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The Absolute Essential of Truth
By David A. DePra
The proclaiming of the Truth is not optional for the Body of Christ. In fact, it is exactly what preaching the gospel IS: It is the preaching of the Truth in Christ. Yet today so many in the church have lost sight of this fact. We must return to the absolute essential of Truth. Otherwise, we are going to be deceived.
One of the primary works of the Holy Spirit is to, "guide us into all Truth." (John 16:13) Indeed, Jesus said, "You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." (John 8:32) This makes FREEDOM dependent upon us knowing the Truth. In addition, Jesus said, "I AM the Truth." (John 14:6) In short, to know the Truth is to know Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Jesus said, "Those who worship God must worship in Spirit and in Truth." (John 4:24) Lastly, Paul tells the church that it is supposed to be, "the pillar and ground of the Truth." (I Tim. 3:15) It doesn’t take a whole lot of discernment to understand that the TRUTH is not only important in the life of a Christian, and in the ministry of the church, but the TRUTH IS what the Christian walk is all about.
This is not an exaggeration. Redemption is unto new life in Jesus Christ. But it is also unto the revelation of the Truth to those redeemed. Read the epistles. Those to whom the epistles are written are generally already saved. But what is written is an explanation of what salvation MEANS. What is written is the TRUTH about God’s purpose. And all of it centers on knowing the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Truth. So to preach Truth is essentially to preach Jesus. To preach anything less is to distort Him. Truth is simply that essential.
Salvation and Knowing the Truth
It is certainly possible to be saved, but to know very little of the Truth. Indeed, this is really how it works for everyone. You do need to know the Truth about Jesus Christ as your personal Savior in order to be saved, and you do need to know you are a dead sinner without Him. But it is only AFTER you are saved that you can begin to grow in the knowledge of God. In short, it is your new birth that equips you with the capacity to know the Truth.
Jesus said, "Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) But once you are born again, you can begin to see – and it is God’s intention that we do grow to see the Truth. Again – birth is the beginning of salvation. Growing to know Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, is supposed to be the on-going outcome.
The fact is, you CANNOT separate salvation from knowing the Truth. This does not mean that you must know all Truth to be saved. But it does mean, as I stated, that once you are saved, "by grace through faith," you are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Saying that salvation is unrelated to knowing the Truth is like saying that being born is separate from growing up. No. The one is simply the extension or outcome of the other. If you are born you will grow. You MUST grow.
Now, Jesus actually stated directly that there was a relationship between salvation and knowing the Truth. He said:
And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You hast sent. (John 17:3)
Note what He said: THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL – that we might KNOW GOD and His Son. In other words, Jesus makes knowing the Truth – the way the Bible means, "knowing" – to mean salvation itself.
Of course, if what we think Jesus means by, "knowing the Truth," is simply a matter of knowing doctrines, Bible meanings, and Bible teachings, this will not make much sense to us. For how could knowing THOSE equal salvation? I mean, the Devil knows them. It is possible to memorize the Bible and never put your faith in Christ. We’ll get back to that in a minute. But for now -- what does Jesus mean by, "knowing the Truth?"
Essentially, He means that the Truth – Jesus Christ -- is living in you – in the sense that you have come under the Truth, and have become adjusted to the Truth. In other words, you have received Christ, and become governed by the Truth to the point where your mind is renewed according to it, and you begin to live according to it.
It is always easy to talk about the Truth as a THING, or as a body of information. It is easy to separate Truth from a relationship with God. But in reality, Truth IS our relationship with God – or better said, the Truth is the Person with whom we have that relationship. So when we speak of the Truth, even in doctrinal form, we are really talking about Christ Himself, and our walk with Him.
Through the new birth we become new creations in Christ Jesus. But from there we are to grow up INTO CHRIST – into the fullness of Him. This means that the outcome of our salvation is that we know the Truth, and manifest the Truth – and we do this by being one with Jesus Christ.
To have your mind renewed according to the Truth means that you THINK TRUTH. Your frame of reference is TRUTH – in other words, you are living in Jesus Christ. You know Him, and so your thinking is constituted accordingly. Obviously, this is going to eventuate in conduct that is according to the Truth. But it must begin with an inner LIFE – His life -- that comes to renew our minds according to the Truth.
The renewal of the mind is spoken of all through the NT:
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:2)
Read Romans 12:2 again. Paul is clearly stating that if you want, "to prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God," we must, "be transformed by the renewing of our mind." Can you see that? We are being told that to know the will of God – to be certain of it – requires that our minds be renewed.
Really, what Paul states ought to be self-evident. Sure. For how could we expect to know the will of God with a mind that has NOT been renewed according to the Truth in Christ? Or to put it another way, if we still believe error, how can we come to see, and walk in, the will of God? No. In fact, that would be the very definition of being ignorant of the Truth! Rather, we must have our minds renewed by the Truth, and if we do, what is going to emerge is a knowledge of the will of God.
The fact is, you live according to what you believe. You do that even without thinking. Therefore, if you believe error – even if it is unconscious – you will operate from it as your frame of reference. You will THINK error, you will therefore tend to FEEL error, and you will function and live in error. And the same impact is there if you believe and know the Truth. It is just that important.
I don’t know how it could be possible to overstate the importance of Truth. It governs everything. And really, it governs everything even for unbelievers. It governs everything in math, science, and physics. I mean, think about it, if you believe ERROR about a natural law of physics, and begin to try to live in that error, you will pay a penalty, won’t you? Suppose you believed that fire did not burn, or that you could defy gravity. I think the point is made. How much more important it is to know the Truth – believe the Truth – and to walk according to the Truth when it comes to the things of God.
So Paul states what should be obvious. He says, "If you want to know the will of God, you must be in the process of BECOMING the will of God. You must be in the process of having your mind renewed according to the Truth. Then as your mind is renewed – as YOU are changed over to the Truth in your thinking – you will be equipped to know God’s will. You can then WALK in it."
Now, of course, all of this goes right back to the fact that Jesus said, "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free." Can we see, right in His words, that He presupposes that we are NOT FREE, and that we DO need to be lead out of error into the Truth? Absolutely. He is giving a promise to us – to those who believe error. He is saying that the Holy Spirit will seek to lead us out of that error into the Truth – "You WILL know the Truth and the Truth will set you free."
Anytime you begin to talk about knowing the Truth, there exists the possibility of a vocabulary problem. Many Christians think that Truth is Biblical doctrines – and that this is ALL it is. No. But once you speak to this assumption, and tell Christians that they must hold to sound Biblical doctrine, but that they must also go on to enter into the realities behind those doctrines, many think you are minimizing the need for Biblical doctrine. But NO. I do not believe that, and I do not teach that, and it is not the Truth to say that – for the Bible doesn’t say it. So there is a need for clarity on this matter.
Let me say this loud and clear, once and for all, so that there may be NO doubt: Sound Biblical doctrine is essential. It is essential, not because it equals the reality it proclaims, but it is essential precisely because it proclaims that reality! Can we see this? Biblical doctrine is a statement of what we believe. But it isn’t the reality of what we believe – it is the statement.
For example, I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is an essential Christian doctrine. But is holding to that doctrine – and believing it as I should – is this equal to actually living in the Truth and reality of Jesus Christ as my Lord? No. Yet my proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord is vital – for it is the Truth. It is my proclamation of what ought to govern our lives.
So what we see is this: Biblical doctrine teaches us the Truth. It tells us what we need to believe. It instructs us how to live. It tells us the Truth about God. Biblical doctrine and teaching is the means by which we convey the Truth to each other -- I am doing that right now. If you don't hold to sound Biblical doctrine, you are not only teaching error, but you have a problem with God, for He will lead you to hold Biblical doctrine. Thus, again I say, Biblical doctrine is not optional. It is essential in every way.
Now, as I've said, it is vital to see that there is a difference between doctrine, and the reality behind the doctrine. The doctrine tells the Truth about God, and His Son, Jesus Christ. The doctrine tells the Truth about God’s plan and purpose. But the doctrine isn’t God, and it isn’t the plan and purpose.
But this does not minimize Biblical doctrine. Never. The doctrine teaches us ABOUT the reality. It proclaims that reality. Thus, what is at stake in doctrine is whether we are telling or teaching the Truth about God Himself.
Another example: If I hold up before you my statement of faith, and it agrees completely with the Bible, I have a great statement of faith. It proclaims the Truth. But is my statement of faith actually my faith in Jesus Christ? No. Is my statement of faith – let’s say regarding the nature of Christ – it is actually the nature of Christ? No. Rather, my statement of faith necessarily proclaims the Truth – it proclaims what I believe, and what the Bible teaches.
You cannot limit your relationship to God to a statement of faith. God is a Person and so are you. The statement of faith can be a formal description of that relationship. But it is not that relationship.
And yet what are we to say? That the statement of faith is unnecessary or meaningless. No. It proclaims what I believe. And it had better proclaim the Truth.
Hopefully, we are now able to see the essential nature of Biblical doctrine. How can you say what you believe without it? You cannot. How can you teach others without it? You cannot. And yet, do not make the mistake of thinking that just because you agree with all of the doctrines of the Bible that God wants you to settle for that. No. God wants us to hold to the doctrine, but to obey it, enter into what it teaches, and see the Truth Himself -- whom the doctrine proclaims.
There are some sincere Christian people, including some well-known apologists, who cannot seem to grasp this distinction. They are so focused on the statement of Truth that somehow the Truth Himself takes second place. There are also other apologists who spend all of their time attacking error, and are actually defined by what they are against more than they are defined by what they are FOR. This is an imbalance.
God teaches us the Truth in doctrinal form -- but then through the Holy Spirit He reveals to us what the doctrine means in experience, and sets us free into the reality of the doctrine. Thus, BOTH are essential. You cannot preach Christ, or the Christian life in Truth, and say that doctrine does not matter! For Pete's sake, what are you teaching in that case? -- you are saying what you teach doesn't matter! But neither can you preach doctrine and think that knowing it equals the relationship with Christ that the doctrine is intended to teach you about. Doctrine is the package and the label, but reality in Christ is the contents.
Telling the Truth About the Truth
Let’s ask a question at this point: What is true Biblical doctrine? Well, it is doctrine that proclaims what the Bible teaches. Ok. But let’s ask an even deeper question: WHY is Biblical doctrine true? Well, Biblical doctrine is true because it tells the Truth about God! Right? Sure. In the final analysis, the reason doctrine is the Truth is because it rightly represents the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ. And thus, doctrine is error, because it misrepresents God.
We MUST – MUST – MUST see this! Doctrinal Truth rightly represents GOD. That is why it IS doctrinal Truth. This is why it is Biblical. The Bible is the Word of God, and the written Truth, precisely because it tells the Truth about God – and reveals to us His heart, and His mind.
For example, if I say that Jesus died for every sin of every human being who every lived, and you say that He died only for the elect, indeed, if you add – and this is Calvinism – that God has purposefully elected those for whom Jesus did not die to hell for all eternity – if we disagree on this fundamental Christian doctrine – are we really talking about the SAME GOD? No, we are not. One of us is in error. Grave error on a Christian essential. But our error isn’t simply a matter of us misinterpreting Bible verses – although it includes that. Our basic error is that we do not know the Truth about God Himself – we actually believe lies about Him – and we therefore proclaim doctrines and teachings that reflect our error.
What we see from this is that true doctrine tells the Truth about God. False doctrine lies about Him. It goes back to what the doctrine says about God – and of course, our interpretation of the Bible is going to go hand in hand with this.
Now, can we see why knowing the TRUTH is so important? We are talking about the God in whom we trust, believe, and walk with. Thus, if I believe lies about God, I am going to THINK those lies. I am going to LIVE FROM THEM. I am going to operate under the assumption of those lies and structure my life around them. Indeed, I am going to begin to become constituted in my inner being according to those lies. This is really the very definition of darkness, ignorance, and deception – believing lies about God Himself.
Doctrine comes in because our statement of doctrine proclaims what we believe. Thus, it acts as a signpost INTO a relationship with the God, and acts as a stabilizer once I’m in a relationship with God. It teaches me how to walk with God, how to choose, and tells me what I ought to believe. Thus, sound Biblical doctrine is absolutely essential. It is essential because it proclaims what I say is the Truth about God, His Son, and His purposes – and directs me how to live in that Truth.
So we must always keep in mind that it is vital to state, and to hold to, what we believe – and we need to do this in doctrinal form. But it is just as vital to realize that we need to go on to enter into the realities about which our doctrines speak. We must enter into a relationship with God, and a knowledge of the Truth, so that our doctrines actually represent the Truth as it lives in and through us.
The first Christians did not emerge from the upper room in Acts 2 with a list of doctrines that they received from above. God did not drop upon them leaflets containing a new statement of faith. No. What they DID receive was CHRIST IN THEM – through the Holy Spirit. They went forward from that upper room, carrying this new life, and began to experience everything that it meant. Over the course of time, they wrote down what God had revealed to them and in them – they wrote down their experience. From these writings we are able to construct Christian doctrine – indeed, this was already being done by those same apostles, based on the revelation they had received of the Person of Jesus.
Now, note what tends to happen: We tend to grab the doctrine that tells the Truth about the new birth, and neglect the new birth that the doctrine describes. But no. Christianity did not emerge from doctrines. Doctrines emerged from Christianity! The teaching we have about new life in Christ, and about the Truth in Christ, emerged from that very new life and Truth!
Today we have all the Biblical doctrine of Christianity to, "make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." We have doctrine from scripture, which 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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim 3:15-17) There is absolutely nothing in the Christian experience that will not agree with the Bible. But the whole point of doctrine, as stated in this very passage, is to point us to faith in Christ. The whole point is to instruct us IN the Truth – rather than just give us a bunch of true teachings.
Perhaps the best passage of all on this matter comes from an exchange Jesus had with the Pharisees. He told them:
And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he has sent, him you believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they that testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5:38-40)
According to Jesus, there is a big difference between hearing His Word, and having that Word, "abiding in you." There is a big difference between believing that the Bible contains words of eternal life, and actually COMING TO JESUS for life – which is exactly what the Bible tells us to do!
I hope we can see the absolute essential of telling the Truth about God through our Biblical doctrine. And I hope we can see the further need to actually obey that doctrine and enter into the reality of it. There is a distinction between the two, but they are really supposed to be AS ONE – as far as our Christian testimony.
Importance of the Truth
There is a mentality that is growing among sincere Christian people today that is dangerous. Many no longer think that preaching the Truth is important. In fact, it would seem that many in church leadership are more concerned about whether potential members are offended by what is preached, than they are concerned about whether what is preached is the Truth.
The contradiction of this mentality to the Bible ought to be obvious. Any church that does not preach the Truth is completely out of the will of God. Indeed, to refrain from preaching the Truth is actually compromise with the Truth. Thus, to be more concerned with the loss of members because the Truth is preached is deception because if the Truth is not preached, God is not going to bless that church.
Now, of course, it is entirely possible to compromise with the Truth, and develop your Christian preaching in a way that will please people. And if you do, they may come to your church. You may appear to be highly successful. But God won’t be in it.
We need to come to terms with something here. It is not confusing. It is not a gray area. It is not MAYBE or perhaps. There is NO question about it: God is not going to bless your church if you compromise with the Truth. He is not going to help you destroy yourselves, help you hinder others, or help you work contrary to THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH. He is not.
The fact is, if you, "morph," the Truth of the gospel so that it accommodates people, what you will end up with is a church filled with people who are NOT there because they want the Truth, but are there because they have embraced error. In short, you will have an apostate church.
Let’s notice what the Bible has to say about this matter of Truth in the church:
But if I tarry long, that you may know how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Tim 3:15)
Here we see that a church is not only supposed to preach the Truth, but the church is supposed to be DEFINED by the fact it does. The church is supposed to be a body of believers who UPHOLD the Truth as a pillar – because they themselves, as individuals, are GROUNDED in the Truth. Contrast that over and against any idea that the church is supposed to present a message that is, "seeker-friendly," or which actually hides the Truth from people, lest they become offended.
Now I pray to God that you do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that you should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. (2 Cor 13:7-8)
These are strong words. But we need to read them. Paul is indicating that doing or saying anything against the Truth is equal to doing EVIL, and equal to being a REPROBATE. He is very clear that we must not do or say – deliberately – anything that is against the Truth, but only for the Truth.
Why is God is concerned about this? We hardly ought to need to ask. Jesus Christ is the Truth. The Holy Spirit has come to reveal the Truth. The Truth sets us free. But if we won’t preach the Truth we are not only running counter to these purposes, but we are actually playing for the other side. Again – this is not maybe. It is what the Word of God says.
Once we are saved, there is NOTHING more important that the Truth. Nothing. How could there be? Truth is Jesus Christ.
The Offense of the Truth
I mentioned earlier that today there are many so-called geniuses who think that they have found a clever way to get people in church: Just preach a message that doesn’t offend them. Of course, this has resulted in preaching error. It always does.
The fact is, Truth is going to offend some people. It just will. If you preach the Truth, some people will leave your church, and some visitors won't come back. Indeed, there are folks out there that go from church to church, not in search of a place that stands for Truth, but for a place that will give them the message they want to hear. What is the solution for those folks? To alter the Truth to fit their desires? No. The only solution is to keep preaching the Truth in love. At some point, they are going to have to come to terms with it anyways. It may as well be sooner than later.
Why do we think that to hide the Truth, or to alter it, is LOVE? Why do we think that the worst thing in the world is that if people take offense at our preaching of the Truth? It isn't the worst thing. It is sometimes what MUST happen. People are going to choose to be offended if they don't want the Truth.
The fact is, the Truth will offend everyone who doesn’t want the Truth. But it won’t offend those who do. And in the eyes of God, it is LOVE to preach the Truth even to those who may be offended. If you disagree, read the Bible -- read the words of Jesus to those He offended. Did He back off because He thought if they got offended it would be harmful to them? No. He told them the Truth.
We are to preach the Truth in love and let God deal with the results. This doesn't mean we are callous to those who might be offended. No. But it is not our job to make sure people don't get offended at the Truth. Rather, it is our job to preach it. THAT is love.
What does it really mean to preach the Truth in love? It means to manifest the nature and character of Christ in the preaching. It means to show God as One who INVITES all -- who forgives and loves all -- and who desires that all be saved, and to be changed to where we can experience Christ. But contrast this over and against what is sometimes suggested today: That God accepts us as we are, to LEAVE US THAT WAY. That you can come to God on YOUR terms, rather than upon HIS. That you can pick and choose the Truth that suits you. No. This is about God revealing Himself to us, and setting us free. It is not about us being free to create God in OUR image.
In the end, we are either going to allow God to adjust us to suit Him, or we are going to adjust God to suit us. The former is life, freedom, and Truth. The latter is deception and unbelief. Thus, we see that the reason we must preach the Truth is that all men find God in Spirit and in Truth, and find the freedom He offers. To hold back the Truth is nothing short of helping people remain blind.
The tragic irony is, that in our desire to NOT offend people with the Truth, we are actually hurting them -- and hurting others who are hungry for the Truth. They don't get to hear a clear message either, do they? God is well aware of people's spiritual condition. He is well aware of the possibilities of the Truth offending people. And yet, read the book of Acts. The disciples prayed for boldness. Peter, for example stood up and preached the Truth to a mob on the day of Pentecost, many of whom were personally in the mob that condemned Jesus. He TOLD THEM THEY DID! Was Peter worried about offending them? And remember, Peter has a personal stake in the matter: He could have been arrested and put to death for what he preached.
This modern attitude in the church of being so worried that people will be offended by the Cross, by the gospel, or by any thing that might conflict with their religious beliefs, has taken root, all in the name of, "love." It is NOT love. It is of Satan the Devil, who is the Father of lies. It is Satan's clever device to convince us that if we offend anyone with the Truth that we are unloving. It is a ploy of the Devil, who is the father of lies, to get us to remove the offense of the Cross, and of the Truth, in favor of members, money, and pleasing people. What a grief it must be to God! His people used to DIE for the Truth. Today we treat it as a marketing tool -- and use it in whatever helping we think will benefit us.
Unfortunately, the reason we easily fall for this deception is probably because we don't revere or value the Truth as much as we should. Otherwise, we would so want others to have it. We would see that we cannot go wrong telling people the Truth about God -- cannot go wrong preaching sound, Biblical doctrine, in love.
Do we realize what happens when we water down the gospel to suit people, or so that they will not be offended? If you want to water-down the gospel to get people into your church, you will end up with many members who believe in a false gospel -- or who don’t want the Truth. And you will probably lose many who DO want the Truth. They will recognize the error you are practicing. Thus, in the end, you will have a church filled with people who believe error -- error that YOU taught them. Most important of all, God will not bless you. YOU will have to answer to Him for what you taught in HIS name.
Of course, this tells us the opposite is possible. Preach the Truth and only the Truth, and refuse to compromise with it, and YOU WILL CHASE SOME PEOPLE AWAY! That is a guarantee. But the ones you stay will be there because of THE TRUTH! And in the end, you will have a church filled with people who love the Truth, and are united in the Truth. You will actually have a church that Jesus is building, because He never builds on any foundation except the Truth. We need to come to terms with this reality.
Now, I do realize that it is entirely possible to preach the Truth – but not in love. You can actually turn people off by your attitude, even if your words are the Truth. But assuming that both your attitude and words are of the Truth – and you are speaking the Truth in love – you will still offend many if you preach the Truth. Jesus did. Paul did. However, these will be offended because they don’t want the Truth. Not because of YOU.
The Truth offends people precisely because it IS the Truth. Truth offends those who are comfortable in error. Or people who are afraid of the Truth. It offends those in whom there is no Truth. It offends people who are so set in their religious beliefs that they will be offended by anything that runs contrary to them. You will never be free of the possibility of offending people. Get used to it.
Can we see that we have a choice here -- especially if we are in leadership? We can preach the Truth with love, redemptively, as an invitation, and in boldness -- all in agreement with God's own intent that all be saved and come into the knowledge of the Truth. Or we can have as our mission NOT offending anyone with the Truth -- and thus betray Jesus Christ -- and in the end even betray those who we did not want to offend.
Now, of course, there are preaches and teachers who, themselves, are deceived. THAT is why they preach error. But do we realize that in some of these cases the problem was someone who did not teach THEM the Truth? They are responsible for what they believe. That is certain, as are we. But we are personally responsible to God for seeking HIM for the Truth, and for teaching it to others.
The Whole Truth, and Nothing BUT
The Truth is absolute and without a gray area. Consequently, by definition, it will push and push and push until everyone of us either embrace it or reject it. That is the nature of the Truth. This is why it may offend.
But this is GOOD. If the message that I preach does not bring people face to face with their accountability to Jesus Christ – yes, in a redemptive way of grace, but nevertheless face to face – then my message is nothing but words. If my message does not help them see error, and see the Truth about God, then it is not of God. If my message does not, by necessity, point out the errors that are in the Christian church, it will not be a clear message.
There are some folks, in their sincere desire to NOT offend, suggest that maybe we should simply preach the Truth -- yes -- but never expose error. This, they feel, will minimize any possible offense. After all, you never know what the people to whom you are preaching believe? What about this?
Why can’t we see that in order to preach the Truth, we must preach what the Truth is NOT? Read the Bible. There is barely a chapter where this is not done – the writers always preach the Truth, but over and against error. Why? Because we all BEGIN in error. And unless it is identified AS error, we will not see the difference between it and the Truth – we will instead interpret the Truth THROUGH our faulty frame of reference.
I could give personal examples where people have gotten offended by what I preached, but this was merely their reaction to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In the course of time, they caved into God. I could also give some example where people just rejected what I taught, and as far as I know, never turned to God. Well, aren't we all going to have to make these choices at some point? Or do we think that we can afford to wait until we stand before Christ? I would suggest that the Truth will be known THEN, and Jesus isn't going to be concerned whether it offends people.
The Bible teaches that often the Truth DISTURBS -- it must disturb if there is any power in it to expose our errors and show us the right way. It may disturb and get a very negative reaction from the people it disturbs. Jesus and Paul knew this. And yet note their words:
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. (John 8:40)
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Gal 1:10)
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? (Gal 4:16)
And then, from Paul, we have this clear statement:
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which tries our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. (1 Th 2:3-6)
You will notice that I have said, as verified in the Bible, that TRUTH disturbs. But we need to keep in mind that it ought to be the Truth that disturbs and offends, if necessary, and NOT US. In short, the goal isn't to offend people. The goal is to preach the Truth -- in love.
Along the line of needing to point out ERROR, as well as preach the Truth, there is another consideration here. Wherever the Truth is preached, the Devil will introduce error. He will introduce errors of doctrine and of conduct and of faith. ALWAYS. You can bank on it. So the idea that we can just ignore error and focus on the positive is not practical, and not Biblical.
Read the gospels. Did Jesus point out error? Read the epistles. Almost every one of them was written to combat a specific error, or an errant church. Thus, we MUST not only preach the Truth, but we must uproot the error.
This is the way the Holy Spirit works with us as individuals. If you discover the Truth about something, isn’t it true that it brings correction to some error – to a greater or lesser degree? Sure. Even if your error was that you were blind. Truth is LIGHT, and when light is introduced into DARKNESS, everything is exposed, all of the critters scatter, and nothing is ever the same again.
Thus, if I am more concerned about offending church people by my preaching than I am about telling the Truth about Jesus Christ, I do not have the mind of Christ on this matter. And frankly, I am in danger of becoming the very definition of a false teacher. A false teacher, according to the Bible does teach error and lies about God. But a false teacher does that for reasons – many times those reasons are based on a payback of some kind for preaching error.
God could not be more clear about this matter:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Tim 4:1-5)
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Phil 3:18-19)
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor 1:17-18)
Again – these are strong, unbending commands. Note especially the last passage from I Corinthians. Paul states clearly that to those who want Jesus Christ, the preaching of the Cross is the POWER OF GOD. But to those who do not want the Truth, the preaching of the Cross will be foolish – needless. Indeed, what we see here is that if I am offended by the Truth it is precisely because I don’t want God – I don’t want the Truth. I may actually be in the process of perishing.
So what is the solution for people that are offended by the Truth? Should we trash them? No. Actually, we ought to keeping preaching the Truth in love. But should we, in reaction to their offense, back off and present a message that caters to them? Should we tell them that they are NOT sinners? Or if we are talking about deceived believers, should we tell them that it doesn’t matter what they believe?
Incredibly, the entire purpose of preaching – the whole purpose of the gospel itself and of all teaching to those who are saved – is to proclaim the Truth. The idea that we ought to adjust the Truth to fit our audience, lest we offend them, is actually a direct betrayal of any ministry of Jesus Christ. It is actually NOT LOVE. It equals our helping the blind remain blind, and equal us helping them destroy themselves. This is so even if they get offended.
Now, most people today don’t believe this. They don’t. In fact, in many churches today, if people get offended by the preaching of the Cross, the pastor will be in trouble FOR offending them. He may be told that if people get offended that HE doesn’t love them. Often the goal is to avoid offending people at the price of Truth – rather than to tell them the Truth so that they can be saved. This needs to stop. Pastors and people need to start standing for the Truth.
There are also people that actually believe that if you expose error that you are causing division in the body of Christ. Well, you may be causing division among those UNITED IN ERROR -- which would be good. The only unity that God wants to keep in the Body of Christ is the unity in the Truth. All other unities MUST be destroyed -- and would be, by the Truth. Thus, to bring division is good if that division breaks up unity in error, and frees people to unity in Christ.
Offending people may be involved. I will promise you that if you, as an individual, or if you, as a church, preach the Truth, you WILL offend some people. I also promise you that Satan will make you a target. But I also promise you that if you preach the Truth in love that doing so IS LOVE – even if people don’t think so, and you are hated for it. I don’t say this to make martyrs out of those who preach the Truth. I say it because Jesus said it – and it has happened for the last two-thousand years. Those who preach the Truth are hated – mostly by religious people.
Is it ever LOVE to lie to people about God? Is it ever LOVE to assure people that it is ok if they believe lies about God? No. But it is love to proclaim the Truth in a redemptive way, showing people the grace of God, and the freedom in Jesus Christ. People may not take it that way, and may actually accuse you of being unloving or without compassion. They may say you are arrogant, a know-it-all, or someone who is biased and even bigoted along some line. But all of that comes with the territory. We are to nevertheless preach the Truth. We are to be loyal to Jesus Christ and let the chips fall where they may.
How to Know the Truth
There are Christian people today who sincerely believe that we cannot know the Truth. This may be because they are frustrated that THEY don’t know it. Or it may simply be that they continue to think that Truth is a matter of theology. But the Bible teaches that we CAN know the Truth, and teaches that it is God’s will that we know it. Indeed, the reason God can be so assuring about this is that HE promises to take the initiative to reveal Himself to us.
The question, therefore, if God wants to reveal to us the Truth is this: How does God do that? And what is our part? And when God does it, how can we know what we believe is the Truth?
The solution here is obviously NOT found only in study. Study is good and encouraged continually in the Bible. We must know the Bible. But anyone can know what the Bible says. It takes the Holy Spirit to show us what it means. In short, even cult people use the Bible – and use it to affirm every false doctrine they teach. The solution must therefore be something that goes beyond the necessity of knowing the Bible.
In the final analysis, the solution goes back to something I discussed earlier. I said that true doctrine tells the Truth about God. But can we see that if we don’t know God Himself that we won’t know if our doctrine tells the Truth about Him? Sure. Therefore, the solution is to KNOW GOD HIMSELF. Then, as was the case with the early disciples, our doctrines will absolutely line up with Him, and the written Word. Our doctrines will then be a signpost pointing INTO the Truth, as well as a signpost KEEPING us in.
But herein emerges the real question: How do we come to know God? We’ve already seen that KNOWING GOD is beyond, although supported by, knowing doctrines ABOUT HIM. How do we KNOW GOD HIMSELF?
The Bible tells us: We come to know God by surrendering to Him. This includes seeking Him for HIS WILL in every situation in life. It includes unconditionally abandoning ourselves into His hands when we are brought to such a choice. That is how we come to know God. We come to know Him by DEATH AND RESURRECTION with Christ – not merely for salvation, but as we walk through the Christian life.
The reason this is the only way to know God once again speaks to what Truth is, and the need to deal with error. If Truth were merely true facts about God, then error would be false facts about God, and the solution would be education. But in the end, Truth has to do with knowing Jesus Christ. Thus, we must have all of the errors of heart and mind that hinder the Truth dealt with in us. Only then will the freedom come wherein we can see the Truth.
What I am saying is this: We believe error because there is error in us. Error agrees with something in us – and that something is almost always rooted in UNBELIEF. It is usually rooted in being on throne of my life. This is not necessarily a deliberate resistance we have against God. It is just the nature of things – it is the way we are. And despite the fact that I can educate myself according to the Bible and gain a certain amount of intellectual enlightenment from doing so, this will not necessarily deal with unbelief. God must deal with ME – with what is wrong with my relationship with Him. If He does that, then because it will result in becoming more one with God, my mind will be renewed according to the Truth, and I will begin to see God as He is.
Here we see death and resurrection. God will deal with me by bringing me face to face with a choice to believe and surrender to Him. This will require that I relinquish my control over my life, and require that I open myself to the Truth of God. If I do, light will come into my heart. Death will come to my flesh, my will, and my unbelief. And I will be raised to a greater knowledge of Christ, because the unbelief that hindered it will have been dealt with.
Now, what is revealed to me through such an experience will absolutely agree with the Bible. I will then begin to see – by experience – what the Bible means. I will know the doctrine, and know what the doctrine means because I now know the Person.
This brings us to a formula I often use to illustrate the point: Our death = His life = Light. In other words, if I surrender myself to God, the Cross of Jesus Christ will be brought to bear against that which I surrender. I will be raised with Christ on that matter, with the power of His resurrection. And in the package, because Christ is both LIFE and LIGHT, I will SEE GREATER TRUTH. Thus, if you want more LIGHT, you must be enlarged in more LIFE. But to do that, you must DIE.
I am not suggesting that it is only at the moment of some dramatic choice to surrender to God that light rushes in and you suddenly see all kinds of Truth about God. No. This is about what you and I are BECOMING. The more we give ourselves to God, the more God is able to give of Himself to us. The more we turn to Christ in practical situations, the more we BECOME open to any Truth God wants to reveal. This is all a process of growth.
Jesus spoke of it many times:
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Mat 6:22-23)
The thought here is that if you are unconditionally sold out to God – whatever it takes – then your eye is single. And THAT will provide the openness whereby God can bring you light and Truth. Sure. Keep your eye on God and you see….well…God Himself. You will see the Truth. But if we are not committed to God, but have double motives, not only will this unbelief blind our eyes to the Truth, but it will set us up for other deception. Our whole body could become dark.
It all goes back to our relationship with God. BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND. Walking by faith means we cannot see God, but it usually means we eventually do. That is the whole point. God wants to reveal Himself to us.
Importance of the Truth
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4)
God’s purpose is to not only save us, but to restore to us a knowledge of Himself, so that we might be free to live with Him forever. What we believe about God determines virtually everything about our lives. Truth is just that important. In fact, knowing Jesus Christ, according to Paul, was worth the loss of everything else.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. (Phil 3:7-8)
When we read these words, and realize that Jesus Christ died so that we could be restored to both life and light, it tells us that we must never sell the Truth for anything. Indeed, we must sell everything for the Truth.
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