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About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
As we enter into the ninth command, it is written into that context. They didn’t have police. I mean, all these people and you ask, well what kind of system did they have to keep social order? And of all the commands, this one you need to understand the historical context to understand Exodus 20:16. The ninth command is God’s boundary for truth, justice, and trust.
It’s the primary application to this command although it gets broadened to personal integrity. Although it’s quickly broadened to you telling the truth and me telling the truth. The primary application of this command, when it was given, was it was Israel’s court system. Notice as I read it. Exodus 20:16 says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” And let me play out for you how it would happen.
Someone steals something from you. Or we find out that your fifteen-year-old daughter was raped. Or there was a fight and someone on the way back from this side of the camp to that side of the camp was brutally beat up. Some two guys out of the Tribe of Benjamin and you’re from the Tribe of Judah. What do you do with that stuff? Here’s what happened.
First, the personal offense would occur. You would do the investigation and research and find out and you are a community of people. And you would discover, as best you could, finding some witnesses, this man or these people, or that woman did that event. She stole it. And then you would have eyewitnesses come before a judge and if you look at, remember Exodus 18? It used to happen, Moses was trying to pull this off all by himself, Jethro said, “Hey, you’re going to wear yourself and the people out.” And they developed a fairly complex system of judges over, you know, fifty and a hundred and ten and all the rest. And then the Supreme Court type stuff came to him.
And so, this offense would occur, someone would be charged with a crime, and then the entire judicial, social system was based on eyewitness testimony. I saw her go into your tent and steal that. I was behind the tree when those two men, from the Tribe of Benjamin, beat this man up.
And so they were called to be witnesses. Everything about justice and social order hinged on people obeying the ninth command: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Now, you ask yourself, you know, that sounds like a kind of shaky system if people lie a little bit, you could have some big problems. In Exodus 23:1 to 7, you might jot that down. And Deuteronomy 19 verses about 15 to 21. There were some warnings to witnesses. The first warning was is that if it was a capital offense and you were one of the witnesses, you would be one of the first people to be involved in the execution.
In other words, if you said, I saw those two kill that man, they would say, okay, you were one of the witnesses and they put the stone in your hand and you would be the one to actually initiate the execution. If, by chance, they find out that you were lying, whatever offense, later in Deuteronomy 19 about 15 to 21, whatever offense that you lied about, that was your punishment.
So, you know, the level of scrutiny was, you better tell the truth because if you don’t tell the truth, you’re going to find yourself culpable of murder and if you don’t tell the truth and anyone finds out about it, whatever crime the other person’s punished for, they’re going to turn around and punish you.
And so the first and foremost application of the ninth command was to bring about justice, truth, out of, you know, imagine, I don’t care how good the people are. Two or three million people. You had people lined up from morning to night with cases of judgment against one another.
As this command expands, Leviticus 19:11, Israel’s code of conduct, it’s not just in law suits or eyewitnesses. It says, “Do not steal, do not lie, do not deceive one another.”
And so the idea was more than just telling the truth in a formal court, but it was that you are to be truthful all the time with everyone.
The New Testament picks it up and expands it even further where we’re to have integrity in everything. The Apostle Paul, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 25 says, “Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor for we are all members of one body.”
And to put off falsehood is not just in your speech. It’s your actions and your life. You are going to tell the truth in what you say and how you live, you’re not going to even leave false impressions by your silence.
Let me give you at least, oh, six different reasons why we lie.
The first and most common reason we lie is fear. Fear. F-E-A-R. We lie to cover up. The fear of consequences. The fear of getting caught.
The second time we lie is when we’re hurt. The goal is payback or vengeance. Someone has wounded us. Someone has said something. Someone has taken something from us. We’re angry and we’re bitter and we’re resentful.
We lie because of fear, we lie for payback or vengeance.
The third reason we lie is because of insecurity. Sometimes we just lie to impress.
Something in us wants to project something that’s better than who we really are. We lie about how much we know, we lie about who we know, we lie about how successful we are. And we do it in very subtle ways out of our insecurity. We exaggerate and we distort.
The fourth reason we lie is for greed. Selfish reasons. You know, people con you. We just lie. And we con for personal gain or greed.
The fifth reason we lie is what I call misguided help or protection. This is the category of white lies. We want to protect others form the truth.
But when people find out it wasn’t the truth, guess what? You’ve done unbelievable damage. Because remember, what’s the issue? The only commodity you have in a relationship is trust. So, fear, payback or vengeance, insecurity, greed, misguided help.
And one, it’s just laziness. Have you ever had someone come up and say, “Hey, could you help us out with this?” And you say, “Oh, I’d really, really love to but I just can’t.” And, you know, and it’s just, I mean. It’s just lazy. You don’t want to go through the process of, my schedule is full, I’m not passionate about that, you and I aren’t very close, there’s nothing about that project that motivates me. But what I do is I say, “Oh, I’d love to but I just can’t.” No, the answer, the truth is, it doesn’t align with what God wants me to do in my life and I don’t want to do it. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I won’t. It’s that I want to let you know in a kind and loving, winsome way that there are boundaries because my gifts and my time and my energy and my resources aren’t mine. They’re God’s. So I need to put them where He wants me to put them.
And so we say little lies but little lies grow to big lies. Could you help us with this, this, and this? Instead of, “I’d love to and I can’t,” you say, well, if, you know, here’s what I used to do. “I’ll call you back in ten minutes.” You know why? Because I kept lying. I kept saying stuff I didn’t mean or signing up for stuff I didn’t want to do. “I’ll call you back in ten minutes.”
And then I’d pray about it and then I’d get clear on it. And then it got to where I got a reverse habit where people would ask me something and if I knew immediately, I said, “You know something? That sounds like an awesome ministry that God might really want done. I don’t feel called to that. But I’m glad you are. And I’m honored that you would invite me to join you. That’s not something I think God wants me to give my time to.”
Do you understand what can happen when we start speaking the truth and how much of this phoniness under the guise of being polite? You don’t have to hurt people’s feelings. You don’t have to be ruthless with the truth. But we’ve got to start speaking the truth. Speaking the truth in love.
The final reason, I think I said I’d give you six but this is, sort of, an outgrowth. Is the final reason, number seven, is habit. Once you start lying about little stuff, you know what? I have found myself, this is such an indictment. I’ve found myself talking on the phone with someone and they ask me a question and I hear something coming out of my mouth and I think to myself, “What’s that doing coming out of my mouth? That’s not true. That’s not true. Wait a second. What are you doing?”
And I’m just thinking. And it’s immaterial and it doesn’t matter. But you know what? Unless you declare war on deceit, that’s what this message is about. We’re going to declare war on deceit. We’re going to be truth tellers. We’re going to be truth receivers.
We’re going to be people that are true from the inside out. Unless you declare war, you will have little patterns of lying and you can get to where, it’s just, I mean, it’s not even willful. I had one son who became an expert. At one point in time, he could lie so convincingly, a couple days later, he was convinced of his own lie. And boy, we had a journey breaking that one. How about you?
I’m getting the sense that I’m among the brethren and sisters of the liar-hood, right? You know, you do remember that the goal of these commands were not that anyone could ever keep them. The goal of these commands, never could you earn your salvation.
The goal of these commands were to demonstrate the character of God and His heart and His holiness and they were to be boundaries for us for our benefit. And then, we know from New Testament, that they were to help us understand that no matter how hard you try, you will always fall short.
And each of these boundaries helps you know that you need to cry out to God for mercy. And there will come a day where there’ll be a Redeemer and a Savior who will make up the distance between where you fall short. And it’s the blood of Christ.
These Ten Commands are always to remind us that we’re desperate in need. I can’t be honest in my own power. I can’t not steal in my own power. I can’t not lust in my own power. I can’t have any other gods but God in my own power. So how are you doing in the area of lying? How you doing?
Well, let’s talk now about, what are the consequences? Why is it that lying damages relationships? And I’m going to give you three reasons here.
First, it destroys our relationship with God. You know, if you feel like, for about the next twelve, thirteen minutes that I am actually trying to convince you, like an attorney would try to convince a jury to stop lying, right down to the little things, you will be very astute and very accurate, okay? I mean, I’m coming after you. So, I mean, if you don’t want to stop lying. If you, like, want to keep lying for a number of years, you kind of need to, better get your, spiritual safety belt down and you better harness in and just, no matter what I say, I’m not going to listen to this. I’m not going to listen to this. Because I’m going to produce, I believe, a very convincing case that will make you want to tell the truth like never before.
It destroys. It doesn’t just damage. It destroys your relationship with God. Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him to all who call upon Him in,” circle the last word, “truth.” The Lord is near when people call and when they cry out. He is not near to you, He is not near to me, when I don’t call out in truth.
Psalm 51:5, David, after his sin with Bathsheba and after his murder, he says that what God wants in the innermost being is what? Know what it is? Truthfulness. Psalm 51:5.
Jesus, when He’s there with the woman at the well, John 4:24, He says, “There’s going to come a day, ma’am, that worship isn’t about location or geography. There’s going to come a day when the Father,” the word is, “actively pursues,” is running after and seeking out, and trying to find, men and women and students who will be a special kind of worshipper - “those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
See, you can’t have a relationship with God unless you’re honest. It’ll destroy your relationship with God. Jesus said, why? “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” God hates lying. He detests it. He bristles at even white lies. Why? Because He is truth. And truth is a prerequisite to trust. And lying destroys trust.
He wants you to be honest because He wants you to experience intimacy with Him. Power in your relationship with Him. And you know what this means? Don’t translate this into, I’ve got to be perfect. What it means is, you have to be honest. You’re not going to be perfect. You’re going to mess up. You know what it means is?
Instead of spending all your energy trying to hid your mess up, or rationalize your mess up, or blaming your parents, or your boss, or your mate, or your kids for your mess up, you get honest and you own your part of the mess up!
And you come before God and say, “I’m sorry.” 1 John 1:9. “I agree about my mess up and I confess it. And I’m asking You, on the basis of the work of Jesus on the cross, will You again cleanse me and forgive me?” And you know what God says? “Yes.” Why? “I love you.”
You think the biggest mess up in your life, I don’t know what it is, you think God was surprised by that? You think that in all eternity, the mess up or that big mistake or that big lie, you think God went, “Oh man! I didn’t see that one coming.” How many of your sins were future when Jesus died on the cross? All of them. He wants you to be honest.
The second reason, it destroys our relationship with ourselves. Not only does the lack of honesty or truthfulness destroy our relationship with God, it destroys our relationship with ourselves. Proverbs 10:9. “The man of integrity walks securely but he who takes a crooked path will be found out.”
One translation says, “He who walks in integrity walks securely but he who perverts his way…” It’s knowing what’s right to do, you come to a path and you ought to take the left fork instead of the right fork and you take the wrong one. He says, when we do that, you will be found out.
And it happens around religious stuff. Acts chapter 5. Isn’t this interesting? The very first sin recorded in the Church is what? It’s lying. And the lying is to - what? Promote hypocrisy. The lack of authenticity. Ananias and Sapphira cut a deal in the back room. Barnabas, you know, he seems real generous. He’s getting a lot of strokes in, you know, the worship time. “Yay, Barnabas. Yay, Barnabas.” You know, he sold this big thing and gave it unto the feet of the apostles and he’s sharing.
So Ananias and Sapphira says, “You know, we’d kind of like to get our cake and eat it too. Why don’t we sell this piece of property but we’ll tell them we sold it for so much so we get all the, you know, accolades of people and we’ll hold this much back.”
And remember Ananias walks before Peter? And he says, “We’ve done this great noble thing.” Lie. And Peter says, “Wait a second. Ananias, is this what you actually paid for it?” “Yes.” Lie. He said, “Ananias, before you sold it, whose was it? It’s yours. After you sold it, whose was it? It’s yours. But God doesn’t make any demands for you to sell this property and give it. But what you have done you have,” remember the phrase? “you have lied to the Holy Spirit.” And do you remember the dramatic judgment of God on the very first sin in the Church for lying? Bang. He’s dead.
Few hours later, his wife comes in. Admits to the same thing. And the men who picked up his body and took him out and buried him, picked up her. It destroyed his relationship. The duplicity. It destroyed his relationship with his God, with others, and himself.
Dishonesty is the father of self-hatred. And by the way, it’s the root of a lot of depression. Dishonesty is the father of self-hatred. And peace is impossible when integrity is breached. That unsettled feeling, that lack of connection in prayer, that lack of the sense of peace. Colossians 3:15, remember what that says? “Let the peace of Christ rule,” or literally, “act as an arbitrator or an umpire in your heart.”
See, when I lie and I move off the truth, I lose that sense of peace. When you lose that sense of connection and peace and it is well with your soul-type sense, often it’s because we’ve lied. And you know what? God doesn’t want you to live that way. He wants you to live with the, “it is well with my soul no matter what”-type experience.