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Craig Smith - Truth

Craig Smith - Truth
TOPICS: Chasing Peace, Truth, Deception

Hey, welcome to Mission Hill, so glad to have you with us, whether you’re joining us online, in-person, or our Mission Hills Watch Party. So good to have you with us. We’re in the midst of a series called “Chasing Peace,” and here’s what we know so far. We know that peace is never a product of our circumstances. Even if you get your circumstances perfect, which never happens, right? But even if you do, you’re gonna be worried that they’re gonna change, and so there’s not peace in the midst of those circumstances. The other thing we know though is that peace is always a byproduct of the pursuit of godly character. Peace isn’t a product of our circumstances, it’s a product of who we are in the midst of our circumstances. And as we are pursuing godly character, as we’re moving forward and becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission, we actually find that we experience peace even when our circumstances aren’t exactly peace-producing.

And so our guide in the series for pursuing godly character is actually found in the Book of Proverbs chapter 6, where God says this, Proverbs 6:16, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him. Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” We said last week that the reason God hates these things so much is because he loves us, and he knows the damage that these things do in our lives and how much these things push peace out rather than inviting it in.

So what we’re doing in this series is we’re pursuing the opposite of each of these things. Last week, we talked about experiencing peace by pursuing humility. This week, we’re gonna tackle experiencing peace by pursuing truth. And we know this is a big deal because, in a list of seven things, God actually takes two of the seven to talk about lies, right? Lying tongues and a false witness who pours out, spills out lies. Okay, so clearly, this is a big deal to God, and we’re gonna see why that is today. Because the reality is that truth telling invites peace, but when we go the other direction, we actually kill peace. Lies kill peace. And we’re actually gonna go to the invention of lying to explore that reality. And so if you wanna grab a Bible, and start making your way to the Book of Genesis, we’re gonna talk about the invention of lying, which is in Genesis chapter 3, if you’re gonna start making your way there. And while you’re making your way there, let me just go ahead and tell you a couple of things about today.

First, I just want you to know that we’re gonna be talking today about truth in a very practical way. We’re not gonna be talking philosophically, okay? So, we’re not gonna ask tough philosophical questions like, what is truth, right? We’re not gonna be talking about, you know, my truth and your truth. We’re not gonna talk about moral relativism. We’re not gonna ask what…My all-time favorite question I ever got when I was living on college campus, there was a knock at my door late at night, there was a guy standing there kind of waving, I think he’d been smoking some stuff, and he goes, “Hey, dude, how do I know the color blue to me is the same color as it is to you?” I was like, “I don’t know, check the crayon box.” Like, we’re not gonna have those kinds of conversations today. Okay?

We’re talking about truth in a very practical way. We’re talking about lies in a very practical way. Here’s the practical side of it. A lie, that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. A lie is a deliberate distortion of reality to serve a personal agenda. Simple. Okay, there’s reality. Actually, we’re gonna talk just a little philosophically. Reality gets to define truth, right? If you say something that matches up with reality, that’s a true thing. If you say something that doesn’t match up with reality, if you distort it, especially for a personal agenda, then that’s a lie. So a lie is a deliberate distortion of reality to pursue a personal purpose, for some personal agenda you’re trying to advance. And you flip that around then, the truth is an accurate description of reality, even when it’s personally painful, accurately describing the way things really are, even when that it may be costly to do.

But by the way, it’s interesting to me that we talk about a lie but we always talk about the truth in English, don’t we? And that’s interesting because really the thing is there’s thousands of ways to distort reality, there are thousands of ways to lie but there’s only one way to tell the truth because it’s whatever is accurately describing the way reality actually is. Okay? So we have lots of lies, but we only have one truth. So that’s kind of our practical approach to this. Okay? And really, what we’re looking to do today is three things. My hope today, my prayer has been that three things are gonna happen, number one, that we’re gonna walk out today with a better understanding what it looks like to follow Jesus. Okay? And help you follow Jesus better today by raising the truth level in your life.

I think the reality is we’re all gonna find that the truth level in our lives is not quite as high as it could be. So we’re gonna follow Jesus better by raising the truth level in our lives, and in that way, also experiencing greater peace. Okay? So if you feel like you could use a little bit more peace right now, I’m gonna give you a very practical way to do that, which is to raise the truth level in your life. Another thing I wanna tell you before we get into the story is, I’m not gonna talk about politics today. And I know that, you’re like, “How can you not talk about politics when you’re talking about truth-telling,” right? It’s such easy fruit. It’s low hanging fruit, right? I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna ask, like, cheesy questions like, how do you know when a politician is lying? And don’t yell out the answer because we’re not gonna do that. Okay? It’s too easy. It’s too cheap. It’s too cliche. I’m not gonna call out specific candidates and show examples of ways they have lied.

Okay, we’re just not gonna talk about politics with one exception. Here’s the exception. If you’re not registered to vote, get registered to vote, got an important election coming up. If you’re not registered, get registered and then vote, and vote as a Christian. Okay? A vote is influenced, we’re gonna be responsible to Jesus for how we used our influence on earth. So, vote as a Christian. Vote as a Christian first. Think about the candidates. Think about the issues through the lens of your following Jesus, your faith, okay? And then cast your votes accordingly. That’s it. I know some of you are disappointed. You’re like, “Oh, there’s so many things you could have done there.” I know. As a pastor friend of mine once said, “My job as a pastor is to try not to disappoint you faster than you can stand.” Okay?

So, if you’re disappointed in me, I hope you’ll forgive me but we’re just not gonna go that direction. We’re gonna be practical. Learn how to follow Jesus better by raising the truth level and in that way, also raising the peace level in our lives. And we’re gonna do that by going to Genesis chapter 3. Now, Genesis chapter 3 takes place right after the creation and it’s where we understand that God has made everything and at this point, everything is good. Everything is perfect. Everything is at peace. Okay? The only thing that wasn’t perfect exactly was when God made Adam, the first man. And then he said, “Hey, it’s not good for him to be alone.” He made Eve and they have a perfect relationship with each other. They have a perfect relationship with God. They have a perfect relationship with the creation that they’re called to take care of. And so peace is the defining characteristic of the world up to this point. And then Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.”

First thing you need to understand is the serpent is not just a sneaky snake, okay? There’s more going on there. In fact, we know that this serpent is actually Satan. Okay? We know that because throughout the Bible, Satan is often described metaphorically as a serpent. Revelation 12:9 says this, “The great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent,” ancient meaning all the way back to the very beginning, the first few pages of Scripture, “that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” Okay? So, it’s not just a sneaky snake, this is the devil. Now, I don’t know if this was Satan possessing a snake. I don’t know if it was Satan sort of manifesting in the shape of a snake, or I don’t know if it’s just Satan being described metaphorically as a snake.I don’t know exactly what’s going on.

I don’t think it matters. The important thing to understand is this is a historical event. Okay? Adam and Eve, historical figures, Satan, an actual historical being, and they had an actual historical conversation here. And in that conversation, the serpent introduces deception into the world. He invents lying. But before we talk about his invention of lying, I want you to notice one of the things about that first verse. It says that the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. And you might even underline that word “Lord.” It’s gonna be incredibly important in just a moment. See, what’s going on there is God is being described not just as a person, but he’s being described in terms of his position, okay? He is not just God, he is the sovereign King of Creation. He’s the Lord. He’s the one who gets to call the shots. He’s the one who gets to decide what’s what, okay? It’s very, very important because look what happens next. The serpent, he, Satan, said to the woman, “Did God…?” We’ll just stop there for a second.

Do you notice something missing? It’s not the Lord God, it’s just God. The title has been omitted. And that’s actually not an insignificant thing. It’s actually a pretty significant thing because what Satan’s doing there is he’s omitting a detail that’s a little bit inconvenient for him. He’s omitting the title because acknowledging that God is the Sovereign Lord over creation doesn’t really fit his agenda. It doesn’t fit the purpose that he’s trying to accomplish as he talks to Eve. What he’s trying to do actually is get Eve to think differently about God. And one of the ways he does that is by simply omitting his title. And I don’t want you to miss this. The very first lie was an omission. The very first lie was an omission.

I think that’s really important to recognize because the truth of the matter is, we all do this all the time. But we don’t call it lying, do we? Have you ever omitted something and somebody called you and said, “Hey, you lied.” And you’re like, “No, I didn’t. I just left something out. I left out an inconvenient detail. I left out something that I really did not really want to have to admit, and so I just omitted it.” Right? And that’s not lying, but the reality is, it is a distortion of reality. It’s deliberate distortion of reality. And the very first lie was an omission. And it’s actually one of the most common ways that we lower the truth level in our lives because we’re willing to omit things. You know, it’s the high school student whose parents come back after a week, and they’re like, “Hey, how was your weekend? What did you do?” “I just hung out at home.” Failing to admit that, well, yeah, there were 40 people here last night, and they kind of trashed the place.

And actually, that was Saturday night, and I did hang out at home on Sunday because I was hungover. I didn’t lie. I just didn’t tell you everything, right? Yeah, yeah. But that’s a deliberate distortion of the truth. And we have to come to grips with this fact. Listen, when we omit something because it doesn’t assist our agenda, we lie. And we need to call it what it is. Because until we call it what it is, we’re never gonna be able to deal with it in the way that we need to deal with it. Okay? The very first lie was an omission. We do it all the time, but we often don’t call it lies. So, Satan said, “Did God…?” Omitting that title. By the way, interesting way we follow that exact thing is, I noticed this in the press. When there’s a president that whoever’s writing about or talking about that they don’t like, they suddenly become Mr. Notice that?

The press that doesn’t like President Trump, he’s not President Trump, he’s Mr. Trump. You go back a few years ago, people who didn’t like Obama, it wasn’t President Obama, it’s Mr. Obama. Little omission, a little downgrade because they’re trying to get us to change the way that we think about the person that they’re talking about. And so, omission serves a particular purpose. And so, Satan said, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” And it’s interesting, in the original Hebrew, this written in the word really is actually front-loaded into the question. So, it’s not so much is it really true? He goes, “Really? Really? Did God say you can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” And understand, he’s not trying to clarify the facts, he’s actually trying to create a feeling. He’s trying to get Eve to go, “Yeah, what’s that guy’s problem?” Satan goes, “Really? God said you can’t eat from any of the trees in the garden?” Which, of course, is not what God said.

Do you want to go back or scroll up a little bit on your device. Genesis 2:16, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But when you eat from it, you will certainly die.'” In other words, what God said was you can eat from all the trees, there’s just one tree you can’t eat from. Satan flipped that around and actually go a little bit farther than that and go, “You’re not allowed to eat from any of the trees?” He’s twisting what God said. And it’s interesting to me, he’s exaggerating what God has prohibited, and he’s minimizing what God has permitted. And I think that’s interesting because I actually think that’s still one of his favorite tactics, and sometimes he even gets Christians to do that.

Sometimes Christians come across as though we’re so focused on what we’re not allowed to do that we miss out on what it is that God has to say about the freedom that we have in Christ, or the freedom with all these things that God’s given us to enjoy them in the ways that God intended. And so much of God’s prohibition is really just going, “Hey, this is a good thing, but it needs to be used in this way to be able to experience it in the way that it was intended.” But we often focus on what God’s prohibited and undermine what he’s permitted. Sometimes I feel like Christians come across like we got born against, rather than born again. Like, “Oh, God doesn’t like that. I don’t like that. He definitely doesn’t like that. He’s definitely against that. I didn’t even know that existed. But now that I know it, I definitely don’t like it. Because I’m pretty sure God doesn’t…”

It’s an interesting kind of reality. But you understand what’s happening here is that Satan has shown us essentially the second lie. And here it is. The second lie was an exaggeration. The second lie was an exaggeration. He took something that was partly true but then he blew it up out of proportion to something it was never intended to be. The second lie was an exaggeration. And that’s another one that I think we do quite a bit, but we don’t necessarily call it lying. Right? We say, “You know, okay. Yes, he might not have said it quite that way. She didn’t maybe say it quite that way or she didn’t do that quite as often,” but we tend to do this, right? I mean, tell me, am I the only one who does this? Somebody irritates me, somebody did something that irritated me, and I think to myself, “They always do it?” Anybody else? Or the other side of that. She never… Right? Here’s the problem with exaggeration. Here’s why it’s so dangerous. Exaggeration doesn’t just distort facts. it distorts feelings. Hear me, church?

Exaggeration doesn’t just distort the facts, it distorts our feelings. It changes the way that we think about somebody. And actually, I experienced it in my own life just recently, somebody irritated me, probably it’s illegitimate. I think when I look back at it objectively, “Yeah, okay, that shouldn’t have happened.” Okay. But what I found myself saying in my own head was. “They always do this.” And when the moment I said that, I could feel my irritation, my anger ramp up. I was distorting the facts and it was distorting my feelings. It happens when we talk about other people, right? “You know, well, they always do this, they never do this.” And it ramps up feelings. In fact, here’s a quick relationship hack. If you feel like in your relationships, you have as much peace as possible, you can just ignore this. But if you’d like a little bit more peace in your relationship, your friendships, your political relationships, your church relationships, your neighbor relationships, your marriage, or your kids, whatever, okay?

If you want just a little bit more peace, here’s the relationship hack. Remove the words always and never from your vocabulary. Stop saying that, right? Because how does that go, right? “Honey, you always do this. Well, that’s just because you never…” Right? And there’s no peace, right? Remove always and never from your vocabulary, and you’re gonna find you’re gonna have more peace in your relationships because exaggeration doesn’t just distort the facts, it distorts our feelings. And that’s what Satan’s trying to do. He’s trying to distort Eve’s feelings about God. Okay, does it work? Verse 2, the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat from the trees in the garden.” Okay? So she identifies the lie. She identifies the distortion. She identifies exaggeration, and she corrects it, right? She goes, “No, that’s not accurate.” So far, so good. But then watch what happens next.

“But God did say…” Do you notice something missing there? It’s not the Lord God. Satan’s omission has become her omission. And that’s the first indication that there’s a shift in the way that she’s thinking about God. She says, “But God did say…” And I don’t think so much that she’s clarifying for Satan. She’s actually kind of working this in her head and she goes, “But God did say, huh? Yeah, he did say, you must not eat fruit from the tree that’s in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it or you will die.” Did God say that? Not in my Bible. Eve did that. It’s interesting. Eve has actually joined Satan in exaggerating. And in that, I think in the loss of the Lord God and the change of title, and that omission, and also in this exaggeration, what you see in Eve is she’s changing the way that she’s thinking about God. She’s beginning to go, “Yeah, what is the deal with that? Why is he against this?” And in her exaggeration, in her omission, she’s abandoned the rock-solid safety of truth. Okay?

You need to understand, truth is safe. Truth is sometimes very hard, but it is always safe and so much safer than lies. But in this moment, by omitting and by exaggerating, Eve has left the rock-solid safety of pure truth and that’s what Satan was looking for. And so now he introduces the third lie. And it’s interesting. In these three lies, we see the same three lies that we all struggle with. There’s basically three kinds of lies. Every specific life fits into one of these three categories. We’ve got omission, we’ve got exaggeration, and then finally we have what we call fabrication. The third lie was a fabrication. He just made it up. But he held this one until he knew that he was kind of on safe ground because Eve was no longer on safe ground of truth. And so he said this, he said, “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat from it, your eyes will be open and you’ll be like God, knowing good and evil.'”

He just fabricates that. So actually, there’s three separate fabrications here. The first fabrication was that sin doesn’t lead to death. He said, “Oh, God told you if you sinned, you’ll die, if you disobey, you’ll die? That’s not gonna happen. It’s just not true. The wages of sin isn’t death. Sin’s really not that big a deal.” I’ve actually heard people say, “Well, wait a minute, wasn’t he right?” Because they didn’t die on the spot. They didn’t like, you know, drop-dead to the ground mid-chew, right? So isn’t Satan right? No, he’s not. And the problem is that we think about death from such a modern sort of scientific biological basis. In the modern world, we think about death primarily as biological cessation. Okay? We think about death is that things stop working biologically. So the heart stops beating. The activity in the brain ceases to be, you know, it flatlines. Okay, that’s what death is. In the ancient world, that’s not how they thought about death. In the ancient world, death wasn’t about biological cessation. It was about relational separation.

The most significant aspect of death was that you were cut off from your people, you were no longer in relationship with your family, with your community. And when we begin to understand that, we realize that what God said was 100% true because the moment that they sinned, their relationships were destroyed. They died. Maybe you know the story, maybe you don’t, I’ll just summarize it real quickly. Eve ate, she gave some of this fruit to her husband, they ate. And then God came into the garden, and for the first time ever, instead of running to God, they ran away from God because their relationship was now broken. It was dead. And, as we talked about last week, they turned on each other. They cast blame on each other. Their children murdered each other. And so, their relationship between themselves and other human beings is broken, dead.

And God came along and said, “Now because you’ve sinned, the creation that you’re supposed to be caretakers of, you’re supposed to be advocates for creation, now creation is an adversary of you. You’re gonna plow and plant. You’re gonna work hard, but all you’re gonna get is thorn and thistles, and barely you make a living because the reality is that creation is now your enemy. The relationship with creation itself was broken. And so, three incredibly important relationships that define us as human beings destroyed the moment that they sinned. And so God spoke the absolute 100% truth from the ancient perspective of what made something death. But also even from a modern perspective, they began to die…In fact, literally what God says was, “The moment you eat of it, dying you will die.” It’s the literal Hebrew. And his point is the moment you eat of it, your death, even your biological death becomes an absolute certainty. Because when we unplug from God, who’s the author and the source of life, our light dims into darkness and death. And that happened the moment they died as well.

And so, Satan’s just lying. He’s just making stuff up. No, no, sin doesn’t lead to death, the wages of sin isn’t death. Sin’s not a big deal. Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Second fabrication, what he said here is that the power to make his own decisions is all that makes God God. It’s a little bit subtle, but what is he saying? He says, “Hey, you know, God just doesn’t want you to do this because if you do this, if you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” as we’ve talked about before, that’s kind of a euphemism for deciding for yourself, making your own calls, deciding for yourself what’s good for you and what’s bad for you when you call your own shots. He says, “When you do that, you’re going to be like God.”

The implication being that that’s really all that makes God God is he gets to decide for himself. He gets to call the shots. And as soon as you call the shots in your own life, then you and God, you’re basically on the same level. Really? Is the ability to make the decisions, to call the shots, is that the only thing that makes God God? I mean, there’s a couple of little other things, right? I mean, He’s eternal. He’s always existed. He’s all powerful. He’s all wise. He’s all good. He’s omnipresent. He’s present everywhere. I mean, there’s just a couple of little things that make God God, apart from his ability to call the shots. That’s like saying that my old beat up Isuzu Rodeo is the same thing as a Porsche. They both got wheels. What else do you want, right? Yeah, there’s a little bit more to it than that.

And yet Satan lies and goes, “Hey, if you do this, if you start calling the shots in your own life, you decide for yourself, you and God, you’re basically on equal footing from here on out. You’re like God.” That’s a lie. There’s so much more to God. And then the third fabrication was that God is motivated by fear. And that’s the implication there, right? He says, “The reason God doesn’t want you to do this, because once you do this, you’re gonna be like him and he’s gonna lose out, right? He’s gonna lose his power of you. He’s gonna lose his control over you. He’s gonna lose something that’s important to him. And that power, it’s so important. That control, it’s so important. His ability to dominate you, that’s so important.” And he’s implying that God is somehow motivated by fear of what he’ll lose out if we start making our own decisions about what’s good and bad. Unfortunately, that’s a lie that we continue to deal with. I think it’s a lie that permeates our society.

But listen, God’s not motivated by fear. And we know that because he sent his own Son, right? God sent his own Son to pay the penalty of our sin, with his death, he paid the wages of our sin, which is death, right? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him…” He’s made it as easy as possible. That whoever believes in him puts their faith in him will not perish but have eternal life. That’s not that God was motivated by fear. It’s a God who is motivated by love. But that’s not something that Satan wants Eve to understand. Satan doesn’t want Eve to understand that God’s motivation is actually for her good. And then what God prohibits and what he permits, it’s all for our good because God is motivated by love. That’s the third fabrication. Truth is that God is motivated by love, not fear. Unfortunately, the lie did its work, right? Adam and Eve, they ate from the fruit, and immediately peace departed.

So he says, their relationship with God broken, dead. There’s conflict where there used to be peace. Their relationship with each other, there’s conflict rather than peace. Their relationship with creation, conflict rather than peace. That’s what lies do. That’s what deception does. It kills peace. And the question that we wanna ask today is just this. Is it a coincidence the departure of peace from the world coincided with the arrival of deception? Is it a coincidence that piece departed the very moment that deception arrived? It’s not a coincidence. It’s the inevitable consequence of deception. Lies kill peace. But if we flip that around, we recognize that truth telling actually begins to invite peace back in. I mean, a couple of reasons why I say that, number one, is that truth produces peace by creating solid ground. Truth creates peace by creating solid ground.

See, the problem with fabricating things, is we’re saying, “Oh, that’s real. That’s solid ground. You could stand on it.” But we all know the whole time, well, you actually can’t stand. It’s not really there, right? Years ago, I was teaching at a seminary, this was old school days, where you actually had to turn in physical papers on paper, you know, made from trees and everything. Beginning of class, the paper was due and everybody was putting their papers down, and then that guy came up and said, “Hey, my printer was broken, and I wasn’t able to print it off.” I said, “That’s no problem. You got it on your laptop there?” “Yeah.” “Just go ahead and email it to me right now.” And he got this look on his face, and I was like, “Oh, you just lied, didn’t you? You just told me that it was done. And now I asked you to stand on that, and you know you can’t.” And the thing is, when we fabricate things, we live in constant fear that that fabrication will be found out. We live in constant fear that somebody’s gonna ask us to stand on that ground that we know cannot hold us up.

You know, it’s the guy who lies on his resume, says, “Oh, yeah, I’m familiar with how to do this or that and that,” and then spends most of his time in that company afraid that somebody is going to ask him to do what he said he knows how to do when in fact he doesn’t know how to do it, right? “Oh yeah, I’m great at PowerPoint. Super proficient.” “Great. Hey, you’re proficient at PowerPoint, the boss needs a PowerPoint, and we’ve only got about an hour or so, would you get to it?” We live in fear that our falsehoods will be found out, right? We live in fear that our fabrications will be discovered. And because of that, there’s no peace from it. But, the truth, even when it’s hard, the truth produces peace by creating solid ground.

So maybe you’re afraid you won’t get the job if you don’t say that you know how to do PowerPoint. Okay? Maybe you don’t get the job. But if you do, you don’t ever have to live in fear and anxiety that your lie is gonna be found out. Second, truth produces peace by minimizing drama. Remember, exaggeration doesn’t just distort facts, it distorts feelings, and brings drama into our lives. And I don’t know about you, I don’t need any more drama in my life. Anybody here feel like they need more drama in their relationships? If you do, feel free to keep exaggerating because you’ll keep bringing drama in.

I did this once. I messed up. I got a gift from my in-laws for Christmas, it was a brick of cheese. It’s not that big. And it was good. I liked it. But I exaggerated how much I liked. I always felt like, “Yeah, I don’t feel like I have as close a relationship with my in-laws as I like so I’m gonna kind of go over the top.” And I was like, “It’s awesome. It’s so great. I love this cheese so much.” I totally exaggerated how much I liked that cheese. Next Christmas, another block of cheese. The problem is, I had only eaten about that much of the other block of cheese. Now I had two blocks of cheese in my freezer. And the next Christmas, another block of cheese. And it kept coming. And it wasn’t like I could throw it away.

So, you know, I had basically a brick wall of cheese in my freezer, and then it became came like every time they came for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, I was like, “Hey, we can’t let her, we can’t let your mom, Coletta we can’t let your mom go to the freezer in the garage because she’s gonna see the wall of cheese. And she’s gonna…” So we gotta somehow figure out how we can make sure that she never goes out to do there. Like, “Oh she said…Hey, what can I get for you,” right? It’s just drama. What I should have said was, “I liked this. Thank you.” And if I got another one the next year, “I liked this, but not that much.” If you want drama in your life, feel free to tell your spouse the next time you’re irritated with them, “You always,” and they’ll come back with, “Well that’s because you never,” and now you got some fun happening. Right? But if you want some peace, try not exaggerating. Try telling the truth.

Third reason is that truth produces peace by inviting grace. The problem is that the things that we omit are usually the things that require us to admit that we need grace. Right? We omit the things that require us to admit that we have done wrong. And the problem is that, without repentance, without confession, without admitting we’ve done wrong, there’s no forgiveness. God says very clearly, if you confess your sins, he’s faithful and just to forgive you. If you confess your sins. Without confession, there’s no forgiveness. Without admission, there’s no confession. And so without being willing to admit and stop omitting the things that we’ve done that are wrong in our relationship with each other, in our relationship with God, we never get the opportunity to experience grace. But when we are willing to stop omitting, and start admitting, that we’ve done wrong, that we’ve sinned, that we’re not perfect, that we messed up, that we did this wrong and we didn’t handle this right, and we just screwed up. Until we do that, we’re not gonna experience grace. But when we do that, with God at least, I can’t promise that it’s always gonna be that way with every human relationship. But at least you won’t live in the fear that they’re gonna find out what you’ve done wrong. And it’ll be so much worse, right? But with God, with absolute 100% certainty, that if you’ll confess, you can be forgiven. So truth produces peace because it invites grace.

So, bottom line. It’s pretty simple. Raising the truth level in our lives also raises the peace level. Right? Raising the truth level in our lives also raises the peace level. Assuming one very important thing, that is assuming that you’re combining truth with love. That’s what God says. “Tell the truth,” but he says tell the truth with love. Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth to one another in love.” And I gotta say this because I know that there’s some people in here going, “This is awesome. Pastor told me I gotta tell more truth. Honey, buckle up. I need to tell you some stuff I think about your family. I’ve got some stuff to say about your friends,” right? No, no I’m not talking about that. Listen to me. This is important to understand. Love without truth is weak. But truth without love is a weapon. And this isn’t supposed to be a weapon. This is supposed to be an instrument of peace, okay? Love without truth, it’s weak. Okay? We claim that we love people, but if we’re not willing to tell them the truth, we don’t actually have the power to bless. We don’t have the power to love them well.

This is a cool weekend for me. I got a note on Thursday. I got a text message from a former student of mine. I discipled him all through high school, all through college. He’s a Marine Corps pilot. And he’s in seminary right now. And he wrote me on Thursday to say, “Hey, I’m preaching my very first sermon this weekend.” I was like, “Oh, that’s awesome. I’m proud of you.” And he said, “Hey, would you be willing to give me some feedback?” And I said, “Yeah, but honestly, feedback before is better than feedback afterwards. So why don’t you send me your notes?” So he sent me his notes. And I looked at them, and said, “This is really good. There’s some great truth there. I love this.” But I thought, it’s a little inaccessible. It’s a little…Sounds like it was written by a seminary student, honestly.

I was like, “It’s got a lot of Latin phrases.” Like, so I wanted to say, “Well, maybe use less Latin, not no Latin, obviously, but maybe a little bit less Latin. Maybe not use words like synoptics and ontological in your message.” Now, see, I love him, but if I didn’t combine that truth, and if I wasn’t willing to give him a little bit of that feedback in love, my love would have been pretty ineffectual. It wouldn’t have accomplished much in his life and his development or in his ability to bless the people that God had give him an opportunity to influence. And so, see love without some truth is actually pretty weak. If you got somebody in your life that struggling with an addiction, if you really love them, you’re gonna tell the truth and call them out on that addiction. You’re gonna call out sin in their lives because love without truth is weak. But the truth without love, that’s a weapon. And we’re not called to use truth as a weapon. It’s supposed to be an instrument of grace, and mercy, and peace.

I think pretty frequently of a billboard, it’s on the way between Columbus, Ohio and Edon, Ohio, which is where my parents live. And we fly to Columbus and we’re driving to Edon, and there’s a billboard, it’s all bright orange and flamed, and it says, “Without Jesus, you will burn in hell forever.” 1-800 something or other. And every time I see that, I think, you know, that’s true. It’s truth. The Bible is pretty clear about that. But where’s the love? And I wonder how much traffic that 1-800 number gets. People call me, “Please tell me about Jesus and his love.” Truth without love can be a weapon. But truth with love, that’s an instrument of peace, between us and God, between us and one another. And so, the more we raise our level of truth, the more we raise the level of peace in our lives.

A couple of quick questions for you. Number one, am I more prone to omission, exaggeration, or fabrication? Identify the one that you’re most prone to. And do yourself a favor, call it what it is. Confess it, be forgiven of it, and then ask for the Holy Spirit’s power to begin changing in that area of your life, to raising the truth level in your life in that area where you’re most tempted to not embrace truth fully. The second question is just this. Some of you need to ask this, am I missing out on peace in my life because I’m living a lie that needs to be replaced with truth? My guess is there’s somebody listening to this right now who’s living with no peace in their lives because you’re living in constant fear and anxiety that there’s a lie that’s gonna be discovered. And I’m not gonna lie to you, speaking the truth may not be easy. And I can’t promise that every human being will respond with grace. I can promise you Jesus will. But if you’re living with that lack of peace in your life because there’s a presence of a lie, it’s time to replace the lie with truth. Would you pray with me?

God, thank you for your grace. We confess as your people, as followers of Jesus, that we follow the devil’s example far too often. We omit, we exaggerate, we fabricate. We push peace out. But, Lord, we’re calling for your Holy Spirit to do a work in us so we can reverse that trend. Make us people of truth and raise the truth level in our lives. And as we do that, Lord, we long the experience a raising of the peace level as well. So do your work in us. Call us to the courage. Give us the courage to embrace truth, and so to experience peace.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, we just begin praying right now for the people listening to this message that aren’t followers of Jesus. And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment. You know, my hope is that in this, you’ve heard something incredibly important, and it’s basically just this, no matter what you may have heard, no matter what you may have thought, no matter what, honestly, satan may have deceived you into believing, God is not motivated by fear. He’s not motivated by anger. He’s not motivated by wrath. He’s not motivated by power. He’s motivated by love. He loves you so much, that in spite of the fact that your sin is serious, that it does lead to death, he was willing to pay the price for your sin with his own Son’s death. God loves you so much he sent his own Son, Jesus, Son of God. He lived a perfect life, he died on the cross as a payment for your sin, for my sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And now he offers us salvation. He offers us forgiveness. He offers us peace with God, simply by putting our trust in Jesus, by saying yes to following Jesus. And if you don’t have that peace with God and you long for it, and there’s something in your heart saying, “It’s time. I need it.” Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, just have this conversation with God, say:

Hey, God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m admitting it. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I believe you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, and peace with God. I’m ready to receive that. Jesus, I’m saying yes to following you. I’m putting my trust in you. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

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