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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:I must love the truth
Text:LD 43 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 9th Commandment (Lying)
 
Preached:2013
Added:2013-12-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 3:1-3

Psalm 36

Psalm 119:62

Hymn 1

Psalm 101

Scripture readings:  Amos 8, 1 Peter 2:13-25

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 43

 

 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

Albert Thompson was given one of the toughest jobs imaginable.  He was called in as a substitute teacher for a Grade 4 class in Chicago’s inner city.  This class was out of control.  The kids were shouting and fighting and no one was sitting at their desks.  It was utter chaos.  Kids were running in and out of the classroom.  Mr. Thompson blocked their way and told them that he was reporting them to the principal.

One of those reported was a nine-year old girl and she was not happy about it.  She hated the substitute teacher.  She thought of a way to get back at him.  She made up a story and then she bribed ten other kids in the class for a dollar each to tell the same story to the principal.  Each of the kids told the principal that Mr. Thompson had done something terrible to them.  You can imagine what happened next.  Albert Thompson was immediately suspended and a police investigation began.  That investigation soon revealed the plot.  The girl confessed and all the kids she bribed confirmed it.  Yet some of the parents still wanted him charged.  They pressured the police to arrest him and charge him.  The police refused, but enough damage had been done.  Thompson had to give up teaching, because everywhere he went this story followed him.  His life and reputation had been devastated.

That real-life story is a powerful illustration of the way that our words can easily destroy the people around us.  We all know the saying about sticks and stones, but the reality is something different.  Words can and do hurt you and others.

Our God knows this too and for that reason he’s given us a commandment that deals with our words and with communication.  The Ninth Commandment is about how we use our communication.  It teaches us to use our words to build up rather than tear down.  But it goes beyond our words – it encompasses everything in human life connected with communication.  So it addresses the words we write on Facebook or the e-mails we send, but also the tax return we send in each year.  The Ninth Commandment addresses us as kids at school or on the bus as we’re talking with our friends, but it also addresses what happens when you have an opportunity to cheat on a test.  Everywhere we go and everywhere we are, the Ninth Commandment teaches us that we are to love the truth.  That’s our theme this afternoon as we consider this commandment with the help of Lord’s Day 43.  “I must love the truth.”  We’ll look at:

  1. Why
  2. How
  3. Where and when

Why should we want to keep the Ninth Commandment?  Well, you probably right away think of Lord’s Day 32 and the fact that the Law of God is an important way for Christians to show their gratitude for salvation.  We have been saved by God’s grace, and so we express our thankfulness by striving to follow God’s will.  This is indeed an excellent motivation.

Yet when it comes to the Ninth Commandment, the Bible gives us additional motivation.  We find some of that in what we read from 1 Peter 2.  The apostle Peter describes the sufferings of Christ.  He’s writing to believers who are themselves experiencing persecution and suffering.  The Roman Empire persecuted Christians and many were martyred for their faith.  That went on into the following centuries.  Polycarp was one of the most well-known martyrs.  He was told to deny his faith by burning incense to the Roman Emperor.  He refused and said, “I have served him 86 years and he has done me no wrong.  How can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?”  Polycarp was then burnt at the stake.  He saw denying his faith in terms of blasphemy, but it can also be seen in terms of bearing false witness.  You are lying about what you know is true in order to save your skin.  You’re also giving a false testimony against the Lord, saying that he is not who he says he is. 

That bring us back to 1 Peter 2 and the suffering those Christians were experiencing.  The temptation would have been there for them too to deny the Lord.  In the face of that, the apostle Peter tells them to look to Christ and his sufferings.  In his sufferings, he left an example for Christians.  Then in verse 22, he quotes Isaiah 53, the well-known prophecy about Christ.  He quotes Isaiah 53:9, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”               

Those words are certainly true of the entire life of Christ.  Throughout his stay on this earth, our Saviour never committed any sin.  And there was never a moment when lies came out of his mouth.  However, Peter is especially writing about the sufferings of Christ at the end of his life.  He could have lied to save himself.  He could have said, “I take it all back.  I know I said that I was the Christ, but I was wrong.”  However, before his accusers, our Saviour Jesus continued to tell the truth.  He did not back down. 

According to Peter, that is an example for believers, so that they might follow in the steps of Jesus.  We have a Saviour who refused to back down from the truth about himself.  He did it because he loved us.  He went to the cross because he was steadfast in his truth-telling, and he did it to save us.  Now, Peter says, walk in his steps.  Follow the example of this Saviour who loved you so much.  Make sure that, for you too, no deceit is found in your mouth or in your life.  We are to love the truth because we have a Saviour who consistently embodies the truth.  That’s a good reason, don’t you think?

Since we have a good reason to love the truth, how are we to do that?  Here we could follow what the Catechism says in Answer 112.  We’re not to give false testimony against anyone.  You can’t make up stories about people.  We are not to twist anyone’s words, make them say what they did not mean to say.  We are not to gossip or slander.  Now it’s important to stop there for a second, because there’s often a lot of rationalizing that goes on around that.  Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “I’m not gossiping, I’m telling the truth.”  That assumes that gossip involves lies.  Sometimes it does.  But most of the time gossip involves passing on unflattering truths.  Most of the time when people are gossiping they’re telling the truth, but they’re not telling truths about their neighbour that builds that person up.  That’s what this commandment addresses.  We’re to use our communication to build people up, not to tear them down. 

Moving on with the Catechism, we are not to condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.  This is not a blanket statement covering all condemnation.  Sometimes it is necessary to condemn someone or someone’s views.  Our confessions do this.  The Bible does this.  But the important words here are “rashly and unheard.”  That means that we have to investigate carefully before saying anything.  We have to reflect and pray.  Is there another side to the story that we’re not getting?

The Catechism goes on to say that we are to “avoid all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works, under penalty of God’s heavy wrath.”  Lying is communicating mistruths with your mouth.  Deceit goes far beyond that to encompass all kinds of other things. 

In 2007, a six-year old girl in the US entered an essay contest.  The prize was four tickets to a Hannah Montana concert and a makeover.  The girl won the contest.  Her prize-winning essay began with these words, “My daddy died this year in Iraq…”  However, her father had never been a soldier and certainly never died in Iraq.  When confronted about it, the girl’s mother defended her.  She said, “We did the essay and that’s what we did to win.  We did whatever we could to win.”  That’s deceit.  That’s the work of the devil, the father of lies.

In Colorado, 35 high school students hacked into their teacher’s computer last year and changed their grades.  Teachers are not immune either.  Earlier this year, two Philadelphia school administrators were caught inflating student scores on standardized tests.  According to one survey, 51% of high school students in the US admitted to cheating on an exam.  All of this is deceit too.  It’s all the work of the devil.

The entire Bible speaks clearly about deceit.  In Deuteronomy 25, the people of Israel were commanded to be fair in their business dealings.  Back in those days, trade required the use of weights and balances.  For things to be fair, everybody had to be using the same weight.  You couldn’t have one person using a weight that they said was one pound, whereas it was actually something different.  That would be cheating, it would be deceitful.  Everyone’s weight had to be exactly the same.  In Deuteronomy 25, this was laid out quite clearly.  Verse 13, “You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small.”  Instead, they were to have full and fair weights and measures.  Then verse 16 added, “For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.”  You see, it’s not just about lying with your lips, you can also act dishonestly and deceitfully and thereby break the law of God.

Then what do we see in Amos 8?  Israel has sunk to historic lows.  The needy are trampled upon.  The poor are taken advantage of.  The Sabbath is not a delight, but a pain.  They can’t wait to get it over and done with so that they can continue to take advantage of the poor.  One of the ways they do that, according to verse 5, is by making the ephah great and the shekel small.  The ephah is a measure of grain.  So they were taking that measure of grain and somehow changing it to their advantage.  The shekel was a coin.  In the ancient world, coins were actually made of precious metals like gold or silver.  Sometimes people would shave their coins to get more gold or silver in their pockets.  A shekel was supposed to be a certain amount of gold, but because it had been shaved, it was less.  This was a way of dealing deceitfully with false balances.  This was a way of acting dishonestly and it was an abomination to God.

Now maybe today we don’t work with weights and measures anymore like they did in Israel.  Our coins are not made of precious metals anymore and so no one is going to start shaving their loonies and twoonies.  But keep in mind the words of Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things…”  By nature we are all inclined to deceitfulness, and this deceitfulness can take a myriad of forms.  We’re very creative when it comes to being deceitful, whether it’s to gain a few more dollars or to preserve our image before others.  Loved ones, we have to be aware of this tendency in ourselves and seek to put it to death.  It is something that God hates and we should hate it too.

But like with every commandment, there’s not only the negative side, but also the positive.  There’s not only the side of what we’re not to do, but also what we are to do.  In Answer 112, that means first of all orienting our hearts in the right way:  loving the truth.  We need to learn to love what the Lord loves.  For that, we need to ask the help of the Holy Spirit.  He needs to change our hearts so that they love things that are pleasing to God, including truth.

But that goes on to actions.  We are to speak and confess the truth honestly.  With our language and with our behaviour, we want to be known as people of integrity, people who can be trusted to speak and do what is truthful.

We’re also to do what we can to defend and promote our neighbour’s honour and reputation.  In other words, this is about building up the people around us.  Wherever we can, we want to be people who are positive and encouraging, not only to the people right in front of us, but also to those who aren’t with us at that very moment.                 

Now what about where and when we are to love the truth?  The Catechism says that it first of all applies in court.  If we find ourselves in a courtroom and asked to give testimony, we are to do so truthfully.  We are to tell the whole truth in that setting.  Now that might not happen very often in our lives, but it could and when it does, we have to do the right thing and speak honestly. 

But we are also to love the truth and act and speak accordingly “everywhere else.”  Everywhere we go as Christians, we have to be people of integrity.  On Sunday, when you’re with God’s people at church, but also Monday morning when you’re at work.   On Sunday at church, but then also at school or in your neighbourhood.  Everywhere we go, we have to be those who walk in the footsteps of our Saviour Jesus, in whose mouth there was no deceit. 

As far as the time goes, we are to speak the truth when it is constructive and glorifying to God.  Ephesians 4:15 says that we are to speak the truth in love.   Not all truth needs to be said at all times.  There can be times when the constructive thing to do is to keep your mouth shut.  My mom always used to say, “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.”  There’s a lot of wisdom in that.  You could think of Proverbs 17:28 as well, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”  As the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to speak and a time to keep silent.  The time to keep silent is when your words will tear down, instead of being constructive.  You see, even telling the truth can be a form of false of witness.  Even when we are speaking words that are technically true, whether in gossip behind somebody’s back or even to their face, we could be breaking this ninth commandment.  If those words are hurtful and destructive, meant to tear down, then we are going against the will of God.  We are sinning. 

Loved ones, what this teaches us is that we have to be careful and reflective with the way we speak to one another.  Too often we just speak carelessly, from the hip, without thinking about the consequences of our words, or how our words might be perceived.  But as Christians, we have to think of our neighbour and his or her feelings.  We have to look beyond ourselves to think about the other person.  And remember that as we speak and act in this world, we represent someone.  We represent Christ, our gracious Saviour.  Don’t we want people to sense his grace and love through us? 

All of God’s law is increasingly disrespected in our day.  But some commandments more than others.  In our culture today, truth is mocked, even the very concept of absolute truth is mocked.  Gossip and slander are usually not even thought of as being sinful, it’s just what people do.  This is a dark world in which we live.  As Christians, we have a calling to shine a light, to live in a different way, a way that reflects our God and honours him.  Indeed, in this dark world of lies, we are to love the truth and embody it.  AMEN.

Prayer:

O God of truth,

Thank you for your Word of truth for us again this afternoon.  We thank you for a Saviour who never had any deceit in his mouth.  We thank you that through him we have forgiveness for all our lies and deception.  We thank you that we have his perfect obedience imputed to us, also his obedience to the Ninth Commandment.   Father, we want to walk in his footsteps.  We want to love the truth and live it.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit so that we can put to death all forms of lying and deceit in our lives.  Help us so that we can live out of our new nature in Christ, and speak the truth honestly.  Please give us your aid so that we can be constructive with our communication, building up instead of tearing down.  We want to do this for your glory and for the good of those around us, so we ask for your guidance and strength.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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