Exodus 20:16
Exodus 20:16

Sermon preached on June 8, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

How should you respond if your wife asks you,

"Does this dress make me look fat?"

Do you dare say,

"It's not the dress that's the problem."?

My friend Stafford once said to me,

"Larry, answer me with a 'yes' or a 'no'. Have you stopped beating Marg yet?"

Now, if you haven't beaten your wife, you really can't answer that accurately with a yes or no. You can't say, "Yes," because that implies that you beat her in the past. You can't say, "No," because that implies that you're still beating her up. There are some questions that you can't answer with a simple yes or no.

Those stories show some of the complications of this commandment. Keeping the commandment in a literal way seems pretty easy. It suggests a legal setting—telling us not to give false testimony against a neighbor in court. But it's not very often that we go to court. But of course, like all of the other commandments, this commandment covers a whole range of sins that have to do with the words that come out of our mouths. It's very difficult to do well with this commandment—even for Christian leaders. As the apostle James wrote in
James 3:1-2,

"Not many should become teachers,
my brothers, knowing that
we will receive a stricter judgment;
for we all stumble in many ways.
If anyone is never at fault in what he says,
he is a perfect man,
able to keep his whole body in check."

This commandment is very difficult to keep.

The problem is compounded in our society because lying so common place and is to a certain degree, accepted. We see it in advertising. On some clothes it's marked,

"One size fits all."

Where did that come from? That's a lie. That's one of the biggest lies around.

Did you ever phone a company and all you do is talk to a machine and get put on hold. You can't talk to a real person without going through all sorts of hoops. While you're waiting, you'll hear a recording say,

"Your call is important to us."

No. That's a lie. If your call was important to them you wouldn't be on hold for half an hour or more. If your call was important to them you'd be able to talk to a person almost right away.

I hate
rebates. Why? Some companies promise you that you'll get a rebate when you buy from them, but even if you follow all the rules and send in all the required forms—they will never send you the rebate they promised you. You never get your money. It's all a lie.

Before we bought our
house I remember driving by a bank and they had a huge sign up in front of their bank that said,

"No closing costs."

We went in and started talking about getting a mortgage from them and after awhile they started talking about closing costs. Marg mentioned their huge banner that said, "No closing costs." They said,

"Well, you can get it with no closing costs. But if you do that, your interest rate will be a lot higher and you'll end up paying a lot more in the long run."

So even though they have a sign up saying, "No closing costs", people would be very wrong to think that it's a good deal.

What do you do if you get a letter in the mail telling you that you won a million dollars? You probably didn't win anything. It's such a lie that a few years ago there was an TV ad that featured it. A guy picked up his mail and as he was going through it, he stopped at one and read it aloud. It said,

"You've just won a million dollars."

And then he proceeded to throw it into the trash. He knew it was a lie. A lot of those companies don't want to give you money—they want to take your money and you're smart if you throw their stuff away.

This past week I was reading that some web sites will tell you that you're an instant winner. But it's a lie. If you fill out the form, with your name, address and phone number, rather than getting anything free, you've signed up for a voice mail package. That's not mentioned anywhere, not even in the fine print. The
$12.00 charge will be on your next phone bill. I read that one guy got signed up for three different voice mail packages and didn't even find out until he noticed that his phone bill had doubled.

If you get an email from someone in Nigeria who wants to contact you so that you can share in millions of dollars, because this widow tells you that before her husband died he put away millions, and now she needs your help in getting it out of the country. What do you do? Do you do it? Well, if you want to lose some money, follow up on it.

Lies abound in our society. If someone does something wrong and is confronted with it—what's the normal reaction? They'll deny it. I don't even follow bicycle racing anymore. So many of the riders tested positive for doping and yet when confronted with the results—so many of them denied it, at least at first.

You and I can do this too. Christian leaders can so easily slip into lying.

Last year the senior pastor of a mega-church in Colorado who was also the President of the National Association of Evangelicals was accused of sexual sin. Sadly, the charge was true. But what did he do? How did he handle it? He lied. He was interviewed on TV and he categorically denied it. He said the charges were all false and that he was faithful to his wife. It was only later after an investigation that he admitted the truth.

That's natural. That's how our sinful nature wants to react. We lie to protect ourselves, or our families, or our position.

But it's not just Christian leaders who are guilty of sin who lie. Sometimes Christian leaders can want something so badly, be so certain that they're correct—that they will use lies, deception and even betrayal to further their ends. The Jewish priests and leaders did that when they wanted Jesus to be put to death by the Romans. The same sins can come upon Christian church leaders. Hermann
Bavinck was a Dutch theologian and I much admire his work. He wrote a masterful work called, "The Doctrine of God". He was a colleague of Abraham Kuyper, at the Free University of Amsterdam. Kuyper went on to become Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Bavinck knew a lot about secular politics and church politics. He was once heard to remark, (Back of book jacket of, "Doctrine of God")

"Ordinary politics sometimes has its sordid side; politics in church affairs always has."

He found Christians worse than non-Christians. He had such a sensitive side that in his later years he withdrew from the mainstream of church life. He couldn't take it. The way that Christians acted disgusted him. Rather than living as children of light, they were acting like they were living in darkness.

Now what I'm trying to point out here is that we all need to pay close attention to this commandment. We need to watch what comes out of our mouths. As we read in James 3:3f,

"When we put bits into the mouths of horses
to make them obey us,
we can turn the whole animal.
Or take ships as an example.
Although they are so large
and are driven by strong winds,
they are steered by a very small rudder
wherever the pilot wants to go.
Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body,
but it makes great boasts.
Consider what a great forest
is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire,
a world of evil among the parts of the body.
It corrupts the whole person,
sets the whole course of his life on fire,
and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds,
reptiles and creatures of the sea
are being tamed and have been tamed by man,
but no man can tame the tongue.
It is a restless evil,
full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse men,
who have been made in God's likeness.
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.
My brothers,
this should not be."

So what then does this commandment demand of us?

The main lesson we see here is that

you must put all forms of lying away from you.

This commandment forbids lying, gossiping, half-truths, little white lies, twisting other people's words, flatteries, putting the best light on your own actions, overstating your own accomplishments, eagerness to hear bad things about others, taking credit for what someone else did, etc. etc.

Calvin writes, (Institutes II:8:47)

"The purpose of this commandment is: since God (who is truth) abhors a lie, we must practice truth without deceit toward one another. To sum up, then: let us not malign anyone with slanders or false charges, nor harm his substance by falsehood, in short, injure him by unbridled evilspeaking and impudence."

You are to speak the truth. You are not to tell lies.

Christians, beware of lies. Stay away from them. So easy to get started. So, so easy. When we do wrong, we want to hide it. We deny. We deny. We lie. Don't do it. Own up, be honest, turn from the sin and from the lie.

This commandment also means that

you should even stay away from lies that seem to arise from a good motive.

Some Christians think it's okay to lie in certain circumstances. They will even cite a few biblical passages in support of their position. They will refer you to the Hebrew midwives who saved the babies that Pharaoh ordered them to kill. They'll also refer you to Rahab who saved the two Israelite spies in Jericho.

That's bad teaching. Don't buy into it. We are called to be holy—not to be liars. Lying is inconsistent with the Christian life. The life from above, the life we get from Christ, through the Spirit—is a life of truth. Never forget that.

Anyone who thinks the 10 Commandments are meant for normal life, but don't need to be followed in
emergency situations, but thinks that precisely then you can throw the 10 commandments away and go by what you happen to feel like at any particular moment—is leaving themselves open for greatly going astray.

Lies come from the devil, they don't come from God. God's nature in truth. It's impossible for Him to lie. But with Satan it's different. In John 8:44 Jesus said to the Jews,

"You belong to your father, the devil,
and you want to carry out your father's desire.
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."

The devil is a liar—the father of lies. God, on the other hand, our Father, is a God of truth. He cannot lie. In living here below we are to seek to become like Him—not unlike Him.

Being truthful is part of how we are to live in the Spirit, as God's redeemed people.

In Ephesians 4 and 5 the apostle Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to live as children of light, as people who have the Holy Spirit in them. For example, in Ephesians 4:22-25 he wrote,

"You were taught,
with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self,
created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you
must put off falsehood
and speak truthfully to his neighbor,
for we are all members of one body."

Isn't it interesting that when Paul here talks about putting off your old self the first thing he mentions is falsehood and how we need to speak what is true. The life from above, the resurrection life of Christ—is all about truth. In John 1:17 John wrote,

"For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

And in John 14:6 Jesus said,

"I am the way
and the truth and the life."

Note those connections. Grace and truth, the way, the truth and the life. We also know that three times in John's gospel the Spirit is referred to as,

"the Spirit of truth".

The Spirit gives us new life and He is the Spirit of truth. In John 8:31-32 Jesus said,

"If you hold to my teaching,
you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free."

Leon Morris writes that to know the truth, (Commentary on John)

"is to enter the liberating experience of being a disciple of the Lord, with all that that means in terms of freedom from sin and guilt, and of fellowship with and knowledge of God."

In Ephesians 5:1-2 Paul tells us to be imitators of God and live lives of love. One of the things about being like God is that we should be truthful. In Hebrews 6:18 the apostle told us that

"it is impossible for God to lie,"

In the same way, now that we are children of God, now that we have the Holy Spirit—we should be like God in truthfulness. Indeed, so close is the relationship between the new life that we have in Christ and the truth that in John 18:37 we are, (literally)

"of the truth"

In John 17:17 we are said to be sanctified, (literally)

"in the truth"

And in John 3:21 it says that we, (literally)

"do the truth"

And in John 4:23 Jesus said that we worship God,

"in spirit and truth."

Truth is an essential and fundamental part of the new life that we have in Christ. The point is that the life that we have been given by the Spirit is to result in truthfulness. We are not longer people of the night, of darkness, but we have the Spirit who is transforming us, making us glorious, making us like God. God is truth.

Lies get people into trouble. Lies are what led Eve into sin. Satan lied to her. Lies got Abraham and Sarah into a lot of trouble when they told people that they were brother and sister rather than husband and wife. Lies got Jacob into trouble. He lied to his father when he stole his brother's birthright. He almost lost his life over it. Esau was going to kill him. David tried to protect Bathsheba with lies. They only got him in deeper trouble and deeper sin. As Sir Walter Scott said,

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive…"

You are to have nothing to do with lies. Lies led to the destruction of Ananias and Sapphira. Lies belong to the devil, to the darkness. We have been redeemed from that. We are now God's people, people of the light, of the Spirit—and a fundamental characteristic of this new life is being truthful. As we read in Ephesians 5:9,

"for the fruit of the light
consists in all goodness,
righteousness and truth."

You never have to lie in order to save yourself. God is all powerful. You can trust Him. We don't have to resort to the weapons of the enemy to be successful. We never have to lie. Jesus also said not to fear those who can kill the body and do no more. You don't have to fear them. God will take care of you.

That's the first part of the commandment. The negative part. We are to put lying far from us. As we read in Proverbs 12:22,

"The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful."

But this commandment also has a positive side.

We are called to use our speech to be helpful to others.

This command has to do with your heart and how you should love your neighbor. John Calvin writes, (Institutes II:8:48)

"it is absurd to think that God hates the disease of evilspeaking in the tongue, but does not disapprove of evil intent in the heart."

It's not enough to tell the truth. As the poet William Blake said,

"The truth told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."

There's a story about a first mate on a ship who didn't like his captain and did everything he could to present the captain in a bad light. One day he entered the following into the ship's log:

"The captain's not drunk today."

But the captain was never drunk. But what the first mate wrote implied that the captain was drunk most days. What he said was technically true, but at the same time it was uncalled for and implied a falsehood. John Calvin says, (Institutes II:8:47)

"we harm a man more by despoiling him of the integrity of his name than by taking away his possessions."

So it's not enough to speak the truth. The positive side of this commandment is that your speech is to be an instrument for blessing others. John Calvin (Institutes II:8:48) suggests that if we are to truly keep this commandment, it is not enough to keep from harming our neighbor with our tongue. He writes,

"For he who does not allow a brother's name to be sullied by falsehood also wishes it to be kept unblemished as far as truth permits."

John Calvin writes, (Institutes II:8:47)

"Hence this commandment is lawfully observed when our tongue, in declaring the truth, serves both the good repute and the advantage of our neighbors."

Isn't that what the Holy Spirit tells us in Ephesians 4:29? We read,

"Do not let any unwholesome talk
come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful
for building others up
according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen."

What a high calling you have. If you hope to dwell with God—you need to be a blessing to others with your lips. Psalm 15:1-5 asks,

"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts… 
He who does these things will never be shaken."

In closing let us make two applications.

First, you who are Christians, how much you need to be asking God to help you keep this commandment.

I really had a struggle with this sermon. At first I didn't know why. But as I thought about it I think it's because it makes it so obvious how I (we) fail in regard to our speech. The standard is so high—yet in our practice we fail so miserably. As I quoted from the apostle James earlier, we all stumble in many ways—especially with our tongues.

How we need God's grace in this regard. Christians, ask God to help you improve your speech. Ask Him to keep you from lies. Ask Him to help you to speak accurately, truthfully, faithfully, in such a way so that you are a blessing to others. We need to be transformed in regard to this command.


if you're not a Christian, this commandment shows you that you need Jesus.

You have lied. You haven't been a blessing to so many like you should have with your speech. The punishment for liars is given to us in 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—
their place will be
in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
This is the second death."

But Jesus can save us. He took the curse that was due to sinners. He took their shame, their guilt, their punishment—and laid down His life for it.

And how do you know He will accept you if you go to Him? Because when He was on the cross He was mocked, He was ridiculed, He was scorned. It wasn't just the chief priests and elders who did that—but both of the criminals who were crucified with Him. In Mark 15:32 we read,

"Those crucified with him
also heaped insults on him."

When Jesus was at His lowest, when He was suffering the most—those near Him did not help Him with their words. They did not help Him by directing Him to the promises in God's Word—but instead they heaped insults on Him.

Yet later, one of them came to his senses and this great liar, this great sinner, said to Jesus, Luke 23:42-43

"Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.'"

Jesus answered him,

"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."

Go to Jesus, for forgiveness, for cleansing, for transformation into the truth.