Epistle January 2012

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Church Meeting in Jesus’ Name

602 Oak Knoll

San Antonio, TX  78228

January 2012



Event Calendar

January 15, Sunday evening 7:00 pm

Invited Speaker, with David Spurgeon

February 4, Saturday

Ladies’ meeting

February 17 – 26, Friday through second Sunday

Revival Meeting with Brent Riggs

June 25 -29, Monday through Friday

Vacation Bible School

July 15 – 22, Sunday through Sunday

Annual World Evangelism Conference

October 19 – 20 Friday 6:00 pm and Saturday all day

Men’s meeting

November 25, Sunday morning 10:00 am

Thanksgiving open meeting and dinner on the grounds


Check out these websites:

gatheringsinjesusname.org         Our Church home page

nacidodelespiritu.net                     Our Gospel sermons in Spanish

countedrighteous.org                     Our Gospel sermons in English




Put Away Lying

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.   Ephesians 4

Paul’s argument to the Ephesians is that they are “new” in Christ, so they should live like it. The “new man” is created in righteousness and true holiness, so Paul immediately applies a number of prescriptions against the old way, against bitterness, wrath and anger, stealing and corrupt communication among other similar things. But the first prescription in the new life is to “put away lying.” This is not to say that lying is an inherently worse sin than all the others, but after pointing out that the old life was corrupted according to deceitful lusts, our lying appears to be the right place to start. And as hard as it is to connect the dots, the fact remains, if you don’t want to be deceived, you have to stop lying. Why this is so is a little mysterious, but one thing is sure, the liar we are most vulnerable to is the one in our own heart.

It should also be pointed out that the prescription is not to just stop lying, which is hard enough to do by itself (try it sometime), but to “put it away,” which you might imagine to be even harder, yet as it turns out, it is the only way to get there from here. Putting it away implies a heart-felt commitment to truth, a life-altering decision against the very philosophy of deceit. In Solomon’s words, “buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23). Deep commitment to truth is rejection of dishonesty in all its manifestations, even the ones you are infatuated with. The reason why lying is so hard to overcome is that the root of our problem is our subconscious admiration of fiction and make-believe, in all categories from politics to psychology to politeness. The prescription Paul writes is to put it all away.

The Lie: Lying is communicating something you know to be false. Not every falsehood is a lie, of course. If you believe it to be true it isn’t a lie, it is just a mistake. While we ought to be careful not to make mistakes in our speech, Paul is not concerned here with innocent errors. But not counting inaccuracy and blunders, declaring deliberate falsehoods is a genuine evil common in every day life, and a main ingredient in every single human conversation. I know some people claim they don’t lie, at least not outright, but they are mistaken, to put it charitably.

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.   Psalms 58

All people claim to be, to know, to have seen, to have done things they are not, do not and have not. And the same people claim to have not done or not known what they indeed did and knew, especially to avoid blame. Aaron’s pathetic “I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf,” comes to mind (Ex.32:24). Even an evasive “I don’t know” is an outright lie, just like the carefully maintained “plausible deniability” CEOs and high level public servants worry about. Most lies are hard to prove, of course, and generally we don’t bother trying to discern them. It’s just not worth it. It is usually easier to just ignore what people  say.

The Pretense: What is amazing about lying is that it is done when absolutely unnecessary. Of course people lie when something is on the line. When a lie is worth thousands of dollars in the sale of a used car, or when the truth may cost you your job, the lie seems to make sense. But quite often the lie is not necessary or even reasonable. People lie to impress others, to improve a story, or even just to have something to say. People build elaborate self-images (what hippie psychologists call “finding yourself”) and say whatever comes to mind to fill in the gaps in your understanding of their invented personality. Even preachers are guilty. They often use “convictions,” emotional displays, personal anecdotes or even hard preaching to create a persona behind the pulpit that isn’t real, isn’t necessary and doesn’t help. Yet if the goal is “spiritual,” or even entertainment, it doesn’t seem wrong. And nothing is more dangerous to the soul than something wrong that doesn’t seem so. The building and maintaining of a personal “image” may seem necessary to psychologists, but it is not compatible with true holiness.

The Exaggeration:  Of course, most people will agree that lying is wrong, and that the temptation should be resisted. But it is amazing how tolerant we are of “degrees” of truth. People are experts at starting with basic facts and improving them. This is why auditors flag round numbers. Precision is truth, while vagueness often masks deception. This is not to criticize hyperbole, of course, as in describing a flock of birds on your lawn as a “gazillion” instead of “several hundred,” which may be a relatively innocent exaggeration for emphasis. But “flourishing” a resumé, or “bundling” tax deductions, or “brushing with broad strokes” when describing an investment opportunity, is illegal in all countries for a reason.  There is some value in ballpark figures if the objective is perception, not persuasion. Maybe if you don’t remember the exact figure you should practice rounding down (or rounding up, if you are telling your husband how much it cost).

The False Impression: The depraved idea that truth can “bend” is as common among believers as anywhere else. You may have noticed there are clever ways of speaking that leave false impressions. A billboard promotes a bank saying “we give women the credit they deserve.” The slogan may have been innocently intended to inform us of an equal opportunity attitude, but the way it is crafted actually creates an illusion that this bank gives women more credit than other banks. It doesn’t actually say it, so the lie isn’t in the words, just in the impression. In this case, the slogan says nothing noteworthy at all, and the impression is almost certainly false, which makes it hard to assume it was unintentional. Clever people think this is marketing. True holiness knows this is just old-as-dirt mendacity.

The Deceit:  Lying is untruth spoken, but deceit is truth unspoken. It is the art of selective recall. There has never been a natural born person who didn’t master it as a child. How soon we learn to leave out relevant information and fill in the gaps with crafty distractions. You may have noticed this is the reigning philosophy of modern advertising, which has almost completely discarded the value of objective, truthful comparison to sell a product. Dodge doesn’t market their pick-ups as 90% as dependable and 75% as expensive as Ford’s, which is actually valuable information, and may explain why Dodge pick-ups compete well in a free market (I’m guessing on the statistics). You may have heard that people who switch insurance carriers save hundreds of dollars a year, but you may not have heard about those who didn’t switch because 15 minutes on the phone brought them a quote nearly double what they were paying already. You should know that if the coin has another side you are dishonest not to show it, even in marketing. Of course, to be clear, deceit is not the same thing as holding your tongue.

11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.   Proverbs 29

Fools talk too much (Eccl. 10:14), and holding your peace is counted for wisdom (Prov. 17:28). Deceit, however, is not silence, but willfully giving incomplete information. Jesus described his own attitude when he said, “if it were not so, I would have told you” (John 14:2). It certainly matters if the information is something the hearer deserves to know, as in a prospective buyer. Now, if someone asks you a personal question, you may feel the need to give an incomplete, or even misleading answer, which may indeed be deceitful, but is not in the same category as when there is a right to know. If the deceit is solely to avoid the complication of telling someone to mind their own business, or that the dress doesn’t make her look any fatter than she actually is, perhaps there is some justification. I’m not saying that such deceit is better than telling the unpolished truth, which hurts feelings, but that type of “disinformation” is not the same thing as outright deceit. Still, putting away lying means consciously disavowing partial truth.

The Bright Side: We all know the value of a positive outlook, and the burden of a cynical, depressed mentality. Optimists are a “breath of fresh air” so to speak. Unless, of course, optimism is unwarranted. Optimism has no value in itself. It is only valuable if it is true. Commitment to truth like Paul is demanding includes a rejection of this sort of selective focus on the encouraging, uplifting side of things, that so many Christians endorse. This is not to say that negative thinking and pessimism are better, but if truth is the objective, we have to be objective. Any tweaking of the information is unacceptable dishonesty.

Being too careful in speech: Paul said his speech was not with enticing words even when preaching the Gospel (1 Cor. 2:4), and that he made a point of using “great plainness of speech” (2 Cor. 3:12). For those who have decided to put away lying, or genuinely see it as the objective in their daily life, plainness is the most beautiful form of speech. Politicians’ hedging answers, commercial advertisements, celebrity endorsements, lawyers’ best case arguments, carefully practiced excuses, polite turns of phrase, even pre-written sermons come across as performances by confidence men – smooth, stealthy, sneaky, dodgy, calculating, crafty con-men. If you do you not find yourself earnestly longing for others to just say what’s on their mind already, you may still be addicted to fiction. Jesus told the apostles, “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer…” (Luke 21:14). If you put away lying, you don’t have to be crafty, or even so careful. The truth makes you free.

But the truth doesn’t necessarily make you friends. Putting away lying is a life-changing decision. It may not make you a better salesman or lawyer (of course you can’t know this until you try it). I’m reminded of Philippe Gaston, the little “mouse,” on the movie “Ladyhawke,” regretting the results of a moment of honesty, saying that every good thing he had ever received he got as a result of lying. It certainly may appear to be so, at least at first. But the “peacable fruit of righteousness” is yielded only long after the grievous chastening (Heb. 12:11). It is true that righteousness is its own reward, and would be worth pursuing even if it came emptyhanded. But it never does. Still, the point here is that our lives would be more pleasing to God were we to put away lying. And there is really nothing else to live for, is there?