Reading: Chapter 3: What’s So Bad About Self-Righteousness?