My dad was a con man.
Growing up – at least when he was not in jail – my dad taught me how to lie through his example. My dad was a consummate liar – he’d lie about big things and he’d lie about small things. He really never could tell the truth about much. As I watched his behavior and picked up on it, I justified lying by telling myself it was okay to lie so long as the motive was to save others from having their feelings hurt.
Then I met my wife.
One of her absolute foundational beliefs is NO LYING!! You tell the truth in every situation no matter the consequences. Well, that sucked! She even said it was lying not to divulge the whole truth or to let people infer things and not correct them! Now that’s just crazy talk!! But because of her I had to learn a whole new way of thinking, speaking, and living. Her line in the sand was to my benefit, however, and today I tell the truth even when it hurts.
As Christians, we are in the same dilemma. A significant number of Christians – I’d say the majority – lie.
What lie do Christians tell? Far too many Christians tell about the love of Christ without talking about the truth of Christ. It’s lying by omission as my wife taught me.
I’ve come to learn that love without truth is cruelty.
I was preaching last night about how God still loves you and wants you to come home even if you’ve done the most heinous of acts. You can be forgiven and become a new creation in Christ! That’s a powerful and encouraging message! However, it was only half the message.
Here’s the other half:
If you continue to judge people by race, gender, social status, sin, performance or any other standard Jesus will judge you by that same standard. In other words, if you judge someone against yourself and feel yourself to be better, when you meet Jesus, He will judge your performance against His. That is not going to go well for you. In fact, the bottom line is this: You’re going to hell. You’ve decided not to love your brother and instead play God by judging others which is solely God’s domain.
But Love and Truth.
Unfortunately, there seems to be two camps when it comes to Christian speak: God is Love and God is Holy. The first group focuses on the parts of scripture that talk about love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness and healing. The second group focuses on the parts of scripture that talk about God’s holiness, righteousness, sovereignty, and judgment.
Both groups are wrong.
God is not one thing at one time and another thing at another time. His is all things at once.
That is a really hard concept to get our heads wrapped around because we are not all things at once. We pretty much have one emotion at a time. But God is truth and love together – you cannot separate the two. And this is where so many Christians get it wrong.
Paul tells us to tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). So, what does that look like? Here’s how I framed it last night to a group of men to whom I preach:
“God will never love you any more or any less than He does right now no matter what you’ve done or what you’re going to do. However, that does not mean that God approves of everything you’ve done and what you’re going to do. You will lose God’s blessings and miss out on His promises unless you partner with Him by doing what He tells you to do. As Jesus says, ‘If you love Me, you’ll do as I command.’”
Earlier I said that truth without love is cruelty. Here’s why: I could have told the guys last night that God loves them, forgives them, and that they live under His grace and mercy then stopped there. Imagine if, then, they believed that no matter what they did God was okay with it and God would continue to bless them. How would they feel when they suffered the consequences of their actions (reap and sow) and God’s blessings were withheld until they straightened up? Would they even believe that God is a God of love if they didn’t understand the other half of God’s character? How many would simply walk away from their faith because God wasn’t acting the way they had been told?
I love the guys in this group. I want each of them to be prepared to meet Jesus face to face! And when that meeting happens, I don’t want them to be surprised when Jesus tells them that their salvation is secured due to their faith, but they have no reward in heaven because of their acts (1 Corinthians 3:15). That would be a cruel moment.
And who would be to blame for that moment? ME!
James warns people not to be eager to be a teacher or preacher because they are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). The reason we are held to a higher standard is clear: We are ordained to handle God’s word and there are consequences for messing it up! Ezekiel 3:18 puts it this way:
“When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.” (emphasis added)
If anyone of my guys from last night, simply believed they were going to heaven because they believed in Jesus and that was enough, I would be held accountable for them! Never forget that Matthew 7:21 tells us that on that day many will call Jesus Lord Lord and He’s going to tell them He never knew them and that they were evil doers! These are people that believe in Jesus!! So, why does He say this? Because they knew about Jesus, they didn’t know Jesus – didn’t have a relationship with Him. They didn’t do what He says. They didn’t become a new creation in Christ. They didn’t transform themselves by the renewing of their mind. They didn’t die to themselves and carry their cross daily. They didn’t love God and love others as themselves.
Instead, they continued to live the exact same life they had been living believing that simply “accepting” Jesus as their Lord and Savior was enough. And that’s what you get when you lie to people about God is love without telling them the other half of the story!
I like to tell people that Jesus loves you right where you are, but He loves you too much to leave you there! Here is how Jesus tells us to love:
- Don’t judge
- Turn the other cheek
- Forgive as you’ve been forgiven
- Be last
- Serve others
- Humble yourself
- Die to yourself
- Carry your cross
- Love your enemies
And here’s the truth as Jesus told it in the following parable from Matthew 13:47-50
The Parable of the Net
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
So, what’s my point today? If you love someone, really love someone, tell them the truth – the hard truth – the whole truth of scripture. God loves you no matter what, but God loves you in holiness and righteousness. Don’t be cruel and just tell people that God is love and leave it at that because you both will be surprised when you meet Jesus on judgment day.