Jesus was on trial before Pilate. He had heard Jesus called King of the Jews. Pilate said, “You are a king, then!” Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37-38) That is a question people have always had to ask, what is truth? Whether they are searching out the claims of Jesus as the Son of God, or listening to some political speech. What is truth? We’ve had people come by church looking for assistance. They usually have a long story about their need. What is truth? We want to believe all people are truthful and of good will, but we have learned far too often that they are not. Even in the midst of this present pandemic there are people seeing to profit by various scams. Discerning the truth takes work. A Christian is taught to err on the side of grace and generosity, but we also know that what is said, or asked for is not the truth or even the real help that is needed. The question is, are we willing to put in the effort to find the truth. This applies whether we are trying to help an individual, detect a scam, or learn if Jesus really should be King over our lives. We must do the work necessary to find the truth.
What is a catechism? For Christian churches a catechism is a basic series of statements that make up the core beliefs of our faith. We could refer to Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, the Westminster Catechism, and so forth. Christian Catechisms have their foundation in the Bible, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. We believe that the Bible is God’s revealed word to mankind and therefore foundational for the things we hold to be true. They thus become the guide for the thoughts and actions of life. Recently an interviewer went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. asking some basic questions about what a woman is, and what they were trying to say by their demonstration. What he found was a series of politically correct answers based on the climate of society in our day. That is a pretty shaky foundation that changes with the prevailing tone of the times. He referred to it as a modern catechism of beliefs that had been well learned by many, but that had a very changeable foundation. It is very hard to base one’s life on such shifting sand. There are many questions that come up in the Christian life, and there are many doctrines stated in our catechisms. But we always have God’s written word as our foundation to stand upon. We are supposed to question statements without blindly adopting them. But it is vitally important that we choose the right foundation upon which to stand. By God’s grace through His Spirit He can guide us on the true path to HIs life.
A loose leaf Bible! Sounds funny doesn’t it? but that is the way many individuals and liberal Christian denominations are treating the Bible. Or to use another illustration, let’s think of a book editor. Some years ago I worked with an editor on a book I published. The editor would look at sentences or paragraphs, making changes or suggesting things be removed entirely. I was happy with the final result, but that is not the way we treat the Bible. It is true that the Bible was written by 40 different individuals over a period of 1500 years, but it is one book, all 66 individual chapters. It is a book inspired by God’s Spirit and remarkably consistent from Genesis through Revelation. It is a book that reveals the nature of the human heart, and the truth of all God has done to cleanse and redeem those hearts. There are parts that make us uncomfortable because they are speaking to our rebellious nature, but we don’t have the right to throw pages away, or edit pages out that we don’t like. We take the Bible as one book, and see what God through His Spirit is saying to us.
As Christians we believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus are central to our faith. It is in these sovereign acts of God’s grace that we have forgiveness of sins, and a new and eternal life. This is the Gospel, the old old story that has been repeated for many generations. Recently I’ve been reading a work by a theological professor writing on the meaning of the cross. He brings out a depth of truth I had not thought of before. I have found it exciting to see aspects of God’s grace that are deep and wonderful. There is excitement for a new Christian when they realize that in Christ they have been cleansed and made righteous before God. But that’s not all. There is an infinite depth in our Lord that can never be exhausted. The excitement continues as the Lord draws us closer to Himself. Continue to read, think, and pray. There is always more grace, truth, and real excitement in walking day by day with Jesus Christ.
In talking with some of His followers Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, … you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”(John 8:31-32) Later on at His trial before Pilate He said, “…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Yet Pilate asked “What is truth?”(John 18:37-38) Pilate’s question seem to hang over our world. Truth today gets bent according to pre-established agendas. Real truth is set aside because it doesn’t conform to the program one is fostering. “If you hold to my teaching” Jesus said, “you will know the truth.” All truth, and I underline All, has its origin in God who created us and all that is. Whether science, or government, or affairs among people, all is guided and governed by the truth of God’s word. We set that aside to our own peril. We have the challenge to search and understand what is in the Bible, God’s Holy Word, and to seek to live it in the community where God has placed us. It is not always easy, but as Jesus said, in that is true freedom.
The Apostle Peter has taught us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”(I Pt.3:15) But perhaps we need to ask two questions first. Do we have a real and solid hope for whatever is ahead? And what is the content of that hope? Christians should be able to answer a solid “yes” to the first question. We are people of hope, and that hope is the strength of life. But to the second question we need to be clear on what that hope rests. It is not upon some vague belief that everything will somehow turn out OK. It is not a hope based on some political figure, some scientific achievement, or even upon a belief in the basic goodness of mankind. Our hope is in the One who created us, the One who has loved us enough to redeem us from the power of sin, and the One who will bring His purpose for His creation, and His people, to perfect fulfillment. It is in this hope we “give answer” by actions of God’s love, and words of His truth, to as many as God gives us the opportunity.
I really hate a lie for any reason. I know people come up with many plausible reason to tell a lie, but I don’t think it’s necessary. It seems that lying becomes a way of life in our fallen world. We hear about fake news, statistics are used to create false impressions, half truths and outright lies seems to be the way politics must operated. Even personally they become the way to save face, get out of awkward situation, and avoid responsibility. I’m afraid the Eighth Commandment to not bear a false witness takes a real beating. But lies are a way of hiding, and when one is hiding there is fear of being exposed. That is not the way our Lord wants for us. The Apostle John wrote,”Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”(3:20-21) It should be our rule to “live by the truth”.
I know a few very smart people. There is nothing wrong with being smart. It is a gift of God. But as with any gift it is to be guided by God’s wisdom and used for God’s glory. Our country is being run by some very smart people, but for the most part, not under God’s wisdom or to His glory. The result is not a good direction. The Apostle Paul was a very smart and highly educated man. After reviewing his credentials in a letter to the Philippian Church he said, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,…”(3:7-8) Paul knew that it was only through Christ that he could properly use the knowledge he had for the good of his people. In our desire to create a secular society, accepting of all values as equal, we’ve gone off in very wrong directions. The writer of Proverbs understood this three thousand years ago. He wrote, “Desire without knowledge is not good– how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”(19:2) Many very smart leaders face tremendous problems today. The true knowledge that is necessary to meet our needs can only come from the Lord. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”(I Corinthians 1:25) Can we humble ourselves enough to seek that wisdom?
There was an interesting article on yesterday’s Business page of our local paper. Walmart is buying up a number of small on line retail companies with various product lines. What caught my eye was their comment that they were doing this “to better serve their customers”. Now, I’m not opposed to capitalism and a free market economy, but a statement like that simply is not true. Amazon has a 33% share in the on line retail market. Walmart only has a 7% share. They want a larger chunk of the business. OK, I’m totally out of my field in talking about economics, but truth is truth. And I’m not against Walmart. I shop there. However, I would like to see a little more truth and honesty when public statements are made. This should be true whether for business, certainly politics, and above all the church. We have found it all to easy to color our words for the best impressions. And, yes, I’m asking too much of a fallen world, but at least it should be a reminder for us of the Eighth Commandment not to bear false witness.
16th century Alchemists worked to transform lead into gold. They used there arts and secret formulas to find a means for producing great riches. The only problem is that lead and gold are both elements. They can be combined with other elements, but they can’t be changes. It just strikes me that in our modern day we have not stopped trying. Gold in the Scriptures is a symbol for the truth of God. It is pure and unchanging. But, rather than taking God’s truth for the beauty that it is, and understanding its good, mankind keeps trying to take lesser things and say they are equal to God’s truth. The Serpent’s original temptation, “Did God really say …?”(Genesis 3:1) is always with us. Yes, God did say, and His truth can’t be changed. He has given it to us in purity, and for our best good. Let’s keep gold as gold and lead as lead.