We know lies are destructive. When thinking about the devastation they cause, it’s easy to focus on the liar as the one creating the mess. But the belief of lies leads to ruin and destruction, too. It’s just as important to avoid being deceived by lies as it is not to tell them.
In Genesis 3, we’re introduced to the “age of self,” when humanity chose to believe a lie over God’s promises. Times change, but we’re faced with this same problem today.
Here are three lies we tend to believe in a culture that teaches us to look within for what we need, and guidance to help direct our focus on God rather than ourselves.
1. The lie of self-love
“I just need to love myself better. If I did a better job of loving myself, I would feel better about myself and be able to love others better, too.”
There’s a growing popularity around the idea of self-care. But there’s a difference between self-care and self-love. While eating, resting, and other habits of self-care are disciplines of stewarding your body created by God, the lie of self-love convinces us that our self-esteem and love for others hinges on our ability to love ourselves first.The lie of self-love convinces us that our self-esteem and love for others hinges on our ability to love ourselves first. Click To Tweet
The Scriptures, however, teach something radically different. Paul tells Timothy to avoid “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Furthermore, our ability to love others doesn’t flow from our love of self. Rather, it’s the overflow of God’s love for us and a reflection of our love for God. We love because we are loved by God, not ourselves (1 John 4:19). God’s love for us frees us to love him and others (Matt. 22:37–40). Instead of trying harder to love yourself, ask God to help you believe he offers all the love you’ll ever need.
2. The lie of self-grace
“I just need to be more gracious to myself. If I had more grace for myself, I wouldn’t feel so defeated all the time.”
Similar to how we understand love, we’re called to receive the grace of God through Jesus and to be conduits of his grace to those around us. If you rely on being gracious to yourself, what happens when you are exhausted? What happens when you have poured yourself out in ministry or family or work and have nothing else to give? Thankfully, God’s grace is a well that won’t run dry. As John tells us, “For from his fullness we have received grace upon grace” (John 1:16). At best, the idea of being gracious to yourself is a misunderstanding of the grace of God. At worst, it’s an idolatrous effort to find worth, value, and satisfaction apart from God.
3. The lie of self-forgiveness
“I just need to do a better job of forgiving myself. I know I can’t be perfect, and if I could learn how to forgive myself better, I wouldn’t have to bear the weight of all this guilt every day.”
While there might be a right recognition of sin, the lie of self-forgiveness blinds us to the depth of our sin. David’s confession about sinning against God shows us that God is the chiefly offended party (Ps. 51:4). If we’ve sinned against God, why would we look to ourselves for forgiveness? A guilty conscience can only be washed clean by pardon from a holy, gracious God. The lie of self-forgiveness stems from a lack of belief in God’s forgiveness.
Fighting the Lies of Self
What should we do when we or someone we love believes these lies? Start by asking questions. It’s easy to jump to conclusions, but we must be patient and remember the human heart is complex and hard to know (Prov. 20:5).Believing the promises of God allows us to see lies for what they are—temporary and destructive substitutes. Click To Tweet
With every lie we believe, we’re failing to acknowledge what’s true. Adam and Eve believed the lie of the serpent, and they failed to believe the promises of God. If we fail to believe that God loves us, then we’ll be more likely to believe satisfaction and joy can be found apart from him. Believing the promises of God allows us to see lies for what they are—temporary and destructive substitutes. Seeing clearly allows us to rest in God’s love, grace, and forgiveness instead of fruitlessly working to manufacture it on our own.
From Self-Focused to God-Focused
The lies of self-love, self-grace, and self-forgiveness have something in common—they search within to find what’s only available from above. The more we look to ourselves for well-being, meaning, and satisfaction, the more susceptible we are to believing these lies. Although these lies manifest in unique ways in our culture, they are as old as Eden.
When you feel unlovable, reject the lie of self-love. Remember, you’re beautifully and wonderfully made by your heavenly Father. He loves you more than you could ever love yourself. When you fail, reject the lie of self-grace. Remember, God created you in Christ Jesus for good works. Not even your failures can thwart his plans for you. When you sin, reject the lie of self-forgiveness. Remember, God removed your sin as far as “the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). Instead of laboring to bring peace to your own heart, rest in the everlasting peace bought by the blood of Jesus.