By: Jenni Walker
“I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” (Isaiah 45:19)
“The law of God contains in itself the dynamic of the new life by which His image is fully restored in us; but by nature we are sluggish, and, therefore, we need to be stimulated, aided in our efforts by a guiding principle.” (John Calvin)
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How many of you have tried to follow verbal driving directions of family members or friends? As they rode shotgun in the seat next to you, you may have experienced something like this:
“I turn left here, right?”
“Wait, go right?”
Or how about this scenario?
“When you pass the grocery store with the broken lamp post in front of it, turn left at the second gas station. Follow that road until you get to a U-turn only sign, then turn right at the third red house on the left.”
If confusion can occur this quickly even in somewhat simple, clearly defined areas of life such as turning the car left or right, or where to turn the car left or right, how much more so in areas of our lives of even greater complexity? Consider the following questions asked by many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, in today’s current culture:
“Should I date him?”
“A lot of Christians I know lived together before they got married. Is that what I should do?”
“Is it okay for me to watch that movie?”
“What church should I attend?”
“How can I really know if something is right or wrong?”
“My childhood friend has been making some compromising life choices. Can I continue to spend time with her?”
“How do I love someone who intentionally wronged me?”
“Is Christianity the only true religion? How can I know for sure?”
“How can the Bible be considered the only framework for truth when so many religions found in other cultures do not adhere to it?”
“Is it okay to desire some of my own personal happiness?”
“Do I have a purpose here on this earth?”
And this list of questions barely, BARELY skims the surface to the multitude of serious questions we are faced with at any point and time in our lives. (Not to mention ones involving topics such as politics, the environment, finances, and many more!) Can we truly know if something is right or wrong? Can something be right for me but wrong for someone else? Or can something be an okay choice but not the best choice?
***WHO’S TO SAY?***
Clearly, we as humans can easily get off-course in determining what is true and right. Just look at the comment section of just about any online news article or blog: you will find a multitude of vastly different perspectives and ever-changing frameworks for the opinions and beliefs expressed in them! Arguments, biting criticism, and defensive responses run rampant in such contexts. Why are the people who are contributing comments seemingly not able to come to a general consensus and one point of view? While there are some rather complex answers to this question, the simple answer is that they often each adhere to a different framework of TRUTH. This quickly leads to different belief systems and sharp contrasts in their personal values.
In high school, I was required to write a 30-page senior paper about the worldview of a key figure in history. (It is a wonder that I still like writing!) The events that took place in Europe during the World War II era are of great interest to me, so I chose to write about the epistemology of Adolf Hitler, the mastermind behind many of the horrendous atrocities that occurred during that time. A recent movie called The Zookeeper’s Wife depicts vividly what life was like in many of the European countries where Germany seized power. Not only were the cultures of these countries disrupted, but Jewish citizens and anyone who tried to help them were imprisoned and sent to concentration camps. Conditions were horrific in those prison camps, and those who survived had bodies emaciated by hunger, illness, and Nazi brutality.
What is interesting is that the majority of people around the world today, if asked for their reactions to pictures of those holocaust victims, will tell you that what Hitler did was consummately evil. Yet, Hitler and those close to him in the Nazi party believed what they were doing was necessary, that it was justifiable, and that it was right. How could such a thing be? And who is to say that Hitler was not right in what he did? Millions of people dead, Jews and those who assisted them burned in gas chambers and tortured in unspeakable manners by Nazi “medical research,” and aggressive invasion of other countries – why do we feel so strongly that these things are abhorrently wrong? Again, there are some complex answers, but the simple version is that the majority of people in today’s society hold a common belief that murder and racism are wrong. They may not have specifics to back up their beliefs, they just feel that it is wrong in their conscience.
We live today in what is called a “morally relative” society, where people’s belief systems are relative to what they as an individual feel is right and wrong. That quickly becomes a slippery slope. While Hitler’s case may seem a bit extreme, if he said he believed what he was doing was right, who were we to say otherwise? Why should one individual have the right to judge another individual? Why should someone not do something if that “something” makes him or her happy?
The gist of the answer is not popular in our present culture, but it is simple: We do not get to decide what is true and what is not. It is not like a buffet where we pick and choose what we like and disregard what does not seem initially appealing to us. You have likely heard someone say something like, “That might be true for you, but it is not true for me.” That might be okay to say when it comes to things like expressing our favorite restaurant, preferred vacation spot, or even how many kids you want to have. But that kind of approach cannot be applied to many other areas of life.
When it comes to knowing if something is true or not, there must be a standard of truth that applies to everyone. And that standard comes from God, which He reveals to us through His Word. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even between the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The following verse then proceeds to explain who the standards set for in God’s Word apply to by describing that “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (v. 13, NKJV)
Just like the people in the comment section of so many Internet articles, there is no way to arrive at the truth without a common system of measurement. Certain things may “sound good,” but how do we know if they really are good? And should I be looking for things that I feel are just good for me, or is there something bigger than me that I am a part of? As Hebrews 4:13 so pointed out so simply yet powerfully for us, God’s standards apply to all of us – none of us are hidden from His sight. Through personal relationship with Jesus Christ, application of God’s Word to our lives, and the help of the Holy Spirit, we can find answers that will bring honor to God and the light of His truth to our beliefs, our hearts, and our actions.
***THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH***
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 presents a clear warning to us as believers in a society that considers truth to be relative to the individual: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their eyes away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (NKJV)
Ladies, it is time to make the choice to surrender every area of our hearts and lives to the authority of God’s Word. God is the Author of Truth! His Word is the framework by which we tackle the tough questions in life. His Word is the foundation for our belief system! His Word is a “lamp” to our feet and a “light” to our path! In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” We cannot say that we love God but pick and choose what parts of His Word to obey. Either His Word has full authority in our lives or it does not. Just like a theology student who studies the Bible intellectually without surrendering his or her life to the will of God does not truly know the Lord, in the same way a woman who says she loves the Lord but who does not seek to obey Him and know Him through His Word does not truly know Him either. All throughout Scripture, Jesus Christ and the Word of God are demonstrated as a package deal:
“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45, NKJV)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NKJV)
“I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me.” (Psalm 119:102, NKJV)
“Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.” (Psalm 119:49-50)
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
“Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4b, NKJV)
***THE FINAL WORD***
As we have discussed already, we as followers of Christ must be cautious that we do not unwittingly begin to pick and choose for ourselves what is true and what isn’t based on personal preferences or popular opinions. We cannot say we love Jesus Christ but selectively choose what parts of the Scriptures we believe and which of His commands we keep. There is so much evidence for the validity and even reasonability of the Bible. Many people have skeptically explored the Scriptures and found themselves face-to-face with the reality of the gospel. You can’t have one without the other!
Corrie Ten Boom knew this well. We looked at part of her story in an earlier post this month. Corrie, her sister, and her father believed that the truth of the Bible compelled them to take action in the face of evil by offering their home as a place of refuge for Jews in need. The Jews they were harboring, several family members, and she were discovered and sent to concentration camps. With God’s help, she and her sister, Betsie, smuggled a little Bible in to Ravensbruck. In her book, Tramp for the Lord, Corrie writes of that experience, “Behind us guards were shouting, prodding us with their guns. Instinctively my hand went to the string around my neck. From it, hanging down my back between my shoulder blades, was the small cloth bag that held our Bible, that forbidden Book which had not only sustained Betsie and me throughout these months, but given us strength to share with our fellow prisoners. So far we had kept it hidden…” (Tramp for the Lord, p. 13)
After a harrowing entrance to Ravensbruck, and divine intervention by Almighty God to get that little Bible past the camp guards, Corrie writes, “So Betsie and I came to our barracks at Ravensbruck. Before long we were holding clandestine Bible study groups for an ever-growing group of believers, and Barracks 28 became known throughout the camp as ‘the crazy place where they hope.’ Yes, hoped, in spite of all that human madness could do. We had learned that a stronger power had the final word, even here.” (Tramp for the Lord, p. 16)
Ladies, let the Word of God have the “final word” in all areas of your heart and life! Isaiah 45:19 says, “I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.” Our Heavenly Father is gracious and loving, but He is also holy and calls us to be set apart for Him. Intentionally and obediently submit to the truth of His Word. How do we conform our will to His? How do we bear fruits of righteousness? How do we answer life’s tough questions? How do we know if something is right or wrong? How can we decide what to believe and why?
David prays in Psalm 119:130, “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” To truly follow Jesus as Lord is to bring our lives under the authority and truth of His Word. He says in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Seasons of life shift, world events change, and feelings come and go. Our world more than ever needs us to build our lives on the enduring truth of God’s Word! In doing so, you will find that not only do questions begin to be answered but that your life will be anchored by it, and your relationship with God will deepen in trust and in intimacy.
Is every area of your heart and life surrendered to the authority of God’s Word? Remember that God is the Author of Truth! His Word is the framework by which we tackle the tough questions in life. His Word is the foundation for our belief system! When we spend time in His Word, it takes root in our hearts. Either His Word has full authority in our lives or it does not. Jesus Christ is the living Word of God (John 1:1-2), and we can know Him more deeply through the Holy Scriptures.
If you have struggled with some tough questions but are unsure about the answers, begin today by reading Psalm 119 and John 14. Pray for the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17a), to illuminate your understanding as you read God’s Word. Ask God to reveal Himself to you through His Word, to remove any doubt from your heart, and to draw you closer to Him (James 4:8). As Proverbs 3:5-6 exhorts, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” As you navigate the many questions, decisions, and belief systems that this life presents, listen to His voice of truth. Settle once and for all in your heart, as the old song says, “to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” No matter where you are, it is the best place to be! “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:17-18, NKJV)
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