Pastor and podcaster John Mark Comer has written six books and his ministry continues to grow with each. Here, he cautions us to be aware of the things that rob us of peace of mind.
“Live No Lies is brilliant, deep, scriptural, and will equip you to face the enemy and fight.”—Jennie Allen, New York Times bestselling author of Get Out of Your Head
We are at war. Not with a foreign government or domestic terrorists or a creepy new artificial intelligence hell-bent on taking over the world. No, it’s a war we feel deep inside our own chests: we are at war with lies.
The problem isn’t so much that we tell lies but that we live them. We let them into our bodies, and they sabotage our peace. All around us in the culture and deep within our own body memories are lies: deceptive ideas that wreak havoc on our emotional health and spiritual well-being, and deceptive ideas about who God is, who we are, and what the good life truly is.
The choice is not whether to fight or not fight, but whether we win or surrender.
Ancient apprentices of Jesus developed a paradigm for this war; they spoke of the three enemies of the soul: the devil, the flesh, and the world. Live No Lies taps into this ancient wisdom from saints of the Way and translates the three enemies for the modern era, with all its secularism and sophistication. As a generation, we chuckle at the devil as a premodern myth, we are confused by Scripture’s teaching on the flesh in an age where sensual indulgence is a virtue not a vice, and we have little to no category for the New Testament concept of the world.
In this provocative and practical book, bestselling author John Mark Comer combines cultural analysis with spiritual formation. He identifies the role lies play in our spiritual deformation and lays out a strategic plan to overcome them.
Do you feel the tug-of-war in your own heart, the inner conflict between truth and lies? The spirit and the flesh? The Way of Jesus and the world? It’s time to start winning. It’s time to live no lies...
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The truth about lies
Late in the fourth century AD, a young intellectual named Evagrius Ponticus went into the desert of Egypt to fight the devil.
Like you do.
Evagrius had read the story of Jesus going out into the desert to face the devil head on and intended to follow Jesus’s example.
Soon word got out: there was a monk out in the middle of nowhere at war with the devil. Apparently, rumor said, he was winning. He became a sought-after spiritual guide. Spiritual seekers would brave the dangers of the elements in an attempt to locate Evagrius and learn his tactics.
Before Evagrius’s death, a fellow monk named Loukios asked him to write down his strategy to overcome the devil. As a result, Evagrius penned a short book called Talking Back: A Monastic Handbook for Combating Demons.
Best subtitle ever.
Recently, I got around to reading it; it blew my mind. In all honesty, I expected a list of Christian-style magic incantations, the incoherent ramblings of a premodern introvert who spent too much time under the North African sun. Instead, I found an erudite mind who was able to articulate mental processes in ways that neuroscientists and leading psychologists are just now catching up to.
Evagrius generated the most sophisticated demonology in all of ancient Christianity. And the most surprising feature of Evagrius’s paradigm is his claim that the fight against demonic temptation is a fight against what he called logismoi—a Greek word that can be translated as “thoughts,” “thought patterns,” your “internal narratives,” or “internal belief structures.” They are the content of our thought lives and the mental markers by which we navigate life. For Evagrius, these logismoi weren’t just thoughts; they were thoughts with a malignant will behind them, a dark, animating force of evil.
In fact, Evagrius organized his book into eight chapters, each grouped around a basic logismoi. Evagrius’s eight thoughts later became the foundation of the “seven deadly sins” of antiquity.
Each entry begins with the line “Against the thought that . . .”
We’ll come back to Evagrius at the end of part 1 because I think—over a millennium and a half later—after Jesus, he’s still the most brilliant tactician we have in the fight to overcome demonic temptation. (And yes, I believe in demonic temptation. Keep reading . . .)
For now, let’s open with his provocative idea: our fight with the devil is first and foremost a fight to take back control of our minds from their captivity to lies and liberate them with the weapon of truth.
Can this idea be found anywhere in the teachings of Jesus himself?
Leading question. The answer: absolutely.
One of Jesus’s most famous teachings is this:
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
In context, Jesus had just told his followers that “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples,” and as a result, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, immediately responded with antagonism: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.”
Which is a bit of an ironic statement considering the history of the Hebrew people. Read Exodus.
Jesus graciously explained that he’s not referring to socioeconomic slavery so much as spiritual slavery, for “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
That just made the Pharisees even angrier, and they proceeded to make a snide comment about how “we are not illegitimate children.” A not-so-subtle dig at Jesus’s parentage. (Except in the original Greek, it’s not as milquetoast; it’s closer to “We’re not bastards like you.”) Full of contempt, they raged, “The only Father we have is God himself.”
Jesus didn’t let that one slide. As feisty as he was tender, he responded with a fascinating claim about who their “father” actually was:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Right out of the gate, notice three things from Jesus’s teaching about this enigmatic creature he called the devil.
Let’s start with the obvious: for Jesus, there is a devil.
In Greek, the word Jesus used is διάβολος (diabolos), which is from a verbal root word meaning “to slander” or “accuse.” It can also be translated “the accuser.” But this is just one of many names for this creature. Scripture also calls him . . .
• the satan
• the evil one
• the tempter
• the destroyer
• the deceiver
• the great dragon . . . who deceives the whole world
• the ancient serpent . . . who leads the whole world astray
Notice, every example I just listed is a title, not a name. Some biblical scholars argue this is a subtle dig from Jesus, a deliberate snub; his rival doesn’t even get a name. Others read it as a sign of how dangerous he finds this creature—Jesus’s equivalent of “he who must not be named.”
But for Jesus, the devil is not a fictional villain from a Harry Potter novel; he is a real and cunning source of evil and the most influential creature on earth.
Three times Jesus called him “the prince of this world.” The word for “prince” is archōn in Greek, which was a political word in Jesus’s day, used for the highest-ranking Roman official in a city or region. Jesus was saying that this creature is the most powerful and influential creature in the world. In another story, when the devil claimed that “all the kingdoms of the world” were his to give away, Jesus didn’t disagree with him.
Table of Contents
The war on lies xiii
A manifesto for exile xix
Part 1 The devil
The truth about lies 5
Ideas, weaponized 23
And having done all, to stand 71
Part 2 The flesh
The slavery of freedom 105
"Their passions forge their fetters" 125
The law of returns 145
So I say, live by the Spirit 167
Part 3 The world
The brutal honesty about normal 195
A remnant 221
Epilogue: Self-denial in an age of self-fulfillment 245
Appendix A monastic handbook for combating demons 259
Thank yous 263