It always begins with a lie.
In the garden, the first of us chose to reject the truth, and chose to believe a lie. It broke us, sold us into slavery. Ever since the first, the Father of Lies has been keeping us in our chains by sidling up to us, and in a pleasant tone of voice asking what seems a most reasonable question – “Did God really say…?”
“Did God really say that He would be with you, whatever you face? If that’s the truth, then why do you feel so alone?”
“Did God really say that you are worth something to Him? If that’s the truth, why do your failures define you?”
“Did God really say that following Him brings life to the full? If that’s the truth, why are you so bored and disillusioned?”
The lie seems to make sense of our experience, so we believe it.
But does the lie make sense of our experience, or does our experience just confirm that we have already believed the lie?
Is God really absent, or do we just believe that He is absent? Are we really defined by our failures, or do we just believe that we are defined by our failures? Is this really as good as following Christ gets, or do we just believe that this is as good as following Christ gets?
You know the stuff that Jesus says? What if it were true? All of it? What if the problem is not that it’s false, but that we don’t believe it? What if “God really did say…” and the only reason we don’t enjoy the freedom of this truth is because we choose the chains of a lie instead.
Why would we do that? Why would anyone choose to believe what is not true?
I don’t know why we do, but we do. Perhaps it’s because by the time we encounter the truth, we are already weighed down by a thousand lies. Perhaps it’s because it really does seem too good to be true. Perhaps it’s because we just don’t know the truth as well as we think that we do. Perhaps it’s because trusting God is just too much of a risk for us right now.
A lie is something false, but if you believe it then you give it power. What is unreal becomes real, and it controls the way that we relate to the world.
Don’t believe me?
There was once a man whose car suffered a flat tyre whilst driving along a deserted country road. He had a spare, but was unable to change it because, when he went to look, his jack was missing. What to do?
Looking into the paddock on his left, he noticed – far in the distance – a building. It must be a farmhouse, he reasoned, and hopping over the fence he began walking, hoping that the farmer would have a jack that he could borrow.
Well, the farmhouse was further away than he’d thought. The sun was setting, and clouds were gathering ominously in the sky. It began to get dark. The driver began rehearsing the conversation in his mind.
“I will ask to borrow a jack, and then I’ll have to run back and change the tyre before it gets too dark.”
As the man pondered this, it began to rain.
“Of course, it’s raining. The farmer will take one look at the rain and decide that he doesn’t want to go to the trouble of coming out to help me find the jack. I’d have to find it myself. In his shed, which is probably full of old machinery and rubbish!”
The sun set, and the sky got darker.
“So there I am, in a dark shed looking for a jack, tripping over junk every step I take. I’m cold and wet, and the farmer – who knows exactly where the jack is – is sitting in his house by the fire, drinking a hot cup of coffee!”
The man got angrier and angrier as he reflected on this injustice, and as the moon began to rise, he had another realisation.
“It’s night time now, and I bet the farmer has already gone to bed. And when I knock, he’s not going to want to get out of bed. He’s going to pretend he can’t hear me! There I’ll be on his doorstep, cold, wet and tired, and he’s not even going to answer the door. I’ll be there without a jack after all.”
Furious, the driver finally reached the farmhouse. He pounded on the door until he heard a timid voice from inside, “Who is it?”
“You know full well who it is, you selfish old goat! And I wouldn’t borrow your jack if it were the last one on earth!” bellowed the driver, before he stormed off.
Still don’t believe me?