restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Chapter 9:  Lies, Lies, Lies

Becky Lynn Black  

Life is screwed up…. I think it is harmful for “church-people” to try to present life as something more. Something easy or attainable, “if you do it right,” whatever that is. The raw truth is a Christian’s only hope is Jesus Christ. His love, mercy, faithfulness, provision and, most of all, his righteousness on our shoulders, covering our “inabilities.” None of us is able. None of us is God. If our children remind us of that very real truth, well then, all the better.

– Marianne Miles, in an interview with Ruth Wood on the Comfort Cafe website.

The title of this chapter may sound very oppressive to you. Who wants to talk about lies in the life of one who is following Christ? But the fact is that it is the TRUTH that sets us free. Lies are the opposite of Truth. Lies come from the Evil One, who is the “father of lies.” From the beginning, in the Garden, he has presented half-truths to mankind in an effort to keep them in bondage.

I’m sorry to say that I have gotten caught up in some of those lies during my six decades of walking with the Lord. And it is my prayer that this chapter might help you not to get caught up in the same lies. The lies are subtle, and often it is not until many years have passed and much damage has been done that we recognize the lies that have guided our choices and thinking.

Allow me to lay before you some prominent lies that have affected me. Perhaps they are in your life as well. The sooner they are confronted, the better.

Lie #1:  The Myth of Incomplete Lordship.  Somewhere along the line we got this idea that as long as Christ has a portion of our lives, as long as He is consulted occasionally as we make our choices, as long as His values are reflected in some measure by our lifestyle, then we can call Him “Lord.” This Myth says, “A little Jesus is better than no Jesus.”  But the reality is that unless He is Lord of ALL our life, then He is not Lord of any of it. His Lordship is an all-or-nothing proposition. As Lord of the universe, He has set the rule. And His rule is “all or nothing.” How else can verses like Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:26 be interpreted?

It is our nature not to accept these kinds of ultimatums. We want the joy, the protection, the security, etc. that come with His Lordship, but we’re not willing to yield every last little bit of our lives to Him. So we play games with Him. Allow me to give some examples.

We say a quick prayer that is mostly rote and automatic over our meals and think we are being obedient to “give thanks for all things.” As if a few little words can replace a heart attitude of genuine gratitude.

We pray a bit more extended and natural at bedtime, and think we are being obedient to the “pray without ceasing” command (1 Thess. 5:17).

We avoid rehashing “bad” jokes, but we discretely enjoy listening to them. Or we watch a movie because of its cultural value, but we discretely enjoy the off-flavor of the plot.  Purity is compromised with the ears and eyes, while we try to avoid the acting-out of what is going through our minds (Rom. 12:1-2).

We put some funds in the offering plate, or we give to a special offering, or we share a little with someone in need, all the while harboring an attitude of greed and stinginess, or a spirit of resentment. We ignore the reality that we were peasants until the Lord Jesus shared His wealth with us (Acts 5:1-11).

We follow the American Dream, posturing success, and just attach a little of Christ to enhance our respectability. We attend church as part of our business networking strategy, all the while pretending to be good Christians. In reality, we are no better than the Pharisees and Sadducees, of whom Christ said, “You are white-washed sepulchers” (Matt. 23:27).

We opt out of church or mission work, reasoning that “I can be a Christian without that involvement,” completely missing the heart associated with church or mission work (1 Pet. 1:13-25).

It is so subtle, this adding a touch of Christ to our life, and then daring to call Him “Lord.” Just listen to the prayers in our midst, and notice how often the “Lord” is called upon. Isn’t this a violation of the First Commandment? How dare we flippantly call Him “Lord” when our actions and hearts are so full of hypocrisy! I rejoice to say that in the past decade God has opened my eyes to see the JOY of abandonment to Him and His way. He is Lord ONLY when He is ruler of all aspects of our lives. And as Lord, He reveals His glory only to those who abandon themselves to Him.

It is the role of the Holy Spirit to show us how to let Him rule. The Holy Spirit prompts us to act in obedience to Scripture, nudges us to love as we should love, and rubs us when there is a sin that needs to be dealt with. But the Spirit does not waste His time and energy on those who “quench” Him. Those of us living under this myth are wasting time.  We are losing years when we could know Him intimately, daring to obey Him in ALL things, and forfeiting our ability to see His glory. I regret that much of my life was spent embracing this myth. It was not until we began the work in Ethiopia that I realized the joy of abandoning all aspects of my life to His rule. I pray that you will not waste time and energy and money as much as I have wasted!

Lie #2: The Lie of Substituting Family for God.  This lie has really come to the forefront in the past two to three decades. It is expressed in such statements as, “If you fail at home, then your whole spiritual life has failed.”  Instead of looking at the character and the Spirit-filled living of the individual, we look at the behavior of the children or husband as a sort of litmus test of spiritual credibility. Ministry is defined as making sure your husband and children are served well, such that “they follow the Lord wholeheartedly” (meaning they are good, upright, conservative Americans). This Lie disregards all teaching about the free will of man. Parents earn their right to Heaven on the basis of godly children. And pity the parent whose children use their will to go against the Lord!

This Lie also says that all other forms of ministry are vastly inferior to the family. The patriarchy movement in recent years has played a big role in advancing this Lie. And church life has reflected this emphasis as the family unit is elevated, even in the ordinances. The aim of this lie is to elevate the family unit and to focus on the family unit instead of each individual’s relationship with their Creator and Redeemer and Judge.

But let us look at the life of our Lord Jesus. He left his biological family, turned His back on His social obligations to his mother and siblings (his father had died), and pursued wholeheartedly the heart of the Father. He pursued the Father with no strings attached (Matt. 12:48)!

And consider the admonition of Paul in 1 Cor. 7:29. He says, “But this I say, brothers and sisters, the time is short. It remains that those who have wives should become as though they had none.” In other words, there is an urgency in this world relative to the Gospel and Christ’s Kingdom that demands that we place all other things (even marital obligations) beneath our obligation as citizens of Heaven to advance His Kingdom. Wow!

Have you ever met someone who said, “Oh, I can’t do that mission work, I can’t be in the choir, I can’t teach a Sunday School class, I can’t be involved in that outreach because my ministry right now is taking care of my husband and children.” What this lie says is that I can’t be involved in that mission work, I can’t teach that Sunday School class, I can’t participate in that neighborhood outreach because my family needs me. Now I am not saying that family needs are not important. What I’m saying is this myth says that cooking supper for the family has more value on the ministry scale than doing an outreach at the Laundromat or teaching children whose parents do not bring them to Sunday School. If every person who has a family excused themselves from all ministry because of the presence of a husband and children, our churches would be extremely ingrown. This Myth says that because we have husband and children, we are therefore exempt from all other ministries. Yes, we do have a responsibility to our husband and our children, but that responsibility is not the absolute ultimate in ministry. In fact, as we are caring for our husband and children, we can discover many new avenues of ministry by bringing in neighborhood children, by taking baked goods to a husband’s office, by volunteering in a child’s classroom, etc.

Let us beware of this lie. I praise God that although I was exposed to this lie and tempted by it, generally speaking I escaped its clutches. I thank God that, growing up on the mission field, I saw early the primacy of the Kingdom, and that ALL things (even family) must be subjugated to this primary calling.  Please do not misunderstand me. Obedience to Christ in the arena of the family is primary because of the close proximity of our family members, but not because something about the family unit itself has trumped the Gospel. The family unit does not carry any special value in ministry, and worship (elevation) of the family unit certainly cannot substitute for worship of the Lord of lords!

We must always be careful about substituting worship of the Lord Jesus with any other thing. We can even substitute worship for Worship. How often have we gotten caught up in the music harmony, or the drama, or the emotional sensation when we should have been focused in mind and heart on the Person of Jesus Christ and His Lord and Father! Correctly understood, worship is a life of obedience to Christ. It is not emotional upheaval or self-discipline in lifestyle. Worship is heeding the voice of the Spirit of God as He instructs us to obey the Scriptures.

No family unit can replace unqualified, no-strings-attached obedience to the Lord!

Lie #3:  A False Sense of Identity, Joy, and Security. This lie is somewhat related to Lie #2. It holds that a woman’s identity, joy, and security are found in her husband or in her children. These family relationships are the fountainhead, the spring, for all that she is.  The woman following this lie comes to think that her husband and her children are indispensable to her well-being. Usually without realizing it, she develops a sort of anxiety that if her husband or children forsake her, then her whole purpose for existence is swallowed up in their departure.

This, of course, is not the case. But the Evil One is subtle. He takes the natural love of a mother for a child, and the natural dedication of a woman to her husband, and twists it beyond measure, such that these relationships become indispensable. Those women caught in this lie, whether consciously or subconsciously, find themselves doing the wife and mother duties from a motivation of anxiety over losing the relationship.  Rather than doing the duties as an act of worship (obedience) to the Lord, they are flitting here and there, driven by fear of loss.

For myself, though I had a rock base of identity in the love of Christ, as my boys grew and went through their natural separation, I found myself somewhat “lost.” It took some time to realize that no matter the decisions they made of their own will, no matter how much they treasured or failed to treasure my love, I need not be shaken. My identity was rooted, my joy was secure, and my security was unmovable, not because of them, not because of my husband, not because of my own person, but because of Christ and who He has pledged Himself to be to His children. He is my all-in-all. He is my shelter, my rock, my fortress. He alone is boundless joy no matter what the circumstances of my life are. And He is the One who brought me into existence and who sustains me in Himself.

There is great freedom when we break from this lie! Our husbands and children are important to us, but they are not fundamentally important. They have the freedom to make bad decisions, according to their own lifestyle choices. And though it brings us sadness to see the inevitable suffering that will come to them with such choices, still it does not disturb us in the core of who we are.

Lie #4:  A Checklist Methodology That “Guarantees” Positive Results. With the sprouting of pop-psychology and “biblical” counseling in the 1970s and 1980s, there came a “checklist” mentality. This lie says that if I do everything “right,” then the outcome will be what I desire. There are 2 issues hidden here:

1) How do we define “positive results”? These are often simply selfish agendas. For example, if we are talking about raising children and we want to have “good kids,” what does that mean? Most of the time it means children who do not trouble us. They are not an unnecessary burden to us. They are able to carry their own responsibilities well, they enhance our reputation, they are financially stable, and the manner in which they treat their own children is a compliment to us. An undesirable child would look like this: he is always calling for babysitting services, he goes to Disneyland four times a year and asks for financial help, he can’t get it together in the job market so stays employed for only short periods of time. In an extreme case this child would be using recreational drugs periodically, he would have what is known as functional alcoholism, an occasional out of control spousal fight will be swept under the rugs, and there is no monitoring of DVD or movie usage. Usually these are not out and out failures such as drug addiction or flagrant alcoholism, but they are borderline questionable. My point is that, in this lie, a successful child is not defined as one who is abandoning himself to obedient living of the Lord Jesus. In fact, many good Christian parents following the “checklist” lie prefer that they shall not be completely abandoned. They themselves are not totally sold out to that system and are not sure that they want their children to be sold out to that system. So this checklist mentality lie creates a problem first in defining a biblically successful child.

2) Where do we get the items in the checklist?  Often we pluck a verse here and a verse there without any regard for the type of verse it is (a proverb?) or any consideration of the “whole counsel of God” (i.e., opposing verses). Let me give you an example that was very common in the 70s. Have you ever heard from the verse in Proverbs, “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”? Unless you are a newborn Christian, I would bet my last dollar (joking!) that you have heard a million and one sermons on this particular verse. There are slight variations in the interpretation of this verse. But basically the idea is this: Give them the right childrearing, and they’ll stick with your childrearing when they’re adults. But I want to lay before you a serious consideration. First, this verse is a proverb. A proverb means that it is a saying that lays out a situation that happens more often than not. And often if you look hard enough you will find a phrase or saying (another proverb) that says almost exactly the opposite.

Because I like to quilt I have collected some quilting proverbs. Consider two proverbs. “A stitch in time saves nine.” This simply means if you don’t address a tear quickly you will have nine times the work to do later. The counter-proverb for that one is, “Haste makes waste.” How can both proverbs be true all the time? The answer is that, as proverbs, they were not meant to be true all the time. Sometime sit down with your Bible and review the proverbs of the “child who is a fool” and you will find a pattern. A child who is a fool will resist the teaching of his wise mother and will bring shame not only to himself but also to his parents and all associated with him. The proverbs are clear in their counsel to stay clear of fools, and fools are those who resist teaching. Now compare the verse, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Compare that verse with all the verses dealing with a fool. You see, these proverbs have left out a very important ingredient. Can you guess that ingredient? It is the free will of the child. How does one train the will of a child? I certainly am not an expert on this. But temporary training can be obtained to some degree through the carrot and the stick. If you give them enough things that they like and you threaten them enough times with things they don’t like, then maybe their will can be shaped to accommodate what is good and right and desirable. But the reality is that, in most cases, when the parent is no longer able to give nice enough carrots or carry a big enough stick, the child gets tired of the game and goes off into the world doing whatever he jolly-well pleases. And the parents are left wringing their hands, wondering “What happened to the checklist?” The truth is that a child’s will is governed only by submission to the Holy Spirit, and submission to the Holy Spirit is obtained through the fervent prayers of righteous parents and the grace of God.

Lie #5:  There Really Isn’t a Firm Class of People Called “My Christian Family.”

In the past decade, the definition of family has been much discussed. This discussion has been spearheaded by the gay rights movement and their effort to win the rights and privileges that have been reserved for traditional family settings. But I would like to take that to a different level. The definition of family needs to be discussed within the church. Jesus had much to say about who is family. What He said has divided many families. I would like to attempt to go straight to the core of this discussion. Initially, family was defined as DNA relationships. With the gay rights agenda and with serial divorce and remarriage, family was defined as any relationship of choice. We have even expanded that to say that our corporate associations, our banking associations, and our sports affiliations are also called family.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus came on the scene with His definition of the family. His definition is based upon spiritual DNA. Anyone who listens to the Father and obeys the Father is family. That is a very narrow and tough definition. We are not free to call ourselves family by slapping a label on ourselves called “Christian.” Rather, we are to be observing each other and asking two questions: “Is that person listening to the Father” and “Is that person obeying the Father?” Of course, no one is perfect, but it is generally easily recognized when a person’s heart and muscles belong to the Lord. The problem is this: the DNA family that is now excluded from Christ’s family does not like to be excluded, and they find this to be a point of contention and spiritual self-righteousness. But Jesus made it very black and white. The person who hears the Father and obeys the Father is the one who belongs to Jesus’ spiritual family. And only His family will be around the table in heaven.

This has very large practical ramifications. For example, when it is holiday time do we spend our holidays with our blood family or with our spiritual family? Of course, that problem is nicely solved if our blood family and spiritual family are one and the same, but such is not often the case. Let us look at an Easter celebration. For those in Christ’s family, Easter has a fantastic meaning; it is the cornerstone of our faith. And we want to celebrate that truth to the highest possible limit. But for our DNA family, Easter means hunting for eggs and chasing the Easter bunny. It’s easy to see the rift between these two families. Another practical matter has to do with inheritance. If children have come to adulthood as part of the DNA family but not part of the Christian family, then we have some serious issues to consider. You see, within each family, within blood family and Christian family, there are inheritance rights. Our civil law is predicated upon the right of the legitimate blood heirs to get the estate. The Christian family, though it is not recognized in public courts, has different priorities and different goals for their inheritance. A Christian couple wants their estate to go to children of the Christian estate, which is figured not on the basis of human DNA but on the basis of what Christ said: “They know the Father and they do what the Father says.” It has been said that the world’s largest estate is passing hands from one generation to the other with the Baby Boomers. I shudder to think how much of that estate is going out of the hands of the Christian family as Christ defined it and into the hands of non-believers. I have been blessed with a wonderful biological family. Going back many generations, there are good men and women who listened to the Father and who obeyed Him as best as I can tell. But as in all blood families, there are those who are questionable in this arena. If we follow the admonition of Christ to live according to our Christian family, should we consider more carefully how we are distributing our estate and who we are investing in? God has changed my mind in this regard, and I have considered His admonition throughout the New Testament.

The word “Christian” means very little today. In reality, a church is made up of three groups of people: Those who are following hard after God in obedience to His voice, those who are playing games with God pretending to be obedient but are really doing their own thing (called carnal believers in the Scriptures), and those who are not believers and in their heart of hearts care nothing about obedience to the Father. For myself, I praise God that in the past 25 years He has clarified my vision of my family identity. I do not claim to have it all figured out, but I praise Him for giving me a measure of understanding in this regard. When I have spoken on this issue, sometimes there has been hostility and fear, as if I am trying to upset the whole apple cart. I assure you that I am not interested in upsetting anything. I am simply interested in trying to hear and obey the Father’s voice on this matter. There have been a few blog articles or academic writings on this topic, but it really needs to be brought out into the open and discussed with greater clarity.

In conclusion, in this chapter I have tried to outline some of the lies that have tripped me up during the past 50 years. The father of lies is always interested in substituting truth with half-truths or good ideas. In our enthusiasm to live the right way, we often fail to observe the difference between half-truths and good ideas with the teaching of Scripture. It takes courage to abandon ourselves to the teaching of Scripture. But only in that abandonment are we able to build our house upon the rock.

My prayer in writing this chapter is that the Spirit would spur your thinking to consider if there are any lies or half-truths that have permeated your way of thinking. May our Lord keep us pure servants of His, discerning what is good and true, and daring to follow in obedience even those things that run counter to our culture.

October 15, 2013

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