Faithful And True - Lamentations 3:23-26
We are living at a time when most everyone agrees that telling a lie is a sin. Yet it is also the one sin that almost everyone commits. One study reported that the typical American lies to nearly one-third of the people they talk to in a given week. Philip Ryken wrote,
People wonder if anything is true at all. The truth is not what happened; it is what sells. What is true for you may not be true for me. Truth is no longer stranger than fiction; it is fiction. This is an age, writes Alistair Begg, in which "plausibility is given to every idea, and certainty to none." [Discovering God p. 176]
Look at how truth is manhandled in our society. In advertising almost every claim is an exaggeration or a distortion. We are urged to strive for unattainable ideals of wealth and beauty. Have you seen one of the new advertising campaigns? You receive a Xeroxed copy of a newspaper article that is singing the praises of some weight loss product or hair restoration miracle. And then at the top of the page are handwritten, "I thought you would be interested in this." The idea is to make you think that you are getting an anonymous note from a friend . . . a very sick friend. Deception, pure and simple.
Newspapers are constantly quoting "well-placed sources". The idea of truth is no longer uppermost . . . being able to prove an absence of malice in the lies and innuendoes is really the preeminent concern.
Consider all the things that we see on the Internet. There are lies paraded as truth. People assume false identities as they lurk in chat rooms. People send notes in the name of another. It is easy to pretend . . . it is easy to lie on the Internet. This morning we see an oasis in this world of deception. We find an anchor of truth and trustworthiness that is found in the Lord.
GOD IS TRUE
God is True in His Being
Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me. [Jn. 14:6]
Jesus does not say that He is the "way to the truth", He says that He is the way AND He IS the truth. Truth is not a fact or a piece of knowledge. Truth is anchored in a person. When Pontius Pilate stood before Jesus he asked the question, "What is truth?" Unfortunately, Pilate didn't wait for an answer.
Pilate was asking the wrong question. The question should not have been WHAT is truth but WHO is the truth. The truth finds its origin in the person and character of God.
[1 John 5:20] We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
When we say God is true we mean at least two things. First we mean God is the one who is pure and undefiled. God is not the product of spin doctors. There is no "shadow of turning" with Him. When you say a wall is true we are saying that there is no variance in the wall it is straight. In this same sense God is true.
Second, God is true because He is the one by whom everything else is measured. You may not know this but near Paris France (Sevres) the standard of measurement is kept. A prototype Kilogram, a platinum-indium cylinder which is kept at a constant temperature is the standard by which all other metric weight is measured. There is also a Bronze bar with lines in it that is the measure for feet, inches and the like. The purpose of this standard is to make sure that there is not any variance in our weights and measures. As these metal objects are the standard for weights and measures . . . God is the standard of what is accurate and reliable.
God speaks what is true
[John 17:15-17] My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
God's Word . . . what God says and what God guided the authors of Scripture to write . . . is true. God makes promises, gives directions, and diagnoses problems. When we say that God's Word is true, we mean several things.
First, we mean that God's Word can be depended on. When God says something, you can be sure that it will happen. What He promises, He delivers. What He threatens He brings to pass.
Second, when we say that God's Word is true we mean that it is accurate and will lead us in the right direction. The advice and counsel which is given in the Bible is true. It is not theory or opinion, it is not the conclusion of a team of men, it is not the best guess we can make. God's way is straight . . . it is right. What God says about honesty is the truth about honesty, what God says about how to have a good relationship is the truth about how to have a good relationship. What God says about financial stewardship is the best way to handle our money. What God says about salvation is the truth about salvation. What God says about priorities is the truth about priorities.
During the time of the Reformation the Reformers used to affirm this truth with the words Sola Scriptura. It was shorthand to mean that the Bible alone was is our rule and our guide. Everything is to be weighed and measured by the Scriptures. At the time it was quite a controversial notion. The church had stated that the Scripture was authoritative, and church tradition was authoritative, and the Pope was authoritative. The Reformers responded by saying that traditions came from men and the Pope was but a man. Both were fallible. The only true standard was the Word of God.
When Martin Luther was put on trial as a heretic he was commanded to recant his teachings. Luther replied, "Unless you show me from the Scriptures themselves that I am wrong, I will not recant. I cannot recant. Here I stand, I can do no other."
This isn't just a historical factoid. The principle needs to be reapplied again today. Today there are many who will nod their head to the idea of Scripture Alone but they will want to also rely (and often temper the teaching of the Bible) on the authority of:
the teaching of a particular church
the vision or claimed insight of a leader
the writings of an author
one's personal experience or preference
what seems to "work"
There is only one who is true and that is God. There is only one testimony of God's direction for us and that is the Bible. Everything else must be carefully measured by the standard of God's Word.
GOD IS FAITHFUL
God's faithfulness goes hand in hand with the trueness of His character and His promises.
[Psalm 145:13] The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.
[Hebrews 10:23] Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
When you say that your dog is faithful (pardon the crass analogy) what do you mean? You probably mean that you dog is unwavering. They are not fickle in their devotion and their love. I know with our dog she will get really excited to see someone . . . but in all her excitement she is keeping an eye on me. If I start to leave she wants to go with me. That's faithfulness. She is a constant and unwavering companion.
When we say that someone is faithful in a marriage what do we mean? We mean that they are keeping their promise. They are sexually loyal, they are giving themselves fully to the marriage, they are working hard. They are keeping their word. A faithful friend is one you can count on. When they know you have a need they will be there. When they make you a promise they will keep it. When you need understanding they will provide it.
Consequently, when we say that God is faithful we are saying that we can depend on Him. We can be sure that He will do what He says. Let me show you that this is very practical truth.
God is faithful when you are in difficult circumstances.
[Lamentations 3:22-26] Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
This is really a great passage of Scripture. The book of Lamentations was Jeremiah's lament over the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah wrote the book after he has walked among the rubble of the city. The walls were destroyed, the temple was burned down and the Babylonians had ransacked the city and killed many. Imagine what it would be like to walk the streets of our city after a tornado had destroyed every building that was standing. That was how Jeremiah was feeling. And yet in the midst of the heartache he spoke of God's faithfulness.
In the midst of the destruction Jeremiah affirms God's faithfulness. Why? First, God did what He said He would do. He told the people that His patience was wearing thin. Judgment was around the corner. This act of judgment showed that God meant what He said.
Second, He recognized that the Lord had also promised to keep a remnant. Jeremiah knew that the only reasons there were any survivors at all was because the Lord had promised to preserve the nation. They all deserved to be destroyed for their fickle faith . . . but they were not all destroyed. God kept some of these people alive so that the nation could continue. This remnant was not made up of people who deserved to be saved . . . they were people who were saved because of God's promise and for no other reason.
When we are going through the tough times we need to remember these insights of Jeremiah. Even in the rubble of difficult times, God remains faithful. He doesn't forget His promises.
He will still provide for us.
He still stands with us.
He will indeed give us the words to say and the strength to stand.
He is still working for our good
He still loves us
His commitment to every child of God remains undiminished. . . even though circumstances may make us wonder.
God is faithful when you feel like you are drifting away
[1 Cor 1:5-9] you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
God is faithful here "He will keep you strong until the end . . " It is not dependent on you and I. Sure, we are to work hard. Yes, we are to develop spiritual disciplines. But our continuance in the faith is not dependent on us . . . it is guaranteed by the Lord Himself.
Paul tells us that "he who began a good work will bring it to completion." (Phil 1:6). Jesus talks of His followers and says," I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30).
We may feel like we are drifting . . .and we may be, but God is holding the rope. Our Lord will not let us get away. He may have to reel us in with a strong hand . . . but He will not let us go. Again, it's not that there aren't times when we deserve to be let go. It's not like there are not times when we make choices that offend God's character. On our own there is not a one of us who could by our own strength remain faithful. But even when we are not faithful to Him . . . He remains faithful to us.
You may feel that you have drifted. You may feel embarrassed to return to the Lord . . . but He has not deserted you. He has not "written you off". He continues to mold you even though you resist. You can return to Him.
God is faithful when you face temptations
[1 Corinthians 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.
Isn't this a great promise? God will not LET YOU be tempted beyond what you can bear. There will never be a situation where you cannot remain faithful. There will never be a tempting situation that we HAVE to give in to. We can never say "we had no choice" when it comes to sin. There is always a way to remain faithful!
It may be that you are engaged in behavior that God calls wrong. And you may be excusing that behavior by saying, "I can't help it." You may blame nature, you may blame your circumstances, you may blame those around you. But the argument is the same in each of those cases: you are claiming that you can't obey God because you have no choice. God's promise says, "There is always a choice".
Perhaps you are in the heat of a tempting situation. Maybe it is a temptation to become physically involved with someone who you are not married to. Maybe it is to lie on a financial disclosure form. Maybe it is to have someone else punch in your time card so you can sleep a little later or run an errand. Maybe it is to lie or shade the truth to protect yourself from particular consequences. You may feel the temptation is stronger than you are. You can be faithful no matter how overpowering the situation may seem. God will provide a way out . . . LOOK FOR IT and then take it!
God is faithful when you sin
[1 John 1:9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
What a precious promise this is. When we sin . . . he will forgive us if we will come to him and admit our sin. Notice two things: there is no limit on the promise. John doesn't say that "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins up to 100." There is no limit on the promise! If we have placed our trust in Him for salvation and life His promise is that He will always welcome us home. He will ALWAYS forgive us.
I know that some of you need to hear this. You believe the promise is true some of the time but there are some things you have done that make you wonder. You doubt that God could forgive you for the
sin that hurt deeply hurt someone else
the public sin that was such an embarrassment
the repeated sin
But God DOES forgive you. Even these awful sins. Even the sins no one else knows about. God will forgive them because He promised and He who promised is faithful.
Notice also that there is a condition. It is an important condition. We must confess our sin. We must admit the wrong of what we did (and mean it) and we must confess it to God. God's promise is conditioned on our sincerity. So, you see, the promise is not a license to sin. This promise does not mean we can go do whatever we want because we know the Lord will forgive us. That's not the promise. The promise is that the repentant child will always be welcomed home. The child who is truly sorry will always be embraced.
Our Lord turned to his followers once and said, "Have faith in God" (Mark 11:22) But the great Hudson Taylor always said that that should be translated not so much, 'Have faith in God,' as 'Hold on to the faithfulness of God.' It became the motto of his life and work. You see, when we say "have faith in God" the emphasis seems to be on our work. The key then is on how well we are following. But when we talk about hanging on to the faithfulness of God we are reminding ourselves that the key is not our strength . . . but His. Our confidence is not in our ability but in His promise. God will not change. His word is sure. This is what the faithfulness of God means. So whatever you are going through, the goal is not to screw up your faith and try to be better . . . the key is to rest confidently in the promise of the God who is faithful and true.