Just Stop it, Part 2: How To Repent Of Lying

What is the right path to repentance for lying?

You can’t do this without Jesus.  Only the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to stop, to change our thinking, and then realign our ways with God’s ways. You need to be right with God by putting your faith in the salvation bought by Jesus on the cross and then, with the Spirit’s power, make God’s opinion your highest goal in life. Without him you can’t repent. But with the Spirit’s help you can just stop it!

 

This is one of those math questions that doesn’t look like a math question, and when you see it on a test it makes you want to cry:

If you encounter two men in the forest, each one guarding a path, and all you know is that one of them always tells the truth and the other always tells a lie, but you don’t know which one is the liar, what one question could you ask to determine which path to take?

You could pause here and play around with possible answers, but that would feel like trying to not scratch an itch. So, let me relieve you of the frustration…

You could ask either of them: “What would the other man say?”

And then you take the opposite path.

Why?

Because the liar would tell you the opposite of the right path (which is the path the truthful man would have revealed), and the truthful man’s answer would be the opposite of the right path (as his answer would indicate what the liar would tell you.)

Sadly, having to sort through what to believe and how to respond to what people claim is not limited to hypothetical riddles. It can be just as mindboggling to deal with a counselee or a disciple you are holding accountable, or just about anyone in the church who has a secret to hide or a story to embellish.

What is the right path to repentance for lying? It depends on who you ask.

Last week we looked at what the Bible says about repentance in, “Instructions on how to repent.” Today we will consult the God of truth on what path to take to repent of lying.

3-Step Process To Untangling The Web Of Deceit

  1. REFRAIN: PUT OFF FALSEHOOD

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, …

Call it fibbing, bluffing, dishonesty, duplicity, misdirection, insincerity, or being economical with the truth, the sin of lying is as ancient as speech itself.

Satan lied to Eve, Cain lied to God, and this infection is still corrupting conversations today. Advertisements exaggerate, politicians obfuscate, and we deceive each other as we try to look younger than we are and drive nicer cars than we can afford.

The only way to stop lying is found in Scripture: Therefore, having put away falsehood …

The command is simple enough. We would all agree that lying is wrong, but perhaps we don’t realize how subtly deception can flavor our speech.

  1. a) Half-truths: it is a lie when you tell part of the truth andwithhold part of the truth to deliberately create a false impression. In Genesis 20 Abraham told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister. Well, she was technically his sister (half-sister), but she was also his wife. If you tell your wife you are late from work because of a business meeting, but you neglect to tell her the meeting was held over drinks and a pool table at the bar – that is a half-truth – akaa lie.
  2. b) Omissions:it is a lie when you leave someone in ignorance in order to mislead them or deliberately allow them to come to an inaccurate conclusion. For example, when you’re admiring the flower arrangement in the church lobby and the pastor walks past and says, “Thanks for your service in providing such lovely flowers.” And you just smile. You might think you haven’t lied, but you have…by omission. In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira both said they sold their land and gave the money to the church. But they neglected to mention that they were fuzzy on the details, keeping some for themselves (which was their right to do), but creating the impression that they had given it all. Peter called that obfuscation, “lying to the Holy Spirit.”
  3. c) Dishonest negotiating tactics: it is lying when you tell your counterpart, “I can’t afford this, you’re driving a hard bargain, my kids will go hungry tonight.” But then you go home and say “Honey, I wrangled this great price with my superior negotiation prowess.”   Proverbs 20:14“Bad, Bad,” says the buyer, but when he goes away, then he boasts.
  4. d) False Advertising: offering three months’ free internet access, without declaring up front that this requires a two-year contract, is a lie. Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD
  5. e) Breaking Commitments: making promises you have no intention of keeping, just to appease someone, is a lie. Not paying the debts you owe, which you undertook to pay, is a lie.   Proverbs 25:14 Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
  6. f) Hypocrisy: pretending that you have things together, financially, spiritually, emotionally when you don’t, is a lie.  Proverbs 13:7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
  7. g) Exaggerating: it is a lie when you pad the truth, embellish details, inflate the presentation of facts in order to deceive others.

Genuine mistakes are not lies. Estimates that go wrong are not lies (a relief to weathermen). And misinformation that is an agreed upon part of the interaction—such as in sport when you fake left but go right, is not a lie. Joking (the delayed revelation of a truth) is probably also not lying in the true sense, although if it is done to hurt others, and does not show love, that might be another sin. Proverbs 26:18-19  Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”

  1. RENEW: CHANGE YOUR MIND 

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Inform your mind with the knowledge of Scripture that shapes your thinking.

Paul brings some clarity for Christians to renew our minds and clean up that kind of thinking. Ephesians 4:24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

You have a new nature and a new Father. God your Father never lies (Titus 1:2 ).

But Satan only lies.

When you lie, you disown God and call Satan dad.

Lying is not wrong because it might damage your reputation or get you into trouble. It’s wrong because God’s nature is truth and he hates deceit. And you are his child.

  1. REPLACE: PUT ON SPEAKING TRUTH

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

The next step in repentance is to put on the right behavior. The opposite of lying is not silence, it’s speaking the truth.

Perhaps your boss doesn’t trust you, or your spouse suspects you. The way to combat that is to start volunteering truth on your own. Make sure the person knows the truth.

Some practical hints:

-Ask for forgiveness. As soon as you realize you have lied, just correct yourself. It may be embarrassing, but it’s better than sinning.

-Remain silent. This is a nifty and under-utilized trick: if you don’t want to lie and don’t want to tell the truth, then just offer a polite version of “None of your business.” If someone asks a personal question like “Do you and your wife fight a lot?” You can say “My wife and I don’t talk about our relationship to others.” If someone asks what you think of your employer’s clearly foolhardy suggestion, you can respond with “It’s not for me to pass judgment on management’s decision.”

-Develop a reputation for honest speech and for doing what you say you will do.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no. When you make a commitment, do your best to fulfill it.

-Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Marriage vows are up to you, but the weather isn’t, so don’t promise your kid a beach trip on a certain day.

-Cultivate a truthful environment in your home, marriage, and friendships by discouraging surprise-lying, and untrue beliefs for your kids.

CONCLUSION:

You can’t do this without Jesus.  Only the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to stop, to change our thinking, and then realign our ways with God’s ways. You need to be right with God by putting your faith in the salvation bought by Jesus on the cross and then, with the Spirit’s power, make God’s opinion your highest goal in life. Without him you can’t repent. But with the Spirit’s help you can just stop it!

Clint Archer is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Durban, South Africa. This article is used with permission.

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