Words hurt. People remember words for a long time, and I’m sure that we can all think of times during our lives where people said things that really hurt us. In light of those types of memories, James 3 seems incredibly appropriate.
Jas 3:7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
Jas 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
It is a valuable point here. We are able to control so many things. Think about something like an orca. It is a massive creature, but humans are able to train them to do all kinds of things. Elephants are much larger than us, but we can ride on them through training. How ironic is it then that we cannot even control our own mouths?
What does it really mean then to control our tongues? Obviously, we’re not in the business of hurting people, but we are also not in the business of flattering people. We are in the business of truth and love. We ought to use our words to communicate not only what people need to hear, but they also need to hear how much we care about them.
Isn’t that the heart of the Christian message and the testimony we see from Jesus Christ Himself? He certainly spoke the truth. He did not hold any punches. He called the Pharisees vipers for crying out loud. However, speaking the truth is loving.
If I see some people driving down the road towards a cliff, is it better for me to let them know that they are wrong truthfully, or is it better for me to let them feel good about their choice of direction that is leading towards disaster?
If I love them, I’m going to correct them from their wrong direction. They might not appreciate me telling them that they are wrong, but if I truly love them, I’m not going to let them drive off a cliff.
Keep this in mind then about controlling our tongues. We are called to be loving, and we are called to be truthful. Words are powerful, and they have a major impact. Let’s make sure we are working in the right direction.
In 1 Timothy 3, we receive the qualifications for church leadership. Presumably, Timothy was a fairly responsible young man, but Paul explains why he is outlining these qualities for Timothy to follow as a young pastor.
1Ti 3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
In our everyday lives, we don’t need to ideologically agree with our coworkers. If we do business with other companies, we don’t need to see eye to eye on every issue. It is fine in that context. It would be ridiculous to only interact with people we agree absolutely with.
However, the church is a different type of institution. There are certain characteristics that are necessary in the church. For the people who are going to be leading the church, there needs to be agreement and solidarity there. Not that any two people are going to agree on everything, but there needs to be a level of shared commitment that we certainly do not need in every area of our lives.
Some of you might remember the issue that arose when InterVarsity wanted to maintain standards for their leadership that at a bare minimum they would be Christian leaders. They were not allowed on certain campuses as a result of that statement, but they were remaining faithful to passages like this in Timothy.
Remember that the church is the institution that stands for truth. As the universal body of Christ, we are here to promote a Christian worldview and bring people to the point where they understand the pleasure of glorifying God. Therefore, as we need leaders in such an institution, we need to make sure that it is a very important responsibility for these leaders to maintain the shared commitment.
Welcome to the end of another book of the Bible! 1 Thessalonians 5 brings us a variety of almost Proverbs, and one of them stood out to me as particularly important for our world of radical skepticism.
1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Skepticism is not a bad thing. We should prove all things. We should explore ideas, and we should be willing to discover what is true. The problem is when that skepticism becomes an absolute commitment. The problem is when we refuse to hold on to anything because we want to maintain our radical skepticism.
Scripture advises implicitly here that there is such a thing as truth. Truth is not simply a concept; there are objective things that are true in the world. For example, when we see someone like Adolf Hitler, there is no doubt that he committed many crimes that were objectively evil. I know that is the obvious and most extreme example, but it is very hard to sustain a belief in moral subjectivity absolutely.
Therefore, if morality is objective, then there are things that are good, and there are things that are not good. That is where this advice from Paul comes into play. When things are good, we are to hold on to them. We do not remain skeptical of them. Why would we? If they turn out to be good, then that is what we are to live by.
As Christians, we certainly don’t need to be afraid of critical thinking. We certainly don’t need to be afraid of hard questions. Our excellent intellectual tradition within Christendom developed out of many people asking many difficult questions. Yes, it might be more comfortable to suppress questions and simply circle the wagons, but that’s not what it seems that we are being encouraged to do. Rather, we need to make sure that we do our homework, prove what is true and hold on to that which is good. If it is good, then it is of God.
As Paul closes his first letter to the Corinthians, Interpol style, he greets many people as he usually does, and he left them with a few very short pieces of advice.
1Co 16:13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
1Co 16:14 Let all your things be done with charity.
Since this was Paul’s last advice in this particular letter, it is probably rather important. After all, he would have wanted this message to remain in their minds now that they had finished the entire letter.
There are two important things. We need to remain strong and faithful to what we have been taught. We need to do everything with love. That really sums up the Christian life in my opinion.
We have beliefs that we have been taught, and it would be ridiculous to not see the importance of those beliefs. I understand that Christians have differences of opinion on certain issues, but think about something like the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are not a Christian. We need to remain faithful to the core beliefs of Christianity. Part of me thinks that today many people want to keep parts of Christianity, but they want to discard the parts they don’t like. You simply can’t do that. If you’re going to call yourself a Christian, you need to follow the teaching laid out by the Bible.
At the same time, Paul also made sure that the people understood that love needed to characterize all of their interactions. We might have all the right doctrine and the right answers. However, if we turn everybody away because we are the most unpleasant people on earth, how is that helpful whatsoever? The truth is still serious, but nobody will want to hear it if we don’t explain that we care. Why do we share the gospel? Because we love people.
Paul knew this stuff was important, so even though these ideas had been interwoven throughout his entire letter, he thought it was wise to mention them one more time. Hold to the truth, and love other people.
In John 19, Jesus is brought for trial, and at the end of the chapter He is brought before Pontius Pilate as the acting Roman governor at the time. Jesus engages Him on the issue of truth.
Joh 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Joh 18:38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.
Jesus spoke about truth as an actual entity. It was not some type of hypothetical. Jesus was there to bear witness to the one and only truth. Pilate then responds by asking what truth actually is. I think we find that same type of dilemma in the world today. Many people feel like truth is something undefined. They talk about it as something that is kind of wishy-washy or ambiguous. It is almost like some kind of giant gray area.
It does not seem like Jesus handled truth in this way. When He is talking about truth, He did not negotiate. He talks about truth is something that is actual. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth. That is a distinctly different message.
I think that is something we need to keep in mind. There is a difference between a world where truth is negotiable and where truth is actual. There is a difference between subjective and objective. One is where the world seems to move towards, and the other is what it seems Jesus was referring to. As a result, we need to figure out where we are.
Although we have all heard the story of building a solid foundation in Luke 6 many times, I think it is important to look at because it emphasizes the importance of a biblical worldview.
Luk 6:47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:
Luk 6:48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
Luk 6:49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
The foundation makes a difference. If you start with the right foundation, the house is going to stand. On the contrary, another house may be beautiful and it may be right on the beach, but if it doesn’t have that solid foundation, that beauty is going to fall apart.
That is a biblical worldview is all about. It is about beginning from our bedrock truths taught by Jesus Christ as pointed out in verse 47. If we begin to base our lives on what Jesus Christ taught, we are going to be grounded and strong.
Once we have that foundation of understanding who Jesus Christ is and what that means for our lives and how we ought to live, then we begin building the house. We began adding on cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, arguments from morality and so many other things to begin making the house even bigger. The foundation is still the most important part, but there are other parts of the house, and in this illustration, that can be apologetic arguments, theological truths or other more advanced concepts.
Without the foundation, all of these great arguments and teachings fall apart, but it does not mean they cannot be useful.
Beginning with the foundation will never lead us in the wrong direction. When we are challenged, we will not waver. I think that is what we want.
Matthew 21 begins with Palm Sunday, and Jesus is then preaching in the Temple. The Pharisees had a question about His authority to do everything that He did, and Jesus responded with a question.
Mat 21:24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Mat 21:25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
Mat 21:26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
This stood out to me because I think it reflects modern society very well. The baptism of John was clearly a forerunner of the baptism in the Spirit that Jesus was going to bring. That was truly what they should have been talking about and the theological implications of each answer.
However, rather than address the topic, the Pharisees were only concerned with how they would look. Rather than pursue truth for the sake of truth itself, they were concerned with image. I feel like that is where we find ourselves today.
Christians and non-Christians can be guilty of this. We live in a universe that can be known. We can learn things about the world around us, and if we actually are trying to find out what is true about this world, we need to be concerned about that pursuit. We don’t want to get wrapped up in what our friends are going to say. Rather than try to find out what is the true nature of reality, we bow to peer pressure.
If something is really true, then we should affirm that it is true. We should build a worldview that can coherently explain the truth that is revealed in the world. As Christians, we do follow Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Truth, so this does not need to be a frightening activity for us. The pursuit of Truth is going to point towards God in the long run.
Matthew chapter 5 brings us to probably the most popular teaching passage of Jesus Christ. During the Sermon on the Mount, He said a lot of things, and we could spend tons of time here, but for the one day that we have together, I went to call our attention to a summary.
Mat 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Mat 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Mat 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Mat 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The rest of the Sermon refers to what we do. We find out who is going to be blessed. We find out how Jesus came to fulfill the Law rather than destroy it. There are a lot of things here that speak to us about lifestyle.
Set in that context, Jesus is talking to these Jewish people who have come to follow Him. They had the Law. They were used to being a special people. God had always set apart the people of Israel, but He is challenging them here to live up to their calling. The imagery would have been familiar to them in some sense.
The Law was a large part of what made them different, and by following the Law, the consequence should have been a society that did good works and caused people to glorify God in heaven. Jesus was challenging them to remember their calling to ultimately bring glory to God through their lives. Even though He was changing the dimension and making salvation free for all through faith, using this type of chosen language would have resonated with His audience. They would have understood what it meant to stand out even if they did not need the sacrificial system or other Old Testament hallmarks anymore.
I think the same applies to all of us today. We have the Truth. We know what Jesus taught, and we know what He expects of us. As a result, the commands that Jesus spoke to that particular audience seems to be applicable to us as well. If we have the Light of the World within us, should we not be sure to reflect that light on the world around us through how we live our lives?
I would like to think that we are all on a quest for truth. I think that even if the one real truth is that there is no truth (postmodern contradiction anyone?), we can all agree that there is at least something true in the universe. We might disagree on what it is, but it is hard to deny that something is true.
Proverbs 23 tells us something very important about truth.
Pro 23:23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
This is a very commercial language. It sounds that we are talking about business transactions. In other words, we are talking about giving up something of value in order to have truth, wisdom, instruction, and understanding. It is worth something to have truth.
On the flipside, once you have truth, there is no way that you should be willing to give that up. It is priceless. You should not sell it because there is nothing people could give you that would be of equivalent value.
This particular verse doesn’t go into what the truth is, but as Christians, we can continue reading and find out what truth is.
Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Truth. That is what we base our worldview on. Like I said before, everyone needs to start from somewhere, and for Christians, we start from the truth of Jesus Christ. There are obviously implications to whatever starting point we take for the baseline truth in the universe.
I assume that most people who read this are Christians. I am writing for a Christian audience largely, so I doubt there will be a lot of disagreement. However, if you come across my website and you do not believe in the God of the Bible, I want to challenge you to think about where you are basing your view of truth. Is it something objective, or is it subjective? What are the basics of your belief? These are good questions for everyone to think about, and if we are honestly pursuing truth, they ought to be near the front of our minds.
Merry Christmas to all of you out there! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday and enjoy time with friends, family or whoever else you might be spending the day with. As you can obviously tell, we are not taking a holiday from reading a chapter per day, so today we are in Psalms 43.
We do not know the author, but in my opinion, it sounds a lot like what David had written in previous Psalms. The interesting part about this one is that he (or I guess possibly she) makes a very appropriate request considering today is Christmas.
Psa 43:3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
Psa 43:4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
The author is asking for the light and truth to come from God, and after that has happened, the author will be able to approach the altar of God.
How perfect is that?
Let’s talk about light and truth. Jesus was indeed both of those things for the world.
Joh 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
Joh 1:8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Joh 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
As most of you probably already know, these verses are speaking about John the Baptist’s mission to tell people about Jesus. Jesus is indeed the true Light.
Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Jesus being the Truth brings quite a few implications along with it. It implies absolute honesty, and it also implies omniscience. If Jesus is truth by nature, then it seems to me that He must be able to provide the true answer in every situation. The only way to do that is to be omniscient and understand all things about every situation.
Now, with these two characteristics, we then read about approaching the altar of God. In the Old Testament, you had to be a priest if you wanted to do that. As I understand it, the altar was generally the territory of the priests as they needed to handle sacrificing and other things.
Notice then that because of this Light and Truth, this author is going to be able to approach the altar. Perhaps the author was a priest, but we don’t know that for sure. If the author was not a priest, then we are talking about a game changer. We are talking about someone who is capable of giving all people direct access to the God of the universe. It sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?
Jesus came, lived, died and rose again. He provided the perfect sacrifice that covers over the sins of anyone who will receive that forgiveness. That is really the most miraculous part of Christmas. It was the first step in a process that provided salvation for you and me. It is the best gift you could ever receive.