My early career in full-time ministry was devoted to working on university campuses. There, I ministered directly to young men and women who were laboring to expand their minds – to broaden their worldviews. Effective ministry to university students requires an understanding of how they view their world. I had to crawl inside their heads, so to speak, and follow their thought processes.
Nothing is Absolute
While I could fill a thick volume with what is derived from such an exercise, the prominent belief on which we will focus in this article is that concept fundamental to almost every non-Christ-following student with whom I interacted – the conviction that truth is relative. Nothing in life or society is absolute.
So deeply ingrained is this concept in the mind of the non-believing student that any attempt to challenge it is beyond the ability of that student to even comprehend, as though I am speaking complete gibberish. To the unbelieving university student, the relativity of truth is self-evident. For me to suggest otherwise seems as asinine as suggesting there is no gravity.
If we dig even more deeply, we find that the university student outside of Christ sees this debate on a completely different plane than does the Christ-follower. The Christ-follower will see the discussion in terms of truth and untruth, or truth and error, while the non-believer couches the discussion in terms of tolerance and intolerance. Absolutes are to be rejected – absolutely.
In the university environment, “open-mindedness” is the greatest virtue, and the concept of a standard of verity is characterized as flying in the face of open-mindedness. Furthermore, suggesting that one has found that standard of truth results in them being strongly castigated as arrogant, because no one can possibly know they have found the truth. Truth, is ultimately unknowable because truth is relative.
Truth is Absolute
For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. – John 18:37b, NASB
According to Jesus there is a truth, the truth. He also suggests that it is possible to know that truth and to be “of” that truth.
Perhaps it would be helpful to get a working definition of truth.
Truth is that which conforms with fact or reality. It is verity, the actual state of a matter. So truth then, is not consensus of opinion, not subject to a vote, but rather is a reality completely external to ourselves. Conversely, by definition, insanity is the denial of, or loss of touch with objective reality.
Contend for Truth
I am not one to make New Year resolutions. But for those who do, let me suggest that standing for truth is a good resolution to make for 2019. Let us resolve to be contenders for truth, champions of reality.
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. – Jude 1:3, NASB
Even within the body of Christ, I have noted a disturbing trend to shelve biblical truth in an effort to say and do whatever works to draw crowds to church facilities. In this effort, proclamation of truth has been supplanted by current-generation marketing strategies. Men and women in the world are no longer souls to be saved, but rather customers to be persuaded.
To accomplish this marketing objective, we are obligated to make the customer feel good, to be comfortable, to “see yourself in this car.” We must complete the sale, close the deal. For this to happen, there can be no discussion of unpleasantries like sin, judgment, discipleship, or service.
The measure of success for a church body becomes whether or not that body is growing numerically rather than whether or not its people are becoming holy, conformed to the image of Christ, and lovers of truth. In this mentality, we hold more strongly to what “works” than we hold to what is true.
Jesus Is the Truth
Jesus said ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me‘ (John 14:6, ESV). A more absolute statement could not possibly have been made.
Our calling as Christ-followers is a calling to be conformed to the image of Christ, and Jesus Christ is the truth. Therefore we are called to be a people of truth, to embrace truth, to contend for truth. God is the essence of truth (Titus 1:2), and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).
In line with what Jesus said above, note that the apostle Paul said “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12, ESV). Paul’s focus is not on what he believed, but on whom he believed. Jesus is the truth. He is Immanuel – God with us.
Truth is to be Taught
The call for embracing sound doctrine is threaded throughout the writings of the apostle Paul. It is in this temper that he charged his spiritual son, Timothy, to
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. – 2 Timothy 4:2-4, ESV
A more apt description of today’s “spiritual” environment is difficult to imagine, when in reality, the body of Christ is called to be “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Itching ears demand to be gently scratched, soothed, comforted. Say nothing difficult. Make no calls for commitment.
The Truth Can Be Known
Contrary to what some believe or portray, God is not some nasty entity with a big thumb, salivating at the potential opportunity to squash us. Quite the opposite. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Several things jump out at us from these verses. First of all, God is for us, and not against us. Secondly, God wants us to be saved, and thirdly there is a truth and that truth can be known!
Two chapters later, the apostle Paul tells us that the good things in life are to be received with thanksgiving “by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3).
Regarding those who are not followers after Christ, we are to correct them with gentleness, because “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25).
Elsewhere we read that some are always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).
The fact that we can know the truth demands that the truth is objective, external to ourselves, unchanging, and absolute. Thus, we can know the truth, speak the truth in love, and live in light of the truth.
As Christ-followers, we are a people of truth, and that fact alone sets us at odds with both the world who does not know Christ, and with those in the body who chase after teachers willing to tickle their ears. It probably sets me at odds with some reading this blog posting.
Truth is not a simple a set of doctrines. It is a life – a life lived in Christ, with Christ, and “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It is both knowable and responsive. Pursue it, learn it, know it, and proclaim it.
From the lips of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life:
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:31b-32, ESV
Let’s commit together to make 2019 a year wherein we embrace truth, stand for truth, and proclaim truth.