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.