The model prayer Jesus taught his disciples to offer in faith and hope to “Our Father in heaven” includes the petition “…deliver us from evil,” or more literally “…from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). The enemy of our souls is given many different names and titles in the New Testament: Satan, the devil, the tempter, the deceiver, and the destroyer. But none of them is more appropriate or more relevant for our own contemporary culture than the Father of liars; the one in whom there is no truth, and whose children are the people of the lie. John 8:44 says “You are from your father, the devil, and you have chosen to do your father’s will” (i.e. to live according to the devil’s desires and purpose)…There is no truth in him...when he speaks, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of liars.“
If you consider the context of this incident and such a shocking indictment, you will discover that Jesus was addressing devout Jews who claimed to be the heirs of the covenant God had made with Abraham and his descendants. The Apostle John tells us that Jesus had presented himself to them as “the Truth,” but their evil intent was to kill him (vs. 40), for the devil had so deceived them that they were calling Jesus a false prophet. They were not able to discern the truth, for they had been listening to the “father of liars,” who had blinded their eyes to the truth about Jesus. They were calling good evil and evil good, which is what the evil one always does. However, in their crooked thinking, these Jewish zealots were still insisting that they were “children of Abraham.” They still thought that the God of the covenant was their father. Their minds had become so darkened and their emotions had become so deadened, that they were actually trying to kill Jesus.
So he told them “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept (i.e. cannot believe) my word. You are from your father, the devil…there is no truth in him…he is a liar and the father of liars. But because I tell the truth you do not believe me” (vs. 42-45). These words were spoken more than two thousand years ago, but I submit they are just as relevant in the twenty-first century as they were in the first century. Deception is still the devil’s favorite and most effective weapon. I mean, just fast forward to our own time and people are still confused about who Jesus is (i.e. the Jesus of history, the Jesus of the gospels). In my last blog post, I spoke of those in Christ’s Church who consider themselves “deep thinkers.” These thinkers are searching for “the real Jesus” (i.e. the “Jesus Seminar” scholars), who are being exposed by many respected theologians and historians as writers who are simply following in the steps of many who preceded them who distinguished between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.”
Furthermore, all of them are by no means popular Christian writers like John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, who are well-known authors on the lecture circuit as well as gifted writers whose appealing arguments have won them much notoriety. In fact, one member of the Jesus Seminar is a noted Hollywood producer Paul Verhoeven, who has produced such films as Robocop, Basic Instincts, and Showgirls. We are well familiar with the kind of films Hollywood has produced about Jesus, including The Last Temptation of Christ, in which skeptics and cynics have enjoyed raising questions about the true nature of Jesus, especially the weakness of the flesh in his humanity, including those things that human instincts crave. What was the nature of his relationship with Mary Magdalene? Isn’t it possible, or even probable, that they were lovers? Perhaps they were married and even had children. These children of the “father of liars” have enjoyed suggesting that since Jesus was fully human, and tempted as other men are, he must have needed such companionship and actually yielded to such temptation. That kind of frail and fallible Jesus appeals much more to them than the Jesus of the gospels who said, “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires…there is no truth in him. When he speaks he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of liars…Which of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:44-46).
Of course, they question the authenticity of these words attributed to Jesus. They take a “cafeteria-style” of biblical interpretation, accepting only that which appeals to their own spiritual appetites, rejecting such scriptures as Hebrews 4:15: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.“ In his First Letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul expressly says “…that in the latter times (i.e. the times before the return of Christ, or the time that began after the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension into heaven and continues to this day) there will be some in Christ’s Church who will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars” (I Timothy 4:1-2). It was true then, for there were heresies that created confusion, controversy, and conflict in the Early Church, and it is true today. I can think of no more convincing proof of this prophecy than the very words of the founder of the Jesus Seminar, Robert Funk, who said without any apology or embarrassment that he hoped to “re-invent Christianity” before it has run its course. I would suggest that anyone with that mentality, speaking with that kind of arrogance, has renounced the faith entrusted to us by God through the apostles.
Furthermore, I would apply to them a metaphor Jesus used during his own teaching ministry to describe many of the religious leaders of his own day: blindness, for many who had twenty-twenty vision were unable to see who Jesus is (John 9:39-41). They were not able to see beyond their own preconceived opinions about the kind of Messiah they wanted, and Jesus did not fit that mold. Most of them had probably not even heard him personally, but they had heard rumors about his claims and assumed he was a false prophet, joining the ranks of those who were planning to kill him (vs. 40). Times have not changed that much since they succeeding in spreading lies about Jesus, having him labeled a threat to Orthodox Judaism, an insurrectionist and enemy of Rome, and finally condemning Him to death by crucifixion. People have been circulating lies about Jesus ever since His death; lies about his resurrection, lies about his true identity and lies about the books written about him which became a part of the New Testament. Many of these lies have been put into books written by self-appointed judges of the Jesus of history who have taken their theological paring knives and whittled away at the historical Jesus until all they have left is a mere man, not one “in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19 and 2:9; see also Philippians 2:6-11). This kind of spiritual myopia not only applies to the truth about the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, but it also applies to the inability of so many in our secular and skeptical culture today to see the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error, justice and injustice.
For example, due to an inability to discern the truth, there are large numbers of people in positions of leadership in business, government, and even the church who are so driven by their own selfish ambitions, reputation, desire for recognition, and comfort and security, that they have either become apathetic and indifferent to the stories of victims and the terrible wrongs that have been committed against them, or they actually have a contempt for the truth if it poses a threat to their own special interests. It is significant that the month of October is designated annually as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month.” The fact that most churches do not even refer to this designation, or that most pastors seldom if ever actually address the issue of domestic violence from the pulpit, speaks volumes. I have often referred to the sin of abuse as “the sin most churches deny.” It is disgraceful that so many pastors have not even believed the stories of women in their own congregations who have finally found the courage to name their abusers, especially if the accused are men in positions of leadership in churches or friends of the pastors. They have either hardened their hearts to the point they have a contempt for the truth, are simply able to dismiss alleged victims as liars or claim they are actual victims of abuse who have for some unknown reason named the wrong person as their abuser.
We see the same disregard for the truth about abuse in other segments of our society when those identified as abusers are well-known personalities, usually men who have been highly successful in their vocations or even celebrities. The whole nation saw this scenario played out on TV during the recent hearings when Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in our nation’s capital that she had been sexually assaulted as a teenager by Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Most of the Senators, as well as the media, said her story was credible and moving, but for a majority of those serving on the Judiciary Committee, her story was obviously not sufficiently compelling to prevent the nominee’s elevation to the highest court in the land. Although most of the Senators on the committee did not call her a liar, they did something that is much more common and in some respects even more hurtful to victims of abuse: their response was patronizing. They said they liked Dr. Ford and most believed she had actually been a victim at some point in her life many years ago, but this was perhaps a case of mistaken identity and the Republicans said she was probably being manipulated by Democrats.
Furthermore, we have witnessed this contempt for honesty, integrity, and truth in the field of finance. Consider the millions in the United States who have been victims of fraud. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the largest financial centers in the U.S.A., where there has been one bank scandal after another, including thousands of bogus accounts established without the knowledge or consent of customers. Consider the countless fees and exorbitant interest mortgage loan customers have been charged. Then consider the dishonesty, lies, deception, and lack of integrity that has driven other scandalous actions in the field of financial planning. Our minds have been bombarded with reports of numerous clever yet crooked investment schemes that have robbed thousands of investors of their life savings; dishonest financial planners who cheated their own friends who trusted them, who never suspected that their own funds were being used to support the lavish lifestyles of corrupt and crooked conmen. Once again, consider the utter contempt for honesty, decency, and truth that has caused such misery.
Finally, we need to face the same kind of selfishness, greed, and fraud that has been exposed in government. We see elected officials accepting bribes from special interest groups, the misuse of campaign funds and contributions to foundations established by politicians including ex-Presidents, and the millions of dollars they have been paid in royalties for the books they have written and the lectures they have delivered. I have the utmost respect for Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, who has not personally profited from the foundation he established, books he has written, speeches he has made, or the many trips abroad to support his peacemaking efforts, his passion for justice, his compassion for the poor and powerless, his strong commitment to gender equality, his unwavering pursuit of the truth, and the constant and consistent manner with which he always seeks to “do justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). Even in his old age when he is becomingly more frail and limited in what he can and cannot do, he knows he can always speak the truth, and make every effort to support those in government who do not lie, for God hates a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-17; James 3:5-16).
How will most people in our nation respond to the recent release of the results of a two-year New York Times investigation of the personal and business taxes paid by the current President of the United States, which reveals that he is a tax-cheat and has been for many years, through tax dodges and clever financial schemes that have allowed him to defraud the very government he now leads? Who cares? Who really cares? Certainly not those who claim to be children of God, but are actually children of the one who is the “father of liars,” for they have a contempt for the truth! There is such a thing as “selective deafness” when it comes to truth-telling, especially when the truth is seen as a threat to our own personal success, security, political persuasions, preferences, and prejudices. Suffice it to say, we are living in an era when deception is the devil’s most effective weapon. Those among us who are followers of Jesus are admonished to “test spirits” and are exhorted to remain “steadfast and immovable” in our commitment to live in obedience to Jesus Christ as the One who is “the Truth,” the One who was the embodiment of the Truth during His earthly ministry, and the One who forever is the Truth, who warned his followers to be on guard against the one who is the “father of liars” and his children.
The truth of God’s Word will never change. Customs change, laws change, policies change, but there are some things that will be forever the same. God’s Word will never change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God’s eternal truth will never change or pass away. Governments will change. Man-made policies will change, but God’s law will never change. Trends may come and go, but the laws of God are eternally valid. What is wrong in the eyes of God will always be wrong, and what is good will always be good. What is ugly according to God’s word will always be ugly, and what is beautiful will always be beautiful. What is just in God’s sight will always be just, and what is unjust will always be unjust. Our views and opinions may change, our politics may change, but God’s plan and desire for human-kind will never change. God’s truth will endure forever, and we can say with overwhelming confidence that God hates everything that does not conform to His Word and His will. God hates lies! God hates injustice! God hates dishonesty! God hates abuse! And so should we as “children of God.”