Controversial Jesus #10 - Truth/Lies
Dr. Kurt Bjorklund walks through the passage where Jesus exposes the lies that Satan tells people and how we can still be affected by them today.
So, have you ever been scammed? And by that, what I mean, have you ever put your trust in somebody and then had them take advantage of that trust and do something that was detrimental to you? If you have, you know how lousy that feels, to be scammed.
I had this experience a few years ago, but the account actually goes back further than that. Years ago, when my wife one time went with the women of Orchard Hill on a retreat, I decided to not teach that weekend. So, I had somebody else teach, and I took my kids on what I called a fun city trip. And so we used hotel points, we drove to Philadelphia in this instance, and I took a little bit of cash and said "When this cash is done, we're done." And we went and we ate Philly cheese steaks, we went to the Liberty Bell, we bought $10.00 tickets to a Sixer game, sat up in the high seats, watched a Sixer game. And when we came home, it was so much fun that my boys were talking about it, my wife said "Hey, you can't do that on women's retreat weekend next time, I want to go."
And so it became a family kind of thing to every fall try to go on this family city trip. We didn't hit it every year, but we'd usually go when North Allegheny takes kind of the first weekend of November and has the Monday, Tuesday off, and we try to go somewhere and do something like this. We hit some of the cities that were drivable, always on hotel points, bringing this little envelope of cash, that when the cash was done we were done.
And we planned that our last kind of trip where we knew we'd have us all together was my oldest son's senior year, we'd go to New York City. We hadn't done New York City, I wanted my kids to at least go there, so we did the hotel points, and we had our little envelope of cash. We ate and went to a show and then we were kind of coming toward the end of the time, but it was the first night of the NBA regular season and the Knicks were playing. I didn't have tickets, but I thought "This would be kind of fun." Three of my kids like basketball, one doesn't care, my wife doesn't care a lot, so four of us said "We'll go to the Knicks game." And I went down and thought "Well, I'm shrewd and I can handle this." And I thought that there was somebody on the street that I could buy tickets from. You know where this is going, right?
I tried to buy tickets on the street. I did, in my mind, buy tickets on the street. I sent the three boys who were going on ahead to the game and I was going to walk my one son and wife back to the hotel, and all of the sudden my phone starts blowing up with the, that "The tickets aren't real. We got scammed." When they got to the ticket thing, the tickets were a complete forgery. I felt lousy. Not only that, we had to eat cheap $1.00 pizza for the rest of the time that we were in New York off the street vendor, because the cash was out after that. Like I had spent our cash for fun, and got scammed.
Now here's the thing, nobody likes to be scammed. Nobody really things that in anything that matters that they get scammed. But here's what John 8 tells us about Satan, and that is that he's the father of lies. In other words, Satan wants to scam you. He wants you to believe something that isn't true to your detriment, to your harm. Now, I realize when I say that that even mentioning the word Satan in our culture, in our day and age, some people are like "Really? Satan? Are you sure? That seems way out there. That seems farfetched. Satan, demons, things likes like that." But Jesus, in this text, names the Devil and he says "The Devil is the father of lies", meaning what Satan wants to do, one of his primary objectives, is to deceive people into believing something that isn't true in order to bring harm into their lives.
And when we say that, we realize that there is a spiritual entities, that there are spiritual forces that want to deceive us, to scam us, so to speak. And what happens if we don't understand that or believe that is we're more susceptible to fall into the lies of Satan. In fact, here's, what John 8, how it describes it in Verse 44, it says it this way, it says "You belong to your father, the Devil. You want to carry out your father's desires. He is a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there's no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language for he is a liar, the father of lies."
And we've called this series the controversial Jesus, because Jesus was at odds with his culture, and what he does here is offensive then, and it's offensive how, because he basically says "If you're not my follower, then you have a father, Satan, and you believe lies, the lies that he tells." That's not really something that, in our culture, that if you walk around saying people would be like "Oh, yeah. I'm with you on that." And so, we have to grapple a little bit with what this means.
I don't know if you remember the movie that came out several years ago now called Elf? Maybe you've seen this at Christmas, but there's a scene in the movie where Buddy the elf is approaching Santa, because Santa's come to town and he wants to see Santa, because he from the North Pole, the whole thing. And the Santa that he comes to experience is not the Santa that he knows, and so he says "You are a liar. You sit on a throne of lies." It's a little here like Jesus is saying "Satan sits on a throne of lies and I want you all to know that this is who he is."
And then in Verse 47 we see Jesus just draw this contrast, here's what he says, says "Whoever belongs to God, here's what God says, 'The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.'" In other words, this is something that is so significant that he says there's a sense in which if you miss the truth, it shows that you don't even really know who God is.
Now, here's what John 8 doesn't do. It doesn't show us what these lies are, and as I was preparing for today, I thought that John 8 is telling us who Satan is, and then the contrast in the second part of the text that was read kind of 48, Verse 48 and following, is about Jesus' identity, and if you've been here over the previous weeks, John has made a compelling case over and over about Jesus' identity. And so rather than just talking about who Satan is, who Jesus is, what I want to do today is dive into what are the lies that Satan wants to perpetrate today, then, today? And who you and I might be susceptible to those. Whether you're a long time person of faith or faith is something you're just exploring, I think the lies and the system is the same.
And here's why I say this. If you go back to the very beginning, the first appearance of Satan in the Bible, most scholars believe, is Genesis 3, when the serpent shows up. Now, if you don't like snakes, you can always say they're cursed, there's a reason we don't like snakes. But most scholars would say the serpent here is an embodiment at this moment of Satan, and what we see when we read through this is how Satan goes about using lies to deceive people. It starts with Adam and Eve. Here's what we read, Genesis 3, Verse 1, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made and he said to the woman 'Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?'" Did God really say that? And here's what he's doing, in this moment, he's saying "I want people to question God, to question God's word, to doubt God's word."
See, we live in an age where, by and large, the idea is that there is no higher truth than the truth that you see, than the truth you feel to be true. In other words, what happens for many today is we say, "Well, there may be texts that are ancient that might have some divine origin, but I will decide which things are true and which things are not true based on my experience." And so we make ourselves the highest authority, and what that does is it puts us in a place where when we read things in the Bible or in God's word we say "Really? Can that be?" In fact, what we usually do is we don't say "Can that be?" We say "That can't be."
And what this is is it's a questioning, it's a doubting of God's word. It's starting to say that "I don't believe what I'm reading here. Or what's stated here." Let me just give you some simple examples. So, in the Old Testament there's something that's called the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are God's Law. In other words, he says "These are good things for people, for all time." But there are a couple of these commandments that a lot of us probably have a "That can't be, that seems a little much."
So, for example, when the Ten Commandments say you shall not use the Lord Dear God's name in vain, that means not using God's name flippantly, irreverently. It means not using it as a curse word. And for many people today, it's like "Really? Like, come on. That's one of the Big 10? Not to use God's name in vain?" Because it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Or take the command, the fourth commandment that you should have a Sabbath, a day that's made holy unto the Lord, a day in which you prioritize worship, and the re-calibration of your heart toward the things of God. And what many of us do is we treat Sunday, or a day of Sabbath, like we treat every other day of the week, and if we have time, we get a little God into it, but more or less we use it for the tasks that are in front of us. Because we say "Really? The Sabbath?"
Or take the tenth commandment, "You shall not covet." I mean, this is one that we have television shows that celebrate the idea of coveting. So, for example, there's a show out right now called My Lottery Dreams, and what it does is it says "If you win the lottery, what would you do with all of these things?" There's a show about your dream island that shows islands that you can buy, that you can watch and just dream about how great your life could be if you could win the lottery or have an island. And we say "Really? Don't covet? Is it really that big a deal?"
Or maybe it's some of the history of the Old Testament that bothers some of us. We read about people from Israel who were escaping slavery in Egypt going across the Red Sea on dry land and we think "Really? That can't be." Or we read about giants in the land and we say "That just seems far-fetched" or the Walls of Jericho come tumbling down because the children of Israel marched around it seven times and we think "Really? That just can't be." By the way, you can stand at the archaeological site of Jericho and see how the walls fell out instead of in. I went on an Israel trip a couple years ago, our church took one, and you can actually see that. And we're planning another trip for 2021, I think there's some information available online already for that. But you can actually see that. But it's easy to sit and say "That just doesn't make sense."
And so we start to question, we start to doubt or take the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is teaching and Jesus says "Blessed are the poor in spirit." And so often what we do is we say "No, no. The really blessed people are those who aren't poor in spirit, who don't feel broken and humble, but those who feel like they have it all together" or "Blessed are those who mourn, for they'll be comforted" and we say "Oh, no, mourning is bad. We should never mourn" or "Blessed are the meek" because we like to think that power trumps meekness in our day and age. Or "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness", meaning the people who are most blessed are those who prioritize and arrange their lives around the seeking of God rather than the seeking of other things.
And then if you keep working your way through the Sermon on the Mount, you see Jesus make statements like, you've heard it said "You shall not murder", but I tell you that if you say about somebody "You fool, you empty-head" or you hate your brother, you're guilty of the same thing and we think "Come on, that seems far-fetched to say that I shouldn't hate or I shouldn't run somebody down." And then there are statements about adultery and lust, about our word, about an eye for an eye and the whole idea about not seeking revenge, about loving our enemies about giving of our treasure and not treasuring the things of Earth, but laying up treasure in Heaven and at each turn it's easy to simply say "That can't be."
See, you don't have to be a hardcore Atheist to say "I question the ideas that are presented in the scriptures." And it's beyond our scope here this morning for me to try to prove the voracity of scripture, in other words to say "Why is this true?" But we've done that in other places, but what's significant is what happens is we start to say "I don't believe the goodness of God, therefore I don't believe what God says. I don't believe it's for my good."
It's a little bit like this, if you get a new car, new to you, one of the things that you get is you get an owner's manual. We don't always get them anymore in a book. They used to come in a book that you'd put in your glove compartment and keep it there. Now some of it's online. But what an owner's manual does, is it says, in essence, "Here are some things you need to do to get optimal performance from your car." And it would be possible, if you don't understand how a car works, to simply "Well, those are suggestions. I don't need to change my oil that often. I mean, transmission fluid, brake fluid, rotating the tires. Who cares?" But, if you do that, what happens? If you just ignore it, sooner or later the car that's supposed to provide you freedom begins to become something that doesn't provide freedom, but it provides a headache because you've ignored the owner's manual. Because you say "Oil changes, really? That's inconvenient and expensive."
And that's a little bit what it's like when we start to question the word of God. And here's what Jesus does in John 8. In John 8 Verse 58, he alludes to himself this way, it says this "Very truly I tell you, Jesus said, before Abraham was born, I am." And what's he's doing is he's using an Old Testament title for God. He's saying "I am God." And what he's doing in this moment is he's saying "My word is the ultimate word. You either believe the father of lies, or you believe my word" and Satan's strategy over the entire existence of humanity has been to get people to just say "I'm not sure I can believe that. That seems a little much."
Now, here's the second thing that Satan does, and that is I believe he tries to get us to edit God's word. And we see this in Genesis Chapter 3, the end of Verse 1 through Verse 3, it says this, "He said to the woman 'Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?' The woman said to the serpent 'We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say 'You must not eat from the fruit of the tree that's in the middle of garden, and you must not touch it or you will die.'" Now, when you read that, if you don't reach back just a chapter to Genesis 2, you may just read right past it, but in Genesis 2, you see the contrast, and that is in Verse 1 when he says "You must not eat from any tree in the garden." Chapter 2, Verse 6 through 17 says "You can eat from any tree except the one in the middle."
And so what's happening here is Satan is getting an editing to God's word, and then the same thing happens with the comment about "You must not touch it or you will die", because he was never told that you couldn't touch it, just that you couldn't eat it. And here's the point, and that is one of the strategies to getting people scammed into a way of thinking that's not productive for their lives is to get us to either add to God's word or subtract from God's word, which is in essence editing it, changing it to our liking. So we move from questioning to editing, to changing what's objectionable, to what seems culturally out of step to us, to say "Now I'm going to make it more palatable to me so that the word of God agree with what I like to think or how I think that it should be."
And so here's what happens, we move from "That can't be what it really says" to "Let me tell you what it really says". And we come up with ingenious kind of editing so that all of the sudden we say "Now I like the text". And what happens is, the text starts to reflect our own way of thinking, our own views, rather than us surrendering to the text. You've probably heard me say this if you've been around here, but if we have a God that never crosses the way we think things should be, we don't actually worship God, what we're doing is we're worshiping ourselves, what we're doing is we're making ourselves the authority instead of God the authority, and I would say, based on John 8 and Genesis 3, is that we're actually starting to believe the lies of Satan. Because when we get away from the owner's manual, it may feel like we're actually experiencing freedom, but what we're actually doing is we're headed toward bondage. Just like if you ignore the instructions about a car, it might feel good at first, but somewhere down the road the freedom that you think you feel by ignoring those things actually leads you to no having the freedom that a car produces. And as a result, it becomes challenging or dangerous.
Here's, again, John 8, how Jesus speaks about it. He says very truly, Verse 51, "I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death." Now what he's not doing here is he's not saying "If you do everything I say, then you have eternal life." What's he's doing is he's talking about a relationship, and he's saying that what's part and parcel of a genuine relationship with God is that you actually say "God, your word is true and my opinions, my beliefs, my desires, are secondary to what your word says." But, so often, what happens is, after we question God's word, then we start to edit it or deny it, or, yeah, deny it, and that's actually the third thing, and that is we start to deny God's word, and you see this in Verse 4 of Genesis 3.
Here's what it says, "You will certainly not die", the serpent said to the woman. And his simple statement here is "Yes, you've heard God say something, but let me tell you, that isn't really how it is." So, what happens, from a being scammed perspective, is first we question, then we edit, then we just outright deny something and say "This can't possibly be something that I want to listen to or believe." Emma Thompson, who's an actress said this "I am an Atheist. I regard religion with fear and suspicion. It's not enough to say that I don't believe in God, but I actually regard the system as distressing. I am offended by some of the things said in the bottle and in the Quran and I refute them."
Now, listen to that statement, and it's easy to say "Oh, Emma Thompson, Hollywood, bad." That's not my point, because I think there's a little bit of that same thinking in me, probably a little bit of the same thinking in many of us. Here's what she says, she says "I am the judge of whether or not something's good in the Bible and the Quran, and I'm offended by some of it, so I reject it. It can't be believed." You see, what we do sometimes, is we come to a point where we say "Since I don't like what this appears to teach, therefore I reject it." Sometimes what happens is, people who have been around faith, maybe even believed for a season, will end up in a time when they say "I no longer believe that". What often is happening is not that they don't actually believe, but they're saying "I don't like the implications. I don't like everything that this teaches, therefore I reject it" and that's part of the lie that Satan perpetrates, and that is this idea that says "Since I don't like it, it can't be true or I don't want it to be true. It feels culturally out of step, I don't like where this puts me, therefore I must edit, I must deny, I must say 'This isn't a thing.'"
And probably Satan's ultimate lie, in many ways, is to get people to the point where they say "Whatever God is like, I'll just take my chances that my goodness is enough." You see, Jesus' death, his resurrection is the ultimate hope for people, and the lie that's so pervasive is to say "I don't need a substitute, I don't need a savior. I'm pretty moral, I'm pretty good. I'll take my chances on God, whatever that is in the future." And it's a scam. Because one day you'll stand before God, and what you'll realize is that you cannot have been moral enough, good enough to earn your way, but only by throwing yourself on the blood of Jesus Christ can you say "Now I have standing."
You know, sometimes people think about a church like Orchard Hill that talks about grace on consistent basis, and they say "Well, being into grace means you're not into standards." It's actually the opposite. When you're into standards, what you actually do is you lower the standards so that you say "I can keep the standard. We can all keep the standard." And it promotes a self righteousness, a kind of in and out kind of club. But when you actually understand grace, what you actually do is you actually raise standards, or hold them where they should be, and you say "There's something unattainable about this. There's something too far removed for me to get to." That's why I need grace.
But you see, Satan's lie is "No, no. You won't die. God didn't mean that. You can get to it. Just be good, just be moral, then it will be enough." And again we see this in John 8, right at the end of Verse 47, it says "Whoever belongs to God, here's what God says", now listen to these words, "The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." What he's saying here very, very straightforwardly is that there is a sense in which hearing and bending your knee to the word of God is an indicator that you have faith.
Now, let me just try and kind of bring this into where we live a little more. Now, I want to do something some people might be offended by, putting the Bible on the ground, but this is an illustration. There are two basic postures when it comes to God's word. One is you stand over it, and when you stand over it, you sit in judgment on it, you edit it, you change it to your liking, you trying to massage it so that you can say "You know, this feels good to me. This is how I like things." The other posture, is to be underneath it, is to say "This is above me, and if I don't like it or I don't agree with it, I bend my knee to it and I say 'God has a standard or a way of seeing things, a way of doing things that is superior to my way.'"
And ultimately, we either have the humility to be under it, or we're haughty and we stand over it. It's one or the other. And let me just push into one area. I mentioned earlier the commandment in the Ten Commandments about coveting. So, let's just dive into this one for a second. If you hear the commandment "You shall not covet" and you're reaction is "Really? Like, is that really that big a deal? I mean, who hasn't coveted? Who hasn't driven around a neighborhood and said 'Wow, that's a nice house. That's nicer than my house. I'd like to live in that house. You know, they have a cool pool in the back, that would be awesome.' Or 'Look at their car.'"
And you just say "Well, okay, coveting. Not that big a deal." Maybe you edited and you say "Well God didn't really mean just appreciating something." Or you just outright say "You know what? I don't care. I deny that this has any bearing in my life." What will happen is not that you'll be struck by lightning because you covet, but all of the sudden you'll start to prioritize the acquisition or the thing that you covet. And it may not even be a material thing. If you notice in the commandment, it says "covet your neighbor's wife", it might be somebody else's family, their relationship, the esteem that they have, the job that they hold, even if it isn't about the money. It can be all kinds of things that we covet, and what will happen is you'll start to make those things out to be things that are worthy of your worship.
And I don't mean that you'll bow your knee and say "Oh, great car that I want", but what you'll do is you'll start to say "This is what I must have in order to really have life the way that I want it." And what will happen is you'll believe the lie that that's the thing that will bring you fulfillment and satisfaction, and as you pursue that thing, you will, instead of finding your satisfaction and your joy in God, you'll tie your hopes, your deepest hopes, to something that's fleeting and temporary, and you'll actually become more dissatisfied rather than more satisfied in trying to get the attainment of it. And you buy a lie. You're scammed by the father of lies.
Now, one of the things that's helpful is living in Christian community. One of the reasons you hear us here at Orchard Hill often talk about studies in groups and friendships and life groups is because living in communities sometimes helps us hear another voice, helps us hear somebody else's challenge to us, and being open to and receptive to challenge is so important because sometimes, when we get into our own world, it's easier to get scammed.
If I had, with those tickets, consulted with somebody else, I may have actually had somebody go "Are you sure? That may not have been such a good idea. Those seats were really good for what they offered them for." And so it's important that we have some people to speak into our lives.
One of the things that has been fun but challenging simultaneously as my boys have gotten older is they've gotten to a point in life where it isn't just a one way challenge in our house. My wife and I don't just challenge them anymore, now they challenge us. And we have a phrase that we use sometimes in our home and that is, somebody will say "You know, that wasn't a really good look for you." And it's a way of saying "What you just did did not express maybe character or godliness or kindness, gentleness, self-control", any of the fruits of the spirit in life. And you know what, I need that. Sometimes from my sons, from my wife, sometimes from friends, from people around me to say "You're starting to buy the lie, and the reason that you don't have joy, that you don't peace, that you don't have patience, that you're not living with kindness right now is because you're living in a scammed position in a lie rather than in the truth."
Because the fruit of the spirit Galatians 5, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness. That's what God brings into your life. You see, God wants you, he wants me to thrive in this world, but so often we don't thrive because we have bought the lies of what this world is. You know, nobody really thinks that they're getting scammed until it's too late. Because if you thought you were getting scammed, what would happen? You'd pull out of the situation. And so what's important here is that there's a commitment to meticulously follow what you know and continue to seek to learn more about God. And the reason I say this is because as you meticulously seek to say "Let me live what I believe, what I know to be true" what happens is then you being to see more and more truth. This is what I think Jesus was saying when he was talking about the fact that you kind of get on a track. Either you're believing the father of lies or you hear his voice.
And so we want to keep putting ourselves in places where the word of God can operate on our minds and can change and challenge our errant thinking, because the lies come at us from so many directions, so often, so quickly, and the I believe that we want to try to put ourselves in those places where there's people who can, in a sense, say to us "That's not the best look for you." In other words, "Are you sure that you haven't bought the lie that's being told to you?" And when those things become true, then we can live in the truth.
Jesus was controversial in his day because he said to a group of people "You children of the Devil, you believe his lies. He's the father of lies, and if you don't hear my voice it just proves that you don't get it." That's still a controversial statement. And the point isn't that people of faith go out in the culture and say "You sit on a throne of lies." The point is, are you allowing errant thinking, lies, into your world without realizing it? And starting to believe things that bring disunity, that bring challenges into your world that were not intended for you here and now?
And maybe the question's even bigger for some of us, and that is "Have I believed the lie that says if I am moral and good and upright, then whoever God is, whatever God is like, then I'll be enough or have I come to see Jesus as the I am, as the one who is God, in the flesh, who paid the price on the cross, in other words, my substitute." Because the teaching of the bible over and over and over again is "You're not enough, Jesus is enough". And the lie of Satan is to say "You are enough, you don't need that Jesus thing. Just go it on your own."
But the truth invites us to say "I have trusted Jesus, and not only have I trusted him, but I believe that God has given me an owner's manual, so to speak, for how I address this world, how I live in this world. And the more I lean into that, the more God will work in and through my life, and the more I'll experience his goodness." That doesn't mean everything will go perfectly or even well for me, but what it means is that in the midst of whatever's going on, I will experience God, and that'll be enough.
So, what lies have become part of your way of thinking? Make sure that you're putting yourself in a place where you can see the truth over and over again, because it will change your perceptions.
Father, we thank you just for the words that Jesus gave us in John 8 for even giving us a window into how Satan wants to deceive us. God, I pray that, that for me, for each person here, we would turn toward the light, that when our lies are exposed we would see it and instead of trying to cover and dive further into the lie, that we would turn toward you, turn toward truth, turn toward Jesus, turn toward the light and experience your goodness. And we pray it in Jesus name. Amen.
Thanks for being here, have a great weekend.