Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Am I being completely honest with myself?

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”  Jeremiah 17:9 NASB

As I shared in the message on Sunday, we are discussing a series of four questions that if used regularly, can help us to make decisions without regret.  The first question is “What story do I want to tell?”  This question helps to remind us that the decisions we make today will become part of our story tomorrow.

Today’s question gets a bit more personal.  It is simply, “Am I being completely honest with myself?”  At first this may seem contradictory, can we really deceive ourselves?  According to the Scripture, we can.

The context for this verse in Jeremiah is somewhat complicated, so I’ll try to simplify it for brevity.  Basically, Jeremiah is a prophet in Israel during a time when the nation of Israel is being judged.  The northern kingdom had already fallen, and all that remained of God’s chosen people where in the southern kingdom of Judah.  The Babylonians had recently conquered Egypt, and controlled the region completely.  Their king, Nebuchadnezzar was a mighty warrior, and had been very successful in battle as evidenced by his expanding empire.  God was using Nebuchadnezzar to judge the children of Israel.
On two separate occasions, Nebuchadnezzar had set up a “vassal” king in Jerusalem.  The purpose of these vassal kings was to oversee their small part of the kingdom, but they were not the “real” king.  That was Nebuchadnezzar.  Jeremiah witnessed this, and on both occasions he advised the vassal kings of Judah to simply comply with the requests from Babylon.  Unfortunately, on both occasions these kings decided they would liberate the people of Israel, and take on Babylon in war.  Needless to say, both times their efforts failed, miserably.

It’s against this background that Jeremiah ponders the condition of the human heart, determining that it is “deceitful, and desperately sick.”  Some translations will say, “Beyond cure.”  Sounds pretty desperate huh?

Where this fits into our decision making template is that for us to make good decisions, we have to be VERY honest with ourselves about our desires.  Without searching too hard, we can all drag up a memory of a time when we wanted something and just the desire alone caused our minds to go into full rationalization mode.  You know?  I need a bigger house because… It will give us more room for our family… or it will be an investment in our future… or even, it will give us a place for the church group to come over for small group.  None of these are bad reasons, unless… Unless the real reason we want a bigger house is because we feel like owning a larger home will give us some sort of status or say something about how we have “made it” in life.  This is a simplistic, and maybe even silly example, but it is indicative of how our heart can in some ways conspire against us in the process of making good decisions.

Jeremiah’s choice of the word “deceitful” is interesting.  Deceit is not dishonesty.  Dishonesty we recognize pretty quickly, and will avoid.  It is also not deviousness, which can be playful even.  No, deceit is sinister.  It mixes truth with falsehood and omission with the intent of leading to a false conclusion.  Deceit is harder to recognize, and this is a tool that our enemy will use to cause us to make poor decisions, decisions that will sometimes even limit our ability or our effectiveness in the Kingdom.
So, we ask the question “Am I being completely honest with myself?”  And when we do, we have a new opportunity to discuss with the Lord, the real intention behind our decision.

If you are like me, and you have given your life to Christ, then you will immediately recognize that there is a bit of a dilemma here.  The dilemma is that although our hearts may be deceitful in their natural state, in Christ we are a new creation.  With that new creation comes a new heart, and a new capacity to make spirit-led decisions.

This gets tricky for us because of the “tug-o-war” that sometimes happens in our lives.  Paul communicated this conflict between the two natures in Romans 7:15 “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate;” Concluding in v. 24 “Who will set me free from the body of this death?”  Praise the Lord, through Jesus Christ we are set free!

So as you approach these situations where the consequences are high, be sure to ask yourself if you are being completely honest with yourself about your motivations.  Most likely you are, but a self-check is always a good idea.  If we’ll do this regularly, then we’ll make better decisions and live with fewer regrets.

Scripture to Claim:
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” 
(Proverbs 4:23)

Submitted By Keith Warren

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