In the 1992 movie “A Few Good Men” there is a most memorable courtroom scene between a Navy lawyer and Navy Colonel. The lawyer Daniel Kaffee (young Tom Cruise) is way in over his head questioning the long-time Colonel Jessep (seasoned Jack Nicholson). The movie is filled with drama over the murder of a fellow marine with two other marines standing trial. The Colonel Jessep is called as a witness to see if he had a role, but is not expected to admit any sort of guilt. After some leading questions the suspense is heightened with Jessep almost boxed in a corner to give straight answers and the conversation is as follows:
Colonel Jessep (Jack Nicholson): You want answers?
Lawyer Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!
This line is memorable to many but speaks volumes about our society. We have grown accustomed to lies. Lies abound from politicians and we hear it on both sides of the aisle. Advertising commercials tell lies to get us to buy their products. These lies appeal to make us happy and whole but in the end only flatter and fail. Lying can be deceptive. It can also be deadly. A lie can not only destroy a person’s reputation but it can destroy a person’s life.
Lying is often convenient to both puff ourselves up and to appease others. Children tell lies to avoid discipline or punishment. Teens tell lies in order to fit in a certain crowd. Adults tell lies to avoid being hurt or seen as vulnerable. We all buy the lie that speaking half-truths or little “white-lies” are not that bad; as if half of a lie is half-way pleasing to God. I think not; sin is sin. Liars, deceivers, cons & charlatans, frauds & fakes, pretenders & tricksters, scammers, schemers and swindlers among the many others whom mislead people from the truth are all guilty.
Even worse, truth-telling is in trouble. America would rather be politically correct than truthful. We would rather lie than lose popularity. Tolerance is trumpeted rather than truth. Lying has become acceptable if it benefits us toward a greater goal – it’s the philosophy: the ends justify the means. This cannot be further from the truth; pun intended!
EXAMINE Love Others: Truth Matters Exodus 20:16
Today we approach the 9th Commandment, and the last in our LIVE10 series (last week combined 8 & 10) which says in Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”. Theologian John Calvin explained, essentially the 8th Commandment (not stealing) tied his hands but the 9th Commandment (not lying) tied his tongue. Indeed, we are all hand & tongue-tied. And typically lies only beget more lies and upon other sins. It’s like that can window insulation that is extremely sticky and can’t get off your hands for several days. Lying is often a rope that ties you to breaking the other Commandments (lie against God, lie to parents, lie to adulterate, lie to murder, steal & covet); but the problem is this rope hangs us!
The 9th Commandment is not merely avoiding lying but telling the truth. When we tell a lie we are guilty but when we are silent from speaking truth we are guilty. This message will focus on the seriousness of this sin and the reality of its consequences.
Reality#1: Lying is detested by God.
As we examine the sin of lying we should not start with ourselves but we should start with God. Each message in this series has noted that the Commandments teach us about the character of God. So, what does the 9th Commandment teach? It teaches that God is the opposite of lies – truth is His identity and in His character.
Numbers 23:19 “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken and will he not fulfill it?”
2Samuel 22:31 “This God – his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”
Psalm 19:9 “the rules of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
Psalm 119:160 “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”
John 1:14 Jesus was “full of grace and truth”
John 14:6 “Jesus said ‘I am the way and the truth and the life”
John 4:23 “The Father is seeking people to worship him [in spirit and in truth]”
Hebrews 6:18 “it is impossible for God to lie”
µ Today, people assert both that God does not exist and nor does absolute truth. If you can dismiss God then you reject absolute truth. Truth has become relative for different people, different places, different needs and purposes. But the problem remains – how do we know that truth is relative; if truth cannot be known how can one know anything? Do you see the dilemma? If there is no God, no truth then there is no sin and each of these 10 Commandments can be tossed out and life is a free for all. But… look back at how Moses received these commands. Moses received these commands through a powerful, earth-shaking experience and encounter with the living God (19:17 the people met God and in 20:1 God spoke). Truth was revealed through fire and that fire produced faith – faith in God. Truth is not created but revealed.
Deuteronomy 4:33-40 “Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live?34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire.37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power,38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day,39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you,”
Further, God is opposed to the opposite of truthfulness.
Psalm 5:6 “You [God] destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
Psalm 34:13 “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”
Psalm 51:6a “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts…”
Psalm 101:6-7 “6 My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. 7 No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.
Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
Proverbs 12:22 “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”
Proverbs 19:5 “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free.”
Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
ð We must be transformed by truth. Truth is not meant for mere information but transformation. God transforms us with His truth so that we may reflect His glory.
Ephesians 4:14-15 The church exists “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”
- Transformation by truth occurs through time in God’s Word.
Reality #2: Lying destroys ourselves & our neighbors
The 9th Commandment reminds us our actions are not in isolation of others but that lying is “against our neighbor”. The reminder that these commands focus both vertical toward God and horizontal towards others is much needed. We cannot forget that sin not only hurts ourselves but those around us – including those whom we love. They hurt, break hearts, disappoint and disillusion others. A person who can look another person eye to eye and lie is careless and cold-hearted. I can say that because I have been that person. But why do we do this?
We lie to puff ourselves up and to appease others. We lie because somehow we see a benefit – like lying to get out of trouble, or lying to save a friend from trouble, or lying to make certain people think a certain way about you. Lying can become the most convenient way to get what you want.
Proverbs 20:17 “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.”
In other words, we may think lying is productive but its end result is empty. I promise, there is no nutritional value to gravel – or lying.
Sometimes we lie because we are insecure. We are self-conscious, have low self-esteem, doubt our looks & intellect thinking that no one could possibly love or accept us unconditionally. And so we lie to receive love. But if we have to lie to receive love, is that really love?
Illus.: A survey of 2,200 professionals at small, medium and large businesses showed 70% had discovered a person who had lied on their resume. Another 7% said they hadn’t caught an applicant in a lie, but they knew someone who had. We are insecure in our own identity so we lie!
I left off my DOB on my resume because I knew many churches had a bias age category they wanted to fit… wasn’t lying just not forthright 🙂
Our insecurity in our own identity causes us to lie – and sometimes our lies catch up to us and they destroy ourselves and/or others. This can be seen when people slander or gossip against each other. As a church, we must guard against gossip. Gossip will devastate a church fellowship and destroy any work of God. And so we must be people who “put away falsehood… and speak the truth with our neighbors, for we are members one of another… Let no corrupt talk come out of our mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:25, 29).
ð Lies come from Satan. He wants you to believe and follow in his lies so you are doomed to his same fate. John 8:44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. 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.” Only God’s truth will set you free (John 8:32).
ð Love defeats lies. 1Corinthians 13:6-7 “love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
ð God’s love defeated satan’s lies through his unconditional love in the gospel. We do not have to lie or shade the truth for God to accept us based on something we are not. Instead, God loves us when we admit “we are not!” When we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. He died for deceivers, idolaters, thieves, greedy swindlers – and in Christ we are washed clean, justified, sanctified and set apart for new use in God’s grace & glory (1Corinthians 6:9-11).
ð Confess sin (tell the truth to God)
“God delights in truth in the inward being” Psalm 51:6
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” 1 John 1:9-10
“Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues” Psalm 120:2