Have you ever heard the line, loose lips sink ships? Many of us have, the phrase originated on propaganda posters during World War II, a sort of warning against saying the wrong thing to the wrong people. We could arguably use the same slogan when we talk about our propensity to lie; our own loose lips sink our ship, meaning that when our lies slip from our lips our truth sinks.
This week we look at one dynamic, one problem, in Jacob’s life that’s persistent the whole way through. Deceit. Lies. Lying was a bit of a family trait; Jacob’s family lied, his relatives lied, and he lied. Trading lies for vulnerability Jacob fell into a cycle of lying, and then he felt the sting of what it was like to be lied to. Ultimately all the lies lead to failures, as they always do. If only Jacob was confident in God’s purpose and plan, maybe he would move past the lies and into the truth, away from deceit and destruction and into the light and life of God.
Jacob’s story isn’t foreign to us, we like Jacob often are trapped by patterns of deceit. The reason we lie is we’re not confident God will take care of us if we just tell the truth. To live in confidence with God would be to actually be able to live in the truth. That’s the invitation this week — to live in confidence in the grace, mercy and love of God.
- I will step out of the darkness and into the light.
- I will bring my guilt, shame and regret before God and another person I trust.
- I will receive God’s mercy, grace and love.
- I will live in confidence with God because I have nothing to hide.
Before we get to the message today, I want to let you know what’s coming next week. We’re starting a new series. It’s called Simple Words. || Words are powerful. Sometimes the simplest words can change the trajectory of your life. The word “Help” can begin the healing process for those struggling with addiction. The word “Yes” can open the door to new possibilities. The word “Sorry” can bring healing to relationships. Using these simple words will allow God to do profound things in our lives. And I just wanted you to know I’m super excited about this series and what God’s going to do in our lives over the next five weeks. || Alright, today will be the last week of our Confidence series. || We’re called to be “always confident,” not in ourselves, not self-confidence, but confident because God is here and God is at work. So I don’t have to depend on myself or worry about myself. || We’ve looked at this little grid by Andy Crouch where he talks about how we’re meant to live with great authority because we’re image bearers of God, but we’re also meant to live with great vulnerability — We’re dependent on God. We’re mortal. || We have to navigate living with great authority and great vulnerability. || We’ve been looking at Jacob and how he doesn’t like when he feels vulnerable. He wants authority but not vulnerability. And then he ends up in the quadrant where he has no authority and is very vulnerable, which is suffering. || We’ve walked through that the last couple weeks. || Now this week we’re going to look at one dynamic, one problem, in Jacob’s life that’s persistent the whole way through, because it will wreck a life. || It’s a problem for me and for you. || And I’ll start by asking a question — who taught you how to lie? Who would you say taught you how to lie? || It’s kind of an odd thing — most people could probably say who taught them how to drive a car or ride a bike or play an instrument or sport. But no one needed to teach us how to lie. || I was reading this week that a six-month-old baby is able to fake cry to lure his mom or dad to come in and pay attention. Six months old! The baby is lying there in the crib, thinking, “You sucker. I can make you come in here whenever I want.” || Then when we get older we start to learn to use words, but we don’t grow out of lying. We immediately learn how to use words to deceive other people. || And then we become adults, and we don’t grow out of lying. We just get better at it. || There’s a guy named Robert Feldman. He is a researcher at the University of Massachusetts, and he found the average adult lies three times in a ten minute casual conversation. That’s the world we live in. || I was thinking that would mean for this sermon, every time I do a thirty-minute sermon, I will lie on average nine times. || I figure if I cut the sermon I’ll lie less. So this week, I’m doing a 10-minute sermon! Okay, that’s a lie. || This is so pervasive. Even our most famous stories get tainted with this. You may know the most famous story in American history about the nobility of truth-telling involves a little boy named George Washington. One day his dad came home, and his prized cherry tree had been chopped down. He asked, “Who chopped down my cherry tree?” Little George, with his little ax, famously said, “I cannot tell a lie. It was me.” || Now in the book where that story was first written, his father responds to him, “Oh George, I’m glad you cut down that tree, for by telling me the truth, you have repaid me more than a thousand trees, though they had leaves of silver and fruit of gold.” Now, the question is — Who talks to their kid like that? No one talks to their kid like that. Because the story was just made up. It was in a book over 200 years ago written by Parson Weems. He was an Episcopal pastor, and he just made the whole story up! The most famous story about not lying in American history is a lie told by a pastor about a politician. || The reason we lie, the reason I lie, is I am not confident God will take care of me if I just tell the truth. || I’m afraid, because I know if I tell the truth I’m not going to get what I want or I’m going to get what I don’t want or I’m going to face pain or you’re going to think badly of me or we’re going to have to deal with conflict or it’s going to be embarrassing or I’m going to be shut out or I’m going to feel enormous shame. || See, to live in confidence with God would be to actually be able to live in the truth. || I can’t actually live in the truth unless I’m confident in something greater than how my circumstances are going to turn out. || This is how Jesus put it — “The truth will set you free. Lying will not. It will bind you. The Evil One, Satan, is the father of lies.” John said: If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7) That’s the great invitation we’ll come to today — to live in confidence in the grace and mercy and love of God. But first we have to walk through — What does it look like to be in the darkness? What’s the anatomy of deception? Why and how do we do it? || And we’ll do this by looking at the story of Jacob, because it’s there from the beginning to the end. || We find it at the very beginning of Jacob’s story. His dad, Isaac, has a favorite son, Esau. Jacob is the non-favorite of his dad. His dad is old. He’s going blind. His senses are failing. And he says to Esau: I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. He says to his favorite son, Esau: Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” (Genesis 27:2-4) Now there’s deception going on here. It’s easy for us to miss it, but ancient readers would see it immediately. || It was actually kind of a stock scene in ancient literature. When the head of the family, the patriarch, was dying, there would be a deathbed scene. He would call his children, particularly his sons, to him (all of them) and give them each their blessing, the best to the firstborn. || Isaac doesn’t want to do that, because he wants to play favorites. He wants to give a big blessing to Esau. He doesn’t want Jacob to know about it. He doesn’t want to give Jacob a blessing, so he finesses this deal. He says to his son, Esau, “Now I don’t know. I might not be dying. I’m not sure. So we don’t need to call all the boys in, but I might be dying, so I have to give the blessing to you.” Then Esau doesn’t say, “Oh, Dad, if this might be the big death scene moment, we have to call in my brother. We have to bring Jacob here too.” He just says, “Okay. I’ll go hunt the game. I’ll bring you the stew.” He colludes with his dad. || Deception almost always involves collusion. And we’re generally willing to do that because we want in. Esau wants in. And then that means Jacob is out. || Now Rebekah (the mom, Isaac’s wife) hears this. And she could bring it all into the light. She could say, “Hey, as a family, we have to talk about this,” but she doesn’t. She decides there’s deception going on here, so she’ll use deception too. And she probably feels justified in it. || She calls Jacob her son (her favorite) and tells him what’s going on and says, “You put on your brother’s clothes. Your dad is old and blind. His senses are failing. He’ll think you’re Esau. I’ll fix some stew. You can tell him you’re Esau, you went out and hunted it down, and you fixed the stew. Then you get the blessing.” || Now Jacob has a chance to bring stuff into the light. He could say to his mom, “We can’t do that. It wouldn’t be right. We have to tell the truth.” But he doesn’t. He colludes with her — “Alright, I’ll do that. I’ll put on Esau’s clothes. I’ll go to the old man.” || And he does it. It’s a heartbreaking, tragic scene. The text says: Jacob went to his father and said, “My father.” (Genesis 27:18) Now this is so interesting. These words are true. Isaac is his father. But they’re also a lie, because he knows Isaac is going to think he’s Esau. || His words strictly literally are true. And we do this, don’t we? || “Yes, my son,” Isaac answered. He’s skeptical, as often happens when there’s deceit. “Who is it?” (Genesis 27:18) “Which son are you?” || And now Jacob is going to have to actually use words to lie. || He could come clean if he wanted to. He could say, “Dad, this is wrong. I’m all wrong.” || Or he could go to the place where he actually lies with words — and that’s where he goes. Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac is still skeptical. Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” Genesis 27:19 “How did you shoot the game and then bring me this stew?” Again, Jacob could come into the light. “Dad, this is all a lie.” But he doesn’t. || Look what he says. The reason I was able to capture that beast so quickly and fix this stew is… “The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied. Genesis 27:20 Not just “the Lord.” “The Lord your God.” “Dad, you’re a guy of such great faith. I admire your faith so much. The God you love and serve was with me.” He uses his spirituality to deceive someone else. || And we do this too. We do this! || I grew up in a church where one of the marks of spirituality was to have a Bible that was all marked up and underlined. When I was in church, if they were reading a passage and I had it all marked up in my Bible, I would make sure I offered to share my Bible with the less spiritual person next to me who had not brought their Bible, because I could use a marked-up Bible for spiritual image management. || That happens in churches. || Here’s what we see in this story — it’s very hard to stop with just one lie. || Lies are kind of like potatoes chips. Did you ever notice that with potato chips? It’s really hard to stop with just one. || There’s something about the situation. Once you’re in it, man, you just keep going down that road. || I’ll tell you how sensitive our souls are to being deceptive. In one research project, the researchers gave 300 people very expensive sunglasses, multi-hundred dollar designer sunglasses, but they told half of them they were knock-offs, that they were cheap, counterfeit, imitation sunglasses. So they wore these sunglasses for a while, and then they gave everyone tests. And they allowed them all to score their own tests. And they would give them money based on how many answers they got right. || The people who believed they were wearing fake sunglasses were three times more likely to lie about how many answers they got right and take money under false pretenses. || Just because they were wearing fraudulent sunglasses! || When we feel like frauds, we’re more likely to commit fraud. That’s how sensitive our soul is to living a fake life. || Now I have to explain this very carefully, because otherwise people are apt to think the point of this is — “God wants me to buy really expensive sunglasses.” And that’s not the point. || The point is deceit destroys trust, and that destroys relationships. That’s what happens in this family. It’s just a train wreck. || Esau comes in from the hunt, and he brings his stew to his dad. His dad, Isaac, said: “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? (Genesis 27:35-36) Now Jacob is a Hebrew word that meant to grab the heel, he who grabs a heel. That was an idiom in Hebrew to deceive, kind of like in English we might say, “You’re pulling my leg.” — “You’re grabbing my heel. You’re not telling me the truth.” || “Is that not rightly his name? That’s who he is.” || See, I tell a lie and then another one, and then I become a liar. None of us thinks we are. We get caught, and we think, “Well, that’s not me. That’s not what I stand for.” || But we have to see this truth — I’m Jacob. You’re Jacob. || Rebekah hears about what’s going on. Esau now wants to kill his brother, so Rebekah says to Jacob, “You have to go see your Uncle Laban. You have to move far away from this family, or Esau will kill you.” || Now Rebekah has to tell her husband, Isaac, why their son, Jacob, is moving far away. || She doesn’t want to tell him the truth. She doesn’t want to tell him she was eavesdropping and she set up the deception. Notice what she does. Deception runs all through the story. Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (Genesis 27:46) “I want to die. You have to send Jacob away or else he’ll marry one of these Hittite women.” || By the way, Esau married a couple of Hittite women, and they were thought to be women who would lead toward idolatry. Rebekah says, “I don’t want Jacob to marry one of them. I want him to marry someone who will keep him strong in the faith. Let’s send him away to Uncle Laban.” || Now, this may well be true. She didn’t want him to marry a Hittite woman, but that’s not why she was sending him away. But she was not going to tell her husband why she really was sending him away, because then she’d have to admit she’s a liar. || You see, this is all going on, and every one of these characters isn’t a pagan. These are not idolaters. These are the people God is going to create his community through. || This is us, you see. This is just the truth about you and me. || There’s a wonderful little book by Eugene Peterson. He was the author of The Message translation of the Bible. He wrote a book a number of years ago, his memoir. It’s called The Pastor. He tells about when he was starting a church. It was a Presbyterian church, and he had to write reports to the denominational headquarters every month about how the church was doing. He never heard back from headquarters, and after a while he started to think, “I bet no one is actually reading these reports.” || This is Eugene Peterson. He must have had the most brilliant imagination in the world. He was a fabulously gifted writer. || So he started making up wild stories about what was going on in his ministry just to see if anyone at headquarters was actually reading this stuff. || He was really good at it, so he started this story about how he had developed a drinking problem and had started drinking before giving his sermons on Sunday morning. He wrote that one time he was so drunk he couldn’t finish his sermon. They had to bring an elder up to finish the sermon. || He never heard back from headquarters. || This is Eugene Peterson, who wrote the Bible! || He made up that he was having an affair with a woman at the church and they got caught carrying on in the sanctuary by someone. And he was sure the elder board was going to fire him. But it turns out the church was filled with swingers, and the next weekend attendance doubled. || He didn’t hear back from anyone at headquarters, so he kept going with another story about how he used hallucinogenic mushrooms for Communion, and it was the greatest worship they had ever had. || Nothing from headquarters! He did this for three years. || Finally the church graduated. It wasn’t a plant anymore, so he didn’t have to send the reports anymore. Guys from headquarters met with him to have a little party and congratulate him. || He said, “By the way, did you guys ever read those reports I sent in?” || “Oh yes! I read every word, took them really seriously.” || He said, “Well, that’s kind of surprising.” || Then he told them about the stories he made up about the drinking and the affair and the hallucinogenic mushrooms. They weren’t amused. || But here’s what’s interesting. Their response was all just buck-passing — “Well, you know, I didn’t read them all personally, but someone always did.” || It’s so hard for someone to say, “I lied. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t do my job. I’m embarrassed to be caught right now. It would be just humiliating for me, but I didn’t read them. I told you a lie, because I didn’t want you to think badly of me because I didn’t want to look inefficient or untrustworthy. That’s why I lied.” || It’s so hard. It’s so hard! || You see, Jesus’ community is not a community of people who are just these perfect little truth-tellers. We do this. We’re all Jacob. That’s in me. I’m Jacob. You’re Jacob. We’re all Jacob. || You see, this is where people get healed. || Jacob left home, went to Uncle Laban. If you heard me tell the story last week, it’s fabulous because Uncle Laban turned out to be an even bigger con man than Jacob is. || Which is part of Jacob’s moral and spiritual education — to find out how it feels. || He met Laban’s two girls, Leah (the older) and Rachel (the younger, who was lovely). He fell head over heels for Rachel. Uncle Laban said, “Well, work for me seven years, and you can have Rachel as your wife.” Jacob did, and they seemed to him like only a couple of days because of his great love for her. || Then it’s the wedding, and there’s a lot of drinking. It’s dark. The bride is brought into the wedding tent. Then the writer of Scripture says, “When morning came, there was Leah!” Jacob thought he had gotten married to Rachel, but when morning came, there was Leah. || Imagine that moment! Jacob said to Uncle Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me? This is unbelievable!” || Remember, this is Jacob who is saying this — “Why have you deceived me? Why have you ‘Jacobed’ me?” he says to Uncle Laban. || Uncle Laban just turned out to be better at deceiving than Jacob was. And we’re this way, aren’t we? || See, if you deceive me, I’m about a thousand times more likely to remember that than when I deceived you. If I deceive you, I may not even notice it. I rationalize it. I justify it. I forget it really fast. But if someone deceives me, I carry that around with me. || That’s why we’re such a mess. You know, we all think about the person we wish was here to hear this, because of course, “I don’t need this, but there are people who really do.” || This just bounces right off of Laban. Uncle Laban could’ve said, “Jacob, I’m so sorry. Of course, you’d be devastated. You’d be deeply wounded. What was I doing?” He doesn’t. What he says is, “It’s not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. What were you thinking? You should’ve known. Don’t come whining to me!” || And you know what — we all do this. || In preparation for last weeks message, I was reading about how people who use online dating services routinely present themselves as richer, smarter, more attractive, and younger than they actually are. They will post pictures of themselves that were taken 5 or 10 or 15 years earlier than they actually are — like that’s going to fool someone. || People will go to their boss at work and say, “That was a great decision,” when they know that’s a lie. || They’ll come up to a pastor after a service and say, “That was a great sermon,” when they know that was a lie. || We live in a world where this gets so deeply inside of us. || At one point, Jacob is led by God to go back home. Look at what happens. This is so fascinating. This is just how deeply deception gets into the human spirit. This is you and me. I’m Jacob. You’re Jacob. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3) Now notice exactly what God says. “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” || In the next chapter, Jacob is praying to God, and he’s going to repeat back to God what it is God told him as he was going back home. But there’s a tiny little difference in what Jacob claims God says than what God actually said. This is what Jacob says: Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper.’ (Genesis 32:9) God says, “Well, you know, being God means I have a really good memory. I didn’t actually say, ‘I will make you prosper.’ I said, ‘I will be with you.’” || Jacob is so addicted, he’s so captured by deceit, it’s in him so much, he’s doing it when he prays, like God wouldn’t know. Oh by the way, God knows all truth. Everything is light to God. || And it’s so interesting, when Jacob has his own son. It’s so interesting in this story. This is what happens. He was so wounded because his father, Isaac, played favorites with Esau. He used his brother’s clothes to deceive his father. Then when he becomes a father, Jacob has a favorite son, Joseph. He gives him a coat of many colors. You may know this story. His brothers used their brother Joseph’s clothes, which they smeared with blood to deceive their father, Jacob. It just keeps going and going and going. || Part of what the writer of Scripture is teaching us without ever saying it in these words — is how different this story would have been if Jacob just could have said to his father, Isaac, “Dad, I’m so wounded and hurt. Do you have a blessing for me, Dad?” || Or if he could have said to his brother, “Esau, my brother, I’m scared of missing out. Would you share with me?” || Or if Rebekah could have said to her husband, Isaac, “Isaac, I’m worried about our boy, Jacob.” || Or if Uncle Laban could have said to Jacob, “Jacob, I’m worried about my girl, Leah.” || And then just trust. See, the reason we lie is it just gets way deep in our mouths and our brains, in our neurons. We don’t even see it. We don’t know it. It’s a habit. It’s a strategy. It’s a skill. It’s an art form. It’s a way of life. || I don’t trust that if I tell the truth, God will take care of me. || John says: If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7) This is the great invitation. So I want to ask you now — where is God calling you to step into the light? || Maybe there’s financial deception in your life. That makes such a train wreck and creates so much shame. God is saying, “Come on. Trust me. Bring it into the light.” || Maybe you’re in a relationship where you’ve been crossing lines. It’s an affair. It’s a relationship that dishonors God. Your heart is pounding when you hear these words, because God is prompting you right now, “Will you bring it into the light? Will you come out of the darkness?” || Maybe it’s an addiction — a substance or porn or gambling or whatever — and you’ve been living such a double life, a secret life, a hidden life. God is saying, “Will you bring it into the light? Will you stop trying to hide it and manage it?” || Maybe it’s the way you’ve been trying to manage your reputation. || Where is God calling you to come into the light? Will you stop living in deceit? || If you’re wondering, “Can I really trust him? What does it mean the blood of Jesus purifies me?” I want to tell you a story. This was written by a guy who actually teaches preachers how to preach. This is his own experience. His name is Mike Graves. This is what Mike wrote: “When a colleague and I were invited to be part of a former student’s installation service, we agreed enthusiastically and traveled together to his town. “Joe had many family members coming to the service, so we were surprised when he told us that we were all going to eat out that evening. I wondered how 19 of us were going to get in and out of a restaurant in time for church. So I suggested that my colleague and I go ahead to the restaurant and put our name on the waiting list. “The restaurant was packed. I wiggled through the crowd to the front of the line and found an Amish man standing behind an old pulpit. Next to him was a hand-carved sign: ‘Please do not give your name until everyone in your party is present.’ “I understood the reason for the restaurant’s policy, but I also knew that it would take a long time for a table for 19 to be ready. “I said, ‘Yes, the name is Graves, party of 19.’ “The Amish man with his beard and hat looked at me and said, ‘And is your whole party present?’ “Haltingly I said, ‘Yes.’ “Okay, I lied. But it wasn’t as if I were trying to beat the system. After all, even the smaller parties were waiting for 30 minutes, so we’d be putting in our waiting time too. No big deal. “But my colleague disagreed. ‘You lied to the Amish?’ he said. ‘You shouldn’t lie to the Amish.’ Like lying to a Baptist is no big deal, but the Amish? No way! “‘By the time they call our name,’ I said, ‘Joe and his family will be here.’ “Two minutes later came the announcement: ‘Graves, party of 19.’ “I went back to the Amish man and said, ‘Yes, the Graves party—well, uh, we’re not all here yet.’ “I was nervous now, and I may have giggled a little. The man looked me in the eyes and asked, ‘Did you lie?’ This was the lobby of a restaurant. “Dead silence. It was as if we were in church. The people immediately around us waited, wide-eyed and wondering. Everybody was watching him and the Amish guy. “I replied softly, “Yes, I lied.” This is a guy who teaches preaching! “Yes, I lied.” “Come with me,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine what he was going to do. What kind of punishment do the Amish hand out to liars? I pictured stocks or caning. “We followed him through the restaurant to the back, where he opened the door to a banquet room. A huge table was set with bread and jams. He offered a gentle smile. “Have some bread. You are forgiven.” || And I hope you get it because that’s the gospel. That’s the gospel! || On the night in which he was betrayed, deceived, about to be killed, he calls his friends into a banquet room. “This is my body, broken for you.” “Have some bread. You are forgiven.” This is the invitation. You’ve maybe never done this before, never come into the light. God already knows. Whatever you and I think we’re keeping hidden, keeping a secret, God already knows, and he already loves you. He gave his Son to die and be risen for you. But even God will not force you to step into the light. You have to do that. “Have some bread. You are forgiven.” Would you bow your heads and close your eyes? Maybe you’ve never done this before. Maybe you have shame. You have guilt. You have regret. And maybe you want to stop hiding and come on home. You can do it right now. Just pray to God, “God, I want to confess my secret inner shame and my guilt, my sin, stuff I’ve been living in fear that someone will find out about. I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I want to be clean. I want to be free. Through the death of your Son Jesus, through the blood that was shed for me on the cross, through your sacrificial love, God, would you make me clean? Let Jesus be my friend and my guide, my nurturer, my Savior.” God will do that for you right now. This is the invitation — come into the light. Whatever has been going on, whatever you have been keeping hidden, whatever needs to be confessed, whatever you need to let go of, whatever is required for your heart to be clean before God and for you to walk in fellowship and in lightness, man, don’t let this moment go. It’s not about anyone else. This is just you. God is calling you right now to come out of the darkness and into the light. || God, our confession to you is we’re Jacob. I’m Jacob. Our hope from you is you’re Jesus. You’re the forgiver. God, help us to live in the light. And we thank you. We give you all the honor and the glory you so richly deserve because of how great you are to us. We pray this in the name of our friend and our forgiver and our cleanser, Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA