************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 43 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on September 2, 2018

Lord's Day 43
James 3:1-12
"The Ninth Commandment"

Can you identify the notorious liars who said the following infamous lies?
-"This was a hoax. It was committed on me, it was a prank, it was a relatively easy one to do, making fun of my name." Congressman Anthony Weiner, on sending lewd photos to women over the Internet.
-"Follow me around. I don’t care. … I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored." Senator Gary Hart, dodging rumors of an extramarital affair while running for the Democratic nomination in 1987.
-"I did not have sexual relations with that woman." President Bill Clinton, after reports surfaced of an affair with a White House intern.
-"I am not a crook," President Richard Nixon, about news of the Watergate break-in.
-"I never bet on baseball." Pete Rose, on gambling.
-"Listen, I’ve said it for seven years. I’ve said it longer than seven years. I have never doped." Cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
It doesn't seem to bother any of them that they broke the ninth commandment.

Remember that sound doctrine is our theme as we are going through the Catechism. Based upon the Word of God, the sound doctrine of the Catechism tells us our sin and how to respond to the grace of Christ that forgives us our sin.

I The Basis for the Commandment
A "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." There are at least three reasons why God gives us this command.

First, God gives us this command because of the value of a person's name.

We need to go back to the third commandment: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God ..." God's name is holy so His name needs to be protected. Since humans were created in His image, they too need to have their names protected against deceit and slander.
(Prov 22:1) A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

It is easy, so easy, to dig up some piece of news on somebody else -- gossip, slander, backbiting, and vicious rumors that not only injure our neighbor, but demoralize the family, the church, kingdom causes, and society. In contrast to this is the last issue of World Magazine. They reported that in October of 2017 a Christian School teacher in Sioux Center was arrested for sexually abusing at least 13 of his students. Why did World Magazine wait 11 months before reporting on a story that impacts people we know? They waited until all the facts were in. They waited until the police had finished their investigation. They waited until the courts found the man guilty. This is the proper way, the Christian way, the redeemed way, to report on this horrible story.

B "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." Second, God gives us this command because of the value of a person's word.

Communication is one of the divine gifts we often take for granted. James points out that "with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father" (James 3:9). Using simple words, we can express love, gratitude, honor and many other positive emotions that we feel for others. But James also reminds us that with the tongue "we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness" (James 3:9). The problem is not the tongue itself; the problem is sin -- even among those redeemed and washed by the blood of Christ.

Satan, too, was given the gift of speech. At one time he was first among the angels, leading all the heavenly hosts in magnifying and praising God. And, the serpent in the Garden was given the gift of speech. A gift that was not given to any other animal. He used this gift as a tool of Satan to say lies and to lead man into sin.

C "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." Third, God gives us this command because of the value of truth itself. Here is a reminder that we need to value truth -- not only in relationships but also in teaching and doctrine.

In our opening verse James reminds us that teachers and preachers need to speak and teach the truth.
(James 3:1) Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
I want you to consider Harvard University and Divinity School. It was founded as an academy for training in the great truths of Scripture and from the viewpoint of Scripture. Its motto was, and still remains, the Latin word Veritas, "Truth." Yet, what is taught at Harvard is far from the truth of Scripture. Yale and Stanford and almost every great educational institution in our land are in the same boat. They claim to teach truth but it is not the truth of Scripture. And, sad to say, many of our Christian colleges and churches are no better.

We need truth. Here in Trinity we need to proclaim the truth because a recent survey indicates that many people believe falsehood regarding goodness, sin and salvation. Listen to these lies:
God loves me because of the good I do or have done
37% Agree strongly or somewhat

Everyone sins at least a little, but most people are by nature good
67% Agree strongly or somewhat

An individual must contribute to his/her own salvation
71% Agree strongly or somewhat

There are many ways to get to heaven
44% Agree strongly or somewhat
We need preachers and teachers who don't teach such nonsense. We need preachers and teachers who teach the truth. We need preachers and teachers who say God does not love you because of the good you have done. Who say people are not good by nature. Who say no one can contribute to their salvation. Who say Jesus is the only way to heaven.

II What is Forbidden
A "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." The sound doctrine of the Catechism tells us five ways we can break this commandment.
-false testimony in court
-twisting of words
-slander in order to damage someone's reputation
-condemning without proof
But the list is not exhaustive. So, let me add a few more:
-lie of convenience
-promising something you can't deliver
-saying nothing though you know the truth
The point of this list? We all break the ninth commandment. Because we all are sinners.
(Ps 116:11) And in my dismay I said, "All men are liars."

B Martin Luther, following Augustine, distinguished between three types of lies: the humorous, the helpful, and the harmful.

The humorous lie is nothing more than a joke, such as "Three men were out fishing and ..." This is not a sinful lie because everyone knows it is not to be taken as truth.

The helpful lie is one that is told for the benefit of one's neighbor. Rahab's lie about the Israelite spies fits into this category. People who lied about hiding Jews during World War II were telling a helpful lie.

The harmful lie is one that purposely speaks a falsehood. "No, I didn't hit my sister." "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

What about the polite lie? Where does that fit? "Yes, I love your hairdo." "This is a delicious dinner." "I love your new color scheme." When the truth actually is something different. To be honest and true with a neighbor at the wrong time or in the wrong place can undermine relationships. Sometimes you need to wait for the Lord to give you the right opportunity.

C You all know that when you say something that breaks the ninth commandment and hurts your neighbor you can never take it back. You can't make it disappear. Long after it has been said it continues to create hurt and suspicion and broken relationships.

Wouldn't it be nice and helpful if we can somehow take back our words?
The "Undo" function is one of the nicest features of various computer programs I use. I delete a paragraph by mistake -- I can undo it just like that. I mess up the indentation and formatting of a document -- I can undo it just like that. I don't like the changes I made to a picture -- I can undo it just like that.
Wouldn't it be nice to have an undo function for our tongues?
A husband says a lie to his wife; no harm done, just use the Undo function.
Two neighbors gossip; no sin committed, just use the Undo function.
Someone spreads untrue stories; no damage done, just use the Undo function.

III What is Required
A "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." What does this commandment require?

James tells us we need tongue control. Those who are redeemed and saved by the Savior engage in tongue control. Did you catch what James says in verse 2?
(James 3:2) If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
Do you want to live as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you want to live as a Spirit-filled Christian? Where do you start? Start by getting your tongue under control. Because if you can control your tongue then you can also control the other parts of your body. Tongue control is the starting point for Christian living.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true -- if you can't control your tongue, you can't control the other parts of your life as well. If you don't control your tongue then you don't live for God and Christ. If the words that come out of your mouth are cursing, bitterness, anger, criticism, rage, and filth then you must not be one of God's children. That is what James is saying.

B James gives us a number of examples to show us how deeply influential the tongue is. Each of these examples show us how something small controls something big.

In verses 3,4,5 James compares the tongue with the bit used to control horses, the rudder used to steer ships, and the spark that sets an entire forest on fire. A bit in a horse's mouth does not just affect the mouth; it turns the horse's entire body. The horse that is headed in one direction is easily turned in another direction. The same thing is true with a boat. Despite the force of the wind and the tug of the water, a boat can be steered on a totally new course. And, not that long ago the news was filled with the fires in Redding. It took only one spark to start the fire and thousands of acres were burned.

Truly our tongues are but small things. But like a bit or a rudder or a spark, our tongues are capable of great power. The tongue of the Christian, when brought consciously under the control of Jesus' love, turns a whole life toward that caring love.

C Tongue control. That's what servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ need to have. Yet, listen to what our passage says:
(James 3:2,8) We all stumble in many ways ... no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Ironic, isn't it?! We can tame tigers and lions and dolphins and elephants. But we can't tame the tongue (James 3:7).

I cannot control my tongue -- at least, not on my own. You cannot control your tongue -- at least, not on your own. No person can control the tongue himself or herself. But with God's help we can. God, through His Holy Spirit, can enable a person to exercise self-control (Gal 5:23). Self-control is a sign that you have the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is a sign that you are a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I cannot control my tongue. So, in this life and on this earth I will hurt my brothers and sisters in Christ. So, in this life and on this earth I will hurt my wife and my children. So, in this life and on this earth I will hurt the heart of God Himself by what I say.

Once I have said something mean or nasty or untrue I cannot take it back. I cannot press an Undo function.

What hope is there then? Are we stuck in the hells of our own making? Are we forever torn between the praise and cursing James mentions in verse 10?

While God did not create an Undo function for the words we say, He did give us a way to Undo the damage and the hurt and the pain. It is called repentance and forgiveness. It is wonderful that we can ask for and receive forgiveness from Christ.

You all know that what Jesus does for us we have to be willing to do for one another. Yes, your neighbor says things that hurt you. But you also say things that hurt your neighbor. So the message to us all: Repent and forgive as God has forgiven you.

We can't undo what we have said. But we can undo the damage because God has shown us how to repent and restore and forgive.

O Lord, guide our tongues!
Because so easily they cause anger, sorrow, pain
and spread havoc far and near.
And the words we say can never be called back.
So guide our tongues in every word,
that they may bless instead of hurt.
And when we cause hurt let us repent.
And when we are hurt let us forgive.
In Jesus' name we pray this.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page