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Deceit to Integrity

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 6/30/2019

I was thinking of that verse in James 4:6 that says, “God gives us more [greater] grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” This verse is making such an incredible statement about God. Passage after passage in the Bible tells us that God gives ever-increasing, ever-abounding, exceedingly-great grace. Ephesians 1:5-6 tells us it is God’s great pleasure, to “lavish” us with grace. Ephesians 2:5-7 describes how God has displayed his “immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

God is NOT sitting up in heaven begrudgingly, resentfully, reluctantly, dispensing his grace. The proof of this grace is that God so loved the world he sent his One and Only Son into the world that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life. God spared no measure, sending his Son, breaking his own body, shedding his own precious blood, dying on that cross to reconcile all people unto himself.

But this verse reflects another profound truth. The joy, the opportunity to shower us with grace is the “why”, it is the reason for which, God opposes proud/gives grace to humble. God is continually looking for humble souls, broken people, into which to pour his grace. His attitude is “Awesome! Here comes another, and another, and another.” Jesus taught there is “great joy in the presence of God over just one sinner who repent!”

In this series we’re exploring some areas of our lives where God opposes us. God opposes us in our pride. God opposes us in our anger. God opposes us in our envy, our greed, fear, gluttony, lust, sloth. He opposes us because God, in his grace (if we’d turn and open our hearts), has something infinitely greater for us!

This morning the topic is deceit. There is a quote in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet where he says, “God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.” What an intuitive statement! It’s part of our sinful nature to present a false front, to create a false face. There is our true face, but then there is the face we want to see in the mirror… the face we want others to see… the face we want God to see. We get so consumed maintaining all these false faces, acting out all these parts, we lose all sense of our true self, our true identity. Deceit is one of many ways were not okay.

Deceit is putting on a false face.

Let’s go with a simple definition for deceit. Deceit is putting on a false face. We live in a day when people are infinitely more shocked by honesty than deceit. One of the highest appraisals Jesus ever gave anyone was Nathaniel. Nathaniel was one of the first to believe in Jesus. When Jesus meets him in John 1:47 He says, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Deceit is the norm. Deceit is what’s expected. Deceit is woven into the deepest fabric of our culture and soul. But honesty? Purity? Integrity? Truth? These are truly exceptional virtues! How can they be cultivated? How can they be restored, especially after they’ve been lost?

One facet of deceit is putting on a false face for ourselves.

This past week I read a book called Leadership and Self-Deception. The book explores our propensity for self-justification. In our own thoughts and mind, we’re continually commending ourselves, positively appraising ourselves, viewing ourselves with rose-colored glasses. When we encounter problems in the world, we quickly look out the window of blame, and rarely into the mirror, of personal responsibility. We bristle at the suggestion that the problem or possible solution lay at our feet. This is what Psychologists call self-deception.

True story. In the Mid 1800s there was a European doctor named Ignaz (“Ignawts”) Semmelweis (“Semelvice.”). He worked at a research hospital, where they were doing cutting edge research on cadavers. But it was also just a regular hospital. Tragically, mothers in the maternity ward suffered horrendous rates of mortality. They would come healthy, but many would die, just a few days after giving birth. Word quickly spread among mothers. Women did everything they could to NOT give birth in the hospital. Semmelweis observed that at other hospitals 1:50 mothers died but at his hospital 1:10 died! At the other hospitals, midwives delivered the babies, but at his hospital it was mostly doctors. They all delivered babies the same. Why so much death?

He theorized that doctors like himself were to blame… He suspected that somehow the doctors were transmitting sickness from the Cadavers to the Maternity Ward. So on a hunch, he instituted a policy requiring doctors to wash their hands in a chlorine-lime solution before tending to mothers in the maternity ward. Overnight, the death rate for moms fell to 1:100—it became safer than any other hospital! Think of the courage of this man. Think of how many lives were saved, because this doctor was willing to look in the mirror first.

We don’t face the truth about ourselves very well. It’s been said that we before we deceive others we have to lie to/deceive ourselves first. We convince ourselves that, “I’m okay, its others who aren’t okay.” Look no further than the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. When Adam was confronted for his sin, He kind of blames God and his wife. “God, the woman you gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.” And when God confronts the woman, she blames the Devil! “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.”

G.K. Chesterton was one of the most brilliant minds of the last century. He was a prolific writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic. Once a newspaper sent out an inquiry to famous authors asking, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Chesterton, responded simply, “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.” Why is it so hard to just confess, “I’m the problem? I’m responsible. I’ve sinned?” Are we afraid God’s grace isn’t “greater” than our sin?

Another facet of deceit is putting on a false face for others.

If we’re afraid God’s grace won’t be great enough, how much more are we afraid people’s grace won’t be great enough? If my husband, if my wife, if my parents, if my children, if my pastor, if my congregation, if my coworkers, if my boss, if my employees, if the authorities, if my neighbors, if the public. . . if this gets out of the bag—what will people think, say, do? It’s fear. I don’t want them to know!

Deceit typically begins as avoidance. John 3:19-20 says, “This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed.” Avoidance works for a time, but it’s not long before our sins get exposed. In general, people are pretty smart, and pretty observant. It was a French author (named François de La Rochefoucauld) who first said, “One may outwit another, but not all the others.” I prefer the version attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Deceit typically evolves into lying. One of the most fascinating studies I ever did was journaling everything Proverbs teaches us about words. When the pressure starts building, the tongue starts flying. We make excuses. We spew false promises. We mischaracterize. We dismiss. We reframe. We charm. We flatter. We utter careless words. We blab on excessively. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable.” A liar gets so frustrated because they expect their words to mean so much—yet to everyone else their words mean so little.

Deceit typically escalates into attack. So much is said in Proverbs on this matter. When cornered, we make false accusations. We assemble our allies and prep our false witnesses. We become divisive, pitting people against one another. We speak hurtful words, godless words, perverse words, bloodthirsty words, inciteful words, harsh words, spirit-crushing words, arrogant words, quarrelsome words. Our temper explodes. We devolve into uncontrolled venting. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger.” Ever been a fool? Ever been on the receiving end of a fool?

A common expression of deceit is being judgmental, condemning others. How many times have you heard the expression, “the best offense is a good defense”? A deceitful person is hyper critical and judgmental of others, but strangely silent about their own faults. Some of the most powerful words of Jesus are in Matthew 7:1-5, “Do not just, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgement you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brothers’ eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? … you hypocrite first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Ouch!

I think Paul’s teaching in Romans 2 is equally potent. The deceitful person is one of the first to moralize about everyone else’s woes. But Paul says, “If you call yourself a Jew… rest in the law… boast in God… Know his will… approve things that are superior… claim to be instructed by God’s law… if you are convinced you are a guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, to have the full expression of knowledge and truth in the law… you then who teacher another, do you teach yourself? You who preach, ‘You must not steal do you steal?’ You who say, ‘You must not commit adultery—do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob their temples/profit from evil? You who boast in the law do you dishonor God by breaking the law?”

Do you see? Avoidance. Lying. Attack. Judging. Moralizing. Virtue signaling. These are ways we make another face, present a false self, to others.

Another face of deceit is putting on a false face for God.

In Matthew 15:8 Jesus echoes a complaint we find all over the Bible. Throughout the Old Testament God complained, “You people honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me.” You’re going through the motions of worship, of singing, of praising, of bowing, of preaching/teaching, of sacrificing, of religion, of rituals… but your hearts are calloused! Your soul is never in greater peril than when your giving lip service to God, but nothing of your personhood is being moved, nor impacts, nor touched, nor convicted, nor transformed by reality of who God is! It’s a short journey from “Will God show me grace?” to “Will other people show me grace?” to “I don’t care about either.”

Let me leave you with three practical ways to restore integrity. Confession. Confession simply means agreeing with God. Every great revival, whether personal or corporate, begins with confession. The reason we can fully own our sin before God is because his grace IS greater! God standing invitation to us is Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Why would we do that? Because Jesus can empathize with us in our weakness. He was tempted in every way though was without sin. He’s at the right hand of God, he’s our high priest, he stands with us in our need.

Community. What is the antithesis to avoidance, lying, attacking, judging, moralizing, virtue signaling? It’s love! It’s growing in grace. What is the church? It’s the one group of people you can count on taking risks to speak the truth in love to you, no matter how ridiculous you’ve become. . . who will hold your feet to the fire to help you become in every respect mature like Christ. . . who will stand with you, support you, grow you, and build up what’s been torn down.

Christ. Stop justifying yourself. Let Christ be your justification. Let Christ wash you, forgive you. Let his grace save you. Let Christ clothe you with his righteousness. Ephesians 4:22-32

Scripture Verses

John 3:19-20, Matthew 7:15, Romans 2, Matthew 15:18, Hebrews 4:16

Worship Playlist

  • Open Up the Heavens
  • Living Hope
  • Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery
  • Forever (We Sing Hallelujah) 
  • O Praise the Name 

Study Questions

Psalm:

4Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. - Ps. 25:4-7

Proverb:

17 An honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies.

18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy. - Pr. 12:17-20


Apply It!

Prayer:

"Lord, help me to cherish truth- knowing that you are the author of all that is beautiful, right, lovely, and true. May truth reign in my heart and actions, no matter what I encounter today- lies, mockery, confusion, or betrayal. Guard my mind with your truth, dispel all the lies of shame, anger, and uncertainty in the faithfulness of your love. Your truth gives me clarity and peace. Lord, you created truth. You are truth. Help me to know you more through learning, loving, and living truth. I give you glory when I dwell in your truth. Amen."

"Lord, let your truth reign – in my heart, mind, and actions."

Practice:

Determine what occasions regularly lead you to deceit. What do you tend to hide? What do you believe your lies are accomplishing for you? Confess your deceit to God. Reach out to another believer and confess, bring to light what you have been hiding. Plan to speak the truth this week. 

Resources

Pick up a "I'm Not Okay" Summer Prayer Booklet for adults and students. It includes a weekly Prayer, Psalm, Proverb, Practice and Breath Prayer to go along with every sermon.

Pick up an Emoji Prayer Guide for children. It includes a weekly Prayer, Scripture, Application and Connect to help parents discuss the week's theme with their children.

Downloads & Resources