Living is easier than thinking. For instance, the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno proposed what’s called the dichotomy paradox. If you drive to the grocery market that’s four miles away, at the halfway point, you’ve gone two miles. Half of the remaining two miles is one mile. Half of that mile is a half a mile, and on it goes. When you add up the distances, you get 3.999999 . . . but not four. You never reach it. Yet you succeed all the time. Thinking about Zeno’s paradox can make your head hurt; driving to the store’s a piece of cake. (Unless there’s traffic!)
Here’s another example. Twice in his letter, the apostle James warns against self-deception.
- “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22
- “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” – James 1:26
How is it possible to deceive yourself? You can fool other people; you just have to know something they don’t and then lie to them about it. They can trick you, too; it works both ways. But to deceive yourself, you’d have to know both that something is true and something isn’t true at the same time.
If f you’ve learned that two plus two is four, can you also believe that it’s five? How can you hold to both at the same time? That’s impossible!
But maybe not. James leaves a couple of clues about the source of self-deception.
- “Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” – James 1:8
- “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” – James 4:8
The Greek word translated “double-minded” is “dipsychos” and means “two-soul.” When you’re double-minded, it’s like there’s two of you.
Double-mindedness causes self-deception. One mind believes one thing, and the other believes something else.
In his letter to the Roman church, the apostle Paul describes this phenomenon.
“For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” – Romans 8:6-8 (ASV)
Your flesh (your limited, flawed, natural life) has a mind, but so does your Spirit-filled new nature, the one you received when you confessed Jesus as your Lord. You own two minds. If they agreed about everything, your spiritual life would be a breeze. No internal conflicts, no problems. You might not ever discover that your double-mindedness. But they don’t get along, do they?
“For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.” – Galatians 5:17 (NET)
What can you do about this?
Get a good look at yourself in the mirror. In the ancient world, mirrors cost a lot, so they weren’t common. But there was one place where you could gaze at your reflection for free: still water. A pond, a pool, even a puddle – as long as it was calm, you could see your image.
The Lord wants to take you there.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” – Psalm 23:2 (NKJV)
Still water acts as a mirror; so does God’s Word. Read it and act on what you discover.
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do.” – James 1:23-25
Scripture will reveal the condition of your heart. The Bible exposes the inner conflicts between flesh and spirit, the root of self-deception.
But you can do something about it. By responding to God’s Word, you find your focus. You’re no longer double-minded.
“Unite my heart to fear Your name.” – Psalm 86:11 (NASB)
And God will do it! No more split thinking, fractured attention, and competing desires.
“He restores my soul.” – Psalm 23:3 (NASB)
You’re no longer deceived. Jesus has set you free!
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36