“Test yourselves whether you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
(NOTE: These are both imperative verbs).
“For men will be lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:2).
“But become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves (James 1:22).
The Christian’s attitude to self is the most convincing evidence of the validity of his faith; the Holy Spirit and the fallen human nature are inherently in opposite corners, opposed to each other and at war with each other (see for example Galatians 5:17). The scriptures are unequivocal in this; before the Spirit can work effectively in our hearts, the “self” must be slain and to do that He must have our consent. The only thing that can resist the work of the Spirit is the fallen nature of the “self”; Satan cannot do it, nor anyone else, just our “self”. This “self” is our greatest enemy; he is aided by Satan and all the demons of darkness, but, in the final analysis, only we can consent, or withhold consent, to the Holy Spirit putting the “self” down.
There are many religious experiences that give carnal pleasure and feed the fleshly nature and puff up the “self”; but nothing that comes from God will ever serve to make a man feel self congratulatory or proud. If he is complacent or feels superior to others because of greater skill he may possess in the scriptures or more exciting spiritual experiences that he may have had, he is deceived. The truly righteous man cares not one whit who is greater than he; he has long ago decided that the flame of the world’s good opinion is just not worth the candle; he will be satisfied if he knows that he will hear the Voice saying; “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
The true disciple of Christ is concerned to get down into the root of the matter; he knows that it is only as the root is embedded into the deep, deep things of God and His word that he can produce that fruit which speaks of the Divine. By contrast, much of what passes for Christianity today is the frantic effort of unfaithful believers to bring forth fruit, but a fruit that is not rooted in Christ; it has to do with religious appearances rather than spiritual reality. Only that which accords with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God can be said to be truly of Christ, irrespective of whether or not it is called “Christian”.
We must guard ourselves against self-deception; of all kinds of deception, this is the most effective and the most ruinous to a believer. If we are deceived by another it means we are being persuaded to a view that comes from outside ourselves; we are, in effect, lending our mind and understanding and belief to manipulation by someone else. This can be a temporary condition that is able to be reversed as the Spirit of God brings the truth to a surrendered soul; one who desires to understand the truth so as to be faithful to it.
The self-deceived, however, are of a different stamp; they enter into the deception of their own free will, willingly and even enthusiastically working a fraud upon their souls because they want to believe the lie; it corroborates their feelings and, generally, puffs up the fleshly nature. Thus, the self-deceived are proud of the deception; it reinforces the carnal desire that led to the deception in the first place.
Unfortunately, we have come to a stage in the western world where today you can claim to have faith despite the obvious contrary testimony exhibited in your life; but faith and faithfulness are truly indivisible; in other words, it can be known what you truly are by the way you truly live – not talk, but live.