10 Sep 2017
Matthew 5:33-37 Let's Be Honest Pastor Jason Lim 10 September 2017 Honesty is hard to find. Billy Joel sang "honesty is such a lonely word. " The world around us is filled with lies- fake news, false advertisements, airbrushed photos, devious cheats and cunning scams. That's why we have barriers and cameras and contracts- we just can't trust people. But Jesus calls us to honesty and integrity. He is our example for integrity as honored His word and suffered on the Cross. Discover from this sermon how God gives hope and grace to liars like us, and how you can really want to live a life of integrity.
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Glad to be back and to resume our series in the book of Matthew and today we come to an interesting subject I think.
A pastor was preparing the church for sermon next week so he says, “Guys when you go home, please read up on Deuteronomy chapter 35 because there will be a special sermon next Sunday.” So next Sunday came, they gathered together again and the pastor asked them, “I hope you have read Deuteronomy 35. Can I see by a show of hands - how many of you have read Deuteronomy 35?” Almost every hand went up and everyone was very happy that they were so obedient, so compliant with their pastor. The pastor then smiled and said, “Well I think you guys are absolutely ready and you're absolutely the right people for me to preach this message to. I'm going to preach today about lying and just in case you do not know, there are only 34 chapters in Deuteronomy.”
Well, today we are going to look at the subject on lying or the converse, honesty. When I hear the word honesty, this tune rings in my mind, honesty…..if you remember that, it's a song by Billy Joel called Honesty and the lyrics go…..honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard and mostly what I need from you. Well, honesty is hard to find, that's what Billy Joel is saying in this song. We are so used to lies today, don't you, I mean, don't you realise that we are so used to lies all around us.
Some of the common lies you might be bombarded with on a regular basis might be things like…you've been selected from a million people to stand a prize to win our grand prize, you see that in your emails, you see that in social media - it's a lie, you say! Maybe you have also heard of this lie - this offer is limited to the first 50 callers only, yah sure, if I'm 52nd you'll still entertain it right because is a sales pitch. Maybe the third lie you might be familiar with is - this is the best price ever, you never get this price anywhere else, maybe from Taobao you can but well that's what people say this is the best price ever or how about this - your table will be ready in a minute but you're still waiting there after 10 or I'm just five minutes away- I'm coming soon, I'm coming soon but actually you just woke up. You never meant five minutes or I'll start my diet tomorrow that's a lie we say to ourselves, we don't really mean it but we still say it and finally, I won't eat much, I'll just take a bite. I'm guilty of this, Winnie I won't eat much I just have little bite but you end up eating a lot of it.
Lies are all around us, it's in society too. Today we have a lot of fake news, even the government takes a notice on fake news or how about fake or false representations in advertisements, maybe in the food you eat. The advertisements show a real good taco but the real one is so miserable looking or maybe you have misrepresentations in advertisements on dietary supplements. This is obviously fake! You can't change a white guy to a black guy with dietary supplements or maybe fake representations, false representations in the photos you send. Wah, look at me, I sit on a sports car it's obviously “photoshopped”. So today, we have airbrushing, everybody looks better, it's not quite real but I want you to, to believe I looked that good so because of all these falsehoods and lies and deceit around us, the society goes around trying to circumvent this by having contracts.
Now why do you have contracts because you can't take someone at his word? You can't believe that guy. I'm going to sell this to you for X amount of money but what if he what, backs out? That's why today we have contracts, we presume people will lie. That's why you have time punch cards, punch in, punch out, you can't trust them to come at the time they say they come and leave at the time they say they leave. You have to have these systems and even in public transport, you have systems that assume that people will lie. This red gantry, this red barriers that opens and closes, this is to prevent people from cheating, not paying. So the world today is built around the assumption on lies, even your in-car camera, it's to record video recordings so that when people have a false claim against you, you have evidence, because we know people will lie. So we live in a day and age when lies are all around us but this is not unique to us, even during the times of Jesus there was also a lot of lies.
In fact, the religious leaders perpetuate systems and methodologies so that you can lie without guilt. I think during the times of Jesus, there was a lying epidemic like there is today. So what does God think about all that, what is God's will about honesty and lying, what is Jesus' advice or teaching for us in those days that are still applicable today? Well, that's what we are going to look at in the Sermon on the Mount in this section, the Law Fulfilled.
We open with verse 33 that says again you have heard that it was said to those of old - you shall not swear falsely but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn. A vow, an oath, the act of swearing, is a way by which you call upon someone greater - you call upon God to attest to the validity of your statement. This is to show more convincingly to the hearer that what you say is true so a vow is not a bad thing, a vow is a good thing to assure someone that what you say is true so that they will believe you but Jesus went on to say in verse 34 but I say to you, do not take an oath at all. Now an oath, let me say this again, an oath, a vow, swearing is not necessarily an evil or bad thing you have many occurrences of that in the Bible. There are teachings on making vows in the Bible it's not a wrong thing but Jesus went on to say - don't take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King, that is God Himself. Why did God or why did Jesus say, “Don't take any oath at all?”
Well, it's the clue is found in the things by which the religious leaders teach the people to swear by. They teach them to swear via one of these various options, you can swear by heaven, you can swear by earth or you can swear by a city, Jerusalem and if that is not enough in Matthew 23, Jesus says you have also taught people to swear by the temple or you can also swear by the gold of the temple and if that's not enough verse 18 of Matthew 23 says you can swear by the altar or you can swear by the gifts on the altar and so, you have a system, you have a selection of things to swear by. You can swear by heaven, you can swear by earth, you can swear by Jerusalem, you can swear by temple, the gold of the temple, the altar or the gifts on the altar, are you lost, when you have many options to swear by but what, what's the reason to have different things to swear by, aah, the reason is this - different things you swear by have different weightage to which you are to bind yourself to your word. Some things you swear by, you must obey, you must fulfil, you must honour. Some things you swear by you don't really need to honour so much. In our Hokkien language here, some things “bo pah keh”, some things not so binding, some things not so obligatory so this is what Jesus says - if anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing but this not Jesus, this is what Jesus says, the religious leaders are teaching, the Jewish people are living, if I swear by the temple, if I swear to you, I'll pay you back money, I swear by the temple, I'll pay you back money, actually you don't have to fulfil one lah! It is nothing lah but if the guy says, I swear by the gold of the temple, ah, then, he will have to fulfil.
Another example again if I swear by the altar it's nothing but if I swear by the gifts that is on the altar, I'm bound by the oath. So I owe you money I promise you by the lamb on the altar, I promise you I'll pay you ah then he has to pay but if he is cunning and deceitful, he says I swear by the altar, actually he don't have to pay. So there is this whole complex system where some are binding and some are not so graphically if I swear by the temple, Herod's Temple in the days of Jesus, no need to fulfil but if I swear by the gold of the temple, I have to fulfil. If I swear by the altar, the altar on which animals are sacrificed, I don't have to fulfil but if I swear by the gift that is on the altar, I have to fulfil. So what you have is a system, a complex selection of some oaths that are absolutely binding and some oaths that are not binding.
Now what did I say oaths are supposed to be? They're supposed to be devices by which you show more convincingly to others that what you say is true but because of their wicked system they've twisted it to be a system by which they can hide some of their desires to deceive others and not obey the Word so when you do business with some people like that he promises, “I'll pay you back, I'll pay you back, I swear by the toilet, I'll pay you back.” You ask yourself, “Hey, actually toilet, is it binding or not binding”, you scratch your head, don't know whether in the system, it is of which category, so if this person just keeps spewing, I swear, I swear, I swear, I swear, I swear by the chair, I swear the tree, I swear by the moon, I swear by the stars, he seems so honest when actually all his oaths were just a cloak for lies.
It was a wicked system to perpetuate deceit. It was evasive kind of swearing and the Jews by and large, I think, have mastered it to such a fine art that you can lie without batting an eyelid and assume that you are guiltless because you swore by something that is not binding. So Jesus said no, no to this wicked system. Jesus is not really saying no to the system of oaths, the concept of oaths, but Jesus is saying no to this wicked system where you intentionally swear falsely to deceive others. He says, “Do not take an oath by the heaven or earth, or Jerusalem, or your head.” Why not even your head, I thought head is mine, no, head is not really yours because you cannot even make one hair white or black. Some of you wish you can but you can't, it's God's so you can't swear by any of these things - why, because whenever you swear any of these things you swear by Him.
Look at this - you thought swearing by the temple is nothing, it's not obligatory because it's not swearing by God. No, you swear by the temple, you also swear by God because God dwells in it. You thought that by swearing by heaven, you will not be bound to oath because you're not swearing by God, you're wrong because it is where the throne of God is and where God sits upon so no matter where or what you swear by, you thought it's not binding, it is absolutely binding because you're still invoking the name of God. So Jesus is saying no to this wicked system of swearing by different things in order to hide their deceit and take the name of God in vain- no to that!
Now, like I said, is God against oaths per se? No, not really. I know it is not because Paul later on in Romans 9 he says, “I am speaking the truth in Christ”, he's invoking the name of Christ, he's calling Christ as witness to attest to the validity of his statement that he's not lying and “My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit”. I mean he's like really serious about convincing his readers that what he says it's true, it's not wrong to make an oath. In fact, it is not sinful to make an oath because God Himself makes an oath. In Hebrews 6 we are told that God guaranteed what He said, with an oath. This is reference to Genesis 15, where God promised Abraham and to the heirs of faith about the coming Saviour so God Himself makes oaths, so oaths are not a wrong thing.
Now let me ask you, how many of you have never made an oath in your life before, can I see by a show of hands, never had an oath before? Let me put it this way, how many of you have made an oath before in your life, can I see by a show of hands? The rest of you lying now or what? OK how many of you have not had an oath before in your life, there will be some, when did you make an oath? When do you make a vow? When did you swear in the name of God, when? Some of us, we made an oath on the day we were married right? This is my wedding vow - I swear before God and man – that's an oath, that's a vow to love and to cherish your spouse, henceforth, till death do you part. Some of us, we might make an oath in the court of law, I've been there before, not because I was charged for anything, I was there as a witness and to say anything in court, you got to swear by an oath and I don't think, I didn't say to the court, eh, judge, Bible say cannot say, say oath. I didn't do that because I understood the Bible as allowing oaths, just that I should not have dishonest oaths. So there's nothing wrong with saying oaths and that's really not what Jesus is tackling. Jesus is not tackling the act of the oath. He's tackling the attitude of dishonesty behind the oath so He says in verse 37, “Let what you say be simply, yes or no, anything more than this comes from evil”, that's his intent- honesty.
Now that has always been the will of God. What Jesus is saying on the Sermon on the Mount is not really revolutionary because it's always been the will of God. It's just that the Pharisees, the religious leaders, the nation as a whole is so twisted that they invented, came up with this whole wicked scheme of system of oaths so as to find excuses for them when they don't fulfil their work but Jesus brings them back and says, “No, don't do that, be honest, let your yes be yes, your no be no. Don't be guilty of taking the name of the Lord your God in vain.” This is the third commandment of the 10 Commandments, don't do that - don't take God's name in vain, not only that so don't swear and say God be my witness and then you're never really going to fulfil it. You don't sincerely mean it you take God's name you made a mockery of His witness. That's bad, that's sinful but when you are not fulfilling your vow, you also break the eighth commandment - you shall not bear false witness against your neighbour, you're, you're lying against him, that's also another sin and throughout the Old Testament you read of these verses like, you shall not swear by my name falsely, you can swear, by my name, but don't do it falsely and so profane the name of your God, I am the Lord.
Proverbs 12, lying lips are an abomination to the Lord but those who act faithfully are his delight. You say it's just a little lie, just a little lie. Well the Bible says lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, dishonesty is not pleasing to God, at the least in the least bit.
Now when you come to the New Testament, nothing's changed. Honesty is still the best policy, still the only policy. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with, with his neighbour for we are members one of another so the point here is we are part of the same family. We should love one another. We should not hurt one another with our lies. We should speak the truth in love. We should speak the truth truthfully. We should speak truthfully to one another because we love one another.
Colossians 3, verses 9 and 10, do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self and now you have put on the new, you're new creation, you are a new person, don't live like the old life, live according to what God has made you in Christ, speak truthfully. Same, 1st Peter 3:10, whosoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit and then in James 5, I think James probably copied Jesus, when he said, “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath but let your yes be yes and your no be no so that you may not fall under condemnation.” Don't always have this system of oaths that you don't honour but be a man of integrity, let's be honest.
I think the sermon is or the teaching, the principle, the meaning is very straightforward but herein is the application – alright I think it's one thing to know, okay, I need to be honest but we also need to know how honesty looks like in a Christian's life so let me suggest to you a few areas I think this principle of integrity, faithfulness, honesty should be applied.
Number one, I think it can be seen in the way we speak. Now, have you met people when you speak to them and when they speak to you, they will always say, “Eh honestly ah…. this is like that” and “To be honest with you, honestly, I promise you I…”. Have you heard people like that- every two statements is honestly, honestly then the second statement that has no honestly, I don't know whether to trust you or not. Jesus says, let your yes be yes your no be no, anything more than this is evil. I'm not saying you can never say the word honestly, I'm not saying you can never say the, the phrase to be honest, but the point is you don't need to always qualify your statements to be honest, honestly, I promise you if you are living a life committed to integrity. If you're committed to a life that says no matter what, whether I say honestly, preface it with I promise you or I preface it with I stamp chopped, double confirm, doesn't matter if I have these things, whatever that comes out of my mouth I intend to fulfil and to honour it to the best of my abilities. I think that should be the way we speak. OK, from now on when we talk no need to honestly, honestly, honestly, Pastor honestly I, OK I, don't know how to respond sometimes so if you are sincere about this, you have a heart committed to integrity, speech changes.
Another way by which integrity, faithfulness, honesty will be seen in your speech is in this diagram, take a look. What is this? This is exaggeration you know exaggeration is a sin because it is not honest, not true. Wah, I went fishing and I caught a big fish, very big fish but actually like that one lah, that's exaggeration! Wah that goal very nice ah, super nice, never seen that goal like that before, sometimes also exaggeration! Daddy, daddy, I shoot the ball very far know, from the whole field! Actually your field is the kid's field, it's not an adult field. So we, we, you know it is, you can exaggerate in your sales pitch. You want to sell a product to a customer you say, wah this is my product, you, you eat already, you handsome, beautiful forever. I mean we, we, can all exaggerate numbers, facts and that's not truthful and exaggeration can happen, can even happen in church and in ministry. Wah, our ministries is this, our, our numbers are this, it's, it's a lie. God is not honoured when we lie so exaggeration should be out.
I think embellishments should also be out. You know you tell a story, story not so exciting, so you add a bit of salt and pepper lah, or salt and vinegar, “jia yan, jia chu” (加盐加醋). Wah wah, okay I don't have a story today but you can imagine, how we embellish and speak untruths in a story that may be true, and that's not proper.
How about this other problem - integrity in your speech? Look at this diagram, tell me what it is? This is white lies, white lies. White lies are seemingly to you, harmless lies so that you don't hurt someone else. So this guy is thinking, aiyah, she's really awful actually but I don't want her to, I don't want to say anything because she might cry so I say to her - great job today when you actually don't mean it. I know this is hard - dear am I slim? Wah, very hard to answer, that one, or, or how's my cooking today, alright, sometimes you may have to think of clever ways to tell the truth without lying but white lies, I think in my opinion is also not to be accepted.
It's interesting I think. I think some of you may think white lies may be fine. I personally, I think, don't think so because God doesn't lie. He doesn't give a single white lie, he doesn't lie and I think as followers of God, as followers of Jesus Christ, I think that should be the commitment we have. Someone said if you're not careful, white lies always introduce others of a darker complexion so it might seem white to you now but soon, that habit grows to blatant deceitful malicious lies in the future so let your yes be yes, your no be no, seen in your speech but let me say that this also applies to your jobs.
Now, some of you are working in areas where lying could be a temptation. Maybe you are a salesman and car salesman or I don't know, insurance or property and we tend to have that temptation to add in something that may not be true like this guy.. “Eh, eh, come, come, I seem to have the perfect car for you, it's a Porsche.” But it's not lah, just sticker pasted over it and we tell everyone the same thing. So you might be a salesman, you might be a doctor because you want to earn a few more quick bucks, you say a little lie, you might be a lawyer, you might be a politician, you might be a reporter, you might be a researcher, you might be a pastor but all of us are to understand that integrity applies to the jobs we do. I think that is what it means to have that heart that is committed to saying yes is yes and no is no.
Another area by which I think integrity may be manifested coming soon in a few months' time is in your taxes. You have to file taxes right? Are you honest in your tax filings? Now of course those who don't earn much, nothing much to put lah it's okay but for those you who earn a lot, wah, you may manipulate, you may not be, may not be honest and I don't think that's honest, accounts it's your accounts, your business, your personal life, honest. Now, Singapore didn't pay me anything to say this. The government didn't but this is I think to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, the principle of integrity comes into your accounts, taxation, finances.
Another area, I think integrity, faithfulness, honesty is very important in guess where, maybe I won't say, what do you think it is the next one? Your speech, your job, your taxes, what else, a few more areas but one more area which is very prevalent or real today would be in the area of punctuality. Hey, I see you at 9 ah see you at 9 but actually you never intend to be there at 9 lah. You assume he'll be late, you also think that it's okay to be late, so you say 9, but you come at 9:15 lah. Hey, I meet you church 11 a.m. service but you come at 11:20. Well punctuality, I think, is a reflection of our integrity, right, especially when you agree with someone this is the time to meet. Now, of course, punctua.., now the word punctuality is not found in the Bible. I have not seen it in the Bible but the principles behind punctuality I think are relevant from the Bible. You're a person of integrity, you value and respect others, especially their time, you care for them, you value yourself, you are responsible, I think that's fair. I think punctuality is a often neglected virtue, I don't intend this to be legalistic as if we measure one another's spirituality or worth by this alone but if you want to be living a life committed to faithfulness, you'll watch your punctuality. Someone said punctuality is closely related to faithfulness and dependability, being tardy can be linked to uninterest, apathy, slothfulness, procrastination so on and so forth.
How do you tell if a man is faithful? You know in church, in discipleship we always say, “Look for people who are faithful, available, teachable, humble.” But how do you look for faithfulness, how do you tell, one very easy way to tell- punctuality.
Now I'm not talking about those who are occasionally late because their car broke down, got typhoon in Singapore or whatever, I'm not talking about circumstances that are way beyond your control. I'm talking about habitual lateness. It is about that habit, it's about the trend and pattern of life. So how do you tell a faithful man, well he's committed to even little things like punctuality? How do you know he's not faithful, because he's not committed to little things like punctuality. One way by which I look at myself and one way by which I think we look at- faithfulness. Someone said preparedness and punctuality are two of the most important qualities of a leader, you can't lead if you're not faithful, you're not committed, you're not prepared, you're not punctual, can't... but is punctuality common today? Rare huh? Meet with friends, meet with classmates, meet with colleagues, it's rare to find punctuality today, especially at where? Wedding dinners, no one is punctual right? Dinner starts at 6:30, nobody believes it starts at 6:30 so well, this is, this is the world we live in, yet, I think that's where a Christian shines. When everyone is not punctual but you are punctual, all the time. After a while, people ask you why, it's a different value system altogether. I saw this picture I thought it was cute, it says ah repair guy says he will show up between five and eight, he's actually shows up at five wow, good chap, rare to find a guy like that today. So how's your life in terms of integrity, your speech, your job, your taxes, your timekeeping, punctuality, another area I think which is very obvious is how we keep our promises?
Now, this is not always easy. Two days ago, my son wanted to watch a show, I say, “No ,you've got to go to sleep” and I unwisely said, “Shawn it's okay daddy will help you to find that show tomorrow.” Well the next day came, which is yesterday and I couldn't find it. Couldn't find it on YouTube, I thought it's available on YouTube, just a simple show but I said I and he was really upset, you see lah, you see lah, you can't find you say have and, and I was, I was, I was, wah irritated by him but not so much by the fact that he irritated me but by the fact that I did say I have to help him and I tried all my means and did my best to find that because I have to demonstrate to him, I need to keep my word, as best as I can so we need to be people to keep promises, not always possible because sometimes circumstances are beyond us but is there a level best, best effort basis on all that we do.
I think another area that you may break your promises very easily in the church is this, or at least for me, if people come and say, pastor would you, would you what? Pray for me in this and you know what I'll say? Eh why, why you all like don't know what ah, Pastor will you pray for me and I will say yes, very hard to say no right, how to say no, but the problem when I say yes, “I will pray for you”, is what I, I will forget. I will forget - 10% of you asked me to pray, I already forget already, the reality, right so a lot of times, not because I don't want to but if you say, “Please pray for me”, I said I will but tomorrow comes the days worries come, problems come and I forget, what to do so I think the best policy is when you say pastor, can you pray for me, you know what I should do and what I do huh - aiyah, yah, yah, yah, I thought you all say don't pray anymore, no, I can't hear you properly, so I will say, “Alright come, let's pray - let's do it right now because tomorrow I will forget.” So do it now, sometimes later becomes never -so that you keep to your word.
Now another area I think you just have to honour it is with regards to your vows. A real man, real men aren't promise makers, they are promise keepers. Very easy to make promises, real man keep promises. It's easy to make promises, hard to keep promises but being a man of integrity involves keeping promises including your wedding vows. Some of us forget our wedding vows, what do you say on wedding day, now it depends on what you say lah, if your wedding vow is a bit chin chye [local dialect: means not to worry too much about the details, indicating a relaxed manner] , promise to marry you for another year, then okay lah, that's fine but if your wedding vow is… I promise to have you as my lawfully wedded husband or wife, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, for better or for worse, now you're getting worse, but never mind, I still will have and to hold, love and cherish, that's what a vow is right, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health till death do us apart, that's a vow and that's what you have to commit yourself to. On many levels divorce just isn't right, you break your vow, you break your promise before God as witness and before all your friends and relatives as witnesses so we are to be a people of integrity, you say why, because the God and Saviour you follow - they keep their word.
Jesus, in Hebrews 10:7 is said to say, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God.” What did He come to do? He came to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He came to be a sacrifice on the cruel cross to set us free from sin. Jesus did what He said He will do. It was difficult, it was painful, He says, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”, but then the very next breath He says, “Nevertheless, not as I will but as You will” and I'm committed to this - I've come to do Your will O God and even at the garden He did not shrink shirk back but He faced the cross firmly.
Our Saviour keeps His Word, Our God never lies. Hebrews 6:18 it is impossible for God to lie so the Christian church is called to a high moral standard of life of full honest integrity and faithfulness because that is the attribute of our God. He is a God of integrity, of faithfulness. He doesn't change. He doesn't alter His Word. He doesn't go back on His Word. He is faithful.
Now this is where the contrast comes, we know this is God's standard, absolute honesty- but where are you and me? We are right here, we are part of the wicked, we are all the wicked, the Bible says the wicked are estranged, separated from God, from the womb, they go astray from birth, speaking lies, everybody lies, everyone.
There's, there's a story of a man who was walking down the street and he met a group of boys. They were very excited, very animated and so he asked them - what are you doing? They say - we are having a little competition to see who can win the prize. What's the competition about? Well, the competition is about who can speak or tell the biggest lie - the man then says, “That's a terrible competition - nobody should speak lies, while, while I was your age, I never spoke a lie.” Everybody was silent and then they said, “You are the winner because everybody lies!” Don't you think? We are all sinful, wicked, the Bible describes us as such and from birth, we speak lies. From young you speak lies, you don't have to learn, you don't have to go for class on how to tell a lie, you naturally tell lies except for my two sons, they never spoke a lie, of course not, just yesterday they spoke plenty of it, at least the younger ones, younger one. All are guilty of it, whether it's your taxes, your speech, your punctuality, your vows, your promises, we've sinned in this regard and you know what's the scary thing? The scary thing is that all liars go to hell! Wow, Pastor that's a very strong statement! I thought terrorists go to hell. I thought rapists and murderers go to hell but the Bible says yah they do together with all liars. You see, God is so holy, so righteous that not a single sin is tolerable in His sight. Every single sin must be judged and sinners, liars must be judged.
Now some of you would, now wait a minute, wait a minute, right now, you might be thinking, okay, I've come to this church for the past half hour, you have been telling me about how, how lying is a sin and how God is going to throw sinners to hell - I get your message, I get the message you say, you said, I know what you are going to tell me next, don't be a liar, stop lying, quit lying so that God will perhaps be merciful to you and send you to heaven, be good and don't lie anymore God will send you to heaven, is that the message Pastor? I say no, absolutely no! That's not what the Bible is teaching. The Bible is not saying to you, you were a liar, stop lying now and perhaps God will save you and love you and accept you. No, that's not what the Bible says at all! You know why, because even if you stop lying today which is impossible by the way but even if you do stop lying today, you are still a liar in your whole life and before a perfect God, you will not be accepted, you're damned and doomed by yourself. Wah, Pastor, you're so jialat [dialect: hard to please or hopeless] know? You talk, you say, you speak as if we are all going to hell and I can't save myself, this is really bad news. I say you are absolutely right.
Part one of the Bible is about absolute bad news, that you're so sinful and you're so damned in and of yourself, you can't save yourself. That's why the Law of God is given - the 10 Commandments - thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbour, the law is given not for you to obey to earn acceptance with God, it is impossible, the law is given to show you, you cannot save yourself by yourself, you can't fulfil the law but here is the good news! Here is the great news! Here is the fantastic news! Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, all the law for you and He went to the cross, gave His life so that His blood, His death will wash away all your sins, all your lies and His righteousness, His perfection will be given to you if you repent and believe in Him.
This is the unique Christian message. This is what we call the Gospel - the Good News of Jesus Christ. God is made sin for us that we who are sinners might be made righteous through Him. It's not about you trying to be good it's about Jesus - the Good Master giving you His good so you say what should I do? The Bible says you need to repent of your sins, you must not sit here and say I'm not a sinner, I'm not a sinner, I'm not that bad, I'm not a bad, I'm not that wicked, I'm not a liar, no, no, you come to God with humility.
You come to God admitting that you are a liar, you are sinner, you have a wicked heart, you are cut off from God, you're a rebel before God! You repent of your sin and you say I need to depend on Jesus Christ. His finished work on the cross to save me from my sins, you see you need a heart transplant. You need a new heart, you sin with your lips and with your life because your heart is wrong - out of your wicked heart, out of the heart of man come all these things, including false witness so you need to come to God for a new heart and this new heart is available only when one repents and believes in Jesus Christ but here is the good news when one repents and believes in Jesus Christ, the promise of the Bible comes true for you - I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more, God says not because they are good, not because they have tried to stop themselves from lying but because I'm merciful, My Son died for their sins and I will give them a new heart. I'll take away the heart of stone and I'll give them a heart of flesh, a heart that now loves Me, knows My love, beats for Me that wants to obey. See when you repent and believe God gives you a new heart, then and only then, could you live a life of integrity of faithfulness more and more in your life.
Like I said I have two sons. They lie from young, I didn't teach them, I didn't have to tell them you know when you lie, be careful the way you look at people, no, no I didn't have to do that, they knew how to do it, they were experts at it, they are still experts at it. When they lie, I discipline them severely because I think integrity is very important but in that discipline, what do you do? You have kids, what you do when your kids lie? What do you do? You know what my parents used to do? My parents will bring me to “Haw Par Villa” (Chinese folklore and mythology park in Singapore) and show me the guy with the tongue pierced - say this is where you go oh okay that's fine, if you believe that, that's what parents so what you do as parents when your kids lie now of course you tell them it's wrong, you inflict certain punishment and pain so that they remember the that, that sin and disobedience brings consequences but don't stop there. I tell Matthias, Shawn what you did is wrong, it is sin but you know why Shawn, Matthias you sin because your heart is sinful. Shawn, Matthias you need to come to Christ, you need to repent and believe, you need a new heart. You see you've got to direct your kids and discipline regularly to the Gospel, shepherd their hearts to the Gospel. I've said this many times because I think many parents don't quite get that as yet and even if you get it, you don't do it diligently as yet and so you missed out on opportunities to bring your kids to the Gospel. What you need for your kids is not the fact that they seal their lips. What you need for the kids is that they have a new heart and the only way they can have a new heart is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You see when you have a new heart, everything changes. Now you love God and that's why you can stop lying you know why you lie? You lie because you love something more than God - you love money, that's why you will not hesitate to cheat a little to get more money. You lie because you want greater regard and respect and hearing from others, that's why you will lie. You lie because you want to have some comfort, you want to avoid some consequences but when you love God and you see Christ, God as of supreme worth in your life, then you say so what if I were to suffer, so what if I were not, if I were to lose this deal, so what if I were to lose the money - God is of infinitely greater worth than these things I will lose, therefore, I will be honest.
Lying and honesty is a reflection of your value system in the heart, it's just that! If God is of supreme worth to you, you live a life of righteousness regardless of the cost and if money, comfort, popularity is of supreme worth to you, you will lie because God is not right there on the throne of your heart. So when we have a new heart, everything changes, the Gospel changes everything.
Maybe this morning, you are already a Christian, you believe Jesus, you have been following Him but you have unfortunately stumbled into sin, you have been cheating on something, you've not been living an honest life. The question you have this morning is does God still accept me, does God still love me?
I want to tell you a story in the Bible. A story of a man who was asked this question, do you know Jesus? The man says no, I do not know Jesus. He was asked a second time – do you know this Jesus? Aren't you part of the gang? No of course not I am not part of the gang I don't know Jesus. He was asked the third time – are you a follower of Jesus? No absolutely not and as he says the word no, the cock crows! Who is this man? Peter, Peter denied Jesus three times, he lied three times and the Bible tells us as soon as the cock crows, he wept with tears and sorrow. He knew he had just sinned against God.
Maybe today you are like Peter – you've sinned against God and you grieve and I think it's a good thing that you should grieve over your sin, blessed are those who mourn and let me tell you the good news. The Bible says blessed are those who mourn, especially over their sins for they shall be comforted. You know one of the great stories in the book of John is in John 21 where after the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus deliberately came to Peter and said to him, Peter feed my sheep, feed my sheep, feed my sheep – why? Corresponds to the three times I supposed Peter lied. It's an affirmation that Jesus is saying, come back, serve me, stop fishing for fishes, come back, serve me.
Maybe this day, God is saying to you come back. I know you've sinned. I know you have blown it but here is my mercy and grace. This is the faithfulness of God. 1 John 1:9 if we confess our sins, including our lies, He, that is God, is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. Maybe this morning, you are struggling with some dishonesty in your life and you find it hard to come to God, I say to you, you have to come to God because He's not going to cast you away, He's not going to reject you. I find in the Bible that He says if you confess your sins, He will be faithful - He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins. Maybe you can't forgive yourself. Maybe you feel that nobody is able to forgive you anymore but God is, after all, He gave His Son, Jesus Christ to die for all your sins, don't run away from God, come back to His arms of grace and mercy and love. Let Him wash you, let Him cleanse you, let Him embrace you once again and then renew that commitment anew to live a life of integrity and faithfulness, following His footsteps.
It is worth it my friends because when a church, when a Christian lives a life of integrity in the world full of darkness and lies, he stands out, they stand out, we stand out and the world looks at us, see our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven. One day, there will be no more lies. One day there will be no more photoshops, fake news, false advertisements, no need for barriers, no need for gantries, no need for contracts, no need for cameras! We'll live in perfect honesty, integrity, faithfulness, love one with another but till then, let us live out those kingdom values in this world filled with lies. Let us live in this counter-cultural other worldly style so that we may really be the light of the Gospel in this dark and perverse world.
Maybe today you're here and you do not know Jesus, the message once again is not for you to be good, to be righteous, to be faithful, to be honest so that God will forgive you – you can never do that, you're never good enough. We all fail but Jesus has succeeded at that and He gave His life so that you can have that standing before God, righteous standing before God.
This morning it's a call for you to humble yourself, repent and believe in Jesus. I pray you will humbly come to the King to be saved so Father this morning, we are thankful for Your Word, thankful that You are God who never lies. Thank You then we have a strong basis for our hope and because You're faithful, help us to be faithful and for those who have failed over and over again, I pray that the comfort of the Gospel will encourage each heart and the love in the Gospel will inspire us to live a life of true faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness oh God, we praise You and we thank You in Jesus Name, amen.
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