Sermon Notes: The Ninth Commandment – To tell the truth

22 03 2016

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.”

A lot of people these days think that telling the truth can just cause problems. In the film, “Liar, liar”, when Jim Carrey is forced to tell the truth it’s an absolute disaster for him.

Telling the truth is different to being brutally honest, or “telling it as it is”. We’re called to speak the truth in love; that is, to have the good of the other person in mind. The important thing is the attitude behind the truth telling.

The commandment refers to our neighbour, but we know from the story of the good samaritan that this is not limited to those we know and like.

A witness report was highly important in the ancient near east – on just one witness report you would be considered guilty until proven innocent.

“One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offence they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you.”
– Deuteronomy 19 vv 15, 18-19

The ten commandments generally cover the most serious form of each sin – for example for murder this covers forms of hate and anger, it looks at the condition of the heart.

Other things covered by lying include exaggeration, misleading, and taking words out of context.

Words are powerful and can be damaging. “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” – James 3 v 6.

Gossip is talking about people to do damage to their reputation; malicious sharing of information. It’s a big issue for the church when things will be shared under the disguise of “for prayerful concern”.

We should ask ourselves:

  • Is what I’m saying true?
  • Does it need to be shared with this person?
  • Would I say it if the person it’s about was here?

It’s as bad to listen to gossip as it is to share it; it ropes us in and encourages it. If we find ourselves gossiping, let’s stop and pray for the person instead!

If someone is complaining about a grievance against someone, suggest they go to them directly, not to have a go, but to express the hurt caused in love, and try to reconcile the relationship.

All commandments have a positive side to them – speak the truth!
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.” – Ephesians 4 v 25
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1 v 14
“He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
– Isaiah 53 v 9
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14 v 6

The world does brutal honesty; we’re called to speak the truth in love.

No matter how hard we try, none of us speak completely wholesomely.
“All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.’
‘Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practise deceit.’
‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’”
– Romans 3 vv 12-13

Because of what Jesus did, we don’t need to live lives tied to the burden of lies.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8 v 32

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4 v 29





Sermon Notes: The Sixth Commandment – Live and let live

22 02 2016

“You shall not murder.”

In the original Hebrew this commandment is two words: “Don’t kill”. The Hebrew language has 8 words for killing. This one is forbidding unlawful killing of a human being.

For further reading on the subject our Pastor recommended “Issues facing Christians today” by John Stott.

Life is valuable and comes from God. He is the author of life, He gives and takes away: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2 v 7

Issues of Life and Death:

  • War
    Most Christians would treat war as a last resort. Some would say that all war is wrong. Sometimes it can be the lesser of the two evils available, eg the Holocaust.
  • Capital Punishment
    Capital punishment isn’t an issue in the UK anymore, but people still being up the question of it after a major crime eg a mass murder in the news. The question raised is the idea of a life for a life, vs it being barbaric, and the risk of legal mistakes.
  • Abortion
    Life is valid from conception: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139 v 13. This is the biblical understanding. All abortions are results of unwanted pregnancies, whether these be from rape, sex outside of marriage, or other, they’re all from situations outside of God’s perfect plan.
    But we must not forget there is still Grace. God comforts and heals.
  • Euthanasia
    The voluntary choice to end life goes against God having authority to begin and end life. Again there are complexities of course.
    All life is valuable and God given. This isn’t a popular view in our society, we want freedom to choose.
  • Suicide
    Again we don’t have the authority to choose when our lives will end. But again there are complexities. Issues of mental health, awareness of what one is doing.

All of these subjects are complex and require further reading than can be covered in a sermon. For anyone who has broken this commandment though, there is forgiveness available.

It’s much harder to keep this commandment than it initially seems.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” – Matthew 5 vv 21-22a
Jesus raised the bar substantially. These are the things in our lives that can become seeds of much greater issues.

It’s ok to be angry about injustice in this world – we want to share God’s heart. How could God be indifferent to the freezing Syrian children?!

When there is damage in a relationship there may be anger, and it needs dealing with. “In your anger do not sin” – Ephesians 4 v 26a.

Often our anger is tied in with a desire for revenge, that is not ok.

There are four unhealthy ways in which we express anger

  • Pressure Cooker
    Blowing up easily at anything, running on a short fuse.
  • Passive-aggressive
    Won’t express anger in public, bottling it up so our bodies have to deal with it, both physically and mentally, leading to resentment.
  • Martyrs
    Thinking everything is their fault, life is a pity party to which only they are invited.
  • Manipulators
    This could come in many forms, silent treatment, sabotage, little comments, deliberately forgetting things.

We’re capable of any of these!

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” – James 1 v 19
This indicates that we will become angry.

When we are angry with someone we should go to them, but not to explode at them. It’s biblical to describe the hurt we feel and talk it through. We should do this before coming to the Communion table.

It’s not easy! We’re works in progress, and need to work on it.

The bible teaches us not to take revenge or bear grudges.
“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” – Hebrews 12 v 15

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6 vv 14-15

When we’re looking to deal with a broken relationship we need to do it slowly and humbly.

We’ve all broken this commandment, Jesus never did. Through Him we find forgiveness.





Sermon Notes: The First Commandment – No Other Gods

18 01 2016

Gradually catching up, these are my notes from last Sunday from the sermon on the first commandment:

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

John 14 v 6 comes straight from the first commandment: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Our culture is suspicious of exclusive truth claims.

The book and film “Life of Pi” follow a boy who manages to commit to three of the worlds main religions, at different times, but never giving any of them up. He says:
“”Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God,” I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face.”

Only in the west is it deemed arrogant to say that only your religion is correct. To say they’re equal is arrogant itself.

Religious freedom is good, but pluralism takes that to saying that you can’t say yours is true for any religion.

Tolerance and respect are good things, but you need to be able to offer your faith to others.

The government wants to Ofsted church groups – we may be penalised for making truth claims.

This isn’t just an issue in this day and age. The Egyptians were worshipping just about everything, with the Israelites caught in the middle of it all.

God demands the exclusive worship of His people.

We could take this commandment to read that long as God is number 1, then you can still have other gods below Him. But we aren’t to worship any other gods in the presence of God, and we can’t escape His presence!

There are risks of us worshipping all sorts of things, including: wealth, comfort, control, sexuality, power career, family, heath, fitness, leisure, pleasure and food. These can all be good things, but any good thing can be an idol if it pushes God out of the centre.

“He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength and with ALL your mind”” – Luke 10 v 27a

Who or what do we love? Do we mean it when we sing “Jesus, we love you”? Try some diagnostic questions:

  • What do we desire most when we are free to roam?
  • Who do I trust? Who do I turn to in times of trouble?

Behind al false gods we serve is the God of self. “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” – Oscar Wilde

The solution is to fall in love with God again and again and again. No one else is worthy.

“There is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” – David Foster Wallace

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”





Sermon Notes: The 10 Commandments – “Written in Stone”

11 01 2016

It’s been a long time since I’ve written up my sermon notes from church. Partly due to being on so many rotas on Sunday mornings I haven’t often been able to take any, and partly because I just keep falling asleep on Sunday afternoons. That said, we’ve just started a great new series on The Ten Commandments, and I’ve been in church for the first 2 sermons (an intro, and then the first commandment) so I thought I’d see if I could get back into routine. (and you can listen to any of the sermons in the series as they get uploaded, here)

So for week one we had an introduction to the whole topic, and the reading was Exodus 20 vv 1-17, all 10 commandments!

“Written in Stone”

  • The 10 commandments can be seen as instructions for living
  • These days, the popular line in schools is “making good choices”
  • All authentic relationships and friendships are based on disagreements and how we handle them
  • A society created around choosing the bits we want and leaving the rest is what the book and film “The Stepford Wives” was based on. We can’t just choose the rules we want and ignore the rest, or we’d just have a “Stepford God”

  • We need to submit to God in everything
  • God saved the Israelites from Egypt before giving them the law. We are saved not because we obey the law but so that we can obey it. Else that’d be legalism
  • There’s nothing worse than chameleon Christians, trying to blend in with culture. We’re called to stand out as a light in this dark world.
  • John 1 v 17 and Romans 6 v 14 could be read that as we’re no longer under the law we just have Grace. Yet 1 Corinthians 9 v 21 and Luke 16 v 17 show that we’re under Christ’s law and that not a stroke will drop out of that. This could seem like a contradiction, but there are different types of law.
    • Moral Law – This is the 10 commandments. Jesus’ sermon on the mount doesn’t contradict this, but raises the bar from it!
    • Civil law – The laws that applied to the nation of Israel. These contained useful principles, but were superceded by Jesus, and were no longer binding
    • Ceremonial law – All Israel’s laws on clean/unclean etc. Christ’s sacrifice fulfilled this law once and for all – Colossians 2 v 17
  • The 10 commandments can be categorised under the two greatest commandments
    • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Commandments 1-4
    • “Love your neighbour as yourself” – Commandments 5-10
  • In the same way that a father always loves his son, but is even more delighted when his son tries to please him, God doesn’t love us because we keep His commandments, but He’s delighted when we do, shouldn’t we want to please Him?
  • There are verses in the New Testament to back up each of the 10 Commandments
    1. You shall have no other gods before me – “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – John 14 v 6
    2. You shall not make for yourself an image – “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” – 1 John 5 v 21
    3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God – “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” – Matthew 6 v 9
    4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy – “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” – Hebrews 4 v 9
    5. Honour your father and your mother – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 ‘Honour your father and mother’– which is the first commandment with a promise” – Ephesians 6 vv 1-2
    6. You shall not murder – “‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.” – Matthew 5 vv 21-22
    7. You shall not commit adultery – “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5 v 28
    8. You shall not steal – “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” – Ephesians 4 v 28
    9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour – “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.” – Ephesians 4 v 25
    10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house – “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.'” – Romans 7 v 7