There’s a strong link between self-deceit, desires, and my ability to discern. How do I ensure that self-deceit is exposed so that my longings have a chance to mature into healthy desires? Here’s my working definition. DESIRE – A longing, craving, or expressed wish, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment.
“The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?”
Do you believe that’s true? Do you believe that your heart has the ability to self-deceive so that you are not aware of the deceit? King David prayed that God would keep him from “secret sins”…. things that might live within him he was not aware of. It was not a small request. David states that to be kept from secret sins would keep him from “great transgressions.” He speaks from personal experience.
Go back and mull over the full breadth of the incident with Bathsheba, specifically when Nathan would expose him. By the time he was confronted, the web of deceit and string of offenses was long. David had apparently tucked this somewhere deep in his subconscious because rather than being pricked in his heart by the telling of the prophets tale, he was incensed, ready to exact justice. He was self-deceived and lacked discernment even as he was being exposed.
Scripture also tells about a census David ordered that God clearly did not want him to take. The story reveals that unbeknownst to David, he was incited by an outside force to take the census. The account in 2 Samuel 24 attributes this to Satan. The account in 1 Chronicles reveals that it was the Lord’s anger against Israel that caused Him to incite David. However you sift through that conundrum, the point here is, David was woefully undiscerning. He even dismissed the caution from his chief advisor that this was a very ill-advised plan. The chilling bit is this: “David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done.’ ” Can you pull from the archives of your past and remember being on the backside of your own sin, only to “waken” to what you have done? I can. It’s a terrible experience.
Both of these stories reveal a weakening in David’s ability to discern. Both reveal vulnerabilities that led to profound self-deceit and the ability to be deceived from without.
Here is the take-away for me. The similarity in both these incidents is David’s lack of proximity/connectedness to God, as well as the likelihood that in both scenarios, he was “off his mark”. In one case, he ought to have been out on the battlefield with his men. In the other, he’s on the backside of war, enjoying the spoils of prosperity, comparatively at leisure. He’d apparently drawn away from The Lord to the degree that his passions, typically reserved for God, were now outside the safety and care of The Almighty.
If the heart is deceitful above ALL things, then any time my heart is out from under God’s watchful eye, it is highly vulnerable. Perhaps the most costly example is that of Eve in the garden. She and her husband walked with God, but at the moment the serpent approached, God was not present. How profound was the depth of her vulnerability, so that even though she brought her best reasoning to bear, she ended up launching the decline of the entire created order.
God is kind to show this to us. He is good to make plain the danger of disconnecting from the life-giving vine. Equally important however is the truth that as a child of God, I have been given a new heart. That new heart is seen and known when it is tended in the vineyards by Father God, nourished by the life within the vine that is Jesus. There, my longings and desires are tempered by the presence of the Spirit in me, tenderizing me to thoughts that align with His.
This is not about trying harder to be more discerning so that I am less deceived, either from within or without. This is about recognizing that a heart connected to Jesus is a discerning heart; so that…
“Your ears shall hear
a word behind you, saying,
‘This is the way, walk in it.’ ”