SERMON TITLE: Justice for the Liar
TEXT: Multiple (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know — and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time with us or if you’re worshipping at our North Main campus — is that God loves you and I love you too.
We’re in week five of our series that we’ve titled Evil. And we’re calling this series “Evil” because there’s a dangerous tendency to call things good that God has said are evil. Where we blur the lines between good and evil, acquire a taste for evil, and even allow evil practices to become acceptable. And this is just as true for the church as it is anywhere else — so we’ve been looking at ways we’re exhausting God by calling good — things He’s said are evil. And what it means to experience His justice for doing so.
And the idea behind this series is found in the Old Testament book of Malachi who wrote these words.
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them." Or by asking, "Where is the God of justice?" (And then the prophet gives some examples of the evil going on in his day.) "Then I (that’s God speaking...then I) will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 2:17; 3:5 ESV)
And these two verses have been guiding us in this series. We began by looking at God’s justice and we saw how it has both a retributive and a liberating side. There’s the side of justice we usually think of — judgment — punishment — getting what you deserve — and then there’s the unexpected freeing — liberating — side of God’s justice. And we’ve been seeing how these two sides of God’s justice apply to life.
For instance, we’ve seen how God’s justice applies to the different religions in our world and to the foreigners living among us and to the topic of life.
Next week, we’ll finish this series with something a bit spicy — we’ll look at God’s justice for the adulterer. Now two things about next week. First, you’ll want to make sure your young children attend Kidway as the topic is definitely meant for a more mature age level. And — second — bring your teenagers with you. Do them the favor of hearing from God’s Word on this subject because the world is teaching them all kinds of lies about adultery — that’s next week.
And today we’re going to look at how God’s justice applies to lying. So let’s turn to our passages for today and — yes — we’ll be looking at quite a few.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 3. We’ll be looking at verses 16 and 17. Then we’ll head to some other places in the Bible. But — for now — find 2 Timothy chapter 3.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question during the sermon, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in 2 Timothy chapter 3. Beginning in verse 16.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
So here’s how we’re going to tackle this topic. We’re going to look at God’s justice for the liar — but with a twist.
We’re going to look at four different ways where we claim to know better than God.
Where we say that we’ve got things figured out better than He does.
Where we say — and this may shock some of you — but where we say, “God, You’re the liar.”
Then we’ll look at how God’s justice applies to those who call Him a liar.
And here are the four ways we call God a liar — this is where we’re headed for the rest of the sermon.
Way #1 — We call God a liar when we say that what His Word says isn’t true.
Way #2 — We call God a liar when we say that what His Word commands isn’t what I must do.
Way #3 — We call God a liar when we say that who His Word says He is isn’t who God really is.
And way #4 — We call God a liar when we say that who His Word says I am isn’t who I really am.
So let’s begin.
The first way we call God a liar — here’s how we blur the lines between good and evil — we call God a liar when we say that what His Word says isn’t true. We call God a liar when we say that what His Word says isn’t true.
Here’s what our verses in 2 Timothy teach us. That all scripture — the entire Bible — is breathed out — or inspired — by God. That means that God’s Spirit guided human authors so they wrote down God’s words exactly as He intended. Just as God spoke the universe into existence, so He spoke His Word into the Bible.
And notice that Paul says that all scripture — not some of it — not the parts you like — or only the parts you agree with — but all of the Bible is God’s breathed out — inspired — perfect Word. So all of the Bible is true. And what Paul’s wanting the Christians in Ephesus to understand is that because all of the Bible is breathed out by God, they were to believe and live under the authority of all of it.
And that’s to be our view of the Bible as well. This book — being the Word of God — is to be believed and lived under as the supreme court of your authority on truth. And if it’s your supreme court of authority on truth, then you’ve got to know it — read it — study it — so you understand what it says so you can use it — as Paul says — for being made complete and equipped for every good work.
One pastor has said that the Bible “shapes our beliefs as well as our lifestyle. It relates to both doctrine and conduct, and it is totally sufficient to shape us into the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit.”(Tony Merida, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary, ed. David Platt (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), 450.)
So — to say that God’s Word says something that isn’t true — is to call God a liar — because the Bible is His Word to us.
Now, if you’re here and you’d say you’re not a Christian, you may be thinking, “Who cares about the Bible?” Maybe you believe there is no God or — if there is — God can’t be known. So — for you — the only thing we can do is figure out the best way to live for ourselves — right and wrong are purely subjective. Or maybe you believe there’s no such thing as a universally binding absolute truth — so everyone has to choose for themselves what’s right and wrong.
The problem — and I’m not the first to point this out — is that to say that right and wrong are purely subjective is itself an objective statement. To say there’s no such thing as universally binding absolute truth is — itself — a universally binding absolute truth statement. Here’s my point: Everyone believes in absolute truth. Everyone is dogmatic about what they believe — everyone thinks they know what’s right and wrong — not just religious folks.
But the question for all of us is this: Who determines absolute truth — who’s the author of the truth you believe in?
Are you the author? Do you really think you’ve got the authority to determine truth? And if so, can you please rewrite the truth about metabolism slowing down as you age cause I love pizza, ice cream, Cheetos, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups but the truth is — whether I like it or not — the older I get the harder it is to eat those delicious foods without gaining weight.
SUMMARY OF POINT 1
So if you’re not the author of truth — and neither am I — we can eliminate all other humans as well. So what are we left with? Either there is no truth — which can’t be true — or God is the author of truth. And if God is the author of truth, then we call Him a liar when we say that His Word isn’t true.
Now this sermon isn’t meant to be a defense of the Bible, but a resource I highly recommend for you to check out — this is for the skeptic and for the Christian — a resource I’d recommend to you is Why Trust the Bible? by Greg Gilbert. This book gives a good overview of the common arguments against trusting the Bible and — especially for those who think the Bible is untrustworthy — it’s a good way to understand why we Christians view the Bible the way we do. We don’t have our heads in the sand. We’re not idiots — at least not all of us — and even if we are — that doesn’t make the Bible untrustworthy. Check out this book to understand why the Bible is reliable and can be trusted.
On to the second way we call God a liar — another way we blur the lines between good and evil. We call God a liar when we say what His Word commands isn’t what I must do. We call God a liar when we say that what His Word commands isn’t what I must do.
OK. So if you believe that God’s Word is true, you can still call Him a liar by not believing His commands are what you’re supposed to do. Now I can think of a few reasons for someone doing this. The first is you just don’t know the Bible — so you don’t even know what God expects of you. That’s one reason.
An example of this is found in Peter’s second letter. “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant (that words means the uneducated and unlearned — the ignorant...) and unstable (those who are not firmly set, those who don’t have a solid foundation of what they believe — so the ignorant and unstable do what? They...) twist (things) to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:15-18 ESV)
Peter’s writing about people who want to talk about the Christian faith without knowing the Bible. They want to discuss things like the patience of God without going to God’s Word on the matter. And what happens? They twist things around due to their ignorance of the Bible. And what’s the end result? Their destruction. Now there’s a compelling reason to know your Bible. One way to disobey God’s commands.
Another way people do this is by knowing the Bible, but you disagree with parts of it, so you pick and choose what you obey. This is what we see when Jesus speaks to some religious leaders in Matthew’s gospel.
“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." 3 He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' 5 But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," 6 he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” (Matthew 15:1-9 ESV)
Jesus calls out the religious leaders because they were blatantly ignoring God’s commands. They created their own rules so they could ignore God’s rules. And Jesus says — in doing so — they were making God’s word void — they were — through their actions — calling God’s Word invalid — not true — in essence — they were calling God a liar. Another reason people disobey God’s commands.
And — finally — and I’m sure there are other reasons but this is all we’ve got time for — but a final reason is that you know the Bible and you want to obey it, but life...is...war. We give in to sin, we get attacked by the enemy, we experience physical, mental, emotional, and relational conflict that weakens our resolve and we disobey God’s commands.
Paul uses a lot of war imagery in describing the Christian life. He talks about putting on the armor of God and preparing for battle. And war — though sometimes necessary — is always tragic because there are always casualties.
But it’s not just attacks from others that causes casualties. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. Paul describes this in his letter to the Christians in Rome. He writes, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15 ESV)
He then writes about going back and forth between doing good and doing evil and just when he’s on a doing good streak — evil’s right there — coming from within him — to get him off the path of obedience.
Now — let me say — this last scenario isn’t really us calling God a liar so much as the struggle — the wrestling — the war going on — which proves that you believe God’s commands are to be obeyed — you’re just in the muck of spiritual conflict. I bring it up so that — if this is you — you don’t carry an unnecessary burden. Keep fighting by the power of God’s Spirit and the authority of His Word.
SUMMARY OF POINT 2
But the other two scenarios, well I don’t know how else to understand them. Either through ignorance or by picking and choosing what you want to obey — you end up calling God a liar by saying what His Word commands isn’t what you must do.
We’re to the third way we call God a liar. We call God a liar when we say that who His Word says He is isn’t who God really is. We call God a liar when we say that who His Word says He is isn’t who God really is.
Now all of these ways kind of build on each other don’t they? If you don’t believe God’s Word is true, then you won’t believe what it commands or what it says about God. If you don’t know the Bible, then you’ll be ignorant of its commands and what it says about God. And — obviously — just like you can purposely pick and choose which commands you obey, you can pick and choose which parts of the Bible you allow to tell you something about who God is.
But the goal — for the Christian — should be to allow this Word to shape your understanding of who God is — because this book is God’s Word to us. And God has told us much about Himself in the Bible — and — we’re going to fly through a bunch of these — but here are some things that God has told us about Himself.
He is eternal — He has no beginning or end. The first verse in the Bible says, “In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1a ESV)
God is Creator — He has made all things. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 ESV)
God is love. The apostle John writes, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8 ESV)
God is patient. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
God is all powerful. The psalmist writes, “He (God) determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (Psalm 147:4-5 ESV)
Those last words tell us that God knows everything, which we also find in Isaiah. “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'” (Isaiah 46:8-10 ESV)
God is good. Psalm 107 begins by declaring, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1 ESV)
God is holy — He is completely pure, untainted by sin, perfect. The apostle John records a vision of Heaven. “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"” (Revelation 4:8 ESV)
God is the giver of every good gift. James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17 ESV)
And — there at the end — we learn that God does not change.
And — finally — and by finally — I mean the final one for this sermon — because this would go on for a long time if we looked at all the ways God describes Himself in the Bible — but the last one for us —God is wrathful. In the gospel of John we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)
Paul writes about God’s wrath in multiple places. In his letter to Christians in Rome, he writes, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Later he writes, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 1:18, 12:17-21 ESV)
SUMMARY OF POINT 3
To ignore what God has said about Himself — in His Word — is to call Him a liar. It’s to — intentionally or unintentionally — it’s to say that you know who God is better than He does. Sounds pretty silly, right? A bit arrogant? I mean you should probably have a book or two in the Bible named after you if you’re so knowledgeable about God, right?
Yet we do this all the time, don’t we? Because there are some things about God that make us uncomfortable. There are some things about God we don’t understand. There are some things about God that frighten us.
But He’s told us who He is and to ignore what He’s said about Himself is to find yourself at odds with God.
And — finally — a fourth way we call God a liar — another way we’re blurring the lines between good and evil — we call God a liar when we say that who His Word says I am isn’t who I really am.
Let’s take that last characteristic of God — His wrath — and learn something about ourselves. Paul writes these alarming words. “And you (if you believe in Jesus — you can insert your name here — and you — Josh) were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-4 ESV)
Now Paul’s writing to Christians — to believers — to people like many of us. And notice how he describes them. Prior to believing in Christ, they were spiritually dead — not sick — not unhealthy — they were dead in their trespasses and sins. They were spiritually dead, but notice — in verse two — they were physically alive. Spiritual zombies walking around.
So you — yes you — if you’re a Christian — this was you — and if you’re not a Christian — this is you. So you were — or are — spiritually dead, following the ways of the world, following Satan — that’s what the prince of the power of the air means. You lived — or are living — carrying out the passions and desires of your flesh, and you were — or are — what? How does Paul describe us at the end of verse three? He describes us as “children of wrath” — that’s God’s wrath by the way.
But hardly anybody — even Christians — see this as who they are or who they used to be. Because — if we did — we’d be a lot more humble and definitely more obedient. Because we’d know that we owe everything to the One who’s saved us out of this disastrous situation. You see — your and my obedience — is usually lacking when we think, “Ahhh, I wasn’t really in that bad of a situation before Jesus saved me.” I mean, if Jesus didn’t have to save you from that bad of a situation, then you don’t really owe Him much, do you?
But if you were dead, a child of wrath, destined for Hell, and Jesus rescued you from that — well then — He’s got your number now doesn’t He?
But that’s OK — right — because we just had a glimpse of how wonderful He is — so no need to fear Jesus having your number — it’s more like — I can’t wait for Jesus to call me — oh wait — He already did — He’s told me everything about who I am and who He is and all that I’m to do — it’s all in His Word.
SUMMARY OF POINT 4
But to ignore what the Bible says about you is to call God a liar — it’s to change the scenario you were rescued out of — or maybe the situation you’re in right now. You see, Jesus didn’t die for spiritually sick people. He died so dead people would experience a resurrection — both spiritually and physically.
And all of these ways we call God a liar are directly related to what you believe about Jesus. The apostle John calls Jesus the Word of God in the opening of his gospel. Later on in the gospel, Jesus calls Himself the “way, the truth, and the life.” So we can trust that God’s Word is true because Jesus is the Word of God who is truth. You can’t really believe in Jesus and not believe that God’s Word is true because Jesus is God’s Word.
Jesus shows us that obeying God’s commands isn’t an option for us to choose or reject. He didn’t view God’s commands this way — instead He obeyed all of them on our behalf, in order to fulfill the requirements of the law for all of us. Jesus shows us that God’s commands are to be obeyed by His people.
Jesus also shows us that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. Jesus is the visible image of God. Through His actions and words, Jesus reveals to us who God is, what He’s like, and what He values.
And Jesus shows us who we really are. As one pastor is fond of saying, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” In the Bible, you discover your truest self on both fronts — the side revealing how sinful and flawed you are — and the side revealing how deeply loved by God you are. But you only find both of these truths about yourself in the Bible — only when you let God have the final say on the matter. Where you stop blurring the lines between good and evil and start listening to the One who has been more honest to you than you’ll ever be to yourself.
Blurring the lines between things God has said are good and evil shows us something about ourselves: That we’re often quick — and comfortable — with calling God a liar. And He promises justice for the liar. His retributive justice will come on all who trust their own words more than God’s Word. But God offers His liberating justice — His freeing justice — to those who submit themselves to His Word as being the final say on all things — allowing the Bible to be the final word on what’s good and evil — what’s right and wrong — on who He is — and who we are — and what He’s commanded us to do.
How have you determined who God is and what He expects of you? Who are you listening to when it comes to what you believe about yourself? Who has the final word in your life? Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, first we thank you for Your Word. How gracious of You to not leave us floundering around, spiritually blind, and unable to know Your Word on all things. Yet even with this gift You’ve given us, how often do we chose to flounder around, walking in spiritual blindness, remaining purposefully ignorant of Your Word? So help us — Father, Son, and Spirit — to be people of Your Word.
And Jesus — You are the Word of God. You have revealed to us who we are and who God is. That we were spiritually dead — You the giver of life. We — prisoners of war — You the liberator who sets captives free. We — children of wrath — You the beloved Son of God who satisfied God’s wrath on our behalf so we could be adopted as God’s sons and daughters.
Spirit, guide us. Teach us. Lead us towards a greater desire to know the Bible better so we stop blurring the lines between good and evil — so we stop calling You a liar — and submit ourselves under Your Word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
COMMUNION (JOSH WILL MOVE TO COMMUNION TABLE)
Today as we turn to the Lord’s Table, we’re reminded once again about who God’s Word says we are and who it says He is. As in this meal we experience the love God has for us as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His beloved Son on the cross.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:24b-26 ESV)
And with these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of His return in glory. God graciously declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
PRAYER (COMMUNION SERVERS COME FORWARD)
Father, we give you thanks for Your Son, Jesus. For His obedience and suffering during His life on earth, and especially for His giving up of His body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are pardoned through His blood. May Your perfect love drive out all fear. Fill our minds with Your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at Your right hand interceding for us. Enable us to offer up ourselves in service to You and to all Your children. Let no trouble or sorrow distract us from this loving service, and unite us with each other through Your Spirit so we continue in the living hope of our Savior's coming in glory. Amen.
At this time, ushers will be passing trays with the bread and the cup down your rows. You may take the bread immediately, but hold on to the cup, which we will all drink together.
Let’s feast on God’s grace together.
PRAYER (TRANSITION FOR WORSHIP TEAM)
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, in Your wisdom, You have made all things and You sustain them by Your power. You formed us in Your image, setting us in this world to love and serve You, and to live in peace with one another. When we rebelled against You — refusing to trust and obey You — You did not reject us, but still claimed us as Your own. Then in the fullness of time, out of Your great love for us, You sent Your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us, to heal our brokenness, to cleanse us from our sin, and to defeat our greatest enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And now, You call us Your sons and daughters. In response to these great truths, we now praise You in song together. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: THOSE WHO NEED PEACE)
May God’s Word be the final word in your life. Amen. God loves you. I love you. You are sent.