Jeremiah 7:28 says, “But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.” Ouch. Sick burn, Lord.
I Love that turn of phrase used: “truth… is cut off from their mouth.” It’s as if this were written to us in our current election cycle. With that I want to pick up where I left off in this discussion of truth and lies.
Last week marked 3,600 days since a drunken Sunday evening in which I swallowed four bottles of hydrocodone and lay down in bed to drift into the oblivion I was positive lurked on the other side for me. Not a day goes by, not one, that the devil doesn’t whisper into my ear that I should have stayed in that bed. Three thousand and six hundred times has he told me I don’t deserve to be here, don’t belong, should have died. Now I’m aware that a suicide attempt is not as major a life event as many, and I’m not trying to overinflate its impact. I bring it up merely to say the one lesson, more than any other, I’ve learned since then? He’s absolutely right. Just not for the reason he thinks.
For the first few days after that event, after hearing God tell me to get up, I wondered deeply if that chiding voice was right and God was wrong. If my apathy and ignorance were so vast that it just wasn’t worth the effort to remain. I worshiped at the altar of death far more directly than in the 20+ years I’d been vainly searching for fulfillment from every old thing, every mystic or intellectual avenue that seemed legitimate. I used the clarity of my mortality as a means to rage at everyone in the world for allowing me to have wasted so much time searching for deeper truth when there was none.
I settled on focusing most of that rage into the political arena, and in this I was at the forefront of the movement of using social media to alienate and divide over political agendas. That continued right up until my rebirth, and every couple of days Facebook shows me history to remind me of that man I was not so long ago, fastened tightly to the horns of battle and chanting the war cry of death. That man believed that there was an intellectual purity, a strategy of thinking that was right and that all must either meet the rigor of it or fall subject to those who did. In that I was the average political activist of our modern world. So let me talk about this man, about this election.
Every talking point of Trump’s is, or ends up in, gibberish. Every talking point of Hillary’s is fabricated or inflated. He’s crude, she’s a liar. This election will be decided not by whom people agree with or even by whom they disagree with least. No, this election will not have a winner, it will have losers: it’s not about which we are going to elect but which we are rejecting from the office. That upside-down nature? That’s prime death-worship right there. Oh there was a me who would have had a field day debating any of you who supported one of these candidates. I’d have developed my little defensive and offensive strategies and debated you mercilessly until you gave up or became so enraged you stopped speaking to me. I don’t know what that me thought he was accomplishing, but I do know where it came from, that divisive nature, that separatist drive. It was the same voice who told me I should have stayed in that bed to die.
Satan has run the most effectively manipulative campaign of his little career this century. How do we even begin to reason with each other through this? How do we stop the pedantic bickering and turn our eyes to Jesus when we can’t even go a day without posting something so vicious toward one of the two or their supporters that it would make 11-years-ago Trump blush? The truth, it seems, is absolutely cut off from our mouths. And in that I find it sadly amusing that everyone says these two are not our representatives. I beg to differ: these are exactly our representatives.
Every meme, every rant, every barbed quip shows that these candidates are the perfect replica of the caricature We the People have become in our relationships with each other. They do reflect who we spend the majority of our time being: raw nerves, live wires, very tightly wound and ready to snap. Ready to use the political climate as the spokesman for our rage and vent for our fury, forming alliances and rivalries. For some of us it is to scold others for their partisanship, for others to defend our candidate, still others to denigrate another’s candidate. Some just lash out that others are lashing out. But social media is a wasteland of anger and vitriol masquerading as passionate support for people we have never met and know barely anything about.
Yet that is only our virtual lives; we don’t daily stop people on the street to beat them up over their party affiliation. Certainly the rage bleeds farther into daily life these days with all the protests and violence, but it is still an aberration, not a commonality. We don’t validate someone’s voter card before we offer to buy their lunch or a cup of coffee. We don’t check the homeless guy’s political thoughts before we offer him a smile or a blessing. So what is with the dichotomy?
Well, I said it before: Satan has run an excessively successful campaign here. He tapped a way to convince us to spill fury out on each other, creating more anger and more division, more fear and more anxiety. He also created the source for that fury, the fuel for the fire, by instituting in us a busyness, a hectic tension, an absolute panic in daily life that leaves us in that raw nerve state. Everyone is frazzled, either feeling overwhelmed, oppressed, or both. Politics, or at least the nature of politics, gives a way to express that anger, but he’s crafted them together in a way that doesn’t ever deplete the tank. The angst fuels the rage, feeds the angst, fuels the rage, ad nauseum. Try to stop either, try to point out the cycle and you’re either shredded for being self righteous or accused of having laissez-faire apathy. We are all entitled to our anger, our dissatisfaction, our sense of the injustices we bear and we’ll be damned if someone is going to tell us how we should behave.
Oh, yes. These are the accurate representatives, the absolute picture of our nation, and that is terrifying. We have to stop it. We have to remember the truth that has become cut off from our mouths. But what is that truth? And why is it cut off? Well, this may sound circular, but the truth is cut off from our mouths because the truth is cut off from our mouths.
But it isn’t a circle, it is a spiral. See, we buy one lie and the truth of that matter is cut off from our mouth. That leads to another truth we are cut off from, and so on until there is this rigid, dead part of our mind that is a delicately erected series of false assumptions we can’t see past. If you’ve ever left a loaf of bread half in the bag and half out overnight you’ll know the oddity that is half a loaf being rock hard and half tender. That is the picture of our psyches: a large patch of inaccurate rigidity among a field of impressionable sensitivity. If we’re to hope to overcome it, to heal the wound and restore the truth, then we need to understand that base falsehood, the cornerstone lie. I’m thinking it will sound too religious if I just say it, so I’m going to come around it the back way.
Satan’s first challenge to us, Genesis 3:5, says:
“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods”
But the King James renders “as gods” a little wrongly. The word “gods” there is אלהים, elohim. If that causes an itch of recognition in your brain it is because Elohim is the first name of God given in the Bible. It is a plural word, because He has a plural nature, which is to say He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “He” is a “They” you might say. Satan wasn’t telling us we’d be like gods, he was telling us we would supplant our God. Another way to interpret that is “Can’t you be God?” It was a “what if?” query. Much discussion has been had about how one act, one question could bring down an entire species for all of recorded time. Well there it is, brothers and sisters: What. If. If you don’t think that question can shake a people to their core let me illustrate the range here.
What if your significant other is cheating on you? What if your boss is going to fire you tomorrow? What if you discover a billion-dollar idea and someone steals it? What if your friends are talking about you behind your back? What if you win the lottery? What if your daughter is being raped right now? What if every prayer you ever prayed came true? What if everyone you know hates you? What if you led someone to salvation and didn’t even know? What if you are destined to misery? What if you are a failure? What if God hates you? Do you see yet? Don’t you have a story somewhere in your life of a time a “what if”, be it good or bad, had a drastic impact? I’ve quit jobs over “what if?”, ended relationships over “what if?”, tried to end my life over “what if?”, and I suspect I’m not alone in these absurdities. Murder, rape, terrorism, and subjugation have all been initiated by and blamed on “what if?”. But the first one, “Can’t you be God?”, was a serious doozy. It remains his single focal question to us because it is still incredibly effective.
It is not the question, but rather its implications, that consumed Adam, Eve, and their progeny. There’s nothing in Genesis that suggests Eve was unsettled in her life, disquieted by the ins-and-outs of daily Garden life. It didn’t appear she spent her days wondering how she might subvert God. But when confronted with the possibility He might not have been fully open, might have misled her, well that brought in a range of other ideas. He must be fallible. He may not have been so differentt from me once. Maybe this tree is how He got in charge. Maybe all these walks in the garden and talks of the multitude of our children was fantasy. Maybe He has unknown and dark intentions. Maybe I could do better if I were like Him. Maybe He could desert me. Maybe He could hurt me. Maybe I can stand on my own. If the snake is wrong then I die, but if he’s right I could be God.
The ability to store memories and recall them is what gives us our perception of time, but it also gives our brains — which are very basic difference engines — the ability to detect patterns and use those patterns to predict the future. This is largely what separates us from the animals: the ability to selectively plan ahead. And so we do. And so Eve did. She gauged the risks and decided that there was a 50/50 shot that the snake was right and God didn’t put a poisonous tree right there in the middle of paradise. If she didn’t eat the fruit she’d now be dissatisfied, spending her days wondering about that fruit, her status, obsessing on the snake’s words. Wondering if she was stupidly being manipulated because she was scared to risk death. If she didn’t eat it she would be unhappy. If she ate the fruit she would either die and be free of the consequence or she would live and be on God’s footing to stand against His reaction, whatever it may be. But she’d have new power and may not know how to use it, so better to bring her mate in so then it would be two gods against one. Again, worst case she dies, so the plan was foolproof. Between the choice of being unhappy for certain and the choice of either dying with the satisfaction of the answered question or living happy and powerful, only a fool would choose the unhappy life of wondering about that fruit for eternity. Not a one of us would do differently in her place, and if you think you would you’re not being honest with yourself.
What is it that causes rebellion? Mistrust. Look back to the election: both Trump and Clinton champion the common man’s grudge against corrupt politicians and promise they, in their different ways, will right the corrupt Hill. We stand ready to rebel regardless who wins because we don’t trust that “the other side” has our best interests at heart. We don’t trust the government and we don’t trust each other. We get in bad relationships because we don’t trust the other person enough to be honest or that they are being honest. We are catty with each other because we don’t trust they aren’t trying to subvert us. We kill each other and ourselves because we don’t trust. We don’t trust because of “what if?”. “What if?” kills us because it instantly invalidates trust almost regardless of how deep that trust may have been established. Reality show after reality show, social media feed after social media feed demonstrates the tenuous and brittle nature of trust and the devastating power of “what if?”.
The church is beset at all angles by “what if?”. What if I am not really saved? What if Christ wasn’t really the Son of God? What if God isn’t real? What if God hates me? What if I continue to sin and He loses His patience for me? What If my rebellion causes Him to punish me? What if my righteousness causes Him to lead me into pain and hardship? What if He doesn’t back me up when I try to follow Him? What if I’m misinterpreting Him? What if I’m not really found? What if, what if, what if. A lot of times the church doesn’t help to assuage those “what if?” scenarios, choosing instead to admonish you for having them and creating a whole series of new ones in the process. What if my church is lost? What if my pastor is a false teacher? What if I’m possessed by a demon of fear or ignorance? Our free will mixed with our ability to predict creates an endless stream of “what if?”, all Satan has to do is occasionally whisper in with one we may not have thought of yet. It’s truly a brilliant trap.
Those “what if?” are all ultimately mistrust of God, or at best misunderstanding of Him. For some of us that is based in lack of self-esteem: He couldn’t possibly say He Loves us unless He has an ulterior motive. For some of us it is a lack of willingness to submit: if He wants us to submit He is just an arrogant tyrant. Whatever the justification the core lie is that we can’t trust Him, so we need a plan B. In case of apostasy, in case of rebellion, in case of Tribulation, in case of pain or discomfort. We need an escape route in case following Him becomes unpleasant or impossible. We like to say we trust Him fully, but we don’t. We’re constantly taking things out of His hands, or at least planning for the case that He doesn’t come through for us. That’s what it means to be the sons and daughters of earth: we are stained with the eternal need to answer that same dilemma Eve did.
But lest you think I’m harping on darkness and dismay, on a hopeless story of our rebellion, let me quote Christ from Matthew 9:16:
“No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.”
He was not just talking about fasting and tradition. He was talking about the new Covenant of the reborn spirit. God does not bring the reborn spirit into the broken flesh, because the fallen flash and the risen spirit will cause the darkened soul between to be torn into despair and grow darker. And there we tend to stay: trying to live a risen life with dead flesh, tearing ourselves apart at the juxtaposition of death and life. It’s why death-worship is so prevalent: we’re trying to live inside a dead shell. But the dead shell is a lie, brothers and sisters. It’s not real. Jesus’ words here are relayed in 3 different gospels for good reason: your risen spirit is not trapped in fallen flash. It just isn’t.
See, Satan was right that I should have remained in that bed. The old me needed to die there and should have stayed there. I was to render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s, give the prince of this world back all of his tainted flesh. But he was, as always, missing the true truth. When God called to me He was offering me a new life, a new flesh. I have stumbled in that old flesh for so long because I didn’t trust I could let it go. Every day, though, I see with new eyes, feel with a new heart, speak with a new tongue, and realize that these dead things I do are just habit. The apostle Paul repeatedly explained this dilemma trying to help people see the truth. Take 2 Corinthians 5:17:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
And 1 Corinthians 5:8
“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
He was constantly exhorting the churches he planted to remember that they were new creatures, to put away the things of earth and pick up the things of the Spirit. Such things are only possible with new hands, a new nature. A purified, sanctified body. Christ’s victory at the Cross gave us that. Prior to the Cross redemption was only possible as one of God’s chosen. Consider Ezekiel 36:26:
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. “
But it is now freely offered to all. I know this is tough to wrap around. But He is the God of all Truth. He is the God of the Impossible, the God of the Harvest, the God of the Resurrection, the God of all Creation. If He tells you that you are new then, brothers and sisters, you are new. Our old habits may be engraved in our souls, but there is nothing backing them anymore. We are not beholden to sin and darkness and death. The little prince has no power but that which we yield. Don’t yield any. We once were lost but now we’re found. Not half-found, not partially found, not maybe found, but found. We are redeemed. We’re not going to be redeemed, it’s already been done.
In John 19:30 Christ’s final word is recounted as τελέω, teleo, which means “It is finished.” But it doesn’t just mean that. Teleo is a word used to this very day on Greek shipping manifests to indicate the order is compete, paid up, the bill settled. It is the completing of a business transaction, the most complete closing of an action we understand. We were bought and paid for in that instant. Your new body purchased and set on ice waiting for you to come possess it.
The moment we are reborn we are cleansed of our sins. There is no need for the “what if?” anymore. We just have to realize it. Just have to look down and see that the chains are gone, that we are free.
That’s the truth. That’s the only truth that matters. It is not who wins an election, or even what they do once in office. It’s not your job or your stability or your comfort. It’s not your mistakes or your strengths or your past or your future. It is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is about the Risen and Living Word. That is the first truth we cut from our tongues. That is the truth we reject that keeps us from accepting the Lord’s correction.
You are not your mistakes. You are not your angst. You are not your fear. None of these things are real. The gloomy world you see most of the time isn’t real. The bright, shining Light you see sometimes, that is the real world. That is the Kingdom. You see it with your new eyes, hear it with your new ears, feel it with your new heart, confess it with your new tongue. But then we use our new tongue to speak old dead words and convince ourself it might not be true. But our words have no effect on the truth. God is, whether we confess Him or not. Just let go. Just give up the question. You don’t need it. It doesn’t save you pain, it doesn’t buffer you from heartache or protect you from harm. It just separates you from God and from the body of Christ. It cuts off the truth from your mouth.
Father, I thank You forever that I am new. I remember that old man, but I refuse to be him again. Remind me every day that I am not him. Remind me every day that I am Yours, that though I wander this world in a body, it is a new body and only a vehicle for my renewed spirit. Train me in Your ways and purge me of all those dark habits I formed as a dead man. And for any out there hurting, any out there tripping over their “what if?”, Lord I pray this message can help them to see a truth they hadn’t considered, a freedom they didn’t know. Guide every heart back to You. Bring us Your peace, Your patience, Your faith, Your trust. Restore Your truth to our mouths and let us hear Your voice and receive Your correction. Show us how to live in Your Kingdom. I Love You. In the name of Your Word, and my Brother, Jesus, I pray. Amen.