Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (NKJV)
Have you ever stopped to think about how we unconsciously assume our own reaction or choices if we were part of certain Bible stories? And, truth be known, most people will have to admit we tend to choose the best about ourselves, which is all the more proof of how deceived we our in our hearts.
Consider these Biblical stories, and truthfully evaluate which character you think you are (the failure or the success), or what action you would have chosen (faith or weakness):
Adam and Eve (Gen 2)
How many people, if the truth were known, thinks that if THEY would have been in the garden, sinless and perfect, walking with God, they would not have chosen to sin? You wouldn’t have been deceived by the serpent, right? I would not have eaten the forbidden fruit after my wife chose to, would I? If only God would have put you or me in the Garden, we wouldn’t be in all this mess, would we?
Abraham Sacrifices Isaac (Gen 22)
If God spoke to you and told you to go tie up your child and sacrifice them, you’d jump right on that, wouldn’t you? It’s real easy to think about how we would do anything if God directly spoke to us, when the fact is, we don’t even do the EASY things God speaks to us through the Bible and the Spirit. Not only do we fail to see how much faith it took for Abraham, especially in that culture where your firstborn son was your legacy, but we over estimate our own faith thinking that there is no doubt we would do the same.
Stoning the Adulteress (John 8:1-11)
Oh, the wicked, evil, religious men who were ready to stone that poor woman. None of us would ever be first in line to condemn, criticize and judge someone, especially a prostitute. Why, if you and I would have been there, we would have helped Jesus out. We would have jumped right in to defend this woman and we would not have feared the response of the religious leaders one bit. Our popularity and comfort would have been no issue to us. Those evil hypocrites! They’re lucky we weren’t there to tell them a thing or two!
Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one leper turned back to Jesus to thank Him and praise Him for it. What would you have done? Would you be the one who turned back to thank the Lord, or would you be with the other group who did not? You’d be the thankful one, right? Yeah, me too. Of course.
Peter’s Denial (Matt 26:69-75)
Peter denied Christ three times, even cursed Him, as they drug Jesus off to beat Him, torture and kill Him. It’s too bad for Jesus that you and I weren’t there because we would have never denied Him like that. We would have been the only person to stick by the Lord’s side. After all, we would have seen Jesus do miracles, heal people and even witness His transfiguration. What was Peter thinking? How could he be such a coward along with the rest of the disciples? Yep, if I would have been there, I would have stuck it out with Jesus no matter what.
Peter’s Hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14)
Peter ate with the Gentiles when no one was looking. When the Jews showed up, he pretended otherwise. What a hypocrite. He should have known better. We would never act like that. We do what is right, and we don’t care what other people think, right?
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So what’s my point? My point is that we have a much higher opinion of ourselves than we should have, and it’s dangerous. We need to admit the reality of our sinfulness and weakness. Why?
We admit our sinfulness and weakness so that
we are quick to turn to Jesus for help and strength
rather than trusting in our own goodness or faith.
It’s easy for us to read Bible stories and think about how good WE would have been, how WE would not have failed spiritually, how WE would have made the right choices. It’s easy to read how people are jailed, persecuted, tortured and killed for the sake of the Gospel and think “I would do the same”. Would you?
Many would, no doubt but I would propose that the many who WOULD do not have this attitude:
“I’d do it. I’d make the right choice. I’d never deny Christ. I’d never be a hypocrite. I’d suffer and die if that’s what I had to do. I know I would.”
The people who REALLY would make these sacrifices probably think more like this:
“Lord, I can’t do it on my own. I’m afraid of being tortured or killed. I know I don’t have the strength to choose suffering or death. I don’t WANT to deny You, or turn away, but I know if You don’t help me and give me strength, I will. Lord, I will fail You and disappoint You if You don’t personally help me, keep me and see me through”.
Get in the habit of evaluating yourself, honestly, whenever you read a Bible story. Do you subconsciously think that you are the hero, the good person, the one who is put forth as Godly, courageous and righteous? Do you find yourself thinking, “I would never have done that” when the Bible communicates the failure of a character?
It’s a great exercise in developing humility and staying in touch with the reality of our weakness and tendency to sin. When you read Peter’s denial, don’t think “never Lord!”. Instead think, “Lord, if I’m ever in that situation, I know I can’t be loyal in my own strength. When that time comes, please give me the strength.”
When you read about the Ten Lepers, don’t think “I guarantee you I would have turned back and said ‘thank you'”. Instead, think “Lord, help me to never be ungrateful or forget to give thanks. If You don’t help me, I know that I will be unappreciative and take Your blessings for granted”.
When you read about other Christians all over the world who are being tortured, beaten, imprisoned and killed (and you SHOULD be reading about it), don’t think “Lord, I would suffer for you if I had to”. Instead, think “Lord, it terrifies me to think of having to suffer or be tortured. I have no idea how I could ever be strong enough to keep from denying You, but I know that if You will be with me, and You will give me the strength, then I can.”
Christians face an ever-increasing probability of significant persecution. It is no time for our hearts to deceive us. We are sinful, weak and faithless, in and of ourselves. As for me, I’m going with:
Lord God, I have no hope or faith in my own strength. I will fail You, deny You, leave You and shame You if I do anything for You in my own strength, ability, faith or righteousness. I admit my frailty and need for You. Rid me of all pride and deceit and help me to replace my fear and fraility with faith and trust in You alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: We have a unique and powerful ability to maximize our opinion about our goodness, and minimize our propensity for sin. This is a dangerous combination that leaves the majority of Christians in a precarious and unstable spiritual state with their GUARD DOWN about how easy it is to fall into sin. A Biblical attitude about sin puts us on alert rather than give us a “false positive” about our so-called faith and goodness (which we DO have, but only to the degree that we lean on Christ for it, not ourselves).
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?