During the past few weeks, I have been thinking about several things, especially about the properties of truth and I cannot contain myself any longer. So, this article will be a brief departure from my usual Bible study because a few statements about the properties of truth and its effect (or lack thereof) on people are in order.
Truth is larger than "telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." Truth has many dimensions. The dictionary defines truth in several ways. For example, truth is: (1) the true or actual state of a matter; (2) a verified or indisputable fact, principle, or proposition; (3) honesty and integrity the state of being true or loyal; (4) conformity with fact or reality; (5) ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending man's perceived experience. I’ve also heard another definition that I like. Truth means "nothing missing."
Truth can be so simple, so profound, so brazen, so sublime, so bold, so accurate, so condemning and so exonerating!
Truth and Everyday Living
The properties of truth operate within every aspect of life. For example, a few days ago, I decided to modify my garage so I could produce a new series of video tapes. Because electrical requirements for video equipment and lighting can be significant, I decided to wire the garage to its own power source, that is, an electric meter with service from the utility pole. Getting all the necessary electrical parts was a chore and installing them was even a greater pain.
Since I had never done this before, I sought the advice of a clerk at the electrical parts store on how to accomplish the task. Another customer at the store overheard my discussion with the man behind the counter and offered the following suggestion, "Wire your garage with one simple circuit. After the state inspector has approved your installation, wire it as you wish!" At the moment, his comment seemed cute, even appropriate. As I drove home, I reflected on his comment I mean, it made sense.
I felt confident I could wire one circuit without any problems and pass the inspection. But, as I drove along, this verse came to mind: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)
I had never thought of this verse within the context of wiring a garage. In the past, I had always placed this verse on a spiritual plane where people chose evil and reject what is obviously right but now this verse hit me with striking force. I smiled to myself as I saw the matter unfold.
My evil nature prompts me to run for the cover of darkness (deception), just as it naturally propels me to run from the light of truth! I thought, if I really loved "the light of truth," I should wire the garage as I intend to use it and then invite the inspector to see what I had done. If truth means "nothing missing", and if I love truth, shouldn’t I want my (wiring) deeds to be scrutinized by the state inspector, so that my (wiring) faults are exposed before 220 volts with mega-amps of power is connected to my garage?
So, I wired the whole building as I intended to use it and called the inspector. He arrived late in the afternoon and was very courteous. He looked over my work, made a few nice remarks and then gave me a "rejection slip." He found four faults with my handiwork.
He kindly pointed them out and left. I was left with feelings of thanksgiving even though I was a bit disheartened. Yes, I was thankful to learn about the things that could have been harmful. (For example, electrical code requires all receptacles in a garage to be ground fault protected.)
But, I was also a bit discouraged as I contemplated the amount of time it would take to redo tasks that I had already completed (or so I thought). Anyway, a few days later I purchased the parts and finished the job. Then, I went to the courthouse and obtained another electrical permit. I called the inspector and scheduled a time for him to reinspect my handiwork. When he arrived, he quickly checked over my work and spotted another mistake which fortunately, I was able to correct in his presence. Finally, he handed me a green slip of paper stating the project had met the state regulations and then he left.
What is the moral of this story? It would probably depend on your perspective: (1) I should not try to be an electrician, or (2) I should be pleased that my garage measures up to the state’s electrical code, or (3) I saw within myself the basic desire to hide from the scrutiny of the light. The light (the inspector) has inspected my wiring and found it to be satisfactory. It’s a good feeling but the reminder about my nature the temptation to hide from the light remains disturbing. Now, if I can only keep from electrocuting myself . . . !
Where is the Truth?
Yesterday, while I was working on the garage project, I turned on the radio (something I rarely get to do). For the next two hours, I heard the following situations discussed:
Charges brought by Paula Jones against President Clinton
Charges brought against Hillary Clinton by Kenneth Star, the Whitewater Investigator
Charges brought against Timothy McVeigh regarding the destruction of the Oklahoma Federal Building
Charges brought against O.J. Simpson pertaining to the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman
Charges brought against Sportscaster Frank Gifford resulting from his alleged involvement with another woman
Charges brought against Sportscaster Marv Albert resulting from his alleged involvement with a woman in Miami
Charges brought against Kelly Flinn, the Air Force’s first B-52 female bomber pilot, for adultery, lying and not following orders
Charges against Actor Tim Allen, who plays the lead role in the famous TV show, Home Improvement, for driving under the influence of alcohol
The Tobacco Industry's denial that cartoon character, Joe Camel, is not directed at teenagers, the segment of society that produces 98% of all new smokers
These, and other sin-related issues which I cannot remember, were the fuel for very heated discussions. Later, as I thought about the talk show, the charges and all the people involved, a thought popped into my mind. I wonder what the reaction would be if the truth about everyone as Heaven records it was presented with unvarnished clarity on radio and TV?
For example, suppose the sins of all the TV commentators were played over international TV, just before they exposed the sins of certain high profile people. What would the result be? Suppose the sins of all talk show hosts were presented, just before the show was about to air. What would the result be? I bet the silence would be very apparent. What if all private conversations were replayed over National Public Radio or put on the Internet? What would the outcome be? I suspect the published truth about all of our deeds and motives would bring the world to a halt.
Unfortunately, there is a mechanism within all human beings that tries to hide their ugly deeds. Why do criminals run and hide after committing a crime? Why do people lie? Why do people steal? Why do people commit adultery? And, why do people, especially after sinning, run from the searching light of truth?
It is because humans are inherently evil and love the cover of darkness. Even Adam and Eve ran and hid from God after disobeying! (Genesis 3:8) Mark Twain, it is said, was once reflecting on the goodness of man and said, "Even good people have thoughts that would shame everyone in hell." No doubt, he spoke the truth.
Of course, high profile people get high profile attention, but these people are afflicted with the same sinful nature as ordinary people with less notoriety. So, why are we surprised or even entertained by their failures? Could there be a certain carnal satisfaction in knowing that people in high places are really no different than the rest of us. And certainly, the sins of people in high places do not diminish or excuse "people of lesser status" from doing wrong.
Daily, condemnation is directed at United States President Clinton for alleged sexual immoral behavior, but who among the people on Earth is without sin? History indicates that many of the former United States presidents had a problem with sexually immoral behavior.
Why are sexual sins so "interesting" and other sins like dishonesty, greed and pride so socially acceptable? Do not misunderstand, I do not excuse or justify wrong doing. I am simply groaning over the fatal flaw found within each of us. What is even more tragic is that each of us passes our sinful nature on to our children.
How many times have you seen children rush to a parent for settlement of a play time dispute? Each child has his own version of what took place and naturally, each child can justify his actions! However, I have observed an interesting process in these types of situations.
Usually, parents who did not see the offense take place, settle the dispute based on their knowledge of the children involved, rather than based on the facts. If one child has a previous history of being more aggressive than the other child, chances are good that the aggressive child will be reprimanded.
Why? Because parents often determine the truth by favoring the testimony of the child they trust most (usually the firstborn). A lot of early childhood injustice occurs this way, and younger siblings do not forget that type of injustice easily. Even if a younger sibling does not remember the specific event itself, they are often left with the impression that Mom or Dad favors the older sibling.
Feeling that they are "less loved" can become the root of disaffection for years to come.
As adults, life is not much different. I have noticed that more and more lawsuits are filed because of disputed "rights" rather than what is considered right and noble. People seem to be more devious (devilish) than ever before. The root cause for such behavior flows from unrestrained selfishness and plain ole hatred. To win their case, people put a "spin" on the truth to suit their advantage, and as is so often the case, allegations and counter-charges become the focus rather than the plain, simple truth.
So often we overlook the fact that every complaint says as much about the defense as it does the offense. Jesus often illustrated this point. For example, He said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, “If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets." (Matthew 23:29-31)
The problem is not with the judicial system, but with the way people manipulate the judicial system. Sin has taken its toll and is being reflected in people's lives the crimes they commit are more violent and ruthless people's attitudes have become more disrespectful and dishonest. Obviously, individuals who do wrong do not want their deeds exposed. Rarely do we hear a prisoner plead "guilty as charged." Why? Jesus said it best, "men loved [the cover of] darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."
Most defense lawyers believe it is their job to place a "spin" on the truth so the actions of their client are seen as justified or made to appear "reasonable," so the jury will become sympathetic toward the sinner. I ask, "Is this the goal of justice or the subversion of truth?" However, on the flip side of this issue, district attorneys have also been guilty of using less than honest tactics to get "the verdict" they want. This, too, is worrisome.
If someone knows the truth, but cannot produce the evidence to convince a jury to believe his testimony, should he lie under oath in order to obtain the "right" verdict? Did the Jews produce false witnesses against Christ so they could condemn Him before Pilate? We hear so much about how "the end justifies the means." But, do not forget this profound point: Man only lives about 70 years. After that, he will have to face His Maker and then, finally, justice will be administered based on the truth.
God will Avenge
There is a strong sentiment in society today that man in this present life is the final avenger of justice. This, of course, is not what the Bible teaches. God will see that everyone is repaid in full. Romans 12:19 says, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord." Do not misunderstand, I believe a judicial system that guards the safety and well-being of society is necessary.
Yes, and I also believe that God endorses punishment, even the death penalty as a deterrent to crime. (Romans 13, Genesis 9:6) Doesn't Revelation 20 indicate that God will inflict the death penalty on the wicked? Yes, I believe that God will insure that every wicked person will receive what he deserves. (Ecclesiastes 12:14) On the coming day of judgment, when everyone stands before the judgment bar of Christ, who will be able to fool the omniscient eye of God with a fast-talking, forked-tongued defense? (2 Corinthians 5:10)
No one. But far more distressing today, is how many people find sinful behavior to be more entertaining than the exaltation of truth. I believe it would be safe to say that 95 percent of every movie made today glorifies sin. Publishers promote novels that glorify shameful and sinful deeds.
Tabloids and magazines produce a huge profit by simply reporting sexual misconduct—it’s what sells! What does this say about the human heart? I shudder at some of the entertainment aired over TV. After talking, singing or performing indecently, the audience enthusiastically applauds.
This is a sad commentary, because people applaud the things they exalt. But, God will not be mocked. Proverbs 14:34 says, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." The disgrace of the whole world, has reached the throne of God. The limits of His patience will soon expire and He will deal with the inhabitants of Earth.
When it comes to truth and religion, I have observed a few things that I would like to share. Even if you disagree with my final assessment, I hope you will, at least, find a few provoking thoughts. A parallel can be drawn between truth/religion and matches/gasoline. I am impressed that when it comes to truth, there is a good attitude and a bad attitude. People who have the "right attitude" are not defensive about truth. Instead, they love truth and are willing to listen in order that they might learn.
Further, they are willing to consider new ideas in order to live better and to understand God and His ways more fully. People who maintain a good attitude toward truth realize that truth is not something they have to defend. Paul writes: "For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth." (2 Corinthians 13:8)
What he means is that no matter what we may think or do, the truth of God is unaffected. Truth cannot be torn down. Truth cannot be destroyed and in the end, truth will always triumph God has decreed this.
The pendulum swings both ways and people can have a bad or carnal attitude about truth. When it comes to religion, some people are thoroughly convinced they know the truth about God and His will, so unfortunately, they waste no time condemning everyone who disagrees with them. These zealots are often on a mission to "convert" everyone else to their views even if they have to do it in-your-face. To me, this type of behavior reflects a bad, even offensive attitude. Sometimes, intense zeal can lead to violence and produce long-lasting hatred.
People can be very zealous for their own agenda, i.e., making more money, gaining greater control or power, or pursuing their heart’s desire. They may not appear to be in opposition to truth until something stands in the way of getting what they want. Their desire to achieve their wishes often causes them to capitulate, disregard truth and do something stupid. Sadly, their behavior often leads them to devise some scheme to justify their evil.
For example, one of the highest ranking military generals of the United States armed services had to resign because he had committed adultery five years ago when he was separated from his wife. The U.S. Secretary of Defense recently announced the resignation of this General, stating this General occupied a position which dealt with the area of sexual misconduct. Since this was the case, the General felt his past would compromise his ability to deal with such matters.
As I listened to Secretary Cohen, I began to question a few issues: First, why now? I mean, why did the General wait until now to "confess" to adultery? Was there some kind of financial threat in the future if he chose not to retire? Did the General just decide to "retire" because Lt. Kelly Flinn had recently faced a court martial over adultery and eventually was discharged with a "general discharge" (less than honorable)? Perhaps, in light of this event, the general saw the possibility of losing a healthy retirement?
Or, did the General suddenly have a change of heart and become repentant for his wrong doing? I don’t know the truth on this matter, but the truth should matter to those who oversee the military. I suppose the point that bothers me most is that this General oversaw the process that deals with sexual misconduct! Two years ago he even expelled a high ranking officer for adultery.
I am sure Joseph saw the contest with Potiphar's wife brewing. He was smart enough to know he was headed for trouble. She was after him and he knew it. I am sure she tried hard to seduce him, promising that Potiphar would know nothing about it.
But, Joseph loved the truth, and he knew it would displease God if he gave in to her wishes. Joseph also knew that to displease Mrs. Potiphar meant she would not tolerate an "insubordinate servant" and he would have to go. You know the story. (Genesis 37) However, one issue is never revealed to us. I have always wondered what Joseph said to Potiphar after he was released from prison to become Prime Minister of Egypt??? Now, that is some truth I would like to hear.
So, whether you have a bad attitude toward truth like the General or a good attitude toward truth like Joseph, you can be assured of one thing. Truth can be lost sight of, people can become negligent toward truth, people can be ignorant of truth and truth can be misrepresented for a season. But, if 6,000 years of history teaches anything, it is this: Truth conquerors!
I have observed that many people love their religion more than they love truth although they may not realize it. Few people have had to take a stand for truth, especially when it varied from what their church leaders believe. It is then we can assess where our true affections lie. For many of us, church is a sweet framework for spiritual and social security. Church is a very comfortable resting zone. There, our family and friends meet on a weekly basis in a sweet spirit where the preacher shares words of encouragement from the Bible.
There is nothing wrong with this except one very subtle thing! Church can make a normal person a co-dependent person.
What do I mean? I define religious co-dependency as a condition in which a person depends upon the presence or structure of church in his life to remain religious. In this setting, a person becomes dependent upon religious programming in order to maintain some kind of faith in God. Maybe a good way to illustrate this point is from my experience in Vietnam. When I arrived in Vietnam as a soldier in 1969, I was happy to find a number of my old buddies from college already there.
But soon, I became very disappointed and shocked as I watched a number of the guys drop their standards and become involved in behavior that was clearly wrong. I knew it, they knew it. Many of them justified their deeds by saying, "War is hell" a phrase that means "anything goes as long as you can get away with it." As the years have passed, I have thought about this phenomenon and have concluded this happens when social mores are removed.
When no one is looking, true character is revealed. In other words, some people are honest as long as there are locks on all of the doors. Remove the locks (social mores) and true character (the truth about our inner self) is revealed. I believe thousands of Vietnam vets came back more wounded from their evil deeds than as a result of enemy fire. My point is that social structures, like church, can produce co-dependency. When the structure is removed, the true condition of the character (the reality) is revealed!
If we are not personally connected to God, like Joseph, we are neglecting the first order of life. Psalms 111:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise."
In the context of religious co-dependency, a great revelation is coming to everyone in the very near future. God is going to remove all the locks (social mores) by inflicting great destruction and chaos on the Earth. Then, the truth (the true character) of people will be seen for what it is.
Then, religious co-dependency will be revealed and many will be surprised at the truth concerning themselves! At that time, the powerful presentation of God’s truth will stand in direct opposition to survival itself. Those who follow God will suffer persecution. Many will discover during that day, they were co-dependents of religion and did not know it. Soon, standing for the truth will be a great test.
Soon, standing for the truth will mean standing in opposition to the authorities (Babylon). Are we prepared to stand? Are we ready for the test? We cannot pass the test if we are co-dependent on church.
The Test of Truth
This brings me to an important point about truth. Becoming convicted on some aspect of truth that requires action often accompanies rejection and suffering. Suppose you were reading your Bible and discovered something to be true something that God wanted you to do but no one else in your family or church agreed with your conviction. What would you do? Do you love God’s truth more than social comfort? Do you have the fortitude to stand up for the dictates of your conscience regardless of the consequences?
If the Holy Spirit brought restlessness in your spirit over something that needs to be done, or a change that needs to be made, would you respond as the Spirit directs? These are important questions. There is an old gospel song about the three Hebrew lads who refused to worship the golden image that sums up this matter. The chorus goes like this, "They wouldn’t bend, they wouldn't bow, they didn't burn!"
Some of you have heard me jokingly say in seminars, "The truth will set you free of friends, family and church!" Unfortunately, nothing puts more religious distance between people than their perception of truth. Understand how it works. Let us suppose that the whole truth on some topic is defined as A,B,C,D,E,F. Person 1 comes to understand A,B,C,F. He doesn’t know about D and E. Because of his understanding, Person 1 makes some rather obvious changes in his life.
He does things a bit differently than he used to. Much to the grief of his church and family, he talks about things he has come to learn and how they are different from what he used to believe. Person 2, understands truth to be elements A,B,E,F. He can’t see why Person 1 is so excited about C and D. For the benefit of this discussion, suppose both people truly love the Lord. In each case, God knows that both people love truth, but neither know or have the whole truth.
Nevertheless, God is pleased with both people because they love Him and His truth. My point is this: God is more concerned about how we relate to what we believe is truth, than whether we know all truth. Further, God is concerned about how we relate to each other, even if we disagree. (1 John 4:20) If Persons 1 and 2 have good attitudes toward truth, God will reveal more truth in His timing. God promises that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. (John 16:13)
If either person has a bad attitude toward truth and refuses to accept truth when it is presented, how can he or she be given more? If either refuses to act upon the truth he has, Jesus said, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away." (Luke 19:26)
I have used this example of two people to explain something about the properties of truth. As many of you already know, family and church friends do not always understand the Bible prophecies as you have come to understand them. Naturally, this produces some social tension.
In some places, the new understanding has caused significant gulfs in friendship. Nothing separates people like religion. Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34) Paul noticed the effect of the sword of truth, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12) The truth always puts its followers out of step with the ways of the world!
But, for those who are willing to receive the truth, there is a sense of peace and happiness because the harmony that comes from the sum of all of the prophetic parts produces a clearer and brighter picture of God’s imminent plans. As we try to share our new findings, it is interesting to notice the effect. In some cases, the discussion of Daniel and Revelation has caused much grief because our new view stands opposed with more established views. But, this says more about human beings than about truth, doesn't it?
Americans have come to expect new versions of automobiles every year. We anticipate new and better versions of computer software. We expect something new and better in every area of life, but religion! What is wrong with this picture? The truth about God is ever unfolding.
Of course, the whole truth about God and His ways are beyond our finite understanding. Yet, God will open our minds to more truth if we love it and search for it and after finding it, are willing to do something about it! In the end, God does not judge us according to how much truth we know or what church we attend rather, He will judge us on what we did with what we believed to be true. (James 4:17)
Before I close, I have one last comment. Many people attend church for social reasons. This is not bad unless it is the essential reason for attending church. God ordained church as a means to an end. But, let us not lose sight of the end. God has revealed how the end is going to play out. It is a serious picture and the most sobering part of the story is that everyone will be tested on his or her love for truth.
Notice what Paul says is the reason why the devil will be allowed to appear and personate Christ, ". . . They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10) Read the whole chapter and analyze his prophecy. I have analyzed it several times and often ask myself, "Do I really love truth?" What is truth? What is my attitude toward truth? Am I running toward the light or away from the light? How do I test myself to see if I love truth?
The Holy Spirit can reveal the truth about ourselves in little ways as we go through everyday experiences, like my garage building episode. I am glad now that I wired my garage as I planned to use it because Jesus said, "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:21) This is the way the test comes. It sneaks in on us in daily life. We must make a conscious effort to keep moving toward greater light.
We cannot sit down and rest until we get to the other shore "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, His truth is marching on . . ." Let us follow Him wherever He goes!