Tell The Truth
Tell The Truth
I would like to invite your attention to the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and specifically verses 25 – 32 where the Apostle writes….
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25–32, ESV)
The Apostle Paul has come to the point in his letter to the believers in Ephesus where is finally ready to lay out some of the specific traits that characterize the worthy walk, the lifestyle of those who are in Christ.
It’s important to note that Paul is not about to begin preaching moralism. He is in no way shape or form advocating that you try and engage in self reformation and to try and do these things in your own strength. That would be contrary to all that Paul has already written. He connects what he is about to say with what he has already said.
We know this because verse 25 opens with “therefore” which helps us to make the vital connection between what Paul is about to say with what he has previously said.
Backing up to verse 1 of chapter 4 we find another “therefore”.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” (Ephesians 4:1, ESV)
Paul’s therefore in verse 1 draws attention back to the opening portion of his letter in which he has spelled out for them the details of Gods eternal plan that gas been carried out by His Son the Lord Jesus. You might remember from our study of chapter one that verses 3 – 14 is one long sentence in the Greek that contains no commands and was written to inform the mind but also and to enflame the heart so that praise and worship is invoked in all who read his words.
On what basis did Paul call them to live in a manner worthy of their calling? He urges them to do so based upon God’s eternal plan which they have experienced in their salvation. One of the ways that we praise God for what He has done is by living lives that reflect the activity, the working of God in our lives. Therefore in verses 2 and 3 of chapter four he begins to show them the characteristics of a person who is in Christ.
In verse 2 he tells them to live with all humility and gentleness, with patience. He calls them to bear with one another in love and to have an attitude in which they are eager to maintain the unity that is created by the Holy Spirit among fellow believers.
Then beginning in verse 4 Paul as he frequently does takes a small detour in which he lays out how you and I as believers can maintain the unity of the Spirit. We will maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit as we minister to one another with the spiritual gifts that the Lord Jesus Christ has given to us.
Then in verse 17 he picks up his line of thought he began in verse 1 and says
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” (Ephesians 4:17, ESV)
He explains the futile mind to them in verses 18 -19 and in verses 20 - 24 he makes some important statements that helps us understand verses 25 and following.
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20–24, ESV)
Now we arrive back at the therefore in verse 25. We will help ourselves if we pay attention to what Paul is doing. With his multiple uses of therefore he is building a strong chain linking all these incredible truths together. In other words what he says in the rest of his letter is built upon what he has already said. What he writes in the rest of the letter hangs on what he has already written.
From this point forward, Paul is going to show us how we must now begin to live in order to live up to and to live out the salvation we have been called too.
PUTTING OFF AND PUTTING ON
The key to understanding what Paul says lies in our understanding of the meaning of putting off the old self and putting on the new self.
If you remember back to our study of putting off and putting on we learned that the putting off and the putting on has already been taken care of. When you responded to the inner call of the Holy Spirit as heard through the outward call of the Gospel God was the One who put off your old self, your old man while at the same time God was the One who put on your new self, your new man.
YOU’VE GOT THE POWER!
The putting off and the putting on is not something you have to do. It is what God has done for you. I happily repeat myself here because this is so important for you to understand. Few of us would disagree that the Gospel reveals what God has done, it reveals the activity of God. Part of what God has done in the gospel is that He is the One who at the moment of your conversion He took from you the old self, the old nature was put to death and He gave you your new self which is created in righteousness and holiness.
Please memorize this truth so that you frequently remember and rejoice in it. God has sovereignly worked in your life so that you now possess the power and the ability through the Holy Spirit to begin to put Paul’s instruction into daily practice.
Before the old self was put off you were powerless to lay aside falsehood and tell the truth. But now that the old self has been put off and the new self has been put on you possess the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to quit lying and to begin telling the truth.
What Paul is calling you as a believer to do is to take responsibility for your own actions both the negative and the positive. You as a Christian should never excuse your sinful behavior by saying “Well that’s just the way I am!” If that’s true you’re not a believer! The believer should say that’s the way I was! That belonged to the old self, but it has no part of the new self.
Nor should the believer live out of a victim mentality. Why? Because that is who you were in the past, and what you were in the past, but that is not who you are in Christ.
Taking personal responsibility is the pathway to change. Quit blaming the devil for your sin! If you keep blaming the devil you’re trying to say that you’re just a helpless victim and you’re not! Take responsibility. The devil is not behind all your sin. You are behind all of your sin. You will never make significant progress in holiness until you take responsibility for your sin.
Because the new self has been put on you now possess the ability to live a life that is pleasing to Christ and brings glory to the Father. In the rest of his letter Paul is going to show you what your life as a Christian, as a disciple of Christ should look like.
Paul is going to follow a very familiar pattern in which he cites a negative which the believer is not to be characterized by and then he gives the positive which replaces the negative in the life of a believer and sets them apart and identifies them as a disciple of Christ.
The surest sign that you are a Christian is not the t-shirt you wear, the music you listen to or the fish symbol on the back of your car. The surest sign that you are a believer is a changed life, not a perfect life. But a life that struggles against sin. Who defeats sin more than sin defeats them. Who may at one time been a liar but now tells the truth.
As your Pastor I implore you as we take the time over the next few weeks to work our way through these characteristics please don’t take them lightly. What Paul identifies are problems they are sinful behaviors that plague all believers to one degree or another. But they don’t have to, because they have been put aside, they have been cast off.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NEW SELF
What are the characteristics of the new life? What characterizes the new self?
CHARACTERISTIC #1: TRUTH
Let me preface this first point by making it clear that your life as a Christian must characterized by TRUTH!
Paul says in verse 25 “Therefore, having put away falsehood…” The word picture Paul paints here is taking off an old garment, a garment that is not right for the new you. Keep in mind this is what God did for you when He saved you. He stripped off the old nature which was characterized by falsehood, by deception, by lying.
Still today in our casual culture the clothing a person wears identifies them. Watch a football game or a baseball game and those who are on the same team all look alike. There is very little uniform flexibility. The NFL will fine a player if they try and personalize their team uniform in any way.
The individual branches of the military have distinct uniforms. You know a marine by their dress blues. The navy by their dress whites. You know a Berea police officer by their black uniform and a Kentucky State Trooper by their grey.
Still today some school districts have uniforms that all the students are required to wear. Most doctors wear a white lab coat. Why is this true? Because it helps identify them. (Illustration of my Reds Jacket)
The wardrobe of the Christian should identify them as well. Not physical clothes (though you as a Christian should be aware of what you wear and the message it may be sending) but the clothes of the new self should let people know that we are followers of Christ. What is the first characteristic of the new self?
To put away falsehood – to stop lying. The word falsehood means exactly what you think it means. A falsehood is a lie. It is a contradiction of the truth. It is a perversion of the truth.
Lying is a much more serious sin that many people believe. We have even tried to rationalize lying by saying “what’s the harm it was just a little white lie”. Frankly I don’t know what that even means.
But Scripture takes lying very seriously. Listen to what Revelation says, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”” (Revelation 21:8, ESV)
If lying is not all that serious then why was it the tactic that Satan used to tempt Adam and Eve? A temptation, they bought into and resulted in the fall of humanity out of which flows all the sin and it’s accompanying misery all of us suffer under today.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this: “We must stop lying because the very first sin of man was the result of a lie. In other words, the world is as it is because of a lie This is the thing that has brought the world down from being a paradise to being the world in which you and I live at this moment.”
Lying is not a victimless crime. Lying always has an effect either on the one telling the lie or those who are being lied to.
Sadly, our culture is built upon lie upon lie. You may have heard the saying “How do you know if a politician is lying? You know their lying if their mouth is moving.” But politicians are not the only ones who lie.
The person who fudges his taxes is lying to the government. Every false religion is built upon a falsehood, a distortion of the truth. Businesses lie, governments lie, nations lie.
LYING CAN TAKE MANY FORMS
To many lying is simply not telling the truth.
But there are several ways that we can engage in telling a falsehood, in deceiving other people.
For instance, when we embellish the details of a story we are guilty of what Scripture calls a falsehood. Why do we embellish stories? Normally we embellish a story to make ourselves look good. And yes, there are times when we embellish a story to make another person look bad to make others see them in a bad light.
Another way we are guilty of falsehood is through exaggeration. Again, we change the details either to make ourselves look better than we are or to make another look worse than what they truly are.
Another way that we are guilty of falsehood is when we know that things are being said that are not right and we remain silent, when we don’t challenge the lie the falsehood of another.
When we remain silent when the truth needs to be said we are guilty of falsehood. But remember the Bible says to speak the truth in love. It is never right to speak the truth in a manner inconsistent with the nature and character of God.
By the way there are times when you just need to not say anything. Far too many people take pride in the fact that they just have to tell it like is.
When we don’t tell the whole truth we engage in lying in falsehood.
Finally, the internet, and especially social media has opened up another way in which we can engage in falsehood. News flash for you – not everybody’s life is as glamorous and great as they would have you to believe. Before you hit that post button why don’t you take the time to ask yourself “why am I posting this?” and “should I be posting this?” Should I be complaining online. We get it your life is hard, but it’s the life God gave you so quit complaining about it online or anywhere!
What is Paul’s reasoning as to why we should tell the truth? Because every time we don’t tell the truth we are doing harm to the body of Christ. You are hurting your brothers and sisters in Christ. As Paul says we are members one of another. God demonstrated the seriousness, the damage that could have been done to the church body by the severe punishment he exacted against Ananias and Saphira, they lied and they lost their lives.
The Christian should be known as an honest, truthful person. Let me challenge you this week to monitor yourself and see how you are doing in telling the truth. Are you guilty of not telling the whole truth? Do you embellish and exaggerate? Do you stay silent when the truth needs to be spoken in love?
We should speak the truth because it clearly shows to others what God is. God is truth and his people, his children must be truthful people in both their words and their actions.
Let me remind you that the power to put away falsehood has already been executed on your behalf through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. As you participate in the Lord’s Supper draw on the grace that is yours through the finished work of Christ. May you be a person of truth.