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Walking In Our Father's Footsteps - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 4:25-5:2

  • 2009-07-05 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


I think it's safe to say that if you or I were invited to a small, informal dinner at the White House with the president, we would probably be a little uncomfortable. You'd wonder what was protocol, how and when to speak and when to sit and when to stand, where to sit. And then you'd sit down at the table with that formal setting and suddenly go into sheer panic. What am I supposed to do with all of that silverware? And when, and in what order do I use it?

Apparently, this very situation, this very circumstance, was the experience of some people during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge. The story is told that Calvin Coolidge invited some people from his hometown to a small, formal dinner at the White House. And like we would feel, they weren't exactly clear on how they should behave and what they should do. And so together, before they left their little hometown or perhaps on the way, they agreed among themselves that they would simply follow the president's lead. Whatever he did, that would be the sign for them to do as well which seemed to be a good policy.

And it worked very well through the entire meal, and they were beginning to be a little more at ease about the whole situation until it came time for coffee to be served after dinner. In shock and surprise, they watched as the president poured his coffee not into his cup, but into his saucer. He set the coffee cup gently to one side and proceeded to pour his coffee into the saucer in which the cup had sat. Well, although this was unlike anything they had ever seen before, they decided they couldn't go wrong by imitating the president and doing what he did, so they did the same.

Each in turn put his cup or her cup to the side and poured the coffee into the saucer. Then when the president added a little bit of cream to the coffee that was in his saucer and a little bit of sugar and began to stir it around, they each followed suit; they copied his actions to the "T." As remarkable as all of this seemed to them, they were sure that the very next thing the president would do would be to take the saucer that he had filled with the coffee and the sugar and the cream and, and begin to gently sip out of it. Imagine their surprise when instead, the president leaned over, placed the saucer on the floor and called for the White House cat.

Imitation is not always a good thing. As humans, much of our behavior, in fact, I think it would be safe to say that many of our choices are in fact the imitation of others. Lord Chesterfield wrote, "We are in truth more than half what we are by imitation." Eric Hoffer writes, "When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." William James, who I don't quote often favorably, writes, "No living person is sunk so low as not to be imitated by somebody."

We don't usually think of ourselves as imitating others. We certainly don't call it that. We usually think of it more as a product of peer pressure. But in reality, we are imitators. Just think for a moment about how much of your life is about imitating others. It starts with the very basic thing of how you decorate your body, your person. The hairstyle you have today, you'd like to think that it's unique, but in fact, you wear that style because you are imitating others. Your clothes, it's imitation. The reason you're sitting here today in those clothes and not in 1970's clothes is because you are imitating the people around you. The kind of car you drive, how you decorate your home, what entertainment choices you make, how you communicate.

When I was in California, it was amazing to hear how even communication was a thing that was freely imitated. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard sentences punctuated with words like "like." If only "like," "ya know," "like" and "ya know." If I had a dollar for every time I heard that in California, I'd be a wealthy man. And all of that was imitation. Expressing even what we find good and desirable, finding words to express that, we do so in imitation of others. When I was growing up, things were "cool" and I think that's still cool to say, but we've added others through time that have sort of come and gone – things like "da bomb," or I think more recently it's "sick." If something's really good and desirable, it's "sick." Hope that one doesn't last very long.

Imitation of others even shapes our priorities and the list could go on and on and on. We are, by nature, imitators. That's how we learn much of what we learn as we're growing up. We imitate others. That's how we learn language. That's how we learn so many basic behaviors from our parents. Imitation is in one sense a gift from God that allows us to learn. The problem is, because we are fallen human beings, this human propensity for imitation invariably imitates (what?) the bad. In fact, Jesus said we imitate most frequently our spiritual Father.

Turn with me to John's gospel. Start in John 5. In John 5, Jesus is talking about Himself and His relationship with His Father. John 5:19, you remember in the verse 18 the Jews were seeking to kill Him because He was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God, perhaps even using that Aramaic word "Abba," "Papa." Verse 19, "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.'" Jesus was saying here on earth as He lived His life, He lived imitating His Father.

But that wasn't just true of Jesus; it's true of all of us. Turn over to John 8. Jesus makes this point about us. John 8:38. Jesus is talking to the Jewish people, unregenerate people, and He says this to them in verse 38, "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father." You're imitating your father as well. And they said and well, our father's Abraham. And Jesus says oh no he's not because if you really were children of Abraham, you wouldn't be seeking to kill me. Verse 41, "You are doing [He says again] the deeds of your father." And they said well wait a minute. Not Abraham, God is our Father. And Jesus says oh no He's not. Verse 42, … "If God were Your Father, you would love Me." And verse 44, He makes the diagnosis. "You [meaning all people by nature, all unregenerate people] are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

You hear what Jesus is saying? He's saying as a Son, I imitate My Father and you're trying to kill Me for it. You need to know you imitate your father as well. And your father, Jesus says, and He would say it to every one of us apart from God's grace, your father is the devil. And you want to imitate your father in hating and murdering and lying. This is your nature and you want to imitate your father. That's who we are by nature; that's who we are by birth. But as we have learned in Ephesians, we now have a new Father. We have, as believers, been adopted by God Himself. And like Jesus said of His own relationship to His Father, we should now want to do what our adopted Father does. We should want to imitate Him. We should want to follow Abba, Papa.

Today we return again to our study of Ephesians 4, and we come to this very issue, the importance of imitating God as our Father. Now before we get lost in the trees again, I want to make sure you're not lost here. And so, let me raise us up to above the tree level, and let me give you again the structure of where we are. You'll remember that Ephesians is essentially laying out for us God's eternal plan, His plan for us in Christ, His plan for His church, and His plan for how we ought to live as His new creation, so God's eternal plan. The first three chapters describe our position as a result of that eternal plan - what God has done in us and for us. It's all about doctrine; it's all about what God has accomplished, only one command in the entire first three chapters, 2:11, "remember."

But you come to chapter 4 and chapters 4 through 6 are about practice, how to live out that new position that we have gained because of God's eternal plan for us, how to live it out in practice. The second half of the book is filled with commands, both clear and implied. The second half of the book that we're studying together is summarized in one verse. Ephesians 4:1, look at it. "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you [I beg you, I plead with you] to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called," "The calling with which you have been called," that expression is shorthand for everything you learned in the first three chapters. Walk worthy of the position you now have in Christ. The rest of the book, beginning in chapter 4:2 through the rest of the book, Paul explains how you and I can walk worthy of the high position and privilege to which we have been called in Christ.

Now let me show you how this breaks down. I'm going to lay out a little roadmap for the rest of the book for you so you know where we're going. Walk worthy. If you're going to walk worthy of the position you have in Christ, first of all you have to walk in unity, walk in unity. Ephesians 4:1 through 16 tells us we must walk in unity. You remember verse 1, "walk," verse 3, "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Walk in unity.

A second way we can walk worthy is to walk in new life, walk in new life. This is from chapter 4:17 - 24. We've already examined this paragraph as well. You want to walk worthy? Walk in unity and walk in new life. Verse 17, don't walk like the Gentiles walk [don't live like they live]. Live [verse 20] like you learned Christ. Walk in new life.

The third way we can walk worthy begins in chapter 4:25 and goes down through chapter 5:2. And it's walk in love, walk in love. Notice chapter 5:1, "… be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love."

The fourth way that we can walk worthy of our calling is to walk in light, walk in light - 5:3 - 14. You'll notice, in the middle of this paragraph, Paul tells us exactly this. Verse 8, "for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light." Walk in light – that is, walk in holiness, in a life of holiness.

The fifth way that we can walk worthy is to walk in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit. It begins, this section does, in 5:15 and runs through 6:9. Walk in the Spirit. Notice verse 15, "Therefore be careful how you walk …" And then he comes to the heart of it, verse 18, "be filled with the Spirit." Walk in a way that is being filled with the Spirit. And we'll deal with that when we get there, what that means. And what flows out of that are the relationships that we are to have in ways that honor God down through 6:9.

And then really from 6:10 through the end of the rest of the book, it's just Paul's conclusion. This is where he has that powerful illustration of the armor we're to put on. So, you see then, this book is about what God has done for us and how we ought to walk, that is, how we ought to live in light of that. Walk or live in a way that's worthy of that position. And you must walk in unity, you must walk in new life, you must walk in love, you must walk in light or holiness, and you must walk in the Spirit. We're going to look, we've looked at two of those already. We've seen we must walk worthy of our new position in Christ by walking in unity and walking in new life.

Today we come to the third way we can walk worthy and the next paragraph in this marvelous letter. Let me read it for you, Ephesians 4:25 down through 5:2. Paul writes,

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Sometimes when you're studying a passage of Scripture, a paragraph of Scripture, the theme is not immediately obvious. Other times like here, the biblical paragraph actually states the theme outright. When that happens, that clear statement of the theme, can come anywhere in the paragraph, but usually it comes either at the beginning of the paragraph or at the end of the paragraph as it does in this case. Paul summarizes this entire paragraph I just read for you at the end. Look at again at verse 1 of chapter 5, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love." Basically, Paul is saying this, if we want to walk in a way that's worthy of our new position in Christ, then we must walk in our Father's footsteps and we must live a life that is defined by, that is saturated by, that is permeated by, God's love.

As Paul develops this theme of walking in our Father's footsteps and thereby walking in love, he describes how we can imitate our Father, he commands us to imitate our Father, and he explains why we should imitate our Father. So, as we look at this paragraph together, we're going to look at the way to imitate God [that's in verses 25 - 32]. We're going to look at the command to imitate God (5:1 and the beginning of verse 2) and then the reason to imitate God (chapter 5, the second part of verse 2).

Let's begin then to examine today the way to imitate God. Beginning in verse 25 down through the end of chapter 4, Paul provides us with some illustrations - five illustrations, five examples, of how to imitate God by walking in love. Each of these has a prohibition, an exhortation and a reason, in other words, a negative, a positive and a reason. Look at verse 25, you'll see this. The negative: "laying aside falsehood," the positive, "speak truth," the reason, "for (because) we are members of one another." And he does that as he works his way down through this section.

Understand that these five ways to imitate God are not all-inclusive. In other words, in other words rather, there are other ways to walk in love. There are other ways to imitate God and God's love than these, but these are the five examples that Paul chooses to use here. We could ask why. Why these five examples? And we can only guess, but I will tell you this. By the time we're done studying these together, you will see that these sins are incredibly common and that the virtues that are commanded in place of these sins are incredibly important in the life of every Christian because they concern mostly communication. I would go far as to say this, that if you and I would work at just these five examples of imitating God and walking in His love, it would revolutionize our relationships.

So, let's look at them together. The way to imitate God, the section begins with the important word "therefore." Verse 25, "therefore." This tells us that what follows is a logical development. It's an application of the previous paragraph. You remember in verses 20 to 24 we looked at the process of sanctification, the process of real change; put off, be renewed in your thinking, put on. In verse 25 and following, we have the practice of real change. Paul is moving from the general and the principle to the specific and the application. So all of these five examples are really accomplishing a couple of things. They are examples of how true change happens; put off the sin, be renewed in your thinking, and put on the virtue in its place. And together, these five illustrations fill out how to be imitators of God and how to walk in love, or the way to imitate God in His love.

The first of Paul's five illustrations of how to walk in love like our Father is this, don't lie; instead, speak the truth. You want to imitate God? You want to walk in His love? Then don't lie; instead, speak the truth. Verse 25, "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." I don't need to tell you that we live in a world that is filled with falsehood. I see examples in the lives around me constantly, repairmen who urged me to lie with them to their company for my advantage or for theirs.

Recently, we had a waiter urge my girls to lie so that they could get a cheaper meal. This is pandemic; this is part of the culture. One author writes, "Dishonesty has become a way of life in our society, candy bar wrappers twice the size of the candy, plastic toys that have no chance of surviving a few hours of play, advertisements that ignore a product's faults and exaggerate its qualities, cheating on automobile repairs, cheating in the classroom and infidelity in marriage."

I think I've shared with you before that several years ago, I read a survey that said that sixty percent, sixty, 6-0 percent, of Americans believe lying is sometimes necessary. Ninety-three percent admitted that they lie regularly on the job. Two percent and this is incredible to me, two percent actually admitted to lying on the survey about lying. It is a pervasive human condition.

Paul makes this very clear. Turn back to Romans 1. When he gets to the indictment of humanity in Romans 1:28, he says, "… as [mankind as a whole] … did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper [what are those things that aren't proper? Verse 29,] being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife and deceit…." Humanity is full of deceit, but Paul gets even more specific when he gets to chapter 3.

Turn over to chapter 3. As he finishes up this section on the need for the righteousness from God, he sets the scene for the need for the gospel, he indicts all of humanity in Romans 3:9. He lumps together Jews and Greeks, in other words, everybody that exists are all under sin. And then he goes into a series of quotes from the Old Testament to prove that, we're all under sin. "as it is written, [here we go, here's the biblical proof, Paul says, listen to these texts], THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, [no one morally grasps God or His ways], THERE IS NOT ONE PERSON WHO SEEKS FOR GOD." Let that rattle around in your brain for a moment. Not one individual ever really seeks God. You say what about all the world religions? The point is, those are ways to run from God, not to seek Him. There are none, there is none rather, who seeks for God. Verse 12, "ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD (there's the will), THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." So he gives this sort of universal indictment of all humanity. When he gets to the specifics, notice where he begins. Verse 13, "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP [on] DECEIVING." This is pervasive in the human condition of a depraved, fallen heart. We are, by nature, liars. As Jesus said in John 8, we are like our father the devil, who was a liar from the beginning. We delight in lies.

Now what common forms does falsehood take? Let me just give you a couple of things to think about. Obviously lying, lying we normally use to mean contradicting or denying the truth, saying something is A when we know it's B, lying. Slander is another form. This is essentially telling a lie about someone else in order to either raise ourselves up or to tear them down. But you don't have to contradict the truth to lie. You can also deceive. Active deception is lying, trying to convince someone else to accept as true what you know to be false, even if you don't come right out and contradict the truth. A lot of people salve their consciences by doing this. They'll play mind games with themselves, and they will actively deceive another person without using words that contradict the truth and thereby think that they are somehow morally acceptable to God. It is lying. This includes hypocrisy, pretending to be a spiritually minded person when you know you're not. It also includes flattery, saying something to someone else when in fact you don't believe it.

But you don't have to even speak to be engaged in falsehood. You can be engaged in falsehood with the deception of silence. You can simply lead them to believe something by being silent, something you know that isn't true. False accusations, another way we engage in falsehood, where we say something, we accuse somebody of something that is either not true altogether or is an overstatement of the truth. A fellow elder in California who served on the Board of Elders there at Grace with me was in law enforcement. And he told me that, at least in California, law enforcement spends much of its time clearing the innocent of false charges and accusations that other people bring. Lying, it's pervasive in these forms and many more.

The question is where did lying come from? Where did it start? Where did it originate? Well, the, if you go back to the very beginning to the book of Genesis, the first falsehood ever communicated on earth came from the mouth of Satan to Eve. Genesis 3:4, he, he says to Eve, "You will not surely die!" The first human falsehood comes in the very next chapter. God asked Cain, "Where is your brother?" whom of course he had killed. And Cain responds to God, "I do not know," Genesis 4:9. That was the first human lie. Its ultimate source, as we've already seen, is Satan himself. He is a liar and the father of all liars. In fact, even Christians, when we lie, ultimately that's the source. He's not responsible; we are, but the source is Satan himself. You remember what Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 when they decided and agreed together they were going to say they sold their property for more than, than they actually did so that they could act like, or less rather than they actually did, so they could act like they were giving it all? And Peter says, "Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit."

Why do people lie? Why is it that they lie? Why are we all tempted to lie? What makes this sin so pervasive? Now this is very important. Understand this. Lying is never an end in itself. Dishonesty is merely a tool to get what we want. So there are actually sinful reasons in our hearts behind the act of lying. Let me give you a little list. This isn't an all-inclusive list. This is just some of the more common reasons people lie. And I'm going to give you examples from the Scripture to illustrate it.

Reason number one, to dodge what we fear, to avoid what we fear. Abraham did this to Abimelech, you remember in Genesis 20:2? He lied about Sarah being his sister [why?] because he was afraid that because Sarah was so beautiful that Abimelech might do some harm to Abraham in order to get Sarah. So he lies about it out of fear to protect himself. Sarah does the same thing in Genesis 18:15. You remember, God shows up, the second person of the Trinity, with a couple of angels to tell Abraham about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and that Sarah's going to have a son in her old age. And you remember, Sarah's listening in the tent and what does she do? She laughs, but when she's confronted with it, she says, "I did not laugh." [why?] because she was afraid of the possible consequences. There was fear.

Peter, confronted around the fire, you remember, on the night of the crucifixion. Aren't you one of his followers? I am not. Why did Peter lie? Out of fear. We often lie, are tempted to lie, out of fear.

A second reason is to be thought well of, to be thought well of. I just gave you the example of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Remember? They lied, they conspired together to lie because they wanted people to say, "Wow, how spiritual they are. Look, they gave all the proceeds of that property they sold." They wanted to be thought well of. And we often lie for this reason. We embellish the stories of the past. We exaggerate, we call it. It's a lie. We do various things to make ourselves look good. You know, it's like that shirt that I want to get one of these days that says "The Older I Get, the Better I Was." It's part of the human condition.

Sometimes we lie, number three, to be considered spiritual. Do you ever lie to make people think you were really more spiritual than you are? How many, how much time you're spending in the Word of God, how much time you're praying, what you do, don't do. Well, it's not new with you. It's happened before. In fact, all the way back in the Old Testament. First Samuel 15:13. You remember Samuel comes up and confronts Saul who was supposed to have killed all the Amalekites and taken care of the, all their stuff, and he's brought back some of the spoils, and he wasn't supposed to do that. And when he comes up to Samuel, what does he say? "I have obeyed all the Lord's command." Why? Why did he lie? I mean after all, you know, pretty soon he's going to get caught with the sheep and the cattle. Because he wanted to be spiritually thought well of, to be considered spiritual.

And by the way, it happens in the New Testament as well. First Timothy 4:2, Paul says false teachers will lie to make themselves look more spiritual. Listen, turn on the television. You hear some guy talking about his trip to heaven. He is lying in order to make himself look good and spiritual. People do that.

Number five, people lie to gain financial advantage. This is a common one, to gain some financial advantage. In Genesis 27:19, Jacob tells Isaac that he's Esau in order to get Esau's blessing. You remember how they go through that charade, and he puts the hair on and all that and they go through this whole deal to deceive Isaac (why?) because Jacob wants Esau's blessing. Listen, it wasn't about just getting some good words from Isaac. With the blessing came financial advantage. He wanted the financial advantage so he lied to get it. And this is a real temptation, even with Christians in business. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed said they had lied in their business, and sometimes it's to get financial advantage. Proverbs 21:6, "The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue Is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death."

On my little list here, the final reason I'll give you for why people lie is, we sometimes lie to hide our own guilt, to hide our own guilt. Genesis 4:9, Cain lied. I don't know where Abel is (why?) because he wanted to hide his guilt. Do you remember when Joseph's brothers sell him off into Egypt, to slavery? And then they take his coat and they put animal blood on it and they tear it up and they make it look like, he's been chewed up by an animal? And they bring it to their father. Why did they go through that charade? Why did they present that? Because they were trying to hide their own guilt, and often times, we lie to hide our own guilt as well. There's sin involved, and we have to lie to cover the other sin.

So then in Ephesians 5:25, Paul comes to us and he says listen, every believer must completely reject the practice of lying and become known for telling the truth. Notice what he says. Ephesians 4:25, "laying aside falsehood." The Greek word translated "falsehood" is "pseudos." You recognize the word "pseudo?" It's used ten times in the New Testament. It's translated "false," "what is false" "lying," "a lie." It's consistently contrasted with the truth. First John 2:21, "(No 'pseudos'), … no lie is of the truth." So Paul here is clearly referring to lying. Literally, he says, laying aside the falsehood or the lie. It's a special use of the Greek article. It's speaking of lying in a collective sense. We could translate it "laying aside every lie," "all lying," "the practice of lying."

Colossians 3:9, the parallel passage, makes it very clear. "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices." The person you used to be died. Take off the clothes that belong to that old person, the clothes of the practice of lying.

In Ephesians, he puts it very clearly. Ephesians, "laying aside falsehood," laying aside, putting off as a piece of clothing. Here the believer is to lay aside as a coat the practice of in any way distorting the truth and instead, he's to put on, look what he's to put on, verse 25, "speak the truth each one of you." "Each one of you" of course in the context is referring to every Ephesian believer who heard this letter read, every believer. Each one of you speak the truth.

This is quoted from the Old Testament actually. It comes from the Septuagint, Zechariah 8:16. And it's interesting. We don't have time to turn there, but in context, Zechariah is talking about when God restores Israel ultimately to her land in the millennial kingdom and when she's living righteously. And the very first thing he mentions that she will be doing is speaking the truth each one with his neighbor. This is part of what it means to live following God.

By the way, the verb tense here of "speaking the truth" is literally "be speaking the truth." It's the present tense; it's a continual habit which characterizes your life. Be speaking the truth. Lay aside falsehood in all its forms and be speaking the truth.

This verse is emphasizing, as we learned last week, the principle of replacement. The best way to stop lying is to tell the truth. How do you do that? Well, you start by confessing lying as sin. Confess every time you catch yourself lying as a sin to God and confess whatever it was in your heart, the sin in your heart that led you to lie, whether it was pride, or fear, or that list I gave you, or maybe others. And then, confess it and make it right, and then when you are in the middle of a conversation and you catch yourself having misrepresented the truth in some way, having lied, stop immediately. Make this covenant with yourself that you're going to stop right then and correct yourself. Say something like, "No, that's not right" or "Well, no, you know actually," and then say it correctly. Bottom line is diligently cultivate a life of truthfulness. That's what Paul is saying. Be scrupulous about how you handle the truth. Samuel Johnson commented that "it is more from carelessness about truth than from intentional lying that there is so much falsehood in the world." Be scrupulous with the truth.

Notice verse 25 adds, "Be speaking the truth each one of you with his neighbor." The Greek word for "neighbor" literally means "the one near," "the one close by." That defines the scope of our responsibility. It includes the way we use the English word "neighbor." You know, we talk about the guy who lives next door or down the street, but it's much broader than that as well. According to Jesus, your neighbor is (who?) anyone you come in contact with as you learned from the story of the good Samaritan. But the emphasis here, as well as in Zechariah, isn't on all humanity. We should be honest with all of humanity, but it's particularly on fellow believers. God demands that every believer's interaction with every other believer be characterized by the truth. Why? Look at the reason, the theological reason, at the end of verse 25, "for (because) we are members of one another." In this context, Paul only gives us one argument for why we should always tell the truth, because we are members of one another.

This takes us back to all we learned in the first three chapters, remember? Because of what God has done, He's brought us together as members of the same family. He's also brought us together as members of the body of Christ. Christ, the head, we the members of the body. It's illogical, it's dangerous, it's foolish for one member of the body to lie to another member of the body. John McKay writes, "A lie is a stab into the very vitals of the body of Christ." John Chrysostom, the ancient church father and expositor, wrote, "If the eye sees a snake, does it deceive the foot? If the nose smells a deadly poison, will it lie to the mouth? If the tongue tastes what is bitter, does it deceive the stomach?" It's obviously not. You see the point is our lying to one another is every bit as dangerous, it's every bit as illogical, as one member of our physical body lying to the rest of our physical body. We must not do it. And when we do it, it's because we care about (whom?) ourselves.

Paul Tripp, in his book War of Words, writes this,

Dishonesty occurs when we look out for ourselves first. I want your respect or acceptance, so I trim the truth to hide my faults. I want your trust and confidence, so I'm dishonest about my failings. I find confrontation distasteful, so I avoid issues that lead to conflict. There are things I want from you, so I shade the details to my advantage. I do not want the embarrassment of confessing wrong to you, so I cast past events in a light that's favorable to me. I don't want you to know that I failed you, so I concoct some acceptable excuse." He goes on to write, "Truth is the casualty when I love myself more than I love you, but speaking the truth means I will not sacrifice personal truth for personal ease. I will not buy what I want with the currency of falsehood; instead, I will exercise the gift of self-control over the desires of my sinful nature, speaking honest words no matter what the consequences may be.

Speaking the truth, Paul says. If you want to imitate God, speak the truth.

Now let me give you a couple of warnings to speaking the truth. This doesn't mean you should speak brutally to others. "Well, I need to speak the truth, so here goes. Here's what I really think of you." No, we're to speak the truth in love, the Bible says. Nor does speaking the truth require breaking a legitimate confidence, a legitimate secret. You don't have to tell everything you know. There are legitimate secrets and speaking the truth doesn't require you to reveal those. Speaking the truth does not demand that we dump all of our ill feelings and hatreds on the person that we dislike. It's not okay; it's a pseudo-honesty to come up to someone and say, "I just want you to know for the past five years, I have absolutely hated your guts." Being honest doesn't mean that we should broadcast detailed accounts of our sins. Yes, we should admit we sin. Yes, sometimes we have to even confess specific sins, but we don't need to broadcast detailed accounts of our sin to others.

Now as we finish our time together, I want to do one more thing with you. Paul only gives us one reason for not lying and for telling the truth here, and that's because we are members of one another. But throughout the rest of Scripture, there are a number of other compelling arguments for rejecting all forms of lying and embracing the truth. Let me just list them for you. I want you to think about this. Here's what Scripture tells us in other places about why we should speak the truth.

Number one, God commands it, God commands it. Exodus 20:16, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Leviticus 19:11, "You shall not lie to one another." Colossians 3:9, "Do not lie to one another." We shouldn't do it because God commands it.

Number two, because God especially hates it. You know there are some sins that God hates more than He hates other sin? That's what the Bible teaches, and this is one that He really hates more than others. Psalm 5:6, "You destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the man of deceit." Proverbs 6:16, "There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him." And number two is a lying tongue. Proverbs 12:22, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord."

A third reason that we should turn from lying and speak the truth is that liars will be found out and punished. Liars will always be caught. Proverbs 12:19, "Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment." Proverbs 19:5, "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape." Oh, maybe you won't be caught in this life, but you will be caught.

Number four, we should turn from lying because no liars will be in heaven, no liars will be in heaven. Revelation makes this very clear. Revelation 21:8, "The cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, the immoral persons, the sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." 21:27, "… nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into … (that holy city of heaven), but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." Revelation 22:15, "Outside [that is, outside of God's eternal dwelling] are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying."

There's one final reason we should turn from lying to the truth. And this one for us as Christians should be the biggest one of all. Our Father's character demands it. God's character demands truthfulness because He is. Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that He should lie." Titus 1:2, "… God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago." Hebrews 6:18, "It is impossible for God to lie." You know that's a great encouragement for us. Our God never ever ever lies. What He has said is true and will always be true. He will never misrepresent the truth. It'll always be exactly as He says.

And that brings us to the application. If we are going to imitate our new Father, and if we're going to walk in love toward others as He walks in love toward us, then like Him, we must always, always, always tell the truth because our new Father never lies. And when we lie, we reflect on the character of our new Father and lead others to believe that He too cannot be trusted. "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love."

Let's pray together.

Our Father, help us to see how incredibly important this passage is. Lord, we want as Your children to imitate You. It's amazing to us that You've adopted us, that You've made us Your own children. And Father, we want to walk like You walk. We want to live with the same patterns of behavior You exhibit, that characterize You. Father, You never ever lie. Help us to be equally committed to imitating You, our new Father, and not our old father who is a liar and the father of all lies.

Father, I pray that You would help us as Your own to follow the process we learned last week to put off, to lay aside falsehood, to be renewed in our thinking about this whole issue and its importance to You and to us, and then to put on the practice of being scrupulously careful with the truth.

We pray it for the honor of Your name, our Father, the One we desire to imitate. Amen.