The Bible teaches I have a huge capacity for self-deception.
- Psalm 36.1,2 describes how transgression speaks deeply in the heart while there is no fear of God in the eyes.
- Proverbs says the way of a fool seems right —he thinks himself clean— but doesn’t know his own sin (12.15; 30.12).
- Jeremiah asks, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The answer: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind.” (Jer. 17.9,10a)
- Isaiah pictures the tragic irony of the man who cooks his meals and makes a ’god’ from the same piece of wood, (Isa. 44.9-20).
- Paul unpeels the hypocrisy of those who feelingly claim to know God and yet, by their behavior, give occasion for Gentiles to blaspheme the name of God. (Rom. 2.17-24).
- Paul warns the Galatians, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal. 6.3)
- John sums it up: “If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 Jn. 1.10)
The Bible teaches me I am not the best judge of my own heart.
Among its many profound truths, "The Prodigal Son" (Lk. 15.11-32) exposes the heart for how it deceives.
The younger brother saw himself a victim of circumstances and sought his “freedom”. He was not a victim and his freedom was a mirage.
The older brother saw himself a monument to righteous duty and was outraged at the naïve laxity of his father. He was not dutiful as a loving son but begrudging as a beat-down slave.
And he simply didn't know his father.
The Prodigal Son teaches how easy it is to justify ourselves until God makes us truly see ourselves.
For the younger brother, becoming a part of the swine herd was a moment of humbling clarity. “I will go home to my Father.” For the older brother, his Father’s celebration was a moment of smoldering resentment: “I have slaved for nothing!” One brother melted into repentance. The other brother hardened, even more, in self-righteousness.
Your “heart” is not a good guide. Like the younger brother, you may see yourself as beyond redemption when you are near to it. Or like the older brother, you may see yourself as reliably righteous when you are far from it.
At either extreme, you must trust God more than you trust your heart. Only God's assessment of you matters. Only God can help you get you over your own self.