“When I left England, my hope of India’s conversion was very strong; but amongst so many obstacles, it would die, unless upheld by God. Well, I have God, and His Word is true. Though the superstitions of the heathen were a thousand times stronger than they are, and the example of the Europeans a thousand times worse; though I were deserted by all and persecuted by all, yet my faith, fixed on the sure Word, would rise above all obstructions and overcome every trial. God’s cause will triumph.” ― William Carey
One of these obstacles to the gospel, that Carey mentions must no doubt be the sin of lying. Erik Raymond from The Gospel Coalition wrote “Gossip is the RPG that blasts holes in the fabric of the church”. This last week we have again been at the receiving end of this RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). Anti-Christian journalists had maliciously and intentionally smeared Emmanuel Gaikwad’s (Kolhapur Bible Church) name in a Mumbai newspaper in an attempt to sell more copies. Emmanuel, who is a director of AGAPE Total Medicare (an NGO helping HIV infected and effected persons), was directly accused by the media of trafficking children and indirectly accused of abusing them.
Lies and gossip are not new threats that the church has had to face, but they are still just as damning and destructive if our hearts and eyes are not “fixed on the sure Word”. Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” I am convinced that the end goal of all lies is to make us afraid and to doubt and waver in our faith. Living in fear looks very much like believing lies. Fear can paralyse us, make us useless and cause us to sin, just like it did to Gideon hiding away in a winepress. What we believe inevitably is what we will act on. Our belief always affects our behaviour.
Roughly 2460 years ago Nehemiah faced the same strategy of Satan. The infamous Sanballat and Tobiah were spreading malicious gossip and lies in an attempt to stop the work of the Lord. Their threats against the Israelites to stop building the walls of Jerusalem backfired and instead motivated the children of God to work harder and faster. Nehemiah’s wise counsel to the Jews was simply “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome”. In spite of their threats, the good work had advanced. The enemy had tried mockery; and failed. Attempted force; but learned to their dismay, that the Israelites were ready to resist unto blood to complete the work of the Lord. So when these strategies failed, Sanballat and Tobiah turned to deception, lies and even gossip. The enemies of God called Nehemiah to a meeting in a village with intentions of killing him. But Nehemiah recognised the deceptive plot and answered them in this manner, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”
After four further invitations were denied, Sanballat sent an open letter to Nehemiah. Nehemiah 6 verse 5, tells us specifically this was an “open” letter. Official letters were normally sealed so the public could not read the contents. Obviously, Sanballat wanted people to read this letter while enroute, so that gossip would spread. This was the beginning of the smear campaign. Not much has changed in our modern age with “open letters” that are posted on facebook and other social media, with the same intentions and in Emmanuel’s case, an article that is posted in an e-paper. New technology, same strategy of Satan.
Sanballat’s intentions where to create fear and distrust among the Jews as all gossip and lies are designed to do. His accusations against Nehemiah were clearly false and malicious, accusing one of the godliest men alive at that time, of selfish ambition and rebellion. Nehemiah’s response is recorded in verse 8, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” We don’t have to imagine where some journalists get their information from!
The enemies of Nehemiah continued their malicious course. After realising they could not entice him to the village, they now hire a corrupt, false prophet to offer Nehemiah safety in the walls of the temple, so they can kill him in the sanctuary of Jehovah (so much could be said about that!). Nehemiah’s God given wisdom, teaches us an inspired lesson in verse 13 “For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin…”(cf. v14; v19).
Nehemiah makes the connection between lies, fear and sin. Fear causes us to behave in such a way, we forget the promises of God and rather than trusting His character, we sin. The Westminster Confession says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I think the chief end of Satan is to cause us to sin by being fearful because of his lies. The apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:7-8 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” Paul explains the serious threat that fear is to the gospel itself.
Nehemiah refused to believe the lies that Satan was propagating and believed the promises of God. Instead of being fearful he became fruitful in his work for the Lord. Our job is not to build physical walls, but to be involved in the Great Commission by building the kingdom of God. Lies, and gossip are tools the devil uses to make us afraid so that we will “come down from the walls” and hinder the work of “making disciples”.
As one commentator said “shame is the child of doubt as well as the child of fear!” Fear will always keep us hiding away in the darkness of winepresses instead of shining our lights on a hill for the world to see the glory of God. Let’s never forget that Christ is not just a teacher, but the Saviour! How will lost sinners come to the Saviour unless someone tells them about Him? Our fears cripple us and shame us, as we live with regrets of not taking opportunities God has given us to share Christ with others at school, at work or home. But more than that, they rob God of all the glory that He deserves. Think about the last time you were too afraid to share the gospel of He who took you out of darkness into His marvellous light. If we believe lies and fear man and what they will think of us for declaring the praises of the living God, we hinder the work of the gospel!
As William Carey reminds us, we have God, and His Word is true. Satan does not care what we believe as long as it is not the Truth. Let’s resolve to fear God, worship Him alone who is Truth, and to not believe the lies of the devil and sin against God. Let’s not be distracted from the task the Lord has given us, by believing lies. As John Piper says “Don’t Waste Your Life!” For the sake of the gospel, let us “fix on the sure Word, rise above all obstructions and overcome every trial. God’s cause [Great Commission] will triumph.”
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”