April 6, 2014

The Absence of Truth

Col 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

In Col 3:8 the Apostle Paul just told us that, based on who we are in Christ, based on our position in Him, we need to remove certain things from our speech, and from our lives. He says “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.”

Colossians 3:9 (NASB) Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,

“Lie” is the Greek word pseudomai. We use this word in English. The word Pseudoscience for instance, means false science, or science that is not based on scientific methods. The Greek word means to deceive, or speak falsely. Do you think we, as Christians need to be told to stop lying?

In the movie Liar, Liar, Jim Carrey played the role of a crafty, lying lawyer who suddenly could not tell a lie for 24 hours because of a magic wish his son made on his birthday. Near the end of the movie, there was a serious note when the father confessed to his son: “Max, I can’t do my job, and tell the truth. Everybody lies.

So, does everybody lie? You know that a used car salesman always tells the truth, right? If we did a study through the Bible on lying, and we began in Genesis, we would find that sin entered the world through a lie. Satan lied in deceiving Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:45). Cain lied to God after he murdered Abel (Gen. 4:9). Abraham lied, claiming Sarah was his sister instead of his wife (Gen. 12:1119; 20:2). Sarah lied to the three angelic visitors (Gen. 18:15) and to the king of Gerar (Gen. 20:5). Isaac lied by denying that Rebecca was his wife (Gen. 26:710). Rebecca and Issac lied when they connived together to steal Esau’s birthright (Gen. 27:624). And that is just a part of Genesis. So it certainly is appropriate for Paul to remind us to stop lying to one another.

Lying is such a large part of how people live today, and we have become insensitive to the practice since so many around us are involved in it. It makes it a lot easier on us when we don’t have to tell the truth about something. Lies are sometimes much easier on us than the truth.

And although lying is commonplace in our society, it is forbidden by the Lord. Life is based on people telling the truth. If there is no truth, then what is left is chaos. If there is no truth on labels, no truth in contracts, no guarantees, no promises, no commitments, then we can be sure of nothing. Relationships would not exist, because there would be no trust.

As disciples of Jesus, think about why it’s important for us to always tell the truth. We need to understand that God hates lying. God hates lying and commands us to deal truthfully with each other:

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

So two of those things that God hates have to do with lying. Can it be any clearer about what God desires? He hates lying and demands that we speak the truth!

Proverbs 12:19 Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.

Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal faithfully are His delight.

Psalm 15 asks the question, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?” and gives this answer in Psalms 15:2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.

Lying was not to be a part of God’s people under the Old Covenant. And in the New Covenant, God hates lying just as much:

Revelation 21:8 “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Those who are outside the New Covenant are “whoever loves and practices lying.” The Scriptures make it clear that God hates lying and commands us to tell the truth. And most of us would agree that lying is not a good thing. But like the character in the movie Liar, Liar, to some degree, we won’t tell the truth! Telling the truth is difficult, especially when we see lying by our favorite characters on TV every day. And our society thinks lying is just fine when you can get away with it. We are conditioned by the world to accept lying as normal. In the world of politics, or business, or even in personal relationships, we have grown calloused to lying and expect it as something normal.

Lying is so much a part of today’s society that sometimes Christians feel they need to lie in order to survive in this society. But when we apply the standard of Scripture to modern culture, we find that Biblical ethics must rule over and replace the culture of lying.

In the book of Titus, chapter 1, vs. 5, Paul says:

Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,

Here, the apostle Paul had left Titus, on the island of Crete to appoint church leaders and build up the local church there. The task wasn’t easy, and so Paul wrote him a letter. In his letter, the apostle described what was happening on the island. Those things are described in:

Titus 1:10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,

Here are people who have heard the gospel, but now talk in a way that misrepresents the gospel. As a result, verse 11 says that “whole households” are being destroyed. And in that context, Paul says, “It’s the way the Cretans are.”

Titus 1:12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”

Paul quotes one of their own poets to confirm that, “Cretans are always liars,” and he adds, “This testimony is true” (vs 13). So in Crete, the culture was very similar to our own. But what is Paul’s response to this? Paul does not tell Titus to put up with it, saying, “well, that’s just the way it is, and you can’t do anything about it.” Rather, Paul tells Titus to correct the problem:

Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith,

Paul did not tolerate lying among God’s people at Crete, even though it had been a part of their upbringing and daily lives. But why does Paul tell Titus to “rebuke them sharply”? Why does Paul not tolerate any lying? Doesn’t Paul hold to a standard that is too high for them?

Paul tells us why he does not tolerate lying. Notice how he starts his letter to Titus in chapter 1, verse 1.

Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,

Paul, is a servant of the God “who cannot lie,” and he knows that his mission was to preach a gospel that acknowledges the truth. And if God cannot lie, then there is certainly no room for lying among God’s children.

If God, then, does not lie, and we are His children, then lying is to be put away, or put off. Lying simply does not belong among God’s children. The world, or our society may have plenty of room for the lie, but that’s because the world and our society does not know God.

Do you know whose reputation is on the line because of the way we live our lives? The reputation of God our Father, the reputation of Jesus Christ our brother, in addition to the reputation of the church. We need to be very careful about habits of exaggerating, telling white lies, and separating our business ethics from our personal ethics. Have you noticed that whenever a well-known Christian is caught in some sin, it becomes front page news, and its all over TV and radio? And the world will say, “Well, you are no different from us. And at least we’re not a hypocrite like you are. If that’s what Jesus does for you, I don’t want anything to do with Him.”

When I was a child, I told a lie about something (can’t remember what) and my grandmother was there and she defended me, saying “Oh, it was just a little white lie.” What are white lies? They are called that, because they are considered harmless. But, the Bible says nothing about little white lies being a separate category. A lie is not telling the truth and it is still a lie.

I found some common white lies posted on the internet, like:

  • Oh, yeah.  That makes sense. – Because I don’t want to admit that I don’t understand.
  • Thank you so much!  I just love it! – Because telling someone that their gift stinks would make me look like an insensitive jerk.
  • Sure, you look great in that dress. – Because it’s better than being slapped.
  • Oh, things would have been different if I was there! – Because I’m Superman and I can always make a difference… or at least that’s how I want others to see me.
  • No, officer… I have no idea how fast I was going. – Because claiming ignorance is sometimes better than admitting the truth.
  • Yeah, I’ll start working on that right away! – Because telling you I have 10 more important things to do first would just irritate you.
  • That fish was 10 feet long! – Because anything less would be boring.

When we decide when it is and when it isn’t a good time to lie, to stretch the truth, and exaggerate, our ethics are based on circumstances. We call that situational ethics, not Biblical ethics.

But when we demonstrate in the way we live and speak that following Jesus does create a person whose word can be trusted, it will have an impact on those around us. In the early Church, it was the honesty of Christians that made them appear as lights in a dark world. And it is the same today. When we speak the truth, we glorify God and practice what is right. And it honors Jesus.

When we read all these admonitions Paul gives to us, we realize we come up short. We often fail in what God expects of us. And so what is our response? We might think, or say, “well, I’m only human.” And that’s a great excuse. After all, as humans, we are born with sin natures, so that excuse hits home with every Christian. But it is still an excuse.

Where and how do we start to modify our behavior? Where can we start to get rid of these sins that Paul says should not be part of our lives? These is no magic holy water, no magic prayer cloth, no spiritual magic wand someone can wave to suddenly cleanse your life of sin.

But we do know this: 1 Jn 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We can start with confession to God, confessing that we have sinned by being less than honest. In his Psalm of repentance, King David says, “Have mercy on me O God…Against you, you only, have I sinned…Surely you desire truth in the inner parts…Create in me a clean heart, O God…. (Psalm 51).

We can start being totally honest in all our dealings. There is a story of a father who was taking his two sons to play miniature golf. He asked the price, and was told told it was $3.00 for him and $3.00 for any child over six. The father told him one boy was three and one was seven. The cashier said “You could have saved $3.00 if you said the older boy was six. I wouldn’t have known the difference.” The father replied, “Yes, that’s true, but the kids would have known the difference.”

It’s tempting to lie for our own benefit. But what does that teach others? The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ is our life. We are in the very presence of God with Jesus Christ – in glory. Therefore, we need to deal with our sins and seek to walk in holiness of life. It is a constant battle, but when it comes to sin, Paul tells us to “put them all aside.”

And when we pray, we not only ask for forgiveness, but we ask that God would remove these sins from our lives because on our own we cannot have victory over sin. Victory over sin was secured in Jesus’ blood, but we need God’s Spirit to work it out in our practical living. Only then can we make our position in Christ a reality in our lives.