rejecting lies

Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

Isaiah 44:20

If there’s one thing that’s harder to get rid of than anything else, maybe it’s any lie that’s accepted for whatever reason. Often we know better, that what we’re accepting is at least questionable, or if you would analyze it, not bringing out all the best in us. And as one would well expect, lies are often subtle. They come with truth, sometimes half truths, or with good along with the fatal flaw.

In Scripture as in the passage above, idolatry is tied to the lie, anything that takes the place of God in our lives. The appeal is to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, as old as the first sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).We are caught up and carried away by something that we as Christians ought to have no part in. Again, on the face of it, it may seem innocent, or at least have justification. The result of idolatry is exactly what is stated above: feeding on what is not good with a deluded heart.

Left to ourselves we’re helpless. We need God’s grace in Christ, otherwise we’re likely to replace one lie with another. Instead we need to repent, when we’re willing and ready to be humbled, rather than remain in our own pride. In and through Jesus.

 

read the Sermon on the Mount

I really don’t think Christians or the Christianity in general which I grew up with (even as a Mennonite, perhaps) took seriously enough Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. And Jesus told his disciples before his ascension that they were not only to be witnesses of him, to proclaim him, but to teach all those baptized from all nations to the end of the age to obey all he commanded them. The Sermon on the Mount is a centerpiece of what he taught and commanded.

I have seen gossip*, as well as unloving attitudes among Christians, rolling one’s eyes up against another, simply too common (with wonderful exceptions). We chalk that down to the thought that we’re sinners (and, “Everyone does it.”). Or we even justify it. But actually it’s disobedience to Christ, the one who says that if we love him, we’ll do what he commands. We make a big deal out of protecting ourselves with guns from any intruder, or any enemy, when Jesus tells us otherwise. We make it a priority to gain wealth, maybe get a nice slice of the pie in the American enterprise to realize something of the American Dream when Jesus tells us plainly in the Sermon that instead we’re to pursue his kingdom. And not to do that. Or what about our propensity to put hard and fast judgments on others.

From a misreading of scripture we’ve had at least one whole section of the church relegate the Sermon on the Mount either to a bygone day, or a time yet to come. Which actually ended up infecting many churches and Christians, who officially did not hold to that doctrine. And we’ve had other leaders who gave lip service to the Sermon (in the Reformation), but whose theology really had little room for it. They still lived in and imported much of what had been the norm for Israel in the old covenant.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount, and then seeing much of the rest of the New Testament to a large extent echoing as well as unfolding the teaching of that Sermon is not only eye opening, but revolutionary to one’s faith and practice. Instead we are relegated to a significant degree to get on better on our worldly way, now that we have Christ.

Words are cheap, and it’s easy to talk this way. Much harder to live it out. But we need to do just that. We need each other in this. As the Sermon along with all of Jesus’ teachings and example, and all the truth that is in Jesus becomes more and more the heart of who we are together in him in our witness to the world.

*I mentioned gossip when writing this, probably because those who see Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount as important for our lives today, would at least know better than to do that. Although gossip does not break the letter of the Sermon since it is not mentioned, it shatters the spirit of it.

sin is a delusion

Of course sin is that which is not of God, not in harmony with God, and goes against God.  It is what we humans live in apart from God’s grace in Jesus. And even in God’s grace in Jesus, we are not fully emptied of it. At its heart, sin is a delusion.

That comes across most powerfully to us when we are enchanted by a spell that can come over us, and if we’re not careful, recognizing it for what it is and resisting it, it can take over our lives. Lust is a prime example, which we are deluded to see as love, though honest, painstaking reflection should expose the lie for what it is. Or grandiose plans to “succeed” in life and live “the good life” which ends up for most, out of reach. And for those who reach it, they find that it is not all it was cracked up to be. Or it is not enough.

The world, the flesh and the devil are all in alliance to keep humankind in the grip of sin’s delusion. We need to know this, and then begin by faith to take up the resources from the victory that is in Jesus to live as those who overcome. Who more and more escape sin’s delusion to live more and more in the reality which is from God in Jesus.

There are times when we will experience attack. It may take a day or so for it to wear off, but be assured that it will, if we resist such an advance by faith and through Jesus. We will then come to see the lie that is in it. The lie that we’ve missed out, or are missing out somehow. Not to say that sin does not have its pleasure for a season. But in the end it leaves us empty and devoid of real life. Rather, we are to rest in the truth as it is in Jesus, and live in that reality.

This delusion is present throughout the world, doing its harm everywhere, through injustice as well as personal sins. As we are more and more grounded together in the truth which is in Jesus–a grounding which does not mean we’re above the fray, or not needing confession and restoration along the way–we together can be a help to others. Indeed that is what God calls us as Christ’s Body to do. Not only to look after and take care of each other. But also to live out the way of Jesus which is for the world. With him as the Head, we his Body are to live out the truth of this reality which is in him. And we are to bring that reality into other’s lives, and into all of life in this world.