Liar Liar Pants on Fire: H.C. Lord’s Day 43

 Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 43

Q 112. What is the aim of the ninth commandment? 
A 112. That I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing.

Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are the very devices the devil uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense wrath.  I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it.  And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.
 
Yikes!  That’s all I can say after reading the commentary on this commandment.  While I know that I’ve lied here and there in my life, the number of things that are covered under this doesn’t just render me kind of guilty, I’ve apparently blown this commandment out of the water.  It’s hard to read this commandment and the explanation that the catechism gives without feeling a bit convicted.
 
How often have we embellished a story or changed a small fact here or there to make it better?  Maybe the facts have changed to cast your role in a much better light, making everyone else look rather pathetic.  Gossip is one of those things that can suck us in without our even knowing.  Whether we are sharing untrue things about people maliciously or sharing true things about people unnecessarily, we are participating in gossip, and it is something that runs rampant in church circles as well.
 
Sadly, though, when we participate in the giving of “false testimonies,” we are only feeding the arsenal of the enemy.  Satan is the “father of lies” and deceit is the primary tool that he uses against the people of God.  We’ve all experienced lies in our lives that are placed in our hearts by the enemy.  They often have to do with our self-worth and identity.  Satan also uses other people to put lies into our lives, standing readily by to expose and convict us of our participation in them.
 
Like many of the other commandments, this too points us to the reality of sin in our lives.  If sin is indeed disordered love, then what we find ourselves doing is, in fact, loving ourselves and our desires above those of God and our neighbor.  Participating in things like this show our lack of respect and love for those around us, whether we are consciously or unconsciously bringing our neighbor into a lie about someone else, or if we are slandering our neighbor.  Either way, we are not showing love to them.
 
If indeed we were to love our neighbor as ourselves, we would work hard to protect and advance their good name at every twist and turn.  Recently, our physical neighbors moved and a new family moved in.  Those who lived there before had been there a long time and are well known in our town.  The new neighbors have come in from the “outside” and it is very interesting how many questions I’ve received regarding them.  “How are the new neighbors?” people will say, “Do you like your new neighbors?”  The emphasis on the new is not an accident either.  Whether people are hoping that they are nice people or are looking for some nice juicy dirt on some new people in town, I don’t know.  But really, if people want to know about our new neighbors, wouldn’t we just take a moment to go meet them rather than asking everyone around them for their opinion?  The questioning seems more like gossip to me.
 
Finally, this commandment gets at something that seems to also be running rampant in our society: condemnation without a hearing.  Especially in today’s charged political climate, we are quick to jump on any news story that accuses, convicts, and tries to sentence those who do not necessarily think like us.  Individuals from both policial parties are actively involved in political assassination attempts almost daily… and it’s not even an election year.
 
How quick are we to judge those who do not necessarily think the same way we do, agree with our political affiliations, or even practice the same religion as us?  Whereas one of the founding notions of this country was the premise of “innocent until proven guilty,” which is arguably also a Biblical model of justice and judgment, America seems to have succumbed to a media-driven judicial system that topples people and parties for the sake of its own ratings.  Truth, sadly enough, is no longer a yes or a no, but rather a stream of grey haze that happily interpret to our own liking when it is convenient for us and ignore when it isn’t.
 
What would it look like for us to apply the teaching of the ninth commandment to all of our “neighbors?”  We are called to love God above all and love our neighbor as ourselves which, when Biblically applied, refers to all of those made in God’s image.  How can we love each other as Jesus loves us, willingly laying down our lives so that in God’s sight, our name would be protected and made good?  It is only through His power, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, that we can begin to see others in this way, especially our enemies, and show them His love in our lives.


The Ninth Commandment: H.C. Question 112

What is the aim of the ninth commandment? 
 
Psalm 15 – Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?  Who may live on your holy mountain?  The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.  Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
 
Proverbs 19:5 – A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
 
Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
 
Luke 6:37 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
 
Romans 1:28-32 – Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
 
Leviticus 19:11-12 – “‘Do not steal. Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another.  Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
 
Proverbs 12:22– The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
 
Proverbs 13:5 – The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
 
John 8:44 – You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
 
Revelation 21:8 – But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
 
1 Corinthians 13:6 – Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
 
Ephesians 4:25 – Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
 
1 Peter 3:8-9 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
 

1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.



Eat and Drink: H.C. Question 76 (Part 2)

What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood? 

1 Corinthians 6:15-17 – Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Ephesians 5:29-30 – After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.

1 John 4:13 – This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.

John 15:1-6 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Ephesians 4:15-16 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

1 John 3:24 – The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.



Revelation 19 – Victory!!

Read Revelation 19

Again we hear from the great multitude in heaven as they worship God over the defeat of Babylon the Great.  Chapter 19 marks an extremely important event in salvation history, one that is rivaled only by Christ’s death and resurrection.  The defeat of Satan, along with the beast, the false prophet, and all the sin that is symbolized by Babylon is what has been foretold since the very beginning.  God’s judgment against sin, as well as the punishment that comes along with it, is just and is a true revelation of the character of God.

People often ask the question, “how could a ‘loving’ God condemn so many people to eternal punishment?”  Indeed, this is a good question, one that makes little sense on the surface.  But God doesn’t condemn all people to punishment, despite our deserving of it.  A loving God that gave no one a chance after the fall would be a much more difficult thing to understand.  The pages of Scripture reveal the love of God in the grace and salvation that He offers through His Son Jesus who, through His life, death, and resurrection, conquered sin.  Without Jesus, there is no way to God, no offer of salvation, and no reconciliation.  What we see in this moment is a celebration of the ultimate revelation of God’s truthfulness, faithfulness, and love.

You may be wondering how we see that here as we mark the defeat of sin and evil.  Simply put, we see it here because God accomplishes exactly what He said He was going to do.  Think about it this way, if a parent threatens punishment for something that their children do repeatedly but never follows through, then that parent is made out to be a liar and their threats are meaningless.  The parent doesn’t want to punish the child, but the punishment is necessary (as I’m sure any parent knows).

Others bring up the subject of fairness and justice of the discipline and punishment in this conversation, which is also something to consider.  However, if the rules are clearly laid out as they are in the Bible, and the consequences are also clearly defined as they are throughout Scripture, then fairness is, one again, God following through on what He has clearly communicated.  To not do so would make God either a liar, which is counter to what we know about God as being completely true, or incapable of following through or carrying out the punishment that was forewarned, making Him somehow less than all powerful which is also counter to what we know about God.

And what of those who have listened to the Word of God and have followed Jesus as their Savior?  Those who speak of fairness are often those who desire the benefits of salvation without “burdening” themselves with the “work” of faith.  The contrast of results is indeed fair and just, even though no punishment seems fair at the time one is being punished.  If there is no difference in the outcome, why does one’s actions in the present matter?  Once again, what we see here is the true revelation of God’s character on an eternal and universal scale.

With all heaven and earth watching, God works through the mighty warrior on the white horse to go out and strike the final blow, win the final victory and had been initiated in Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This warrior, who is undoubtedly Jesus as He was revealed at the beginning of Revelation, captures the beast as well as the false prophet, and “strikes down” all the enemies of God with the sword coming out of His mouth.  Remember that the sword represents the “Word of God” that comes from the mouth of God and is “sharper than any double-edged sword.”

This too is important because it reveals that God doesn’t simply go out and destroy anyone He pleases, but it is the Word of God that convicts the enemies of God.  The same Word is that which justifies and brings to salvation those who stand with God in this moment and celebrate the victory over Satan and all those who oppose God.

One thing that I think is interesting to notice is what happens in the final battle.  We had been given a glimpse of this before, seeing the armies of God and the armies of the Beast line up for war.  Yet, at the climactic moment when the battle is supposed to begin, the Beast is captured and the enemies of God destroyed.  The people of God do no fighting, Jesus does it all.  I think this is notable because it shows truly where they power of God really lies, not in the might of an army, not in the tactics of battle, or in the number of the multitude present, but in the strength and power of Jesus Christ alone.

In the time that John was writing this, a vision of God’s power in this way would have been powerful for the Christians were experiencing extreme persecution. Their strength and power and hope, as well as ours, in the face of everything that would seek to destroy us is found only in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.



2 Peter 2 – Wallowing in the Mud

Read 2 Peter 2

Peter warns of false teachers, those who were among the church and those on the outside that were spreading heresy, false teachings among the community of faith.  Paul also warned of this when he wrote, urging the people to hold onto what they had learned in the truth of the Gospel.

False teaching was very prevalent in their time.  A number of different versions of Christian teaching were being put forth in churches throughout the Roman Empire.  Sometimes, I would guess, it was hard for them to decipher truth from falsehood.

Today’s church has this same problem.  There are a number of different groups that are at work within the church trying to use the Gospel message for their own personal gain.  It is easy for us to spot the more obvious heresies and false teachings.  Other religions and those who blatantly deny Christ are Lord and Savior are obvious.  We must be careful about the less obvious ones; they are much more dangerous becuase they are insidious, creeping gradually into our faith and belief structure.

So if these false beliefs are dangerous and sneeky, the obvious question that Peter adresses here is “who do we recognize them?”  First and foremost, we must always be checking what people say against Scripture itself.  If teachings fall contrary to what the whole of Scripture reveals to be true, then it is wrong.  The other way that Peter talks about here is by looking at the conduct of the teacher.  He speaks to these false teachers as being depraved, seeking to exploit, greedy, and arrogant.

Peter concludes this chapter by speaking a humorous and yet all to real truth with regards to false teachers; “a dog returns to its vomit.”  When it comes to false teachings, there is one thing that will always be a clue: when push comes to shove, false teaching always returns to the strength of the argument or some human experience, not on fundamental truths that we find in Scripture.



2 Timothy 3 – Mark My Words

Read 2 Timothy 3

I’ve talked to a number of people over the years who are completely surprised and baffled by the moral decline in society in the present age.  More and more is seems as though people are given to doing whatever they like and the line between good and bad is becoming quite grey, if it exists at all in people’s minds.

For a while, there as a widely held belief that Scripture pointed to a society that was always progressing towards a more idyllic state, which would be the manifestation of the beginning of the 1,000-year reign of Christ described in revelation.  This belief emerged after the middle ages when many aspects of the human experience were developing rapidly and the quality of human life had risen dramatically.

All of this was pretty much destroyed by 1945, after two devastating world wars.  It became all too obvious that society was indeed headed down a different path.  This, however, shouldn’t have been surprising for us.  Scripture is actually quite clear that:

  1. Sin has infected every part of our lives, we are not capable of saving ourselves
  2. The closer we come to the end, the more corrupt and godless society will become
  3. It is Jesus Christ alone who will set up His Kingdom here on earth

Paul’s encouragement, in light of this reality, is once again to hold fast to the teachings of Scripture.  In the face of increasing godlessness, of moral decline, and of persecution, Paul reminds Timothy that it is God’s Word that will provide the foundation for perseverance in faith.

Things have not changed today.  Moral decline is an everyday reality; Christian faith is being challenged and the “relative truth” teachings of western culture allow for any type of sin and lifestyle.  These things are creeping their way into the church as well.  While we are not called to be judges and haters of others because of their choices, but rather to love them with the love of Christ, we too much be careful, holding fast to the Word of God so that we persevere in the faith and do not fall victim to the temptations of the world .



1 Timothy 6 – Pursue Righteousness

Read 1 Timothy 6

Paul warns Timothy once again with regards to those who would cause him to veer off course through false teachings.  There is a sense here that Paul is making a distinction between what looks good and what is actually good.  The truth of the Gospel message brought and taught by Jesus Christ is the true good that must be held to in the church.  Against all other teachings, thoughts, or possibilities, this truth is what brings freedom, life, and true gain.

This world has an infinite number of things that pretend to offer comfort, power, and even hope; a way to make ourselves secure.  Yet all of them are empty and hollow, offering nothing but bondage endless worry.  It is true, what they say, the more money you have, the more worry you have as well.

Things like money are not inherently bad.  As a matter of fact, money is a way that God uses to provide for and bless us in our life here on earth.  We can work and acquire it, being thankful to God for his provision in our lives and remembering that all the blessings that we have come from Him alone.

In doing this, we maintain the proper orientation of our lives, keeping God first in all things, living thankful lives in response to His grace, and therefore giving a “good confession” of our faith to all those who are around us.  This life, however, is not something we can do on our own.  Paul continually encourages Timothy to hold on to the truth he has learned, which is our charge as well.

Not only that, we need to be listening for the direction of the Holy Spirit in our lives, seeking His direction in all things.  When we do this, we will find ourselves faithful followers of Christ, content with that which God has blessed us, and truly rich in all that is of eternal consequence.



1 Timothy 4 – Teach These Things

Read 1 Timothy 4

The persistence of false teachers and false teachings within the church is not limited to the church in Ephesus.  Therefore Paul’s warnings are also not limited to just the church in Ephesus.  Throughout the history of God’s people, there have always been those that have fallen away, led astray by the lies of the enemy.

Satan has never stopped trying to infiltrate the flock, offering promise after promise that turns out to be deception.  A fruit that will make you like god, “deeper knowledge” that differs from Scripture but is somehow more insightful, a “true” way to salvation that you have to work for, the allure of power, wealth, influence… there are so many ways that the devil lies his way into our hearts.

Paul warns Timothy to be on his guard for these things in the same way he warns the Ephesian church to guard against the attacks of the enemy by putting on the full armor of God.  Knowing the true enemy is half of the battle… and for Timothy and the church in Ephesus, the enemy is not the false teachers but rather the deceiver and the deceit.

How is Timothy to counter these things?  Paul implores him to “hold on” to what he has learned and to continue to teach Biblical truths.  Don’t get side-tracked with meaningless rabbit holes or empty small talk.  Hold fast to the truth of the Gospel for it is the only truth that can truly set you free.

Many are the ways that the enemy will try to stop us.  Paul recognizes that Timothy is young, but youth does not negate God’s work in and through his life.  He has been given this change, as have we all, and we must not allow the poison of the enemy get in our way.  We must give ourselves wholly to the God, persevering through all trial, and continuing to preach the Gospel that all may hear and be saved.



2 Corinthians 13 – Self Examination

Read 2 Corinthians 13

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

When I argue, I like to win.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who is readily willing to admit that.  No one likes to defend themselves knowing that they are going to lose.  Sometimes, though, that means a careful examination of what I am saying to make sure that I actually have firm ground to stand on.  Whether I like it or not, sometimes I have to admit that I’m wrong… or sheepishly remove myself from the conversation.

After all of what Paul has said to them, he now encourages them to examine themselves and what they have done so that may know whether they are in the faith or not.  In doing so, he is inviting God into this as well.  Paul can make an argument and tell them what it is that they have done, or not done, that is wrong.  However, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts and who restores.  We must always be open to the work of the Spirit in our hearts and minds.

Often, this is the most difficult place for us to be physically and spiritually. It is the true place of weakness and humility, the place where we are completely vulnerable, open to accepting reproof, even discipline, but also where we find the most growth and maturing.

Paul doesn’t call the Corinthians to self-examination out of fear, but our of desire to be in the Truth and in Christ.  In that, we find true power and true freedom.  Paul encourages the church in Corinth to strive for this, not so that they would attain their own salvation, but so that they would be open to the full measure of grace that God has shown us in Jesus Christ.  When we are open to this, unity and peace abound.



1 Corinthians 16 – Final Instructions

Read 1 Corinthians 16

Today’s reading seems to be a great deal more context specific than the rest of the book.  As we talked about at the end of the book of Romans, however, even these parting words are a part of Scripture and are therefore useful and instructive to us.

Especially at the beginning of this chapter, Paul lays down some of the groundwork that has become the foundation for Christian giving practices throughout the last 2,000 years.  For him, giving was not always arbitrary or spontaneous, but rather a part of the Christian life as a response to the grace of God that is in Jesus Christ.

Spontaneous giving is not bad; certainly, Paul is not suggesting that.  However, when Paul picks up this topic again, we will see that giving is grounded in the Christian life and therefore is something we are intentional about, especially when it comes to giving back to God.

Now, this may seem oddly self-serving coming from a pastor.  It is important for us, and especially for me, to be truthful and honest when it comes to what Scripture says about this.  Paul, actually, did not receive money from the church.  In fact, he was a “tent maker,” holding a job for some time in order to fund his own work.  So when he speaks about this, he is not talking about it from some self-interested point of view but rather as a continuing application to what it means for us to live in our freedom in Christ.

No longer do we have to live, concerned for what we need, God will take care of us.  We have been freed from those concerns.  No longer do we need to hoard our possessions to take care of ourselves.  We are freed from those concerns.  God has shown time and again, His faithfulness and provision in all things and so, as we turn to Him in faith we also trust Him with our lives knowing that He who has created all things is more than able to care for and provide for all that we need.