April 13, 2014
Exodus 20: 2,16
Today, we’re almost at the homestretch – the 9th commandment, which is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”. But as always, the way I start it off is reiterating Exodus 20:2 which is, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God is saying, “I brought you out of slavery and because of that, don’t be a false witness against your neighbors.” Parents punish their children when they disobey. Children get praised if they do something good. But God is very different. A lot of people come to God to be saved from Hell. So they try to keep the 10 commandments – don’t lie, don’t swear, don’t steal. But when we look at Exodus 20, it starts with how God saved us from sin and the commandments follow after. Because we are His children, because our identity is with Him, He calls us to be like Him. Don’t lie.
What it means to bear false witness
The commandment not to bear false witness is meant in the court of law. In Exodus 23, it says: “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.”
So when we look at that, what does that mean? When you are in the court of law or when you go in for jury duty, be truthful. In our judicial system, we state, “I promise to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God.” In our culture, it works! We are all about legality. But as we start looking at the Bible a little more, we see that God had more in mind. God had more in mind than just, not telling lies. Just like with all the other commandments that we’ve seen, this law has more than meets the eye. How do I know this? Well, in Matthew 5 Jesus talks about something like this:
vs. 33-37: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
In another words, God is saying, not only should you not bear false witness but your whole life should be truthful. All your actions. Why do you need to say, “I swear to God..” Your word should be enough. Don’t even swear because your whole life is under oath. This really hit me while I was preparing this sermon. To what extent should we look out for this? You should not even joke about falsifying information. God says something about joking. Let’s look at Proverbs 26: 18-19:
“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
A few years ago when we started this church, I told people on April Fool’s day that my parents were ill, so I will have to move back with them and stop church. A lot of people were completely shocked and I told them, “I’m just joking!” They were not that amused and form that day on I decided not to do something like that. That could be a sin too!
As I look at bearing false witness, I was thinking how serious rumors could be. Rumors can devastate lives. Most of us here have been a victim of a bad rumor or maybe the source of a bad rumor. That’s false witness. Much of high school culture is based off of this sin. The jocks make fun of the nerds. The cheerleaders make fun of the goth girls. There are movies about these things. The serious consequences of this culture are seen in cases where students get bullied online and lead to suicide. Leads to violence.
Bearing true witness in this world
This sin gets even more serious when we look at the church’s involvement with WWII. Right before WWII, there was a lot of anti-Semitism in Europe. According to the Journal of Holocaust Studies, churches throughout Europe were mostly silent while Jews were persecuted, deported, and finally murdered in concentration camps. How many? Millions of Jews. Churches! They turned a blind eye to these things. Why? Because we want to be part of the world. We want to be like the world. We want to be accepted. We are afraid to take a stand.
When I look at Jesus’s life, there are three kinds of responses from people that meet Him. The first is fear. People want to run away from Him. The second is anger. They want to kill Him. The third is utter affection. They love Him and want to surrender to Him. The one response that I did not see was, “Wow, Jesus is a nice guy. What a fine chap.” In most churches we see similar attitudes. Nice people. And I am not condoning mean-spirited people in the church. But be offensive, be loving! The church is not to follow the patterns of this world. We’re not only called to be honest but we are also called to protect others when there is injustice! You know there’s that one unpopular guy at work or at school. The person that eats alone during lunch. Everyone criticizes them but you are not called to join in on that. Your calling as a Christian is not to make fun of that person too. In fact your job is the opposite. Your job is to go against the flow. To protect the unjust. To bear a true witness.
Jesus, our True Witness
Does Jesus know what it is like to be falsely accused? Yes! On the night before Jesus died, religious leaders came and dragged him into a mock trial. They tried to get three people to falsely testify against Jesus and get Him convicted. They falsely accused them and found Him guilty based on falsified information. He was beaten, scourged, and eventually crucified. What led up to that crucifixion was this – it was a popular vote. The popular vote said, “Jesus is guilty. Jesus is guilty.” All the religious leaders. All the cool kids were saying, “Jesus is guilty. Jesus is guilty.” So guess what happened? A mob said, “Jesus is guilty. Jesus is guilty.”
Do you know why Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten like that? He did that for you and I because that’s who we are. We are sinners. If we had a chance, if it wasn’t for Jesus, we would be no different from the mobs. How do I know that? All of us did that. In high school, we were part of certain cliques and would make fun of other groups. We are all guilty of this. You think you guys are clean? No! We are all guilty of this. That’s why we needed Jesus. And Jesus dies for us. He rises again from the dead. And this is what 1 John 2: 1-3 says:
“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”
Do you know what that means, that Jesus is our advocate? We have a problem with God. We’re sinners. We have a problem following God. But according to John, Jesus Christ died and rise again from the dead and He’s at the right hand of the Father. And what John says, is that Jesus Christ is now our advocate. Jesus Christ is our true witness! If I have a relationship with Christ, He is a true witness for me! On the hour of our death, we will be naked in front of God and we will have nothing to say to Him. All the sin we bear, even the ones that have buried so that no one knows - those will all come out before God. And we will have nothing to say to Him. All I will say is, “God, I am so guilty. I deserve to die”. That’s when Jesus will step in and Jesus will be our advocate. Our true witness saying, “Father, no. He is one of ours. I paid the price for him.” At this point, here’s what you should be feeling – relief. Some people right now are overwhelmed. Some people don’t know how to feel. On one side, we feel hopeless about our depravity. On the other side, this is out of our control and God died for me? You don’t know how to feel? This is how you should feel – relief. Thank you Jesus. It’s by grace that we have been saved. You think we deserved this? Let’s take a day out of your week and examine your thoughts. Think about your actions. I could probably get away with saying the same when I just wake up. And my mind starts rolling – I just sinned. Thank God we have an advocate. A true witness, that’s God’s son.
How we reflect that Jesus is our true advocate
Do you know what that looks like? Because there has to be some visual sign on the outside. In 1 John 2: 4:
4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
What does that mean? In our culture, when we say, “I know”. It’s all information storage. Do you know that Jesus loves you? “Yea, I know, I know.” Do you know that Jesus died for you? “Yea, I know, I know”. Boy, we are walking google. You know that you should put Jesus first? Then why don’t you do it?! Do you know why? Do you know why you are so insecure? Because you don’t know. Because you don’t know!! If you knew, that the God of the universe – that perfected trees! – died for you, why is there insecurity? Why is there fear? Why are you full of people pleasing? Always thinking about what this person thinks of me, what that person thinks of me. Who cares?! Jesus loves you. Do you fear man or fear God? The God of the whole universe died for you. What’s your response to that? “Oh, I know.”? It should be complete surrender. It should be complete surrender. I pray that as you come to church, as you start realizing who God is, that it will seep into your heart and into your actions. If you know that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, then it should come out in your actions. And there the struggle should be, “Lord, I’m afraid to get to know people. I’m afraid to get to know you. But God, you love me. You died for me. And I will love the people that you love.” That’s your calling. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”. By the third time, Peter got offended. And Jesus says, “Feed my sheep. Get to know my sheep. Love my sheep”. How do I know whether you love Jesus or not? By your words? In this day in age, not really. Everyone’s a theologian these days. How do I know? By your actions. Your actions! I pray that we become a church that acts upon our words.