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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:The Ninth Word directs us to embrace our identity in the Truth
Text:LD 43 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 9th Commandment (Lying)
 
Preached:2007
Added:2008-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 115:1,2
Hymn 1A
Psalm 119:4
Hymn 30
Psalm 82:2 (after the collection)
Psalm 101

Readings: Genesis 3, John 15:26-16:16
* 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 Christ Jesus,

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there is a progression in the commandments regarding how we live in connection with our neighbours. The fifth commandment is a sort of transition between living before God and living with men -- it deals with authority. The sixth commandment deals with life and its preservation. The seventh commandment moves on to relationships and the eighth speaks about property. When we come to the ninth word of the covenant, we come to communication.

Communication is something that we all do and sometimes, perhaps even many times, we do it badly. Examples are close at hand. Just think of what happened in Ottawa some time ago. A certain MP publicly accused another MP from another party of looking at inappropriate images on his notebook computer in the House of Commons. She was livid because this MP had not only degraded women with his brazen lewdness, but he had also brought disrepute on the House. Well, as it turned out, the MP misread the facts and she jumped to judgmental conclusions. She had to issue a public apology for her false accusations. This sort of thing happens all the time. People regularly jump to rotten conclusions based on gossip, a lack of charity, or even pure malice.

Not only is love for the truth an increasingly rare commodity, but what people do with the truth, how they communicate, is oftentimes a sad spectacle. And let’s face it, all of us are guilty of this. Even in the church, we break life down with our sins in the area of communication.

Well, how do we deal with these issues? We work with the assumption that sanctification is a matter of making progress in holiness, moving forward, so we have to deal with it. But how? Like with all other issues in the Christian life, we begin by looking closely at ourselves. Who are we and how is that going to impact how we live? We are redeemed believers, bought with precious blood of Jesus Christ. Through faith we have union with him – we are in him. He is described in the Bible as being truth personified. In John 14:6, he said that he is the Truth. Truth characterizes his mission – freeing people from lies and their effects. Truth characterizes his nature – he represents integrity in full measure. Truth characterizes every word that came from his lips. So it is to be with those who are united to him. Those who are in Christ reflect their identity with the way they communicate. That’s what’s driven home to us in Lord’s Day 43. As part of our sanctification, the Ninth Word of the covenant directs us to embrace our identity in the truth. That’s our theme. We’ll work this out considering:

  1. The first Adam and the lie.
  2. The second Adam and the truth.

Our love affair with the lie goes back a long way, right to the beginning in fact. At some point (we don’t know when), some of the angels rebelled against God. They became enemies of God and of all that is good. Their leader was the great Adversary, Satan (Satan means “Adversary” or “Enemy”). Satan is described in John 8:44 as being “the father of lies.” Lies are Satan’s little children. Let there be no doubt about it: Satan wants to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with his little kiddies, spitting images of their lying father.

And with that goal in mind, the devil deceitfully took on the form of a snake in Genesis 3. He didn’t come as he really was, but took on a disguise. See right away the trickery of Satan. He doesn’t present things as they are, but uses deception. This was already a false form of communication. Communication involves more than what we say. Communication is also done through things like body language, how we interact and what we wear. Let me illustrate. A young man who dresses like a rapper or a gangsta is communicating that he admires that lifestyle and is part of it, or wants to be part of it. He shouldn’t be surprised when people offer to sell him drugs. Or to use another example, a young woman who dresses provocatively is communicating (whether she realizes it or not) that she is available and interested in fornication. She shouldn’t be surprised when men expect her to deliver. Communication is much more than what we say.

But what we say is included. And we see that in Genesis 3 as well. When Satan approaches Eve he first creates doubt, “Did God really say…” He begins with a subtle form of deception, what seems to be a genuine question. From what follows, it’s clear that Satan knew very well what God had said. He was dishonest from the get-go, giving the impression that he was just missing some information. “Eve, I need your help here.” The question however was not about information, but about doubt and deception, getting the woman to wonder about what it was that God really said.

Eve’s reply to Satan was straightforward enough, a fairly accurate retelling of what it was that God had said. But then the serpent had her. His next statement did away with subtleties and was just a bald-faced lie: “You will not surely die.” Satan denied the truthfulness of God’s threat. “God is not going to do that to you if you eat of the fruit. God is just interested in protecting his turf and keeping you in your place. If you eat of this fruit, Eve, you will be like God.” That was the second lie – “You will be like God.” You can stand up on your own two feet; you don’t need God. The same lies are embraced by unbelief to this day. According to Romans 1, what may be known about God is plain to everyone. But unbelievers exchange the truth for a lie. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They know that there is a God who said, “You will surely die.” They know that there is a God who will judge them for their sins and wickedness. They know that there is a God in whom they live and move and have their being. But they suppress that truth, and put it down, and tell themselves the lie over and over again until they start to believe it, or at least they can say they believe it.

Eve believed the lie. She saw the fruit of the tree and was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. She took it and ate it and led her husband to do the same. Both husband and wife embraced the lies of God’s enemy. And the human race has never been the same since.

But God went after the fallen couple. In his grace and mercy, he sought them out. He gave them the opportunity to take responsibility for what they had done. But right away they demonstrated that they had chosen for the father of lies. Rather than honestly taking responsibility for what he had done, Adam played the blame-game. First, he blames the woman. Second, he blames God – of all things! “The woman you gave me.” In other words, “God, this is your fault too!” Unbelievable! What a lie! What a distortion!

And then when God turns to the woman, she plays the same game. “The serpent deceived me…” She’s not quite as brazen as Adam, but there is a subtle indictment of God in these words too. After all, who created that serpent? Who placed him on the earth? Yes, she does admit responsibility, just like her husband, but she is not going to take the full blame. You see what happens here, don’t you? It’s Eve’s fault, it’s God’s fault, it’s the serpent’s fault. And a little bit of my fault. I had a bit to do with it too, but it’s not all my fault. I was more or less a hapless victim of a bad circumstance and I made a little mistake. Doesn’t this all sound familiar?

As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to read this story from a certain posture. The posture is one of students learning from their master. Our Master, our Lord wants us to see the lie embraced by our first parents and put it off. You see, sanctification is a two-part process: putting off and putting on. There’s a picture there and it’s the picture of a person taking off old, dirty clothes and putting on new, clean clothes. We find that putting-off/putting-on picture in Colossians 3 where Paul speaks about taking off the old self with its practices and putting on the new self. In that context, he speaks explicitly about the ninth commandment: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices…”

The old self is our fallen human nature which is united to the first Adam. We’re to put off our love affair with the lie and all manner of falsehood. Yes, we have loved the lie and the remnants of our old nature continue to love the lie. But thankfully we have a Saviour who has paid for all our wrong loves with his precious blood. We have a Saviour who perfectly kept the ninth commandment in our place. Our thankfulness for so great a salvation shapes the putting off of old sinful practices and habits.

So then loved ones, enough of deceitful communication, whether it’s verbal or non-verbal. It’s the devil’s own work. Enough of doubting the God of truth – that’s what Satan does. Enough of playing the blame-game and dishonestly refusing to take responsibility for what we do. And the Catechism draws more of this out when it says that we are not to give false testimony against anyone. We are to put off the twisting of people’s words. We are never to gossip or slander.

Let’s just stop here for a moment and reflect on gossip. We can define gossip as destructive communication about our neighbours. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. Many of us are good at gossip. But the Word instructs us to put it off – it does not fit with a Christian life, it doesn’t belong in the life of someone who is united to Christ. So, what are some practical things that we can do to put gossip to death in our lives?

First, we can cut gossips off. When someone is going to tell you a juicy tidbit --“Did you hear what happened with so-and-so…?” – just say, “You know what? I don’t want to hear about that. I’m just not interested.”

Second, there are those who want us to gossip. They pry and probe, perhaps baiting you with leading questions. Refuse to engage them on it. Change the subject, walk away, do whatever you have to do, but don’t take the bait, don’t bite.

Third, as much as it’s in your power refuse to read or watch gossip about others. Many of us go through grocery checkout aisles every week and you can see plenty of gossip there. Don’t buy those magazines, don’t pay attention to them. Don’t watch the gossip shows.

Finally, you can put off gossip by setting a good example for others. Here think especially of your children. If our children hear us on the telephone engaged in destructive communication about others, how are we to expect them to act and behave?

So, brothers and sisters, as part of your sanctification put off those dirty gossip clothes. Then there’s also putting off “condemning or joining in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.” That happens quite often in the news and in our daily lives. We have to use charity with our neighbours and deal with them as we would want them to deal with us.

In this connection, one of my seminary professors gave an illustration from his experiences. It was in a congregation in the Netherlands and there was a poor widow in the church. It was well-known by everyone in the church that she was receiving help from the deacons. One day, someone saw this widow walking around town with a brand new jacket – a very expensive looking coat. That someone started a rumour, saying that this widow was abusing the support she received from the deacons. The deacons gave her all this money and she was using it to buy a fancy coat when a cheaper coat would have done the trick. Like often happens, the rumour spread like cancer and the woman’s reputation was nearly destroyed. Eventually, however, it came out that this coat was a gift from someone in the congregation. The lesson? Be charitable and don’t judge by appearances. The ninth commandment directs us to put off our old judgmental ways and to think the best of others.

So, we’ve considered the first Adam and the lie, now let’s shift to the positive side of this commandment and consider the second Adam and the truth. Let’s look at what we learn about our Saviour in this respect from what we read from John’s gospel. This is the same gospel, of course, where we read Jesus saying that he is the Truth. In fact, we read more about Christ and the truth in John than in any other gospel. It’s one of the defining features of this book.

And so it’s not a surprise really to find him speaking about the truth at the end of John 15 either. He describes the Spirit he shall send as the Spirit of truth. Now remember that he had said that he is the truth and now he describes his Spirit as being of the same nature. The second Adam is truth in the deepest and richest way possible.

Then notice what he says in verse 7 of chapter 16, “I tell you the truth…” We find Jesus saying words like that throughout the gospels. He is the truth and he tells the truth. Here again, we see his perfect obedience to God’s law, the obedience given to us so that we are righteous in God’s eyes. The first Adam failed to follow God and instead chose for the lie. The second Adam always followed God and embraced and embodied the truth.

He also says that the Spirit of truth will come and lead the apostles into the truth. This is a reference to the writing of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit would guide the apostles to remember everything that Christ had said and done and they would write it down. The Spirit would guide them to write letters that would be the inspired, authoritative, and truthful Word of God. Through these words of Christ, we can be assured that the Bible gives us truth. Despite what the world says, there is public, objective truth outside of ourselves and it’s found in the Scriptures.

All of this gets tied together in the Scriptures, particularly in the letters of the New Testament. Take Ephesians for example. In Ephesians, the apostle Paul speaks extensively about our union with Christ, our identity in him. Repeatedly he uses the words “in Christ,” or similar expressions. When he does that, he’s speaking about union with Christ through faith. And that’s why in Ephesians 2, for instance, he can speak about God raising us up with Christ, seating us with Christ and so forth. We are united to him, we are joined to him through our faith.

Then later in the letter, Paul works out the implications of being united to the Saviour and having our identity in him. He tells us that Christ deals with the curse of sin through his suffering and death, but he also deals with the power of sin in our sanctification. In that framework, he speaks about the putting off and putting on that we heard earlier about from Colossians. That comes out in Ephesians too and it’s also tied to the truth. He says in Ephesians 4 to put off the old self, corrupted by deceitful desires – notice the connection to the lie. We’re to put off falsehood – verse 25. And this putting off is not meant to leave us naked – there’s also to be a putting on. We’re to put on speaking truthfully to our neighbour. The communication that comes from us has to be “helpful for building others up according to their needs.” (verse 29). The putting on is tied to Christ in verse 15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Being joined to Christ means that we will be those who speak the truth in love.

Notice the qualifier: “In love.” Sometimes the ninth commandment is construed as being a blanket statement prohibiting lying and requiring us to always tell the truth. But that’s not actually what the commandment says. It’s about bearing false witness against our neighbour. We are to put on speaking the truth in love, speaking the truth for our neighbour. God calls us to communicate in a way that builds people up. That’s the way of the second Adam, the one who is the Truth, but also the one who revealed to us the love of our Father.

As a consequence, there are certain things which are truthful, but they should not be said. For instance, perhaps you know someone who is ugly. It is a fact. Does it build them up to tell them that they are ugly? Speak the truth in love. We could multiply examples and illustrations, but you need to think this through for yourself. Only speak what helps people and edifies and do so with the tender love and kindness of your Saviour.

The Catechism says that in every circumstance of life we are to love the truth, speak and confess it honestly and do whatever we can to promote our neighbour’s honour and reputation. Notice that all of this is active – as part of the putting on aspect of our sanctification, we’re to be busy with these things. It’s not enough to merely not say anything negative about your neighbour when others are putting him down. We’re directed by the ninth commandment to be active in defending and promoting the good name of our neighbours. Do what we can!

Loved ones, we are redeemed by Christ and he redeems not only our bodies and souls, but also our communication. He wants to transform it so that our communication more and more looks like his, so that our entire life is a reflection of his perfect character and obedience. This is a difficult area, perhaps the area with which we all face the most struggles. There’s a reason why so much of the Bible is taken up with issues regarding communication. Let’s be honest and recognize that we do need help in this area. Let’s be honest and recognize our need for ongoing transformation and change in our communication. Let’s now pray to God for his help in that.

O God of truth and light,

We thank you that your Word is steadfast, reliable and true. In you there is no darkness, there is no falsehood. We thank you for a Saviour who is the Truth. We thank you Lord Jesus for your perfect life of obedience to the ninth commandment. We praise you for having paid for all our sins against this commandment with your suffering and death on the cross. LORD God, we thank you for the Spirit of Truth who lives in our hearts. We pray that he would guide us more and more to embrace our identity in the Truth. Help us to put off every form of falsehood and deceit. Please give us more grace so that we put on a new way, a love for the truth, a desire to communicate the truth and to do good for those around us. Father, we are helpless of ourselves and so we call to you for your ongoing work in our lives. Please continue to transform and change us with your Word and Spirit so that our faith in Christ produces the fruit pleasing to you. Please hear us as we pray in the one who is the Truth, Christ our Saviour. AMEN.




* 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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