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WHAT IS TRUTH AND HOW DO WE RECOGNIZE IT?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

8 NOVEMBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 3:1-5
Zechariah 7:1-10
John 14:6
        18:37-38
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
        3:1-3

What is truth?

You can't really smell it, or feel it, or see it, or even hear it, and be sure that it is the truth.

But truth is, nevertheless, very real.

And people do all sorts of things to it, as was evident during this past election season.

But this distortion of the truth is nothing new. It has been going on ever since the serpent deceived Eve about the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5):

1. Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?"

2. And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;

3. but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.' "

4. And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die!

5. "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

This happened because Eve and Adam, who shared in her guilt, didn't really hear what God told them.

They didn't recognize the distortion of the truth because they didn't fully recognize the truth.

Before He was crucified, Jesus had a very interesting conversation with Pilate about the truth.

Let's just look at part of it in John 18:37-38.

37. Pilate therefore said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

The world had lost sight of the truth, and here Jesus tells us that He came to bear witness to the truth.

We needn't be reminded of the truth in a dramatic way, for Jesus is the way, as He said: "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Thus, if we ourselves are not of the truth, then we won’t hear what Jesus is telling us; we won’t understand the Bible.

If we are not of the truth, we can’t recognize the truth.

But God made each and every one of us as spiritual beings, so that we would be able to hear His voice and understand.

Therefore, we, as a people, must have done something to ourselves that has taken most of us out of the truth.

And, what we did was to believe the lie instead of the truth and to follow the liar rather than Christ – our Truth.

With this in mind, note Pilate’s answer:

38. Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”
And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”

Pilate didn't recognize a lie in Jesus, for there was none; but neither did he recognize the truth, for his world was so filled with lies and fears and doubts that he wasn't sure when he heard the truth.

Pilate may have said what he said out of fear, because he felt that Jesus just might have been telling the truth; or he may have said what he said to justify himself for his lack of true discernment.

It doesn't matter which, or even if there was another reason. His answer was just an example of the world around him at that time and around us, to this very day.

For, if we don't know Jesus, we likewise don't recognize the truth.

This same type of lack of understanding existed immediately following the release of Israel from their captivity in Babylon.

Note what we are told in Zechariah 7:1-10.

1. Then it came about in the fourth year of King Darius, that the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev.

2. Now the town of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regemmelech and their men to seek the favor of the Lord,

3. speaking to the priests who belong to the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets saying, "Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?"

Keep in mind that real, emotional weeping isn't something we can just bring forth on a certain day of the year.

All the time that Israel was in captivity, they did this; and now that they are free, they were wondering if they were to continue.

It's similar to us today: with our abstaining from something for Lent, or with fasting, or even with celebrating a holiday such as Easter or Christmas.

In other words, how are we to celebrate; how are we to participate; and what should our attitude be?

The Lord answers the people of Bethel, and us today, through the Prophet Zechariah:

4. Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me saying,

Zechariah heard the Lord's words because he was of the truth.

The people weren't of the truth; thus, they couldn't recognize it, and had to come to seek this answer.

And the answer they got was not what they expected, for they expected to receive praise for their previous practices and devotions.

5. "Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?

6. 'And when you eat and drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves?

7. 'Are not these the words which the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous with its cities around it, and the Negev and the foothills were inhabited?' "

Now, for a moment, don't worry about what these people did 2,500 years ago; but let's consider ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nation.

Why are we really here this morning?

Do our lives, when we leave here, reflect the same image we are trying to project right now?

What is the meaning of Christmas for us, and what are we really going to celebrate?

Are we really thankful to God for every meal or snack we have?

How about the breath you just took, or the ones before it? Are you thankful for them, so that the Lord would want to give you the next one also?

Are we living for the Lord, or for ourselves?

Do we recognize the truth?

And, remember – we’re the ones who came to church. What about the others?

The Lord tells us how to do just that (how to recognize the truth), through Zechariah.

8. Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah saying,

9. "Thus has the Lord of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice, and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother;

10. and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.'

Even if we can't see truth directly, we can easily see the effects of it.

And we strongly believe that this same kindness, compassion, and justice must be extended to every animal, and to the world around us, and not be suppressed or excused away as is so commonly practiced around us.

Truth is always even-handed in deciding a matter; never bending the evidence one way or the other to prove ones own point, or to satisfy some lust or lifestyle.

Those who live in the truth are kind and compassionate, even when others are not that way with them.

A person of the truth would never take advantage of others, particularly those who are already vulnerable, such as widows and orphans, or someone who is a stranger or poor, or with those who cannot speak for themselves, whether humans or other animals.

With truth in the heart there is never the devising of evil; everything is for the good.

Those wholly living in the truth wouldn't even think of doing anything contrary or hurtful, for they are full of unconditional love.

People who live in the truth hear the word of God and just naturally follow it; thus, the Lord never has to send a prophet to prophesy against them, as did the prophet Zechariah.

Please turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, and note what we are told:

13. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

We are saved; we are sanctified by the Lord, because we have faith in the truth.

So, going back to what Pilate said, "What is the truth?"

But a better way for us is to say, "Who is the truth?"

Jesus told Thomas and us the answer in John 14:6.

6. Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father, but through Me.

Jesus is the truth!

And that is exactly why Paul wrote as he did in 2 Thessalonians 2:14.

14. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nothing is held back from the true believer who lives in the faith of the truth; for such a person has the eyes to see the truth, the ears to hear the truth, and a heart and mind to live the truth.

Now look at the first three verses of the next chapter (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3).

1. Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;

2. and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.

3. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

Perverse and evil people lack faith.

And because they lack faith, they don't follow the truth, and they are always losing. Likewise, they are always trying to get others to join them in their loss.

But we who know the truth are to pray that God would protect us from evil.

And He will, if we also pray in the truth.

But from the Lord's point of view, it doesn't mean that He saves us from death in this lifetime, but that He saves us from the second death – He saves us from being led astray and into hell.

So always keep seeking the good things in life: those that are based on love and compassion; those things that come with the word of truth.

What is truth?

It is our life in Christ.

And if you have a life in Christ, you never have to worry about recognizing the truth, for it already exists in you.

Read what Jesus taught us about how we are to live, and not necessarily what other want us to believe.

Just listen to it!

Live the truth!

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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