Do you know someone who is delusional? We all do, don’t we? I’ll bet that you know at least one person who thinks they’re funny, but they’re not. Or who thinks they can sing, but they can’t. Or someone who thinks they’re doing the right thing, but they clearly aren’t.
We all know someone who can’t see the reality of the situation at hand. Well, here’s my question to you based on just simple math. If every one of us knows someone who is delusional and who can’t see reality for what it is, then what are the chances that THAT PERSON IS ME?
This morning I was reading from John 19 – the story of Jesus’ trial in front of Pontius Pilate. The Jewish chief priests bring Jesus before Pilate and ask for Him to be executed on the cross. Pilate didn’t want to do anything because he found no fault in Jesus and could see that He was an innocent Man. It says:
“Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” (John 19:6-7)
What’s going on here? What just happened? Pilate – pagan/heathen/doesn’t know anything about God – said very clearly over and over again “This Man is innocent. He has done nothing wrong.” But the Jewish chief priests – people of God/spiritual leaders/people who are supposed to know the difference between right and wrong – are the ones who insist that Jesus must be crucified.
And here’s the worst part – they want the Roman soldiers to kill Him because they don’t want to break their own law which forbids crucifixion. And later they insisted to the Romans that they hurry up and kill Jesus quickly before the impending Sabbath day comes – God forbid they break the Sabbath rule and commit a sin!
Do you see the self-delusion here?
They are doing a BIG sin – delivering the Son of God up to be crucified – but they don’t see it because they are so focused on keeping a little rule – no crucifixion and no breaking the Sabbath. They honestly thought to themselves “Phew! Thank God it was a good day – we didn’t crucify anyone ourselves and we didn’t break the Sabbath. Thank God it was a good day.”
I know of a man who once cheated on his wife. But in the process, whenever she would ask him where he was, he would insist that he never lied. He would tell her “I went to the grocery store” or “I went for a walk” and he honestly would do those things. He would go to meet his mistress and then on the way home, stop by the grocery store for 1 minute or take a 2 minute walk in an empty parking lot. He was delusional. He thought to himself “Oh, I don’t want to be a liar. So let me make sure I always tell the truth.” That’s good, he was not a liar; but he missed the fact that he was certainly an adulterer!
It’s scary how delusional we can be. We convince ourselves that we are right and even God Himself couldn’t convince us otherwise at times. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Nothing is scarier to me than the thought that I will live my life fully convinced that I am doing the right thing only later to find out that it was wrong. That is a scary thought, isn’t it?
How can we guard against self-delusion?
1. GET WISE COUNSEL. We all need someone to advise us and hold us in check – someone who is unbiased and outside the fray of what’s going on. This person needs to be wise and not easily swayed by emotional sob stories. It’s easy for us to convince ourselves and others that we are the victim – but we need a wise counselor to see through the emotions and get to the truth. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
2. LEARN TO LISTEN. There’s no point in getting counsel if all you are going to do is argue with that counselor until you convince them that you are right. That’s not the point. James 1:19 “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” Learning to listen is something that takes practice. It requires humility and allowing yourself to be teachable. But you can do it. Practice going to someone for advice and not saying anything after they give it.
3. REGULAR TIME FOR SELF-REFLECTION. Forget about people and stand before God. See what He has to say. The more time you spend with people, the more you will think like them. And the more time you spend with God, the more you will think like Him. Find regular time to sit in the Presence of God and reflect on your actions in light of God’s Word and His commandments. Are you acting based on His standards for life or your own?
Discussion: What are some other ways that we can guard against self-delusion?