with Bob Condly

October 2016

Overcoming Self-Deception


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

Winning the War of Art


Creative work is hard. It takes effort and stamina to craft something new. In The War of Art and Do the Work, Steven Pressfield exposes resistance as the chief foe of writers. They have to fight their innate tendency to procrastinate, waste time, and criticize themselves. He interprets writing in militaristic terms, and for good reason. Try composing something. It’s a battle!

But resistance doesn’t attack writers only. Any creative person faces opposition. The artist must recognize this or her ideas will remain in her head, unrealized and unfruitful.

Why the resistance? It’s easy to blame externals: distractions, choices, no time or money. Each may contribute to the problem, but the issue goes deeper. It’s an inside job.

Kurt Vonnegut says that “to practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

That’s a clue. Art transforms nature–a lump of clay becomes a sculpture; ideas become words, and sounds become melodies. But art also changes us. When we create, we renew ourselves.

And we may not like this. We may not want to confront our fears, our hesitations, our insecurities. So we resist the work. Either we don’t start or we never finish.

And it gets even deeper. Rabindranath Tagore asks, “What is art? It is the response of man’s creative soul to the call of the Real.” To resist art, then, is to starve our souls and deny God’s call. A double calamity!

Reading through Pressfield’s books, it seemed clear to me that the biblical notion of sin provides the best explanation for resistance. Sin captures and corrupts the soul. We don’t function as we should; God’s design has been damaged.

And the effects of sin pervade our whole being.


  • “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” – Genesis 6:5


  • “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” – Ecclesiastes 7:20


  • “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9


  • “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” – Galatians 5:17 (ESV)

Not a pretty picture, but one hardly worth denying. There’s too much evidence, both personal and global, to argue otherwise.

It’s not the artistic task that intimidates us so much as our hearts not wanting to grow.

Writing changes our soul; creating transforms us. It forces us to deal with things we’d rather not. That’s why we delay, avoid, and resist.

The same goes with the spiritual life. Do we avoid prayer? We care about issues but we may not want to change. Do we neglect God’s Word?  We enjoy learning but the commands of Jesus frighten us. Have we given up serving? Sharing our talents was fun for a while, but then . . .

Dissatisfied? Jeff Goins says, “Tell the voices of opposition to shut up. Refuse to be ruled by fear. And then, get on with what you were born to do.”

But resistance drains our creative energy; where do we get the strength to get back into the game?

Turn things around. Resist resistance. The apostle Peter tells us to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:8-10).

Become aware of the battle. Don’t brush it off or hide from it. Bring it out into the open. When you do, you’ll recognize that you’re dealing with a larger enemy. He roars, but Jesus rules!

And you’re not alone. Other have faced, are facing, similar struggles. God gives them victory; He’ll bless you, too. The pain’s real, but it won’t endure.

You will.

You’ll grow.

And so will your art.

with Bob Condly

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