The topic of truth has been debated by mankind for as long as man has existed. Great philosophers and well educated geniuses have talked about this topic to the nth degree, and can spend hours upon hours analyzing truth. Obviously thirty minutes is not nearly enough time to do justice to our topic today, so we have two choices, we can either cancel our plans for the rest of the day and talk about the topic, or agree to allow me to present a summary of the topic over the next 30 minutes.
Here are the main points I want to cover today: Absolute truth (undeniable and unchanging) exists. Absolute truth points us to God. God’s word is truth. He has revealed His truthful word to us through the Biblical authors. We should interpret and apply His unchanging word as He intended.
Why are each of these important – because if any one of them is false, then we have no hope of knowing God as He intended.
If I started out the message today with the question, ”Are you here?”, how would you respond? How do you know you are here? Kind of confusing isn’t it? It’s confusing because this is an example of something we call undeniable truth. When a question is raised about the truthfulness of something that is undeniably true, of course you scratch your head. There is no denying that you are here. You will leave this place, but that doesn’t change the truthfulness of the fact that you are here at 11:30 a.m. on July 21.
Let’s consider truth from a different perspective. If there is something that we know does not exist or something that we know is not true, would we argue about it? Let’s make up something, a “Woozenfoggen” for example. Knowing the fact that a Woozenfoggen is imaginary, what would your reaction be if I said we were going to spend the next 30 minutes arguing for its existence or non-existence? Here again, the natural reaction would be, “you’ve got to be kidding”. It only makes sense to argue about things for which there is evidence. Even when it comes to Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, they may not exist, but you at least have to agree that there is some amount of evidence.
If God and absolute truth are things that people have just made up (like Santa Clause), then why do so many people feel compelled to argue against their existence? If someone like me is so crazy as to make up something like God, absolute truth, or a Woozenfoggen, why would you even bother to waste your time with me? Is my argument for a non-existent Woozenfoggen so dangerous that you need to stand up to it? Rid the world from the belief in God, and the world will still be just as evil as it is today. People don’t become murderers, liars, and rapists because they believe in God. It makes a whole lot more sense that they become these things because they don’t.
Why is it that some people doubt the existence of God and absolute truth and put so much effort into disproving them, while others like us argue for their existence? Because it isn’t an argument over something we know does not exist, we argue because there is evidence for their existence.
WE WERE CREATED FOR THE PURPOSE OF KNOWING TRUTH
1 Timothy 2:4 – God desires all men to be saved and wants them to know the truth. Truth is made available to everyone, and God has gone to great lengths to make sure we can know it.
Before we look at what the Bible has to say about truth, let’s consider the evidence that exists inside each of us.
There are certain things that we as humans inherently desire and have ingrained in us; things like love, eternal life, happiness, justice, and significance. These are common traits that we all view as fundamental to our existence. We all recognize there is some kind of standard of good that exists, because we define the failure to meet that standard is called “evil”. We believe that evil should be punished, and naturally seek justice in those instances. We all desire to be loved by others, not hated. And we all recognize the need to be able to trust that certain things are absolutely true.
What is interesting as well is that we desire as much of each of these as possible and we want the best they have to offer. It is as if the characteristics and ideas we share about life all have a perfect standard by which they are measured. We can’t really describe this standard with specifics, but in our hearts and minds we sense that there is some kind of bulls-eye on a target that exists.
Let’s consider a couple examples of evidence inside us that argues for the existence of an absolute standard or truth by which we should live. If we were to take a mathematics test, we believe and know there is a scale or standard that our grades should be based upon (compared to English essays which are more objective). If things weren’t absolutely true or truth couldn’t be known, then what is the purpose of having teachers? In our courtrooms, there is a law we attempt to uphold. When a case is being tried, either a crime was or was not committed. There is a law that a person did or did not adhere to. Evidence is brought forth in an attempt to get at the truth. The jury might come back with a verdict of innocent in cases when the person committed the crime, but that doesn’t take away the truth that he broke the law. People may come to the wrong conclusions about truth, or miss it entirely, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Absolute truth is fundamental to our existence.
In spite of the evidence all around us, there are those who say they don’t believe in absolute truth. Some say truth is relative – that which is true is not necessarily true at all times, and in all places, and with all people. Others, called agnostics believe that truth cannot be known. However, if a relativist or agnostic would take an honest look at the evidence within themselves, they would come to a different conclusion.
If truth is really unsure or non-existent, then it must be impossible to lie to relativist or agnostic, right? Imagine promising a million dollars to a relativist or agnostic if they rode their bicycle from here to the Mackinac bridge. How would they feel if after arriving at the bridge, you told them, “I was just kidding.” Their feelings of betrayal prove that they believe in absolute truth.
If while talking to someone who believes truth is relative, and you slug them in the gut. They’d likely say, “Ouch, what did you do that for?” You could respond, “Do what?” “What do you mean, why did you punch me in the stomach?” “You may believe it’s true I punched you in the stomach, but I don’t”. Or do the same thing to an agnostic, who believes truth cannot be known, “Why did you punch me in the stomach?” “How do you know?”
Isn’t it true, that the pain a person feels in the abdomen, the physical pain, and the feelings of anger or revenge that results are all evidence of something absolutely true?
How many people have at one time or another said to someone else, “It’s best to tell the truth”? The reason we say this is because we recognize it is impossible to be consistent in what you say about something that is not true. Non-truths inherently change. But on the other hand, truth seems to have a way of coming to light. A lie can temporarily hide the truth, but it cannot make it go away. Truth is like bubbles coming to the surface of a pond, while lies are like the pond scum.
GOD IS TRUTH
Where does our tendency to look for a plumb line made up of righteousness, justice, truth, etc come from?
Some very famous and wise men, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, studied the same evidence as you and I about truth. Based upon what they wrote, it is obvious they believe truth originates with God. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The inherent tendency to desire and rely on the existence of a perfect standard of truth that exists in all men is an effect. We all recognize that every effect has a cause. Things that are undeniable or absolutely true must have an undeniable or absolutely true origin or cause. The only thing that fits that definition is God. Something chaotic or accidental like evolution cannot account for it. Plants and animals know nothing about the concept of truth, but humans do – so where did it come from? Men and women from every generation, and those all around the world have come to the conclusion that absolute truth resides in God. It is not something we get to define or create as we see fit.
Hundreds of years before the Declaration of Independence declared that God was the source of truth, the writer of Psalm 89:14, said it this way, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You.”
If God is truth, then this also means that by definition, He cannot at the same time be untruthful. This is logical conclusion was also derived by the writer of Hebrews 6:18. This too has significant ramifications in the life of a believer (we’ll look more at this later).
What then would be the reason for denying absolute truth, by claiming it is relative or unable to be known? The answer is that by doing so, people believe it is possible to remove the origin of truth – God Himself. Although creation outside us and within us points to God, people suppress that truth because it isn’t convenient to the way they want to live life. When it comes to the truth, people suppress, resist, exchange it (Romans 1:18-25). Thus, enabling them to for a god of their choosing and continue in unrighteousness.
On the other hand, Satan is described as without truth whatsoever (John 8;44).
JESUS EMBODIES TRUTH
The book of John is filled with references about truth. In this book (among others) we learn that Jesus claimed to be God, and offered plenty of evidence to prove that He was. If Jesus is God, then He is truth as well. Jesus embodies them, He doesn’t just know truth, He IS truth. (refer to chart).
Here is what the apostle John said about Jesus:
John 1:9-14 - There was the true Light [fn]which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
He came to His [fn]own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were [fn]born, not of [fn]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of god. And the Word became flesh, and [fn]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [fn]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ 5547.
According to John, Jesus said (John 14:6) - "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”.
It is easy to find controversy about truth today either on the internet or television, but this is nothing new. In Jesus day, the Pharisees seemed to be more interested in protecting their reputations and positions of authority more than the truth. Truth was right before their eyes, evidence was presented for the truth, but it wasn’t truth they desired. Truth upset their apple cart. (John 8).
HOLY SPIRIT REVEALS TRUTH
Once Jesus ministry on earth would end, the Holy Spirit took center stage when it came to the revelation of truth. (chart) When speaking to His disciples, Jesus said to them…
John 14:16 - I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [fn]Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
John 15:26 - "When the [fn]Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me”.
John 16:13-14 - "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you”.
How much truth was the Holy Spirit going to guide the disciples into? Notice that Jesus didn’t say that the Holy Spirit was going to reveal spiritual truth that was only applicable to people who were alive in the first century. These are just a few of the verses that conflict with the belief that spiritual truth is relative or changes over time.
THE DISCIPLES WERE RECIPIENTS OF THE TRUTH
Of all the things Jesus desired of His disciples – truth was at the top of the list. But He didn’t want this truth to reside only in them…It was His desire for this truth to be spread to as many people of all generations as possible.
John chapter 17 gives us a record of a prayer that Jesus prayed for His disciples…
John 17:17-19. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may [fn]believe that You sent Me.
So through the many months these men spent with Jesus, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, spiritual truth was revealed to them.
SCRIPTURE IS A RECORD OF TRUTH
As I have been advancing in age, I notice I have more and more of a tendency to forget things. I’m always looking for creative ways to make sure I remember important information:
Sticky notes, leave message on phone, send myself an email. Any others?
If God revealed information to you, the natural tendency would be to write it down…so that’s what the writers of the Bible did. Scripture, while written by imperfect men, claims to be the revealed and inspired word of God (“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).” If that is the case, then it must be absolutely true (sequence-God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Scripture). And if that is the case its meaning can’t change. That includes His commandments.
Psalm 119:160 - The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth.
One of, it not the most radical view of scripture is that the writers must have been crazy or liars. But this seems quite illogical, and the evidence doesn’t back that up. Remember what we said earlier about how hard it is to tell a lie. – Truth is like the perfect measuring stick. On the other hand, dishonesty is inherently shifting or changing. If you choose dishonesty – attempt to make up an alternate reality – since it isn’t real, it is impossible to be consistent, liars are eventually caught – truth wins.
Are we really to believe that these guys made a conscious decision to make up a story, with the only motivation to see how many people they could get to believe the lie and for how long? And just to make it more realistic – they decided to die for their charade? Furthermore, the people who were alive back then allowed the lie to continue and grow. And we are supposed to believe that this lie has continued to exist for over 2,000 years?
When we read scripture, we find that the God described in the Bible meets the criteria for what God is. Furthermore, the accuracy of historical events and geographical references, fulfillment of prophecy, and its life changing power are also evidence for its reliability. The more reasonable answer is that scripture is still alive today, because truth is everlasting. Hebrews 4:12 – living and active. Psalm 119:89 – God’s word is eternal. The word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8
Another attack against scripture is not so brazen, but still accomplishes the same thing. Today, the Bible is being attacked from within the church and religious institutions more than ever.
There is an increasing tendency to redefine, change, re-interpret scripture. But given what we’ve learned about God Himself, the definition of truth, and the intent of the written word, this is inherently a wrong approach to how we should read and apply scripture. Spend the remainder of our time dispelling the myth that what these men wrote was true for them in their day, but today we need different truth.
The specific details concerning how Biblical authors came to write down God’s word varied. But let’s focus on how the process of writing the New Testament unfolded. Paul said,
"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)."
Jesus commanded these men, “Go into all the world teaching them what I have taught you (Matthew 28:18-20)”.
Already talked about the Holy Spirit’s role to help the know what to write… John 16:13-14 - "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.
Obviously a very effective way for truth to be spread, preserved, and put in a format that would help eliminate controversy was the written word. When people write, they do it with one meaning in mind. Compare interpretation of written word with optical illusion (Old woman/young woman optical illusion).
I have never written anything in my life, where I wanted someone to change the meaning, or come to a different conclusion about what I intended. Consider the following examples from scripture that prove we are supposed to derive the same meaning from scripture as what the original authors intended.
If Paul thought there were multiple ways to interpret scripture, or didn’t care what conclusions were drawn from his words, he would not have told Timothy to handle it “correctly” – he would have used a different word like, “creatively” or “freely” (2 Timothy 2:15).
If the words written by Old Testament authors and those taught by Jesus and his apostles didn’t have specific meanings, then it makes no sense for these men to warn others about the existence of “false teachers” (Matthew 7:15, 2 Corinthians 11:12-13, 1 Timothy 6:3-5).
Paul told Timothy to “continue in what he had learned”, not discard the intended meaning of scripture for his own set of beliefs (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
James told his readers to “humbly accept the word” planted in them (James 1:21). This type of response can only be accomplished if a person concedes that the value of the message is found in its originator, not the one who receives it.
In regards to scripture, James said to “do what it says (James 1:22-23).” He didn’t say, “do what you think it says” or, “do what you like.”
In Acts 17, Luke acknowledged that the intended meaning of scripture transcends generations through his reference to a group of people from the city of Berea. Luke called these believers “noble” because they insisted on only listening to spiritual teaching that was consistent with scripture written hundreds of years before.
By attacking scripture, or claiming that it isn’t the word of God, people become free to change truth and therefore redefine God (going backwards on line).
RAMIFICATIONS OF THE TRUTH
There is nothing more important to strive for than truth:
Proverbs 3:3 - Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Ephesians 6:14 – Gird loins with truth – pull up long robe, tie it up around waste area, so you can move with dexterity.
If you aren’t obeying what is taught in scripture – you are living a lie.
We need to humbly accept the word of God planted in us, bring that truth to other people, and strive for it to be at the center of our worship of God (John 4:24).
For someone who believes that scripture is the inspired, revealed, perfect word of God, and they apply it to their lives, they produce the spiritual fruit that is described in the Bible. This then acts as evidence that it is truth.
Ephesians 5:9 – How do you know – the fruit (goodness, righteousness, truth) – the very thing that is placed in man, the things we desire above all else.
For those who recognize this fact, truth accomplishes many things in our lives…
Psalm 40:11 - You, O LORD, 3068 will not withhold 3607 Your compassion 7356 from me; Your lovingkindness 2617 and Your truth 571 will continually 8548 preserve 5341 me.
If absolute truth did not exist then I think it is highly likely, if not assured that the human race would be wiped out. Can you imagine the utter chaos that would reign in a world devoid of truth?
For His lovingkindness 2617 is great 1396 toward 5921 us, And the truth 571 of the LORD 3068 is everlasting. 5769 Praise 1984 the LORD 3050!
Psalm 69:13 - But as for me, my prayer 8605 is to You, O LORD, 3068 at an acceptable 7522 time 6256; O God, 430 in the greatness 7230 of Your lovingkindness, 2617 Answer 6030 me with Your saving 3468 truth. 571
1 Thessalonians 12:12-13 Can only be saved if you love the truth.
Rejection of it brings condemnation – 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12
Provides God will judge based upon truth – Psalm 96:13, Romans 2:2
Psalm 43:3 - O send 7971 out Your light 216 and Your truth, 571 let them lead 5148 me; Let them bring 935 me to Your holy 6944 hill 2022 And to Your dwelling 4908 places.
John 17:17 – Jesus – “sanctify them by the truth – your word is truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13
and 2532 you will know 1097 the truth 225, and 2532 the truth 225 will make 1659 0 you 4771 free 1659."