FIRST & 10 SERMON SERIES
FEBRUARY 28, 1999
This past Monday I flew into Lexington, KY to speak at a state-wide pastor’s conference and one of our staff members, Preston Mitchell, was kind enough to accompany me on this trip. We arrived rather late. We were tired and hungry. We searched for a restaurant and located one right across the street from our hotel. We were seated in a little booth when a waiter walked up to the table. I will try to imitate this waiter because this guy was so unique that he was almost surreal. He said, “Guys, how are you doing? Welcome to Columbia Steak House. Ummm good. Yessir, it is good. You cannot beat the kind of food we have here. Let me recommend something before I get your order. Let me recommend our wilted salad. The chef chops it real fine like, puts a little pepper in there. Yes, he does. Some seasoning, a little bit of onion. It is kind of wilted and you will love it. We have house dressing with it. I really recommend it.” We said that was OK, it sounded great. I said, “Tell me your name one more time.” “Jim, Jim is the name. Where are you guys from anyway?” We told him Dallas. “Oh, Dallas, yeah, that is good. I am sure that Dallas has some pretty good beef but let me hint around about the best thing I think is on this menu. This right here is going to melt in your mouth. Try our steak. It is a little filet minion. We wrap a piece of bacon around it. It will melt in your mouth, son. You have never had corn-fed beef like this. Won’t you get some steaks?” We looked at each other. Preston and I agreed and we told him that sounded pretty good.
Shortly a couple of wilted salads were brought out along with the steaks. They were OK. After the meal, Jim rushed back up to the table. “Guys, may I interest you in some dessert? Our chef is one of the best cooks in Lexington, KY. He makes a carrot cake about six inches high. It is like a slab of carrot cake. You won’t believe it. It kind of melts in your mouth. Best you have ever had. You want some?” I said, “Jim, that’s OK. If you could bring the check that would be great. But let me ask you a question. Preston and I feel a little bit of energy now, do you know of a theater around town where we might be able to catch a movie? “You are in luck. Yes, I do. You pull out of the parking lot, go right and keep going for about a mile. Behind the Buy Low there are some movies. You will love them. Also, guys, let me recommend a topless club right behind the restaurant. Man, the girls there, whooooo.” I said, “Jim, we are not into that.” “Well, I didn’t know. Most guys when they first come to town ask me where are the ladies. But those ladies will get you in trouble, won’t they? Big trouble. But that sure is a good topless club. Anyway, what are you guys in town for?”
I looked over at Preston and behind that goatee, he smiled and said, “Jim, this guy right here is leading a pastor’s conference tomorrow morning.” “Praise God, I love Jesus. I am a Christian. I believe in the whole Bible.” I thought to myself, yea, except the part that talks about lust. Then Jim scurried off, picked the check up and kind of dropped it on the table and we never saw him again.
I ask you, what was going on there? What was happening? Lying. First of all, Jim lied about the food. It wasn’t great. The steak did not melt in your mouth. If I recall, we had to chew it for a long time just to swallow it. Jim also lied about his lifestyle. One minute he was talking up a topless club, the next minute he was talking up Jesus. An exaggeration, falsification, misrepresentation, spin or stretch or whatever you want to call it, it is lying. And that brings us to the ninth commandment. God literally forged these words in stone in the high altitudes of Mt. Sinai. I am reading from Exodus 20:16, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
But I ask you. What do you say when your back is against the wall? What do you say when you have to close the deal? What do you say when you really want to impress somebody? What do you say when a mistake has been confronted? What do you say? Do you give an exaggeration, falsification, misrepresentation, spin or stretch? Do you lie or do you tell the truth in an open, honest, transparent and authentic way? What do you do?
God, throughout His word talks about truth telling. God loves for us to speak words that are honest because truth is tied into the very nature and essence of who God is. Thus, if God is truth, and the Bible says that God is truth, if truth did originate with Him, which I believe, then untruth or lying is contrary to His character. It swims against God’s current. It goes against the grain. I believe God gets upset and hurt and burdened when we lie because He realizes our predicament on this planet was the result of the telling and the believing of a lie, the telling and the believing of a lie way back in the garden.
The truth is out there, as you just heard in the song by DC Talk, but our culture doesn’t share the truth very much. It takes teams of lawyers and reams of contracts just to make a simple agreement. This ninth commandment seems to be collapsing around us. That is why the words of Psalm 52:3 are so relevant to our world today. “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.” In Proverbs 6: 16-19 God says that there are seven things that He hates. And two out of the seven deal with verbal dishonesty. We can tract the scent of this sin all the way back to the evil one himself. Jesus described his tactics and He gave us his resume in John 8:44. “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Satan is a liar and a lot of us sit at Satan’s feet and we take his course. We become bilingual and we lie. Every time we lie, every time we say something is untrue or dishonest, every time we exaggerate or misrepresent something, every time we falsify something or put a spin on it or stretch it, every time we tell a little white lie, we are linking ourselves with Satan. Speaking of white lies, why do we color this sin? “Hey, I am just telling a white lie.” I have never heard anyone say, “Yeah, I am having a purple affair.”
I want to expose today some lies because, if the bold truth were known, a lot of us are incredible liars. And I will tell you before I begin that I believe this message will convict a lot of us. While I was studying and preparing for this message this past week, it convicted me. There are layers and layers of lies that we tell. And to understand the depth of our lies, we have got to expose the lies for what they are.
The first kind of lying that we do is something that I call power lying. When you power lie you make up accomplishments and act like you know celebrities or power brokers real well even though you might have just passed them in the hall or given them a high five after a game. You act like you know them real well. You drop their names and talk about them because you think that others hearing you will oooh and aaah and “Whoa, that girl, that guy must really be something. They must have been there, done that and known them.” Somehow when we power lie we think it will elevate our self-esteem. We think it will put us above another person. Any time that you are around someone who is always talking about his accomplishments, about people they know or rub shoulders with, two things ought to hit you in your spirit.
Number one. You have got to realize and understand that they are probably making the stuff up. Number two. You have got to realize that they are a walking billboard advertisement of a poor self-concept. When they are talking about the people that they know or the things they have done, they are saying, oh look at me, I need a pat on my back. I have talked to people who have made up so many past accomplishments and say they know so many celebrities that I have wanted to stop them in the middle of their power lying and say, “Hey, someone needs to write a book about your life. I mean Forrest Gump, he didn’t hold a candle to what you have done.” Power lying. Do we have any power liars in the house?
The next is the vigilante type of lying, the revenge lying. When someone has hurt you, damaged you, maybe a co-worker, maybe an ex-spouse, maybe a “friend”, you may get into vigilante lying. You can trump up a lie as quickly as a tabloid reporter. You will make up something and kind of float it out there. You will advertise it, put it out in headlines. And it hurts and damages the other person.
In the book of Genesis a man named Joseph is described as an individual who loved God. Joseph was also described as someone who was handsome in form and appearance. In our modern vernacular we would say that Joseph was buff, was ripped. One day, Mrs. Egypt, Potifer’s wife made sexual advances toward Joseph. Her name in Hebrew is rendered Cindy Crawford. That’s a lie, its just a little joke. As Joseph pushed away from her sexual advances, as he left the scene, she became so upset that she got into vigilante lying and trumped up a lie about God’s man. It caused Joseph to spend some serious time in prison. Do we have any vigilante lying happening in your home, at the health club, in school?
Another form of lying is 7Eleven lying. It is one of the cool things about our society, isn’t it? We know that 24/7 there is always convenience stores open. We can just walk into a 7Eleven and pick up the basic necessities of life, Twinkies and a Diet Coke. What happens, though, when we lie for convenience reasons? What happens when we 7Eleven lie? We say, “I will be there at the party.” We say, “I will help you move.” We say, “I will pray for you.” We say, “I will be there next weekend to serve in the Peaceful Kingdom nursery.” But beneath our words are lies. We say them, but we have no intention of following through. 7Eleven lies. It is easy to get into this stuff, isn’t it?
Another form of lying is fire escape lying. One of my favorite songs while growing up was by the Ohio Players. Fire. What happens when it gets hot? What happens when the flames begin to leap up around you? What happens when the pressure is put on you? What do you do? What do you do when the policeman pulls you over? What do you say when the Board really looks at you and locks eyes with you? What do you say to your parents, students, when you have missed curfew by an hour and ten minutes? What do you say? What do you say to that professor about the exam? A lot of us when we feel the fire just look for that lie escape and we bound down the fire escape and get out of it by tossing a fire escape lie out. If you fire escape lie, and we all have done that before, you are in good company. There was a man in the Bible in the New Testament by the name of Simon Peter. Simon Peter walked up to the Lord one day and said, “Jesus, I am with You. I am the man of the hour, to sweet to be sour. I am the tower of truth-telling power. I will never dis you. I will never turn my back on you. I will never misrepresent you. I am with you, Lord.” Jesus looked at him and said, “Simon Peter, you are going to lie about me several times over the next few hours.” The New Testament describes Simon Peter as a person who began to follow Jesus at a distance. I like when the Bible articulates that. He kept some land between himself and the Lord, and we always get in trouble when we follow Jesus at a distance. That night a little girl asked this man, “Hey, aren’t you connected with Jesus? Aren’t you kind of hanging out with Him? Aren’t you one of His followers?” Three times he lied. He felt the flames, didn’t he? He felt the fire. The fire escape lie.
We also get into rubber band lying. We stretch and elongate things. We embellish when telling that story at the party or on the platform. When it is not really going that good, you do the rubber band thing and add some octane to it. The problem with stretching and elongating and embellishing things, one day, pop, it will hurt you.
In Galatians 1:7, the Bible talks about the danger of distorting the gospel. Back in Biblical times a lot of false religions stretched and did the rubber band thing with Christ and with the word of God just like the Mormons do today, or the Jehovah Witnesses, or the Scientologists and others. They are cults. They are false religions. And these cults and false religions pour what I call an out-of-context cocktail. They mix a little bit of truth in with a little bit of error. They mix in a little bit of falsification and misrepresentation in and stir it over the rocks. And a lot of people drink it and believe it. But it is a lie, a distortion.
It is one thing to distort someone’s word, a teacher’s word, pastor’s word, spouse’s word, friend’s word or boss’s word. But it is another thing to distort God’s word. But on top of that, Christians stretch the Bible to fit their lifestyle. Some people right now are living in sexual sin. You are having sexual intercourse outside the marriage bed. The Bible is crystal clear about this one, ladies and gentlemen. Sexual intercourse is reserved for the marriage bed. But we read God’s word and we try to embellish and stretch it so it can fit our lifestyle. We don’t want to read those verses that convict us. Maybe we are having a hard time at work and we want to be disloyal and disrespectful and abuse our boss. We don’t like to read the verses in the Bible that tell us we are working for the Lord. We don’t like to hear the scripture that says that whatever we do, we should do it for God. We kind of elongate and stretch and get into rubber band lying. Church involvement, giving, serving, helping. We kind of twist those around. Do we have any rubber band lying going on?
There is one more layer we should talk about before we change to something else. I call this extreme lying. Extreme lying is when we paint everything as the best. This is the absolute best steak you have ever had in your life. It will melt in your mouth. We paint everything as the best or the worst. It was the worst. This was horrible. It was a joke. Extreme lying.
“Well, Ed, aren’t you getting technical? Isn’t the Bible getting really detailed and all fired up about embellishing a little bit or telling a little white lie? Come on now, you have got to do that stuff just to survive.” No, you don’t. No, you don’t. Some of you are thinking to yourself, I have got it. What you are saying to me from the Bible is that I should communicate all truth. So you are telling me, if it is true, I should say it. No, I’m not. Everything you communicate must be true, but all truth should not be communicated. Talk about something scary. You meet some people who say, “Yeah, I just say whatever comes to my mind. Hey, how are you doing? Your outfit doesn’t match. You have bad breath and you will never amount to anything. See you later.” Whoa. There has got to be balance going on here.
Every time we are confronted with the truth here is what we do. As human beings we have the uncanny ability to compare ourselves with others. And as you are thinking about some of these lies, some of you are rationalizing and trying to compare your truth quotient with others. You are not looking at those people who tell the truth more than you do. You are thinking about people who are much less truthful than you. “Oh, I tell the truth a lot more than this guy. Surely God grades on a sliding scale.” You are always going to mess up when you compare yourself to your fellowman or fellowwoman. I know it is tempting. I do it sometimes. But don’t do it. Compare yourself to God. Don’t worry about the person on your right or your left. Don’t worry about the person on the freeway. Don’t worry about your neighbor. Don’t worry about your coach. Worry about your connection with God.
That is why I laugh so hard when people tell me that they don’t go to church because the church is filled with hypocrites. We are all hypocrites. Look at your neighbor and say, “You are a hypocrite.” You know why? Because I am a hypocrite. I have said a lot of stuff that I am going to do, but I haven’t done it. I have told people that I am going to show up, but I haven’t shown up. We are all hypocrites. We are all liars. We all miss the mark. Compare yourself to God.
So what do we do because of this commandment? I am going to give you some insight right now that I believe if you apply it will change your life. This commandment was written for life change. First of all, I want you to critique all of your conversations. As you have heard me say dozens of times before, I challenge you to write out your prayers. Since 17 years of age, I have been journaling my prayers. Do that. We have journals in the bookstore for you. As you are journaling, or as you are praying, ask God every day this question. Just say, “God…” Just call Him God. You don’t have to use a lot of churcheese terms. “God, I want to ask you a question. Have I embellished something today? Have I elongated something today? Have I exaggerated something today? Have I put a spin on something today? Have I lied today, God.” Then wait. Because God says in His word to be still and know that He is God. Then you will begin to see some areas where you have embellished, exaggerated or lied. Don’t just say, “OK, I have messed up.” And then go to the next subject. Stay with this one. God tells us that if we have lied, have wronged someone, we are to go to them, lock eyes with that person and admit that we have spoken an untruth. All it takes is for you to do that four or five times and you will think a long time about lying. I have had to do that before and it is not fun.
Let me tell you the benefits of doing this. First of all, you can look in the mirror after doing it and you will have a blemish free conscience. Not a mark, not a scar. You are clean before God and you can say, “God, I am doing your stuff your way.” The second benefit is that it will make an indelible imprint on the person that you come clean with and confess to. Several years ago when I embellished something to a gentleman, I was nervous that he would find it awful it was a senior pastor who had done that. But when I confessed that I had not told the truth, you would not believe the impact and the grace and the forgiveness. We can all identify with it because we have all lied. It is worth it. Critique your conversations.
Number two, a quick one, a little bank shot. Install several lie detectors in your life. Find some people who love you for who you are, some trusted confidants and ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to confront you if they ever see you embellishing or exaggerating or putting a spin or a stretch on something. Do that. And a great person to do that with is your spouse. If you are in a social setting and you see a husband and wife together, watch the wife hold that husband accountable. It happens just naturally. Women just have that in them. The husband will say, “Yeah, when this thing was coming at me and I jumped eight feet out of the way….” “It wasn’t eight feet, it was two feet.” “OK, two feet. Anyway, it was the size of an eighteen wheeler.” “No, it wasn’t. It was the size of a VW bug.” I will stop and go to the next one.
The third way to make this real and relevant in your life is to follow God’s guide. The guide is talked about in John 16:13. “But when He, the spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” Who is He? He is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the godhead. And if you are fuzzy about the Holy Spirit, kind of muddy about His role, let me explain. The moment we bow the knee to Christ, the moment we ask Him to infiltrate our lives, the moment we embrace Him, Jesus places the person of the Holy Spirit on the throne of our lives. And the Holy Spirit works on the inside to turn you and to turn me into truth tellers. And here is how it happens.
You are talking to someone in a conversation. You feel the desire kind of going haywire to impress them. You want to make up an accomplishment, maybe to say that you didn’t ride the bench but instead were an All-American. Or maybe you feel the urge to drop a name or to stretch something or to vigilante lie. Then you will feel the Holy Spirit kind of punch you, prompt you and remind you that you are about to lie. He will tell you not to do it, that it is not worth it. And when we hear and respond to His punches, when we throttle back, we can feel the love, feel the affirmation, and the Holy Spirit saying hey, that’s my man, that’s my woman. That is the way I want you to speak. You are telling the truth. You had the option to lie but you are telling the truth. That is what it means to follow God’s guide. That is the role of the Holy Spirit.
Every weekend I stand here and look at all of you. And I know in a crowd this size that numbers of you know the truth, embrace the truth and you have been freed up by the truth. But I also know that others here have not. Others here have heard the truth, know about the truth but don’t know the truth. I want to wind this whole talk down and share with you some truths that are transformational. Before I do let me read the words of Jesus in John 8:32. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” I want to talk directly to those hear who heard the truth and know about the truth but do not know the truth, really embrace it and get set free.
Scripture says that we all have made a myriad of mistakes, moral foul-ups. The Bible calls these actions sin. We are all sinners. We have all fallen short of God’s standard of goodness. It doesn’t matter if you told a while lie or a big hunking lie. It doesn’t matter if you have taken a grape from the produce section or robbed a bank. Sin is sin and we are sinners.
The second transformational truth is that one day our sins will be discovered. One day when we stand before the brilliant blaze of God’s glory, even those small, insignificant sins will look like huge stains. God will reveal them, all of your shams and cover-ups will be out there exposed. There will be no deal making. There will be no small talk here. Our sins will be shown to us concerning what they really, really are.
The third transformational truth is that we all face a forever. You can talk about it, think about it, read about it. We all face a forever. And the forever will be in one of two places either in heaven or in hell. And if you have not embraced and received and been freed up by the truth, you are facing hell. Those are hard words for me to say. I don’t get joy in telling you that. But I know a lot of people here, if you were to die right now, would spend forever away from God in hell because you have made that choice. You have heard the truth but you have not embraced it and received it and been freed up by it.
And that brings us to the fourth transformational truth. It is a private deal. It is a private decision. I can’t make it for you. You can’t make it for me. It is between you and God. But the moment in time where you stop and say, “God, I don’t just want to know about You, I want to know You, I want to embrace You and receive You. I want to be freed up by You and emancipated by Your grace.” The moment you say that, Christ will infiltrate your life and you will become a new creature. And right now as I am sharing these words with you, I know what is going on. Satan, the father of lies, is giving you a steady stream of garbage. He is saying stuff to you like, “Hey, don’t listen. Ed is just fired up. Hey, relax, put it off.” And Satan is giving some people here the denominational lie. He is saying, “Hey, man, you were brought up Catholic. You were sprinkled in the Catholic Church. You were brought up Lutheran. You cut your teeth in the Baptist church or the Methodist church.”
Let me tell you something about denominations. They are manmade. I had a man in his late 70s look at me early this week and say, “If we go up to heaven with a denominational label, we will blow off. If we go down to hell with a denominational label, we will burn off.” So in the grand scheme of things, denominations don’t matter in relation to knowing Christ personally. So you can get off the denominational train that Satan likes to tell you about. Then he likes to tell people, “Hey, God grades on this giant curve. You are better than most people. Compare yourself to others. You are a good person. You keep your nose clean. You pay your taxes. You are a good suburbanite, well adjusted. Do you think a good God would send you to hell?” But you see, Satan lies. God doesn’t send anybody to hell.
Go back to the book of Genesis if you want to have the lies of Satan exposed. Satan lied to Eve. He said, “Hey, Eve, you take that piece of fruit, you will become like God.” Did she? The second lie, “Hey, Eve, if you partake of the fruit, you will never die.” Did she? Don’t believe the lie because Satan will lie to you all the way to hell. Respond to Christ.
Here is how you respond to truth and let the truth set you free. You simply say the truth. You say, “God, I want to tell You what You already know about my condition. I am a sinner and I believe to the best of my ability that You sent Christ to die on the cross for all of my sins. I admit that to You. Right now I embrace it. I ask Christ to come into my life.” And the moment we do that, we are emancipated. We are freed up. From then on, throughout our lives into eternity, when God looks at us, He sees Christ. He sees a human being who has applied His Son’s sacrifice. That is what God sees. God doesn’t see sin anymore. But don’t leave this place until you have made that decision. Because, why lie? Why lie? Tell the truth. Come clean and let it set you free.