THE FIGHT FOR TRUTH
A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
Jn.17: 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Eph.4: 20 But ye have not so learned Christ;21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
Truth. It is what we should seek, and also what we should defend. And in a real and spiritual sense truth is not only found in Jesus, but truth IS Jesus and Jesus IS truth. Doctrine is the organized version of truth and it is important. However often we end up defending doctrine in such a way that accurately defends our organized set of truths without seeing the zenith of all truths which is believing and emulating Jesus. This is not splitting hairs. This is the difference between self righteous orthodoxy, and humble and self inspecting orthodoxy.
These are days of much error. The Word of God has been torn to shreds and men now use it to justify their own sinful and lustful lives. God’s truth and the Person of Jesus have been violently attacked and mangled beyond recognition. It is not the false cults which are being used today, but rather it is smooth words, smiling faces, glamorous television programs, and a banquet of worldly delights offered under the guise of God's will that has literally changed the very essence of the faith. It we could bring a faithful pastor from 1920 into what is called Christianity today he would without a doubt claim that what we have today is not the true faith. And he would be correct. But in the midst of the slings and arrows of the battle concerning Biblical truth it is very easy to lose sight of our own spiritual battle. Yes, we have been called to discern truth, but the highest calling and in reality the strongest weapon against error is a life which fiercely lives submitted, surrendered, and humbly dedicated to shine the Person of Jesus to a lost and dying world.
And this is the fact that has been lost to so many of our orthodox brethren. You can have the most Biblical set of doctrines and be able to accurately teach and defend them and yet still not be walking with Jesus. Again:
You can have the most Biblical set of doctrines and be able to accurately teach and defend them and yet still not be walking with Jesus.
Now many do not believe that at all. They have embraced their set of doctrines as the supreme test of a believer’s walk in the Spirit. And that is a great fallacy which can be seen in many places within the “orthodox” community. It is not enough to point out the Biblical error in the Joel Osteen’s of this world. That must never be our spiritual meat or what defines us a followers of Jesus. When someone is asked about us and a brother replies that “Oh yes, he stands against the teachings of Joel Osteen” then we have completely missed the mark. Hopefully they say, “Yes, he really loves Jesus”.
The lines have been drawn for some time now. Those who have gained great followings and who wield material and ecclesiastical power have taken control of the airwaves, the bookstores, the conferences, and have formed unusual alliances which insulate them from any authentic scrutiny. This colossal ecclesiastical machine operates with amazing efficiency and certain men and women have their bank accounts stuffed with money given either in hopes of receiving something back, or because they saw some starving African children, or just because they have been manipulated by great fund raising techniques. The entire system is fallen and brings disgrace upon Christ and His gospel.
But where do we go from here? I mean we who were once a part of that system but by God’s grace have been emancipated from the bondage which is the institutional church, do we just continue to point out these grievous errors or is there also a path before us which will require much sacrifice and self denial from us? There is such a temptation to find a false solace by finding spiritual compromises in others regardless of how true. When a remnant of the Jews left Babylon and came back to Jerusalem, they began the restoration of the temple with a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other. We need to understand that the temptation is to always have both hands holding swords against our enemies. And that is a deception which keeps us from the continuing journey to seek and to find and to obtain intimacy with our Wonderful Redeemer.
While we speak and teach those things which become sound doctrine, we also must personally pursue Christ in His sufferings, and His death, and His resurrection. And what a privilege and glorious calling is ours! Fending off enemies and compromisers of the gospel must continue, but we must never assume that we have arrived just because by God’s grace we see things that were once hidden from us. Can we keep looking to Jesus even while we display discernment concerning the great falling away taking place all around us? Yes, we can, we must!
And so defending truth is not always standing in truth; And standing in truth is not always walking and loving truth; And unless our truth is completely summed up and revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ than all we have are organized doctrines. You can find Biblical doctrines through study and sometimes through original language credentials. But if we truly want to find Christ it takes denying self, sacrifice, much prayer and even fasting, and in the end it takes death. Ours.
Let us take it a step further. If our fight for truth involves a more furious battle with heretics than it does within our own hearts then our fight is self righteous on some level. Do we wrestle with our own battle to crucify the flesh and live out the truth found in Jesus? Are our ears and eyes keen to our own shortcomings as it pertains to a living expression of the One who is truth? Are we submitted to the watchman in our own lives? Are we constantly allowing the Holy Watchman to lay our own hearts before us?
God’s truth, found in God’s Son, is a soaring and emancipating truth. It frees the soul from bondage and imprisons the heart with the liberating chains of God’s love. And when that truth finds the journey from your head and into your heart, you become a bond servant to Christ, and we serve at the Master’s command and we yet enjoy all the benefits of a son. This is a great mystery which the natural or religious man cannot understand nor does he even wish to. But those who have been born of the Spirit and walk in that Spirit realize in a realm of spiritual glory that we are the servants of the Most High God and we are also the sons of the Father God as well.
Human words cannot fully reveal all the sacred intricacies of that truth and the eternal power within it, however we who have been made into that image not only live in that reality, but we glory in it as well. But what I am actually trying to convey in this post is that we can get so caught up with identifying heretics and heretical teachings that our own spiritual journey suffers greatly even though we remain committed to an orthodox theology. Personal growth in the Spirit is a labor of love, but it is still labor. We do not slide downhill and become like Jesus. Everything, and I mean everything, works against us when it comes to the sanctification process.
Reading the Word is essential to spiritual growth, but reading it is not enough. A Muslim can read the Word but unless he is redeemed it will not benefit him at all. And I have heard some say that the Holy Spirit interprets the Word for us and they are correct. However that process is not some “on command” event. God’s Spirit will not automatically share deep truths with a believer just because he reads the Word. There must be a humble approach that is fertilized by much prayer. But so often when we reach a level of Biblical knowledge, and when we have sorted out and embraced a certain set of doctrines, then when we do read the Word our minds play a nasty trick on us. We read the Word through the prism of our own doctrinal slant and we continually see things which support our doctrinal perspective, and in so doing we compromise the essence of the truth which the Spirit wishes to use in our own lives.
So when we read we seem to be on alert to identify and gather evidence which can lend its support for our Biblical perspective rather than receiving the spiritual correction and power necessary to consistently have our hearts and lives changed into an image that resembles Him. This is a great deception which not only stunts any Jesus-growth in our lives, but it opens the door to a self righteousness which is sometimes disguised as Biblical orthodoxy. And in our efforts to defend the Word against heretics we have allowed our own flesh to help us with that defense and ultimately that kind of partnership will lead to the flesh being completely in charge process. Do not be deceived, the flesh knows how to be orthodox.
How do I know this happens? Well in almost forty years I have witnessed it in the lives of some who I would consider orthodox brothers and sisters. But even further I have felt it and seen it many times in my own life. Yes, there have been times throughout my Christian walk where I have read the Word and unconsciously and consciously seen verses and teachings that I understood as supporting my doctrinal perspective. Sometimes it is accompanied by a fleshly exhilaration, and sometimes is a more subtle acknowledgment and satisfaction. But when I approach the Word with that kind of self affirmation I severely dilute the Spirit’s ministry in applying that truth to my own life.
And again, in a sincere effort to establish and defend truth my own spiritual walk suffers greatly. And a steady diet of that kind of compromised approach to the Word will always lead to a fleshly fortress which is filled with self affirmation, self righteousness, and a heightened sense of camaraderie with others who defend the same doctrinal fortress rather than a heightened sense of your own spiritual need, the enormous distance you have yet to go in Christ, and a disarming humility that realizes without any doubt that any truth you do know has been by God’s grace through the illumination of the Holy Spirit and not because of your own intellect. And when we receive the Word with that kind of contrition we are surrendering ourselves to His will in our own lives.
And it is in that spirit where our discernment is most valuable and where we can speak God’s truth without allowing our own flesh to have any part. It is very rare to see that these days and in fact it seems that kind of attitude is hardly even a goal anymore. Most discernment ministries have little time for a mirror except a self serving “we are all sinners” kind of token statement. Many strongly suggest that sinners should be broken over their sin before they can come to Christ but listen and see how many mature and orthodox brethren are broken over their own sin. We cannot allow our spiritual fruit to be defined by the accuracy of our inspection of the fruit in others.
I submit to all of us that the fight for truth must be most robust, most challenging, and most vigorous within the threshing floor of our own hearts and lives. If that is not evident then our outward defense of truth is little more than an academic exercise which resembles a contest between doctrinal debate teams. We must do better if we are to be called the followers of Jesus.