Good morning! I’m mostly recovered from our youth retreat from this past weekend and I’m excited to be talking with you today! We’re into this series now called My Story, and hopefully you’ve gotten the gist that through this series, we are hoping to show you that as your story is being written, you’re going to have competing decisions to make in your life, and each of those decisions, whether good or bad, will become part of your story. Well, here’s the thing. It’s very true that you learn from your mistakes, and they shape and mold you. But, if possible, wouldn’t you like to know how to avoid that pain? The decisions we talk about each week are meant to show you the path that leads to pain, and the path that leads to joy; the path that leads to death, and the path that leads to life; the path that leads to emptiness, and the path that leads to Jesus.
So let me start today by telling you about something that happened in my story.
A few years ago, while Kim and I were still dating, I was really into internet shopping. Amazon was becoming more popular, but eBay and Craigslist were the place to go. I was constantly buying stuff cheap off these sites, and was getting basically a package a week. It was great!
Well, Kim had broken her phone, so we went in to AT&T to see what they could do, and like every phone company, we were told a bunch of stuff we didn’t understand, but we agreed, and somehow Kim ended up with a replaced phone as well as a new phone for a deal. So now she basically had two of the same phone, and the salesman hinted to us that we could sell this phone and make some cash. I lit up at the thought of using online shopping and making money, so I told Kim to let me take care of it. Within a few hours I had taken high quality camera shots, with multiple angles, and figure out how to post my item on eBay. I was so excited as I started getting emails about this phone, thinking about how easy this was! Well, it turns out that many of these emails were to inform me that the bids were scammers. Each time I got an email, it warned me that it was a scam, and told me to repost the phone and try again. This happened several times. But eventually, I had a real hit. A woman emailed me asking about the phone. She told me about how her son was about to have a birthday and she really wanted to get the phone for him. She was asking about how to use it, if it would be reset, and other things. Well, I’m also a huge Apple fan, so I was super excited to show my smarts on this phone. After a few emails, she asked me to take it down so that she could purchase it.
Oh yeah, and she was from Nigeria.
Well, I continued to email her about the price and everything. After a day or so she told me that she had gone down to the post office and figured out the price to ship a phone to Nigeria, and that she’d add it to the cost. She set up a PayPal purchase, and I started following the directions from PayPal on how to ship.I went to the post office, and although I was feeling it was a little sketchy, I was reassured of my great sale by the fact that the shipping was the exact price she had told me. And just like that, the phone began it’s shipping to Nigeria. Well, that day and the next, after I told her I had shipped it, I noticed that I would get an email from her, and then PayPal very soon after. I figured it was just coincidence. But then I noticed something really fishy. PayPal’s emails had spelling errors. Now I was freaked out. So I called PayPal and asked about the emails, and they informed me that the emails were not from them. It was a scam. The emails were coming in as though PayPal had sent them, with the logo and return name as PayPal and all, but it wasn’t them. I quickly tried to call every spot my package was sent to before it left this country, but had no luck. In the end, some person in Nigeria got a free phone, and not only did I send it to them, but I paid for their shipping.
I was lied to. I was deceived in many ways. I was lied to obviously from this scammer. But I also deceived myself. I was so confident in my ability to sell stuff online, to know about how the process worked, that I reasoned away every red flag. And I haven’t sold anything online since.
So here’s what I want you to know this morning: You’ve been lied to.
And I’m not just talking about how you look in those jeans. I’m saying that each day, you are fed with lie after lie, and through all of this deception, each of us should and can agree that we seek to know the truth. In fact, in almost every decision throughout the day, you’re acting on truth or deception.
Hopefully, you don’t make the same mistake I did. But although you may not have this lie in your story, you’ve been lied to. You’ve been deceived. Scams are all over the place. Scam emails, scam phone calls, and ID theft are becoming more common. We are constantly trying to find more ways to protect ourselves from these things. At the bank I work at, avoiding these things are a top priority. But I think that many of us don’t realize that we fall into believing lies much more often than we think.
Last week, Sam really focused on a huge statement made by Jesus, and I just want to take a moment to look at it again:
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”” John 14:6
Today, we want to focus on that middle piece that Jesus claimed to be: The Truth. We are all on a search for truth, whether you think so or not. We want to know why things are the way they are. We want to know for SURE that what we believe is right. In fact, we are so determined to know truth that we don’t even care if it’s absolute anymore, as long as its true for us. It’s become some kind of messed up belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Absolute truth is exactly what it sounds like: Truth that is universal; it’s true for each one of us. But we reject that because it sounds so judgmental, so intolerant of other beliefs. I want to believe what I want because it works for me. And because Jesus claims to be the way, truth, and life, like Sam talked about last week, we are intolerant to others. What Jesus said can’t be true because it’s not what I want to believe. But here’s what you’ve got to understand, truth is by it’s very definition intolerant!
Like the video we watched to begin, that balloon is clearly red, regardless of other beliefs. It cannot be both red and blue. It’s one or the other. There must be absolute truth, and whether you agree or not, it can still be true. But, even though this New Age thinking about absolute truth is well… new, man has always struggled between the decision to believe a lie, or to live by the truth. Let’s go back to the beginning, Genesis 3:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. 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 fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:1-7
Did you catch what happened there? There is actually SO much going on in these few verses, but I want to highlight something here this morning. Satan, in the form of a serpent, did what he does best: He lied. In fact, he’s called the father of lies! Check it out in John 8:44
“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Satan has been lying since the beginning, and the first decision to sin was because of the choice to believe his lie. You see, Satan was really challenging Adam and Eve’s belief of God in his questioning. Yes, we clearly see that He was trying to get them to question God’s goodness, but Satan was also pushing Adam and Eve to question God’s truthfulness. In essence, he asked Eve, ‘Do you really believe what God says? Do you believe that God is the truth?’
And ever since that moment, mankind has searched for the truth. But God did something to show us, to remind us that His Word is true, that He is always truthful. He sent Jesus. Jesus comes and claims to be One with the Father, He claims to be the visible image of the invisible God. He says that HE is the way, truth, and life. He teaches us to live according to God’s Word. He prayed in His final hours for us, saying
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
Pilate captures the question of our longing heart so well before Jesus is crucified:
“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”” John 18:37-38
And even after Jesus has come and answered that question for us, we are still asking today: What is truth?
But what’s so important about truth? Why is it so crucial to know the truth, or have absolute truths in our lives? Jesus answers this question for us in John 8:31-32
“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” NLT
When we understand that Jesus is truth, and when we live in a relationship with Him, and follow Him believing that He is truth, we are free! Free from what? We are free from the bondage of sin. We are free from guilt. We are free from earning the approval from others. We are free from trying to earn our salvation. We are free to accept God’s love just as we are, and free to show God’s love to others. We can face the reality of a sinful world, not trying to hide our sins, but rejoice in the fact that Jesus has paid our price. Man, we are even free to preach without shoes on! We are free to live for Him!
But here’s what you’ve probably figured out, whether or not you’re a Christian: We are still lied to. We still believe the lies of the world, of others, and to ourself. It’s still a battle with every decision to choose to live in the freedom of truth! Why is that? Why is does it feel like we are always battling lies?
As we read earlier, Satan has been lying since the beginning. It’s his very nature. And he knows that when we believe anything but the truth, he has deceived us, and he keeps us from true freedom. And here’s why it’s so hard to see sometimes:
2Cor. 11:14 “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
It can be so hard for us to not believe lies because Satan makes himself, makes his lies, and makes sin look so good. He makes them look normal! The culture around us is continually choosing to live lives of bondage and deception. We have been easily persuaded, just like Eve with the serpent, that we know what’s best for us, that we know what will bring us happiness, or joy, or peace. I’m going to go so far as to say that we may even believe that some things are God’s will for us, but it’s just Satan masquerading as an angel of light!
And here’s why I think it looks so good sometimes, and why we believe things to be true: Because in the moment, and for a little while, they seem to work. They seem to be true. They accomplish what we are looking for. But eventually that fades, and we need more. We need our fix.
We’ve got to know what in our lives is true and what is false. We have to know the truth, because it sets us free. We have to watch out for the decisions that look really great, but are really a lie is disguise.
How can we go through life and make sure that we are following truth? How can we spot Satan’s tricks and be able to live in freedom?
Here’s what I want you to remember this morning: Anytime that we turn from Jesus and the Word of God, we have given way to deception.
If we are believing, listening to, turning to, or seeking approval from anything except Jesus, we are going to be lied to, because Jesus told us that HE is the truth. Remember the truth is absolute, only one thing can be true. If one thing is true, everything else cannot be. So when Jesus says that HE is the truth, everything else cannot be. Hey, I’ve got great news for ya. Contrary to Jessup’s shout in A Few Good Men, you CAN handle the truth! We have God’s Word to rely on, to know it as truth. When you are faced with lies, God gives us truth. Now I’m not talking about silly things like what does 2+2 equal. I’m talking about those things that culture feeds us, that makes us feel worthless without.
I want to take some time and talk about some common ways that we are deceived, but I don’t want to leave it there. Because remember, God is true. When faced with a lie, we can turn to God to find truth. Let me show you. Let’s first look at some ways that we can be deceived by the world:
- More money and more things will bring lasting happiness.
The truth? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21
The world easily decieves us, making it look like the key to happiness is possessions. The rich and famous seem to have the life! But seen through the eyes of truth, we can see that it all adds up to nothing after we die. The Bible compares our lives to smoke compared to eternity.
Plus, even if you aren’t a Christian, if you take a step back from your pursuit of more, it’s easy to see it’s a trap! There’s always something more, something new, something better, something more expensive. I will not argue with you, getting a new car certainly feels great! Finding and purchasing my mustang did in fact make me happy! So happy, I found and made the decision to purchase it with in… An hour and a half. But that feeling fades, and we are always left wanting more.
- Food, drugs, and/or alcohol can relieve my stress and make me happy.
The truth? 1Cor. 6:12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
I’m not here today to talk about whether or not you should drink alcohol. But the lie that we believe and fall into is that drinking or eating away our pain and stress will make us happy. Yes, those things certainly take away our stress, but what happens when it wears off? What happens when we wake up the next morning? That stress and pain we were trying to avoid comes back again, and so we can cycle into the deception that food or alcohol or drugs can make us happy. But it isn’t, and we know that because we have to go back for more. Paul says we must not be mastered by anything… and I think that having to drink away our pain each night may classify as being mastered.
- I can read, see, or listen to anything or anyone and not become corrupted.
The truth? 1Cor. 15:33 “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Prov. 13:20 “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
I think this lie is easily how we are misled into believing many other lies. The things we read, see, and listen to can dramatically change us over time. For instance, I know many people who would say that they’ve seen so many murders on TV shows that if they saw one in real life it would barely phase them. We watch Lifetime movie after Lifetime movie about affairs, and then wonder how we ended up in one. Here’s a very real one for me: Music. The messages behind the music on the radio today are awful! They promote everything that is against truth.
Does this mean you can’t enjoy music for music’s sake? Or that you should avoid every non Christian? Absolutely not! But don’t believe the lie that we can constantly be around this deception without eventually believing it.
Without talking about all of them, here are some others:
You may believe that gratifying sexual lust will bring lasting satisfaction. You may believe that you can sin and get away without any negative consequences. You may believe that you must gain the approval of others in order to be happy. You may believe that you have to measure up to some unknown standard just to feel good about yourself.
Listen, these are lies that the enemy feeds us. These are lies that much of our culture lives in. But they will not bring lasting happiness, joy, or peace. They will continue to keep us in bondage, rather than living in freedom.
Why? Because anytime that we turn from Jesus and the Word of God, we have given way to deception.
Do you ever hear that voice in your head that just always puts you down, or puffs you up? It always is judging every action. Maybe you think too little or too much of yourself. You may be struggling with lies that you believe about yourself such as:
- Nobody cares about me.
The truth? Matt. 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
God cares about you immensely.
- God doesn’t doesn’t care about the pain I’m in.
The truth? Psa. 34:18 “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- I’m no one and nothing special.
The truth? 1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.”
- God doesn’t have a plan for me.
The truth? Jer. 29:11 “”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.””
But like my story, we can also deceive ourselves, and the enemy knows that. I thought that I knew exactly what I was doing, but truthfully I didn’t at all. We can also be convinced about other things, such as:
- I can get to heaven by my own good deeds.
The truth? Eph. 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
- Sin isn’t real; I don’t have sin.
The truth? 1 John 1:10 “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
- I can be a Christian and do whatever I want, ignoring what God asks me to do.
I really love a few parts about God, like the grace thing, the love thing, the eternity in heaven thing, but I don’t really want to change how I’m living. Or, I agree with some of these things, but I’m not going to highlight this verse, I’m not going to follow this part of Jesus.
The truth? Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
What about thinking you are wiser than you really are? Or that God is the source of your problems? Or that you are more worthy of salvation than someone else? Or maybe you’ve simply been led to believe the lie – who needs God? Have any of these hit home? Have you struggled with some of these lies in your own life? I know that I have. Many of us may be living in one, two, or even a few of these lies now, and everyday! We may not even recognize them anymore, because the enemy has made us believe that they are true. I need you to hear me today, anytime that we turn from Jesus and the Word of God, we have given way to deception. So let me ask you then… what lies are you believing? What do you need to find and know the truth about? What bondage do you need to be freed from?
Here’s a simple way of to find out what you’re believing. When you are faced with a thought, any thought!, you can ask yourself, why? Why do I believe this? Who says this is true?
Let’s try it out and do one many of us probably struggle with: Perhaps you’ve heard in your head before, ‘You can’t do that! You’d make a fool of yourself! What would people think of you if you failed?’ When you’re thinking that, stop and ask, ‘why do I believe this? Who says it’s true?’ Turn to God’s Word and find the truth! God says in
Josh. 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Knowing God’s truth, we aren’t held back anymore. We don’t have to be afraid anymore, because we know that God is with us. We are free to try and even if we DO fail, we aren’t humiliated! We are set free. So here’s the deal: You’ve been lied to. Repeatedly. Each and every day. And the one who is lying to you is the father of lies. He comes at us, and tries to make us believe that God’s Word is not true. He feeds us everything opposite of truth, and we can easily buy into it. But Jesus came so that we would know the truth, and that we wouldn’t listen to the serpent any longer! I’ve made two simple equations for you:
Lies = Bondage
Truth = Freedom
What’s holding you back? What lies do you need to bring to light? Now, I realize that if you’re not a Christian, you probably don’t believe that God’s Word is truth. If you’re someone who doesn’t believe in God, and if what you’re trying isn’t working, why not just try reading what Jesus has to say? If you’re willing to try all these other things, you owe it to yourself to try out Jesus. I’m not saying you have to buy into it completely. But if it could get you out of your cycle of addiction, or pain, or negative self image, isn’t it at least worth a try? If everything you’ve tried hasn’t filled what you’re looking for, why not try?
Listen, you CAN live a free life. But you’ve got to know the truth. And how do you find that out? Spend time with God. Read His Word, His truth. Get to know Him. How do you expect to live differently if you don’t take time to learn how to? Know God and His Word, and you will live free.