AGCC Sun. a.m. 5/30/99
TEXTS: Ex. 20:16; Deut. 19:15-19; James 4:11-12; Matt. 18:15-17
INTRO: The 9th commandment affects the whole world whether they are Christians or not. In fact, that is the marvel of the 10 commandments, they stand alone as truth whether people believe in God or not. Since God is the author of all truth, it doesn't matter what the world thinks about His Word, it is still truth!
The whole of humanity suffers when truth is sacrificed for lies. It has unfortunately become a way of life in our culture, too many today believe it is "normal" to tell lies:
ILLUS: In the July 15, 1993 Boardroom Reports, Peter LeVine writes: "When the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ran a help-wanted ad for electricians with expertise at using Sontag connectors, it got 170 responses--even though there is no such thing as a Sontag connector. The Authority ran the ad to find out how many applicants falsify resumes." -- Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 1.
It is tragic to realize just how easily we accept bending the truth. Since the adults of our society have modeled falsehoods so well it has even become the second language of our youth:
ILLUS: On a beautiful fall day, four of my granddaughter's friends decided to go for a drive instead of showing up to class on time. When they did arrive, the girls explained to the teacher they had had a flat tire. The teacher accepted the excuse, much to the girls' relief. "Since you missed this morning's quiz, you must take it now," she said. "Please sit in the four corner seats in this room without talking." When they were seated, the teacher said, "On your paper write the answer to one question: 'Which tire was flat?'"-- Clara Null, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
The only thing preventing a meltdown of human society are these words: "Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" A failure to do this could mean the destruction of innocent lives and a level of distrust within our culture that would prevent the truth from ever ruling.
PROP. SENT: The Bible calls us to guard our hearts against the damage that comes to both us and others when we bear false witness or lie. No society will long endure, nor will any human relationship that is not founded on truth.
I. BEARING A FALSE TESTIMONY Ex. 20:16; Deut. 19:15-19; James 4:11-12
1. The Obvious Lie - when truth is altered to say something that is simply not true.
ILLUS: Lincoln was trying to make a point. His hearer was unconvinced and stubborn. So Lincoln tried another tack. He said to the disputer, "Well, let's see now. How many legs does a cow have?" The disgusted reply came back "Four, of course." Lincoln agreed, "That's right. Now, suppose you call the cow's tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?" The opponent replied confidently, "Why, five, of course." Lincoln came back, "Now that's where you're wrong. Calling a cow's tail a leg doesn't make it a leg!" --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 483.
a. No amount of telling the falsehood will change the truth, but it will change the relationship we have with the person we lied to or about.
b. When truth is not given, everyone loses.
2. Libel - this is using the truth in such a way as to hurt someone, sometimes in a court of law it is called, "malicious intent."
a. While this is not an actual lie, it is the use of truth to still bear a false witness in such a way as to do damage to someone.
b. Even the truth must be used in a righteous way!
ILLUS: The editor of a small-town newspaper grew tired of being called a liar, and announced that he would tell the truth in the future. The next issue contained the following item: "Married--Miss Sylvan Rhodes and James Collins, last Saturday at the Baptist parsonage, by the Rev. J. Gordon. The bride is a very ordinary town girl, who doesn't know any more about cooking than a jackrabbit, and never helped her mother three days in her life. She is not a beauty by any means and has a gait like a duck. The groom is an up-to-date loafer. He has been living off the old folks at home all his life and is now worth shucks. It will be a hard life." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988)
3. Slander - This is a lie intended to damage someone or protect self. It is a direct violation of the 9th commandment.
ILLUS: A school principal received a phone call. The voice said, "Thomas Bradley won't be in school today." The principal was a bit suspicious of the voice. He asked, "Who is speaking?" The voice came back, "My father." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 288.
a. It was this particular type of lie that God's Word warned against.
b. In fact, so serious was the danger of this type of lie that God's Word declared that all such facts must be established by more than a single witness or the person should not be held for punishment.
c. The breach of relationships is a serious issue to God, and lying destroys all such relationships.
4. Exaggeration - this kind of stretching the truth can leave casualties also.
a. When truth gets stretched damage can occur to the relationships as well.
b. After a while it will be difficult for people to take at face value what is said, and it can create false impressions of others that can lead to bad relationships.
c. Unfortunately, exaggeration comes too easily for most people.
ILLUS: In Boston a minister noticed a group of boys standing around a small stray dog. "What are you doing, boys?" "Telling lies," said one of the boys. "The one who tells the biggest lie gets the dog." "Why, when I was your age," the shocked minister said, "I never ever thought of telling a lie." The boys looked at one another, a little crestfallen. Finally one of them shrugged and said, "I guess he wins the dog." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 287.
5. Silence or Innuendo - We can even bear false witness by failing to speak the truth, sometimes by not saying something we can hurt others or allow a false witness to exist on someone, or we can create a false witness by holding back truth!
a. Such comments like, "If you only knew what I knew about so and so, but I promised not to say anything…"
b. The failure for many to speak up in World War II when Hitler did his atrocities was a way to allow them to continue…this failure to speak the truth can also be a form of bearing a false witness.
B. Tragedy! Deut. 19:15-19; James 4:11-12
1. It was so important to God that peoples' lives be preserved from false testimonies or witnesses that He required that there be at least 2 or 3 others to speak the same thing before something should be regarded as true.
a. This is a good idea for today also!
b. Too often things get passed around as "truth" on the sole testimony of one person.
c. We must remember that a single person can slant the truth in such a way as to be viewed from their own framework, but coming through several sources helps to mitigate that the truth will remain intact.
d. In the Old Testament law someone guilty of a false testimony would be punished with the same punishment that he intended for the person they bore false witness against.
ILLUS: It isn't the things that go in one ear and out the other that hurt as much as the things that go in one ear, get all mixed up, and then slip out the mouth. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 256.
2. People's lives are too important to God to tolerate false testimonies.
a. As the Father of all truth, God is inherently against all lies!
b. Satan however is called the "father of all lies" - he is the "deceiver," when we use lies we are aligning ourselves with Satan rather than our heavenly Father.
c. All lies yield more sin!
ILLUS: "Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
3. The tragedy of lies is that both the one who told them suffers, as does the person for whom they are about. Ultimately, the entire society suffers and our relationship with God is destroyed!
II. BEARERS OF FREEDOM & TRUTH Matt. 18:15-17
A. Truth Matt. 18:15a
1. Truth is designed to not only help us walk right in a crooked world, but to set free the broken person as well.
a. If there is something wrong in a relationship, the two parties involved are to sit down and work it out with truth prevailing, but truth that is designed to heal and not just hurt.
b. It is God's truth about brokenness that will offer the greatest chance at healing.
2. This is so hard to do in a world that has become accustomed to lies as a way of life!
ILLUS: Leonard Sweet, in his Soul Cafe newsletter, included this list of "Top 10 Liars' Lies": 10. We'll stay only five minutes. 9. This will be a short meeting. 8. I'll respect you in the morning. 7. The check is in the mail. 6. I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you. 5. This hurts me more than it hurts you. 4. Your money will be cheerfully refunded. 3. We service what we sell. 2. Your table will be ready in just a minute. 1. I'll start exercising (dieting, forgiving, ...) tomorrow. -- Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4.
3. Such a world where little lies are so common can make us cynical to the truth.
a. Yet, our goal should be to live in such a way before men to enable us to trust one another, even with the process of healing our wounds with one another.
b. Matthew 18 prescribes a process for dealing with brokenness in an honest way that will bring glory to God and restoration to relationships.
4. We are not to ignore the issues of sin that destroy peoples lives.
B. Transformation Matt. 18:15b-17
1. Should we learn to deal honestly with one another we would see a transformation not only in the Church but in the society as well.
a. It would become a "shame" again to speak falsely of others.
b. We would find it less acceptable to permit lies to damage people lives.
ILLUS: The "credibility gap" that once alienated the public from people in high places now seems to separate us from one another in all walks of life. Americans lie on their income tax returns to the tune of millions of dollars a year. Doctors fake reports in order to profit from Medicare patients. Prize athletes at great universities are kept eligible for competition through bogus credits and forged transcripts of academic records. Children soon acquire the cynical assumption that lying is the normal tack for TV advertisers. In the words of a Time magazine essay, ours is "a huckstering, show-bizzy world, jangling with hype, hullabaloo, and hooey, bull, baloney, and bamboozlement." After a while, people tend to expect not to hear the truth anymore; in 1976, a national poll showed that 69 percent of Americans believed that the country's leaders had, over the last decade, consistently lied to the people. Lewis Smedes, Mere Morality --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 456.
2. To return our culture to an honest one we must begin with the individual.
3. Wholeness in relationships are a must for a culture to survive, and for a soul to develop into the character of God that we are suppose to maintain.
4. The 9th commandment calls us to honor God by honoring the truth in ways that build up and not tear down.
a. Even when such truth is required to deal with wrongdoing between people.
b. Certainly our lives would experience God's fullness when we live the truth rather than the lies so pervasive in our society today.
5. God help us to speak the truth in love, to raise the banner of honesty to the level of "normal" again. Let it begin with us as God's people!
CONCLUSION: The fabric of all healthy relationships is woven with truth. Lying tears this fabric apart and so destroys all trust and confidence in one another. Since "God is truth" we cannot violate truth and still enjoy a relationship with Him also. God help us to bear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth - so help us God!