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Book Summary: Live No Lies – Recognize and resist the three enemies that sabotage your peace

Live No Lies (2021) is a survival guide for Christians living in troubled times. It analyzes the main challenges facing Christians today, including lies from the devil and the influences of Western secular society, which are often incompatible with religious values. It also offers spiritual practices for Christians to adopt and suggests some possible ways for churches to adapt to post-Christian culture.

Who is it for?

  • Christians looking for practical guidance
  • People who feel dissatisfied with secular society – but don’t know exactly why
  • Anyone seeking peace and happiness through spiritual practices

Survive and thrive in a post-Christian society.

It’s a hard time to be a Christian. In Western secular society, many of the ideas that have become normalized are completely at odds with Christian beliefs. Consequently, many followers of Jesus feel worn down and alienated from the rest of society.

But John Comer, a pastor in the US, says it’s completely normal to feel this way. Christians are fighting a spiritual war. The good news is that there are simple, practical ways for Christians to approach this challenge – and they don’t have to do it alone.

Book Summary: Live No Lies - Recognize and resist the three enemies that sabotage your peace

In these summaries, you’ll learn

  • where lies come from, and why we’re so quick to believe them;
  • why ideas are like viruses; and
  • the powerful benefits of spiritual practices like fasting.

Secular society treats lies as truth, and this leads to unhappiness and sin.

Something’s wrong. Although the author has a good life, working as a pastor in Portland, Oregon, he often feels tired and worn down. He has the sensation that every day is a battle. Perhaps you sometimes feel this way too.

But while it may sound strange, it’s actually perfectly normal to feel battered and bruised, given the world we live in today. There’s a war going on – a war for the soul.

In recent years, Christians have become what feels like a minority in the US. It’s an alienating time to be a person of faith, as secular society has an increasingly hostile attitude toward Christianity.

And it’s a difficult world for non-Christians too. Society is divided, and many people are deeply unhappy.

Here’s the key message: Secular society treats lies as truth, and this leads to unhappiness and sin.

Happiness levels in the US have been in decline since the 1960s. It’s no coincidence that this was the era when core values began to change, including attitudes toward sexuality and family. Secular society argues that acceptance of things like sexual liberation and divorce makes people freer and happier – but actually, the opposite is true.

Secular society is getting so many things wrong. Take divorce as an example. Some people think that divorce represents liberation from the patriarchy – but the author believes that men benefit from divorce much more than women. Divorce also has a devastating impact on children; it affects their ability to form healthy, intimate relationships as adults.

So what’s happening? Why is there widespread tolerance or even celebration of things that are making people unhappy?

The problem is that secular society treats ideas as the truth. But positive attitudes toward divorce are just ideas – not the truth. Look at that another way, and you might as well call them lies. The Bible teaches that following the truth leads to happiness and God, while believing lies leads to unhappiness and sin. It’s no wonder so many people in the world today are unhappy.

Of course, it’s not always easy to distinguish lies from the truth, and it can be even harder to let go of these illusions. But, for a follower of Jesus, it’s absolutely essential to identify and reject lies. It’s the only way to live a good Christian life and be happy.

Luckily, help is at hand. The following chapters delve into lies – and how to combat them.

The devil tricks people into believing lies about what will make them happy.

These days, however, even many Christians are skeptical. People treat the devil as a myth or ancient nonsense.

There’s a tendency to dismiss certain past beliefs as evidence of our ancestors’ inferior intellect. But people are no more intelligent today than they were in the past. Maybe the people who believed in the devil were right after all.

The Bible makes it clear that for Jesus, the devil was real – so Christians should be willing to keep an open mind. And if the devil’s real, that means he’s the one manipulating and deceiving people and making them miserable.

Here’s the key message: The devil tricks people into believing lies about what will make them happy.

The devil’s aim is to isolate people and make them sin. His method? Lies. He’s a master manipulator, and he knows exactly what lies to tell. For instance, a married man might believe the lie that getting a divorce and beginning a new relationship will make him happy. It’s an attractive fantasy – like most of the lies that people believe.

All of us are easily deceived. In his book Dupe, the deception expert Dr. Timothy Levine shows how even the most intelligent people are terrible at identifying lies. Our default reaction is to assume someone is telling the truth.

Unfortunately, these days we’re completely surrounded by lies. In secular society, false ideas have become accepted and normalized – and some have even found their way into the law.

Some ideas are more dangerous than others – so in their spiritual war against lies, it’s crucial that Christians remain vigilant. After all, this is certainly not a straightforward battle. The devil is subtle and skilled, and his assault on truth is more like a digital disinformation campaign than a traditional war with weapons. People need to be prepared to think critically to protect themselves from the lies they hear on a daily basis.

To resist the devil and his lies, Christians should try to be more like Jesus.

Life is a process of spiritual formation. Every moment of every day, people change and gradually become their own unique person. For Christians, the question is: How can I become more like Jesus, and not like the devil?

People become more like the devil through isolation and lies. The opposite of a lie is the truth – that is, reality. The opposite of isolation is a relationship. So through relationships and reality, people become more like Jesus.

Jesus offers Christians the perfect example of relationships and reality, which you could also call spirit and truth. He came to show the world the truth, and he came in the form of a teacher – a human being who could relate to other people. Christians should follow his example by connecting with others and focusing on the truth.

Here’s the key message: To resist the devil and his lies, Christians should try to be more like Jesus.

One simple way to become more like Jesus is to adopt spiritual practices, such as quiet prayer. When a Christian prays in solitude, the illusions of the self are exposed for what they really are: the devil’s lies.

Reading scripture is another useful practice. When a person makes a habit of immersing themselves in scripture, they replace the devil’s lies with God’s truth – and eventually rewire their brains.

The author recommends Christians to sit down in a quiet place every day and read the Bible. It’s a simple but effective way to fight the devil and become more like Jesus.

The key is to influence the things that are in your control. That means adopting the right practices and habits – and even curating your thoughts. This is especially important for Christians living in secular society; they need to be careful about the culture they consume. Everything a person allows into their mind has an effect on their soul, so maybe the gratuitous sex and violence of a TV show like Game of Thrones is best avoided.

The things you give your attention to shape your thoughts and actions – and influence the person you become. This is an important point we’ll come back to later. But first, it’s time to turn to another problematic aspect of secular society: beliefs about freedom and desire.

Secular society has misguided ideas about freedom, and many people are slaves to their desires.

Humans are driven by desire. All of us are filled with primal, animalistic instincts for self-gratification.

There’s nothing new or unnatural about desire – it’s a problem that goes right back to Adam and Eve. But society’s attitude toward desire has changed in the last century, leading to a lot of pain and confusion.

The psychologist Sigmund Freud argued that it was the repression of desire – particularly the libido – that made people unhappy. This notion has been incredibly influential in the West. Secular culture encourages people to be true to themselves and follow their desires.

There’s a popular saying that sums up modern attitudes toward desire: “The heart wants what it wants.” But it’s worth keeping in mind the context in which this statement was popularized. For instance, the director Woody Allen used it to justify his notorious affair with his adopted daughter.

Here’s the key message: Secular society has misguided ideas about freedom, and many people are slaves to their desires.

People shouldn’t do whatever they want, and not all desires are equal. Christians should distinguish between primal desires, like lust, and superior desires, like the desire to love and follow God.

That leads us to another point: concepts of freedom. For secular society, the conventional definition of freedom is being able to do whatever you feel like, without constraints, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

But this is very different to the Christian concept of freedom. For a Christian, true freedom comes from choosing the path of God. Ironically, a Christian who voluntarily submits to an external authority is freer than a nonreligious person who claims to be free but is actually a slave to their desires.

According to scripture, anything that has control over a person is their master. By that definition, a huge part of Western society is enslaved – people compulsively chase after their desires, looking for freedom and happiness in the wrong places.

Interestingly, Christianity is far from the only belief system that encourages self-control. Many people from different times or cultures would disapprove of the beliefs and behaviors of the secular West.

The idea that people should seek freedom from external authority and follow their desires is a lie. And it’s a lie that inevitably makes people miserable. Just look around at the rising levels of anxiety and depression to see the consequences of this so-called freedom.

We reap what we sow, and the choices we make determine the people we become.

What goes around comes around. This is an idea shared by many people, regardless of religious belief – though it appears in the Bible too. Jesus made reference to it, and Paul explained the idea using a farming metaphor: a man reaps what he sows.

This concept is also known as the law of returns. It’s a simple but profound idea with two parts. First, every cause has an effect. And second, the effect may be disproportionate to the cause.

In other words, people need to consider their actions carefully. This is especially true when an action is repeated and becomes a habit.

Here’s the key message: We reap what we sow, and the choices we make determine the people we become.

Repetition is powerful. Neuroscience studies show that repeating something makes it easier because it becomes encoded into the wiring of your brain. Take riding a bike, for example. The more you practice, the easier it gets. One day, it becomes automatic – and you don’t even have to think about it.

What this means is that repeated actions can add up over time. In some cases, that’s a positive thing: a skill can be acquired more easily, and a good habit can become engrained. But there are plenty of bad habits too, like addictions. And repeated bad actions can lead to an escalation of poor behavior.

For example, very few married people decide to have an affair from one day to the next. Affairs begin slowly, through a series of actions – such as the decision to make a flirtatious comment to another person. It’s a gradual process that escalates over time.

Everything in life is a process, and we’re constantly being formed by our actions. Every choice we make determines the people we become. And because these habits become engrained over time, the older we get, the harder it is for us to change. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But it’s never too late to try to change. It’s worth reflecting on your thoughts and behavior, and deciding whether this is the person you want to be. If you feel guilty, use the guilt as a positive, motivational force to change your habits for the better.

When combined with spiritual practices, this mentality can help Christians stay on the right path and become more like Jesus.

Spiritual practices help Christians gain control over their desires.

The process of becoming a good Christian is a kind of practice or exercise. Through adopting positive habits, a Christian can build the strength of their spirit – essentially their willpower muscle. The stronger a person’s willpower, the easier it is to overcome their primitive desires.

But sometimes, willpower alone is not enough. People have to battle with their desires for self-gratification on a daily basis. In the Bible, Paul says that Christians have to “crucify” the flesh and its desires.

So, how can a person defeat their desires and become a better Christian? In a battle, a person needs strength on their side. Not just willpower, but the spirit’s power. And in order to access the spirit’s power, a Christian needs spiritual practices.

Here’s the key message: Spiritual practices help Christians gain control over their desires.

In addition to helpful spiritual practices like quiet prayer and reading scripture, in the context of desire and self-control, there are some other simple strategies that Christians can use.

The author recommends fasting – a transformative act that has been almost completely neglected by the modern Western church. Until fairly recently, fasting was a core practice in the church, but it’s at odds with modern beliefs about the importance of getting what you want.

When a person fasts, they train their body to not get what it wants. They stop giving into their desires, so they are no longer controlled by them. Of course, being deprived of food is a form of suffering, but it’s a lesson in suffering with joy. It can even be a path to freedom.

Confession is another useful spiritual practice that can lead to freedom. In the Bible, Christians are advised to confess their sins to each other. The community aspect of confession is often overlooked. True confession is not just saying “sorry” to God in your mind. It should be more like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where people confess their sins openly and publicly. Through these moments of vulnerability, people can discover intimacy and freedom.

These spiritual practices are most effective when they become habits. We may not be able to control our desires, but we can control our habits. This is the key to spiritual formation – a person acquires the habit of setting their mind on God and living according to the spirit instead of following their desires.

Dangerous ideas and behaviors can quickly gain widespread acceptance and become normalized.

The world is a dangerous place. Christians are threatened not just by the devil’s lies and their own desires, but also by the world itself.

Again, like the desire problem, this issue is nothing new. There are plenty of warnings in the Bible about the dangers of the world. For Jesus, the world was a hostile place, full of temptation and ruled by the devil. The author defines the world as a culture corrupted by rebelling against God.

If this sounds a little pessimistic, just remember what happened at the beginning of the world – Adam and Eve sinned. This sin went viral and spread through society because people are easily influenced by each other.

Here’s the key message: Dangerous ideas and behaviors can quickly gain widespread acceptance and become normalized.

In the eighteenth century, a series of suicides across Europe was blamed on a book – The Sorrows of Young Werther. This tragic novel by the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ends with the protagonist’s suicide, and it seems that some impressionable readers were inspired to copy his example.

While this is an extreme case, the concept of people copying each other is backed up by science. Research by the psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden suggests that “social contagion” is a real thing. Behavior can spread through networks of people like a virus.

The real issue is when dangerous ideas become so mainstream that they’re normalized. In the US, abortion has gained widespread social acceptance. But it’s inexplicable to the author that what he sees as infanticide is viewed as “reproductive justice.” This and changing attitudes to sexual behavior are just two examples of the gap between secular culture and traditional Christian values.

So much of what the West calls “culture” amounts to no more than the “world” that Jesus warned about. People have to be aware of the inherent dangers in society – and avoid negative influences. This is especially important for Christians living in the West today, as we’ll see in the final chapter.

The West is now a post-Christian culture, so churches and Christians need to adapt in order to survive.

The West has become a post-Christian culture. Society still retains the scaffolding of Christian morality. But it’s attempting to move beyond Christianity and reject commitments and restraints. The West is like a rebellious teenager who fights his parents’ authority while still living at home and eating their food.

As we’ve seen, Christians living in a post-Christian society have to navigate a world where immoral ideas, desires, and behavior are normalized.

These negative societal influences can be subtle, but they’re also corrosive. There’s a real risk that people will end up with a DIY faith – a mix of Christianity, consumerism, individualism, and secular ideas about sexuality.

According to the author, the West is facing a spiritual apocalypse. Christians need survival strategies – and they can’t fight the battle alone.

Here’s the key message: The West is now a post-Christian culture, so churches and Christians need to adapt in order to survive.

The role of the church is more important than ever. Christians today should return to the idea of the church as a counterculture and live an alternative life on the margins of society.

Saint Peter predicted that Christians would be exiles. But living in exile doesn’t mean having a lonely existence. In today’s culture, an effective church needs to be a community of close relational ties, where people form deep, intimate relationships with each other. Christians should also commit to attending regular meetings with other followers of Jesus; at the meetings, people could confess to each other and offer love and support.

In addition, a church should be a community of holiness, set apart from the hedonism of secular society. For example, Christians should be mindful of their sexual behavior and attitudes, and use their bodies to honor God.

Finally, amid the chaos of modern life, the church should offer a sense of stability, structure, and order. One way to do this is through the creation of a Rule of Life – a schedule of Christian practices and disciplines to follow.

As a pastor, the author is convinced that the key to survival is a combination of spiritual practices as an individual, combined with participation in the church community. Although Christians are living in difficult times of war, there is reason to be optimistic. They have everything they need to surmount their enormous challenges and live a life of happiness and freedom through God.

Final Summary

The key message in these summaries is that:

Christians face three main enemies: the devil’s lies, desires, and the harmful influences of the world. The post-Christian culture of the West is particularly alienating for followers of Jesus, whose beliefs and values are no longer mainstream. In this challenging context, Christians should rely on spiritual practices such as quiet prayer and reading scripture; meanwhile, churches should become stable, close-knit communities to help Christians stay on the right path.

And here’s some more actionable advice: Use a notebook to combat lies.

When an obsessive thought comes to mind, like “I’m worried about losing my job,” write it down in a notebook. Next, try to articulate the lie behind this thought, and write that down. In this case, the lie might be: “My security and happiness come from this job.” Finally, write something from scripture that counters the lie. When repeated, this practice will help you resist lies and redirect your mind to the truth.

About the author

John Mark Comer is the founding pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon, and the director of the Christian nonprofit Practicing the Way. He’s the author of several books on spiritual formation in post-Christian culture, including the best seller The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.

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