Posts Tagged ‘honesty’

We are bringing our series on ‘How to overcome sin in our lives’ to a close today. Our focus has been on how to get rid of our sinful behaviors and habits which enslave us and keep us from experiencing all that God has for us.

And the message has been that there is freedom in Jesus! We can overcome. We can be fee. We can walk in the fullness that God has for us.

I have been sharing all of this with you so that you won’t sin. It is very much like what John says to his readers in 1 John 2:1, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” But then he goes on to address the reality of failure. He says, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” – 1 John 2:1-2. (NRSV)

If you do fail and fall into sin, John teaches us that Jesus can help. He died for our sins, so that we can be made right with God. And he is our advocate before God, seeking out God’s mercy for us; interceding for us.

But we also need to do something in order to receive what Jesus provides for us; to experience restoration and renewal. So today we look at –

What you must do

– when you fail and fall into sin.

1. Be honest. Our natural human response is to hide our sins and live in denial. Or if we can’t do that we find excuses for our sins, or we deflect attention away from our failure by focusing on the faults of others. We all see this kind of stuff a lot.

But a true mark of repentance is honesty. You must be absolutely honest with yourself first of all. Because without this you can’t make any progress in Christian faithfulness. And then you must be honest with God and others.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Honest confession leads to mercy.

2. Take responsibility for your actions. This means that you own your actions; they are yours. You don’t shift the blame to other people or circumstances or whatever. You are accountable.

After committing terrible sins, David prayed, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me . . . you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.” – Psalm 51:3-4. He’s saying, ‘I did it. And whatever negative consequences come my way are my fault. Because I’m the one who did wrong.’

We see the same thing in Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. When he came back and wanted to make things right with his father, he said, “Treat me as one of your hired servants” – Luke 15:19. He was ready to live there as a servant. He knew there were consequences for his actions. And he had squandered his share of the family estate.

Now, his father – in love and grace – accepted him back as a son, not a servant. But notice, he still lost all that he had, for all the rest that the father had was the elder son’s now, and that would not change.

So there are negative consequences that come on you when you sin. You reap what you sow. And you need to take responsibility for all this, because it’s a result of your actions.

3. Express your sorrow. When we fail and fall into sin, we cause God and others pain. And when we realize this it should cause us to be sorrowful. We should feel it, and have regret.

After James calls his readers to repentance he says, “Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection” – James 4:9. (NRSV) Paul calls this “godly grief” in 2 Corinthians 7:10, which is a part of the process of repentance.

4. Stop the behavior. There is no healing with God or others if you don’t turn from your sin.

You know the person who wants mercy, mercy, forgiveness, forgiveness – but doesn’t want to change anything in their life. This isn’t repentance. It’s manipulation.

If you have failed, what you must do is resolve never to do this sin again, and to do everything necessary to make this happen. All the things we have been talking about in this series.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “he who . . . forsakes his transgressions will obtain mercy.” Ezekiel 18:30-32 says, “Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. . . Turn then, and live.” When you stop the wrong behavior, then you can receive “mercy” from God and others; you can “live.” When you don’t, “iniquity will be your ruin.”

5. Ask God to forgive you. Ask God for mercy to pardon you. And this is the time to be truly honest with God, taking responsibility, expressing your sorrow and committing to stop the wrong.

Pray like the tax collector in Jesus’ story, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” – Luke 18:13. Or you can pray from the Lord’s prayer and personalize it – “Forgive (me) us (my) our sins” – Luke 11:4.

God’s promise to us is this: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9. And we can hold on to this promise knowing that God will keep his word to us – to forgive, to cleanse and to renew us.

6. Seek reconciliation with others. If your sin involved hurting others, a part of dealing with it is that you seek to make things right with them as best you can. Again this is the time to be honest, to take responsibility, to express your sorrow and to commit to stop the wrongdoing.

Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your sister or brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24 (NRSV). Prioritize making things right with the one you have wronged, even over worship of God. First go and be reconciled to your brother or sister; seek forgiveness. Restore the relationship damaged by your actions.

Now also, if you have harmed someone in a way that can be restored, make amends. The example of Zacchaeus’ repentance speaks to this. He was a wealthy tax collector who was despised because he made his profit off charging more taxes than were necessary. When he repented he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” – Luke 19:8. He tried to make things right. He made amends. And he is an example to us.

What should you do when you fail?

1. Be honest

2. Take responsibility for your actions

3. Express your sorrow

4. Stop the behavior

5. Ask God to forgive you

6. Seek reconciliation with others

This is how you get back on track. Not giving up because you have failed. Not wallowing in despair. But repenting in all these ways. And then moving forward with what God’s will is for your life.

Psalm 51 (1-4; 7-12; 16-17)

I want would like to end with a prayer of repentance from David in Psalm 51. He knew how to repent and we can learn from him.

L: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

P: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

L: For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

P: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

L: Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

P: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

L: For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

All: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

William Higgins

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I want to share with you about spiritual renewal for the next few weeks. We are preparing for our time of covenant renewal on October 4th. I would like for this to be a time when we examine our lives and our commitment to God. It should be a time of spiritual reflection on where we are in our life with God.

We’ll focus on Five Marks of Spiritual Renewal. And as we look at these, we will see what our Christian life should look like. And also reflect on what our Christian life often actually looks like. The difference between what should be and what is.

We begin with Complete Yieldedness to God. This mark is foundational, because without it you don’t get anywhere else in terms of faithfulness or renewal.

Another way to say this is that . . .

We are to give ourselves completely to God

  • To be totally committed to God.
  • To hold nothing back.
  • To be obedient in every area of our lives.
  • To yield in every way to what God’s will is for us.

Jesus calls us to this in several different ways: 1) He names this as the greatest of God’s commandments to us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). Every part of us is to love God. And to love God means at its core, that we keep God’s commandments, as I John 5:3 says.

2) Jesus also calls us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The rule and will of God is to be our first priority in all of life. Think of all the other things there are in life; good things. The kingdom is to be first.

3) Jesus told this parable to tell us what God wants from us – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44). To be truly submitted to God; to be a part of God’s kingdom and under his rule – it will cost you everything. This man sold all that he had to gain the kingdom. We will have to do the same.

4) A final example is Jesus’ call to take up the cross. He said,  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). The cross is an instrument of death. We have to deny ourselves; we have to die to ourselves. This is the commitment that is called for; this is the commitment that is required by God.

In all of these different ways, and more, Jesus calls us to complete yieldedness to God.

Now, if we ask, ‘What does this kind of commitment look like?’ The answer is – You just need to look at Jesus.

Jesus is the standard

And he’s the standard because he gave himself completely to God.

  • Jesus was totally committed to God
  • Jesus held nothing back
  • Jesus was obedient in every area of his life
  • Jesus yielded to God’s will. At the time of his greatest testing, he prayed, “not my will, but yours (God) be done.”

1)       He loved God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.

2)       He sought God’s kingdom first.

3)       He gave up all he had for the kingdom.

4)       He denied himself and took up his cross – literally.

And he is now the standard for us as we seek to do God’s will. For he is the only one who truly and completely did God’s will. So if you want to please God; if you want to do God’s will truly and fully – do what Jesus taught and modeled for us.

This is, in fact, what Jesus calls us to. He said, “Learn from me” – Matthew 11:29. Jesus is our teacher. And so we learn from his teaching how to do exactly what God wants; how to please God in every way.

And Jesus is also our example. As we saw, he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). What he did, we are to do. Just as he denied himself and took up his cross, we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

Jesus is the picture of complete obedience and we are to learn from his teaching and example how to be completely obedient to God ourselves.

Now, this is what we do at baptism. We commit to give ourselves completely to God, like Jesus did. But often it isn’t long until we have gone back on this; we retreat from such total commitment. And that’s because there are many –

Obstacles to complete commitment

And the first obstacle is You. Your own human weakness.

  • Your propensity to do what you want, instead of what God wants.
  • Your tendency to take the easy way, instead of the way of Jesus.

Jesus speaks of our human weakness in Mark 14:38 when he said, “the flesh is weak.” We are weak when it comes to doing what God wants of us.

And then there is the obstacle of the World – all those who don’t follow Jesus or share his values, who pressure us to go along with them instead of following Jesus. This is peer pressure. This is following the crowd instead of following Jesus.

  • The world offers us many opportunities to fail in our commitment. Jesus said, “Woe to the world for temptations to sin!” (Matthew 18:7)
  • The world offers us many distractions to keep us from seeking first the kingdom. Jesus talks about “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19)

The world pressures us to fail and to be distracted, along with everybody else.

And in all this is Satan who puts us in tests where we have to make hard choices and then encourages us in our weakness to give in.

The result

. . . of these obstacles so often is that when hard choices confront us; when we are in difficult tests – we compromise; we choose what is wrong. We want what we want, not what God wants. We want the easy way out, not the way of Jesus. We want to fit in with our friends and peers, not submit to God.

And then we start to make excuses. We rationalize our sin. We think of many good reasons why we should do what we are doing. We think of why its OK in our situation. And we can always find someone else who is worse than us.

And then we become apathetic about our Christian life; we stop doing the hard work of denying ourselves and taking up our cross and dying to ourselves. We begin to coast.

And then we begin excusing this. We put our trust in cheap grace, telling ourselves ‘It’s OK if I allow constant patterns of disobedience in my life. I’ll just shoot a prayer up to God for forgiveness and all is well. We deceive ourselves forgetting that without repentance, there is no forgiveness.

What should you do?

First, be honest. Stop living in denial. Take a hard and rigorously honest look at your life. Stop making excuses – if my life had been different, if I were in different circumstances, if, if, if. And stop comparing yourself to other Christians, so that you come out looking good. Well at least I’m doing better than so and so. Jesus is the standard! Compare yourself to him.

Be honest with yourself and before God. God already knows the truth about you, it’s just a matter of whether you have the courage to know and acknowledge the truth about yourself.

  • Where are you holding out on God?
  • Where are you are not fully committed to God?

The second thing you should do is make some hard choices. Where you are compromising, choose to yield to God. Where you are holding out, submit.

1)       Choose to love God fully in every are of your life

2)       Choose to make God’s kingdom first

3)       Choose to give up everything for the kingdom

4)       Choose to deny yourself and take up your cross

And make whatever sacrifices you need to make to keep to this: friends, the approval of others, your privacy by confessing and being accountable to others; access to what leads you to sin. Even though its hard, do what it takes.

Jesus made this point in Matthew 18:8-9 –

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

Complete yieldedness to God has to be at the core of our Christian lives.

We will still fail. But with this in place we won’t excuse it or tolerate it. We will immediately deal with it.

And with this in place in your life, and in our congregation as a whole, we will be in a place to experience the spiritual renewal that God wants for us.

William Higgins

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Today we are looking at a very familiar text – Leviticus 19. This is where the commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” comes from, which Jesus names as the second greatest commandment of all.

But how many of you know that the context of the giving of this commandment is – dealing with wrongdoing in relationships among God’s people? This is our title and focus for today.

Here is the text:

“You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of them. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:17-18 (NRSV modified)

Alright, we begin with . . .

Two initial considerations

. . . that will help us to make sense out of these verses.

1. This is talking about relationships among the people of God. There are actually several different terms used in these verses to talk about relationships, but all of them speak to fellow members of the covenant community.

The word “neighbor” used in the love command of v. 18, based on how it is used in the Old Testament, clearly means ‘fellow Israelite.’ [Leviticus 19:34, which repeats the love command, reinforces this point. It calls for love for “aliens” or “strangers” – those who immigrate and become to some degree a part of Israel. This wouldn’t need to clarified, if “neighbor” already covered everyone.]

So, we are dealing with relationships among God’s people.

2. Vs. 17 and 18 parallel each other (Jacob Milgrom). I share this because the two verses help fill out each other’s meaning; they give context to each other. There are three part to both verses, which speak to three themes:

v. 17 v. 18
What you shouldn’t do You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people

What you should do

you shall reprove your neighbor

but you shall love your neighbor as yourself


lest you incur sin because of them

I am the Lord

This will help us, as we now see what these verses teach us about what to do –

When you are wronged by a neighbor . . .

1. We learn what you shouldn’t do. V. 17 – You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin.” You can see the parallel and the expansion in v. 18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your.”

The idea is that when you have hatred in your heart (v. 17)

  • You have wrong inner attitudes towards the person; you “bear a grudge” – (v. 18). And also,
  • It leads you to take wrong actions towards the person; you “take vengeance;” you do them wrong in return (v. 18).

We shouldn’t harbor hatred or grudges in our heart that lead us to wrong actions on our part.

2. We learn what you should do. V. 17 – “you shall reprove your neighbor.” The word reprove is similar to rebuke, admonish, censure, or correct. It means to point out a wrong, specifically here, a wrong done to you. The idea is that you do this, so that the wrong can be righted. Instead of trying to get them back, you go to them to work things out.

The parallel here is really important. V. 18 says, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So, to reprove your neighbor (v. 17) is to love your neighbor as yourself (v. 18).

Let me say it this way. In context this is what neighbor love means. When wronged:

  • Don’t hate them or wrong them in return
  • Rather point out the wrong in order to work through it. Come to them with the issue so that things can be made right.

This is what it means to love your neighbor, when they have wronged you.

Now the way these verses are put together makes it clear that the call to reprove, is a call to love. So obviously this is not about venting anger, telling someone off, or saying mean things. It is about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. You are to act for their good, just like you act for your own good. This is what the phrase – “love your neighbor as you love yourself” means. And so it is to be an act of love, done in a loving way.

3. We learn why you should reprove/love instead of hate/take revenge. V. 17 says, “lest you incur sin because of them.” This most likely means, if you harbor hatred it will lead you to act in hatred toward the person; that is to harm them. This is not loving your neighbor. So in this way it leads you to sin.

V. 18 says, “I am the Lord.” This means, because God said so. And God is always right. And we should do what is right and not sin.

So this is the basic teaching. Now lets ask a practical question . . .

How wrong does the wrong have to be before we act to reprove?

Well, we are always going to do things that annoy each other. This even happens among happily married couples. How much more among us!

And there will always be people with different personality types, who most likely aren’t ever gonna be best friends. And this is OK. We are called to love one another, not all be “best friends forever.”

And we will always have misunderstandings or even disagreements and we can work on these.

But these don’t mean that you need to automatically move into “reproving mode.” What I am saying is there is an element of bearing with each other, and overlooking minor things in any community’s relationships.

  • As Colossians 3:12-13 says, – “Put on . . . compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another . . .”
  • As Proverbs 19:11 says, – “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Some offenses can be overlooked.

But, how do you know when you should speak to the person? Well, if what was done is causing: resentment, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit, abiding anger, wrong words (like gossip or slander) or wrong actions on your part; in the language of our text – hatred in your heart, a grudge, or actions of vengeance – then you must act! Deal with the issue. Seek to work through it.

Now let me acknowledge that . . .

It can be hard to do deal with such issues in our relationships with each other

As Americans we just as soon break off the relationship, than to honestly deal with things. We are uncomfortable with this kind of stuff.

And as church people we think that we have failed if there is conflict, because we are supposed to be witnesses for love and peace to the world.

So we become conflict avoiders; we push everything under the rug. I mean some churches have so much stuff under the rug that when you walk around your head hurts from scraping the ceiling!

What we need to understand is that we are true witnesses when we work through issues in love, rather than just getting mad or walking away. The world already knows how to do this. When we have problems and pretend like we don’t – we just come off as hypocrites.

We will be true witnesses when they see us love each other enough to work through things in a loving way. This kind of deep love is new and different. This is our witness.

So no matter how hard it is, God calls us to have real relationships with each other. And this means dealing with problems that arise in love.

Let me just say that this is what God does with us. It’s because he loves us that he reproves us:

  • Hebrews 12:5-6 (quoting Proverbs 3:11-12) says, Don’t “be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves . . .”
  • In Revelation 3:19 Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline . . .”

In the same way, if we love the person, we will deal with the issue.

Alright, we could also talk about receiving reproof, forgiveness and reconciliation – but we will stop here for today.

I hope you hear me this morning:

  • Let us not be a congregation where resentments build up, where relationships remain strained, where our love for one another is shallow, weak or cold.
  • Let us deal with our issues that arise – and is this way love each other as we love our own selves; and in this way live in peace with one another.

William Higgins

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This is a topic that is relevant to all of us, because it is so easy not to speak the truth to one another, but to allow a little dishonesty now and then. Even if we’re not into telling big lies, we can get caught up into telling so-called white lies or exaggeration, thinking it won’t hurt anyone. And this is not considered a big deal by most people. 

There are several words in the Bible that help us flesh-out different aspects of dishonesty:

  • False witness – often used in a legal context, its where you give false information
  • Lying – don’t tell the truth
  • Deception – mislead, trick, not telling the whole truth
  • Slander – where you spread false information about someone – to damage their reputation

We need to watch out for all of these, so lets remind ourselves

Why dishonesty is evil

 The answer is straightforward, dishonesty destroys relationships, indeed, it can destroy whole communities.

1) Lying destroys trust, which is the glue that holds us together in relationships. Trust is what makes our relationships possible.

When you lie to someone you are stealing their trust, as it were, and then using that trust to take advantage of them, or otherwise to get your way in the situation.

When they find out (and usually lies are found out) it destroys the trust they had in you. Trust is a precious gift of great value; and lying damages or even destroys it.

I’m sure you have experienced this. You know how it feels to be lied to; to be deceived. You know the sense of betrayal of trust and the damage it causes.

2) Even if you are never caught, to maintain the lie you have to continue to be false with the person. You can’t be in a genuine relationship with them. You have to wear a mask, so there is always this barrier between the two of you that hinders the relationship.

So the relationship is damaged or even destroyed either way: if you are found out the trust is broken; if you are not you have to put on a mask.

This is, in large part, why Scripture teaches us not to lie. For instance: Ephesians 4:25 – “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Notice the last phrase here, which emphasizes our relationship with each other.

We are in relationship with each other in the body of Christ. And if we are dishonest with each other then it tears the community apart; the relationships that make up that community.

So lying is evil, but let me now impress upon you that it is not something that God winks at –

Lying is as evil as evil gets

1. Proverbs 6:16-19 – Lying covers two of the seven things that God hates. “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eye, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Lying shows up twice! God hates lying; it is an abomination to him.

2. 1 Timothy 1:10 – Lying is classed with sins such as homosexual practice, killing your parents and more generally, murder. Are these other items “really sinful” in your mind? Well the point is – so is lying!

3. Psalm 101:5 – This verse tells us that God himself will destroy a secret slanderer – someone who goes around whispering falsehoods about others to tear them down. God will tear them down.

4. Acts 5 – Ananias and Sapphira are killed by God for lying about their contribution to the church

5. Revelation 21:27; 21:8

  • The first verse tells us that liars are not permitted into the eternal city of God in the age to come.
  • Revelation 21:8 says of liars, “their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

So, it should be clear –

We have to make a choice!

Will we be honest or will we allow dishonesty a place in our life? Perhaps you think it might make your life a little easier at points to allow some dishonesty.

So lets be clear – if we take the path of lying we are choosing Satan to be our father. Jesus says to the Pharisees – John 8:44 – “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. . . . When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” When you lie, you imitate Satan – like father like son.

But if we take the path of honesty, we choose God as our Father – for

  • God “never lies” – Titus 1:2
  • Indeed God “cannot lie” – Hebrews 6:18

So, we have to make a choice.  Finally, let me tell you that –

We will be blessed if we speak the truth

And we need to know this and remember it, because it can be hard to be honest at times.

  • Proverbs 12:22 says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” When we are honest we please the Lord.
  • Revelation 14:5 states that those who speak the truth are the ones who will be with Jesus forever in the kingdom of God. They will follow – the Lamb- wherever he goes, for, it says, there was “not a lie found in their mouths.”

So, let us speak the truth to one another. For the sake of love for each other, and our relationships and for the sake of our relationship with God. And if we have not spoken the truth, if you have not I encourage you to make it right before God and before your sister or brother. Amen?

Lets stand together and close by reading Ephesians 4:25 – “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” William Higgins

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