Lies We Love, Lies That HurtErwin W. Lutzer | October 20, 2002
Selected highlights from this sermon
Desires. They drive us. We do what they want us to do even if we know it’s wrong. And when that happens, we recruit our minds to help us justify what we did.
We’re lying to ourselves. We’re lying to God.
We think we can control the consequences of our disobedience to God. We can’t.
We think that because something is beautiful, it must be right. It’s not.
We think we’re entitled to our own happiness. We’re not.
We think that God understands us, that we’ve tried our “best” and so He’ll overlook this sin. He won’t.
We think that we’re locked into our lifestyle, that we were born this way, seduced into this life, and there’s no way out. Wrong.
There is a way out. There is a God in heaven who can help you. Facing the truth is costly—it costs us and it cost Christ—but it will set you free and it does heal. Your soul can be restored, but the lies have to be stripped away so that the process can begin.
This is the second message in a series titled Restoring the Soul. We want to have positive healing in an age of brokenness. And I know in advance that some of the things that I say are going to cause a great deal of conflict in many hearts. Many are going to wonder whether or not they can pay the price of obedience, and therefore I invite you one more time to bow your head with me that the Holy Spirit of God who is here may grant us the strength to do what we should for His glory and honor. Would you join me? And even as you pray would you ask God to grant you the strength as I pray that He gives all of us the strength to be obedient to His Word?
Our Father, we ask in the name of Jesus now that Your blessed Holy Spirit would give us enlightenment and understanding and conviction and hope. We pray for those today, Father, who struggle because of disobedience, and we ask that this message may be loving but also helpful and transforming. And we pray that the grace of Christ and the strength of Christ would abide with us. Overcome all the resistance that there may be to what will be said, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
You and I are basically desire driven. Even though we may think to ourselves that we are rational human beings, the simple fact is that we do what our desires want us to do even if we know that it is wrong. And then we recruit our mind to come and to help us and justify what it is that we want to do. And there’s no area in which we are more willingly deceived than in the realm of sexuality.
Now you know this is the second message in a series entitled Restoring the Soul. If you were not here last time I want you to know today that the message that was given on shame is absolutely essential as a first step, because unless we deal with this matter of shame, what you’ll discover is that you will constantly be going back into your own hiding place. Shame must be shamed as we learned last time.
Now why is it that I preach this message to you today? Let me quote from a letter that I received from a radio listener. He says that he received Christ as his Savior when he was a teenager but drifted away. And now he struggles, he says, with all of his might to obey God’s Word. He said it was as if he had awakened from a bad dream that lasted 20 years. “All that time,” he says, “was wasted in sin and self-indulgence. So many acts I rationalized or considered natural, but not evil. I am horrified of how I ruined my life as my heart gradually hardened and darkened.
Satan says to us, ‘It won’t hurt if you enjoy a little bit of this. You’ll be able to stop whenever you want to. God will forgive you. Why not do it?’” He says, “That is the road to self-destruction. At one time when I was a teenager I wanted to be one of the greatest evangelists and teachers, not for my glory but because I loved Jesus and hated promiscuity, filthy talk and lies. Now I consider myself perhaps the greatest Christian failure who ever lived. Yet when I was backsliding and pursuing worldly pleasures I thought I was having fun. What a cruel deceiver the devil is. I wish all Christians clearly understood how extreme the devil’s hatred for them is, and how straying from God is guaranteed to lead to unfathomable misery and indescribable sorrow.”
The purpose of this message is to help us to be kept from unfathomable misery and indescribable sorrow and, I might add, to bring us to a point of real healing. That’s the agenda.
Today we’re going to talk about five lies. Now I want you to know that the sin that Adam and Eve committed was not the sin of sexuality. But because sexuality touches the deepest part of who we are, and because of our desire to connect, it is in this realm, as perhaps no other, that we tend to deceive ourselves. We rationalize because our desires go in one direction and our better intuition goes in another direction, and therefore we recruit the mind and we say, “Come up with a lie so that I can do what I want to do.”
Let me now give you the five lies. Three of these lies are based on Genesis 3. I told you last week that we’d be coming back to that passage because it is Eve who introduces us to the whole business of deception and lying.
Lie number one is that we can control the consequences of disobedience. Remember the Scripture says that God said to Eve and Adam, “You will die if you eat of the fruit of this tree,” but the serpent said, “You will not die.” “And when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took it and she ate it and gave it to Adam who was standing with her, and together they ate it.” Wow!
Now Eve had no idea what God meant when He said that you would die because there had been no death in the creation. And so she thought to herself, “Well, you know, I can control the consequences.” What she did not know was that her disobedience was going to trip a series of dominoes. She could not foresee that her disobedience would actually and ultimately end up in World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, and an eternal hell. She should not foresee that. All that she saw was a beautiful piece of fruit and she ate it.
Now oftentimes it’s possible for us to think that we can control the consequences of our disobedience. I remember a man who was about to commit adultery. He said to me, “Tell me the worst thing that can happen if I do this,” because what he was thinking is this: “If I can control the consequences, if I can lessen the pain, maybe my disobedience will be worth the price and it won’t be so bad.” And so we think to ourselves that the consequences are in our hands.
And so how do we try to control the consequences? We try to control them by hiding, as Adam and Eve did, by lying and by denying. And we take all of the guilt feelings, and all of the restlessness of our consciences, and we stuff those down deep in our soul, and we learn to manage our sins, thinking to ourselves that surely what we can do is to get by because we can hide and we can manage it.
How much better it would have been if Eve would have just believed God’s Word, and just simply said, “I don’t understand what the consequences are going to be, but God said it, I believe it, and I’m going to obey Him.” How differently things would have turned out. Lie number one is that we can control the consequences of our disobedience. You are free to disobey God. What you are not free to do is to control the consequences. Those are then out of your hands, and they will oftentimes show up in unexpected places at unexpected times, and those consequences are ultimately now in God’s hands and not yours. We cannot control the consequences of our sin.
There’s a lie number two. Lie number two is if it’s beautiful it must be right. You’ll notice again the text says, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes…” Let me ask you a question. Was this a good tree? The answer is, of course, it was good because everything that God created was good. It was good and it was beautiful. There was no doubt about the tree. It was inherently no different from any of the other trees that were there in the Garden. Of course it was a beautiful tree, pleasant to the eyes. And Eve thought to herself, “Something that is beautiful can’t be wrong.” And so she went ahead and she ate it.
I remember many years ago a man who was committing adultery writing a letter to me. I’ve never forgotten this story because it was so directly related to this whole issue of beauty. He said, “I am living in a desert in my present marriage, and now I have found an oasis, and you’re telling me to go back down to the desert.” He said, in effect, “I can tell the difference between sand and water. I know when I have a beautiful relationship.” And so he divorced his wife to marry this beautiful relationship. Ten years later he wrote me one of the most agonizing letters I have ever read, telling about all of the strife, all of the hurt, and how a relationship that was so beautiful turned so ugly.
Beautiful does not make it right.
Two lesbians, both from Christian families and from a wonderful church, said that they are in a beautiful relationship. Let me quote you their words exactly: “We are more certain that our relationship is honoring to God than we are of anything else.” And so what they were saying is, “Our relationship is beautiful.” Are you going to argue with them? Don’t they know what beautiful is? Don’t they know what fulfilling is? But from Genesis 3 we learn something, don’t we, that even something that is beautiful incurs God’s judgment if God has forbidden it? Beautiful does not make it right.
Counseling a man who was addicted to pornography, he said, “Because of the beautiful bodies that God created, all that I’m really doing is admiring (Get this now.) God’s creation. And isn’t God’s creation beautiful?” Yes, God’s creation may indeed be beautiful, but beautiful does not make it right. Eve looked at it, and she saw the fruit of the tree, that it was pleasing to the eyes. But God had attached a penalty to something that was pleasing to the eyes. Beautiful does not make it right.
Let me give you a third lie that we often believe. I’m entitled to my own happiness. I’m only going through life once and because I go through life once I want to do what is fulfilling to me. If there’s anything true in our society it’s this idea that somehow life and God and you and me all owe one another happiness. Eve turned away from all of the blessings of God in order to disobey. So far as we know there were hundreds of trees in the Garden from which she could eat. There was only one from which God said, “You shall not eat of it.” And so what the devil did was he focused her mind and her heart on the one thing that she was not to do. And she closed her eyes to all the blessings of God around her with the idea that “I need to have my own happiness, and I think I know where my own happiness is found. It is found in the fulfillment of my desires,” she thought. And her desires were more present to her than God’s Word, and as a result of that she was trapped into disobedience.
You know it’s very interesting that another thing that goes into this undoubtedly is curiosity. See Eve was saying to herself, “If I say no to this tree that is so pleasant… After all it’s so pleasant how could it be wrong? But if I say no to it, why then indeed for the rest of my life I am going to be wondering what would it have been like if I had eaten of that fruit?”
I want you to know today that Eve has many daughters. I’ve heard young women say, “I always wondered what it would be like and so I decided to give into my boyfriend’s demands because I thought to myself, first of all, if I don’t we might break up the relationship, and I wanted to keep him. And secondly, surely if I don’t, I would always wonder what it would be like.” And then they spend the rest of their lives weeping and regretting and wondering and trying to rebuild the sense of dignity they once had.
Yes, I want you to know today that it is very possible for people who say to themselves, “I am going to go for happiness, and I think I know what happiness is,” to disobey, and they use their minds to rationalize their behavior.
Now there is such a thing as happiness, but the Bible talks about happiness as being found in God. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.” “Delight thyself also in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” There is an inner kind of happiness that comes from God that is perfectly legitimate and right, but let me be clear in saying that we do not have the right to find happiness wherever we think that happiness is going to be found. I can’t tell you the number of divorces that have taken place in marriages that had a lot of hope because somebody said, “Well, you know, I think I’m entitled to happiness, and I’m not happy.” Happiness is not your greatest desire. Happiness means obedience and finding delight in God.
Let me give you a fourth rationalization that is used. The fourth one is simply this: Because God understands me He overlooks my discretions and my sins. I mean, after all, God knows that we are weak. The Scriptures say that He knows that we are dust. He knows that He created me that way. He knows I’ve tried to change. He knows I’m entitled to happiness. He really knows me well, and He knows how weak I am.
I want you to notice the words of the Apostle Paul very carefully because Paul repeatedly talks about self-deception, and every time I can think of that he does it, he’s talking about this realm of sexuality. This is Ephesians 5:3: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, (Have you ever wondered and said, “You know, life is so unsure; give us something sure”? Alright, here’s something sure.) that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them.”
Television is filled with empty words and deceptions, filled with empty words about fulfillment, filled with empty words about thinking that you can control the consequences of your disobedience. The man responsible for MTV said that when it comes to young people, we don’t talk logic, we don’t talk reason. He said, “All that we do is to try to stir up their desires, and then everything flows from there.” Filled with empty, deceitful words! So people say, “Well, you know, because God understands me and, you know, He’s gracious, He overlooks my indiscretions.” Well, did you hear the passage of Scripture I just read? Of course, God forgives us. We’ll be talking about that in a few moments, but the simple fact is that God’s not in heaven saying, “Well, you know, I understand you; therefore, it’s okay.”
Let me give you a fifth lie that we like to believe. The fifth lie is that we are locked into our lifestyle. We’re locked into it. “After all, I was born that way.” “After all, someone seduced me and therefore you know that everybody that is seduced, and everyone who goes into sexuality ends up being immoral.”
Parenthetically, the next message in this series is certainly one of the most important in the entire series because I’m going to talk about soul ties, what that means to be tied to a person, what the implications are and how to break those soul ties. Some of you are in relationships that you know right well are wrong but you can’t get out. The person seems to have power over you. And we’re going to be talking about that in the next message. But there are some people who say to themselves, “You know, there’s no way out of my lifestyle.”
In 1 Corinthians 6 the Apostle Paul says that homosexuals and idolaters and drunkards (and these people he says again) will not enter into the kingdom of heaven, and then he says, “But such were some of you, but you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified.” There is a way out. There is a way out.” The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I like the NIV at this point. The quotation I gave is from the King James, which I memorized many years ago, but the NIV, which I read last night, says: “There is no temptation that has seized you.” We all think that when it comes to sexuality that there is a kind of inevitability about it. And the answer to that is no! There is no temptation that has seized you but that it is common to man. There are other people who endured it and said no successfully. If you have a boyfriend who is trying to pressure you to go to bed with him, first of all take that fish, would you please, and throw him back into the lake? That would be a good thing to do. (applause)
But God is saying that that’s a temptation that other people have faced successfully. You can say no. You can run from him. You can enlist the help of friends to make sure that he stays away. There is an answer. You say to yourself, “Oh, I’m growing up as a teenager and suddenly I have these desires toward the same sex. I must be weird. Nobody has ever endured this before. I am different.” The Bible says that there is no temptation that has taken you but such as is common to man. There are people who have had those feelings who have overcome those feelings because they have chosen to go in a different direction, and your experience is common to humanity. And if you say, “I am locked into my lifestyle; there’s no way for me to get out…” If that’s what you are saying, the Scripture would say here that you are calling into question the very faithfulness of God because God says: “He is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able, but will with the temptation make a way of escape.”
Most people who think that they are locked into a certain lifestyle, whatever that lifestyle may be, have such an experience first of all because of incomplete repentance. They leave bridges to their past life. They aren’t willing to take care of the whole thing, and as a result of that they are locked in. You’ve heard me say before that if you are going to jump across a chasm it is much better to do it in one long jump than in two short ones. And when it comes to sin, it is much better to do it up right, you know, to really take care of it.
So oftentimes it is incomplete repentance. The other thing is it is trying to deal with your sin alone when God says that the Body of Jesus Christ has to be enlisted to help you. We talked about that last time. There is such a thing as healing in the presence of God, but there’s also healing in relationship to one another that must be taken care of, and that is taken care of through honest confession and openness. That’s why the message on shame was so important. But it’s a lie to say that we’re locked into this and things can’t be different. You can stop living with your boyfriend. You can stop thinking to yourself that your lifestyle has this inevitability connected with it. There is a God in heaven who can help you.
Now let me say that in the Christian life there is plenty of room for failure, but there is no room for this notion that failure has to be the pattern of my whole life. We all fail, but we can be forgiven, and we can be restored.
Now what do we say about these five lies that we have so hurriedly listed? What do we say about them? First of all, let me say that truth sets us free. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” But truth is costly. Even as I’ve been speaking today, there are some of you who are saying, “Okay, I hear what he’s saying, but there’s no way that my life can become truthful because if it became truthful, why then indeed the cost would be too high. The cost of shame, the cost of a relationship must remain hidden!
About a month and a half ago I was speaking at Promise Keepers up in Minneapolis. And you have about 12,000 men in a coliseum there. What an opportunity for us who have the privilege of speaking. The next morning during the worship time the song leader began to talk about men who are committing adultery, and in effect, invited men to come forward who were doing that. First of all, one man came forward. Two men came forward, and then you ended up with 250 to 300 men all standing there weeping. Wow!
You know, as we think about that, we think, “Well, you know, that’s exactly like men, isn’t it? They are so immoral.” Well, I began to think about 250 to 300 men committing adultery, and of course, there were maybe others in the stands that didn’t go forward. But I began to think to myself, “Well, you know what that also means. It means 250 to 300 women are immoral too.” This cuts both ways, doesn’t it?
But then I began to think to myself, “What about these men? What do they do? Do they go home that evening and say to their wives, ‘Guess what?’” That may not always be the best first step. It would be much better for them to go and to confess to their pastor who could then become an agent of reconciliation in this process, because many marriages are not able to withstand the strain if you’re trying to work these things out alone. But the answer is, “Yes, eventually there has to be a clearing of the conscience.” You just can’t live in total freedom as long as there’s something in your relationship that is just there. Moment by moment you’ve confessed it to God, but you know that you have wronged someone else and so it’s there in your mind. And it works on your mind and your conscience, and you want to worship God. You want to go to church and really sing those hymns. But even as you sing, it’s there. Wow! So there are some people to whom I’m speaking who say, “You know, the truth is going to be very costly.” Yes, it is costly, but I want you to know today that it is the truth that sets us free.
So that’s the next thing that I want to say. The truth is costly but secondly, the truth heals. It heals because there are some of you to whom I speak in whom there is darkness. It’s darkness that has been shielded. Maybe you even think you are shielding it from God, but it certainly has been shielded from others, and you think to yourself, “Well, I just can’t bear it. I can’t go through it. I can’t even think about leaving what I’m doing,” but it is the truth that does set people free.
And the title of this series of messages is, of course, Restoring the Soul, and what we want is restoration. We want the defilement to be gone. We want people who are restored. I speak to some of you who are living together unmarried. You’ve rationalized it. You’ve explained it away. You think that this is a beautiful relationship. Well, explain all that to God, would you?
And then there are those of you who may be in adulterous relationships. It would be surprising indeed if there were not many even who are listening today who are involved in that. There may be some of you who are into pornography, and you say to yourself, “There’s no way out of this pit.” And it is a pit – a pit that digs itself deeper. The only way out is truth - truth before God, yes, but also a truth to those whom you trust to finally come out of hiding. The basement with all of its bugs and cobwebs and dank smell will never be cleaned until the sunlight is allowed to go in.
And of course, there are some people who do not change when they see the light. There are some people who will only change when they feel the heat. And that’s what we pray for – that the blessed Holy Spirit of God will turn up the burner so that we might be willing to do whatever God asks us to do to be fully right with Him and with others.
This past summer a couple whom Rebecca and I have known for many years and who live in another state asked to have breakfast with us. Over breakfast they shared the trail. The man was involved with someone else, and this came to the attention of the wife who suspected it but did not want to believe it. You know there are women who live with that. They say, “I suspect it,” but even if it’s happening they don’t really want to know it because they say to themselves, “I can’t deal with all the implications, so let’s pretend that everything is fine.” That’s the way things were in this marriage, which was a fine marriage otherwise with some lovely children who are serving the Lord with fervency.
And so the man began to share, and the wife began to share. And they began to weep, and they began to tell us the story, a story of forgiveness, a story of reconciliation. And may I say, in the process, a story of healing, because we are interested in the restoration of the soul? And it costs to be restored. It cost Christ. It costs us.
A couple of weeks later we received a lovely note from them. It was an unexpected note, and they talked about how providential it was that they had the opportunity to speak with us, and how just sharing their experience, and we praying for them, took them one more step further along the path of restoration. The lies had to go – stripped away – so that restoring could begin.
Would you join me as we pray?
Father, we ask in the name of Jesus that You’ll overcome all the resistance that there may be to this message for all the people who came here today, thinking that this message would just be another nice Sunday of worship, and they could go back home. And now they suddenly find themselves confronted with truth that has been made real to them by the blessed Holy Spirit of God, and now wondering, “Now what do I do?” Father, grant Your people, oh God, to do the right thing. Overcome the lies that have been so carefully crafted, the lies that have been believed and trusted and reaffirmed. Show us, Lord, our great need. We all, Father, recognize our sins, but we also recognize Your forgiveness and Your healing.
So I’m going to ask you now, what is there in your life that you need to deal with? You just talk to God for a minute, would you, in silence? You talk to Him. Tell Him what you need to do.
Father, by Your blessed Holy Spirit, grant grace upon grace. Help us to remember that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Pour grace into the lives of all who have heard this message we pray, and bring them resolution and forgiveness and commitment and restoration. Oh God, we are so needy. Do that, Father, we pray.
And I pray for those who have never trusted Christ as Savior. Help them to understand that Jesus died for sinners, and may they accept Christ as their sin bearer, we pray, that they might be connected with You, reconciled to You, and then, Lord, reconciled to others.
Now grant, oh God, Thy blessing, and Thy divine intervention and help. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.