Today we look at the ninth commandment in a message entitled, "The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth." There was a Sergeant in the Army who was furious because nine of his men-- his GIs who had been out on a pass-- all of them, all nine of them, failed to show at 7:00 o'clock roll call in the morning. The first one straggled back in about 7:00 o'clock that evening.
And here was his excuse. Sir, I'm very sorry I'm late. I had a date last night. I lost track of the time. I missed the bus coming back. So I hired a cab. We got halfway here, the cab broke down.
I went to a nearby farmhouse. I persuaded the farmer to sell me one of his horses. I was riding back here on the horse when the horse dropped dead in the middle of the road. And so I walked the last 10 miles back.
The Sergeant was really angry, very skeptical of the story, but didn't let it go any further than that. He let it pass. A little while later, seven more of these GIs straggled back in, all with exactly the same story-- had a date, missed the bus, got a cab, broke down, bought a horse, died-- same story. And now he's fed up.
And just when he's about to lose it, the ninth guy walks back in. OK, what's your story, said the Sergeant skeptically. Sir, I'm sorry I'm late. Last night I had a date. I lost track of the time. I missed the boss on the way back, so I hired a cab.
Wait, wait, wait, said the Sergeant. Don't tell me. Then the cab broke down. The man said, no, sir. The cab did not break down. It's just there were so many dead horses in the road, we had trouble getting here. I'll let you unravel that one.
In Proverbs Chapter 6, Solomon lists seven things that God hates. And on that list is a lying tongue and a false witness who speaks lies. How are we, as a country, as a culture, in telling the truth? Well, that's a question that a couple of researchers probed.
The Patterson Kim Research Group in New York wrote a book. And one of the chapters, it was called American Liars. And they wrote-- and I'm quoting-- "91% of Americans admit to lying routinely about matters they consider trivial. 36% of these say they tell big lies about important matters that hurt other people." That's quite an admission.
So who's doing all of the lying? Well, here is the breakdown of the population, according to this research. Men lie more than women. Young men lie more than older men. The unemployed lie more than those with jobs. The poor lie more than the rich. Liberals lie more than conservatives-- their research. I'm just quoting it.
Who do we lie most to? According to the same research group, Americans confess lying most, number one, to parents, number two, to friends, number three, to siblings. Least of all, we lie to our doctors, accountants, clergymen, and last of all, to lawyers-- though 42% believe they've been lied to by lawyers-- interesting research.
But aside from that research, we have the standard given in the 10 Commandments. And now the Ninth Commandment, Verse 16 of Exodus 20, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." This commandment is very straightforward. And it sounds very simple.
But it touches on at least three things. Number one, the character of God, number two, the credibility of man, and number three, what is the core issue of verbal integrity? And we're going to take each one of those this morning in our message.
First of all, the very commandment itself given in God's top 10 list, "you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor," must mean, and does imply, that we're dealing with a God who loves truth. He loves the truth. In Deuteronomy, the 32 Chapter, Moses writing what's called "The Song of Moses." we don't know the melody, but one of the stanzas.
Moses writes, "All of his ways are justice. A God of truth without injustice, righteous and upright is he." David also understood that. He knew that he was dealing with a God who loves the truth. For he wrote after he sinned with Bathsheba, and he penned that famous solemn of confession, Psalm 51, "Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts."
So both of them recognize that the God with whom we have to do loves the truth. So it follows that falsehood cannot be long tolerated by someone whose essence and nature is that of truth. Someone who is essentially true is going to have a problem with falsehood.
It would be sort of like a concert pianist with perfect pitch being forced to play at some bar-room, out-of-tune, honky tonk piano. It might be cool for one song. But that sense of perfect pitch will be violated by that piano.
Or imagine a NASCAR driver who is used to pure power, and high speed, and ultimate performance having to drive a 1972 Pinto. Some of you remember that car-- gutless. And so it is with God.
Perfect truth doesn't tolerate evil. That's why, in Proverbs 12, Verse 22, Solomon again writes, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord." well, no wonder.
Now in our verse, Verse 16, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor," false witness-- the word false is sheker. And it means deceptive or betraying testimony-- in other words, somebody perjuring themselves, lying, in a court of law.
But not just a court of law, because it has to do with your neighbor. It's not just a legal commandment. But it means a betraying, deceptive testimony.
You know, in ancient times, liars were really looked down on. They were very ill-regarded. Listen to this description in Proverbs 25. "A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow. Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint," very descriptive, unreliable, hurtful, damaging.
And because liars can do such damage to people, no wonder that Jewish law made sure that testimonies would be absolutely reliable. Here was their criteria. One witness was never enough. Two witnesses, at least, or more were always involved if a charge was to be sustained.
Then also, witnesses were examined independently. If there was any contradiction, the evidence was dismissed. Third, a witness could only be a witness of what he or she actually saw or heard themselves. They had to have been there, and seen, it or heard it. Otherwise, it's invalid.
And finally, anyone under the least shadow of suspicion was ineligible as a witness-- in other words, if they took a bribe as a witness, if they were related to the person on trial, if they were a dice player, or if they were an extortionist. Now beyond that, if there was a false witness at a formal hearing at a trial, if he was found out to be false, sometimes that false witness would be given the same penalty as the one on trial-- in some cases, double the penalty.
For instance, if the one who would be found guilty was to get 40 lashes, the false witness would be given 80 lashes. It was just not tolerated. So just as all of these 10 commandments reflect part of the character of God, so this commandment reflects that God is a God who loves truth. And that's, by the way, how God introduces himself to Moses.
You may recall the time when Moses said, "God, I just want to see your glory." God said, "Moses, you can't see my glory. You'll fry. You'll burn up. You're not capable in your human body of seeing my glory. But I'll tell you what. I'll pass by you in a certain way. And as I pass by, I'll declare who I am to you."
So in Exodus, God does that. And he declares of himself as being one who is abounding in goodness and truth-- abounding in goodness, abounding in truth. So again, it follows that if the God we claim to deal with, and love, and relate to loves the truth, then his children would also be concerned about the truth. And it is true. It is that way.
When Paul writes the famous chapter on love and 1 Corinthians 13, he relates truth to love. He says, in 1 Corinthians 13, "Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth." You know that one of the most loving things you can do for someone else is to tell them the truth.
Sometimes it's not easy to hear the truth. I suppose it's difficult for a doctor to say, sir, you have cancer. And you have six months to live. Somebody hearing that would say, that's not very loving. Actually, it's very loving. Because in saying that, I'm giving that person a chance to deal with the reality, and get ready with his family for it.
And one of the most loving things you and I can do is to tell other people the truth. Tell them the truth about eternity. Tell them the truth about heaven. Tell them the truth about hell. Tell them the truth about false doctrine and deception. Tell them the truth. It's loving.
Now it doesn't mean you just blurt it out in an unloving way. The Bible says, speak the truth in love. But having said that, to speak the truth at all is a very loving overture.
Think of the Lord Jesus Christ. He spoke the truth. He was incarnate love. And he spoke the truth. And he spoke the truth when it was pleasant to speak the truth, and when it wasn't pleasant to speak the truth.
For instance, he said to Peter, one of his closest disciples, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah." That's a pleasant thing to say, certainly pleasant to hear. Wouldn't you love Jesus to say to you, blessed are you, George? Blessed are you. Sally. Blessed are you, Frank. Wow, that's pleasant. I love that.
But Jesus also spoke the truth when it wasn't so pleasant, when he said to the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites of his day, "You serpents, you brood of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath that is to come?" Wow, get down. Heavy stuff, but loving, nonetheless, truthful, nonetheless.
A friend of mine who is an apologist by radio, often asked the question, are you willing to do for the truth what a cultist is willing to do for a lie? Speak the truth. There is a great story in church history, comes from the fourth century.
There was a leader, a church leader, a patriarch of Alexandria named Athanasius. And Athanasius was the leader of this church in Alexandria, Egypt during a time when a new doctrine was being developed and promulgated, several attacks on historic Christian truth. One was the attack on the deity of Christ, some saying Jesus wasn't God, another attack on the Trinity saying that there is no triune nature in the Godhead. And Athanasius was there vigorously fighting against this wave of heresy in the church.
Well, this heresy was led by a guy named Arius. And Arius and his followers got such a hearing, it seemed like a whole lot of people were being swept up in this whole false doctrine movement. So Athanasius stood against it.
But there were so many people standing against him that one of his close associates said, Athanasius, I got to tell you, it seems like the whole world is against you. Athanasius smiled and said, if the whole world is against the truth, then Athanasius will be against the whole world. Now there's a man of conviction of the truth.
Because you know what? The truth is the truth. And that doesn't change. And God and his truth cannot be changed. Thus, the gospel is never negotiable-- never negotiable. The gospel is the gospel as written in the word of truth. And so if we understand anything from this commandment, it's the fundamental fact that we're dealing with a God of truth who loves the truth.
The second thing that this commandment touches on is the credibility of man. The fact that it's in the top 10 list would imply that man has a problem with truth. Otherwise, you wouldn't need a command, don't lie. Why? You shall not bear false witness implies that man has a problem.
And just like we read in the article at the beginning, people have problem telling the truth. Why? Why is that? Now some of you already know the answer. Others of you might be shocked.
We have a problem with it, because it's our nature. It's in our very nature. In ancient China, the Chinese wanted to secure their borders by building a great wall. And I've stood at the base of the Great Wall of China. I had the opportunity to walk along a portion of it. It is absolutely magnificent, the vision, the craftsmanship in building this huge thing.
The idea was, let's build a wall so high nobody can climb over it and attack us, so thick nobody can break through it, so long nobody can go around it. But in the first 100 years of the existence of the Great Wall of China, China has invaded three times. And nobody climbed over the wall. Nobody broke through the wall. Nobody went around the wall.
The people who invaded understood human nature. They bribed the gatekeepers. That's how they got in. They understood, let's use human nature is our greatest ally. So offer him money.
So here's the point. The Chinese put all of the emphasis on structure, rather than character. Well, our character is flawed. And it's flawed from birth. Now I know it's hard to imagine that that beautiful little baby just born in your house could be anything perfect-- perfect, especially your baby-- perfect. But just wait a while. Just wait a while.
Did any of you parents ever have to teach your children how to lie? Because they were so perfect, you just at least needed to balance them out so they'll be like other kids. No, you don't. You had to come to a point in your life where you say, no, no, sweetheart, we don't lie. That's wrong to tell a lie. Telling the truth, that's right. That's what we do.
No, our approach is almost always corrective in this area. Because lying does come quite naturally. You say, now wait a minute, Skip. Doesn't the Bible say we're created in the image of God? You're right. We were. But the image is marred because of the fall.
Once Adam and Eve did what they did, they passed on something into our bloodstream after the fall that predisposes us, not toward good, but toward evil. No wonder, then, David writes in the psalms, "Even from birth, the wicked go astray. From the womb, they are wayward, and speak lies." And Solomon agreed. Proverbs 22, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child."
So the fall is reflected in our propensity towards falsehood, like Satan who perpetrated the fall. In fact, he's called the Father of Lies. In the garden he lied to Eve. You can eat that. Don't worry. That's not right-- lie, after lie, after lie.
To the Pharisees, Jesus said these words. "You belong to your Father, the devil, 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."
Which means this-- whenever we decide to deliberately engage in a lie, we're taking the devil's personality. It's that part of our existence where we're allying ourselves with Satan and not God. And I bring that up, because now we understand what Peter meant when he said to Ananias, when Ananias and Sapphira relied on the early church in Acts Chapter 5. He said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?"
This commandment really then deals with the character of God, the credibility of man, and our problem with the truth, and number three, the core issue, which is verbal integrity. And that's what I want to close on this morning. Integrity, what a beautiful word.
It means wholeness. It means to be undivided-- undivided-- whole, complete, morally upright. Integrity is being what you say, living with your life what you say with your lips. Jesus said, "From the abundance of the heart-- what-- the mouth speaks." Or from the overflow of the heart, the mouth will speak.
Our mouths will at some point give us away, or reveal what the condition of our heart is. And guard our speech. And we should. But something will come out that reveals our heart. So you want to find out what's in a person's heart, just listen long enough.
There was a teacher who was just perturbed with one little boy's lack of hygiene every time he came to class. And so she said something in front of the class. She said, Billy, why don't you brush your teeth? I can see what you had for breakfast this morning-- pretty gross.
And so he was a smart aleck. What did I have for breakfast? She said, eggs. He goes, uh-uh, that was yesterday-- nasty.
Well, let me suggest four areas where lack of verbal integrity is revealed, and is just as nasty. First of all, slander-- slander is covered by this commandment, you shall not bear false witness. Slander is to dismantle another person's reputation by your words.
Proverbs 12 18 says, "There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword." You know anybody like that? Sharp-tongued individual that can slice people up with a few words-- verbal terminators.
The Japanese have a proverb, your tongue is only three inches long. It can kill a person six foot tall. There's one who speaks like the piercings of a sword.
By the way, do you know what the word devil means? We talk about the devil. It's a biblical term. Devil is the Greek word, diabolos, literally, slander-- the slanderer, right?
Revelation 12, he's the accuser of the brethren who accuses them day and night. So once again, to be slanderer is to sort of put your arm around the devil, and say, you and I, we're like this. We're partners. Let's work together.
There's a second. Exaggeration falls under this commandment-- exaggeration. Now Americans, we're famous for this hyperbole. That weighs a ton. I'm starving to death could mean you just didn't eat breakfast. But we love to exaggerate.
And it's innocent. It's cultural, no, big deal really. It can become a big deal. It can become dangerous, in the context, say, of a relationship where the wife says, my husband's always late-- bad form. My wife's never nice-- bad form.
In 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the first journey he made westward, he had a crew on his ship that got nervous about going into the unknown waters for a long period of time. So he kept two sets of books, two logs, two navigational logs, one calculating the actual distances from place to place, and then the other for his crew where he had shorter distances, so they would think that they were closer to home than they actually were. But here's the weird twist. It turns out, in looking at the calculation logs, and knowing now what distances are, that the second set of books that he lied on were closer and more accurate to the reality than the ones he calculated.
So actually, his lie was more accurate than his truth. It came back to bite him. Because he ended up at the wrong place a couple of times.
What about us? How do Christians exaggerate? I can think of one way, and that's our testimony. I've heard people tell testimonies. And then I hear him again the second time, and then again, the third time. It's like, oh, wait a minute. I don't remember that from the last time. Sort of like a fish story, it grows, you know?
At first, you know, I smoked marijuana once in high school, to at the very last telling of the testimony, I was on drugs, and God delivered me from a drug addiction. Yeah, whatever. But they know that if you say something like that, people go, wow. They get the crowd going.
Look, just tell the truth. You were a creep. I was a creep. We were all creeps. Jesus delivered us from whatever level of creep-dom you were in, whether you had a lid of marijuana a day, or you never smoked it.
A third is gossip-- gossip. And the Bible calls gossip, or a gossiper, a tale-bearer-- tale bearer. And a gossip or a tale-bearer is somebody who tells something without proper investigation.
A tale-bearer will peddle gossip. Because there's lots of people who love to hear gossip. And I have forever-- this says forever. There's an exaggeration-- for a longtime been amazed at how many of God's people love gossip.
I mean, there's whole trades built upon gossip-- magazines. But it's amazing how many believers love it. Listen to what Proverbs 18 says. "The words of a tale-bearer are like tasty trifles. They go down into the inmost body."
I'm putting a piece of chocolate in your mouth. Yum. Tell me more. Because I want to pray about it more. I want more tasty trifles. Ooh, I'm all ears, brother.
I did a little word study in Hebrew in the Old Testament looking up tale-bearing gossip. I discovered the word anah in Hebrew shows up 329 times. That's a lot of times-- 329 times-- to gossip, to be a tale-bearer. However, I also discovered the same word, anah, is translated 42 times in the Old Testament, not to speak, but to hear.
In other words, there wouldn't be so many open mouths if there weren't so many open ears to receive evil reports. So I want to challenge each one of us. Before you listen to an evil report filtered through a grid-- and here's five questions to ask in this grid. An evil report comes to your direction, ask these five questions.
Number one, what is your reason for telling me this? Concern, I'm concerned. Maybe. Maybe that's just a mask. And maybe you're just really jealous, or you're angry. What is your motivation, your reason?
Number two, where did you get your information? Well, I can't reveal my sources. Well, then I don't want to talk, or I don't want to listen.
Number three, have you gone to those directly involved? You're hearing the stuff about them or her. Have you gone to her, personally? Well, no. Th I don't want to listen.
Number four, have you personally checked out all the facts? Facts get distorted. Information can be part information not full information. Get all the facts. You've heard the old saying that figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure. So get all the information.
And number five, ask this question, can I quote you on that? What's your name? I'd like to use you as a source. Oh, don't get me involved. You are involved. You're talking to me right now. You ask those five questions before you entertain or receive any evil report.
Now there's more under this commandment. I'd put flattery under the ninth commandment, you shall not bear false witness. Flattery is false praise, things you don't really mean. But they can be very manipulative. You'd say them, because you know the other person loves to hear it.
Now there's nothing wrong-- I've got to say this right here. There's nothing wrong with encouragement. That's different from flattery. Good, wholesome, honest, biblical encouragement, we need more of it in the church. That's honest. That's good. That's building up.
Flattery is different. It's false. By the way, the English word flattery, you know where it comes from? From the French word that speaks of the flat of your hand, giving the stroke. Just let me give you the strokes, and pat you here and here. Because you love it so much-- flattery.
There's an old saying. Thomas Brooks used to say, you can stroke a donkey on the belly, and lay any burden on its back-- flattery, false praise. Now I'm going to throw out a name. And you'll date yourself if you can resonate with his name, Eddie Haskell.
See, some of you remember Leave it to Beaver. It's black and white days. Leave it to Beaver, there was a character named Eddie Haskell, who was the quintessential flatterer. He was just gush.
And so he was really a creep. But he would say, well, Mrs. Cleaver, you look so wonderful. You're the most beautiful thing I've ever-- he would just go on, and on. And everybody knew he was just talking. So in a while, they would say, shut up, Eddie. Quit being a creep or a dope. Those are old terms-- flattery.
Finally, excuses, I think this falls under this category, white lies. Excuses to escape consequences, excuses to escape consequences-- it's just a white lie. Billy Sunday used to say, an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.
It's what students tell teachers why their assignment wasn't on time, or like those four boys who missed class, and they said, we had a flat tire. Teacher said, I understand. Take a test, which tire was flat, as she put them in four different quadrants of the room.
Ephesians 4 sums it up quite nicely. "Therefore, putting away lying, let each one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." What a picture. Let's walk away with that in our minds.
You and I, we're members of each other. You and I, we're part of the same body of Christ. You and I, we have the same head, Jesus. You and I, we have the same Father. We're part of each other. So therefore, let's put lying far away from us, slander far away, exaggeration far away, gossip far away, flattery, excuses far away.
Basic principle to remember is this, a closed mouth gathers no feet. You know the saying, he put his foot in his mouth? It means he said something that was inappropriate. And he now regrets it. Oops, foot in mouth. A closed mouth gathers no feet.
It's easier to say something mean, and evil, and wrong than it is to say nothing. That's what we need the Spirit's help. Jesus said, "Let your yes be yes and your no be no." That's a perfect description of verbal integrity. Say what needs to be said, nothing more.
Don't live your life like Arabella Young. You say, who is she? I don't know. All I know is there's a gravestone with her name on it that gives the date of her birth and the date of her death. The date of her death was May 24th. And underneath is a very sad epitaph, which reads, "beneath this stone, a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young, who on the 24th of May began to hold her tongue.
Pretty sad, isn't it? It took her death to shut her up. She had such a bad problem with her tongue. May it never be among God's people. May it never be among God's people. Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor.
That's the standard. It reflects the character of God, who loves truth, the credibility of man, who has a problem with it, and the core issue of integrity, which only the Spirit working in a person's life can change. And if the Spirit's working in our lives, it ought to change.
Now the most important truth is eternal truth. That's the most important truth. And the ultimate lie is an eternal lie.
Now if there's anything that has kept you from coming to Jesus Christ-- who is the only one who will save you from your sin-- it's time to examine that and see if that's not a lie. It's time to examine that. I'll just remind you of some ultimate truths as we close.
Ultimate truth number one, every one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We've all broken the commandments. We've all failed.
Ultimate truth number two, one day, you and I are going to stand before a Holy God. That's the truth. It will happen.
Ultimate truth number three, those who have not come to Christ, and repented of their sins, and had that dealt with will face an eternity lost and apart forever from him. That's the truth. The fourth eternal truth is the most blessed.
Forgiveness is granted and will be lavished upon anyone from the hands of a loving God who will say, I have knit that I need your help. And I am willing to turn to you as my Savior. To be a child of God and the God of all truth will change everything-- everything. That's the truth. That's the truth.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." That's the truth.
So will you receive Him, who is truth? Will you take the one who spoke ultimate truth? And will you receive true salvation? And some of you have done that-- most of you have done that. Some of you may not have.
Some of you may have never gotten honest enough with yourself to look inside, and say, I need God's help. I need to turn my life over to Christ. And I'm not going to go a day further. I'm going to do it now.
Today could be the most honest, best day of your life. We're going to give you that invitation in a moment. Let's pray together.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the time we could spend as a congregation. I thank you every week for such hungry, gracious listeners, those who love you, and love your truth, and love people, and bring people to here. Heavenly Father. I pray that you would do a work in our lives and our hearts.
I pray that as we go home and we think in your spirit moves that as we follow the God of truth that this part of our life would change. Lord, I pray for those who have come and have not received Jesus Christ yet on a personal level. Some are very good, and very religious, and very well-meaning, and very sincere. But they just haven't personalized it.
And frankly, they're just tired of living that way. They're tired of being unsatisfied, and being empty. They want reality. They want truth.
Lord, you knew what the world needed. You didn't give them a religion. You gave them a person who said, "Whoever comes and believes in me will never perish, but have everlasting life." I pray you grant that today in Jesus' name. Amen.