The Ten Suggestions (part 9)

 Dr. Gary Glanville Sermon #11 “The Ten Suggestions?” (Part 9) May 17, 2020

Preparation Hymn: What A Friend We Have In Jesus

Closing Hymn: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

The Ten Suggestions?  (Part IX)

 

           Over two months ago, we, as a church, were working through a series of messages on the Ten Commandments that we called The Ten Suggestions followed by a question mark.  And we added the question mark for a reason as we asked – do words that were written over 3400 years ago have any relevance for our lives today in 2020?  In other words, are the Ten Commandments divine laws that are absolute for all time offering guidance, or are they now considered obsolete and outdatedDoes truth remain truth no matter what generation encounters it?   Or does truth change and become relative to one’s context, that is, what may be true for you is not necessarily true for me?  Because you see in today’s world—we have been taught to question absolutes, to justify sin with tolerance, and to prefer gray over black and white.

           So as we dive into this series again, finishing out the last two commandments, 9 & 10 over two Sundays, our goal in our study will be to ask if the Ten Commandments are still relevant, viable, and reliable, or should we just chalk them up as helpful guides to past generations, but only suggestions for those of us in the 21st Century?  So, let’s see what we can discover.

 Now for you sport’s people who have gone cold turkey for over 60 days now, and find yourselves going through withdrawals, and would be pumped to watch anything competitive on TV including a ping pong game, have you ever noticed how oftentimes during a championship match, the reporter after the game will interview not only the winners, but also the losing team to get their perspective on the match-up?  Some players and coaches, regardless of what happens will take responsibility for their actions, while others may find a way to make-up some type of excuse for their loss.

One of the more humble and honest replies from sports’ history, came from a quarterback after the 1940 NFL playoffs.  The Chicago Bears had totally humiliated the Washington Redskins 73 to 0, scoring eleven touchdowns.  The referees even asked the Bears if they would stop kicking extra points after each touchdown because they were losing too many footballs in the stands.  Yet, what’s interesting, is that just three weeks prior to this championship game, the Redskins had beaten the Bears.

During the interview, one of the reporters commented about the importance that momentum can make in a game and asked the Redskin’s quarterback, Sammy Baugh, how the game might have been different if his team had scored first.  His reply was this, “The score would then have been 73 to 7.” Here was a man who was honestly admitting his team was simply outplayed that day and there was no sense lying about it, or stretching the truth by making-up excuses.

Well, the concept of lying or stretching the truth ties in with our main Scripture text for today found in Exodus 20:16 where it says – “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  Moving from the Old Testament to the New, the book of Colossians says it this way in chapter 3, verse 9 – “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.”

Take a moment and look across society, from advertisers to politicians to unscrupulous doctors falsifying Medicare reports to scam more money from the government, we are bombarded each week with false claims and false promises.  While at the same time, secular humanism teaches and wants us to believe there is nothing absolutely true or false, but only what you perceive as truth that works for you. 

And then sometimes if lies are big enough, or repeated often enough, or spread wide enough, people will begin to believe them, such as the negative propaganda in the 1930s and 40s  regarding the Jews during the time of Nazi Germany, to where 6 million Jews were exterminated as an inferior people, the cause for many of the problems Germany faced.

And sometimes, it’s not so much stretching the truth, or manipulating the truth into a falsehood for others to believe, but rather, holding back all or part of the truth that makes it a lie.

It’s like the story of two men who went for a swim at a beach near the mouth of the Zambezi River in Mozambique. One of them asked a young boy who was fishing nearby, whether there were sharks in the water. The boy replied – “No.”

So, the two men jumped in the river to go swimming. A few minutes later one of the men called out to the boy after seeing something large moving in the water.  He asked again, “Are you sure there are no sharks in here?”

“No sharks,” the boy said, “Sharks are afraid of crocodiles.”

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “A little lie is like a little pregnancy – it doesn’t take long before everyone knows.”

Now one question we should probably ask from the very beginning is why is lying and bearing a false witness such a big deal to God that it became part of the big ten grouping of things not to do?  And I believe the answer is based and founded on the character of God.  You see, part of God’s basic nature stemming from His holiness is the principle of truthfulness.  For instance, we read in Hebrews 6:18 “It is impossible for God to lie.”  Titus 1:2 tells us God cannot lie.  Why is that?  Because it is not a part of God’s nature.  God can only speak truth.  In the book of Proverbs, chapter 6, we read there are seven things the Lord hates, two of which are a lying tongue and a false witness. (v.16-19)

So, with this background, what I want to attempt today, is to look at the 9th Commandment through the lens of five categories of lying we still see in the year 2020, and ask the question, are these words that are over 3400 years old still relevant for present day society?  Is lying still an issue people grapple with or has the modern world figured it all out and risen above it?  Could folks still use some guidance in this area or is the idea of a commandment way too restrictive?  Would our world overall be better off, more harmonious and peaceful, if people abided by these simple guidelines for life?

1.)  The first category of lying I want to address is the idea of not telling all of the truth.  And when I think about this, the first illustration that comes to mind is used cars.  Have you ever boughten a used car from someone else and discovered later some of the problems and bugs which are now nickel and diming you?  I know I have, and for some reason major car problems always seem to show up at the most inconvenient times when you’re trying to get somewhere important. 

           I remember buying a car (from a private owner) in the late 70s so I could attend seminary in Kentucky.  I was done with college and now I was headed off to attend school to become a pastor.  My car was all packed up and as I drove south on I-75, I made it as far as Bowling Green, Ohio, when all of a sudden, my car started blowing out white smoke from everywhere.  It looked like I was fogging for mosquitoes.  The head gasket had blown and my car was shaking everywhere. 

Now the man who sold me the car knew there were problems with it and I should have had the car checked out before attempting a major trip.  But I was young and dumb about cars and all I saw were four wheels and something in my price range – so I bought it.  That was a good learning experience for me that I won’t repeat. 

2.) The second category is telling a direct lie, which all of us personally understand.  We may define a direct lie as simply telling an untruth as if it were the truth and you happen to know the difference between the two.

Ever have a contractor over the phone make a promise to be at your house on a certain date and time to do some home repairs and they never show up?  Now there could be a legitimate reason why they never showed and called you back, or it could be the simple fact they told you what you wanted to hear to temporarily pacify you.  All I know is, I would rather someone tell me the truth up front than make up promises they never intend to keep.

3.)  And then #3, sometimes in life we don’t directly lie, we instead, indirectly lie by letting people assume things about us which are not true, or we let ideas slide by because it’s to our advantage.

I recall a time when Lisa and I were buying some children’s furniture. I called around to get prices over the phone, and of course, so many retailers will tell you they will beat anyone else’s price.  Well it ended up, this salesman was going to beat the price I quoted him, and Lisa was at the store at that moment to complete the transaction.  So, I agreed he had the best price and he earned the sale and we hung up. Then it dawned on me, with all of the phone calling I had made, this man was beating his own lowest bid.  I could have let it slide.  I knew he was still making a profit.  But I called him back to tell him the story because the price he quoted was based on false information.  He laughed about beating his own price, thanked me for my honesty, and still gave us the lower price anyway.

4.) The fourth category involves spreading a lie or an untruth about someone or something. I include the false witness under this category.  When we give a false witness or testimony toward someone else, we are essentially sinning against that person because we are harming them in some way. 

Let’s say for example, someone was building a successful career and another party was jealous and so they introduce a character flaw and sow seeds of doubt and distrust to the individual’s integrity.  Perhaps they say something like, “Well, you know how so ‘n’ so got where they are don’t you?”  We have the ability by our words to inflict damage or destroy someone’s reputation, or by accusing someone falsely cause injustice, such as with Jesus during His mock trial before His crucifixion.

           I think this is what politicians sometimes do with negative campaigning.  With politics we either smear the person’s reputation, suggesting they have a questionable character and therefore, as a candidate they are a bad risk to vote for.  Or, we only tell part of the story to discredit their record of voting or something they did in the past and make them look untrustworthy.

Another way of spreading a lie is by gossiping.  We pass along rumors which may not be entirely true or may have changed along the way as the story gets embellished.

It is one thing to be informed by someone regarding something that was heard, especially if it concerns us or a person we care about deeply.  However, it is absolutely vital that we check out the facts before passing along information.  At the same time, if in our conversation we are putting someone else down to make ourselves feel better, or look better, we are committing a disservice to that individual whom God loves and Jesus died for.

One of the things we can do as Christians to protect our character, because rumors and stories are always going to fly about us, is to live in such a way that any false words about us will eventually be dismissed as nonsense because people won’t believe them after knowing how we truly live.  As we live for Christ, let us live above the lies and false accusations thereby proving Christ lives in us.

5.) But then, we discover with our final category, the opposite can also be true, which involves living a lie.

There is a story told about a battered old vagabond who got up one night during a revival meeting and testified: “Brothers and sisters, you know and I know that I ain’t been what I ought to have been. I’ve stolen hogs and told lies, got drunk and been in fights, I’ve gambled and cussed up a storm; but I thank the Lord there’s one thing I ain’t never done – I ain’t never lost my religion.”

That’s quite the testimony don’t you think?  Well, speaking of religion, let me offer a thought on being a disciple of Jesus in the year 2020, because people watch if we are real or not, if we follow through on what we say. 

The word Christian describes someone who is not only a follower of Christ, they actually belong to Him.  That means, there should be an ever-increasing attitude within the believer, I live for the Lord and not for myself.  I desire to follow God’s will and glorify Him in all that I do and say.  And so, when you and I claim to be a Christian, does our lifestyle demonstrate the Christian walk?  Do we walk in the same manner as Jesus as it says in 1 John 2:6?  Do we ever say one thing with our lips but with our lives speak a different story?  Or as someone once said, “What you do speaks do loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”  The testimony of our actions and words is powerful.

But sometimes before you and I reach that level of commitment, where Jesus is the Lord of our lives, we lie to ourselves and convince ourselves, we are really not all that bad.  I mean, when compared to others, I feel pretty good about me.  I’m at least better than so ‘n’ so.  And since none of us are perfect, why do I need to confess my faults, or ask for forgiveness, or change some behavior, or surrender something to the Lord?  And you know, if life was measured by your human standards, you might be right.  However, God measures us by His perfect standards that you and I cannot reach.  Which is why we all need a Savior

The good news is, God faced the truth about us a long time ago. God knew then and God knows now the ins and outs of who we are and how we are fooling no one but ourselves.  Yet, in spite of all of this, the Lord hangs in there with us until we are ready to face the truth.  And you know what’s beautiful?  Knowing all that God does about us, all of our faults and failures, God still chooses to love us, and waits for us to finally say, “You’re right God.  I cannot save myself.  Thank You for sending Your Son to die on the cross for me.  Forgive me.  I choose to follow You and I surrender my life to Your control.” 

Yes, the 9th Commandment, written over 3400 years ago, reminds us, we should not lie or bear a false witness against our neighbor.  Yet, the question remains, do we think this world would be a better place if we listened to its historical advice?  I’ve decided, God’s advice (that is – His commands) are always timely and never go out of style!