You Will Know The Truth

We are told that we live in a postmodern world.  The prevailing philosophy of postmodernism is the rejection of objective truth.  Truth is said to be culturally derived and thus may be different from one culture to another, and even from one person to another.  In this philosophy no single truth is superior to any other truth, and all truths must be tolerated, if not accepted.

While the world is trying to redefine the concept of truth, the scriptures take a very different view.  Nowhere in the scriptures can we find even the slightest hint that truth is relative, or that it may differ from person to person, or from culture to culture.  On the contrary, the scriptures are consistent in declaring that there is a single standard of truth to which all people of all time are accountable.

When the Lord stood before Pontius Pilate, He said that He had come to testify to the truth, and that whoever is of the truth hears His voice.  To this Pilate famously responded, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38).  If Pilate had known Jesus, he would have known the answer to his own question.  On the night of the Lord’s betrayal, as He prayed to His Father, asking Him to bless His disciples, Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).

This simple statement sets the bounds of any discussion of truth.  Jesus did not say that God’s word is “a” truth, or one of many truths.  He said that God’s word is truth.  Some postmodernists might reply that Jesus didn’t say God’s word is the only truth, but this is not all that the Lord said about truth.  In Jn. 8:31, 32 as the Lord spoke to some believing Jews, He said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Here the Lord connected His word with truth and said it is the truth.  If those believing Jews continued in the Lord’s word they would know the truth, the one and only truth, which could make them free.  This is a powerful statement that is valid because the Lord only spoke the things His Father in heaven gave Him to speak.  In Jn. 12:49, 50 Jesus said, “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.  I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”  Thus, when Jesus spoke, He spoke the word of God, which is the truth.

The Lord underscored the importance of continuing in God’s word near the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount.  In Mt. 7:21 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  In spite of what postmodernism teaches, it does matter what truth one believes.  Only those who obey the truth; that is, who do the will of the Father in heaven, will enter heaven.  All others will be denied (Mt. 7:22, 23).

God’s word, the Bible, is not one truth out of many from which we may choose.  It is the truth.  It is the one and only truth which makes us free from the consequences of our sins.  In Jas. 1:21 James said, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted which is able to save your souls.”  There is a single standard of truth, and it is God’s word.  When we continue in God’s word, we will know the truth.  When we know the truth and obey the truth, we will be saved.

Fear God

Some people have come to the conclusion that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and nothing more.  Consequently they aren’t particularly interested in Him.  They much prefer the “kinder, gentler” God of the New Testament, in the person of Jesus Christ.  Most people do not want a God whom they must fear, and to suggest that we must fear God turns them off.  It may, in fact, be more appealing to think of God as a kindly, old, grandfather type, who doesn’t care what we do because He loves us so much, but is this what the scriptures teach?

When we look at the scriptures, we discover that from Old Testament to New Testament we are taught to have a healthy respect for God.  The word that is most often used to convey this idea is fear.  In Prov. 1:7 the wise man said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  He repeated this theme in Prov. 9:10, and at the end of Ecclesiastes said, “The conclusion, when all has been heard is:  fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”

Part of the reason for our discomfort with the word “fear” as it applies to God is that we fail to recognize that it is used in scripture primarily in the sense of awe, reverence, and respect.  When we “fear” God in this way, we give Him the honor and the regard that are due to Him because He is God.  Inherent in such reverence and respect is obedience.  We show our regard for God, our fear of Him, by doing what He commands us to do in every circumstance of life.

This “fear” has nothing to do with His wrath, or the potential for punishment at the time of judgment.  It is all about treating Him as holy in everything we do, because He is God and this is the appropriate manner for us to to respond to Him.  We typically show this kind of regard for anyone in authority, so how much more so should we do so for the creator God?

There is more to the story, however.  The scriptures also use “fear” in its more common usage with reference to God.  This is the aspect of God’s unchangeable nature that so many people want to ignore or reject, but any honest survey of the scriptures shows us that we cannot afford to do so.  What may be surprising to many is that this aspect of God’s character is clearly taught in the New Testament as well as in the Old Testament.

In Mt. 10:28, as our Lord Jesus was speaking about discipleship, He said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  This statement makes it clear that we have good reason to be fearful of God.  At judgment, God will consign those whose names are not in the book of life to the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 20:11-15).

In Heb. 10:31, the writer of Hebrews warned Christians who continue to willfully sin that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Those Christians who do so have a terrifying expectation of judgment (Heb. 10:26, 27) that is due to being separated from God by sin.  Anyone in his right mind can see that we have every reason to fear God in this most basic sense, because God Himself has said He will not allow the guilty to go unpunished (Ex. 34:7).

The wise person will fear God with reverent obedience in life.  All who do so will not have to fear Him when they stand before God’s throne in judgment.

Our Daily Bread

Bread has been called “the staff of life.”  This is because it has been one of the most basic foods in nearly every culture in the world’s history.  Bread was so important in ancient times that it came to represent all food in everyday conversation.  Thus one would speak of “breaking bread” in reference to having a meal, no matter what else the meal might include.  We see this usage in the New Testament in three examples.

When the Lord taught His disciples how to pray in Mt. 6:9-13, He included this statement in v. 12 of the model prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread”.  The Lord’s intent was that His disciples should depend on the Father in heaven each day for their sustenance.  Every day they were to ask God to supply their needs for that day.

The second example is found in Acts 2:46.  Here Luke described the activities of the first Christians.  He said, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.”  In this instance we see that they were sharing common meals together each day in the early days of the Lord’s church.

The third example appears in Acts 20:7.  In Luke’s account of the close of Paul’s third missionary journey he said, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”  In this case the phrase “break bread” refers to partaking of the Lord’s Supper, which is the commemoration of the Lord’s death on the cross (Mt. 26:26-30; 1 Cor. 11:23-26).

Two of these examples refer solely to physical food.  We recognize the importance of daily food to sustain our bodies, and the scriptures support this need.  The only restraints in this regard are that we must not allow food to master us (cf. Rom. 14:13-17; 1 Cor. 6:12, 13), and we must ask our Father in heaven to bless us each day with what we need (Mt. 6:12).

While the third example is certainly physical food (the bread and the cup), it is nevertheless a spiritual feast.  Our weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper is part of the spiritual sustenance that our souls needs in order to grow and mature in the faith.  We cannot survive as children of God if we ignore this spiritual food, but our spiritual food is more than the weekly communion.

Our Lord said we are to pray for our “daily bread.”  This is a spiritual necessity as much as it is a physical necessity because we need spiritual sustenance daily, just as we need physical food.  Our spiritual food is the word of God.  In Heb. 5:12-14 the writer said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”  The writer of Hebrews challenged his readers to exercise their minds with God’s word so they would mature in the faith.  If they did not, they would remain spiritual babies, which is unacceptable.

The Bible is meant to be bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions.  Let’s make sure we use it as God intended so we will always have our “daily bread”.

A Low Whisper

In 1 Kgs. 19 the record tells us about Elijah’s flight from Jezebel after he had defeated the 400 prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel (1 Kgs. 18:20-40).  Elijah fled to Horeb, the mountain of God, in Sinai.  There he hid in a cave waiting to see what might happen.  In vs. 9-12 the scripture tells us that God told Elijah to stand on the mountain before Him, and God passed by.  In v. 11 a strong wind tore the mountain, but God was not in the strong wind.  Then, an earthquake shook the mountain, but God was not in the earthquake.  In v. 12 a fire swept over the mountain, but again God was not in the fire.

After these three dramatic events, the scripture says, “and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing”  (NASB).  The English Standard Version (ESV) says, ” a low whisper.”  The KJV says, “a still small voice.”  When Elijah heard this, he wrapped his face in his mantle and stood in the entrance of the cave and God spoke to him.  God commanded Elijah to anoint Hazael king over Aram, Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha as prophet in his place (1 Kgs. 19:15, 16).

This incident illustrates an interesting aspect of God’s character that defies the human expectations about Him.  Humans are awed by magnificent and powerful displays.  We expect people of wealth or influence or authority to always appear with the trappings of their wealth or power on display.  This visible manifestation of their power adds credibility to whatever they may say.  So it is also with God.  We expect Him to reveal His will to us in a way that moves us like a scene in an epic film.  If He doesn’t, we’re a little disappointed.

Our fascination with the dramatic often causes us to miss God’s message for us.  We’re so busy looking for an earth-shattering, soul-stirring experience that we don’t hear Him when He speaks to us calmly and quietly through His word.  Like Elijah, we’re expecting to see God in the wind, earthquake, and fire, and all the while He is whispering in our ear by means of the scriptures.

The essentials of what we must do to inherit eternal life, and how we are to worship and work in the church are revealed to us in a low whisper, to borrow the phrase from the ESV version of 1 Kgs. 19:12.  God speaks calmly and quietly, telling us to believe in His Son and to be immersed for the forgiveness of our sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).  God softly tells us to worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:24), singing and making melody with our hearts (Eph. 5:19).  He tells us to treat others the way we would have them treat us (Mt. 7:12), and He tells us that if we love Him we will keep His commandments (Jn. 14:15).

These “whispers” don’t shake the earth beneath our feet.  Consequently some people don’t give them any notice.  Instead they substitute the cacophony of man-made doctrines and practices that characterize the modern denominational world.  In all the noise and emotion-stirring demonstrations of modern worship, we forget Psa. 46:10, which says, “Cease striving (or, be still), and know that I am God.”  In 1 Tim. 2:2 Paul said we are to pray for kings and all in authority, “so we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”  At least part of the reason for this exhortation is so we may hear the low whisper of God in His word.

Let’s stop trying to make God in the image we think He should have.  Let’s turn off all the noise and racket of man-made devices and doctrines that drown out the low whisper of God.  Let’s create some quiet time with God’s word so we may know His will and do what He has commanded us.