Tuesday, February 14, 2017

All men are liars. . .

Sermon for Epiphany 6A, preached on Sunday, February 12, 2017.

All men are liars. It is not just that men lie, lie sometimes, or lie often, but they are liars; lies are not their occasional companions but their lifelong friends.  It is not my judgment; God says it in Psalm 116.  Before I get an amen from the women here, lying is equal opportunity.  All women and even children are liars. Even pastors.  I am a liar, too.  The lies I have told you are bad but I have told worse to myself.  But nothing can compare to the lies I have told God.  Don’t be so shocked.  You know the truth of it.  Because you are also a liar.  And the lies condemn us.  Big lies.  Small lies.  White lies.  Evil lies.  They all damn us.  Don’t hide in lies.  Cling to the truth.

You, me, and all of us are liars.  That is what sin has done to us.  Sin has turned us into liars.  The greatest of those lies is that we deny our sins.  Oh, sure, we gladly admit we are not perfect but we also believe we are no worse than others and better than many.  And our sins are not that bad.  If we did sin, these sins are not big ones or bad ones.  They are just sins -- common, ordinary, garden variety.  If we tried hard enough, we could shake those sins and make up for them.  Maybe someday we will.  At least those are the lies we tell ourselves, others, and God.

Someday we will give up those sins.  The pet sins that we commit without thinking, the accidental sins that really don’t count, and the enjoyable sins that ought not to be called sins at all.  Such are the lies we tell ourselves, we tell others, and we tell God.

Our lies are not only in our denials but in our justification of those sins, our excuses for sinning, and our protests that surely others are far worse than we are.  There is no comfort in lies and no safety, either.  Our lies are like a house of cards ever waiting to make our lives come crashing down.  Yet sin has so stained our reason and our instincts that we will do anything to protect our lies – even running from the light and the truth.

Jesus confronts our lies.  “You have heard it said. . . But I say to you!”  You can murder with words.  Don’t bring a gift to the altar without reconciling with your brother.  Don’t run from your debts and obligations but face up to them and do what is right.  Don’t think that your thoughts are secret for the Lord knows the lust in your heart and in your eyes before it turns into adultery.  Don’t presume that sin lives on the outside of your lives and you can hide from evil – the evil that condemns you hides in your own hearts and minds.  Don’t trade your marriage for dreams presuming that your happiness justifies it all.  Don’t swear before God because it only confirms the lies in your heart.

Our God is a God of truth.  He strips away the layers of our lives until truth condemns us.  He exposes what we hide, remembers what we forget, and silences all our protests.  But He does not do so to condemn or to ridicule us.  No, my friends, our Lord Jesus rats us out so that His mercy can save us, His truth rescue us, and His blood cleanse us -- wretched liars and sinners though we are.  Jesus has not come to tell the well they are fine or to pat the righteous on their backs.  No, He has come for sinners, cutting through the smokescreen of our lies so that He might rescue us, His blood pay for our sin, and His death end our captivity to death. 

Sunday morning is truth time for liars.  Grace comes for sinners.  Mercy comes for those who are unworthy.  Righteousness clothes the wicked.  That is the message of the cross.  That is the redemption born of a holy Savior who dies for sinners.  And that is what the Spirit is coaxing into your reluctant hearts. 

So lay down your false pride.  Jesus gives us the true humility of repentance and faith.  Forget the useless competition of which lies are worse or better and confess them all.  Repent to your God.  Repent to your brother and sister. Repent to the Lord who knows all the evil hiding in you and repent to those who have no idea what lives in your heart.  It is hard and it is humiliating but there is no cover in lies and no future.  Only the blood of Christ can save us and only the righteousness of Christ can cover up our sin.

Christ has born your shame and your sin.  Jesus stood alone on the cross while all humanity hid in the shadows.  Alone and wounded on the cross it seemed safe to us to hide in our lies.  But His cross means you are not alone. You have hope for something better than a relative righteous which says you may be better than some.  His cross shines light on you to save you.  And now there is something better than lies to hold onto – the truth!  You have Christ and Him crucified.  He is your hope and your redemption.  He has has been planted in you by baptism.  The old and comfortable ways ways of sin are even now, by the power of the Spirit, giving way to the new ways of life in the Kingdom of God, living in the truth.

Since the Law cannot condemn you in Christ, it has become the lamp to your feet and the light to your path that God intends.  Since Christ lives in you, He is even now teaching you to love the light, to seek what is good and right, and to do them not out of fear but out of love.  Because you are not who you were, and even though you are not yet who you shall be, you are His, bought with a price and His own possession to walk in Him and glorify God with your good works.  And in Him you learn in the Spirit to leave behind the ways of anger, lust, jealousy, greed, pride, and hypocrisy that Jesus condemns so clearly and so completely.

You were born into lies and you learned to lie with the best of them but you have been born again into the truth that is Christ Jesus.  He is your truth and His truth  rescues, redeems, restores, and renews.  Lies shield us from grace but the truth has salvation big enough for us all.  Christ knows all our lies and loves us still.  And now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have come to know Christ and to love the truth and live in it.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


John Flanagan said...

One of your very best messages ever, as it hits below the belt, but dispels the deceptions each of us lives with in our daily walk. A very important testimony against any self righteousness we hold about ourselves. After all, despite our reliance on our profession of faith and belief, we remain sinners in constant need of God's grace.

ErnestO said...

Well that sermon shouts loud enough to break down all my defenses. I thus confess before God, 69 years of lying to myself.