3. Living with Liars

Meditations in David’s Psalms : 3 :  Living with Liars  – Psa 5

Psa 5:9   Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.

Meditating on the psalms of David can appear to be a somewhat dismal experience because so many of the psalms of his are cries for help. This is, as we’ve commented before, because David is best described as a warrior as he spent much of his time fighting. But then we might wonder, did people such as Genghis Khan  or Attila the Hun have such anguishes as we find in David, and the answer almost certainly was no. This is what makes David so distinctive, that he was a warrior yet still a man after God’s own heart and it is this heart that so often cries out.

Again we find here a prayer: Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.” (v.1,2) There are stresses and strains in David’s life and the heart after God means that he takes them to the Lord. Sometimes my wife will suddenly say to me, “That was a big sigh,” and I realise that I had expressed by means of a sigh the heaviness that I was feeling about something. David was sighing with the heaviness he felt and he feels he needs the Lord’s help.

David is obviously a ‘morning person’: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (v.3)  If you wake up with a burden on your heart you don’t wait until the evening to pass it on to the Lord. What a good practice it is to take time out each morning to spend with the Lord, thinking on His word, sharing your heart with Him and listening to what He has to say.

He ponders on the Lord’s holiness: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.” (v.4-6) God may be a God of love but that doesn’t mean He tolerates all that is wrong. He doesn’t take pleasure in what is evil and so wicked people will not live with Him or commune with Him. Those who are arrogant (and proud and boastful) are not able to stand in His presence and, indeed, the Lord hates that part of every person that does wrong. Those who live a life of lies and deceit will end up being destroyed (if they will never come to repentance). So often that deceitfulness is linked with blood thirstiness and these things the Lord cannot stand. It is interesting to note that although David speaks of the wicked, the arrogant, wrong doers and the bloodthirsty, it is liars who receive the greatest censure for lies and deceit are the enemies weapons that keep us from God and those who refuse to turn from such a way of life will end up destroyed.

David compares himself by contrast to these people: “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies– make straight your way before me.” (v.7,8) They may be arrogant, but he will humble himself and come and bow before the Lord. They may insist on doing their own thing, but he asks the Lord to lead his life. He appeals to the Lord’s righteousness, the Lord’s desire to always do the right thing, to deal with the ungodly and lead him in the way the Lord wants him to go.

He speaks again of these liars: “Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.” (v.9) Their words – what we hear from them – are lies and cannot be trusted and so their heart – what is on the inside, hidden from us – only desires destruction. The truth leads to life, lies lead to death. Their throats – from which come their words – are like a grave, places of death and so their words come out of death and bring death, their words speak deceit, lies designed to lead astray and to destruction. The condemnation of these people, whoever they are, is strong and what follows is the logical follow-on from a righteous heart: “Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.” (v.10) Let the Lord judge them and declare their guilt, let all their intrigues and scheming be their downfall, may they be cast away for their sins and their rebellion.

Thus the guilty are condemned but to finish, David contrasts the righteous: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” (v.11)  These schemers and liars seek the downfall of the righteous but we may take refuge in the Lord’s presence, and there we find security and are glad and can sing for joy. He calls to the Lord to bring His protection to cover the righteous, those who love the Lord, so that they may be able to rejoice in Him. He concludes, “For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (v.12)  Yes, the Lord blesses the righteous and His favour surrounds them and acts as a shield. The ungodly and the unrighteous may still be there, but we remain at peace and are able to sing for joy in the protection that we have in the wonder of the Lord’s presence. Hallelujah!

35. Jesus’ Work

Meditations in 1 John : 35 : Jesus’ Work

1 John  3:8,9   The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.

There is a constant link that keeps appearing in John’s writings here, that of the believer’s behaviour being linked directly to Jesus, and it appears here again, in these two verses. However, before John brings the behaviour part, he refers to Jesus but we need to see it in context because, as is so often the case in the letters of the New Testament, the thought pattern flows on from one link to the next.

John in the previous verse has just referred to Satan: “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”  Jesus, challenging some Jews who had appeared to believe but then had doubts, said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” (Jn 8:44a)  In their thinking had arisen thoughts of rejecting Jesus. Left to itself that thought develops into wanting to get rid of Jesus (modern atheists try and ‘destroy’ Jesus intellectually) Jesus continued, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:44b) Satan wants to get rid of Jesus and he lies in his efforts to do it. (Modern atheists similarly want to get rid of Jesus and unwittingly speak untruths about him in their efforts to do that).

The truth is that those who are led by Satan express Satan’s thoughts and ideas. Satan is both a liar and a murderer; and so he tries to deceive people into believing untruths and his ultimate aim is to bring about the destruction of people, still separated from the love of God. There is this same link in the apostle Paul’s teaching. In respect of the magician, Elymas, he declared, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10)  Those who are led by Satan express Satan and work in his ways.

Now we come to the first verse above: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Near the end of this letter John writes, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5:19) It’s that same contrasting style of teaching and he contrasts us who are in God’s family and the rest of the unbelieving world who are under Satan’s sway. Paul made a similar contrast: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Col 1:13) Satan holds ‘dominion’ (sway) over people’s lives while God seeks to draw us into the realm of His rule where we can be freed to receive His blessing. Satan rules over spiritual and moral darkness. It is no coincidence that John refers again and again to light versus darkness

So Jesus has come to deliver people out of Satan’s darkness, out of the place of self-centred and godless unrighteousness. He does it by forgiving their Sin on the basis of what he achieved on the Cross, and in bringing that forgiveness he opens up the way for them to be reconciled to the Father in heaven, free from guilt and shame, and he sets them off on a new path that is love-filled and Spirit-energised where we are no longer striving to achieve acceptance but just ARE accepted by God. No longer do we have to strive for meaning and purpose because God puts new meaning and purpose into our lives.

Then comes this cast iron logic again: If Jesus is working to set us free from Satan’s lies and deception and free from sin led by him, then “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (v.9)  No, says John yet again in a slightly different way, we’ve been born again by God’s Holy Spirit and are new creations and the seed of God’s Spirit and God’s word lives in us, and as word and Spirit grow in us there is less and less opportunity for Satan to come back on us and lead us astray again. Note that same word again – “continue” – which refers back to the life we previously had where sin energised by self-centred godlessness means that we were continually sinning. Now, however, we have new lives, new purpose and we are new beings for whom sin is alien.

Do you remember the apostle Paul said the same thing: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17) We are new creations and the old life has gone and a completely new life has come that is diametrically opposed to the old life. No, we may occasionally trip over our feet, so to speak, and get it wrong, but sin motivated by self-centred, godless living, is no longer part of our equation. We are free and it has been the work of Jesus that has done it. Hallelujah!

18. Outworkings

Meditations in 1 Peter : 18 :  Practical Outworkings

1 Pet 2:1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

In the previous meditation I wrote about appreciation of words, and particularly link words. Well, here we have another important link-word: “Therefore”. Therefore simply means, so or because of what has gone before, this is what should now follow. It is a word that implies logic. What does this “therefore” link to? Surely it must be, you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again… therefore….” Peter is saying because you have been born again, because you have received this new Holy Spirit empowered life from God, because you are to have love for one another, it means that there are a number of things that you can no longer have in your life; they just don’t go together.

Check out this list of things that Peter speaks of here.  First of all malice. Malice is a desire or intent to harm physically or verbally another person. It is ill-will towards others. If you love others, how can you possibly hold malice in your heart toward them? Perhaps another way of putting it is to say how can you hold on to the malice you used to have in your life before you were born again, now that your life has been empowered by and filled with love for others?

Then there is deceit. Deceit is deceiving or lying to others, creating false or wrong impressions and seeking to lead others astray. How can you possibly seek to lead others astray if you love them?

Then comes hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretence, pretending to be what you are not. It is putting yourself forward as one thing but in reality being something else. Normally it is someone pretending to be greater than they are. It may be pretending to be a friend when in fact you are not. Where there is a loving relationship, truthfulness and honesty are required ingredients and there is, therefore no room for hypocrisy.

Next envy is mentioned. Envy is discontent and dislike because someone else has got something you haven’t, and very often it can be in respect of a personal position or standing. If we love others deeply, we can never feel envy about them for we will always want the best of them and we will not begrudge them what they have.

Finally there is slander. Slander is simply speaking badly and wrongly about others, saying things about them which are untrue. If we love others deeply, how can we possibly speak ill of others?

Each of these things is something that is directly contrary to love. They are ‘bad relationship’ issues and as such have no place in the life of the person who has been born again and who is indwelt by the loving Holy Spirit. Yet how easy it is to allow negative feelings to grow within us about other people! There is, I believe, only one way to make sure that these things do not get sown in our lives by the enemy and that is to have a positive strategy for good towards everyone else you know. If we pray for them and seek God’s blessing on them, we will counter these things and stop them growing in us like weeds that eventually fill the garden if left unattended. No, we have to be proactive and look for their good, look to bless them in prayer, in word and in deed. Where there is hostility towards us from others we need to be loving and understanding and forgiving so that their words or actions cannot be taken and used by the enemy to sow these things in us that Peter has been speaking about.

There is a general point that we should pick up in passing, and it is that when a person is born again and becomes a Christian there are practical changes that we should expect to see coming about in their lives if this has been a genuine conversion. I am always very unhappy if there is an apparent profession of faith but no change in the life style. It simply says that the Holy Spirit has not done the life-changing work that is referred to in the phrase “being born again”. Whenever it does genuinely happen there will immediately be big changes in the person. They start on the inside and work outwards. For a friend of mine it was the conviction that he should stop smoking. It took him a little while but it happened. For me, one of the things was the desire to stop swearing once I became a Christian. However, so engrained was it in my life that it took six months before I knew the Lord had totally set me free from swearing. For others it may be the knowledge that they have to deal with anger, or even the things in Peter’s list today. The things vary according to the person – but there will be change. A heart change always brings a behaviour change, a life change. Check it out.