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Truth and Freedom
By David A. DePra
God inspired the apostle James to write, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:17) James was saying that if a living faith in Christ always results in works. Always. So if I don’t have good works, my faith cannot be a living faith. At best, it is a dead faith – one which exists only "on paper," or in the form of intellectual concepts. Faith in God, if it is real, always has good works as the outworking.
Seeing that good works are the OUTCOME of being rightly related to God through a living faith in Christ, rather than the MEANS thereunto, is vital. Once we grasp this Truth, it puts everything into a proper perspective. It will help us stay out of legalism – which makes good works the MEANS of staying rightly related to God. And will keep us out of license – which renders works unnecessary. The Bible reveals that good works will always be the result of faith because good works are the natural outcome of being rightly related to God by faith.
Now, when we say that good works will ALWAYS be the outcome of faith, there are going to be some folks who immediately begin to lament over their failures and conclude that they must not have real faith – because they think their works are bad. Well, maybe they don’t have real faith. But maybe they do. Their concern and lamentation is evidence that they do. If you WANT to obey God, you are already showing you have faith. You may not yet be able to translate your faith into good works, but the fact that, in your heart, you WANT to obey God, means a lot. If you truly WANT to obey God, and keep plugging away, asking God for freedom, the execution of your faith into good works will progressively emerge over the course of your walk with Christ.
Having said all of this, however, there is yet a principle behind all of it – a principle of life of which many people are unaware. That principle is this: Your "faith" ALWAYS has works. What you believe – true or false -- ALWAYS results in works of some kind – works which are in accordance with, and a product of, your "faith."
That may seem contradictory, since we have just noted that, "faith WITHOUT works" is dead. But hold on a second. James is saying that real faith in Christ results in real good works. But built into this Truth is the fact that a dead faith likewise produces dead works. Likewise, faith in someone or something other than God produces works which correspond to that faith. The works aren’t the good works which can only come from a living faith – but they are works nevertheless.
The truth is, we all believe SOMETHING. Even an atheist, who says He does not believe God exists, BELIEVES THAT! – He believes there is no God! In the final analysis, there is no such thing as the absence of belief. Even those who claim there are no absolutes, and that there is nothing to believe for sure, are contradicting themselves, for those claims are what they believe as a certainty. Perhaps there is nothing so pathetic as someone who would say, "I am absolutely certain that there is no such thing as absolute certainty."
Man was MADE a believing creature. You and I believe all the time. We call this, "our perception of reality." We don’t even have to know we are believing or perceiving – we just do. It is automatic – no real effort is required. But that is not all we do. Note the progression: Our life consists of our perception of reality, and then our embracing of it AS reality. We might call this our "faith." But notice: Then we RESPOND what we believe is the truth. We respond continually – that response being "works." And then that response results in what? Consequences which arise from our response. This is a continuous cycle.
This principle governs our lives. It is going on all the time on many levels, and never ends. When we are done with one cycle, we begin another, as we must then perceive and deal with the consequences of our prior choices.
So we see in this that everyone of us has FAITH in something – if nothing more than our faulty perception of things. And we are going to structure our lives around what we believe. Our "faith" always has an outcome – always has works of some sort which carry the flavor and motivation of our "faith."
We can see this principle in even the most mundane of things. If I BELIEVE it is going to rain tomorrow, I will take an umbrella along. If I BELIEVE that I am in danger, I am going to do whatever I think is necessary to protect myself – and it doesn’t matter whether my fears are based in truth or not. To me, it IS real, and I am going to respond. FAITH governs all that we are. There is no escape from this principle. It is the way we are made by God.
All of this ought to lead us to see that WHATEVER WE BELIEVE IS THE TRUTH greatly matters! Matters? That’s the understatement of all time! Indeed, what we believe governs EVERYTHING about us. Our "faith" – or acceptance of something as true – determines what we feel, think, say, and most of all, how we choose. And those choices always carry consequences.
According to the Bible, all the consequences of our choices boil down to two kinds: Freedom or bondage. Under those two headings come light and darkness, heaven and hell. They are really synonymous words for life and death – spiritually.
Now, once we realize these basic principles of life – that we all always in the process of perceiving and believing, and then responding, and then experiencing the consequences of those responses, we begin to see why Jesus could make the revolutionary statement He made to His disciples:
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)
Do we see the consequence of knowing the Truth here? Freedom.
But freedom from what? Well, really, three questions arise from Jesus’ promise. First, what is this "Truth," which will set us free? Second, what will this Truth set us free FROM? Third, what will we be set free TO? – in other words – What is the FREEDOM Jesus is promising?
These questions are easily answered. The Truth which Jesus is talking about is none other than the Truth about God Himself. The "Truth" is about who God is, what He is like, and what His intentions are towards us. In the final analysis, Truth is God. And everything we perceive is either Truth or error – based on whether it agrees with HIM. That’s why Jesus also said, "I am the Truth."
Even Biblical doctrine is merely a summary of what we believe about God. Biblical doctrine is not God Himself. Now, certainly, true doctrine tells the Truth about God. False doctrine lies about God. But notice: The truth or error of doctrine all goes back to whether something rightly represents God’s nature, character, plan, purpose, and intentions towards us. TRUTH tells the TRUTH about the TRUTH HIMSELF! Error doesn’t.
Now all of this leads us to a question: What does the Truth – which is always the Truth about God – set us free TO? Well, it sets us free to KNOW Him, and to fellowship with Him. Certainly. Ever try to have a relationship with someone about whom you believed lies? You can’t do it. Ever have someone believe lies about you? You can’t get far with them. The fact is, unless we see and embrace the Truth about God, we aren’t going to get far with Him. The lies won’t let us.
The Truth about God makes us want to be near Him. Lies about Him cause us to hesitate drawing near. From this we see that the Truth about God is all good. And lies smear that good. The Truth sets us free to see God as He is – and the way God is is perfect, holy, just, and good. The Truth sets us free to WANT God!
Ok. The Truth sets us free to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But what does Truth set us free FROM? Error. Lies about God. Sure. Those things which motivate us to choose to stay away and apart from God.
Herein we continue to see the consequences of what we believe. Jesus told us what the "consequence" of knowing the Truth would be: Freedom. By default, that means the consequence of believing lies about God is bondage.
What is this FREEDOM? Again, remember: This is freedom which comes from seeing God. Thus, the freedom Jesus is talking about is the liberty to be what God made me to be in relation to Him. Thus, if I am free, I am able to live and function in a relationship with God Himself.
Sure. You can’t be FREE in a relationship to God if you believe lies about Him. No. In that case, you will be living contrary to Him. Again -- You have to know the Truth in order to be set free to be what you were made to be in relation to the One who made you. The Truth sets you free to do just that.
Lies keep us from relationship with God – by lying about Him! Truth tells the Truth about the Truth Himself – and if we see it, we desire that relationship.
The Pure in Heart
The way that we come to know the Truth is by surrendering to the Person who is the Truth. I don’t just mean for salvation. That is the start, and without it we can get no where. But once I am saved, I must grow in the knowledge of the Truth. The only way this can happen is through faith – through unconditional surrender.
When I say, "surrender," many people immediately think of THINGS TO DO. Not necessarily, although surrender could include obedience of that kind. Surrender means that I humble myself under the mighty hand of God even if I don’t know what God is going to do, or where He is right now in His purposes. I do it by faith – believing God will take me. THAT creates the spiritual atmosphere in me wherein God can reveal to me more of Himself – which is equal to saying God can reveal more of the Truth.
Get that. God doesn’t just reveal, "true stuff," to us. He reveals HIMSELF. That is what it means to know the Truth which will set us free. If God reveals Himself to us, then obviously, the lies we have believed about Him are going to be exposed for what they are.
But make no question, if you want to see God, you have to surrender to Him – FIRST. That is why Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." When I surrender to God, I then BELONG TO HIM. But to, "belong to God," is the very definition of holiness and purity of heart. Thus, I can then SEE GOD – as He chooses to reveal Himself to me.
As a person begins to see more and more of what God is like – sees the TRUTH – he then is able to embrace that Truth by faith, and begin to LIVE UNDER IT. The result is what? Freedom. For when you embrace Truth, you are embracing God. And when you live IN Truth, you are living in a RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. Again – true freedom is the liberty to be what God made you to be in relation to HIM. It is the liberty to be in the relationship with God that He originally intended all people to have with Him. In a nutshell, "He shall be our God, and we shall be His people." *
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