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If there were a count of all new years’ resolutions ever made across the world, we would drown in an ocean of abandoned ones! In a world where resolutions are made with no intention to act or follow through with them, does the exercise of making them have any significance? The resolutions of Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan used by God during the Great Revival in America in the mid-18th century, hold relevance even today. These were made during a period of his life when he was facing an uncertain future in the city of New York. As an eighteen-year-old, Edwards would begin recording his resolutions with a focus not on self-improvement but on total reliance upon God and above all try to please God in the pursuit of his resolutions.
The resolution that we will focus on is number thirty-four, “When telling stories, never to speak anything but the pure and simple truth.”
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings are born with a tendency to lie. Put it to the test; who taught you to lie? Most often, the answer is no one – It just came to us. However, Christians are called to be fundamentally different from those around them. Jesus told his disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). We who are called to be disciples of Christ need to live according to what the Lord Jesus expects us to. This means that we do not live according to what the world holds to be a convenient way of getting out of trouble or gaining an advantage.
As Christians living in a world and a nation where truth is looked upon as inconvenient and even unnecessary, how do we speak the pure and simple truth? Edwards’ resolution should make us question why, how, and where we ought to speak the simple, pure truth. And we need to go back to the scriptures for the standard that is set for us as believers in Christ.
First, the motive: we speak the truth because we belong to Christ. We will walk and talk as Jesus would have done. As John puts it, “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:5b-6). Next, what does this look like in our daily lives? Paul teaches the Colossian believers in chapter three to put off things that belong to the old life that they lived before they came to Christ. Among the things that they were commanded to discard is lying: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3: 9-10). Lying is something that belongs to the old nature, the nature of sin. Instead, we are commanded to put on the things that belong to Christ –in verse 17, Paul commands, “…And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” That is what we are called to do. In our focus on speaking the truth, this is the standard to which we are called and commanded to uphold. We belong to Christ and therefore must glorify him through every word that comes out of our mouths. That is indeed a high standard! And one that we, if we are being truthful, often fail at! How often have we excused small lies, reasoned out lies, justified lies, and embellished truths to spill out of our mouths? And so very often we ignore the truth of scripture, the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and speak no different than those around us. Even as I write this, my heart is pricked with the words I have carelessly spoken and lies that I have let slip! But praise God, he knows our hearts and gives us grace to seek forgiveness in Christ, and strength to obey!
How can we resolve to speak the pure and simple truth? Here are some practical suggestions that may be of help:
1. Before speaking, consider if your words are true before God, and glorify Christ
This is a difficult one, I know. But think about this, if each time I am about to speak I am reminded that my words need to be true before God and not man – I will not lie. And if each time I am about to speak I seek to glorify Christ – I will not lie because no lie has ever glorified him; only truth can. As the psalmist cried out to God, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
2. If tempted to lie, first pray and ask for strength to tell the truth before you speak
Let’s face it, we will always be tempted to lie. In a nation where lying is natural and only wrong, if you get caught, the easy way out is to lie. But Christ, the Truth, calls us to speak the truth regardless of the consequence. Pray! Trust the Lord, and speak truly.
3. If lying is a constant habit, seek help to shake it
Is there a trusted friend who is more spiritually mature than you to whom you can confess and ask to hold you accountable? Lying is a sin, and we need to confess it to the Lord and as scripture encourages us – to confess to one another, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a).
4. Speak the truth in love
In all our relationships – with spouses, children, fellow believers, friends, at work, and in the marketplace, if there is no Christ-like love in the truth we seek to speak, then there is a contradiction. Paul says in Ephesians 4:15 that we must speak the truth in love. In the context of unity in the church, Paul commands the church to speak the truth to build one another up so that everyone reaches the maturity to which Christ has called us. Truth speaking also has a wider scope of application. We must speak the truth of the Gospel to our unbelieving friends and family out of love. In our marriages, we speak truth so that in self-sacrificing love we strive to build, and grow together for the glory of Christ. And, with our children, we speak loving truth to correct, encourage, and grow them in the faith so that by the Christly example we set, children will gain these values from us and not from the world and its lies.
Jonathan Edwards resolved when narrating: “…never to speak anything but the pure and simple truth.” Speaking the truth has never been easy, and till Christ returns it will continue to be a daily challenge for us. But we are called to speak the truth because we belong to him, and it brings glory to God. May the Lord, by his grace, strengthen us so that our lips will speak, “always, only for our king.”