WHAT IS TRUTH?
PART FOUR – THY WORD IS TRUTH
What is truth? That is the question of the hour—because in this world where the truth seems hard to come by, we need to know what the truth is. And the truth is that we as Christians don’t have to be at a loss like the lost are. We have the answer for this world and the things contained in it because there are things the Lord has given us that clearly reveal to us what the truth is.
We learned in the first part of this series that there is the spirit of antichrist—the spirit of error—in this world and it is dictating much of what we see that is mainstream. And as I’ve stated several times, if it’s mainstream, it is likely going downstream—yes, downstream like a river, taking everything towards destruction. But we learned that when we heard the word of truth—the gospel—a paddle was put in our hands to turn our boat around and head upstream against the current of this world.
A couple of weeks ago, we began answering the question of this series—What is truth?—and I began by giving you a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus. He told me that the “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Lord first described truth by what it is not by saying that it is something “which is not hidden.” In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it at the time, but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
But since the Holy Spirit began by telling me what the truth was not, what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie as God and the devil are contrary to one another. So, we spent a week talking about the fundamental difference between the truth and a lie.
Then last week, we got into the second half of this definition of truth where the Holy Spirit said that the truth is that “which makes God known”: I explained how when the Holy Spirit shared this with me that I began seeing how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this.
And the first one I would venture to say we all think of when we think of the truth is JESUS, right? Yes, I suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards that statement by Jesus in John 14:6 where we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered— “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” That’s right, Jesus didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. But as we saw, He was not just the truth; He is the truth yesterday, today, and forevermore.
We looked at Hebrews 13:8 that declares that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever—which means that the truth is the same today, yesterday, and forever.
You see, this is one of the fruits that indicate what the truth is— Truth is found in the consistency of it. Yes, when it comes to where our faith needs to be and what we build our lives on, it needs to be on the One who never changes, the One who is the same today as He was yesterday and the one who will still be the same tomorrow as He is today. This is Jesus!
But oh, how the truth seems to always be changing, doesn’t it? It’s evolving with the times and today we are seeing the world around us adopting certain mindsets and belief systems that were unheard of just decades ago. This should not be so with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the truth Himself, we ought to be the same yesterday, today, and forever—understanding that the truth that we heard from Him 2,000 years ago is still true today and we do not move off of it.
We looked at John 1:14-18 that states that Jesus came full of grace and truth—which is a good illustration of this point that in the church today there is a little too much absence of truth in the emphasis of His grace.
Now you know that I am certainly big on His grace—understanding that it is only by His grace that we can be saved, and it is only by His grace that we can grow and increase. But the mistake I see a lot of the church making in this generation is that in making such a strong emphasis on His unconditional love and grace, the truth—absolutes in His kingdom—are not being held in high esteem and proclaimed to the people. But the “truth” is that Jesus was full of both of these things: Yes, He came to reveal to us God’s goodness & grace, and we see that on full display throughout His life and ministry. But at the same time, He never compromised the truth of God. Rather, He boldly proclaimed it in the face of the hypocrisy that had permeated Israel.
So, we asked the question: If Jesus were to be the guest speaker of a church today, what would He preach? What truth would He have come to deliver? I made the point that you can be sure that it would not be just sweet & kind. No, it might ruffle a lot of feathers because it would be vastly different than so many traditional Sunday morning sermons today, because it would contain some rebuke, reproof, correction, and warning. I know this because just look at what He ministered 2,000 years ago. So, if He has not changed, then the truth He came to deliver would not change either.
So, Jesus came to tell us the truth—it is that God is good and merciful. It is that He loves the sinner and seeks to save the lost. But it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Amen.
HIS WORD IS TRUTH
Now in that definition the Lord gave me of truth, I saw how Jesus perfectly fit that description of the truth because Jesus was not hidden. He came from heaven to earth to show us the way to eternal life. So, He was not hidden, but came for all to see—and He came to make God known so that we could see the true nature and will of our Father. As Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Therefore, Jesus was not hidden, and He most definitely made God known.
But another thing that popped up into my head when the Holy Spirit spoke this to me was that the Word of God, which is also described as truth, fits this description as well. And this shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus and the Word are one and the same.
You see, the apostle John revealed to us that Jesus, who was in the beginning, was the Word (John 1:1). So, there is really no difference between Jesus and the Word. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen the other.
And like Jesus, the Word of God has also not been hidden. The Lord has made sure that His Word has “run swiftly” throughout the whole world. It is not hard to get ahold of a Bible in most countries and He also made sure to preserve it during dark times where people have tried to snuff it out. Not only has His Word not been hidden from us, but it also makes God known to us in that it reveals His character, will, and purpose to us. Yes, next to the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures, the Bible gives us the knowledge and truth of God more than anything else.
And we have plenty of references in the Scriptures to God’s Word being the truth. So, this week, let’s look at some of the examples we have of God’s Word being truth …
The first and most obvious example is found in John chapter 17: In this chapter, we have Jesus’ prayer before His arrest later that evening. He prays for His disciples in verses 6-19 and in this prayer, He says this— “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (Verses 14-19)
So, what Jesus is describing here is how His disciples had received God’s Word from Him and, as a result, they were no longer of the world and the world hated them just as the world hated Him. So, they were in essence “sanctified”—that is, set apart & different—by the truth. And Jesus then said in verse 17— “Your Word is truth.”
So here, we have one of our most concrete statements that God’s Word is the truth in the entire Bible. But Psalm 119—which is widely known to be a chapter of the Bible that is completely devoted to the subject of the Word of God—has a verse that summarizes this point as well. Verse 160 says, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
Notice that it is the entirety of God’s Word that is truth, not just portions of it. That doesn’t mean that every word in it is true. There were things in it that people were quoted as saying and other things people did that were not in accord with the truth, but the overall “Word” that we receive from the Scriptures is certainly true. Not only that, but Psalm 119:160 goes on to say that it “endures forever”—meaning that it does not change with the times but is just as true today as it was when it was written. Amen?
Church, this is something we can absolutely hang our hats on—that God’s Word is the absolute truth. If we want to find truth, we go to the Scriptures. If we want to be better equipped to avoid the lie, we give heed to the Scriptures. His Word—the entirety of it—is truth. Of this, we can be certain.
And this is what Jesus taught us in John chapter 17—that His Word is what keeps us and separates us from the evil and deception found in this world. Jesus said that the Word—His truth—is what set His disciples apart from the rest of the world. It is what makes us think and act differently. It is what gives us the mind of Christ and causes us to be more Christ-like. And it is what protects us from he who is in the world. Sounds a lot like what we have been learning in the series, doesn’t it?
But I’m here to tell you today that the Word of God is not just information that is true which helps keep us from being deceived; it is life that will both cultivate the ground of our heart so that we think more like Him and less like the world and it will also equip us to survive any storm that this world will throw at us in the future.
BREAKING UP THE FALLOWED GROUND
Do you remember in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower how He described four different conditions of hearts, and the first one was the ground “by the wayside”?
This ground was alongside of the path well-traveled. That’s why it was so hard and compacted to where the seed could not even penetrate it. That is descriptive of those who are too close to the world, and the more worldly they are, the less likely the truth can get in their hearts.
Well, if one’s heart is currently in this condition, a good question would be—How do they “till” this ground and make it good ground that can receive the seed—which is His Word, the gospel of truth?
The Lord once showed me the answer to this question: Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
So, what we see here is how we can eliminate the wayside ground from our heart:
First of all, it takes diligence! It’ll take work, and you need to understand that! That ground did not get that way overnight. It has taken years to get compacted like it has. So, it isn’t going to get softened overnight. It will require diligently working that ground. How?
By, first of all, being a laborer of that field who is unspotted from the world—that is, not conformed to the world. This worker is not half-hearted and double-minded. They have removed themselves from the world and have set their hand to the plow, not looking back. Amen? This echoes what we’ve seen in Romans 12:1&2—that the first and foremost key to not being conformed to the world is by the renewal of our mind.
Finally, Paul tells us this by telling Timothy how we do this: By rightly dividing the Word of Truth! So, the way we break up that wayside ground and make it good ground again is by “cutting straight lines” (Lit. “rightly dividing”) in it—which comes through rightly dividing the Word. This could be described as cutting furrows in the ground before planting seed.
Saints, the key to seeing that wayside ground changed is diligence in the Word of God—letting His Word renew your mind through diligent study, reading and meditation. As the Apostle Paul says in Second Timothy 2:15—this is what digs and lays straight furrows in that ground which has been packed down through the world’s counsel and philosophies.
So, as Hosea 10:12 says, “break up your fallow ground.” This means to break up that untilled ground so that the seed you sow gets where it can perform what it is meant to perform! Amen.
EQUIPPED FOR THE STORM
So, that is how we change a prior & current condition. What about preparing us for future obstacles?
In Second Timothy 3:16-17, this is what the apostle Paul said concerning God’s Word and how it can prepare us for these storms: In this passage of Scripture he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In verse 17 when Paul says that with the Word of God we will be “thoroughly equipped” for every good work, I want us to look at what this meant in Paul’s days. The Greek word that was used to translate “thoroughly equipped” described a boat that was completely outfitted and decked out with all the little trinkets that they would need to survive any storm and get to the other side. So what Paul was saying was— “God’s Word will well-equip you, not only to survive the storms of life, but also to get you to the other side!” Yes, it will set you apart to where you are not like every other boat in the harbor. Yours will have all that it will need to weather the storms that are most certainly coming upon this earth.
Well, I am reminded of the story of when Jesus constrained His disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side? Now they did this knowing that there was a storm awaiting them or else He wouldn’t have had to make them (i.e., constrain) do it. Well, in one account, Jesus being the truth gave them the Word beforehand saying, “Let us go to the other side.” He did not say, “Let us go halfway and then drown because of the winds and waves of the storm.” No, He showed them that He intended for them to get to their destination and not perish in the storm.
Likewise, Jesus has already given us His Word—the truth. He said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” We too have this promise that, although the winds and waves will try and destroy us, we can rejoice because we have God’s Word that we will make it to the other side. You see, this is the power of God’s Word! If He said it, we are going to make it if we will just put faith in His Word!
So, here is the conclusion to the matter—you and I and entire world for that matter have been given the opportunity to know the truth and let that truth make us free—free from deception, the devil, and everything else that does not take us toward Christ likeness.
But it’s going to take us being more than just a believer; we have to become disciples—those who diligently continue in His Word and study to show ourselves approved.
As we cultivate the ground of our heart by letting His Word break up the fallowed ground, we are better equipped to receive the word of truth and produce its fruit. And then, when storms come in this world around us, we won’t be moved because His Word is what we are grounded on, and we know we will get to the other side.
His Word is truth and if we want to be kept from the deception, we must hide His Word in our hearts. Amen?
So, we began a new series a few weeks ago which I am entitling “What is truth?” because in a world where it is so hard to tell what the truth is, we need to know that we as Christians don’t have to be at a loss like the lost are. No, church, there are things God has given us that clearly reveal truth to us and will show us exactly what to do, what to believe, etc. when it comes to any of these things that we are dealing with in the world. So, we ought not to be looking for truth in the things of this world; we ought to be looking for truth in Him and in the tools He has given us to know the truth. Amen?
We learned in part one of this series that one of the main reasons that being led by the spirit of truth is so important for this hour we are living in is because the spirit of error—that spirit of antichrist that has been in the world since time began—is working hard to sweep people off into deception. Yes, there seems to be an even stronger current—more troubled waters—that is carrying the world on to its demise.
And that’s what we described living in this world to be like—a river that’s current is moving everything in it downstream towards destruction. But we learned that it should not be so for the Christian because when we heard the word of truth—the gospel of our salvation— we were “converted” (i.e., turned) and the truth was put in our hands to turn our boat around and head upstream.
Last time, we began answering the question of this series—What is truth?—and I began by giving you a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus.
I explained that several years ago, after asking the Lord many times to define truth for me, I finally got my answer. On my back porch in Colorado Springs, CO., during a time of prayer, the Lord spoke to my heart the following statement: He said, “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Lord described truth as something which is not hidden. In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it, but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
But what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie—which is a concealing of truth.
So, we looked at what a lie actually is and how the truth and a lie are as opposite to one another as God and the devil are. We saw how all deception and intent to deceive comes from the father of lies, satan, and how all truth comes from the one true and living God. We learned that as children of the truth, we are to always speak the truth in love with one another. And that doesn’t mean that we are brutally honest, but that we get to the heart of the matter and always point people towards the truth.
You see, as that definition of truth that the Holy Spirit gave me went on to say, the truth is not just that which is not hidden; it is also what makes God known.
Well, that is when the Holy Spirit began sharing with me how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this “rhema” word that He gave me.
THE TRUTH HIMSELF
So, this week, I want us to move on to some of these things the Lord then began showing me about the truth that certainly are not hidden and absolutely make God known.
Now what is one of the first things you think of when you hear the question—What is truth? Well, I would suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards that statement by Jesus in John 14:6 where we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered …
In John chapter 14, we have Jesus beginning to teach His disciples some final lessons before He would be taken from them. He begins by telling them not to let their hearts be troubled and to know that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Then in verse 4, Jesus made the following statement— “And where I go you know, and the way you know …” To which Thomas pipes up and says, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Somebody say, NOT SMART!
How many of you know that when the Lord tells you that you know something and you know how to get there, that you don’t essentially respond with, “No, we don’t know, and we don’t know the way either.” That’s like calling Jesus a liar. And we know that Jesus is not a liar but is the totality of truth. Amen?
And that’s exactly what Jesus went on to say to Thomas next, which is what I wanted to get to: He responded to Him in verse 6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So, essentially what Jesus was saying was that the way and where they were going, they knew because He is that way! So, if they knew Him, they knew the way. Amen?
I’m reminded now of how God’s ways were made known to Moses while His acts were all that was revealed to the children of Israel. So, what He does was made known to them, while why He does the things He does was made known to Moses.
And why was this? It wasn’t because God just chose to reveal His ways to Moses and not to the rest of the Jews. No, it was because Moses positioned Himself to know God’s ways through spending time in His presence and being the most humble person on the face of the earth at that time. Amen!
And guess what else Moses came to know—the truth and the life? Yes, through His humble approach to seeking God, He came to know the way, truth, and life of God. And church, that is the same way we come to know the truth—it is through coming to know Him. Yes, the more we spend time with Him and in His Word, the more it comes alive to us, and we are able to know the liberating truth of God and His Word. This is a foundational truth to knowing what the truth is—it is found in knowing God Himself. Amen?
Which is what Jesus went on to say in John 14:6—that He is not only the way; He is also the truth and the life. No, not a truth or a life; He is the way, the truth, and the life—meaning He is not just a way to God or one of the many truths that are out there. All truth is all enveloped in Him! He is the only life! And there is no other way to the Father except through Him.
So, Jesus is the truth. He didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. But not just “was” the truth; He is the truth yesterday, today, and forevermore.
THE TRUTH IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER
In Hebrews 13:7-9, the author of this epistle said this— “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.”
Notice that verse 7 first shows us the importance of both respecting and honoring those who our spiritual leaders and have shared God’s Word with us. But why? “Considering the outcome of their conduct.” That means that what we need to be mindful of is that those who not only preach God’s Word to us but practice what they preach have certain fruit in their life that needs to be “remembered.” I mean, the fruit that one has in their life is indicative of what they believe. So, if one’s life consistently does not line up with the life God said we can have, then there’s a chance that what they believe might be wrong. So, it would be wise to follow the faith of someone who has the fruit that we desire to see in our lives instead of being unrelenting regarding our own theology or philosophy.
Being a teacher of God’s Word, I’ve run in to enough of this—most people have their minds already made up and they love you when you echo what they already believe, but they don’t like it when you challenge their belief systems even when you have a laundry list of Scriptures to back it up.
This is what the apostle Paul taught us–that the time will come when people “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (Second Timothy 4:3-4).
Now when he said here that they will not “endure sound doctrine,” do you know what that means? It means they will not tolerate “healthy” teaching. Yes, the word used for “sound” here is the same word that is used in Third John 2 in describing the Lord’s desire that we prosper in every area of our life and be in “health” just as our souls prosper. So, this word “sound” describes something that is healthy.
Now we know the word of God is likened in many places to food (See Matthew 4:4, First Peter 2:2, Job 23:12, and Jeremiah 15:16). So, what we see being described here is that like children tend to do, the world will come to a place where it does not want to hear what is truly healthy and good for them, but will do what? Because they have “itching ears” (or ears that need to be tickled or scratched), they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to “stories.”
You know, it has always just amazed me how so many Christians do this. Their ears and hearts are readily inclined to listen to someone who speaks well, has charisma, and mixes in interesting and funny stories. But if someone comes simply speaking the truth of God’s Word with none of these other things, they turn them off.
This should not be so, church! We ought to be all about what the content is that the speaker is saying and not just be inclined to their speaking ability. In order to grow, we must be nourished with the words of faith and of good doctrine. That’s what produces the fruit we desire to see in our lives.
So, what Hebrews 13:7 is showing us is that what ultimately reveals truth is fruit. Just consider the outcome of what people are ministering. Is there the fruit of the Spirit evident? Is the Holy Spirit Himself present?
Then Hebrews 13:8 goes on to say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So, what does this have to do with what was just said in the previous verse? I believe it’s that one of the fruits that indicate what the truth is, is found in the consistency of it. Verse 9 bears this out because it goes on to say, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.”
You see, when it comes to where our faith needs to be and what we build our lives on, it needs to be on the One who never changes, the One who is the same today as He was yesterday and the one who will still be the same tomorrow as He is today. This is Jesus!
In fact, based on John 14:6, we can translate Hebrews 13:8 like so— “The truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” It does not change because the Lord changes not (Malachi 3:6).
But oh, how the truth seems to always be changing, doesn’t it? It’s evolving with the times and today we are seeing the world around us adopting certain mindsets and belief systems that were unheard of just decades ago.
This should not be so with the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Like the truth Himself, we ought to be the same yesterday, today, and forever—understanding that the truth that we heard from Him 2,000 years ago is still true today and we do not move off of it.
And, again, the writer of Hebrews declared in verse 9 that we will have ample opportunity to be moved by various and strange teachings even in the church. This is similar to the apostle Paul’s description of being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (See Ephesians 4:14). And what was His solution there? It was speaking the truth in love (verse 15) and growing up in Christ Jesus, who is the truth.
But the fact is, the truth is unchanging. It has been here before the world began and it will be here long after this world ends. So, one critical part to abiding in the truth is looking at Jesus, who is that unchanging truth of God, and embracing what He came to deliver to us—God’s truth.
FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH
I love the way the Gospel of John shows this to us: John 1:14-18 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
In describing how Jesus came to us in the flesh and lived among us, the apostle John described Him as being “full of grace and truth.” Now notice how Jesus was not just described as being full of grace, but also full of truth. The apostle Paul also said in Ephesians 4:21 that the truth is in Jesus.
You see, in the church today, I believe there is a little too much absence of truth in the emphasis of His grace.
Now you know that I am certainly big on His grace—understanding that it is only by His grace that we can be saved, and it is only by His grace that we can grow and increase. But the mistake I see a lot of the church making in this generation is that in making such a strong emphasis on His unconditional love and grace, the truth—absolutes in His kingdom—are not being held in high esteem and proclaimed to the people. A lot of the reason for this is because of what we said earlier—people don’t want to hear what is right versus what is wrong. They don’t want to hear absolutes, especially when these truths go against what our flesh wants and what we think.
But the “truth” is that Jesus was full of both of these things: Yes, He came to reveal to us God’s goodness & grace, and we see that on full display throughout His life and ministry. But at the same time, He never compromised the truth of God. Rather, He boldly proclaimed it in the face of the hypocrisy that had permeated Israel.
So, Jesus was, is, and forever will be our example of truth. That means that the things Jesus declared to us are things that we ought to hang our hats on. His words are ultra-significant and super relevant—not just for the Jews 2,000 years ago, but for all today.
You would think that all Christians would know this, but there is even a large group of “believers” today who do not believe that Jesus’ words are relevant to the church because He was called to minister to God’s chosen people, Israel. And while it was true that He was called to lost sheep of Israel, that doesn’t mean that His teachings aren’t to be applied to our lives as well or we might as well throw out just about all of the Old Testament and even the epistles of the New Testament like Romans since we are not Romans.
And so, what I see here is that since Jesus is the truth, then the things that He taught are absolutes. Yes, they are things that we must adhere to and will always be relevant—no matter how much things change around us. Amen?
WHAT WOULD JESUS PREACH?
So, let me end today’s message by asking this question: If Jesus were to be the guest speaker of a church today, what would He preach? What truth would He have come to deliver?
Well, I can assure you that there would be no guarantee it would be sweet, rosy, and peachy. No, it might ruffle a lot of feathers because it would be vastly different than so many traditional Sunday morning sermons today. Yes, it would contain much love and grace, but it would also include rebuke, reproof, correction, and warning.
I remember one time early in my Christian walk where I was attempting to see a fellow co-worker (in a Christian bookstore no less) be truly converted. You see, just because someone goes to church or is involved in some Christian thing, that doesn’t mean they are a child of God. No, everyone must be born again and be personally converted, and this is more than just following traditions and certain rites & rituals.
So, one time when I was expressing their need to truly make Jesus their personal Lord and Savior, they asked me what I meant because they had gone to the altar before and said the sinner’s prayer. This took me aback because I didn’t know what to tell someone who had gone through the motions of becoming a Christian but had never been truly converted. That’s when the Holy Spirit gave me the “truth” I needed to help her understand that it must be a heart change. I said to her, “Don’t you think if you truly believed that He was Lord, it would change the way you were living your life?” She looked at me and said, “You know, you’re right.”
You see, there was certainly a risk of offending her by declaring to her the truth, but because I loved her, I was willing to take that risk.
That reminds of my attempt to see a friend get saved who I had before I was born again: I told this friend the truth about Jesus more than once after my conversion and they finally said, “Why do you keep trying to get me to become a Christian?” because they were certainly offended with my attempts to see their life changed as mine was. Well, I told this person—“Let me ask you this—If I knew you were about to get on an airplane that was going to crash, wouldn’t you want me to tell you?” They responded with yes. So, I then told them— “That’s exactly what I am doing. I know that you are on your way to death and destruction, and I am trying to get you off that plane.”
Church, this is a big part of the truth that Jesus came to proclaim. Yes, He ate with tax collectors and sinners, but that was because He loved them enough to come by their side and tell them the truth. This is how we should be living as well—loving our neighbor to the degree that we tell them what they need to hear in the way they can hear it.
THE TRUTH’S TRUTH
This is exactly how the Truth Himself lived His life on the earth. As both the Truth and being full of truth, we know that all that He said was the truth.
So, let’s look at some of the things that Jesus emphasized throughout His ministry that are certainly relevant truths to us even today.
Let’s go back to the beginning of His ministry and see what He began by proclaiming: What was Jesus’ first word to the people when He began His ministry? It was “Repent”—not a word that is accepted too easily in the church today (See Matthew 4:17).
As we’ve seen, this is a word that literally means to think a different way and turn in that new direction. But like I said, this is not what most people like to hear. They like to think that the direction they are going in is okay and certainly don’t like anyone telling them that they need to change. But that’s exactly what Jesus came on the scene proclaiming to His chosen people who desperately needed a course change.
And He also greatly emphasized why we all needed that course correction. It’s because as He stated in His Sermon on the Mount— “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
You see, the truth is that there is a direction that we all can choose, and while the majority of this world will choose the wide gate and the broad way that leads to destruction, the way of life is the narrow gate and the difficult way.
This is what Jesus came to direct people’s minds towards—that there is a better way, and that way is one of love, mercy, compassion, and a selfless, sacrificial life. He came to remind us that people are what are important and to live one’s life for others is the highest call of all the human race. It is to populate and enrich heaven with souls and to be ready for His Second Coming. This is what it means to be “woke” according to Jesus.
So, Jesus came to tell us the truth—it is that God is good and merciful. It is that He loves the sinner and seeks to save the lost. But it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Jesus is the truth and was full of the truth, and so should we be. Amen.
So, we began a new series last week which I am entitling— What is truth?
And, church, I believe that this question is one that so many need the answer to particularly in this hour we are living in where it seems as though the truth is hard to decipher. So, when it comes to these things, we need to receive truth from God so that we know how He sees things.
You see, through the course of everything we have gone through over the past 18 months—everything from covid, social distancing, polar-opposite political views, vaccinations—there has been a statement I’ve heard over and over again, and that is this: “I just don’t know what the truth is.” And the reason people are saying this is because there are so many voices out there with so many different points of view from the news, the internet, our friends, family, etc. It’s like the world has been handed a megaphone and its voice has been amped up in these last days. Which is mainly due to the fact that we have all these platforms that people can share info that they’ve received. So, with all of these extreme viewpoints, it’s hard to decipher who is actually telling the truth.
Well, the “truth” is, God is the only one we can truly trust to reveal the truth to us. And the good news is, He already has given us everything we need to know the truth. Yes, church, there are things God has given us that clearly reveal truth to us and will show us exactly what to do when it comes to any of these things that we are dealing with in the world. So, we ought not to look for truth in the things of this world; we ought to be looking for truth in Him and in the tools He has given us to know the truth. Amen?
So, like I said, that is what I want us to do for the next few weeks—I want us to answer that question—What is truth? —by looking at what the Holy Spirit has said the truth is. This will help you and I avoid erring and believing the lies that the world is feeding us.
And we learned last week that one of the main reasons that being led by the spirit of truth is so important for this hour we are living in is because the spirit of error—that spirit of antichrist that has been in the world since time began—is working harder than ever to sweep people off into deception because the devil knows his time is short.
So, that is what we saw living in this world is like—it’s like a river that’s current is just moving everything in it downstream towards destruction. Everything and everyone in it, will just naturally be taken in the same direction. But when we heard the word of truth—the gospel of our salvation— we were “converted” (i.e., turned) when a paddle was put in our hands, and we turned this boat around and headed upstream.
So, I gave you a parable—the Parable of the Paddle—and showed how this upstream journey holds many obstacles such as complacency, trials & tribulations, and persecution. These are things that we will all have to overcome to continue in the truth and overcome the world. And we do this as we take hold of that paddle that has been put in our hands and begin paddling upstream. Amen?
WHAT THE TRUTH IS NOT
So, this week, I would like to begin answering the question at hand—What is truth?
Now when answering this question, I think it’s good for us to begin by explaining what truth is not. So, what is the opposite of truth? It’s obviously a lie, isn’t it? To me, the difference between the truth and a lie is clearly illustrated in the difference between God and satan:
You see, the Scriptures are very clear that God is both the truth and true. He is called in several places the one “true” God (See Romans 3:4, Jeremiah 10:10, etc.). He is also said to be incapable of lying (Hebrew 6:18, Titus 1:2, etc.). So, God Himself is the truth, and all He does and says is true. Amen?
On the contrary, the devil has no truth in him: Jesus, in speaking to those worldly religious leaders, said in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
So, what we can learn from the fact that our Heavenly Father is true and the devil is the father of lies is this: Those who come from them will and should be the same. For example, the world is proficient in covering things up, hiding things, and not openly revealing what is truly going on. Essentially, we can say that the world is good at lying. And this is all because their father, the devil, is a liar.
So, my point is that it should not surprise us when the world lies. It’s because they of their father the devil and there is no truth in Him. In other words, it’s their nature to do so.
This should not be so with a child of God. If we are born of our Heavenly Father, then we ought to be of the truth as He is and certainly not tolerate lying in our own lives.
Now notice I said we ought not to tolerate it in “our own” lives. That means we ourselves have a standard that we only tell the truth and by no means will ever lie to others. But that doesn’t mean we can control what others do.
As Paul reveals to us in Ephesians 4:25, don’t be surprised if you see it in the church like you see it in the world because he said, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”
To me, it is just amazing that the apostle Paul had to tell the Ephesian church, which was probably one of the greatest churches in history, to quit lying. The reason this is so astounding is because we tend to over-glamorize the early church and assume that they were extremely spiritual. The truth is – these believers struggled with the same carnal things that we do. They struggled with things like lying, anger, stealing, words, and bitterness (vs.25-31).
WHAT IS LYING?
But what really is lying? I’ve learned that not everyone actually understands what it truly is.
You see, a lie is actually “an untrue statement with the intent to deceive” (Webster’s Dictionary). Thayer’s said the Greek word used here describes “conscious or intentional falsehood”.
So, if we, in any way, try to deceive someone, then we are lying. For example, I can tell someone that a church service in the evening starts at 7 PM, being convinced myself that it starts then, and then they show up an hour late because it actually started at 6 PM. That would not be a lie because, even though I made an untrue statement, it was not with the intention of deceiving them. On the other hand, if I told them it started at 7, knowing full well that it started at 6, then I would have intended to deceive them and, therefore, lied to them. My point is that you can make an untrue statement without lying.
But as Paul went on to say in Ephesians 4:25, the goal is not to just avoid lying; it is to consciously and intentionally speak truth with our neighbor. Yes, our command, in place of lying, is to speak truth with whoever you are next to at the time.
For example, this means that if we are selling a car and we know that there is a scratch on the bumper, we don’t try and avoid that part of the car when we show it to somebody. This means that if we go to Taco Bell and they give us one more taco than we ordered then we tell them. This means that if someone bakes you some cookies and they directly ask you if you liked them that you don’t tell them you did if you really didn’t. Consistently being truthful with your neighbor is an honorable virtue because then people will know they can put their trust in your word.
Another added quality of speaking the truth is following through on what you say you will do. This is an area that many believers do not excel at but should, because it shows integrity and it’s a defining characteristic of our Heavenly Father: David said in Psalm 15:4 that a mark of godly character is to “swear to your own hurt and not change.” That means that you do what you said you would do even if it hurts you similarly to God, who cannot lie because whatever He says becomes true.
And then Paul tells us one important reason why we are to be of the truth and not lie to one another: It’s because “we are members of one another.”
You see, in the human body there is harmony. The eye never tries to deceive the hand, nor does the hand try and deceive the foot. The whole body moves harmoniously as if each member can put the utmost confidence in the other members. Likewise, falsehood in the body of Christ is just as damaging to the goal of Christ’s body as if one member of our physical body continually tried to deceive the other members.
SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE
Now let me add this one very important point: While we need to be all about the truth, we need to understand that love is always to be our motivation.
As the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love …”
You see, there are two extremes that people go to regarding this. They speak the truth, but not in love or they speak in love and suppress the truth. We must have balance, not getting in one ditch or the other.
It has been well said that truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy. Christians who just go around telling people the truth, either by berating them with the Word or just by always feeling compelled to inform them of things (ex. “that outfit is tacky”), is oftentimes hurtful and inappropriate when not spoken in love. On the other hand, people who suppress the truth because they don’t want to offend or hurt someone are sometimes inappropriate as well. If I really love you, I will tell you something that you might not necessarily want to hear when I know it is for your ultimate good.
On the other hand, we must judge ourselves by evaluating our motives for telling them what we do to see if we are speaking the truth in love or out of love. As Paul has said in the previous verses and will go on to say in this verse, this is for the mature believer. There is a very fine line between speaking the truth and speaking the truth in love and it is very difficult to discern between them as well, but the answer on how to handle every situation is found in the answer to 101 questions—and that is to just be led by the Holy Spirit.
Let me give you an example that many of us can relate to: If a woman comes to her husband and asks, “Do these jeans make me look fat?”, how does he speak the truth in love (this is of course, assuming she might have some excess pounds on her)?
Well, the way we tend to think is in order to tell the truth we have to be brutally honest and simply answer, yes. How many of you know that is not wisdom that descends from above? On top of that, it’s also not wisdom to answer the question of do these jeans make me look fat with, “No, it’s not the jeans that make you look fat; it’s your …” This might lead to more ungodly behavior than just lying, namely murder!
Let me ask you it this way, if say Mary Magdalene came to Jesus and asked a similar question, how do you think Jesus would have answered her? I think we all know based on how Jesus answered other tough questions that were presented to Him how he might have answered, and that is with an answer that was outside of the parameters of what the one asking would have expected. Like in those instances, He might have seen why she was asking the question and asked her one in return like – “Mary, do you think Yahweh sees you this way? Isn’t who He sees you to be on the inside of far greater value than who the world sees you to be on the outside?”
My point is, speaking the truth in love is not just black and white. It is tackling the true issue in a loving way because it sees why the person is asking the question and where the real need is.
THAT WHICH IS NOT HIDDEN
So, we can clearly see what truth is not and how important it is, but let me end today’s message by sharing a personal testimony with you …
I’d like share with you how God answered me when I asked Him this question—What is truth?
Several years ago, after asking the Lord many times to define truth for me, I finally got my answer. On my back porch in Colorado Springs, CO., during a time of prayer, the Lord spoke to my heart the following statement: He said, “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, let’s consider this definition for a moment: First of all, He told me that truth is that which is not hidden.
In fact, when He gave me this definition, I didn’t know it but when you look up the root word for “truth” in the New Testament—the word aletha—you’ll find that it describes something not hidden and unconcealed. So, the definition he gave me certainly lined up with the literal definition of the words used in the Bible for truth.
So, what this means is that at its core, truth is the exact opposite of hiding and concealing things.
You see, God is not concealing the truth. It is on full display! Someone might object to this, saying something like— “Well, the ultimate truth of His reality and existence are not necessarily on full display, are they?” These would make the argument that God is indeed hiding Himself. But what these must understand is that God doesn’t usually reveal Himself to people and prove His existence. Now this has happened, but it usually doesn’t happen for the one’s who seek after a sign and are looking for proof.
So, how do we answer these critics? The truth is that while everyone cannot see Him, His glory is revealed in the glory of His creation. If people will simply open their eyes to His reality and not shut up their hearts from Him, they will know Him.
One of my favorite verses to use for this is found in Romans chapter one.
Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
You see, this is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to the world— It is through His creation! The apostle Paul says here that “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…”
You see, all of God’s creation, clearly show mankind the invisible attributes of God. In other words, although we cannot physically see His attributes, He has shown them to us through nature. Yes, the working order and beauty of God’s creation can help one to understand His very attributes.
I cannot tell you how many people I hear say how much closer they feel to God when they are in places like the woods, the mountains, or the beach. It is funny, but I never hear people say that they feel closer to God in the big city. Why? It is because the city is full of man’s creation; nature is full of God’s creation. Here we see that nature revealing more of God to us is Scriptural. It is not that God is more present in nature, but that our knowledge of Him is more present in these places. And the awareness of God is what produces more of an awareness of His presence.
Paul goes on to say that His creation also reveals to us “even His eternal power and Godhead.” In other words, the specifics of God’s person are even revealed in creation. For example, tradition tells us how Saint Patrick used this very principle to preach the Trinity to the people of Ireland. He would teach that God is three in one through the three-leaf clover. So, yes, creation around us reveals everything from God’s eternal power to His Godhead. If we will just look around us and above us, we will see all of God’s glorious and eternal attributes revealed through His creation—for even the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).
So, guess what all of this means. Paul reveals to us “so that they are without excuse.” Wow! This squelches that idea some have that there will be groups of people around the world who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ who will have an excuse in the Day of Judgment. No, saints, in that Day, no one will have an excuse based on this Scripture!
But someone will say, “But they never heard the truth! How could they be found guilty?” Well, as we will see in verses 21-25, what happens is that mankind has this tendency to form their own gods even when they have this general knowledge of God. In other words, even though they had the knowledge of God’s existence, they chose not to seek for a deeper knowledge of Him and glorify Him as the One True and Living God.
Let me give you a real-life example of what these people should have done: Once upon a time, there was this woman who was attending a Bible College and, while seeking the Lord as to His plan for her, she had Him give her a name, a name of a place that she was unaware of. Well, as she did some research, she found out that this place was a remote island where no one had been before. Therefore, she concluded that the Lord was sending her there. So as her plane arrived on this island, she was met by a local tribe and their chief greeted her. He began praising God that this prayer was heard! You see, this tribe was praying to an unknown God to tell them His name. In other words, they knew that there had to be a god through that inward intuition these verses speak of, therefore, they just humbly prayed to the God they didn’t know yet and asked Him to reveal himself to them. So, God spoke to this woman and sent her across the world to preach “Jesus” to them! Glory to God!
But most people have not been this wise throughout history, have they? The majority of people have made up their own gods like the children of Israel did in the wilderness when they created a golden calf as an image to worship. This is what the world tends to do according to the following verses in Romans.
But my point is that God has not hidden Himself. In fact, He has clearly and openly revealed Himself to any and all who have the hearts to seek after the truth. He is not in the business of proving Himself to His creation. He doesn’t have to. If anyone needs to prove themselves, it is us.
So, the proof that we are children of God is this—that we live in the truth. That we ourselves are open and transparent and operate in the confines of all that is true. This is what the Lord is looking for—that we truly imitate Him in all things. Amen.
I want to begin a new series today entitled— What is truth?
When you hear this question, you might be reminded that this is same question that Pilate asked Jesus just prior to His crucifixion (See John 18:38). But like it was with Pilate when he asked this question and then immediately went out to again address the Jews, most people do not want to know the truth. The world might think they do, but very few people do.
But truth is not only something that we ought to be open to, it is something we should pursue and strive to know. And the good news is, the Lord has given us every opportunity to know it and walk in it, which will be a big part of what we will learn in this series of teachings.
Let me give you a little background as to why this subject has been on my heart:
Through the course of everything we have gone through over the past 18 months or so—everything from covid, social distancing, polar-opposite political views, vaccinations—there has been a statement I’ve heard over and over again, and that is this: “I just don’t know what the truth is.” And the reason people are saying this is because there are so many voices out there with so many different points of view from the news, the internet, our friends, family, etc. So, with all of these extreme viewpoints it’s hard to decipher who is actually telling the truth.
For example, there are those out there whose truth is that this virus named covid is extremely deadly and something we should respect and do whatever we have to in order to protect ourselves and others from. These have pushed for extreme measures to be taken for masks and other forms of social distancing and are now pushing for mandatory vaccinations and other radical means of eradicating this virus.
But on the flipside, there are those whose truth is that this virus was engineered by man to push a political agenda. So, they believe it was intentionally and strategically spread to “thin the herd” so to speak. And while these people might acknowledge that covid can be dangerous, they certainly don’t go to the extremes the other side does. On top of that, many of these on this side of it also believe that the vaccines are more deadly than the virus itself and, therefore, they are adamant about not being vaccinated.
So, what is the truth? I know there are people hearing this that have very strong views about it all, but let me tell you what I believe the truth is— The truth is that covid has been ultimately engineered by satan because it carries with it that same tendency to steal, kill, and destroy. Whether it was intentionally or unintentionally spread, I don’t know. But what I do know is true is that the devil was behind it, and that’s all that matters. Therefore, we ought to resist it as the Spirit instructs us to do.
But here is some more truth about covid that I think less of us have realized: Not only has the devil sent this damnable virus to destroy; he also sent it to divide and conquer—for we have seen so many of these different opinions and strong stances regarding it that has divided our nation and even those within the church. Therefore, those who are hearing the spirit of truth will not contribute to this division. They will strive for the unity of the faith more than they will their opinion, knowing that things like love and unity always trump anything else.
If you notice, the focus in this example was not on natural things, but on the spiritual side of it all. And what we need to understand is that this is where the truth resides. It is found in that realm that created this physical world we live in, so the world won’t tend to see what is true. It’s because their eyes are closed off to the spiritual, eternal world that we exist within. That’s where the truth lies.
And, church, there are things God has given us that clearly reveal truth to us and will show us exactly what to do when it comes to any of these things that we are dealing with in the world. So, we ought not to look for truth in the things of this world; we ought to be looking for truth in Him and in the tools He has given us to know the truth. Amen?
So, that is what I want to do for the next few weeks—I want us to answer that question—What is truth? —by looking at what the Holy Spirit has said the truth is. This will help you and I avoid erring and believing the lies that the world is propagating to us. We do not want to follow the voice of a stranger, but rather the voice of truth. Amen?
Church, this is why being led by the spirit of truth is so important for this hour we are living in. It is because the spirit of error is working overtime to get us to listen to it. Therefore, we must be homed into the spirit of truth to avoid being led away by the spirit of error.
Let’s look at a passage of Scripture that teaches us about these two spirits in the world--First John 4:1-6.
In these verses, the apostle John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
The apostle John is here dealing with a similar thing to what we are in this hour. While he is dealing more with the spirits that were driving their religion, I believe this spirit of antichrist attempts to lead not only things in the church but also everything else that affects our world. Yes, like it will be when the man who embodies this spirit of antichrist comes, this spirit’s goal is total world domination with a one world religion that is certainly “anti-Christ.”
But, first of all, notice in verse 1 how there are apparently many different spirits that are influencing the world around us. Now these are apparently religious spirits coming through many so-called prophets, but I think we can learn a couple of other things from this:
For one, just because someone comes claiming to be speaking for God and even attaches a “Thus saith the Lord” to what they are saying, doesn’t mean that they are speaking truth. They might believe they are and have good intentions, but we need to understand that not every spirit is of God. Even in the days of the Bible, king’s courts were filled with those who prophesied in the name of the Lord, but what they were saying was not true. Probably our most popular instance of this was in the days of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was prophesying truth, but Hezekiah was surrounded with other so-called prophets who were telling the king what he wanted to hear.
And isn’t this something that we hear out of so many mouths? The predominant voice is what everyone wants to hear. Now I am not saying that truth is only going to be correction, rebuke, and warning, but I would venture to say that truth will be a mixture of both the things that are encouraging, comforting, and uplifting with the things that are correcting, warning, and rebuking.
So, as the apostle John said here, it is important that we not just blindly believe every spirit that comes telling us things we want to hear but that we test them that we might know which ones are of God and which ones are not.
Now there are some obvious ways to test them, and John tells us here the ultimate way—they must confess that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (i.e., Christ) and that He has come in the flesh to save us from our sins. If one comes denying any of the truth of who Jesus was, is, and evermore shall be, they are what John goes on to call here, a spirit of antichrist and are not of the truth since Jesus is the truth.
And make no mistake about it—this same spirit of antichrist is in the world today in the 20th Century church just as it was in the First Century Church then.
You see, so many are looking for the incarnate antichrist who is to come but miss that the spirit that will drive him is already at work driving others. Yes, these spirits of antichrist have been working in the church as well as in the world for the past 2,000 plus years.
They are what the drive the majority view. They are what inspire most of what we watch, hear, etc. Yes, this spirit of error is all around us with a megaphone broadcasting lies, lies, and more lies.
So, this spirit of antichrist certainly influences the world, but it also influences the worldly that are in the church. This will be one of the reasons why there will be a great falling away in the church in the end times.
So, the solution is this—we overcome because greater is He who lives in us than He who lives in the world. In other words, we who have been born of God, have the mighty Holy Spirit inside of us, and learn to walk in the truth will not be overcome by the spirit of this world.
The apostle John goes on to say that they—these people who are being led around by the spirit of antichrist—are “of” the world. That means they are “out of” the world—not that they are aren’t still in it, but that this is where they have originated from. So, because they have come from the world, they speak as coming from the world. In other words, they speak in the spiritual language that the world tends to understand. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their verbiage is worldly but that they are talking their language regarding the way they think and their overall mentality. This is why those of the world will hear them.
But the good news is—if we’ve been born again, we are “of God.” And if we are of God, those who also are of God will hear us. But those who are not born again, children of God, will not hear us. And the apostle John says this is how we know the spirit of error and the spirit of truth—by who hears them. And the them that we are talking about is the apostles. So, while we do not have the apostle John, Peter, Paul, etc. with us today, we do have their writings. Amen?
So, we can surmise that to be of the truth is to hear the voice of the Lord through the Scriptures and not to follow the voice of this world because it will not tell you what the truth is. But a word to the wise—if it’s mainstream, then it’s probably going downstream. This is what the apostle Peter called the “flood of dissipation”—that is, that flow that the world is on and why they do the things they do (See First Peter 4:3-4).
It’s like a river, stream, or creek that is flowing in a certain direction. Everything and everyone in it, will just naturally be taken in the same direction. But the truth is—even though we are in the world, we are not of the world. Yes, we are surrounded by the world by living in it, but we are of a different species. We are like salmon, swimming upstream, going against the flow because we are of God and of the truth.
THE PARABLE OF THE PADDLE
Here’s a good illustration of what it’s like to walk in the truth versus being swept away by the spirit of error that’s in this world—it’s like going upstream in a boat with a paddle.
We all started off going downstream with the rest of this world before we were born again, right? I mean, we didn’t know any better. We had never truly heard the truth, so we just floated along like the rest of this world, going down the creek without a paddle.
But what happened was when we heard the truth, a paddle was put in our hand. Yes, we got born again and “repented” (which literally means to change our way of thinking) and were “converted” which means what? To turn! So, the whole idea of what happens when one hears the truth and believes the gospel in their heart is they turn—both in their way of thinking and in their behavior.
So, in our illustration, we received the truth, which is the paddle, and use it to start turning the boat we were in around and start going upstream.
Now this usually starts off a little easy because like a father might give his son a little push to get that bike going when he’s teaching him to ride, our Heavenly Father gives our boat a little push as well. But then the time comes where we have to start using that paddle that’s in our hands.
Well, you start out good. It’s not too difficult to paddle against the current because the truth has made you free, hallelujah! You see things a little different. Your discerner is much more in tune and you know what the truth is. It’s all fresh and exciting. But that’s when the first obstacle comes—which is complacency.
You see, when we’ve been swimming upstream for some time, the tendency is to become a little indifferent. Perhaps you get a little tired of doing the same old paddling, and it becomes a little wearisome to keep doing the same thing. So, you stop putting forth the effort. You don’t study your Bible like you used to. You don’t pray like you used to. You don’t go to church meetings like you used to. And guess what you are doing when you stop doing these things? You pull that paddle out of the water.
Well, what do you suppose happens to your little boat when you stop paddling? The current of the water will just automatically turn that boat back around and take you back downstream. You didn’t necessarily want it to turn around, but it’s just the natural flow of this world.
Like I’ve said time and time again, the only thing you need to do to be carnal, selfish, and self-serving is NOTHING. You will just automatically become the worst version of your flesh if you don’t have your paddle in hand and use it to turn yourself upstream.
I’ve watched this happen many times—like with the youth. I’ll watch youth groups go to summer youth camps and come back on fire! And that fire will burn bright, for a little while. But because they don’t get in the Word themselves and press into the things of God on their own, there is no wood getting put on the fire. And what will happen to a fire that doesn’t have any wood periodically added to it? It will always go out.
But, by God’s grace, we pick up that paddle again and start turning that boat back around and heading back upstream. Again, it’s called repentance and something every believer has had to do time and time again. But then the next obstacle comes downstream at us, and that’s the trials and tribulations of this world.
Those problems and adversities come right at us just as we are promised by the Lord that in the world, we will have tribulation. I’d say it this way—in the ocean, we will have waves.
So, those waves start causing our little boat to start moving from side to side and water starts getting into it, and then what starts happening? We start worrying about our boat sinking and we stop paddling. Then, just like it was with Peter when he started looking at the waves while walking to Jesus on the water, we start sinking and all because we stopped paddling, putting our attention on the tribulations.
You see, Jesus had told His disciples “Let us go to the other side.” He didn’t say, “Let us go halfway and drown.” So, when the lie was telling them that they were done for, they should have recalled the truth Jesus had spoken to them and kept paddling towards the other side. Amen?
But like we see in these accounts of Jesus’ disciples, the Lord is there to bail us out again. So, we get our attention back on Him and start that paddling again to “the other side”, back upstream.
That’s when the third and final obstacle comes against us, which is arguably the worst—when both those in the boat with us and those on the banks of the river start yelling at us, discouraging us from going upstream. And oh, there is not much worse than this persecution, especially when it comes from those in the boat with us.
And oftentimes those words have an impact on us. They might discourage us from going the opposite direction as those around us. They might make us question what we are doing in the first place. And guess what we do? If it’s those on the banks of the river, we might start paddling over to them and start trying to explain ourselves to them. Well, even if we convince them that we are following the truth, guess what we are not doing? Continuing in the truth and going upstream.
What about that person who’s in the boat with us, telling us we are doing it all wrong? Well, we might be able to take it to a degree, but guess what happens more times than not? We pull our paddle up out of the water and turn around and give them a piece of our mind. Well, what’s happening to our boat while we are letting them have it? It’s turning around and heading back downstream.
My point is—don’t let the voices around you get your attention and keep you from doing what you have to do to paddle upstream.
Church, these obstacles will come, and this going upstream of continuing in the truth is not easy, but it is right, and it is worth it. Amen?
So, what I wanted to encourage you with today is this—Do whatever you need to do to pick that paddle up and head upstream. It might not be what the majority is doing. There might be adversity from going against the current. You might even receive a lot of persecution from following the truth. But the “truth” is, you are doing it right, and continuing in the truth has a great recompense of reward. Amen.