What Happened to Honesty?

Why is it that when we see blatant honesty, we’re surprised? I passed this sign in front of a BBQ restaurant near Dahlonega, Georgia last week and was immediately a fan of the restaurant—even before I ate the food. After eating it, I’m really a fan. I love the fact that this restaurant owner expects an award but is free to let the world know that they haven’t received one yet.

What happened to honesty? Why are lies and deceit so commonplace in our society that we give awards to those who are able to pull off the biggest lies (the Pinocchio Awards)? God says, “The Lord detest lying lips, but He delights in those who tell the truth” (Proverbs 12:22). “Detest” is a strong word. In my book, Wisdom Speaks: Life Lessons from Proverbs, I wrote a section about this word as it relates to honesty:

To say that something is an abominationto the Lord is to say that an act is detestable to God. It is a strong statement pointing to something as disgusting or repugnant. We might say that something makes us sickto our stomachs. It is interesting to scan through the pages of Scripture to note what God says is an abomination. If we have never struggled with homosexuality, we may put that at the top of the list because it is mentioned several times. For starters, God doesn’t have a top-of-the-list category. Any sexual sin is an abomination to God.

Sexual sin is not the only disgusting act to our Creator. God gives us a list of other sins that He considers abominable:

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.—Proverbs 6:16-19

Notice that a lying tongue made it to number two on the list of abominable deeds. Isn’t that interesting? Someone lies to us about a political matter, and we shake our heads and give him four Pinocchios. God, on the other hand, sees it as an abomination. We make light of something that God obviously deems as quite serious.

We’re smack in the middle of a political season, and we’re going to be inundated with false statements and people being accused of making false statements. It’s easy for us to be critical of those politicians. The fact is, however, that we can’t change politicians, but we can change ourselves. Regardless of how many Pinocchios someone might get from a speech next week or next month, we should opt for honesty.

Proverbs also tells us that righteous lips are a delight and the integrity of the upright will guide them. Proverbs 10:9 says, “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” As we anticipate hateful words and falsehoods that are sure to be a part of the next election cycle, let’s commit ourselves to walk securely and be a delight because we delight in telling the truth.

Exclusive Gospel – Is Jesus Really The Only Way to Salvation?

I preached the sixth message today in a seven-sermon-series on the seven I Am statements of Jesus in John (You can hear them on our church website, though today’s probably won’t be up until maybe Wednesday: http://www.sonrisebaptist.org/sermon-archive/) . Today’s focal passage was John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” 

If you have studied the “I Am” passages of John, you know that the Greek text used for each statement is an emphatic, exclusive statement. To say otherwise is to ignore the Greek language and the construction of the text. You should translate any of these “I Am” passages as emphatic: “I myself am.” It’s as if Jesus was saying in John 6:35, for example, “I am and only I am the bread of life.” In John 14:6, Jesus underscored the exclusivity of the Gospel and the way to salvation with his follow-up statement as well: “No one comes to the Father but through me.” The two little Greek words translated as “but” are the two words “if not.” That part of the verse could be translated, “No one comes to the Father if not through me.”

I’ve had conversations with some people lately who struggle with an exclusive Gospel. In other words, they think Christians are narrow, bigoted, and arrogant for saying that salvation or eternal life is only possible through Jesus. Much of the world wants to embrace a universal message of salvation that says, “All roads lead to God. It doesn’t really matter which road you choose.” Do all roads really lead to God? 

Christianity says that Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again. Islam says that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the world, but rather, someone died in his place. Both positions can’t be true. Either Christianity or Islam is right, not both. You see, truth by definition is exclusive.

Christians are criticized for being exclusive, but if you think about it, if someone says the Bible is false, he is making an exclusive statement. He is saying that he is right and everyone who believes the Bible is wrong. For example, Hindus teach we are reincarnated after we die. Therefore, anyone who believes in heaven or hell is wrong. That position makes Hinduism exclusive. Every time you open your mouth to say what you believe, you are being exclusive. Every time you say something is “true,” it means everything opposed to what you just said is false. You are being exclusive.

I came across an article written by Dr. Steve McSwain (I hesitate to offer the link because it’s pure heresy, but here it is: https://bit.ly/2SvOb5A). I don’t know who Steve McSwain is, and I have no clue what field of study gave him a doctorate, but it’s clear that his method of Bible study is flawed, and he approaches the truth of Scripture from an agenda-laden position. His byline says he’s a “counselor to congregations” and a “spiritual teacher.” I’m not sure what spirit motivates his teaching, but it’s not God’s Spirit.

Here’s part of his reflective comments on John 14:6 and the exclusivity of the Gospel: 

Jesus said “I am the way…no one comes to God but through me” (John 14:6). But what does that really mean?…Today, I realize that what Jesus was really saying is this: “I am the way,” as in, “I know the way.” “I’ve discovered it” which, by implication means, “you can, too.” Elsewhere, he put it like this: “I and the Father are one” and he prayed that we would discover the same as well (John 17). Which is precisely why he said continually, “Follow me.” In other words, it’s as if Jesus was saying, “If you believe anything, believe not WORDS but the WAY to Life itself. My way, like many other ways, will guide you into the Eternal. In fact, you cannot separate the way to God from God herself. The way to God IS God.”

For starters, Mr. McSwain (as if he’s going to read this blog), Jesus did NOT say “I know the way.” You can’t change Scripture. You can’t make it say something you want it to say or prefer it to say or something that’s more politically correct in our culture. Jesus said, “I myself am the way. No one comes to the Father if not through me.” No matter how you analyze that passage, if you are honest with yourself and use proper biblical interpretation, Jesus said He is the ONLY way to salvation. It doesn’t really take too much analysis or interpretation to see the cold facts staring you in the face. You can call Jesus a liar if you want to, but you can’t say Jesus was really saying “I know the way.” He said, “I am THE way.”

If I made an exclusive statement, you could debate it and reject it. After all, who am I to make an exclusive statement about much of anything. I’m flawed and my perspective is limited. Jesus, however, claimed to be God. If Jesus is God, then He has every right to create a salvation plan that offers only one path: Himself.Mr. McSwain said, “My way, like many other ways, will guide you into the Eternal.” My first thought was that this statement is also totally flawed. It is flawed from the way he was trying to project it, but in the end, he’s actually right. Jesus’ way will lead to eternal life. The “many other ways” he’s writing about will also lead into the eternal, eternal damnation. I didn’t say that. Jesus did.

Soul Danger

I’m very disturbed. Last Thursday I watched part of the Judge Kavanaugh/Dr. Christine Ford hearing, and the more I watched, the angrier and more discouraged I became. Over the last few years, I’ve watched the soul of America unraveling, and I’m concerned that we’re getting close to the point of no return. Regardless of your political persuasion, I hope that you share my concern. This concern is not as much about Kavanaugh, Ford, Trump, or Feinstein as it is about the not so slow deterioration of honesty, virtue, righteousness, and integrity. The fact that in order to confirm or not confirm a Supreme Court justice we have to stoop to such shameful measures and tactics is truly a disgrace to the nation and offers a peek into the rotting condition of our national soul. We have come to a place where ideology is more important than truth and the means seem totally justified regardless of the end, as long as the end supports one’s political or philosophical purposes.

Here’s an opinion statement: I don’t think the uproar over Kavanaugh is as much about the judge or even the position as it is about philosophy or even theology. Politicians on all sides have agendas, and it seems that people are willing to go to any extreme to accomplish those agendas. If there is something deeply wrong with Kavanaugh’s character, then he needs to be disqualified. If not, then he needs to be confirmed. I personally think the battle is mainly over issues like abortion and same-sex marriages. I do not believe that abortion or same-sex marriage are political issues. They are spiritual issues. I don’t know Kavanaugh and therefore I don’t know if he is a Christian. However, I feel as if a great spiritual battle between the heavenlies is being waged before our eyes. Over the years, we have passed some laws that blatantly contradict the teaching of Scripture. Whether Kavanaugh should be on the court or not is to be seen, but I think the real battle is for the soul of America.

I don’t see myself as a Democrat or Republican. I vote for the person who best represents the truth of God’s Word. I agree strongly with Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace for any people.” Because righteousness is defined by laws, and the Supreme Court is the final law of our land, we should not be surprised to see the intensity of the battle for who will control this court. Because unrighteousness destroys a nation, I believe the hosts of hell are lined up trying to figure out how to lead our country farther away from the truth upon which this country was built. If you believe the Word of God, then I encourage you to pray for our political leaders that they will pass laws and our judicial leaders that they will uphold laws and the Constitution in such a way that we as a people are walking in righteousness. This means we should pray for God’s intervention and leadership, and we should vote to put people in office who will help us to be a righteous people. We have a lot at stake. If we slide far enough down the slippery slope of unrighteousness and disobedience, it will be very difficult for us to come back.

United States vs. God

Gavel_flagIf you had told me thirty years ago that our Supreme Court would be contemplating passing a law requiring Americans to disregard the Word of God, I probably would not have believed you. I would have thought that our leaders, who are given the responsibility of “interpreting the Constitution and federal law and exercising judicial review to ensure state and federal statutes and policies that come before the Court comply with constitutional principles” (answers.com), would never create a law that stands in contradiction to our revered Constitution. I am afraid, however, that this may happen before the week is over.

Newsweek Magazine reported yesterday, “Many legal experts predict the court will legalize gay marriage nationwide by finding that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal treatment under the law and due process prohibit states from banning same-sex nuptials.” If the court does legalize gay marriage, this will be the first time a law is passed that blatantly stands against the Bible. Roe vs. Wade certainly came close to such disregard of Scripture, but this issue puts the United States squarely in the camp of having no regard for God’s Truth

If this law passes, Christians will be told that they cannot act upon their belief that the Bible teaches marriage is to be between a man and a woman and that sexual acts between two people of the same sex is considered to be sin. I am burdened about this issue from several perspectives. The number one perspective is that our governing bodies will be legalizing immorality. This is dangerous ground for any nation. God says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12). The Lord Jehovah cannot be the God of a nation who passes laws that stand so clearly against the teaching of the Bible. If America is not blessed, then we are cursed. God help us.

If gay marriage is legalized, I also have a problem in that my Constitutional rights are violated. I have the right to free speech and the free exercise of my religious beliefs. This right will be infringed upon because it will become illegal for me to speak about my beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. Before you decide to attack me by saying I am a “homophobe,” I am not. I believe homosexuality is a sin just like any other sin. Have I lost my right to believe the Bible? God calls us to forsake sin and follow him. God loves the homosexual, just like He loves anyone else. Just like I would urge someone committing adultery to flee their sin and follow Jesus, I would do the same with someone practicing homosexuality. As an American, it is my right to have this belief. I am amazed at how liberals in our country label me as being intolerant while they are intolerant of me and my belief in the Bible. If gay marriage is legalized, this means America has indeed become a nation without a Constitution. God help us.

Absolute Truth

truthI recently shared some thoughts on Facebook and enjoyed various comments made by my friends. I thought I would carry the discussion on absolute truth over to my blog. Here’s some additional thoughts in response to some of the discussion.

 

Homophobia is not my problem. Sinophobia is. I am afraid of what sin can do in me, in you, in our culture, and in our world. I’ve seen it at work in my life for 52 years, and I see it unleashed in our culture. It is destroying us. One problem is our tendency to ignore sin in our lives. I’ve done it with the best of them. One way we try to ignore it is to justify our actions, ignore our actions or redefine our actions. We justify our actions often times by comparing ourselves to other people. I can always find someone worse than me; therefore, my sin doesn’t look so bad. The problem is that other people are not the standard – God is. Our culture is working to justify actions through talk or predispositions. Some scientists and media personnel are determined to justify an action that is contrary to the Bible by trying to show that a predisposition to a sinful lifestyle is pre-determined by an inborn quality. To say someone has a female brain in a male body justifies homosexual behavior. To say someone is naturally oversexed justifies a promiscuous lifestyle or an addiction to pornography. First of all, there has been no real evidence that someone is born with a predisposition toward homosexuality. The fact is; however, we are all born with a predisposition to sin. Homosexuality is not the only issue. Sin is the issue. The problem is that we do not want to call it sin. If we call our actions sinful, there must be a standard of righteousness. If sin exists, God must exist. If God exists, then we are accountable for our sins. It is easier for me to justify my behavior, whatever kind of sinful behavior that might be, than to be accountable for it.

 

I will hasten to say that Christians feel much better talking about someone else’s’ sinful behavior than their own. It feels more comfortable being critical of homosexuality while ignoring lust. The fact is that sin is sin. Jesus had to die for all of sin. I am grateful that God loves the sinner and meets us where we are, but if we are going to deal with our sin, we must first acknowledge that we are sinners. To acknowledge sin means that we must recognize a standard of moral truth. Is truth relative or absolute? Can something be wrong for me but not wrong for you?

 

There is a such thing as cultural truth. Cultural or geographical truth can be relative. For example, if you live in Great Britain, it is against the law for you to drive down the right side of the street. You are required to drive on the left. In the U.S., we are required to drive on the right. Obviously location is going to determine right and wrong in regard to that particular traffic law. I do believe there are some cultural issues addressed in the Bible, and for that matter, there are some cultural issues not addressed in the Bible. For example, God did not address the morality of slavery in the Bible. Though the practice of slavery was different in the N.T. times than it was in the 19th century, God doesn’t really address the moral issue of right and wrong regarding owning slaves. I have wondered if polygamy in the Old Testament fell into this category. Was it a cultural truth that was descriptive for that time but not prescriptive for all of time? There were more women in that culture than men. Is it possible that God allowed it as a means of taking care of women, but it was not His ideal? We do know that there were some cultural truths related to certain laws. The N.T. helps us to understand that there were some cultural laws that related to just the Jewish people in the O.T. that did not apply to N.T. believers. Peter had been taught not to eat unclean animals, but he then had a dream saying that all things were clean. Circumcision was required for Jewish males, but the N.T. makes it clear that it is not a law for every culture.

 

When I speak of absolute truth, I’m not talking about cultural issues but rather moral issues. Mistreating people is wrong for all people for all of time. Mistreating others is never justified. This is a moral absolute. In a recent Facebook note, I shared a statement about a transgender youth. Sadly, some people responded to her YouTube post with venom and hatred – even to the point where someone said they wanted to kill this youth. That is ridiculous and inexcusable. It is an absolute truth that mistreating people is always wrong. The Bible speaks to many moral truths, and the Bible sets a standard for absolute truth. Does this mean that Christians always have the right attitude about people and sin? No. Do Christians always act in a Christ-honoring way? Absolutely not! Just because a Christian acts ungodly does not mean that it is okay to ignore absolute truth. For that matter, just because a Christian acts wrongly toward you does not justify putting all Christians in the same category or dropping out of church or ignoring the teaching of the Bible. It’s funny that church is one of the few things in society we apply those standards to. For example, I’ve been treated badly at Walmart before by employees and customers. I still go to Walmart. When that happened, I acknowledged that a Walmart employee had a problem or a customer I confronted had issues (or maybe even I had issues), but I didn’t stop going to Walmart. Just because a Christian acts ungodly, I cannot write off the truth of God’s Word. The fact is a Christian’s misbehavior does not cause Romans 6:23 to be any less true for me or you: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

The real issue here has to do with whether or not moral truth is absolute. Regardless of what our culture says, I say that it is. I’ll share some more on this later, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts?