I asked you last week to start meditating on Psalm 15 and Colossians 3:1-17. The more I considered these passages, the more I realized that this is where we needed to go for the next while. We’re going to put our Mark Study on hold for a little while and park on Psalm 15. We’ve talked about it before, a couple years ago, but I want to revisit it – partly because of the response to last week’s sermon on Integrity, but mostly because I feel this is where God wants us to be. I think God wants us to learn about what He wants to see from us as individuals, families, and us as a church. It’s very practical, very simple to understand, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. What we will be studying requires a divine movement of God, a complete selling out of ourselves to Him, a commitment to Him as our Lord, Master and God.
I don’t know what lies ahead for you, for your family, or for our church. But I know this – God does. And I believe He has led me to concentrate on these three scriptures because to understand and obey them will prepare us for whatever is to come.
If we are living a life dependant on God, praying to Jesus, reading His word, and obeying Him in all areas of our life – if we have integrity – then no matter what comes at us, we will be ready – because He will be faithfully preparing us. But if we lack integrity – if we are only Christians on the surface, if we are lacking in prayer and Bible study, and if we are not obeying Him in all areas of our life – then we will live a weak life, unprepared for trouble, open to spiritual attack, falling to temptation, and full of sin and doubt.
If you recall last week, I’ve already said that this is not a list of ways to earn God’s love – I’m not preaching moralism here. It’s impossible to earn God’s love through right living. Ephesians 2:8 says,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
Martin Luther, when talking about the importance of having faith in salvation through the grace of God, and not in our own morality said this:
“All those who do not at all times trust God and . . . trust in his favor, grace and good-will, but seek his favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep the [First] Commandment, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the other Commandments . . . combined.” (Martin Luther from “A Treaties on Good Works”)
Pastor and Teacher Tim Keller commented on Martin Luther’s statement this way:
“Luther says that if we obey God’s law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our good deeds we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning and happiness. We may be trusting in our good parenting or moral uprightness or spiritual performance or acts of service to be our real and functional ‘saviors.’ If we aren’t already sure God loves us in Christ, we will be looking to something else for our foundational significance and self-worth. This is why Luther says we are committing idolatry if we don’t trust in Christ alone for our approval.”
For this whole series, we have to keep this in the forefront of our minds. God loves you and will save you because of your faith in His freely given grace. What we are looking at in Psalm 15 is a picture of what a life looks like after it has been turned over to God, what a family looks like when they are following Jesus, and what a church looks like when the people within it are obeying Him.
No More Right and Wrong
Psalm 15 is about the standards we hold as believers. I think we all want to know what God wants and expects of us. Whether you are a long-time believer, a new believer, a seeker, or someone on the outside, we all want to know what the expectations of being a Christian are. What does God want? What does the church want? What should I hold my Christian brothers and sisters accountable to?
There are a lot of churches today who refuse to talk about the standards of the Christian, and of the church. It’s a sensitive subject, and in this world today, it seems that anything that divides people into groups where one is doing something right, and the other is wrong, is somehow evil. People don’t like to talk about “right and wrong”, they like to talk about “differences.” I’m not wrong, I’m just different.”
Nothing is ever anyone’s fault, and therefore we cannot be expected to hold to any kind of standard! “It was my upbringing, my environment, peer pressure, or the anxiety, or the devil made me do it. I was drunk, I was angry, I was depressed, I was misled, I was just joking… it’s not my fault!”
Whatever wrong is done in the world today is explained away. We don’t even know how to apologize anymore. Now the “non-apology apology” is used. We saying things like “Mistakes were made.” In other words, “I admit there is a problem, but I’m not accepting responsibility for it. Anything bad that happened wasn’t anyone’s fault, these things just happen.”
Or how about, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Or the ever-popular, “I apologize if I offended anyone.” We take the problem and we blame-shift to the person we offended! It’s not my fault what I said offended you – it was your fault for being so sensitive!
Truth Under Attack
Even the concept of truth is under attack today. In the same way that people don’t like to be held accountable for their actions, so they also don’t like the idea of absolute truth. Canadians especially love to say things like “Well, that’s true for you, but it’s not true for me. I have a different truth” We are allowed to say “This is true!”… but we are not allowed to say “Therefore that is false!”
Let me share with you some current philosophies that are challenging the concept of truth that you will definitely come up against, and which we must not fall into.
The first is Relativism, which says there is no such thing as absolute truth. They say, “all truth is relative” – it changes from person to person, situation to situation – which is a strange thing to say because saying “truth is relative” is an absolute statement and therefore wrong.
Relativists can look at people who have committed terrible acts of evil… like Nazis, terrorists, murderers… and instead of saying, “what they did was wrong”, we say, “Well… we don’t know what it was like to be them — it wasn’t their fault they were raised in that environment. It might have been right for them. And even if they did do wrong, they didn’t have a choice. And if they did have a choice, they only chose wrong because of difficult circumstances and outside influences. And even if they weren’t affected by outside influences, then they must have some kind of genetic predisposition to doing that bad thing – so really, they didn’t do anything wrong. They just have a different truth.”
Relativists look at people who believe in absolute truth and say that we are wrong to believe that… but if truth is relative, then aren’t we also right to believe it? So that’s just goofy.
The next is Scepticism. They doubt all truth. They may say that “the truth is out there”, but no one has found it yet. And they are suspicious of anyone who claims to know the truth. Agnostics are generally sceptics who say “you can’t know the truth”. But even that is a self-defeating statement because they essentially are saying that “the only truth you can know is the fact that you can’t know the truth.” Be careful of becoming a sceptic in regards to all truth. Skepticism quickly becomes an excuse to sin.
Yes, be wise in your view of life, check things out, and obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 which says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” But we must still believe that there is absolute truth.
The third philosophy that attacks truth is Pluralism, which we love in Canada. This isn’t the same as relativism, where truth changes from person to person, but that everyone is right all the time. All truths are equally valid. It sounds so wonderful. We don’t have to fight because no one is ever wrong! You’re right, I’m right, everyone is right. Everyone’s beliefs are equally true and therefore should be encouraged and defended. That’s ridiculous.
There is not a God and no god at the same time. That person is not both guilty and innocent. A woman is not pregnant and also not pregnant. The coin cannot be both heads and tails. These people usually use this in a religious sense saying that everyone is right… but they can’t bring themselves to use it in a personal sense.
They will absolutely agree that you people who believe God, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or nothing at all are all right – but all you have to do is steal their car, shoot their dog, and steal their money and they become an absolutist pretty quick. Just tell them that what you did was right because you believe it was right, and therefore it was ok. You believed that their car was really your car, and so it was ok. And that if they really believed that they had a new car, and their dog was alive, and had more money, then that would be true for them and it wouldn’t be a problem.
How I long for a place and a time where you can say categorically, “What you are doing is wrong! You chose to do wrong and you are going to be held accountable for your actions. You need to change your behaviour because what you are saying, doing, and thinking is wrong!” Not just so I can say it, but so that others can say it to me! “Allan, you’re wrong! And here’s why! This isn’t my opinion, this is what God says, and it’s His standard! It’s there to protect you and you need to change your path.”
That place is supposed to be the Church of Jesus Christ. That’s what scripture says! There is right and wrong. We are free to make choices, but God will hold us accountable to what they are. When we stand before Him, all of our excuses will melt away like wax, and we will be left alone with our choices.
The Judgment on Believers
2 Corinthians 5:10 says,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Christians and non-Christians will all be held accountable for their actions (Matt 25:31-32; Rom 4:10). For the believers who know the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be reward for the obedience they have given to Jesus out of love for Him (Matt. 6:20; Luke 19:17, 19; 1 Cor. 3:12–15; 1 Tim. 6:19; 2 Jn 1:8; Rev. 22:12). For those who do not know Jesus, there will be eternal punishment.
1 Corinthians 3:10-17 is a passage which talks about standards of judgement that will come on believers. I want to read this because I want to make the point of why this is so important for each of us. Listen to what he says,
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light [that is the day where we all stand before the judgment seat of Christ]. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
Christians will be judged. Paul uses the picture of someone building their life just as someone builds a house. It starts with the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, it is then framed by our obedience, and then it is decorated by our good works. And this sermon series asks the questions, “What is our house supposed to look like? What is it supposed to be made of?”
What I want to do is tie 1 Corinthians 3 to Psalm 15. I believe that Psalm 15 gives us a picture of what the blueprints of a believer’s life, and by extension a church, looks like. I’m a simple, straightforward guy, and this is a simple, straightforward psalm. It asks a question, and then answers it clearly.
Please open up to Psalm 15 and let’s read it together. I’ll put it up on the screen and you’ll see that I’ve probably broken it down a little differently then you will see in your bible. Look at how David the Psalmist answers the question. He uses poetic couplets.
“1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart 3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
4 who despises a vile man but honours those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.”
And so, what we’re going to do is use Psalm 15 as our outline, and then see how the same themes are found throughout scripture.
First, let’s look at the six areas that the psalm points out. Who may dwell on God’s holy hill? What is the house that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 3 made of? What are the core characteristics of a Christian and Church? They are Having Integrity, Speaking the Truth, Loving our Neighbours, Honouring other Believers, Keeping our Oaths, and Using our Money Well. In short, a Christian has Integrity – and shows that Integrity by being Truthful, Loving, Honouring, Trustworthy and Generous.
The first trait is, “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous…” We’ve already talked about this one in the first sermon. We called it “integrity”. You can also call it a “good reputation”. It is the result of having all the others. It is the evidence, and the fruit of all the other traits. You can’t have a good reputation, or be a person of integrity, if you are not doing these other things.
So if salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of the house we are building, then Integrity would be the Roof. You can’t hold up the roof without the walls, and if the walls start to crack, then the roof won’t stay up. The roof is what everyone sees, it takes the most beating, protecting the rest. It is what is hit hardest by the elements. It if the roof starts to leak, then the whole house is in trouble. Protect your reputation. Protect your integrity. And we do that by being obedient to God in the next five areas.
Speak the Truth
So the first column that holds up our roof of integrity is “Speak the Truth”. “Who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue,” We understand the words “speak the truth”, but added to that is the phrase “has no slander”. How is that included in truthfulness?
The word “slander” here is the Hebrew word RAGAL and it means “to spy, to move your feet, to tread upon.” The word is a picture of someone who is sneaking around and stepping on people’s reputation by speaking about them maliciously behind their back.
This shows us the positive and negative sides, of truth. In a positive sense, you do speak the truth. And on the other hand, you don’t spread lies.
Both were laws in Israel. Speaking the Truth is commanded by the 9th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness.” And the other is in Leviticus 19:16, “Do not go about spreading slander among your people.”
This is also all over the scriptures and they give reasons that are rooted in our faith. Look at Ephesians 4:25,
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.”
Again, both are seen. Don’t lie, be truthful. Why? Because we are all connected. Lying doesn’t just harm your reputation, but the reputation of the whole church. It doesn’t just effect the one being slandered, it effects the entire body of believers.
In Colossians 3:9-10 Paul roots our reason for not lying in the fact that we are now being made into the image of God, and God is not a liar.
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
God doesn’t lie, so those who have His indwelling Spirit don’t lie. God doesn’t lie, so His kids don’t lie. God doesn’t lie, so the people who live by His word don’t lie. Jesus doesn’t lie, so His people don’t lie.
God Hates Lies and Slander
Listen to Proverbs 6:16-19 and see how serious this is to God,
“There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”
God literally hates a lying tongue, false witnesses, and people who slander and spread strife. He hates it in the world, and He hates it even more among His people. Why? Because lies are the language of Satan.
When we lie to each other – whether that’s spreading lies on purpose or in ignorance, we are speaking the native language of the Devil.
The first thing Satan does in scripture is slander God and lie to Eve.
“But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In John 8:44 Jesus confronts a group of religious people and tells them that their lying and slander against Him is demonic and evil.
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. 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.”
When you lie, according to the words of Jesus, you speak like the devil. In Revelation 12:9 a Satan is called “The Deceiver”. Lying is literally satanic and it deeply offends God, and therefore should offend us.
Lying is a Demonic Act
If you lie you are not just committing a human act, but a spiritual one. When Jesus spoke of honesty, He was very serious about it. It’s a heart issue, a spiritual issue. In Matthew 15:18-20 Jesus teaches that whatever comes out of our mouth shows the condition of our heart. He says,
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”
Listen to the group that Liars are put into in Revelation 21:8, and what happens to them.
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
Liars are condemned, and lying has no place among those who are saved.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 says that when the Antichrist comes one of the main things he will do is deceive people with tricks and lies.
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.”
Lying is hugely serious! There are no “white lies”. A liar cannot have a good reputation, and cannot be a person of integrity. Everything they say is tainted, and they cannot spread the good news. They cannot be a good witness. They damage the reputation of every person they speak of and represent. They work with Satan to accomplish evil. God hates liars.
God Loves Truth
Proverbs 12:22 says,
“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” Proverbs 16:13 says, “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.”
A Christian is someone who speaks the truth, all the time. Who never spreads stories about someone else. It is a hallmark of the Christian faith, a keystone of our reputation, a pillar holding up our integrity, and a way we worship and show love to God! In 1 Corinthians 13, which is called the “Love Chapter”, one descriptor of love is that it “rejoices with the truth.” We worship Jesus who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” To be truthful is to be loving. To be truthful is to be like Jesus.
When the Apostle John is writing to a church he founded he says,
“For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (1 John 1:3-4)
He says, “I told you the truth, you are keeping the truth, and it brings me joy to know that you are truthful people.”
Hebrews 6:17-18 says,
“So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”
We can count on our salvation being assured because we know that God isn’t a liar.
What is Truth?
I hope I’ve made the case that lying and truth is a very big deal, and so I want to leave you with a few points to consider.
First, let’s answer the question, “What is Truth?”. I found a wonderful article on a wonderful website called “GotQuestions.org” that talked about truth, and I’m going to borrow some from it. It started with what truth is not.
- Truth is not simply whatever works. Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s the truth.
- Truth is not simply what is understandable. A group of people can get together and agree on a set of falsehoods and all tell the same false story.
- Truth is not what makes people feel good. Good news is not always true. Bad news can be true too.
- Truth is not what the majority says is true. Fifty one percent of a group can be wrong.
- Truth is not what is comprehensive. A lengthy, detailed presentation, can still have a false conclusion.
- Truth is not defined by what is intended. A good intention can still be wrong.
- Truth is not simply what is believed. A lie, even if believed by many people, is still a lie.
And then the article gives these three simple ways to define the truth.
- Truth is that which corresponds to reality. In other words, truth is what is “really real”.
- Truth is that which matches its object. For example, it might be absolutely true that one person needs 100 milligrams of medication to be helped, but someone else needs more or less. This is not the same as relative truth, but an example of how truth must match its object. It would be wrong and even dangerous for someone to say “I want 100 milligrams because my father had these symptoms and was cured by 100 milligrams of this medicine. If you don’t prescribe me 100 milligrams of the exact same thing, you are lying about the treatment of this disease.” Truth must match the object.
- Truth is simply telling it like it is. This is the simplest definition. It is the way things are, and any other viewpoint is wrong. Your opinion does not make it truth. Your perspective does not make it truth. Ask 10 people to describe the same event and you’ll get 10 different descriptions. Truth is what it is.
Truth Will Get You Intro Trouble
Finally, and let me close with this. Being truthful is critical, but telling the truth isn’t always easy and will sometimes get you into trouble. The most truthful person ever to live was Jesus Christ and He was hurt, rejected, slandered and murdered. If you blow the whistle because of a foul, you are going to get yelled at. If you answer honestly, some people will dislike you. You must stand for truth in obedience to God, in respect for Christ, in love for your fellow man, and because it is the right thing to do. God is intensely concerned that His people be truth tellers, at all times, and in all things.
So if you have lied, make it right. If you are in the habit of lying, get some help and some accountability. As Jesus said in John 8:31-32,
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”