In the fall of 2001 I had no idea I was taking one of the most important courses of my entire academic career. If you had asked me about it at the time, my 19 year old self would have rolled her eyes and told you what a drag the required Intro to Philosophy class was. In retrospect I suppose there were some aspects of the class I found interesting, but overall it was not at the top of my priority list. But here I am 20 years later wishing I had paid more attention.
Although I don’t recall much of that class, I do remember being surprised when the topic of truth became the focus of study. I remember thinking, “How could truth be up for debate?” After all, truth is what guides us and what ultimately determines how we live our lives! I could understand the concept of disagreeing about what is true; I just had no idea there was disagreement about the existence of truth. Turns out I had a lot to learn about not only the world of philosophy, but the world in general.
As I sit here reminiscing about those long ago discussions of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, it occurs to me that truth has been up for debate ever since the third chapter of Genesis. And what a dispute it continues to be.
In our post modern world we are told that truth is perception. That it’s relative. We see this concept at work daily in the ever changing standards of cultural virtue. Behaviors and language deemed appropriate six months ago are now considered offensive, oppressive, or racist. It seems the rules are always changing- and there’s no way to win.
We’re even told we can be the possessor of our very own “truth.” Catchy phrases such as “speak your truth” or “live your truth” have been the battle cry of this modern time. The idea that what is true for me may not be true for you has been readily accepted. But all of this begs the question: If truth can change and is different for every person, then does it even exist at all?
And let’s not forget the contradictory storylines fed to us by the media. Sifting through the daily headlines and articles of various news sources can make our heads spin. How are we to know what to believe and not believe? If truth does exist, is it possible to even know it?
We live in a world of confusion so of course we’re confused….how could we be anything less?
Interestingly, confusion was the serpent’s MO in the Garden of Eden. And all it took were four words: “Did God actually say…” These words were enough to plant the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind; enough to make her question the truth spoken to her by her Creator. Two verses later she was fed an outright lie: “You will not surely die.” Confusion and doubt quickly gave birth to the abandonment of absolute truth.
It seems the enemy hasn’t changed tactics. Because as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
How then can we escape the enemy’s lies and this worldly confusion regarding truth? Only one way: by holding fast to the Word of God, knowing that all Scripture is breathed out by God himself (2 Timothy 3:16). For just as God does not change, neither does His Word! Our God is the great ‘I AM’ who is the same today as He has been from all eternity. Therefore, His Word stands unaffected by the passing of time or the changing of culture. As Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
As we cling to the reading of God’s Word, we are lead to hold unswervingly to he who is truth. I invite you now to join me for a brief “tour of truth” of the gospel of John; a tour that introduces you to the person of Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate.
John 1 is without a doubt one of my favorite chapters of Scripture. (I encourage you even now to pause and read it in its entirety.) The first sentence of this great gospel begins this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A few verses later we read: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v.14). From the beginning of John we learn Jesus is the Word, and that he is one with the Father containing glory, steadfast love, and truth.
Jesus reiterates this truth a few chapters later when he addressed both the Jews and the Pharisees. In John chapter 8 Jesus clearly proclaimed he was the Light of the World and one with the Father. Though the Pharisees scoffed at his words, Jesus continued speaking to the Jews who had believed him: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” (31-32). What a beautiful invitation to freedom; for to know Christ is to know the truth of salvation and sanctification.
In John 14 Jesus assured Thomas he knew the way to the place Jesus would prepare for him in the future. Not understanding, Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus’ response? He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (v.6). Jesus clearly stated again that he is truth and the only name given to men under heaven by which we must be saved.
The night of his arrest, Jesus prayed a high priestly prayer for his disciples and for all believers (John 17). Part of his prayer was for the sanctification of his disciples, for Jesus knew the world would hate them as it hated him. In light of the coming trials they would face, Jesus prayed for them to be set apart and holy. The means by which Jesus prayed for their sanctification is found in verse 17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” This verse speaks to my soul. Indeed, truth is the means by which holiness is attained, and is the way by which we have peace.
Before his crucifixion Jesus was brought before Pilate for questioning. When asked if he was in fact the king of the Jews, Jesus replied that his kingdom was not of this world. Pilate again asked if he was a king. Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (v.37). Pilate retorted by asking, “What is truth?” as he walked away. Imagine. Pilate’s eyes beheld the answer to that philosophical question of old as he stood within feet of the embodiment of truth. And he didn’t even recognize it.
Dear friends, God has graciously given us his written Word so that we can know absolute truth absolutely. And even more, He has given us His Son, the Word in flesh appearing who is the way, the truth, and the life. Do not then be deceived by the world or the tactics of confusion laid out by the enemy. Rather, cleave to that which has been revealed: God, the creator of heaven and earth has made a way for lost sinners to be reconciled to Him through the atoning sacrifice of His Son. Our Savior, once buried, has been resurrected and is now seated at the right hand of the Father interceding on our behalf. Furthermore, our Heavenly Father has given us His Spirit and has made known in His Word how we are to live until we are united with him for all eternity. This. Is. Truth. It is the truth we must fix our gaze upon, and the truth that we, like the Apostle Paul, must resolve to know with our whole being.
In these hard times, may we remember that our God is the God of truth, in whom nothing is false. May this truth be our confidence and that which we love beyond anything else; for upon this truth rests the entirety of our lives, both now and forevermore.