Self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument.
Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception.
Biblical instances include King David who is self-deceived that his affair with Bathsheba is on the sly and nobody else knows.
It is Ananias and Sapphira boasting of their selflessness when their generosity is anything but.
But self-deception involves not just the “big acts” of hypocrisy, but the subtle the little ones as well.
For better or worse, we constantly convince ourselves of things that are not true.
We kid ourselves about the most basic things in life: Who we are and what is going on around us.
All too often, we lie to ourselves in order to maintain a sense of control.
After all, no one likes feeling vulnerable or helpless.
The inhabitants of Judah are living a life of self-deception.
God says of them: /“For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.”/
(Isaiah 58:2, NIV84).
Yet, their worship is full of hypocrisy and false worship.
While deliberately disobeying God’s commands, they pretended to “seek the Lord” daily.
They feigned delight in knowing his will and drawing near to him in worship.
In the face of oppression by foreigners, they presented themselves as a righteous nation deserving of God’s justice (58:2).
Having exposed the general hypocrisy of the nation, Isaiah focused on their false worship.
I. FALSE WORSHIP IS WHEN THE PEOPLE OF GOD IDENTIFY WITH A RELIGIOUS SYSTEM INSTEAD OF THE LIVING GOD
#. this was Israel's problem
#. their relationship with the living God had been replaced by rituals that commemorated their religious obligations
#. the first involves a vibrant faith, the latter a religious expediency
Israel needed a prophet to help them see the error of their ways
Isaiah was one of those prophets
God commands the Prophet Isaiah to expose Judah’s hypocrisy
* /“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.”/
(Isaiah 58:1, NIV84)
#. the announcement has to be shouted with trumpet-like volume to be heard over the racket of religious ritual
#. the inhabitants of Judah are so self-deceived they don’t understand the depth of their hypocrisy
#. they think that they are doing everything right, and so they don’t understand when God does not answer their prayers or respond to their fasting
* /“‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.”/
(Isaiah 58:3, NIV84)
only one fast day was mandatory under the Law and that was the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29)
#. it’s apparent from the text, however, that they are fasting on other days as well
we know from the New Testament that the Pharisees fasted twice-a-week
#. the people could not understand why God did not seem to take note of their self-denial
#. the explanation was simple
#. on fast days these citizens were
#. doing what they pleased;
#. oppressing their employees;
#. fighting among themselves; and
#. making a big show of the entire enterprise (58:3–5)
#. the in habitants of Judah are convinced that they are living righteously by observing all he law, while in actuality, they have forsaken the commands of God
!! A. INSTITUTIONALIZED RELIGION ALWAYS LEADS TO FALSE WORSHIP
#. there is a phrase we experience over and over again in the Old Testament historical books—particularly in 1 Kings
#. every time a king's son succeeded his father to the throne the Scriptures tell us, / "He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of his father and in his sin . .
#. by the time we arrive at the era in which Isaiah is preaching genuine sacrifice and worship had given way to institutionalized religion
* /“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?”/ (Isaiah 58:5, NIV84)
God recognized the self-deception of His people
Isaiah writes, Is that what you call a fast?
#. the people of Israel had developed an identity crisis
#. they forgot Whose they were, Who had brought them out of Egypt and Who had blessed them
Israel saw themselves as a very religious people who were carrying out God’s instructions precisely
#. they had reached the conclusion—falsely so—that worship was all about the ritual
#. the result was that their worship had become a false worship
God is about to reveal to them what He really things of their worship
He doesn’t think much of it!
!! B. THE CHURCH TODAY HAS A SIMILAR IDENTITY CRISIS
#. let me pose to you several spiritual diagnostic questions this evening
#. you don't have to answer them verbally, but I do want you to think about these and answer them in your heart
QUESTION #1 /"When you talk about 'going to church,' are you referring to a red brick building or to renewing relationships with friends and community members based on a common experience with the risen Lord, Jesus Christ?"/
#. if ‘going to church’ is just making a visit to a red-brick building, you may guilty of the false worship of institutionalized religion
QUESTION #2 /"When you talk about 'the work of the church,' are you referring to plans and programs or to people who are filled with the Holy Spirit collectively accomplishing God's will in their community?”/
#. if you think ‘the work of the church’ is referring to plans and programs, you may guilty of the false worship of institutionalized religion
QUESTION #3 /"When you talk about 'building the church,' are you referring to concrete, lumber and Sheetrock or to men and women, boys and girls who are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?"/
#. if you believe that ‘building the church’ is all about bricks and lumber and Sheetrock, you may guilty of the false worship of institutionalized religion
#. many Christians are confused as to what the church is
they have no clear understanding of the church's character and its biblical purpose and mission
#. why do I bring this up?
#. because confusion regarding our identity as the church affects our worship
Israel's identity crisis caused them to institutionalize their faith and feign worship of the true God and eventually led to the worship of idols
!! C. SOME BELIEVERS HAVE SUBSTITUTED AN INSTITUTIONALIZED RELIGION FOR THE LIFE-CHANGING DYNAMIC OF A LIVING FAITH
#. like Israel during the life of Isaiah, many believers have settled for a religion of convenience!
#. their motto is 'Religion is fine as long as I don't have to go out of my way for it!
#. the church is plagued by a consumer mentality that is pervasive in our society
Charles Coleson calls it the "McChurch" mentality.
It’s all about having it your way!
#. unfortunately, some members view church as they would any other commodity
#. they want choice
#. they want variety
#. they want service
#. they want change back for their dollar!
#. we are no longer concerned with what the church stands for, but in the personal fulfillment it can deliver
False Worship reigns when the People of God Have Identified with a Religious System Instead of the Living God
FALSE WORSHIP IS WHEN WE IGNORE THE ‘WEIGHTIER’ MATTERS OF FAITH
* /“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”/ (Isaiah 58:6–7, NIV84)
#. religious rituals and practices are worthless when we disregard the things that are important to God
God commissions his prophet to warn his people of their sins as they blithely go through the routines of religion
#. they must learn that true fasting and true worship is seeking justice and compassion for the needy
#. in fact, their fasting and worship had merely become a way of boosting their own religious ego
God wants his people to show their religion through their concern and help for other people in need