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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Finding Truth

How can one find and know the truth of Christianity that comes from God in a world that is divided over that truth to the extent that today we have thousands and thousands of denominations because they cannot agree with one another over what that truth is?  Many no longer think it is possible to know the truth in any absolute sense.  It is just a matter of individual opinion is a common thought.  Consequently, it is not unusual to hear sentiments like as long as you believe in Jesus and are sincere that is all that matters and any church will do, just find the church of your choice.

It is easy enough for the sincere seeker after truth to just throw up his/her hands in despair and give up but the Bible makes it clear that truth can be known and that it does matter what one believes and obeys.  Jesus said "to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'" (John 8:31-32 NKJV)  Abiding in the word of Jesus is thus essential to (1) being a disciple of Jesus and (2) to knowing the truth.  It is also essential to salvation for Jesus said, "If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death." (John 8:51 NKJV)

All the words in our New Testament are the words of Jesus, not just the red letter words.  The word Jesus spoke and gave to man was God the Father's.  Jesus himself said so.  "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me." (John 14:24 NKJV)  John the Baptist was speaking of Jesus when he said, "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure." (John 3:34 NKJV) 

Jesus made other statements to this effect as follows:  "The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority." (John 14:10 NKJV)  "I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him." (John 8:26 NKJV)  "As My Father taught Me, I speak these things." (John 8:28 NKJV)  "You seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God." (John 8:40 NKJV)  "But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me … He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." (John 8:45-47 NKJV)  In his prayer in John 17 he says, "I have given to them the words which You have given Me." (John 17:8 NKJV)  That which Jesus spoke and taught came from God the Father.

When Jesus had ascended back to heaven the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles and prophets but the Spirit himself did not initiate new teaching but merely took of what was Jesus' and gave it to man.  This is clearly taught in John 16:12-15 where we have Jesus speaking and saying, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." (NKJV)

Jesus still had many things to say but he would not be saying those things now while still in the physical body but they would be spoken by the Holy Spirit who was going to take "what is Mine and declare it to you."  When Jesus said in John 14:18, in speaking to the twelve, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (NKJV) he was speaking of coming to them via means of the Holy Spirit (read the statement in context—John 14:16-20).  This is the very thing he did on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament is God's word; it is Jesus' word; it is the Holy Spirit's word.  Paul declares that he received what he preached by revelation of Jesus.  "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.   For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11-12 NKJV)  At the same time he made clear that the words he spoke were from the Holy Spirit.  "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual." (1 Cor. 2:13 NKJV)  Just 3 verses later he says, "We have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16 NKJV)  To have the Holy Spirit is the same as to have the mind of Christ which is the same as to have "the Spirit who is from God" (1 Cor. 2:12 NKJV) which John the Baptist told us earlier God gave Jesus "without measure." (John 3:34 NKJV)

"All Scripture 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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NKJV)  It is God's word which is truth for Jesus said in prayer to the Father, "Your word is truth." (John 17:17 NKJV)  It is that which makes free from sin (see John 8:31-32 quoted in the second paragraph of this article).  It is that by which we shall be judged for Jesus said, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day." (John 12:48 NKJV)

Jesus has defined love of God and what that means when he said, via the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle John, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3 NKJV)  He again says, "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments." (2 John 6 NKJV)  We find similar statements in the Gospel of John where Jesus speaks directly.  "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me." (John 14:21 NKJV)  "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word." (John 14:23 NKJV)  Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." (Heb. 5:9 NKJV)  To obey Jesus one must obey the truth, the word of God, the words of Jesus whether spoken directly by him or indirectly by means of the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostles and the New Testament prophets.

Now it is time to make an application as it applies to the subject of finding truth in divided Christendom.  Where can truth be found?  The answer is simple—in the words of Jesus which is the New Testament, all of it.  But, it is often said we cannot agree on it.  We disagree with how passages are to be understood.  True, we do, but one must understand that truth is truth.

If you and I are reading the same passage and you say it teaches one thing and I say it teaches another that is not going to affect the truth of the passage one way or another; it will not change the truth one iota.  You may be wrong; I may be wrong; we both may be wrong; but, make no mistake about it, there is truth in the passage to be discovered.

There is no such thing as a separate truth for you and a separate truth for me out of the same passage.  At least one of us has to be in error and maybe both of us.  God will judge us by his word (John 12:48) which requires a correct understanding of it if a man is going to believe it and obey it.  We are foolhardy when we go off and say in our hearts that you see it one way and I see it another and we are content to leave it at that.

It is a direct command of God to, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." (2 Tim. 2:15 NAS)  If we fail to do that--accurately handle the word of truth--then we simply become another blind leader of the blind which Jesus says will end up with both falling into the ditch.  It means disaster.

I say this without reservation; most people never learn the truth because they never study the truth.  They are far, far away from being diligent about personal Bible study and being a workman at doing it.  They may know well what it means to be a diligent workman studying a college course but they have never put forth that kind of effort into Bible study.  They do not like to read or study the Bible, they find it boring or they would rather do other things.

Peter said that Paul wrote some things hard to understand "which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16 NKJV) so scripture can be twisted and turned to teach what it does not teach but again to do so means destruction.  One must educate himself not in what men say the scriptures teach but in the exact wording of scripture so he knows for himself what it teaches.  The Bereans "searched the scriptures daily." (Acts 17:11 NKJV)

How many people today are almost solely dependent on their preacher for their religious instruction?  If their preacher was a blind leader how would they know it no more than they study for themselves?  One is going to have to want to go to heaven if he/she is going to get there.  Studying, serious study, is a part of the want to process.  One comes to understand the scriptures correctly the same way he comes to understand any other academic subject—by study.  It was God who said, "Come now, and let us reason together." (Isa. 1:18 NKJV)  You have to know what he said before you can reason on it.

Jesus taught that a man can know the truth but there was a stipulation—"if anyone wants to do his will." (John 7:17 NKJV)  Here is the whole verse with Jesus being the speaker, "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 NKJV)  Many New Testament doctrines are rejected today because men do not want to do God's will.

One of the most prevalent is that of marriage, divorce, and remarriage for causes other than that given in Matt. 19:9—the cause of fornication (sexual immorality in most modern-day translations).  A divorce and remarriage for any other reason is adultery.  Likewise some religious groups today want to legalize in their religious body homosexuality, that is to declare a practicing homosexual a faithful Christian.  Others desire to place women in positions of authority over men in the church.  Is the Bible unclear on these subjects?

Hear the New Testament on the subject of homosexuality, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10 ESV)  As for women in leadership roles in the church over men Paul said, "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.   And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." (1 Tim. 2:11-12 NKJV)

What is the point?  One cannot know the truth unless he wants to do God's will just as Jesus said in John 7:17.  Jesus said the same thing using other words in Mark 4:24, "Then He said to them, 'Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.'" (NKJV)  If one is not willing to obey the truth (use it) what makes him think he is going to learn the truth?

Such a man will read a passage of scripture in a different way than will a man who is willing to accept and obey what is said.  He will justify himself by twisting the scriptures and declare his twisting to be the real truth.  Because he does not like what he hears and does not want to obey it he declares he hears something in the passage that an honest-hearted man would never hear.

In a similar vein all those religious bodies who declare themselves to be Christian but are willing to step outside the bounds of scripture for justification and authority are merely seeking to set up the commandments of men as equal to the word of God.  There are today all kinds of governing bodies that make rules and regulations, laws and commandments, for their faithful just by the vote of those elected or appointed delegates to their various conventions, etc.  At least the Catholics are honest enough to admit that they do not derive their authority solely from the Bible.  Some of the denominations ought to fess up too, just as many of them as have national conventions or governing bodies that set their doctrines.

If one needs reminding of what God said about teaching the doctrines of men then here is the reminder, "'In vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matt. 15:9 NKJV)  The problem was, "'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.'" (Matt. 15:8 NKJV) No single man or group of men has the right to make a single law for God.  We live in the kingdom of God and kings rule in kingdoms.  The church is not a democracy where we vote on what we will believe and practice.

Finally, tradition plays an awfully big role in leading people away from the truth.  Jesus, in speaking to the Pharisees and scribes, said, "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men." (Mark 7:8 NKJV)  Again, "He said to them, 'All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.'" (Mark 7:9 NKJV)  Does anyone think that kind of thing came to an end at the end of the first century?

The key to detecting this today within a group is the phrase, "you reject the commandment of God."  One can see the commandments of God by reading the New Testament.  When one or more of those commandments are no longer being followed by a religious body that ought to tell you something about them and a good place to start looking is at their traditions and how they are ruled.

If I was to tell you all you needed to know the truth was your New Testament you might find that hilarious in view of all the conflicting beliefs that men who claim to follow it have come up with.  Yet, if I was to tell you the truth could be found somewhere else I would be in conflict with what God has said and would find myself fighting against God.  The truth is found in your New Testament, because it is the word of Jesus, but it takes a good and honest heart to find it and accept it.  The real test of whether or not a man or woman has found the truth is found in 1 John.

"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him." (1 John 2:3-5 NKJV)

Are you doing that?  The congregation or church of which you are a member, are they doing that or have they rejected some of God's commandments and set up some of their own traditions?  Read your New Testament and you decide.  I hope you are able to do that with a good and honest heart but be careful for God has said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9 NKJV) 

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