Believe It or Not: God is Good and That’s No Lie

Do you enjoy being lied to? And, when you know you have been lied to, do you want to follow that person?

I think we can generally agree that the answers to those questions is: no!

And yet…

We believe lies.

And, too often, we act on them and allow them to shape our view of God, ourselves, and others.

We listen to and believe the lies from the very enemy of our souls.

Take that in.

We believe our ENEMY.  We believe the father of lies, the disrupter of truth, the deceiver, the one who has come to “kill, steal, and destroy,” the evil one, the one who is as a roaring lion seeking to devour and destroy.

And, in so believing that his ways will satisfy our longings, in essence, we don’t believe that God’s will.

Insomuch as we shape our view of ourselves and others by those lies, we fail to see each of us as God does, created in His image.

In so listening to and believing the deceiving whisper of the enemy, by our actions, our thoughts, and our words, we live as if we don’t believe God Himself!

In so responding to the crafty perverter of truth, for all intents and purposes…

We don’t believe our good, good Father, the Author of Truth, the One who Himself is faithful and true, our Rescuer, our Comforter, our Provider, our Redeemer, our Savior, the One who went to the cross, and endured the shame and pain for our redemption, the One who created all things and said, “It is good,” the One who has given “every good and perfect gift.”

We don’t believe God’s promises that are woven through and are the foundation of His commands nor His great love for us behind them; that His precepts are intended to do us good, not harm; give us life, not death. That His covenants with us and those covenants between ourselves and others that He also inhabits are intended to give true joy and true contentment while bringing Him glory.

We don’t believe that actual happiness and contentment come from, as John Piper puts it, “a superior pleasure in God.”

We don’t believe that God can change our minds and hearts to hate the sin that He hates, to love what is “true, noble, right, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy,” and to desire the greater gifts. And we don’t believe that God’s greatest gifts are found in obedience because, only then, are we living as we were created and enjoying His creation – people and things – as they were intended to be enjoyed.

We don’t believe that when we blow it, His grace is sufficient to forgive us while not giving us the latitude to cling to it and continue in it.

We don’t believe that God can change the heart of “certain” sinners just like us; that He can take a weary, wounded soul and breath life into them.  We don’t believe He can move the heart of those who have wounded us or those we love and bring restoration.  Or, if we believe it, do we storm the gates of heaven expectantly and literally without ceasing?

We don’t believe that everything God allows in our lives has to first be sifted through His hands and that, when we walk through the deepest valleys and the most stifling places, He goes before us and even carries us through; that He has a purpose for His children in the midst of suffering, regardless of the intensity or the type.

We don’t believe that He has given us all we need for life and godliness when we say, “I can’t help it; it’s who I am, it’s not big deal – it’s only…” But God says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

We don’t believe that He does good to those who take hold of the promise and choose to “do good” out of a growing love for and allegiance to Him.  “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (Psalm 37:3)

We don’t believe that we will not fully hear His voice if we are harboring, cherishing, hiding, keeping our sin close to us and coddling it as a beloved possession. (Psalm 66:18)

We don’t believe that we are called to obey as a result of our love for Him – in public and in private – and that, in pursuing this goal, we run in freedom. Too often we say we believe that, but our choices don’t reflect it.

Temptation may remain, but what we do with that temptation is evidence of whether or not we believe God when He tells us to “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1

Instead, too frequently, we choose to believe the enemy’s lies. They “seem” more enticing, they “seem” more satisfying, they “seem” more comfortable, they “seem” more exciting…in the moment.  But we miss the truth of what “seems right” – it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)  It may be a physical death when we choose practices that take a toll on the body, it may be spiritual as we grow cold to all or parts of God’s Word, or it may relational as it affects our relationships with others.

When we put more confidence in the lies of the enemy than in the truth and the promises of God, we settle into temptations and choices rather than battle them. Like a well-worn blanket, we believe they will comfort and satisfy our restlessness, not realizing how scratchy the blanket of sin, unwise decisions, or heart attitudes that arise towards those who have hurt us really is and what it is doing to our souls; not recognizing that the temporary balm turns bitter and blinds us to the goodness of God before our eyes.

We miss the treasure hidden in plain sight, the gifts He has given and longs for us to enjoy that are either ignored or embraced as “idols.” But we cling to that scratchy blanket, cover our heads, and miss the grace that equips us to recognize and shutdown the lies and has the power to transform us day by day, more and more into the likeness of His Son.

We try to run shackled, encumbered, weighted down by the sin that so easily entangles and wonder why we are spiritually, relationally, and physically exhausted; why His joy eludes us. It’s hard to run with perseverance, in freedom, and with joy when we, who are called by His Name, keep our eyes fixed on ourselves and the world that seductively beckons rather than on Jesus and the true goodness of God.

It’s impossible to have a contented rest and delight in our blessings when we continually choose that which is contrary to His character, the parameters He has set for His children, and the guardrails He has put in place to warn us. When we run in our own strength and our own passions rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit and His intentions for us, the chains bind; they cut and they hurt. But we weren’t redeemed to stay in chains!

We hide from God, as Adam and Eve did in the garden, and from those who love us well, hoping we will never be fully known, believing (falsely) that if we were completely known, we would not be loved but that if we maintain a façade, we will be accepted.  We hide from each other lest someone love us enough to speak truth into our lives and give us that hard grace, desiring for us what God also desires, even as they hold out the healing grace of forgiveness.  Or we hide because we love our deeds and don’t want to part with them.

All the while, we fail to hear the voice of the Lord, “Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us? Who will know?’” (Isaiah 29:15)

But God says that He is light and “in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:5b-7)

We choose a “freedom” that is no freedom at all because God’s Spirit does not reside in darkness, in hidden places; He calls us to “have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11), to “confess (our) sins to each other and pray for each other so that (we) may be healed,” (James 5:16), to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to one another.” (Ephesians 4:25) For where the truth dwells, so the Spirit of the Lord abides as well, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

But God!

He pursues! He calls out! He redeems us and He calls us by name!

He created us to hear His voice instead of the lies and, like the Shepherd with His stubborn, foolishness, forgetful sheep, He reorders our steps so we can and will hear. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

He disciplines us because He loves us and intends for us to return to Him, not to keep running the same tired, pain inducing, God defying patterns, but determined and confident that we can run a new race, leaving behind all that has ensnared us and been a hindrance to our relationship with Him and with others.

The enemy heaps on shame that cannot be healed; our “old man” self wants to “feel sorry” when it is evident our ways are “known.” Neither produce peace. But our Redeemer call us to “godly sorrow that leads to repentance and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). As Pastor Tim Armstrong says, He calls us to a change of mind that leads to a change of choices, actions, attitudes, words, and behaviors and gives us the Holy Spirit to make it so.

He enables us to recognize those who love us well and who are determined to walk the hard roads with us and to show us grace when we sin even as they desire His greatest good for us; to allow us to embrace those who love us with a love that “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:6-7) But that kind of love is not blind nor ignorant and it will humbly “speak the truth in love,” sometimes even in tears, to redirect us and, as needed, to restore us to our Savior and any with whom we have broken relationships.

It has been said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” When we listen to and choose the lies of the enemy over the voice of our Redeemer, the very Lover of our souls, we are the epitome of the Proverbs 26:11 “fool.” “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” And we are fools when we believe the enemy’s lies about any number of things and mistake the fleeting pleasures of sin as delicacies thereby missing the true treasures that God designed and has given to actually delight us.

Would we be willing to cry out in faith, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And humbly say, “Show me my where I have believed satan’s lies over Your Truth, O God. Create in me a clean heart. Give me a willing spirit to sustain me.”?

Would we recognize truth behind the lies and say with David, “Surely God is good…it is good to be near my God.” (Psalm 73:1, 28)

Would we be hungry for what actually pleases and fulfills us – God Himself – to then say, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1)

“Walking by faith means defeating sin’s pleasures with the promise of a superior pleasure in God!”    John Piper

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Pictures of Grace: Truth and Trust

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Trust. “An assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” (Merriam Webster)

In relationships of every kind, trust can be a tenuous idea or a steadfast assurance; both based on the confidence one has or lacks in another and is often substantiated not only by what is said but on what is done in relation to those words.

And trust is significantly important whether it be between coworkers or those in authority over us, friends, parent/child, family, and especially in marriage.

Trust is based on the integrity of two people; that is, truth is not just what is said, it is established or shaken by whether or not the actions that follow correspond with those words spoken or implied. It is the intention of the heart to either bring something into the open or or keep it in the shadows.

Trust is further shaken when truth is known to the one deceived yet no attempt is made by the other to bring it to light; rather, the greater effort is made to keep it in the dark and, if possible, bury it further.

Yes, when one has professed a statement to be believed and it is compromised, trust can be restored as there is a genuine humility and a conversation to set the record straight, speaking the truth rather than keeping it covered to protect one’s pride, reputation, or personal gain; then followed by actions intended to reset the course.  Depending on how greatly the confidence has been shaken, it may take time; but, by God’s grace, it is possible.

I’ve seen both at work through many in workplaces, among friends, in families, and in marriages.

I rejoice when every effort is made to maintain vows and promises among people so that the character, not just the reputation, of another is the very foundation of their choices in both their private and public actions and trust is never shaken. It is a beautiful picture of intentionally choosing the “kingdom of God over the kingdom of self” as Paul David Tripp says. It is a delightful display of loving God and loving another so well as to deny self and the draw to “me-centered” desires. And trust is strengthened.

I give thanks and take pleasure when I see a heart softened and humbled not by mere regret or a desire to get something off their chest but, instead, by a true godly sorrow that sees wounds inflicted and errors made and seeks restoration with another by saying, “I was wrong. Please forgive me. Help me make it right and keep it right.” It is a beautiful demonstration of the grace of God redeeming and transforming lives as well as relationships to be all God intended. And trust is restored.

I grieve when I watch the enemy of our souls gleefully convince people who have wronged another that it is better for them (and even for the other) to keep the offenses in the dark; the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms do battle against our souls to lead us to exalt position and reputation over integrity. Love of self and a good name and/or a desire to continue in the same pattern sometimes convinces us it is better to let the truth be buried and so hinder relationships rather than bring truth into the light and seek reconciliation . And trust is shattered as foundations of confidence begin to erode.

We tend to fear that the truth we need to reveal will not be received with forgiveness, love, and grace even from those who have freely given just that in the past.  We fear losing the reputation we have created and protected or the strong position we have fought to maintain.  But we have to decided which is more important: our reputation or our integrity.

We can know the difference between godly sorrow that leads to repentance, shame that leads to fear and a deeper burial of the truth, or pride that leads to digging in deeper.  The former is from the Father who desires light to shine in the dark places to bring redemption and restoration of individuals and relationships.  The latter two are from the enemy whose only desire is for darkness and fear where there is no freedom and where individuals and relationships are broken down with every secret.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

We need not fear being truthful, even exposing our weaknesses and sins against each other.  It’s the only path to complete trust in relationships.  But it cannot happen in a vacuum; it cannot happen unless we are willing to lay down whatever is hindering the relationship so that reconciliation and trust can be restored.

How do we know if we have done something that would be harmful or hurtful to another whether it be in the workplace, a friendship, or home? If it is not clear, there are some questions that would be helpful to ask.

Would I want them to know my words or my actions?

Am I afraid the truth will be revealed to them?

If I were confronted with it, would I want to make excuses, justify it, or shift the blame?

Do I think about ways to “cover my tracks” or have I done that?

Would I be okay if the same thing were done to or said about me?

“Love delights in the truth.” (I Corinthians 13:6)

The truth is not always comfortable. Sometimes it is downright messy.  But our God is truth and He “desires truth in our inmost parts and teaches wisdom in the secret places” (Psalm 51:6). He desires we live that way with one another in truth and trust as far as it depends upon us! (Romans 12:18) We are not held accountable for the response of others; but we are answerable to God for the truth or lack thereof in our lives.

Our God is truth and those who worship Him must do so in Spirit and in truth. We cannot worship well if we are hindering honesty with any other; we cannot pray and expect God to answer if we are actively maintaining the presence of “half-truths” in our lives.  (Psalm 66:18)  It is so important to God that He says in Matthew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

We cannot build solid relationships on a shaky foundation. We cannot maintain anything healthy if we are being less than truthful. We cannot interact with confidence when we know the truth yet the truth remains “out there,” even sometimes being the “elephant in the room.” We build walls when we allow the seeds of distrust to be scattered by the winds of false faces.

Does truth matter?

Does trust matter?

Regardless of what others do to us, will we be true?

Will we be image bearers of the One who Himself is faithful and true?

As far as it depends on us, will we do whatever it takes to maintain trust in      our relationships with others?

Will we allow God to reveal and strip us of our little kingdoms that we have built behind the scenes to satisfy our desires at the expense of others, even if we think our actions adversely affect no one?

Will we allow God to open our hands and forgive when we have been sinned against just as Christ died to forgive us of our own offenses and rebellion against Him?

Will we be willing to ask God to take the blinders off our eyes and see if we have done anything to shake another’s trust?

And, if we know we have already done so, will we ask God for a heart to grieve that which grieves Him and humbly seek reconciliation with that one?

Regardless of whether or not truth is ever spoken and trust is ever allowed to be rebuilt, bitterness is not an option for the believer who has been hurt. It is yet another tool of the enemy of our souls to further wound us by our own hand on top of the offense against us.

Whether we are the one who has broken the trust of another or are on the receiving end, by the equipping of the Holy Spirit, we are to intentionally “…strengthen feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the (wounded) may not be disabled, but rather healed…” We are (to) see to it that “no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:12, 13, 15

Truth and vulnerability may reveal the uncomfortable, but they also reveal grace.  And grace shown in the midst of honesty and a move toward restoration is evidence of Christ in us, the Hope of glory!  Together they open the door to a greater openness and a deeper desire to make and keep things right.

Truth brings freedom as grace abounds; truth restores trust as it is hand in hand with repentance. Yes, it may be that trust has to be rebuilt, but by the grace of the God who desires and calls us to shine light into our own dark places, He is more than able to transform lives and equip us to forgive and to stand firm.

Secrets That Rob But Truth That Heals

Secrets.

Those intended to surprise and delight bring joy to life, to every journey. They invigorate the soul!

Those intended to mislead or to withhold truth do anything but refresh. Instead, they threaten to deplete the joy not only from the life of those they seek to delude but, ultimately, from the secret keeper’s life as well.

It might be an action or words undisclosed or keeping information that would reveal the truth or it might even be an outright lie.  Either way, it is an attempt to deceive for whatever reason.  And, in the process, they are deceived themselves, justifying every step until they have lost sight of what truth really is.

We see it all around us.  You can’t turn on the radio or the tv without seeing some form – either in the news, through various forms of entertainment, and even opinion pieces.  We see it in the people we encounter around us as well – acquaintances and close relationships. And, we watch, wanting to say, “Don’t you see?” as the people involved become more wounded with every progressive step deeper into the deception because, once it has started, it takes a life of its own and has to be fed.

What is behind each is both brokenness and pride.  It has been said that “reputation is what people think of you (what they see on the outside), but character is who you are when no one is looking.”  In an attempt to maintain a stellar reputation while still doing what pleases them, men and women often trade in their character.  The desire to have the applause of man or to do “what seems right” rather than to seek the blessing and smile of God and walk secure is sometimes overwhelming and the slip into a cover of darkness is the enemy’s way of keeping their eyes on themselves rather than on the One Who has formed them, Who knows them, and Who calls them by name.

Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think,  “Who sees us? Who will know?”  You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”?  Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?  Isaiah 29:15-16

They forget, don’t realize, or simply don’t care that there is a God who sees and stands ready, not just to forgive but to lift them out of that darkness and set them on His secure and solid ground.  He shines light into the dark places not to shame but to restore; to woo those caught in the web of dishonesty back to the way of truthfulness, the only way that is right and good, the only means to relationships that are safe, strong, and trustworthy.

Who whispers to them, and often to each of us, that they need to hide but the same liar that told Adam and Eve in the garden that they could be like God.  Who tells them, and often us, that they can control their own lives by “following their heart” and by disclosing only that which will make them look good while doing things contrary to God’s commands?  The same swindler who laughed when Adam and Eve realized they were naked and ashamed.  It’s the age old issue of the deceiver deceiving those who themselves wish to deceive and their eyes that have turned inward being led away only to hide.

We watch and we long to bring light to the darkness. We grow weary of the constant barrage on the news or weep as we watch a friend on either end of the ruse.  Secrets begin to control the secret keeper as they submit to the false god of self rule; transparency and honesty cannot dwell with the hidden things.

Secrets divide.
Honesty creates unity.

Secrets are done in darkness.
Honesty dwells in light.

Secrets build walls of distrust.
Honesty provides a safe haven.

Secrets rob.
Honesty abides in truth and restores.

Secrets breed fear.
Honesty gives rise to peace.

Secrets rob.
Honesty abides in truth and restores.

Secrets grow from a self centered heart where “I” am on the throne.
Honesty develops from an other-centered perspective where God is on the throne.

Secrets result from a vision of “me.”
Honesty looks beyond self and circumstances to God who is in control.

Secrets take the secret keeper deeper down often unaware of his/her erratic course.
Honesty finds its journey straight and clear on the high ground.

Secrets say “I love me.”
Honesty says “I love you.”

Secrets deceive self.
Honesty brings freedom.

Secrets never stay secret and regret follows.
Honesty lays all bare so there is nothing to hide and there are no regrets.

The father of lies promises peace in the darkness where he knows there is none then mocks the one who is wounded in the battle. But Jesus, Who is Light* and who “dwells in unapproachable light,”** gives the true promise that is ever faithful, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest for your soul.”  Matthew 11:28

 “Be self controlled and alert; your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion ready to devour.  Resist him standing firm in the faith.”  I Peter 5:7,8

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  John 17:17

*John 8:12

**I Timothy 6:16 Continue reading