Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why The Ninth?

What comes to mind when you think of the word purity? Most Christians would define this word in the context of sexual chastity. But purity is simply the state of being free of any pollutant. Most of us don't realize how polluted we really are, until we consider the law of God. This is why Paul says, "Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead" (Romans 7:7-8, ESV).

The Ten Commandments illustrate for us the very sin we harbor in our hearts. Most of us can easily see why God chose to include certain "pollutants" on the list (such as murder and adultery). But by comparison, lying doesn't seem all that bad. Those of us who use the law in evangelism know that the ninth commandment is the easiest to get people to admit they've broken. Why? The reason is that we as sinful beings do not see lying as being a serious sin. Part of the reason for this is that many of us unconsciously "rate" sin by the degree to which it "hurts" someone else. So I tell a little white lie here or there. It's not going to hurt anybody. So why has this sin made the "top ten"?

This takes us back to the original question at the top of this post: purity. Sin is not a matter of how "harmful" one's actions are to another person. Rather, sin is a matter of purity. Lying pollutes the soul.

It has also been said that the Ten Commandments are not just rules, but rather, they are the very reflection of the character of God. The commandments are more than just a way for you and me to keep the Golden Rule. They serve a much higher purpose in the life of a Christian, because we are commanded to be imitators of Christ. If we keep His commandments, we will actually reflect His character, which is the goal of sanctification.

Let me switch gears here for a minute and provide an illustration that I once heard used by Charles Stanley. Imagine you think to yourself, "I have faith that Jennifer is going to have dinner with our family on Saturday night." You have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that I am going to come to your home, but you make preparations to have me over anyway, on the basis of your "faith." You spend all week on preparations, and Saturday you slave over a hot stove, preparing the meal. At dinner time, you believe with all your heart that I will be ringing the doorbell very soon. But I don't. Dinner is getting cold. The sky is growing dark. Disappointed, you pack up the food and put it in the refrigerator. And you think to yourself, "I don't understand. I had such faith."

Faith is defined by the Bible as the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). In order for us to have faith, we need evidence upon which to build our beliefs. We don't just hope with all our might and call that faith. So now, let's imagine I say to you, "Say, what are you doing on Saturday evening? I've been meaning to stop by and spend some time fellowshipping and ministering to your family. Why don't I stop by at 6pm with a hot dish and we can all have dinner together?" Now you have something upon which to build your belief. Now you can freely prepare a meal with full confidence that I will come to dinner. Why? Because I gave my word, and my word serves as evidence that it will come to pass.

The most powerful evidence we have that God is going to keep His promises to us is His word. If God says it, then it's as good as done. The Bible says that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29). Since God cannot lie, His word is sufficient evidence. We can put our faith and trust in what He says. Likewise, if we make it a habit to be honest, we develop a reputation as a trustworthy people. Others will put their faith in us and believe what we tell them, solely on the basis of our word as their evidence.

But what happens when we don't keep our word? Simply put, we taint the evidence. If the evidence is faulty, the faith that others have in us is destroyed. In the natural realm, one lie can cost you your credibility. In the spiritual realm, one lie will cost you heaven.

As women, it can be hard sometimes for us not to lie. We feel that we have to say something "nice", even if it's not true. We will often give false compliments and tell ourselves that we are doing so for the benefit of the other person: we want to encourage that person. But is this our true motive for giving trite compliments that we really don't mean? Isn't the real reason we lie so that we can appear "nice"? I am not suggesting that we go around being mean and rude to others, and offering blatant honesty that is cruel and callous, just for the sake of offering truth. But when we are tempted to flatter, or when we are tempted to lie about our own flaws in an effort to preserve our image, are we really serving the other person or are we serving ourselves?When we lie to people or deceive them, when we do not keep our word, when we defraud another individual, we do not imitate a perfect, trustworthy, reliable God. Instead, we mimic the very actions of Satan.

Finally, consider this: "The ninth commandment covers any breach of confidence, devised to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage over another individual". God has commanded us not to bear false witness, because we are to be imitators of Christ. When we are dishonest, what we are actually doing is presenting an illusion in order to distract people away from the truth. Does this remind you of anyone? Who else can you think of that regularly seeks to distract people from the truth by persuading them to put their faith and trust in a lie?

Satan is a deceiver. The Bible calls him the father of lies. When we lie to people or deceive them, when we do not keep our word, when we defraud another individual, we do not imitate a perfect, trustworthy, reliable God. Instead, we mimic the very actions of Satan. This is why the ninth commandment is so vital to our Christian walk. While we as sinners don't think it's all that bad, the ninth law reflects back to us how unChristlike we are in comparison to the holy character of God, who never lies.

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