As a pastor I do a significant amount of pastoral counseling. One of the things I often come across is the tendency for people to use ‘defense mechanisms’ to protect themselves from the truth of the situation they find themselves in. One of the most common defense mechanisms is ‘denial’. This idea of denial is well defined by R. Larkin:
Denial. An unconscious mental mechanism in which refusal to perceive or admit the existence of something serves as an ego defense against some unpleasant, unacceptable aspect of reality. Thus when some internal or external perception is judged by the unconscious ego as potentially threatening, the perception or memory of that reality is filtered out of conscious awareness. 1
I’m sure you get the idea, it is denying reality for our own more comfortable version of the situation.
Near the end of the New Testament, the Apostle John wrote a short letter to some Christian believers who were faced with the possible temptation to practice denial about some of the fundamental Christian truths because of a group of people who were teaching opposing things. John talks about many places these false teachers were denying basic Christian truth, too many to list in this blog, but let me mention a few.
First, this group of people were trying to deny the reality of sin in their lives (like they were perfect or something!). John deals with it like this:
1 John 1:8–10 (ESV)
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
As you can see denying sin would make us a liar…but dealing with sin through repentance and confession would make us clean!!!
Another thing they were denying was that to be a Christian you must walk in obedience to what the Lord commanded (his Word)…
1 John 2:3–5 (ESV)
3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.
Again you can see the effects of this denial…being a liar, void of the truth!
Let me just mention one more (there are many in this letter of 1 John, check them all out on your own!). They were denying the need to really love other believers (and all that real love implies!) in order to know God…
1 John 4:7–8 (ESV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
One more time, it is very obvious that denying love to our fellow believers means we don’t know God at all!!!!
Denial is dangerous in facing critical situations in life, but is even more dangerous if we are practicing it in our relationship with God! John doesn’t just point out the dangers of denial in this little letter, but he gives the solutions. So let’s apply those Holy Spirit solutions, and walk in our relationship with God and with others with ‘eyes wide open’!!!!