Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbour, for we are members of one another. [Ephesians 4:25]
I suggested in the previous article1 that we are prone to listen to the lie of the devil, namely that worshipping the creation rather than the Creator Redeemer brings Shalom, well being, prosperity, peace, and joy to life. The very opposite, leading to Hades, a living hell on earth, will be the case. Whatever you serve and worship controls you, dominates you. When you long for the approval of others then fear, anxiety, and anger will eventually be your lot. And from this you are prone to exaggerate the truth. You are prone to misrepresent your position or status, giving the impression you are far better than you really are. You will be given to hiding your true performance, finding it impossible to mention to anyone your sin, doing all you can to keep it under wraps. You will tell white lies, and even bold-faced ones. You will do all you can to make as many people as possible view you as a wonderful, well-adjusted, successful person.
But you need to put away falsehood. You need to come clean with God and those who know you well. You are not fooling God. He already sees all your sin. And though your friends probably think you have some issues of sin and weakness, they really have no idea how bad, corrupt, and rotten you really are. Here’s the amazing thing, however; here’s the truth of the gospel – God knows all about you, your sin and corruption, your lascivious thoughts, your hateful attitudes and speech. He knows what goes on secretly in the privacy of your own life, and he loves you anyway through Christ. It has nothing to do with you. You are, in fact, in your behaviour, most corrupt and dishonouring to God. Yet God has loved you through Christ, having taken your sin as far as the east is from the west, having delivered you from the domain of darkness, having transferred you into the kingdom of his beloved Son, having extracted you from the miry clay, having set you upon a rock, having put a new song in your heart of praise to God. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has pledged his covenantal love toward you because of Christ’s work on the cross. Nothing will ever separate you from the love of God in Christ. Therefore, don’t listen to the lies of the devil and your fleshly mind. Live out the glorious freedom you have in Christ. And lest you think this gives you a licence to sin, remember that a couple in love goes the extra mile to serve each other. They are committed to each other, not out of duty, but out of love. They want to serve and make the other happy. In a far greater way this is true of all who understand something of the height and depth and breadth and length of the love of Jesus.
But how can you become more consistent in believing the truth and shunning the lie? This only comes by knowing experientially that your salvation is all of God. When you comprehend this, you will love God for his kindness to you, and you increasingly will hate your sin. I am not saying you will overcome your sin completely in this life. That is quite impossible. Indwelling sin and the lusts of the flesh are still there and very powerful. I am saying, however, that you can see progressive sanctification, marked and consistent improvement. When you hate your sin more than you love it, you will shun it. On several occasions I have eaten at a local Chinese food buffet but the last two times there, I became terribly sick. There is no way I will ever go in that restaurant again. The very thought is repulsive to me. When sin becomes repulsive to you, then you will stay away from it.
So Paul is commanding you always to speak the truth. He means you are always to speak the truth about God – his attributes, his mighty deeds, what he says about creation, fall, redemption, and the restoration of all things. You are to speak the truth to your brothers and sisters in Christ. There never is any room for misleading, exaggerating, or lying to brethren. There never is room for withholding important information to those who need it. How can a family not tell a loved one that his illness is terminal? How can a friend not tell his friend that his behaviour and values are sinful and offensive? And you are to speak the truth to non-Christians. I understand the concept of friendship evangelism. What’s behind this is the whole notion of ‘earning the right’ to speak to others about their souls. Certainly some people are so far away from Christ that they may not understand the simplest explanations of the gospel, and many conversations may need to occur in order for the person to grasp truth. We often say that we need to ‘love on the other person’ and then we can share Christ. Is it really love to withhold eternal verities? Let’s say your friend visits you and his body is covered with poison ivy. You know the remedy to relieve his suffering – Calamine lotion – and you have some in your medicine cabinet. Would you not share it with your friend? Would it not be unloving to withhold it? Let’s be honest – most of our failure to share the gospel with our friends and family is our own pride, our pride of being viewed as religious fanatics, our pride of being rejected. Let’s face it – the reason we speak so little of Christ is because he means so little to us. Do you not speak of those things which are important to you – your spouse, your children and grandchildren, your favourite sports team? Only when Christians are overflowing in love for Jesus will they speak easily and confidently about him.
When Jesus was arrested and after the High Priest Caiaphas had made his accusations against him, Jesus was led to Pilate who asked the Jews, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’ They answered, rather condescendingly, ‘If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’ Pilate told them to take him themselves and judge Jesus according to their own law, but the Jews self-righteously said they were not allowed to put anyone to death. Pilate then asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews and Jesus replied that his kingdom was not of this world for if it was, then his servants would be fighting to deliver him from the Jews. Pilate wanted to confirm that Jesus was a king, and he said he was, that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Pilate asked, ‘What is truth?’ Great question. What is truth? What are we to say to God, believers, and unbelievers? We are to speak of God as the Holy One of Israel, the God of the covenant of grace, the One who spoke, bringing all things into being. We are to speak of the fall into sin, and the dilatory effects of it on all creation. We are to speak of the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the mediator of God’s covenant. We are to declare the restoration of all things, that God will come down to heaven again to restore the fallen world to its original pristine glory. We are to remind people that the sufferings of this present world are not to be compared with the Lord that awaits us. We are to comfort them, telling them God will never leave or abandon them.
- The previous article can be found in the ‘Articles’ section of the website, here.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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