Closing the Gap – Week 18 Notes

  1. Karl Marlantes

Spent 40 years writing his book entitled “What it is like to go to war.”

He is a Vietnam combat veteran, a Marine who wrote the book over a period of 40 years to help heal from the invisible wounds of war.

He experienced, as you can imagine, terrible things…things that left him with intrusive memories and disrupting dreams…things that “split” him apart on the inside…and split relationships apart on the outside.

A key part of his healing was in his learning to speak the truth to others of what he had experienced…and what he was still experiencing…a part of that came through writing the book.

He tells of one experience where he and a buddy where fighting two North Vietnamese soldiers on a hill. It was a kill or be killed situation.

For many years afterwards he would suddenly see the face, the eyes of the young man he had killed on that hill.

He couldn’t tell anyone about it, he didn’t want to deal with it so he forced the image away…buried it deep.

He couldn’t live a life where he was an integrated whole…because he had split crucial parts of his experiences and emotions and thoughts off from his day to day life with others…and from himself.

He said he only began to change when he imagined that young soldier he had killed in combat as a person not merely the enemy.

Much later in life when he had three boys of his own…he saw them in that young solider.

That enemy was a kid, like his own kid…with a dad, and with dreams, and he was fighting for what he believed.

Facing this fact, and becoming open and honest about…he said, led him to overwhelming grief and sadness…and then to healing.

He had avoided facing both his own guilt and grief…and this avoidance had not helped him be whole or healthy in himself, or in his relationships.

Honest communication leads to life integration…personally and interpersonally.

Of course the gospel is crucial to ultimate wholeness, but right now I am speaking of the fact that God has designed us to thrive and not merely survive when we learn to speak the truth to one another.

Melantes wrote that helping people come to this kind of healing “requires no sophisticated psychological training”

People are helped by honest communication.

This year we are closing the gap on faith and love.

This spring season we are looking at 8 of the “one anothers” from the New Testament.

Today we look at, “Speak the truth to one another.”

Sometimes what people think when they hear this is…”Giving people a piece of my mind.”

In other words, speaking the truth to one another equals…venting.

Volcanoes are said to be venting when they are spewing lava

You don’t want to be too close when this happens…whole neighborhoods are being evacuated in Hawaii because of venting going on there.

Like a Volcano the pressure under the surface in a person who is not living a consistently open and honest life gets so great that finally there is a burst of anger that spews all over others.

I understand that venting in regards to humans is a figure of speech that means there are times when we need to share openly, without many filters in place…we need to be able to have safe places to share emotions.

But when venting means giving full vent to anger…it’s never a good thing.

Prov. 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

There is never time when communication shouldn’t consider its impact on others.

The intent of honest communication is to consistently let others into your life in appropriate ways.

To put away all kinds of falsehood…all forms of deceptive speech

In the passage we read we see both the principle and the practice regarding speaking the truth to one another.

Principle: Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 

Practice: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

  1. Principle:

Paul is not saying…”Surely you have heard of Jesus right?”

It’s more…”Hey, remember Jesus…and how you were taught regarding him? Of course you do…now…

*Put off the old self…which is rotting from the inside and put on the new self, which is being made new.

Let’s look more closely at the principle so we can understand the practice.

Principle summarized: You are being renewed from the inside out…transformation has and is happening.

“Put off” is a single word in the original language…it would have been used to describe taking off dirty clothes.

“Put on” likewise is a single word and it would have used to describe putting on clean clothes.

The figure of speech is picturesque and descriptive, you can imagine being in clothes that are covered in filth and grime…they smell, they are unattractive and they are uncomfortable.

Then you put on clean clothes…hopefully after a shower.

But this analogy can be tricky because it can sound like the change is external, like clothes are.

Jesus taught that the opposite of this is true.

Matt. 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

A tomb was whitewashed so that someone would not accidently touch it and become ceremonially unclean.

But what Jesus was drawing attention to here was that whitewashing the exterior of a tomb doesn’t change the fact that on the inside death remains.

In the same way those religious leaders who merely practiced external religion void of heart change were like those whitewashed tombs.

So mere external change was not the point of the gospel…the gospel is about internal change.

Because the problem is not external but internal.

So put off old and put on new…is an internal analogy.

These new clothes are “Head and heart” renewal…habit change without heart change is not transformation.

Paul wrote:   Eph. 4:23 “to be made new in the attitude of your minds”

The phrase is more literally “The spirit of your mind”

This sounds a bit strange but it is about a change at our core.

It is a change in the engine that drives our lives.

God is changing who we are from the inside.

When a person becomes a follower of Christ they receive the Holy Spirit…they have a new power and new set of desires resident in them.

But the process of Christian maturity occurs over time…we can live in this power and nurture these new desires or not.

We can also choose to walk back into the old way of life.

So in a sense the “old us” is like a zombie…it is dead, but it can still cause problems if we let it.

Here Paul uses the example of putting off and putting on to help make this process clear.

We are to continually take off the “old dirty clothes” and to keep putting on the “new life in Christ.”

We can and we often do…go back into the dirty clothes hamper and put on the grimy, smelly clothes of yesterday…why would we want to?

Good question.

Why does my grandson want to wear the same shirt, shorts…from yesterday? Doesn’t he smell what I smell?

Yeah, I assume he does…well then why?

Because he is a three and half year old boy. 

His sisters like to change clothes multiple times a day; he would probably be content to wear the same clothes until they fell apart.

But why would we return to the old clothes…to the old grime and smell?

Because we need to grow up in our faith.

We need to close the gap on spiritual maturity.

We are supposed to have a growing affinity to the new life…the fresh feel and smell of life in Christ…what Paul calls the “aroma of Christ.”

But we can, because of the persistence of our sin natures (retreat to immaturity)…and return to the rotten feel and smell of the old life…the smell of death.

This ought not to be so.

When you think about in here, with a clear mind…the choice seems obvious…the old things that drew you this week…don’t seem so compelling right now

The temptations that pulled so hard on you…might feel distant and weak…often you wonder how you could have been tempted to put on smelly clothes when clean ones were available.

But out there, as we become disorientated from what is real and valuable…somehow “grimy smelly clothes” begin to look good to us again.

So we must continually reorient to what is real and good…continually put off the old self and put on the new.

That is the principle: When you find yourself drawn back into the practices of the old life, look to your heart…it is off track.

It is common practice when struggling with lying, complaining, moral impurity, jealousy, anger…you name it…any of the smelly, dirty clothes of the old life…to try and stop these things without taking a look deep inside.

It is essential that we look to our own hearts, to the engine that drives our actions and habits.

If you find yourself in old uncomfortable, smelly, dirty clothes…it is not because new clean ones are unavailable…they are…God has given us what we need to change…we must avail ourselves of what he is offering to us.

There is application from here to 1 Cor. 10:13

1Cor. 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Allow me to paraphrase:

Everyone is tempted at times to put on the dirty clothes of the old life, its normal. But God is always faithful to you…he will never leave you without clean laundry…it may be a challenge to take off the old and put on the new but you can if you will. He will always make a way for you to live in the clean, comfort of the new life.

Principle: we must continually reorient ourselves to the new life…look to the heart and ask “why” am I wearing these old clothes when I don’t have to and really don’t want to?

Then to the practice…an example of putting off old and putting on the new.

  1. Practice: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

The practice is tied to the principle by the “therefore.”

Paul never tries hang Christian practice in mid-air…he always builds on the gospel principle.

So with the principle in place, the first practice Paul discusses and the one we are focused on today is “put off falsehood and speak truthfully”

Here the grimy, uncomfortable clothes are “falsehood”

The new clothes of the new life are “speak truthfully.”

Put off falsehood/Speak truthfully for we are one body:

This is a very important “therefore” of the new life.

When truth is absent in relationships…real relationship itself will soon absent.

We are one body, truth is essential for health in a body.

There are diseases and injuries where the human body sends wrong signals or no signals through nerves to muscles.

When this happens the body cannot function properly…it is damaged or diseased.

When people in relationships…family, church, friends…fail to speak truthfully…those relationships are in a state of failure.

Truth is bottom line for healthy relationships…just like a “truthful” signal through a nerve is essential for a healthy physical body.

Here’s the clearest and perhaps most sobering contrast between lies and truth.

John 8:44b When he(Satan) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 16:13 When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

Satan is called the father of lies…it is his heart language…he invented lying.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth…and he guides us into truth.

Lying is considered a normal part of human relationships in societies all over the world.

In some cultures the ability to lie well is considered a quality to be admired.

In America it is something that is just assumed…people are going to lie…its normal.

You must just factor this in to all your relationships…business, family, friends…people will lie to me and I will lie to them.

But then, lying is thought to be wrong, and people act surprised when someone is caught in a lie.

This is crazy and confusing…lying is thought to normative(it is assumed) and wrong.

And in relationships…it certainly assumed that secrets will be kept.

But is it reasonable to expect that people will actually be able to live fully truthful lives with one another?

It is…it is more than reasonable…it is essential…necessary for relationship health…and personal health.

We are only as healthy as our secrets.

Christy and I have been committed to having no secrets between us.

We are not perfect and there are many things that we don’t get consistently right…but this is one that we do get right.

It is just not necessary or helpful to live with deception, secrets.

*That doesn’t mean I tell her everything I think and feel…sometimes what I think and feel is not good…I need to stop thinking and feeling it.

*In addition I am a pastor and a chaplain…there are things I can’t tell her…ethically or even legally.

*But what I mean is that the things that could separate us and the things necessary to connect us…I tell her and she tells me.

Sometimes it takes time for me to even know the truth of my own heart…but its important that when I do, I tell her…and other close friends.

Speaking the truth is not merely about “not lying”

One of our church’s heart attitudes is to live an open and honest life.

This doesn’t mean you tell everyone everything you could tell them; it does mean you tell everyone everything you should tell them.

What is the basic guideline for knowing what to tell others?

Eph. 4:29 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.

This indicates that the ultimate purpose of communication is tied into last weeks “one another”

We are to live to serve one another…this service includes our speech.

We are to put the interests of others ahead of our own.

Of course it doesn’t mean we are never concerned with our own needs…but that we must never be consumed with our own needs.

When we consistently and authentically speak the truth to one another…we all benefit because we are members of one body.

Eph. 4:29 doesn’t mean we only try to say “encouraging things to others”

That’s not always what we need

*Some times we tell hard things…its what we need

Christy tells me things that are hard to hear…but they are essential that she tell me…it is what I need…it is the truth.

Sometimes we might share something that is discouraging us…but that is just what a friend needs to hear…it meets their need to be your friend.

*Wholesome talk is not always happy talk…but it is always honest talk.

Talk meant to build relationship for the glory of God and the good of each other.

CONCLUSION:

I know of a man who kept a personal struggle secret for 70 years.

This struggle had kept him at a distance from all those he loved…for all those years.

Finally, in his 80’s told them…all those years of them not understanding him and him keeping his distance…why? It didn’t have to be.

Lying can defined as “intended deception.”

Someone might say “I didn’t technically lie, I just lead them to believe something.”

Or I don’t tell them all that I could (should maybe?).

But if the intent is to deceive as to what is actually true and real…then it is not truthful speech.

If you lead them to believe something that was not true, that is intended deception.

So…where you have lied…go ask for forgiveness.

If you have habitualized lying…and some people have…continually fess up, every time, until you break the habit…lying is bad and unnecessary.

But again this is more than just “don’t tell overt lies”…this is live an open and honest life.

In James 5, James talks of a person with physical needs asking the leaders of the church to pray for them.

James says that when the sick person goes in humility and confesses their sins they will be healed, if they have sinned they will be forgiven.

This, of course, is not a verse saying that every time a sick person asks for prayers they will be healed…there are other scriptures that provide the fuller picture along with this one.

There are times when sickness is a part of God’s will for his people…and eventually we will die.

The point here is that there are times when humility demonstrated in confessing sins to one another will prove to be a key component of God healing us.

Openness and honesty here in James…opens us up to God’s power.

Application:

Who knows you…the current, up to date you?

-Not the “you” who was struggling awhile back, but now you are doing okay.

-Who has current information about the real inside you?

-If somebody does…good…that is a safe place to live.

-If nobody does…take the time to find out why.

-Have the courage to act on the real reasons why.

Lots of possible reasons…let’s look at two categories of reasons:

  1. External focus…looking externally for what is essentially an internal issue
  2. Internal fear…pride and insecurity keeping me from an honest life.

External focus

Week before last I went to a training in Topeka where the presenter gave all the gloomy facts of how most pastors have no friends, no boundaries, and essentially hate their lives and jobs.

I could not relate…none of the stats were true for me or my family.

So…thank you…our lives at River for 28 years have been a joy.

But during the presentation the speaker said…”70% pastors/chaplains don’t have a close friend.”

Then his application was…”You really need a close friend.”

To me this is a bit like telling someone lost in the desert with no water:

-“Your problem is you don’t have any water.”

-“Here’s your solution, you need to get some water.”

If they have no close friends it would be important to honestly, courageously ask why.

So perhaps you don’t have open & honest relationships because…

*Don’t trust anyone

*People have betrayed you or disappointed you in the past

*No one wants to be your friend, you think

*No one pursues you

*You have tried and it hasn’t worked.

There is no conspiracy against you is this regard…what others have (and others do have this), you can have as well.

The starting point is to swallow your pride

or get a thicker skin

or think better

or have different expectations

or forgive others

or don’t be so hard to get along with…and anything else that has to do with a choice you actually have.

-Don’t look first externally for the source or the solution of the problem.

Check your own expectations…do you want to actually be more healthy or do you want to feel justified in your current status?

What do you want?

It is really important that if the problem is largely or even partially on you…that you be honest about that fact…and takes steps to change.

It can be hard to face the truth, but much harder to not live in the truth.

  1. Internal fear issues: Insecurity/pride both are fear based.

This category of issues has to deal with self-perception.

I will be embarrassed…(wrong idea that started when we were very you…that embarrassment will somehow literally kill me)

No will like me, respect me, trust me if they really know me

I feel shame…I will lose leadership

Again what do you want? Do you want to live in freedom or not?

We will talk more about this when we get to “confess your sins to one another” in a few weeks.

I am not just talking about being honest with sins…but also honest with struggles, with dreams, with weakness, with things that others have done that have hurt you.

The principle: Put off the old, put on the new

The practice: Speak truthfully to one another

 Live an open and honest life…tell everything you should tell not everything you could tell to everyone you should tell.

Why? We are members of one body.

Why? For the glory of God, the good of others…and for your own joy and freedom.

This morning some people will be at the front of the sanctuary, they are here so you can come and ask for prayer.

You may also, if you choose grab a friend or family member and bring them here.

Why come to the front?

-To mark a moment in a new movement…do you need a new movement in your life? They start with a moment.

-As a show of faith…put down a marker…Physical movement to mark movement in your heart.

-To take a step of Humility…fear of embarrassment is powerful de-motivator…we need to consistently act against it.

If you feel you should come ask for prayer or ask a friend next to you for prayer….then do it.

If you don’t…then don’t

Do what you should do.

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