I recently watched a video of a guy off-piste skiing (backcountry skiing outside the boundaries of ski area). The videos I’ve seen are incredible as skiers are able cut the fresh snow. The exhilaration of the beauty and skiing the unknown must be euphoric. The danger of leaving the unknown however can be deceptive. His self-confidence in his abilities and the situation resulted in him skiing off a 250’ cliff. The Bible reminds us over and over again to beware of the dangers of the cliff of self-deception.
I was reminded of the danger of the “blind spots” in our lives reading Moses final words to God’s people on the verge of entering the promised land. They were blessed to experience God in an upfront and personal way in their delivery from Egyptian slavery to God’s miraculous provisions through the year of wandering in a dessert wasteland. It is Moses’ parting words as he says, “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’” (Deuteronomy 29:18b–19a) Moses identifies our propensity to “be wise in our own eye.” The disease of believing that we are smarter than our Creator.
One of the greatest blunders of God’s people is when we tell our selves rational lies to justify un-biblical behavior or make excuses for the neglect of our relationship with God. Our overconfidence in ourselves blinds us to the dangers of “off piste” living. Just like side and rearview mirrors are invaluable to navigating traffic, so also is the mirror of God’s Word. Moses reminds God’s people of the danger of wandering from the “covenant” or God’s instructions. James, the Lord’s brother echo’s Moses warning, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” (James 1:23–24)
Let me leave you with a few thoughts on embracing your own proclivity to self-deceive. First, acknowledge that you have “blind spots.” These are areas of our lives that we have great difficulty seeing. It is easy to think that it is always the other person’s fault, but they are thinking the same thing. This happens because we cannot see our own flaws, and often don’t want to see them. Second, get into the Word. Moses speaks of importance of integrating God’s truth into our lives on a daily basis. Most Christians know more than they could ever apply in their lives. Yet we deceive ourselves into thinking that knowing God’s truth is enough. It is not. James again speaks of “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22) Third, let me encourage you to attempt to snatch a personal “take away” from every encounter of God’s truth. This could be from your time reading your Bible, it could also be from a Sunday sermon. The goal is not to think of how this applies to someone else, but how to it apply to me. How can I put this in action. And let me close with an encouragement to embrace the criticisms of others. “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9:8)
Fortunately, the off-piste skier got “lucky,” surviving the 250’ drop by landing on his backpack and deep powder piled at the foot of the cliff. I wonder if the next time he might heed the warning of others or the sign along the trail? The nation of Israel failed to listen to Moses’ warning of self-deception. I wonder if we might be wise enough to listen to our creator and learn from the shortcomings of others?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson