…and nothing but the truth…

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 ESV

When you take an oath to tell the truth in a court of law, you don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the story you tell. It’s not just the truth that’s needed, it’s the WHOLE truth and ONLY the truth. The oath used by most courts says: “I promise to tell the TRUTH, the WHOLE TRUTH, and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.” But why is this oath so tightly worded?

When we are faced with a situation that might put us in a bad light, or show us up in the eyes of family and friends, we choose the easy way of telling only a part of the story, and it may well be true. That also goes as we recount and retell someone else’s account of events, and perhaps even more so.  Telling the whole story can be a hazard to our perceived integrity and reputation, so we speak the parts that only go our way, and leave out the damaging parts. You become very vulnerable when you decide to tell the whole truth, and our human nature doesn’t like it when our pride takes a hit.

When Scripture says the heart is deceitful and sick, it does not overstate or sugar coat the problem. In truth, if we look at our own lives, we don’t always tell the whole truth, and we take the chance no one will notice so that we get away with it, again especially as we retell someone else’s story. And anyway we think, the other person who has a different view, is doing the same thing, so we are equal. Yes, we have hearts that are desperately wicked.

We all know that someone who will only answer the part of the question you put to them, and they hold back the rest. The result is that you must ask the correct questions to get closer to the truth, assuming that you do eventually believe you got the full story. How do I know this? Firstly, the Bible tells me, and secondly, I do recognise that heart and at times, it is mine. Sadly, I can get away with only telling a part of the whole truth that I know, and only seldom get caught out. What about you? Are you open and honest enough, when faced with a real question, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Tough ask, isn’t it? So who is the only one who can be trusted with the whole truth? We must leave that answer in the words of the next verse and be open to the Lord’s searching and testing.

“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10 ESV

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The Moaners

To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3 TLB

Now and again I come across a moaning Christian. Hold on there, that’s not right. The words ‘moaning’ and ‘Christian’ don’t go together and shouldn’t be used in the same phrase. It’s an oxymoron to give it the correct title. But there you have it. Sadly, it’s usually older folks who have been on the way for a while, but somewhere they seem to have lost their joy.

These are invisible Christians, at least to themselves. They are oblivious to their sad condition which everyone else can so easily see, but who will tell them? I won’t or can’t  because I respect them and their life lived for Christ. Also because there may be an underlying, and as yet undiagnosed medical condition which we know nothing of…. yet. So tread carefully and resist the temptation to fire a broadside that you may later regret. True joy goes much deeper than the facial muscles and the occasional gripe, and that same joy is their, and your, strength.

And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10 NLT

Saying, Doing, or Feeling?

The old saying attributed to Maya Angelou goes: ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ It’s not from the Bible, but carries a lot of weight in our personal walk of faith. Are you a talker, a doer or someone that people like to be around because you have a warmth and believable integrity?

The world in all aspects has those who say and do things (sometimes), and then there are the true friends. Trusted friends. People you are naturally attracted to be beside in some way or another. The Bible has its own way of saying this in: John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

If you have ever been in love, and perhaps still are after many years, you will know that love is essentially a feeling. It is not what you say and do that matters most, but the lingering scent when all is said and done, that your love is convincing and real and true. We all know those who talk a good game, but are found wanting when it matters most. All the loud bluster in the world will not and cannot hold a candle to the force of someone who makes you feel loved. Another old saying is, “Empty vessels make the most noise.” Do you recognise the truth of these words? Do they remind you of anyone?

Why am I saying this? Simply because as Christians we have a responsibility to be Christ-like, or look like Christ to our family and friends. Who do you think has the better witness to the unchurched, unsaved, and those who just need to be convinced by the truth of a life lived in love, just like Jesus? The shouter? The one pointing to their own goodness and Bible knowledge? Or simply the one who embodies the Christ-life, and shows love in the Spirit of Jesus? The good news is that we all have the gift of love, so let’s decide to use it to full effect so that others will see Christ in us!

Words

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Most, if not all of my good friends, use language carefully. They use the words which convey meaning best and don’t waste time dancing around a subject with big words, or worse still, words that are on the edge, if not over the edge, of profanity and cursing. These are the actions and life of my friends, but what about those others who inhabit a place of church  leadership? Not all leaders, but some will try to be so close to the unchurched that they want to be just like them. If that means the odd ‘soft swearword’ (if such a thing exists) is spoken, then so be it. If that kind of language is adopted by one or more of the leaders in a holiness church, what then? Do we ignore it and swiftly move on, pretending we didn’t hear? This behaviour disturbs me. Am I right to be disturbed, or should I accept this kind of talk from everyone, whether a professing Christian or not?

When it comes to the subject of ‘unwholesome talk’ there is another side to the verse. What about the talk that’s less than ‘whole’ and in fact by its tone is a stumbling block? Not only are we required to keep our tongues clean, we have a responsibility to live out the truth of Christ in our day to day existence. After all, our tongue has the ability to build up and encourage, or tear down and discourage, or worse. When Christians talk to each other, not only do we have to avoid gossip and bad language, we must choose our words and tone carefully so that the wrong message is not conveyed. The warning is that the tongue can corrupt our whole life, “for it is set on fire by hell itself.” May our speech be acceptable to our Lord and Saviour at all times, and in all circumstances to all people. 

In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:5,6 NLT

‘Bad’ Company

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely. Psalms 1:1,2 TLB

These two verses have caused some confusion in Christian circles, and mostly because the first verse is rendered in the KJV as: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. Can you see the difference of emphasis in each version?

Some read this Psalm as an excuse to avoid the contact and friendship of sinners, while forgetting  that we are all sinners in the sight of a Holy God. It can then follow that we only seek out the good and pure as our chosen circle of friends and shut out the rest. There are denominations that set themselves up as ‘separate’ from the rest of the world, whether Christian or not. Others will actively seek out their own inner circle of confidants to the expense of their own ability to witness and minister to the fallen and hurting.

We certainly should not ‘follow evil men’s advice’ or ‘hang around with sinners scoffing at the things of God’ but there is nothing that suggests we should separate ourselves from them completely. Otherwise how can we live up to the great commission of reaching the world with the saving gospel of Jesus? Let’s use all the resources at our disposal to rightly divide and discern the Word of God’s truth, and not fall into the convenient trap of interpreting verses to suit our own thinking.

Memory

As our age increases, so our ability to remember clearly usually decreases and can become obvious to our friends and family alike. In fact, they will see it before you do. However, have you noticed even in advanced dementia patients, memories stored from ‘way back in their youth come through as fresh as when they were once made?

Firstly, be amazed at the skill of the Creator who allows some memories into our minds, never to be fully forgotten. Secondly, the Christian should use the skills of memorisation while we can to keep a store of favourite Bible verses and passages. Then as the shadow of failing memory passes over us, we can get the help and comfort right from the source of the well.

You know it makes sense, but it means lifting your Bible more often, reading it over and over, and making an effort to commit verses to memory while we can. It is possible to leave it too late and the things which will fall from our long term memory will be songs, melodies, childhood incidents, but little or no comfort from God’s Word, and would you want that?

So, starting right now, open the Bible that only goes to church with you (even if that!) and read the familiar psalms, parables and promises of a loving God. Do your best to let them sink into your mind, and even if your memory stays sharp in later years, you will have gained a treasure trove of much needed Scripture to have at hand. Should that dreaded mind numbing illness strike, God will bring to your mind the benefits of His Word. What could be better? How do I know this truth? Because His Word has already comforted me with this powerful  promise:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 NIV

A Wee Thought

Some Holiness churches were once wrongly labelled as believing in ‘Sinless Perfection’.

Since it doesn’t apply to churches, why do we unfairly expect ‘Sinless Perfection’ from other Christians?