Monday, October 13, 2008
Truth And The Holy Spirit
I want to begin with a true story from the Gospel of Matthew chapter 21, beginning at verse 23:
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?"
But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John--where was it from? From heaven or from men?"
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know."
And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
We see a very similar thing today in many cases.
Saying What People Want To Hear
In America, as I speak these words, we are heading into a Presidential election. The candidates are debating, and as we see the verbal battles between candidates one thing is often clear. Sometimes candidates seem to say what they think the people want to hear, rather than what they think is true.
This makes the truth about a candidate sometimes hard to determine. And of course this doesn't shock us, does it? The bending or distortion, or outright denial of the truth is as old as the Garden of Eden.
And it’s not confined to the politicians. The church is not immune from this practice. In fact, it’s too common. The Scripture says that some will heap up for themselves teachers who will give them what their itching ears want to hear.
And so there are always church leaders to fill that gap. Church leaders who will tell people what they want to hear, instead of what they know to be true.
Now here I want to take a side road for a couple minutes and talk about how this actually works out. It usually comes in one of two ways:
How Teachers Teach What People Want To Hear
1. The first way is avoiding the spiritual life in Jesus Christ as Lord, and teaching practical how-to’s of life. Things that could pretty much apply to the non-believer. 7 Steps To A Happy Home Life, How To Succeed In Business and Get Along With Your Boss, 3 Ways To Improve Your Attitude, and so forth.
Messages that look more like they came out of a book from the self-help section of the bookstore, than from the Bible.
2. The second way is in preaching the Law. Preaching performance. Holding up to the people their sins, message after message, week after week, with an often loud exhortation to get their act together and buckle down and obey, you wretches! Beating the sheep over the head with the clear implication that God is very very displeased with them, and won’t be pleased until they are at least a 9 on the scale of 1 to 10.
Now here’s the sad part. There is something in the flesh of the hearers who like this kind of preaching. They revel in what they see as the hard TRUTH being preached, even if it makes me feel bad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people comment on how good a message was because “it really convicted me”. They think if they were “convicted” (translated, means made to feel guilty), they have been equipped to get out there and do better this time, and earn that 9. But they haven’t been equipped at all.
I don’t know which of those ways is sadder, the how-to-succeed pablum, or the legalistic bombast.
But again, it’s not just church leaders. It’s Christian brothers and sisters who too often think like those chief priests in our story of Jesus, who think, “If I say this, then I’ll look bad, but if I say this, then I’ll get in trouble, so I’ll just lie. It’s just a little lie, no big deal, but then I’ll look spiritual and nobody will give me any trouble.”
How To Escape Saying What People Want To Hear
O.K., so how are we REALLY equipped in this area? How can we get off the boat of saying what we think people want to hear, and get on the solid ground of speaking the truth in love? How can we get off the boat of being safe and comfortable, and get on the solid ground of walking in truth and surrender with our Lord Who is the Way, and the TRUTH, and the Life?
Well, one of the greatest blessings of the New Covenant is that we have been given the Holy Spirit to actually dwell in us. He is always with us and in us, if we are born again believers in Jesus Christ. In fact the Scripture says that if someone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, they are none of His (Rom. 8:9). In other words, they aren’t a Christian at all. So every true Christian has the Holy Spirit in them.
And the Scripture calls this Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth.
John 14:17, "...the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
John 15:26, "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me."
John 16:13, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth..."
It’s not surprising that He is called the Spirit of Truth, is it? Jesus Himself is truth, and full of truth.
John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
John 1:17, "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
And how are we to worship God?
John 4:24, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Being Set Free
And what did Jesus say that truth would do for us?
John 8:32, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Avoiding the truth always leads to bondage of some kind.
And God wants you to be free. Even if that might be in prison. Free in spirit, free in our hearts.
Truth can be trouble, as even the sly politician knows. Truth can be trouble for YOU. It was trouble for Jesus, who always spoke the truth. Jesus said to the leaders in
John 8:40, "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God."
Truth can be trouble for YOU, too. But it still will set you free, inside, in the kingdom of God.
How to Walk In Truth
And that leads us to the question, how do we walk in truth? How do we avoid that man-pleasing flesh-pleasing place that looks safe when we lie, but is really the quicksand of bondage? That place you may have gotten yourself into, because one lie leads to another, and another, until you can hardly sort out the truth anymore?
How do we walk in truth?
By walking in the Spirit.
It may begin by getting alone with God, and just shutting up. Be still and know that I am God. It may be that you just haven’t had what we call a Quiet Time for a long time.
It may be that the things of the world have crowded out your fellowship with Jesus Christ.
It may be that you haven’t taken the time to sit with your Bible open, and just read and prayed and read and prayed and opened your heart to the love of Christ.
It may be that you have been under the teaching of legalistic performance-based Christianity which has taught you that God is mad at you when you fail. That He loves you on a 1 to 10 scale, depending on how well you do. This is wrong.
You may need to understand the basic foundational truth of Grace.
That you were saved by grace, and that grace is still God’s way of viewing you.
That you have been forgiven, not just of former sins, but present ones, and future ones. You are forgiven, child of God.
And not just forgiven, but have become the righteousness of God. God declared you righteous, through what Jesus did on the cross. The old you has been crucified with Christ, and He is now living through you, through your spirit, through you as a New Creation.
You are not a liar anymore. You have been changed. You are a new creation, able to walk in the spirit, as you commune with the Lord.
It takes time, I know. It takes purpose. It takes a sort of striving, but not striving to follow the Law. Striving to fellowship with Jesus through grace.
Then the Spirit of Truth will lead you to speak the truth in love. You don’t have to manipulate like an unscrupulous politician. You are free. You can breathe the air of the freedom of truth, as you are filled with the Spirit of truth.
The flesh will still lust against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, Gal. 5:17 says. But verse 18 says, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” And verse 16 says, “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Truth, like love and joy and peace, can be a fruit of the Spirit. That’s why we don’t want to just speak the truth, we want to speak the truth in love.
Don’t be like those chief priests, parsing every word and thinking, “If I say this, I’ll look bad, and if I say this, I’ll get in trouble.”
Be being filled with the Spirit of Truth, speak the truth in love, and even if you’re a prisoner of circumstances, you can be free inside.