1 John 1:5-10 June 2009

DECEPTION IN RELATIONSHIPS

Jesus once stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor and said,” For this reason I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

And Pilate said, “What is truth?”

I guess what Pilate was saying was, “It is so hard to find the truth because there are so many different versions and viewpoints.”

One of the reasons we find it hard to get at the truth is because so much of the information we received is passed on to us by people who don’t know all the facts and who slant, distort and twist the facts for all kinds of reasons.

1. WE LIVE IN A DECEPTIVE ENVIRONMENT

We live in an environment that is permeated with deception. The Bible tells us that the one who exercises power and influence over this godless society is called the father of lies. His Kingdom is called the kingdom of darkness and darkness in the NT refers to deception.

1 John 1:6 “If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”

2. WE HAVE BEEN DECEIVED BY THE GOD OF THIS AGE

In 2 Cor. 4:4 we read that the god of this age, Satan, has blinded the minds of people to prevent them from seeing the truth about Jesus.

Satan, who is the fathers of lies has so influenced our thinking that every human being has an inbuilt resistance or indifference to the truth about Jesus. That is why when you talk to people about Jesus people either react negatively or it just goes in one ear and out the other.

3. WE HAVE BROUGHT DECEPTION UPON OURSELVES BECAUSE OF OUR REBELLIOUS HEARTS

In Ephesians 4:17-18 we read that the unbelievers are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.

Not only has our thinking been influenced by the spiritual forces of darkness, but because at heart we are rebellious, we have chosen to reject God’s truth and believe lies.

I have often mentioned that one of the first negative character traits we see in our children very early in their life is rebellion. We don’t teach them this, it is simply there. “No.” When you ask them to do something they will often stubbornly hold out on you until someone wins.

We have all be tainted with this proud independent,

defiant, attitude and we have deliberately chosen to reject God’s authority, Gods leadership and God’s truth and we have chosen to believe lies about God so that we don’t have to be responsible or accountable to Him.

The lie that the universe came into existence by mere chance and developed all these highly intricate, complex ordered systems of life by some unplanned accident of nature has been adopted by so many because at heart people don’t want to admit that God exists or that we have to answer to him. If there is no higher authority in the universe than us – we can live as we please and we will never have to answer to anyone but ourselves for the way we live. It is very convenient.

We have chosen to believe lies because of our rebellious hearts.

4. WE HAVE BECOME DECEITFUL PEOPLE

Not only have we been deceived by the Evil One and ourselves, but we have become deceitful people as

well. Because of our rebellion against God the Bible says in Jer. 17 that the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt.

Being deceived and deceiving has become normal human experience. Another negative character trait that expresses itself very early in a child life is deceitfulness. They soon learn how to lie without us teaching them. “Did you do that?” “No”. “He did it.”

From a very young age little children learn how to lie to avoid trouble and to get their own way.

6. WE ACCEPT DECEPTION MORE READILY THAN WE ACCEPT THE TRUTH.

Romans 1: 18 tells us that because we don’t want God in our lives and because we want to do things that God disapproves of, we have suppressed the truth about God. And in v25 we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

The very first sin mankind committed was to believe the lies of Satan rather than the truth of God.

Because of the deceptive environment we live in and the deceptiveness of our own hearts we listen to and accept lies more readily that we accept the truth. We are prepared to believe things about ourselves and about others without knowing all the facts. There is a depravity in the human heart that makes us want to believe things that are negative and not true.

Watch how we jump to conclusions about others and judge them without being in possession of all the facts. Look at how we take sides with people against others after hearing only their side of the story. Look at the way we put our own interpretation on what others say and do, and read into those incidents things that were never intended. Look at how we enjoy listening to gossip and slander even when there is very little substance to it. The media knows this weakness in people and they play to it all the time – making megabucks out of it. We are so willing to accept half truths, innuendos, interpretations and outright lies and to pass them on without getting to the truth of the matter.

We are prepared to believe anything if it furthers our desires for personal advancement or revenge.

HOW WE DECEIVE

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt. Who can understand it?”

We have devised all kinds of ways to deceive each other, obviously and subtly. The basic motive for lying is to avoid being exposed or to gratify some selfish desire, to gain recognition or further our own interests.

Here are some of the ways we act deceitfully:

1. Outright lying to each other. More obvious ways of deceiving.

2. Telling only part of the truth to give a false impression.

Ill. A young man was applying for a job as a security guard and he was told that no one who had criminal convictions or whose parents had criminal convictions would be accepted. His father had been hung for murder years before and he didn’t want to let on that this was the case. So when he came to fill in his family information on the application form. He put down that his father was deceased. And then the form asked how his father had died so he wrote. My father broke his neck when the platform on which he was standing collapsed.

Little kids are great this. “Johnny hit me or that man growled at me.” “What did you do?” “Nothing.”

When people come to me with a grievance about another person, they generally share only the aspects that make the other person look bad. They generally tell only what they other person did or said, and seldom share how they have contributed to the problem. That is why it’s virtually impossible to do marriage counselling with only partner.

Ill. I remember a woman coming to me and sharing about how cruel and uncaring her husband was. By the time she had finished I was feeling quite angry towards the man and had been led to believe that he must be a monster. Soon after the husband came to see me and he was nothing like I imagined and as he shared from his viewpoint I realised that I had only heard half the truth.

3. Hiding the truth. We allow people to believe things that are not true by hiding the truth from them. We cover up the truth because we want people to believe something else or we want to justify our blunders. This happened with the investigation into whether or not George Bush knew there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Was it a cover up? Was the truth being hidden?

I remember as a child I left the element on, on the stove and I was so scarce of being punished. Somehow my parents thought that one of my friends had left the element on, but to avoid being punished I hid the truth and never told them and let them believe a lie.

4. Embellishing or exaggerating the truth, generally motivated by self-interest. One of the ways we do this is by using very general terms like “never and always’ He never gives me any encouragement, she’s always criticising me; or we use exaggerated terms like “she went ballistic”, “He drove like a lunatic…he was all over the road”, “He was all over me like a rash,” or we add extra bits to make things sound worse.

Ill. I remember an MP being interviewed on TV. The interviewer asked him what he thought about a certain incident that had taken place. He said very calmly that he was disappointed. When it was reported by the media they said that Mr so and so was outraged.

Ill. When I was in Wellington I was rung by a reporter from the Evening Post because I working with a man who was being charged with child molestation. The reporter said, “What is your attitude towards Mr so and so?”

“Whether he is guilty or not he needs help and I want to be there for him.” The news paper article came out that night saying that Pastor Geoff Follas was taking the side of Mr so and so against his accuser.

5. Flattering people. The difference between praise and flattery is that praise is given out of genuine appreciation, flattery is given with an ulterior motive, generally to get something from the person being flattered.

6. Devaluing and demeaning people. People who put others down generally do so to make themselves look better because they really don’t like themselves. Their aim is to deceive people into thinking that they are better than they really are by belittling, discrediting criticising others. Making others look bad so they will look good.

8. Putting our own interpretation on the words and actions of others. When we want to discredit someone or blacken their character we often pass on information about them, but with our added interpretation. We claim to know why they said or did what they did. We claim to know what their motives were and what they really meant, when in actual fact nobody knows a person’s thoughts, intentions or motives except God.

This goes on a lot in marriages where one partners claims to know why the other one said this or did that, and the reasoning they give is, “I know my husband or my wife so well I have lived with them for 25 years. I know what they are thinking and I know why they do what they do and say what they say.” It doesn’t matter how well you know someone or how long you’ve known them…you do not know what they are thinking and you do not know the motives for their actions. Only God knows that.

When we claim to know what a person is thinking or what their motives and intentions are we are playing God. But we all do it.

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the motives.”

Psalm 139:2 “You Lord know what I am thinking even from a distance.” John said of Jesus He knew what was in the hearts of people. John 2:25

When we put our interpretation on what someone has said or done and pass it we are deliberately seeking to mislead people.

7. Putting on a false front. Pretending to be someone we are not. In ancient Greece the actors in plays used to wear masks depicting the characters they were portraying. These actors were called hypocrites because they had two faces – one for acting and one for real.

Ill. Frank always came across as a very warm caring

friendly man, who would do anything for anyone. He used come along to church and say all the right things and appeared to have a very close relationship with God, but at home Frank was unbearable to live. He had a foul temper and used the most abusive language on his wife that she was a nervous wreck, but he hid all this behind his public Mr nice guy façade.

Ill. Aunty Beryl and Uncle Charlie.

How many of us have secrets we hide even from our wives and husbands and the reason we hide them is because we don’t want them to know what we are really like behind the cover up.

8. Being two faced – nice to people’s faces but unkind behind their backs.

9. Doing things with ulterior motives. Lead people to believe that we were doing it because we are so caring and selfless.

Look at some of the advertising eg.

Financial services – “it’s not just about money, it’s about giving you a pleasant hassle free lifestyle”

Simply Cremations “We share your concerns about cost”

“Our sole motive in business is to keep the customer happy. Our aim in business is to satisfy your needs.” “We exist for solely to benefit you” …is that so, well what about a freebee?

Ill. When I first arrived in one of the churches I pastored a certain man made such a fuss of me and my family and I was very touched by his friendliness and generosity. He rang me regularly and had us around for meals and I had no idea that he had another agenda until one day he started dropping hints that he wanted a position of prominence and influence in the church, in fact he wanted to be on the pastoral staff of the church and began to put a subtle pressure on me.

10. Misleading people with things like advertising.

[$999.00 makes people believe they are spending less than what they really are.

Ill. Turangi. $1.95 for 1/2 Kilo nectarines.

11. Swindling and cheating in business.

12. Embezzling.

13. Being unfaithful.

And many other ways. We have become experts at deceiving each other.

I believe that the only kind of relationship that God will truly bless and honour is a relationship which is marked by integrity, transparency and truthfulness. You cannot have truly loving relationship without truth.

1 Corinthians 13:6 “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”

As I look back on this list I have to confess there have been times when I have shared only part of the truth, when I have hidden the truth, exaggerated, said unkind things about others, claiming to know why people said or did what they did.

And I have asked myself, “Why did I do that?” In most cases it has been because I wanted people to think more highly of me than they should. I was too proud too to admit the whole truth because I was afraid people would think less of me.

And yet I have found that when I dump my pride and seek to be transparent and completely honest with others – it builds love, trust and strengthens relationships. And yet there are times I resort to these deceptive strategies – I know how deceitful the human heart is and I totally agree with Jeremiah 17, “Who can understand it??”

So friends the ongoing challenge for me and you if we really want to build lasting, loving, growing relationships of love, is to renounce all dishonesty, deception and pretence and live in the truth. 1 John 1:7 calls it walking in the light. And when we come clean and put aside all falsehood …we have fellowship one with another.

Ill. Years ago a young X man shared with me that when he was on business trips he had sometimes gone along to massage parlours. He didn’t get sexually involved with the prostitutes but it was a sexual experience none the less. He hid this from his wife and because of that the relationship could never be all God intended it. I prayed with him and encouraged him to humble himself before his wife, come clean and share it with his wife and trust God to with the consequences. He came back to me about 6 months later. I just wanted you to know that I shared it with my wife and she was wonderful. I have never been back to a massage parlour and neither do I have any desire to and our relationship has soared to a new plain.

Ephesians 5:11 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless

deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible.”

Perhaps this morning you can identify some of the deceptive strategies you have used to get your own way and further your own ends, to avoid facing responsibility, to make yourself look better while making others look worse.

So as I said, the challenge to every one of us is to identify those deceptive ways ask God’s forgiveness, repent of them, renounce them and have the courage to come into the light, to embrace the truth and became people of honesty and integrity. To learn what the Bible means when it says ‘to speak the truth in Love.’ And make a fresh commitment, with God’s help to live in the light, to walk in the truth – and you will know a far deeper relationship God and with one another