When discussing how to distinguish between truth and falsehood in spiritual matters, many people respond as follows: “I just follow my heart; I believe in my heart that it is right; I do what my heart tells me; I trust my heart.” Such statements sound good to most people, but the Bible says very clearly: “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.”
Why is it foolish to trust your heart? Doesn’t our heart then tell us what is right? On the contrary, Jeremiah (17:9) tells us: “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately corrupt – who can understand it?”
If the Bible only said that our hearts are deceitful, that would be bad enough. But he says something more: the heart is more deceitful “than anything else”. If “anything else” really does include all things, then our hearts are more deceitful than the devil himself, which is a pretty scary thought.
Also, if the Bible only said that the heart is corrupt, that would be bad enough in itself. But it says more: the heart is “extremely corrupt.” Our corrupt heart is so desperately corrupt that it wants to continue to rule over our thoughts and lives. It does everything possible so that it would not be revealed that “the hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). In its desperate attempt to survive, our heart is capable of masquerading as anything, even as a believer washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, whose heart loves the Savior. So Jeremiah ends this verse with a question – “who can understand it?”
The diagnosis of the heart should put the fear of God in the heart of any believer who is serious about the Bible. Another sobering passage is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12, where we see what happens to those who reject the truth: “God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.” If we are deceived by the devil or by our own hearts, we can hope that God will have mercy on us. But if it is God who sends the power of delusion, as a judgment because we have not loved the truth, what hope can we have of being delivered from error? Who can deliver us from the mighty error that God has sent?
The problem with delusion is that the person who is being deceived is completely unaware that they are delusional. If he knows he is deceived, he is no longer deceived! It is very difficult to detect fraud within yourself. Until the deceived person begins to see that he is deceived, he does not suspect that he is under the influence of a strong delusion.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Yeshua describes a large number of people who do not realize their error until it is too late for them: ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Two things in this passage should motivate a Bible-believing Christian to examine his faith. The first thing is the fact that the people described here are not atheists or Hindus or Muslims. These are the people of the church who do work in the church and do what appears to be good works in the name of Jesus. They even call Him “Lord” and quite sincerely believe that they will inherit eternal life as a result of their relationship with the Lord. For this reason, they are dismayed to discover that they have been driven out of the Kingdom. Another sobering thing about this message is the word “many”. This is not a small group of cult leaders and false prophets; it is a very large number of people whom the Lord describes with the word “many.”
This should raise frightening questions for the believer: How do I know that I am not among the many who are misled? Am I really bought with the blood of the Lamb and born from above or is it just my deceitful heart desperately pretending to be in love with the Lord? How do I know that my experience of salvation was not some profound error sent to me by God because I refused to love the truth?
We know from Scripture that our heart cannot be trusted to tell us whether or not we are in error. If we are deceived and we look at what our heart tells us about it, our heart will just continue to lie to us and give us false confidence in our salvation, in our doctrine and fill us with warm, emotional, religious feelings that silence any doubts we may have had. And the longer we are entrenched in our deception, the stronger these feelings grow.
If we can’t trust our heart to tell us if we’re being deceived, who can we trust? A pastor or a prophet? A pastor or prophet may give us words of affirmation and encouragement, but how do we know that our pastor and prophet are not deceived? The Bible is full of warnings about false pastors and prophets. God said to Ezekiel (14:9) “But if the prophet is enticed to speak a message, then it was I the LORD who enticed him.” So even a prophet can be among those upon whom God sends misleading power!
Fortunately, we need not despair. The same Bible that warns us against error and false teaching also teaches us to distinguish between right and wrong. In the days of Isaiah, error was widespread in Israel, and the Lord gave a simple formula for distinguishing the false from the right: “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” (Isaiah 8:20) All true beliefs and teachings are in accordance with the Torah (the Law that God gave to Moses) and any teaching that is contrary to these commandments is not light, but is darkness.
If we look at the scriptures described above, we see that our error is related to our attitude towards God’s Law. When the Messiah tells many people in the church to leave, He addresses them as “evildoers.” Similarly, Paul’s warning about the misleading power sent by God in 2 Thessalonians is compared to our relationship to God’s Law. This chapter tells about the “mystery of violence (separation from the Torah, the Jewish New Testament) that was already at work” in Paul’s time. Twice in this passage Paul mentions a “lawless man (a man who avoids the Torah and the Jewish New Testament).” Even Jeremiah’s statements about the heart are followed by a long plea to honor the Sabbath.
Of course, many Christians think that the Sabbath and many other commandments no longer need to be kept because they now live in New Testament times. Ironically, the Bible tells us that one of the most important signs that a person is a New Covenant believer is that they keep God’s Torah! In Jeremiah’s well-known New Covenant prophecy (31:31-34), the Lord describes that His intention in the lives of all those who accept the conditions of the New Covenant is: “I will put my Law within them and write it on their hearts.”
This new heart in which the Torah is written was also prophesied in Ezekiel 11:20. Here the Lord describes the results of having a new heart: “that they may walk in My statutes and keep My laws.” Ezekiel later writes about the promise of the Holy Spirit: “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and keep my laws and fulfill them.” Observance of the Torah does not happen overnight, but if a believer is not drawn in a direction of obedience to the Torah, he should investigate why this is so. According to Ezekiel, if we desire to fulfill the commandments of God’s Torah, it is a testimony that we have received the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues (which Pentecostals consider a sign of the Spirit) is amazing, but tongues can also be deceptive. Obedience to the Torah cannot be. A person either does or doesn’t.
There are many verses in the New Testament that direct us to obey the Torah as a sign that we are covenant believers: “And by this we know that we have understood Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3), “this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3), “circumcision is nothing, and foreskin is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is important.” (1 Corinthians 7:19). Revelation 12:17 describes God’s faithful remnant as those “who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” Revelation 14:12 defines “saints” as those who “keep His commands and remain faithful to Jesus.!”
Of course, love for the Torah is not proof that a person is not deceived in some other areas of life. But in those chapters that talk about deception, it is clear that delusion is closely related to our attitude towards the Law. We do not have to turn a deaf ear to the Torah. Proverbs 28:9 says “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.”
Any believer who feels any enmity towards God’s Law should seriously consider the possibility that a misleading power may be sent over him and he should ask God to forgive him for not having love for the truth. He should ask God to deliver him from the secret power of violence. If God has sent a misleading power over someone to refuse to love the truth, then God can give a repentant heart an antidote to delusion if the person agrees to accept the Torah that they previously despised and abhorred. “A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise..” Psalm 51:17.
Author: Daniel Botkin.
Source: Rav Richard Chaimberlin’s “Petah Tikva” Vol. 28, No. 3 (translated from Estonian).