TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS
John 18: 36-38
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognise that what I say is true.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
John 14: 1-6
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room [many rooms] in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me…”
John 8: 31-32
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Ephesians: 6: 13-14
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness.
When we use the word “true” or “truth” or “truly” in a sentence, what does it convey to you? Here are some examples to show variations:
- It is true that the planet Earth has one Moon (fact)
- I will always be true to you (promise)
- (Very) truly, I say unto you… (without a shadow of a doubt)
- Are you telling me the truth? (not lying)
- It may be true for you but it isn’t true for me! (relative truth)
We shall return to the final bullet point in a moment. Suffice it to say that one good reason for understanding what is “true” and real is that it helps us to define and decide what is untrue and false…
Which of the following statements are “true” (or untrue)?
- You only use ten per cent of your brain power at any one time
- Lightning never strikes in the same place twice
- Your hair continues to grow after you have died
- Crossing your legs can give you varicose veins
- Brown eggs are better for you than white ones
All untrue! Yet popularly believed to be true…
- So the fact that the majority of people believe that something is factually true, doesn’t make it so!
And which of these statements are ‘true’?
- All people are born equal
- God loves every person equally
- God accepts us just the way we are
- God has already decided who will be saved
For some of these statements, you may be saying to yourself: “Well, yes and no” or “It all depends what you mean by…”
So in discerning what is ‘true’, we need to be absolutely confident in its reliability and the source of the truth…
Some people argue that it is good for you to tell the truth when it is to your advantage but otherwise, it’s okay to lie or deceive! Jacob was an example of how deceitfulness can pay, at least for a time!
Consider this incident from the life of Jeremiah the prophet…
(Jeremiah 38: 24-27)
24 Then King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah: “Don’t tell anyone you told me this [to surrender to the Babylonians] or you will die! 25 My officials may hear that I spoke to you and they may say: Tell us what you and the king were talking about. If you don’t tell us, we will kill you. 26 “If this happens, just tell them you begged me not to send you back to Jonathan’s dungeon for fear you would die there.”
27 Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the king’s officials came to Jeremiah and asked him why the king had called for him. But Jeremiah followed the king’s instructions [to say that he had begged the King not to send him back to prison] and the officials left without finding out the truth. No one had overheard the conversation between Jeremiah and the king.
Was Jeremiah telling the truth… or lying?
Was he merely being wise?
Are there times when avoiding the truth is better than telling the truth? Here’s a situation that occurred many times during World War 2…
A Christian family are hiding Jews. The soldiers burst into the house and demand to know if they have seen any Jews. The family insist that they have not done so. The soldiers leave empty-handed.
Was it right not to tell the truth in order to save the Jews and their own lives?
Is truth relative? Can we/should we pick and choose when to tell the truth?
Here is another scenario… You meet a close friend in the supermarket, who confides that the doctor has told him that he has just had an interview with the Bank Manager, who informed him that he will have to sell the house to pay his creditors. The friend begs you not to say anything to his wife, as she is suffering from a weak heart and the shock might be fatal. Despite your reservations about the wisdom of your friend’s desire for secrecy, you agree to keep the matter confidential.
A week or so later, you are in the same supermarket and bump into none other than your friend’s wife. She confides that she’s worried that her husband seems very anxious about something but insists that everything is fine. “He hasn’t said anything to you, has he?” she asks.
How will you respond?
So when Pilate uttered the throwaway comment: “What is truth?” he was asking (perhaps unwittingly) a legitimate question.
Years ago, the truth was usually measured against what the Bible says …
- Today, we are in an age where everything is challenged and absolute truth is dismissed as ‘narrow-minded’ or arrogant.
- Many people argue that there isn’t any “one truth” but a variety of “truths”, all of which are ‘available’ to be accepted or rejected…
Yet Jesus stated clearly that He is “the way, the truth and the life”. So was He lying or deluded or confused… or stating the truth?
And in John Chapter 8, Jesus speaks to a group of new (Jewish) disciples:
‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’
The problem is that a lot of people don’t want to hear the truth of God because it affects what they are thinking of doing or constrains what they want to do!
Because the issue of ‘truth’ is closely linked with the fundamental principles of ‘right and wrong’…
So when someone states that same-sex marriage or abortion or ‘sleeping around’ is wrong, s/he will be challenged with questions and comments such as:
- Who are you to tell me what’s right and wrong?
- Anyway, I don’t accept what’s written in the Bible
- If that’s what you believe, fine, but I think differently!
Indeed, we have reached the point in time predicted by the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4: 2-4):
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather round them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
And notice how Paul links truth with righteousness…
13 Therefore, put on every piece [note!] of God’s armour, so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle, you will still be standing firm.14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness [God’s not ours!] Therefore:
- Truth is needed to resist evil
- Truth is needed in the ‘battle’ with Satan, starting in the mind
- Truth is needed to stand firm after battling with Satan when you might be at a low ebb and need the assurance to believe that you did what was right
The belt of truth is intimately linked with God’s righteousness because knowing the truth is the means by which we know what is right… from which we get the word ‘righteousness’
So what are the implications for us?
- We need to search for the truth… through prayer, reading the Bible, listening to messages and talking with mature Christians
- We must avoid harmful influences… negative people, sceptics, unhealthy magazines and TV programmes that distorts our thinking
- We should witness to our faith… There’s no better way of cementing the truth than to explain or demonstrate it to others
- We must avoid making hasty decisions… God is never in a hurry! If you feel under pressure to say or do something, it is probably not the right way to go
- We need to rely on the Holy Spirit… Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would “teach them all things”…
- He will prompt us and give us peace of mind… or cause us to feel uneasy and lack peace, which acts as a warning bell!
There will always be ‘grey areas’ where discerning the truth is not straightforward …
- Perhaps a rule of thumb is to ask the question… Will this thought, word or action bring me closer to the Lord?
- Can I comfortably share this thought, word or deed with a trusted Christian friend… If not, we need to exercise caution!
Now this “measured” approach is fine when circumstances allow us time to consider our responses… It is much harder to control our thoughts, words and actions when something comes at us without warning …
- So we need to keep in close touch with God and allow Him to operate freely in our lives, so that when “the moment” comes, we are clothed in His ‘armour’ to defend ourselves and to fight back.
Sometimes we must resist the devil and he will flee… sometimes we need to run away!
A helpful rule is as follows: If the devil attacks when we have strayed onto his territory, we flee! If he attacks on OUR territory, we fight!
But there is one more ‘truth’ that trumps all else…
The greatest truth is that God loved the world so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son to deal with the sin in our lives …
- If we deny this essential truth by claiming that we don’t have any sin… that we don’t need Jesus Christ… John reminds us that we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling (deceiving) ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (unrighteousness). (John 1: 8-9)
The good news is that living in the truth that is found in Jesus Christ, who is the truth… leads to righteousness… being made “right” in God’s sight despite our sin and failure.
THIS truth— HIS truth— is our righteousness.