May 22, 2011 | Brian Bill
I heard about a guy who sees a sign in front of a house: “Talking Dog for Sale.” He rings the bell and the owner tells him the dog is in the backyard. The guy goes to the back and starts asking questions of the dog: “Can you really talk?” he asks. “Yep,” the mutt replies. “So, what’s your story?”
The dog looks up and says, “Well, I discovered my gift of talking pretty young so I told the CIA and in no time they had me sitting in rooms with world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. The travel really tired me out so I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security work and now I’m just retired.”
The guy goes back and asks the owner what he wants for the dog. The owner says, “Ten dollars.” The guy says, “Are you serious? That dog is amazing. Why on earth are you selling him so cheaply?” To which the owner replies, “He’s a big liar. He didn’t do any of that stuff. You can’t believe a word he says.”
Can people believe the words that you say? This morning we’re going to take a look at the topic of truth as we continue in our “8 Words to Change Your Family” series. Let me summarize the three words we’ve looked at so far:
- Vision: Our parenting today builds a generational legacy tomorrow.
- Love: Love is more an action than an emotion.
- Forgiveness: If you’re going to grow, you must let it go.
As we begin today, I’m reminded of Pilate’s question to Jesus in John 18:38: “What is truth?” He asks the right question but didn’t stick around to hear the right answer. Two immediate answers come to mind. First, Jesus Himself is truth. That’s what John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Secondly, God’s Word is truth. We see this in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” And since Jesus said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” in John 18:37, let’s listen to what He has to say right now.
There are a lot of different directions this message could go but I want to focus on just three aspects of truth. We must trust the truth, we must tell the truth and we must teach the truth.
1. Trust the Truth.
Matthew 7:24 helps us see that if want a stable faith and a stable family, we must have a firm foundation. We’re to trust the truth and not just focus on facades: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Another word for rock is truth. Wise families build on the foundation of truth.
Notice what happens when the hurricanes of life come. Families that aren’t anchored to God’s truth will fracture: “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
From the outside, both families appeared to be well-built and neither looked to be defective. The houses are finished and furnished. The main difference between the two builders is that only one took the time to dig down to the solid rock while the foundation of the other house settled on sand. The nature of sand is to be shifting, sliding and sinking while a rock is stationary, strong and secure.
It strikes me how abruptly and suddenly this storm comes on the scene. Notice that adversity comes from above (the rain fell) and from below (the floods came) and from all sides (the winds blew). Problems drench us like driving rain. Observe also that the same storm hits both houses. No individual is immune from adversity.
Both home-builders had the privilege of hearing the words of Jesus. The difference between the two is that only one trusted the truth and put it into practice. It says “everyone who hears…and puts them into practice.” This is in the present tense, meaning that we are to continually hear and continually heed. Here’s the literal translation: “and keeps doing them.”
Are you reading the Bible daily? Are you committed to regular Sunday morning participation? Are you plugged into a small group? Some of you have recently come to faith in Christ. If you have not yet been baptized as a believer, that’s your next step of obedience.
I just want to say that I love watching how so many of you are working at living your faith out at home. It’s exciting to see how quickly books are taken when we give them away and how you are trying to practice at home what you hear preached at church.
For some of us, we listen a lot but live little. What is it that God is calling you to put into practice? In what area do you need to obey Him? Is it in your giving, in your serving, in your loving, in your forgiving, in your thought life, in your attitudes, or in your behavior?
If you are a parent, I urge you to establish a deep family foundation built on truth. Your kids are under construction and you are charged with giving them a good base to build on. If you don’t have Christ as the Rock of your home, then you are on sinking sand. Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
2. Tell the Truth.
We need to be truth-tellers in our home, and when we do share truth with family members we must always do so in love because true families tell the truth in love
Once you trust the truth it’s imperative to tell the truth. Ephesians 4:15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” We need to be truth-tellers in our home, and when we do share truth with family members we must always do so in love because true families tell the truth in love.
Just a few years ago, author Ralph Keyes argued that America had evolved “beyond honesty” and that honesty is now “on the ropes” as a virtue. Another writer, Po Bronson, has stated: “In the end, 98 percent of the teens admitted lying to parents. At the same time, 98 percent of the same teens said that lying is wrong. Add to this the fact that many of these kids admitted lying a great deal. It turns out that children begin to lie very early…The most disturbing reason children lie is that parents teach them to…We don’t explicitly tell them to lie, but they see us do it.”
His insight into how easy and insidious lying has become is chilling: “Encouraged to tell so many white lies and hearing so many others, children gradually get comfortable with being disingenuous. Insincerity becomes, literally, a daily occurrence. They learn that honesty only creates conflict, and dishonesty is an easy way to avoid conflict.” (New York Magazine)
The Bible is very clear about the importance of telling the truth and not disseminating deception.
Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
Proverbs 12:19: “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”
Proverbs 12:22: “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”
Proverbs 24:26: “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”
Zechariah 8:16-17: “‘These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord.”
Ephesians 4:25 gives us a strong challenge: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Families that are built on a firm foundation don’t allow falsehoods or lying to take place. Let me make some observations from this verse:
- This is addressed to everybody. It literally reads, “Every single one of you…”
- We must be proactive. The phrase “put off” is very strong and was used of runners in the Olympic Games who cast off bulky clothes so they could run faster.
- The word falsehood means fake. This is actually where we get the word pseudo from, meaning untrue or false.
- This command is in the present tense. This means to keep on speaking truth as a habit.
- Truth-telling must be especially done with those close to us. The word “neighbor” refers to those “quite near.” That of course includes our families.
- Telling the truth affects unity. We’re reminded that we’re “all members of one body.” Falsehoods can fracture a family very quickly. What I do affects you and what you do affects me.
As I contemplated this passage, I thought of some ways that we can apply the importance of truth-telling in our families.
- Be a truthful person yourself. Psalm 51:6: “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts…” Parenting is all about modeling. In his book called, Building Faith at Home, Mark Holman writes this: “Faith is not something that can be taught; faith is something that must be caught. Moms and dads are two to three times more influential than any church program.”
- Become a character-building home. Our children need to learn that we are all about character training and less about outward conformity. I love the title of a book I read recently because it says it all: “Parenting is heart work.” One person said this about lying, “What upsets me is not that you lied to me, but that from now on I can no longer believe you.”
- Remember that you are raising young women and/or young men of God. Your home is a discipleship center where you are connecting your kids to Christ and equipping them to be growing and faithful followers. Unhealthy habits learned when your kids are young can become part of their character when they are older.
- Celebrate truth-telling. When a child tells the truth make sure you acknowledge and applaud them for doing the right thing. I like what Mark Twain once said, “When in doubt, tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.”
- Enforce consequences for lying. The more lying is tolerated, the more our children will lie and get away with it, and the more likely they are to make it a habit. Tell them that lying always makes the original problem worse.
- Expect confession and the seeking of forgiveness when a lie is told. As we learned last week, teach your children to say something like this: “I was wrong when I lied to you. Would you please forgive me?”
- Measure your response when the truth is told. Many kids say that they lie because they are afraid of their parents’ response if they tell the truth.
One pastor and his family have five values that they’ve painted on their living room wall. I’ll list the first four and then elaborate on the fifth:
- Love God.
- Family first.
- Work hard.
- Be kind.
- Tell the truth. This is what he says about this one: “Even when it’s painful. Even when it’s going to get you into more trouble. Just get the truth on the table. God can do a lot with that. Don’t mess with the truth, don’t measure truth, and don’t muddle truth. Just model it and mouth it. Truth will get you to all the right places as a family. God Himself will make sure of that.”
And so, we must trust the truth and then tell the truth. Finally, we must teach the truth.
3. Teach the Truth.
I’m really challenged by the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:46-47: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you — they are your life.” As parents we must take our responsibility to teach truth very seriously.
Check out these words from Richard Phillips’ commentary on Hebrews: “This is how we pass on the faith to our children: by our words, but more pointedly by our actions. Children are either hardened by the hypocrisy of their parents, or they are inspired by the consistency between word and deed. If we are unforgiving with our children and show an unwillingness to admit our sins, then we communicate a lack of grace to them. If we spend all our money on ourselves, begrudging the church or those in need, or if we speak harshly of people, seeming to rejoice in their failures and follies, then we communicate a religion other than that of Christianity. But when we are quick to repent and ready to forgive, when we trust the Lord for our own provision and give freely to others, and when we speak graciously of other sinners…we show our children our belief in a God who is merciful and kind and mighty to save.”
I want to share two stories that illustrate the power of a parent. The first is from Beth’s family and the second is from mine. Beth remembers a time when she was growing up when she made a comment about how rich somebody was because they had a nice car and a nice house. Beth’s dad said something like this: “They may have money. But we are rich in Christ.” Whenever Beth or her sisters would make a statement about how much money someone had, he would remind them of what is really true.
When I was growing up I mowed lawns to make some money. One of my jobs was to cut Joe Schwartz’s grass. I think my dad volunteered me for the job. After doing it one time, I stormed home and told my dad that I was never going to mow his lawn again. I was angry for two reasons. First, he followed right behind me to make sure I didn’t miss anything. If I didn’t get close enough to a tree he would make me go back and get the rogue grass. But the other thing that really torqued me was that when I was all done, and it took me well over an hour to finish, he tossed me “two-bits” and told me to go buy an ice cream cone. I didn’t know what “two-bits” was at first but I quickly learned it was only a quarter!
I still remember how the conversation went when I got home. I said something like this to my dad, “I’m not ever mowing ‘Old man’ Schulz’s yard again! If he can follow me around he can do it himself and if he only pays ‘two-bits,’ I got better stuff to do.” My dad, who is not prone to long explanations, said something like this: “Mr. Schulz is lonely and has a bad heart. You will mow his lawn whenever he needs it even if he pays you nothing.”
In both instances, our dads were sharing truth with us. And, these stories have been shared with our daughters so these truths are being passed on to the next generation, and hopefully to the one yet to be born. Among other things, they’re learning that true riches are found in Christ and that serving our neighbors is not optional. Truth is best transmitted in the context of family relationships.
Are you familiar with the term “worldview”? It literally means “a way of looking at the world.” One person defines it like this: “A conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality.” A worldview quite simply is everything we believe, why we believe it, and how we live. A biblical worldview sees things the way God see them.
One of our challenges as parents is to lay a biblical worldview foundation for our children. This will not be easy to do. In fact, according to researcher George Barna, we are losing ground.
- Only 9% of all Americans have a biblical worldview.
- Less than one of every five born again Christians have a biblical worldview.
And here’s a stat that should cause the air to go out of the room. Less than one-half of one percent of those in the Mosaic generation (those aged 18 to 23) have a biblical worldview!
Barna points out that a person’s worldview is primarily shaped and is firmly in place by the time a child reaches the age of 13; it is refined through experience during the teen and early adult years; and then it is passed on to others during their adult life. Parents, we must be intentional about teaching truth to our kids! He concludes with these sobering words: “We would be wise to invest more effort and tangible resources into helping young people understand and adopt the core ideas of Christianity, and to reinforce those concepts through their own lives…” In their book called, “Already Gone,” Ken Ham and Britt Beemer argue that we are one generation away from the evaporation of church as we know it.
While these studies and statistics are alarming, I see a movement among families at PBC to teach truth to their children. I see parents doing what it takes to invest in their kids. I see the older generation longing to help younger parents. And I see adults and students getting fired up about forgiveness and looking for ways to put love into action. If we want our kids to believe us, then we need to think biblically.
I dare you, fellow parents. Let’s trust the truth, let’s tell the truth and let’s teach the truth. When we do, people will believe every word we say.