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Intro: Psalm 33:4 – the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth.
Last week we introduced our theme for the upcoming year – “Established in the Present Truth” is a phrase from 2 Peter 1, wherein the apostle makes known his intention to remind his readers of the truth that was present with them – to them again of things they had already been taught. We discussed the important place of rehearsing and reminding ourselves of known truth.
In consideration of that endeavor I want to consider the subject of truth. What place does truth play in the service of God, and the life of the Christian?
1) Jesus did not say much during His trial before Pilate. But one thing He did say could be considered a mission statement in itself. When asked by Pilate if He was a king, Jesus said, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) Jesus said He came to tell the truth. Truth was at the center of Jesus’ identity, His work, and those who would serve Him. We will explore Jesus’ statement more closely in a moment. First consider the connection between truth and God in the O.T.
I. The God of Mercy and truth. How is God described in the O.T.? There are several descriptions that come to mind; Creator; God of Justice; God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Covenant). Interestingly one of the recurring descriptions of God is the dual characteristics of mercy and truth.
A. When Abraham sent his oldest servant back to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac, the servant providentially was led to find Rebekah at the well watering the camels. When he realized that God had answered Abraham’s prayer, he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. (Gen 24:27) The servant’s words begin a repeating description of God as the One who shows mercy and reveals truth.
• Ps 25:10 – All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
• Ps 57:2-3 – I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me. 3 He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
• Ps 57:10 – For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds.
• Ps 69:13 – But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, in the acceptable time; O God, in the multitude of Your mercy, Hear me in the truth of Your salvation.
• Ps 86:15 – But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
• Ps 89:14 – Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.
• Ps 100:5 – For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
• Ps 108:4 – For Your mercy is great above the heavens, And Your truth reaches to the clouds.
• Ps 115:1 – Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.
• Prov 16:6 – In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.
1. The Psalmist continues to describe God as He “who keeps truth forever” (Ps 146:6) and states unequivocally that “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.” (Ps 119:160)
2. The prophet Isaiah identified the coming Messiah in the same language – Isa 16:5 – In mercy the throne will be established; And One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David, Judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness.” Later in Mic 7:20 – You will give truth to Jacob And mercy to Abraham, Which You have sworn to our fathers From days of old.
B. The dual qualities of mercy and truth not only describe God but also complement each other as essential elements of our salvation.
1. We cannot be saved without mercy. We all stand condemned by our own transgressions. If god is not a God of mercy, all is lost, and there is not hope.
2. We cannot be saved without truth. Do you believe that? Jesus certainly said as much…
II. The Truth will make You Free…
A. Go back to John 18:37 – For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. His mission was defined by the truth (mystery) that was in the process of being revealed to all mankind. Jesus (as God) is absolutely committed to the revelation of what is true.
1. Jesus (as God) bore witness to the truth through revelation and confirmation.
a. He made known that which could not be discovered or apprehended apart from God’s voice. Heb 1:1-2 – God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
b. The words of Jesus, and of His Holy Spirit led apostles constitute absolute and irrefutable truth. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles to lead them into all truth Jesus called Himself, “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
c. Paul describes Jesus as the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15) and the One in whom is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3)
2. Consider Jesus’ dialogue with the unbelieving Jews in John 8 – v. 31-32 – Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They objected that they were Abraham’s children, and had never been in bondage to anyone! They were not telling the truth – a symptom of their problem – They had no respect for the truth and refused to accept it.
• v. 37 – “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” 39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.
• v. 43 – Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 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. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?
3. Albert Barnes comments on Jesus’ statement in John 18 – ”By this [Jesus words in John 18:37] he showed what was the nature of his kingdom. It was not to assert power; not to collect armies; not to subdue nations in battle. It was simply to present truth to men, and to exercise dominion only by the truth. Hence, the only power put forth in restraining the wicked, in convincing the sinner, in converting the heart, in guiding and leading his people, and in sanctifying them, is that which is produced by applying truth to the mind… We see here the importance which Jesus attached to truth. It was his sole business in coming into the world. He had no other end than to establish it. We therefore should value it, and seek for it as for hid treasures, (from Barnes’ Notes) He did not come to erect a political or military power. He did not come head up a social revolution. He came to reveal the truth.
B. The truth that Jesus revealed is the foundation of His authority. When asked if he was a King Jesus spoke about His relationship to the truth. Matthew Henry says that “when He said, I am the truth, he said, in effect, I am a king. He conquers by the convincing evidence of truth; he rules by the commanding power of truth, and in his majesty rides prosperously, because of truth, (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary). He accomplishes His purposes through the power of truth. Ps 96:13 – 13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.
C. Our present position before God is based upon the truth of the historical events revealed in scripture. 1 Cor 15:1-4 – Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.. Paul says everything is bound up in the truthfulness of these events. If Christ is not risen we are still in our sins and those before us have perished in their sins. (v. 16-18). If I accept any doubt of the truthfulness of these revealed events, I abandon my hope. My commitment to the truth is essential. There can be no life w/o truth.
III. The Christian’s Commitment to Truth: What does this have to do with me? What is at stake? Does the truth matter? The Christian’s whole life is defined by the presence of truth. The truth is so connected to our spiritual relationship to God that the apostles describes those who belong to God as being “of the truth” (1 John 3:19), and those who reject God as those who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25) and Satan as the Father of lies (John 8)
A. “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Jesus’ words characterize true Christians as those who gladly welcome and accept the words of Jesus. They not only hear the voice of Jesus, but desire to follow Him wherever He leads. (John 10 – Good Shepherd and his sheep)
1. God’s people hunger and thirst for righteousness. They treasure the truth and will pay the price to find it and will not sell it. It is not easy. 2 Timothy 2:15 – 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2. In his third epistle the apostle John wanted to know that those Christians he had converted and nourished in the faith would continue walking in the truth.“For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John 3-4) So, the Christian not only wants to know the truth, but seeks to walk, or live consistently, according the truth.
IV. The Challenge of the Truth: But truth itself is challenging. At times we are prone to reject truth, even when we recognize that it is true. We may draw back from accepting it because we recognize its implications. Why is this challenge to us?
• John 3:19-21 – And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
A. Jesus said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). The truth is not illusive or mystic. If one desires to know the truth, he can know. In fact, Jesus says if one desire to know, “he shall know”.
1. So from the standpoint of the pure-hearted man, the truth is not hard to seek and find.
a. Spiritual truth is discernable only to a pure heart, not to a keen intellect. It is not a question of profundity of intellect, but of purity of heart.. – Oswald Chambers
b. God has given us a revelation that can be understood (Ephesians 5:17– 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.) Truth becomes “hard” to find when one’s real desire lies elsewhere.
B. Luke 10 describes Jesus’ encounter with an intelligent and studious man who was challenged by the implications of the truth. Luke tells us that his motives were not pure. His inquiry was not to know or follow the truth, but rather to test Jesus and defend his sect. Luke 10:25 –25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus pointed him to the truth of the law. (v. 26)
1. This man could even quote the first and most prominent law – Luke 10:27 – ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.'”
a. Jesus wanted him to see the both the validity and power of God’s truth revealed in this law. Luke 10:28 – And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
b. Notice this lawyer’s response… “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”” (Luke 10:29) How was it possible that this knowledgeable lawyer was “unable” to understand the definition of an easily defined word in a passage that by his own admission was the key to eternal life? Was this a difficult command or were the implications of the truth (that could be easily understood) too difficult for him to accept.
c. The only “truth” that he wanted was that which agreed with his current practice and that of the religious sect he was loyal to. He, as a likely member of the Pharisees, did not want to admit that a Samaritan could be his neighbor or impose upon himself the obligation to exhibit love to an outsider.
d. After Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan, this lawyer grudgingly admitted the truth about who his neighbor was (Luke 10:30-37). Jesus then challenged him with a command that likely was unbearable to this lawyer: “Go and do likewise”(Luke 10:37).
C. The truth will call you out of sectarianism. It will not allow you to pick and choose just that which supports your feelings, emotions, or current practice. There are many today who readily reject what the Bible teaches simply because it indicts the belief and practice of their religious heritage.
1. Does the truth matter? Rom 3:4 – Let God be true but every man a liar. Even if every person refuses to accept the truth contained in scripture, the truth remains true.
2. Isaiah describes the society of his day, and it seems to fit ours – Isa 59:4 – No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.
Conclusion: Truth matters. God is committed to revealing truth. “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) God’s people are committed to walking in the truth. Truth itself, as challenging as it is, is the only way to be free.