In the first grade, my mother packed a soup for my lunch that I had no intention of eating. My teacher noticed that I wasn’t eating and asked me if I didn’t have a lunch. Embarrassed to tell her that yes, I had a lunch, but no, I had no intention of eating it, I lied and she gave me her granola bar. My mother noticed I hadn’t eaten my soup and asked what I had eaten. Sheepishly, I admitted that I had eaten part of the teacher’s lunch. The next morning my mother walked to class with me to make sure I apologized to her. Even as a first grader I could already understand that it wasn’t cool to bring your mom to class like that and the shame of the whole situation brought me to tears. Twenty years later, I can still remember it vividly although I’m sure neither the teacher nor my mother can. I can’t say I’ve never lied since, but that lesson was never forgotten.
Honesty seems to be a rudimentary lesson that is mainly taught in the primary Sunday school class. When is the last time you’ve heard a sermon on lying? Although admonitions against lying may conjure images of toddlers with chocolate all over their faces vehemently maintaining they didn’t open the candy jar, it is not a temptation we outgrow. In the news we hear of identity theft, plagiarism, perjury, money laundering, tax evasion, internet scams and forgery. Politicians skew the numbers or tell half truths to move their followers to action. At work, I have been guilty of trying to loiter and make myself busy for a few extra minutes so I can get the next half hour. Examples of dishonesty are everywhere.
Putting Off Dishonesty
Both Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 describe dishonesty as something we Christians must “put off” – “Lie not to one another, seeing you have put off the old man with his deeds.” In Scripture, whenever I see a negative command such as “put off” or “thou shalt not,” I try to consider what behavior I can replace the negative behavior with. The obvious answer comes in the next verse when Paul says to “put on the new man…” But what does that mean and how do we make that practical? The same Greek word translated “put off” is translated “spoiled” in Colossians 2:15, where Paul wrote: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Other translations read “disarmed.” So what is the connection between what happened on the cross and our ability to put on the new man in order to overcome the temptation to lie?
Paul’s letter to the Colossians addresses several heresies that were circulating mixing elements of paganism (angel worship), Judaism (observing ordinances), and asceticism, which manifested itself in “will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body” (Colossians 2:23). The teaching in verses 14-15 addresses the way they were fabricating their salvation through human means. They were, as Paul explains in 2:19, trying to put together a body without the head.
Counterfeits to Truth
Finding our salvation through human means voids the power that Christ gave us over principalities and powers. Finding salvation in other means is always subtle and we rarely realize we are doing so until we find ourselves powerless to overcome sin.
Rehearsing truths from the Bible will not help until we actually believe the truth. Real truth, in my experience, is not comprehended until it is revealed to us supernaturally. We have an “ah-ha” moment when a verse we have seen all our lives is comprehended in the depths of our soul. I could identify with Danielle, in her article about putting on humility. Just memorizing verses and telling ourselves to believe something never works. It is when our hunger for truth spurns us to seek and to wrestle with God that he reveals His truth in a way that changes lives. It is this supernaturally revealed element that makes faith completely about His grace. We can do nothing but search until His Truth takes root in our hearts.
In warning the Colossians of the errors to which they were susceptible, Paul also showed them the truth of how their error could be corrected. Jesus did it all and we just apply it. Christians put on the new man as they come to the “full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Colossians 2:2).
The Nature of Truth
Truth is singular. There can be many ways to err, but only one truth. A detective may interview many witnesses, but there is only one truth about what happened. Jesus said that He is the truth; not a truth, or that He was telling the truth. Jesus also said that knowing the truth would set us free. Knowing the truth, and acting in faith based on that truth, frees us from the lies that the demons propagate to keep us in their power. Revelation 22:15 speaks of the danger of living a lie.
Dan Allender writes in The Wounded Heart, “dishonesty or living in denial is actually an attempt to dethrone God. It is an attempt to become as God with the power to construct the world and reality according to our desires.” As comfortable as living in denial can be, it will inevitably show to be too much of a burden as we bear the weight of a false world. As Mark Twain said, “when you tell the truth, there is nothing to remember.” We struggle to keep up the pretenses and we wonder if people have us figured out. There can be tremendous pressure in churches to keep up appearances. Telling the truth is freeing though, as our honesty often opens the door for others to be honest about the hard truths of their lives. Honesty is also courageous and the first step toward change and redemption. Thus knowing the truth and then telling truth sets us free from the lies that enslave us to serving the wrong masters. This truth enables us to put off the old man with the lying and the host of sins that go with him.
|Travis Fisher is currently serving in Mexico as a church planter. He teaches Bible studies and enjoys brainstorming with the church there on ideas for financial growth. He also enjoys reading and his interests in study include theology and the Bible, agriculture, history, business and finance, and philosophy. He loves to compete, whether that’s in sports, board games, or debating his ideas and theories. Originally from Manheim Pennsylvania, he plans to return home in June of 2018, go on dates with Alyssa Beiler, work, and reconnect with family and friends. His long-term goal is to buy and manage a farm, raise a family, and invest in the church and the people of his community. Above all, his desire is to bend his will to the will of Jesus and become more like Him in every aspect of life.|
- All Scripture quotes are from the KJV.
- “11.” The Wounded Heart, by Dan B. Allender, NavPress, 1995, pp. 241.
- “A Quote by Mark Twain.” Goodreads, Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/9131-if-you-tell-the-truth-you-don-t-have-to-remember.