7/3/2021 [Thematic Message 123] www.lifechurchmissions.com
The Truth Makes Us Man of Our Words <Jas 1:26-27; 5:12; Mt 5:33-37>
When the serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say...?”, the key to this question is not whether to eat or not to eat the fruit but who is telling the truth. Is it God? Or is it Satan? When the two believed in Satan’s words and ate the forbidden fruit, sin entered their lives. At the same time, what happened was that they covered themselves from each other. Since then, honesty and trust between people are lost. Therefore, we know that man’s sin not only causes him to abandon God’s truth, but sin also makes him a dishonest person. Indeed, it is not difficult for us to see lies filling up this evil world. Spouses deceive each other, friends deceive each other, countries deceive each other, and even church leaders deceive their members. As long as it is a place filled with lies, it will be a place where Satan’s work flourishes. When people do not believe in the truth of God, they are deceived and also deceive others. Therefore, when God gives the truth to believers through Christ, we must understand “What is the truth?” Is the truth just telling us a fact or principle? Definitely not! Christ also lived among people with honesty and a faith without lies. He had never avoided the chance to tell the truth. When unbelieving Jews gathered around him saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father's name testify about me.” <Jn 10:24-25>. When the Lord Jesus was put on trial before Pilate, Pilate asked him, “You are a king, then!” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth...” <Jn 18:37>. Indeed, our Lord is not only the Truth, He also testifies to the Truth. Then, when His Truth is embodied in our lives, it is a life without pretense. Hence, the Bible tells us, “Love must be sincere” <Ro 12:9>. <Eph 4:25> also said, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Today, many people use wisdom as an excuse to tell lies and think that it is a type of quick-wittedness. Some people are not honest when doing business, some people wear a mask when facing their colleagues, some pastors do not teach the truth of God faithfully but use falsehood to deceive their members, such that they are serving themselves rather than serving the Lord. Hence, selfish ambitions and dissensions in the church will emerge. These are all caused by the dishonesty in man. Indeed, we are all used to lying or treating others with falsehood. Hence, regarding people of the world, <Ps 5:9> clearly says, “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.” Hypocrisy fills the entire sinful world. Hence, our Lord Jesus brings the truth and is also faithful and true. In our lives, the only One whom we will meet who will never lie is our Lord Jesus. Every word He speaks is the truth and He has never lied. What He has promised will definitely be fulfilled. When He says that He will provide for us, there is surely His providence. Many a times, we cannot see it because we struggle in our anxiety, we use our brains and own intelligence such that we get embroiled in more complicated situations. Therefore, every time we reach an end, then we can see the work of God. Actually, God did not intend for us to discover His work only when we reach the end, but it is when we reach the end and can no longer rely on others or ourselves, then we can see His faithfulness. Actually, He has never left us or broken His promises. Those who truly believe in His faithfulness will see that they really lack nothing in their lives after walking to the end of their life's journey.
1. The true expression of the Christian faith living is to keep one’s word
1）What is true godliness in God’s eyes?
When our Lord Jesus was with the disciples, the new commandment He left the disciples was to “love one another”. The key thing about our entire faith living is to love our brethren in Christ as well as love everyone else. But with regard to loving one another, what is the most important? Our Lord taught many things concerning love, but He did not seem to tell us in detail what is the most important. In relation to this, our Lord Jesus’ brother, James, brought out one very important insight. After clearly explaining many teachings concerning faith and deeds, finally he said, “Above all is your words, let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no.” <Jas 5:12>. To the Jews in the Old Testament, a person who tells the truth is also at the same time a person who keeps his word. Perhaps, we do not realize that among all the acts of loving people, what we lack most is to be true to our words. We all have fault in what we say <Jas 3:2>, and the greatest fault lies in the fact that what we say is not in line with what we do. There are two areas to this. First, we are just being perfunctory toward God. We heard His word, we said “Amen” to demonstrate our faith, but we do not live out the word we hear. Also, we are perfunctory toward men. Think about it, have we often promised people something, or made a certain commitment to people, but we fail to keep our promise. Sometimes, it is perhaps because we want to avoid certain responsibilities, or we feel that it is very troublesome, or we want to give in to our difficulties, but no matter what, when we fail to keep our word, that is certainly not having the motive of loving people. Therefore, we see that this world is full of promise-breaking things. People break marital covenant, break contracts, do not keep their words, thus this world becomes more and more unjust.
2）From Lord Jesus’ example of faithfulness, James understood what is most important and practical in faith living
Probably, to James who grew up with Jesus, what left the greatest impression on him was his brother’s perfectly faithful example. Presumably, He had never lied to His parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, etc., or said any empty or perfunctory words. His words, even the little promises He made, were completely valuable. Perhaps, when He faced the constraints of certain circumstances or time, such that He could not do certain things, He would account to people. He also never need to exaggerate when He spoke in a bid to make people believe what He said. His “yes” was yes and “no” was no. His every word, even the smallest promise, was completely valuable, because there was no falsehood in it. Think about it, have we ever met such a person? He is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He will surely do what He believed and promised. Thus, when the Bible says He is the truth, He is also the faithful one. What He promised will never fall empty, but will be fulfilled. Those who believe in Him should also be like that. Therefore, in the book of James, his most straightforward message is “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” <Jas 2:17>. After preaching very noble truth, in his practical living, the way such a person brings out the most genuine faith is to look after the most helpless groups of people, such as orphans and widows, as well as, keep himself from being polluted by the world.
2. Knowing the truth helps us become someone who has truth in the inward being
1）Some people learn the truth, but lack honesty and integrity
Today, quite a number of believers think that learning the truth is like going for classes, to be equipped with God’s word. Perhaps after a person learned the truth for a few years, he understands some biblical principles, and uses them to teach others. He may be able to bring out relevant truth from the Bible about certain realistic situations, or some principles to deal with certain living matters, but once people live with him, they will realise that he is someone who is not true to his word, or he is someone who always like to please others. He is often shaken by circumstances, or give in to his difficulties, but does not value the weight of his own words and promises. Although such person is equipped rationally with much knowledge of the truth, his spirituality is still very poor. This is because he lacks honesty toward God in his inward being. Even if he knows the truth, he will eventually betray the truth in order to please men. Thus, we must acknowledge that a person who knows the truth is not just about the biblical truths that he knows, but his mind, emotions, will, and actions must also be faithful to the truth he knows.
2）Our faith is to be someone before God who has truth in our inward being
<Mt 5:33-36> talks about those who break and take oaths. In fact, both of these come from the lies within one’s heart. Usually, we will feel that people who break oaths are terrible. Today, many people made a marital vow before the Lord during matrimony, proclaimed their faith during baptism, but after that they did not do as promised. Such people are considered as those who fail to keep their word before the Lord. However, there is another kind of people without truth in their inward being but they do not want to be found out. They take up oaths easily, swearing by heaven, by the earth, and by all kinds of things, saying that if it does not turn out true, then they will suffer certain consequences. Such people seem very bold and straightforward, but God is not pleased. Because none of the things they swear by belong to them, but to God. They also have no power at all to make even one hair white or black. Thus, their oaths are false in God’s eyes. In fact, such people know very well that they are not honest, and also know their words have no weight, so they take an oath to convince people. Actually, what God demands from someone who knows the truth is honesty in his inner heart, which in turn will make him take the value of his words seriously. Therefore, the Lord said in <Mt 5:37>, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Only someone who lies needs to say so much in order to deceive or mislead people.
3）Always worship God with a heart of truth, gradually breaking away from the nature of falsehood
Actually, even after we knew the truth, our sinful human nature has too many weaknesses which can lead us to tell lies. Sometimes it is our fears, or we make too much calculations, or sometimes after we are accused, we (like Adam) push the responsibility to people beside us. Even when Abraham the father of faith faced extreme pressure, he also chose to lie <Gen 12:13>. However, despite so, we must become a person who can repent and always examine ourselves. In particular, the more we know the truth, the more we must know that what pleases God is the truth in our inward being. David said, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” <Ps 51:6>. Many a times, we do not need to tell lies to get out of trouble. What we need is the wisdom given by God, and God promised that those with truth in their inward being will surely receive wisdom to handle difficult situations. Lord Jesus said in <Jn 4:24>, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Indeed, God is the spirit who is working in everything in the universe and who fathoms human hearts. David said, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” <Ps 139:2>. Therefore, we first worship this God with our spirit, instead of outward rituals or piety. But on the other hand, we also worship Him in truth. Here “truth” has two meanings. One refers to the truth, which is the truth based on God’s word; it is certainly not our own feelings. The next is to worship God without any pretension but with truth in the inward being. When a person always meets God in this way, the attribute of truthfulness which comes from God will influence him, such that he detests all falsehood and lies.
3. The characteristics of a person in Christ who keeps his word
1）He has the absolute and unchanging truth that comes from God as the guide in his heart
Unless a person has the absolute and unchanging truth as his central ideology, he cannot possibly be a person who keeps his word in this ever-changing world. In this fallen world in which man’s fallen nature centres on survival, man can break promise anytime because of money, reputation, sex or all kinds of temporal gains. Only those who receive the revelation of the truth can have the foundation to keep their word.
2）What he acknowledges and pursues for his whole life is consistent
The most typical example is Daniel. Many people are shaped by circumstances and environment, thus losing their beliefs. However, since young, Daniel had been brought to the palace of Babylon as a captive to serve king Nebuchadnezzar, and until he was old, he never changed in his trust in God and his loyalty to those above him. Even though the dynasties kept changing, the kings he served also changed, or his status also changed (from extremely lowly to highly esteemed ruler); or when he faced the set-up and threats of his enemies, he did not change his style. His trust in God, responsibility in managing tasks, or loyalty toward the kings were all the same. A person who keeps his word will have such characteristics, which make him admirable.
3）He is able to suffer loss due to being true to his word
The world emphasizes on being resourceful and adaptable. As a result, they fall into the trap of dealing treacherously with people and matters. They deceive and are being deceived. But a person who obeys the Lord and keeps his word knows that a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold <Prov 22:1>. He values the promise he made more than temporary gains, thus he is willing to suffer loss as a result of keeping his word. Think about it, Daniel was certainly a man who was completely sincere and who kept his word, such that even when his enemies wanted to find grounds for charges against him, no error or fault was found in him <Dan 6:4>.
4）He enjoys the company of true bosom friends throughout his life
Just like the relationship between Daniel and his three friends, or David and Jonathan, they were people who kept their words to each other, instead of being together just because of external interests. If we are not someone who keeps our word, who will truly become our bosom friends, and be loyal to the friendship between us? Not only will there be no bosom friend, but also, those who go after vain glory will befriend us instead. Through the truth that we believe in, may we all become someone who keeps our word, such that our every word carries great value and reflects God’s faithfulness. In this way, people will also feel that the gospel we preach carries more weight.