Sin as Self-Deceit – Gospel in Life

Sin as Self-Deceit

Tim Keller |  January 28, 1996

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  • Sin
1 Samuel 15:12-23
RS 66-02


What’s wrong with us, the human race? The answer of the Bible is all of our sociological and psychological problems are theological problems, and the only answer that possibly gets underneath all of these other semi-answers is the real problem of sin.

We now look at what I’m going to call our capacity for self-deception. What is the capacity for self-deception? It’s the almost infinite ability of the human heart to hide the truth from itself when that truth is too unpleasant or uncomfortable. Self-deception is not the worst thing we do, but it’s the reason we can do the worst things.

There’s no better example of the tragedy of self-deception and the dynamics of it than this tragic story of Saul, the first king of Israel. This text tells us about the fact of self-deception, the structure of self-deception, and a prescription for the healing of it.

1 Samuel 15:12–23

People sometimes do wrong things, and it’s not just because of issues like prejudice or poverty. Sin, especially the idea of fooling ourselves, gives a deeper reason. The story of Saul, Israel’s first king, shows us how we can fool ourselves, how it works, and how we can find a way out of it.

1. The reality

Saul’s story shows us how he tricked himself into believing he was doing right when he wasn’t. God told him to completely destroy the Amalekites, but Saul kept the king alive and took the best of their animals. Even so, Saul thought he had done what God asked. This shows us how dangerous it is to fool ourselves and how important it is to obey God fully.

2. The pattern

People do all sorts of things to avoid facing tough truths, from little things to big problems. We might see a musician making fun of others to hide her true beliefs, a whole town ignoring its bad history, or people wanting others to think they’re great so they can feel better about themselves. The key is to take responsibility, not fool ourselves, and depend on God’s goodness instead of becoming prideful and worshipping other things.

3. The cure

To stop fooling ourselves and face hard truths, we need to understand the biggest truth: that God exists and we should completely follow Him, or that there is no God and life has no purpose. By accepting God’s kindness, shown through Jesus Christ’s death for us, we can stop fooling ourselves, handle hard truths, and find true freedom.



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