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I’m your host AMBrewster, and today we’re going to have one of two discussions concerning how to help liars become truth-tellers.
It’s not something we can really unpack in one episode, and we may not be able to do it justice in two, but we’re going to try.
If you have a liar at home, I encourage you to download today’s free episode notes, transcript, and related resources as you minster to your child.
Okay, let’s set the stage for what it takes to help our children stop lying.
I know you’re probably ready to hear “5 Ways to Help Your Child Stop Lying” or “10 Foolproof Methods to Rehabilitate a Liar.” But there are some powerfully more foundational realities we need to address first.
No oncologist can help you fight cancer if the doctor herself doesn’t understand the cancer. No mechanic will ever successfully fix a vehicle if they don’t understand the nature of the problem.
I know that we all recognize that lying is bad, but do you really understand why your child lies? Until you do, you’ll be at a significant loss in trying to help them change. You’ll forever be lamenting the bad fruit without dealing with the root of the issue.
For some of you, this first part will be review because we’ve detailed these concepts in the past. For others, this will be new information, and I will encourage you to study it more so that you truly understand it.
Then we’ll get to some specific new information about liars in particular.
1. You need to understand that your children’s biggest problem is self-deception.
In the Merest Christianity Series — one of the most seminal parenting series we’ve ever produced — we learned that everyone says what they say because they want to. But we also learned that everyone wants to say what they say because they believe it’s best.
Your child 100% believes — consciously or subconsciously — that lying is best. That belief is in and of itself a lie. Now, the child may know that you and the Bible say that lying is not the best, but they don’t really believe it. If they believed it, they wouldn’t lie. So, regardless of what they’ve heard you say, they still believe deception has value. Therefore, the biggest issue on the table is your child’s self-deception.
If you run right to the “5 Ways” or the “10 Methods” that all involve how you relate to your kid in regard to their forked-tongue, you’re missing the most important heart issues. Without dealing with the self-deception first, the child has absolutely no good reason to stop lying.
You may provide them some additional bad reasons to stop lying — for example, to avoid getting in trouble with their lie-detecting mother — but that doesn’t address the core lie that lying is valuable.
Therefore, long before you start addressing your child’s lying, you must recognize that their biggest problem — the life-dominating bondage in which they’re shackled — is their own blindness to the truths of God.
Once you believe this, you will approach parenting in a very different way. It will no longer be about whatever it takes to get immediate results, punishment, fear-tactics, and superficial behavior modification . . . it will be about genuine heart change.
2. You need to understand that your children lie because they’re wicked.
I understand the natural parental desire to push back on statement like that. But let’s allow the Bible to convince us of this point.
Matthew 15:18-20, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man.”
Every time your children lie, it’s flowing from inner defilement, but that defilement starts a lot earlier than we like to think.
In fact, Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.”
David teaches that we are conceived in sin and born in bondage to self-worship.
In James 3:14 we see that lying is a result of arrogance: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.”
It really is an arrogant thing to imagine that we can re-write reality, that the person to whom we’re lying is gullible enough or foolish enough to believe us, and that we won’t be caught in our lie.
But Proverbs 26:18-19 takes it up a notch by comparing a liar to a crazy person: “Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, 19 So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, ‘Was I not joking?’”
And just 10 verses later in Proverbs 26:28 we read, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin.”
You can’t love someone to whom you’re lying. Lying is only ever a by-product of hatred.
And James 1:26 tells us, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
Not only do we lie because we’re wicked, but if we lie consistently, the Bible says our religious pretense is worthless.
Of course, Proverbs 6:16-19 provides a character manifest of the liar when it says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”
And John 8:44 explains that the liar is acting satanically: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Too many people view their children as “good kids who do bad things.” Not only does that run contrary to the Bible’s teaching concerning the sin nature, but it will only ever undermine any attempt to help our children grow.
The importance of this point can be illustrated using a common illustration concerning the Gospel.
You may have heard it said — in fact, you may have even heard me say a long time ago — that being saved is like being an awful swimmer in the ocean. Thankfully, Jesus sails up in a boat and offers to pull you from the water.
Being a bad swimmer isn’t really a character flaw. You can be a “good person” and be unable to swim. And aren’t we all glad that Jesus was there to pull our sweet selves from the current.
But the better picture of salvation is that I have drowned in the ocean, floated to the bottom, am decaying and being eaten by sea-life when Jesus plunges into the icy depths, grabs my lifeless corpse, drags it into His boat, and breathes life into me — perfectly restoring my body to what it should be.
Your children are born spiritually dead, completely incapable of being good. Any facade of goodness is a direct result of God’s common grace. And if your liar is still not born again, their spiritual destitution is unchanged.
But even if the child is born again, their lying is a result of the Old Self flexing it’s wickedness.
Romans 6:6-18 addresses this propensity when it says, “For if we have become united with [Christ] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”
There is a constant battle waging in all of us between worshipping God and worshipping self. All sin is a result of self-worship, and all self-worship is a result of wickedness.
Until we recognize and truly understand the spiritual state of our kids, our parenting will only ever deal with the behavior.
But truly believing that your child’s lying grows from their wicked, sinful flesh will lead you to our next point.
3. You need to understand that your children cannot change without God.
In Psalm 120:2 the author cries out, “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue.”
He understood that his self-deceived, wicked heart does not want to submit to God. He understood that true obedience will always be Spirit-empowered.
And we need to understand that we and our kids can never hope to experience any real growth or change without God’s direct involvement.
But this truth has a two-pronged application. Some parents miss both prongs, but other’s miss the second. Do you know how I know that a parent doesn’t truly understand the implications of this point?
A. They don’t pray for or about their kids.
These parents don’t truly understand the fullness of the fact that their children will never change without God’s intervention.
I have a constant flow of parents who want my help with their children, but who don’t even recognize that their child’s biggest issue is their estrangement from God.
These parents don’t even think about the spiritual dynamic of their children’s behavior, and so it’s not surprising that they aren’t in fervent prayer for their children.
In such cases the parents are nearly always equally estranged from God as their children are.
But don’t be deceived into thinking that the fact that you pray for your kids is proof that you understand the importance of God’s involvement in their lives. The second prong is just as important as the first.
B. When they pray, they pray only about the child.
When you understand that we are born in our trespasses and sin and that true obedience is impossible without God, it’s very easy to pray that God would allow our children to be caught in their sin. It’s easy to pray that God would break our children’s hearts or show them their need for Him or open their eyes to the truth.
It’s also easy to pray such things recognizing that we can’t control our kids or even begin to know the depth of their depravity.
And I would argue that those are good things to pray. But — for the parent — they betray a hole in the parent’s understanding of how God wants to use dad and mom to help the child change.
You see, God gave you to your kids to reveal Him to them. He wants you to evangelize and disciple your children. And — if we’re striving for real honesty here — your parenting is just like mine . . . it’s still affected by your own sin nature. You’re not a perfect parent. You could do your job a lot better.
If you have a friend going in for surgery, most often you pray that the surgeon would do their job well. But how often do we pray that we would do our job well?
Since you’re such a vital part of God’s plan for your child to put off their lying tongue and speak the truth, don’t you think it would be a good idea to pray something like, “Lord, I can’t do this on my own. I’m not wise enough, I’m not holy enough. I too often get distracted by how my child’s lies affect me that I don’t draw them to the most important truths. Instead I fixate on how they’ve wronged me instead of seeing their sin as being an affront to you. Lord, please work in my heart. Convict me of my sin, and help me to bring up my children in your discipline and instruction.”
You see, you and I need God’s truth and empowerment to help our children put off their lying just as much as our children need God’s truth and empowerment to put off their lying.
It will be impossible for our kids to stop lying in a valuable, Christ-honoring way without God’s direct involvement. And it will be impossible for us to parent our children to that end without God’s direct involvement in our lives.
Okay, let’s review as we lead into our final point for today:
1. You need to understand that your children’s biggest problem is self-deception.
2. You need to understand that your children lie because they’re wicked.
3. You need to understand that your children cannot change without God.
And . . .
4. You need to understand that speaking the truth grows from a heart that worships God.
Yes, you will never help a liar if you don’t use God’s Word and lean on His empowerment, but — ultimately — regardless of what you do, the child will never truly speak in any way that pleases the Lord unless they offer their communication as an acceptable offering to God.
So, in closing, I want to look at three passages to illustrate — once again — that we must approach our children’s sin from the inside out. The single most important direction from which to deal with our lying children is their relationship with God.
Let’s start by considering . . .
A. Exodus 20
In Exodus 20, verse 16 we read the ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” But this injunction does’t exist in a vacuum. It, like the other eight, all tie inextricably back to the first — “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Whether it’s a pagan block of stone or a modern ideology, such idol worship always grows from our own self-worship. We worship the piece of wood or the experience or the accolade because we’ve decided that’s what’s best. To disobey God is to believe that we know better, and so we ourselves become our false god.
Your children can never honor you, not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not lie, and not covet if they do not first and foremost revere the Creator God of the universe.
In fact, God’s justification for expecting the Jews to heed His commands was explained in verse 2, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” -- “Because of Who I am, I have the right to rule your life, and you have the responsibility to obey.”
But we know that the Christian’s relationship with God is more than just a duty. In fact, when we approach our obedience the way the Children of Israel did, we fail just like they did.
So, I want to look quickly at a New Testament passage, and then turn to its sister passage and do an overview of the whole letter.
B. Colossians 3
We read Colossians 3:9 briefly an episode or two ago. It says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.”
So many of the truths we’ve discussed today are wrapped up in this passage. We lie because we are evil. And we will never truly overcome lying until we embrace God truth, power, and the New Self patterned after Jesus Christ Himself into which the Father is transforming us.
Earlier in the chapter we read, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
Again we see the conditional and extremely important provision that true heart change will always be a result of having been raised up with Christ.
There is nothing more important in our homes than Evangelism Parenting. Of course, we shouldn’t give our kids a good “dose of God” because that’s what’s necessary for them to turn out the way we want. We should introduce our kids to the Lord because He’s their Creator and King and deserves their worship.
Will submission to Him produce a lifestyle that is noble and righteous and holy? Yes! But that’s a blessing of Evangelism Parenting, not the goal.
In addition to the fact that true heart change is a result of having a relationship with God, we see that our kids will have to set their focus on God and actively turn from their sin. In order to turn from something, you must having something else toward which to turn.
What are you setting up as the thing toward which your kids need to turn? It’s probably clear to them that you want them to turn from lying, and — I guess — the assumption is that they need to turn to truth . . . but why? Because that’s what you want? Because that will make their lives easier?
The only new direction worthy of leaving everything else behind is God and His glory.
But now let’s turn to . . .
C. Ephesians 4
It’s impossible to know if Colossians or Ephesians was written first, but it’s clear they were written about the same time, and they address many of the same truths. However, Ephesians takes more time unpacking the concepts, and has a really beautiful flow to it.
Ephesians is often where I start in my biblical counseling because of everything we’re about to see next.
But before we do an overview of the book, I want to read the counterpart to Colossians 3.
Ephesians 4:17-25, “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. 25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
It’s really easy for parents to say, “Stop lying.”
For parents who grew up going to church or who still go to church, it’s also easy to say, “God says you need to stop lying.”
But we need to step back and appreciate the fact that Paul didn’t talk about lying until over halfway through his letter.
Why is that? Well, for the exact same reasons we’ve learned today.
Paul knew that all sin is a result of self-deception that grows from our sinful flesh. And he knew that no one can truly put off the old self and put on the new self without submitting to God’s truth.
Now, imagine with me that your children were born into your home, and you had the opportunity to spend the first 18 years of their lives with them But then you contracted a fatal illness guaranteed to kill you in two months.
So, in that time, you write your children a letter so that — after you’re gone — they would be able to have access to the most important things you could ever say to your kids?
What would the content of that letter be?
Well Paul had quite the impact on Ephesus, but in Acts 20:25, not knowing what would happen to him when he went back to Jerusalem, Paul wrote the elders in Ephesus and said, “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.”
Much later (potentially almost 10 years after his visit to Ephesus), Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians from Rome during his first imprisonment.
This was Paul’s last chance to bring to the Ephesians’ minds the most important truths he could. And this is what he said.
In chapter 1, Paul immediately focuses on God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and unpacks the myriad of blessings of redemption.
And Paul prays, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
His deepest desire is that they would know God in all things.
And then chapter 2 takes one of the blessings of redemption and unveils its beauty. He talks in gorgeous detail about what it is to be made alive in Christ.
After writing two of the most important verses concerning salvation — “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” — Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Do you see how he roots our external works in our relationship with God?
Then in chapter 3 we hear the personal account of how God was using Paul to preach to the Gentiles. And this chapter is not an aside or a rabbit trail. It’s actually a personal illustration of the theological truths he had just taught. Paul’s whole person was completely revolutionized as a result of submitting to God — the very thing he called the Ephesians to do.
And then in chapter 4, Paul starts getting really practical. He explains how believers who submit to God will be unified with other believers. In fact, our relationships will be identified by how we speak truth in love to each other so that we can help each other be matured into the image of Christ.
And what is the image of Christ? The second half of chapter 4 starts laying it out in great detail. And among those examples of Christlikeness, we’re told that the setting aside of the old self, the renewing of our minds, and the putting on of the new self in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness of truth will result in “laying aside falsehood.”
But Paul’s not done. In chapter 5, he calls us to imitate Christ even more, and at the end of chapter 5 into chapter 6 he shows how our submission to the will of God will work itself out in all of our other relationships.
And then chapter 6 pulls back out to show the massive spiritual battle in which everyone is entangled and the only way we can be successful in it.
And I’m going to suggest that Christ-honoring parenting follows the same general trajectory. It is most consumed with our children knowing and submitting to God. Then when they do, it’s highest goal is that our children mature in their conformity to Christ. Absolutely everything in our kids’ lives is carefully rooted in and tied back to their relationship with the Lord.
Because, if we start in Ephesians 6 and tell our kids that Satan wants to destroy them, but they’ll be safe if they do what the Bible says . . . we’re potentially doing nothing more than appealing to their own self-worship. Who wants to be burned by Satan? And then our religion becomes worthless as it’s just one more thing in our life that we use to try to be comfortable and happy.
Instead, we need to start with Christ. We need to show our kids His excellence and worth and grandeur and glory. We need to spur them on to knowing Him and understanding Him and submitting to Him because He deserves it.
And then when we get to the point where we have to tell our kids to put off speaking falsehood, we have a massive and eternal foundation on which to build our reproof and correction and training. It’s then no longer about us, but about that which has always been most important. And — even better — our parenting is empowered by the very power and purposes of God.
This, my friend, is the foundation on which all parental discipline must be built. Whether it’s lying or laziness or impurity or hatred or apathy, we must draw a clear line from God to our behavior and back again.
Whether our kids lie out of foolishness, malice, fear, hatred, or control, we must approach our parenting from the standpoint that our kids’ biggest problem is that they are deceived by their wicked flesh, and they desperately need to know God and submit to God. That is the only way we can parent to the glory of God and set up our children to experience real heart change that will always produce real life change.
Like I said, today’s discussion was more theoretical. It outlined the absolutely foundational truths we must embrace before we can parent our liars in any kind of valuable way.
But if you’re having a hard time understanding these concepts, please reach out to our counseling staff. You can click on the counseling tab at TruthLoveParent.com, you can email us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com, or you can leave us a message at (828) 423-0894.
And definitely continue sharing this series with your friends. I hope you realize that the theological realities we’ve discussed today are necessary when we parent our kids at every stage of life and through every trial. This truth is important for all Christian parents.
And then join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to best worship God with our parenting.
To that end, we’ll be getting more practical as we discuss how to train a liar to tell the truth.
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