Live No Lies by John Mark Comer will be one of my favorite books of 2021. I’m sure of that. I don’t know of anyone else currently writing with this much insight into the human condition, our culture, and how the gospel addresses the two. Live No Lies looks at the three enemies of the soul: the devil, the flesh, and the world; and gives very practical ways to combat those enemies and ultimately find life following Jesus.
The prologue begins with the story of The War of The Worlds radio broadcast. I won’t spoil it for you if you don’t know the story. I’m not going to lie. I was hooked at the prologue and could not put down this book. It is so relevant to the age we’re living in, but the thing is it’s relevant to the human condition no matter the time period.
Comer structures the book around what he calls the three enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh, and the devil. There’s an underlying war or battle motif, but just to be clear this isn’t a angry rant about the apocalypse. Nor is it a political book focused on “us” versus “them.” Comer makes that clear from outset.
But hear me loud and clear: Our war against the three enemies of the soul is not a war of guns and bombs. It’s not against other people at all. It’s a war on lies. And the problem is less that we tell lies and more that we live them; we let false narratives about reality into our bodies, and they wreak havoc in our souls.
Part one will likely be the hardest pill to swallow for non-believers and skeptics in our culture. Why? Part one deals with the devil, who the Bible calls the father of lies. Contemporary society will largely laugh that off as superstition. Comer recognizes that some people will be cynical about this, and he asks for those people to suspend disbelief for a moment. He goes on to brilliantly discuss the power of ideas, reality, and truth.
The thesis of Live No Lies is—
The devil’s primary stratagem to drive the soul and society into ruin is deceptive ideas that play to disordered desires, which are normalized in a sinful society.
Certainly everyone can see how ideology and arguments over what is true and false have wreaked havoc in the western world in the the last few years. As Comer puts it— “It’s a war between truth and lies.” The devil is on a disinformation campaign.
Comer writes, “We sin because we believe a lie about what will make us happy.” That lie plays to our flesh, which just wants to have a feel-good life full of adventure, romance, sex, and material things. None of those things actually set us free or give us a sense of peace, which leads to part 2 of Live No Lies.
Part 2 deals with the flesh. Comer gives a great example of standing in the checkout line in a grocery store. I’m paraphrasing— on one side, you have the magazines with photoshopped models in bathing suits and male actors who look like they’ve aged well. On the other side, you have magazines with delicious looking cakes on the cover and super-sized candy bars. We’re caught between these conflicting desires and temptations. The lie is we can have both and be “authentic.”
Comer states that “our strongest desires are not our deepest desires.” For example, I want to raise my children well and be a good, loving father. At the same time, I want to come home from work and have “me time” to binge watch Netflix until bedtime. Even though that seems like a silly example, that temptation to satisfy myself is strong.
Comer argues that our deepest desire is actually not to satisfy our flesh, even though that is a strong temptation and lies tell us that will make us happy. He writes:
I’ve never read an obituary that said, “He really got a lot out of his Tinder subscription.” Or “This girl knew how to eat, drink, and be merry.” Much less “This guy’s commitment to sneakers was inspiring.” Of course not. When people die, we honor and celebrate the best parts of their character. Love, sacrifice, loyalty to family and friends, humility, joy, compassion. All of which required their denial of fleshly desires.
One thing I’ve always loved about John Mark Comer is he includes really practical ways to follow Jesus. We use to call them spiritual disciplines, but both of those words tend to have weird meanings for people now. Comer includes some great practices to help us resist our stronger desires and get to our deepest desire, which is to be in relationship with God.
Part 3 of Live no Lies addresses the world—the culture we live, our society and systems. The world propagates the lies and tells us to satisfy our flesh. Comer writes:
…the world is more than just a system that’s out there in the sociopolitical ether. It is, as Eugene Peterson pointed out, “an atmosphere, a mood,” that’s crept into us like a cancerous rot. An airborne emotional pollutant we inhale every day, an anti-God impulse we circulate in our bodies’ lungs. It’s “the society of proud and arrogant humankind that defies and tries to eliminate God’s rule and presence in history.”
Comer brilliantly breaks down this concept of the world, and he does it using quotes from some great thinkers and theologians. The list of books I want to read grew significantly after this section. Ultimately, the church is called to be counterculture to the world. How do we do that? Comer again gives some really practical suggestions pointing to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Live No Lies
Honestly, just in writing this and looking through my notes and highlights in the book, I want read the book again. I can’t recommend it enough. You can pick up a copy here.