Recently I came across a list of lies that we tell ourselves, and that we tell each other.
- The check is in the mail.
- I'll start my diet tomorrow.
- We service what we sell.
- Give me your number and the doctor will call you right back.
- Money cheerfully refunded.
- One size fits all.
- This offer limited to the first 100 people who call in.
- Your luggage isn't lost, it's only misplaced.
- Leave your resume and we'll keep it on file.
- This hurts me more than it hurts you.
- I just need five minutes of your time.
- Your table will be ready in a few minutes.
- Open wide, it won't hurt a bit.
- Let's have lunch sometime.[i]
Reading that list made me think of spiritual lies that we tell ourselves. Jesus wants us to know the truth, just like He wanted the people in His own day to know it.
The first lie we tell ourselves is that we’re free. Yes, in this country we have certain political freedoms, but we like to tell ourselves that we are free to our very core. The truth is that everybody is going to serve a master. Either you’re going to serve sin as its slave, or you’re going to become a servant God—set free from sin so you can live as a child of God, as a member of God’s family. John 8:33-36 says:
“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
The second lie we tell ourselves as Americans and as Christians is that we can fall back on our heritage. A lot of people think that God is impressed by the lineage we carry from pious ancestors. The truth is that God isn’t impressed by us at all—and that what God wants is people who claim Him as their spiritual Father. In verses 8:39-41a, Jesus refutes the people’s claim that they are special because of their parentage:
“Our father is Abraham!” they declared.
“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. No, you are imitating your real father.”
This leads us to the third lie, that you can claim God as your Father if you have no love. A child who is adopted from an abusive home into a loving family needs to choose which set of values they are going to adopt for themselves. Will they behave like their first father or their second? In verses 41b-47, Jesus tells them that their true Father is the one that they learn to act like.
They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”
Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
There are many people who claim to be Christians, yet they have no love for Christ at all. Jesus knows that they have no love for Him because they have no love for their fellow human beings (Matthew 25:40, 45). People like this may put on a good religious show, but God will easily judge between those who follow Him and those who don’t.
The Fourth Lie is that we can be the judge. Like self-righteous people of Jesus’ day, many Christians believe that they can judge others’ behavior based on their own limited understanding. People like this wouldn’t recognize a true move of God if it were right before their eyes. In verses 48 and 52, the “righteous” people declare that Jesus is a “Samaritan devil,” and twice they say that He has a demon. In verse 53, they ask Him, “Who do you think you are?” In verse 59, they pick up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus says, “No…I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge (vv. 49-50).” No, instead Jesus tells us not to judge (Matthew 7:1-3), and says that even He will not be the judge (John 12:47-48).”
It seems that many American Christians these days have bought into a pack of lies. We celebrate and congratulate ourselves for our freedom, when Jesus says we’re really not free if we’re slaves to sin. We think that heritage is worth something, Jesus says it’s worthless if we think we can rely on our ancestors’ relationship with God. We believe that being a Christian is a matter of affiliation with an organization or adhering to certain doctrines, but Jesus says those things are worthless without love. We smugly judge those who don’t live up to our standards, but Jesus says that God is the judge and we are not. In fact, Christians who believe these lies aren’t really believers at all. Jesus’ standard is found in John 8:31-32: “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I pray that you’ll not just call yourself a Christian, but that you’ll walk in Jesus’ truth and love today.