The Big IF: Truth

The Big IF: Truth

The Big IF: Truth. 

Sometimes our eyes just skip over small words in Scripture when we are reading in a hurry. In other words, if we’re not careful, if we find ourselves skimming the Bible, we will miss what might be the most important word in our relationship with God. We might be blind to a little word that quite possibly is central to our discipleship of Jesus. The word is “IF.” If is not a word to skip over, because it is often followed by a “Then.” Jesus makes many promises in the Gospels, and many of them have an “If” attached. If you do this, then I will do that, says Jesus. He seems to offer many conditional promises, what seem to be promises with strings attached. Conditional promises highlight the fact that we need to do our part in our relationship with Christ. We need to accept our responsibility as we cooperate with Him. We are active participants in our walk with the Lord. God offers us unconditional love, but we do have obligations if we expect to receive what He has promised. When we do our part, we are not earning salvation. We instead are putting forth effort as we live into our life of deliverance. We are doing our part in order to receive God’s promises. Obedience to Christ often translates into actively fulfilling on the “IF” so that God can fulfill the “Then.” This is another way we are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13).

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31, 32, 36).

To Know. Knowledge is a relationship word in the Scripture. The Bible says that one can only know something through personal involvement, through an intimate experience with whatever or whoever is known. Knowing something involves a heartfelt focus, an intense investment. To know something is to care for it, to give oneself over to it. Knowledge is a personal union with whatever is known. To know is to have a committed understanding of something or someone. One doesn’t know something unless it has changed the knower. Knowledge of Scripture is like this, or knowledge of someone. When Jesus talked about knowing Him and thus knowing the Father, it is this very experience He’s talking about. A knowledge of Him that is personal, intimate, committed. Knowing Him in a way that changes us. Knowledge that involves giving ourselves over to Him in a deeply personal way. Head knowledge is not sufficient, because it leaves the knowledge in the abstract. Limiting our knowledge to religious principles, doctrinal statements or theological propositions doesn’t go deep enough. Too many of us stop at talking about God, instead of talking to God. Intellectual knowledge is a dead end if disconnected from a personal relationship with God. Knowing God requires a personal investment, an intimate involvement. Otherwise it’s all just an idea. And God can tell the difference. The worst words any of us could possibly ever hear at the End is, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:33).

The Way. The Person of Jesus provides the only way to reach the Father. He is the only road to God. He is the pathway to Yahweh. Access to the Father is only through Him. As spelled out in the Gospels, Jesus is the only way to God and to abundant, eternal life. There is a Jesus way to do things, a Jesus way to live life. His way is energized by and rooted in love. Love is the Jesus way. Love is the distinctive way of life for Jesus-followers. Love is the defining lifestyle, now, and as it was in the early Christian community. In fact, members of the Christian Faith were even called people of The Way before they were called Christians (Acts 9:2). Early believers adopted the Jesus way, and were known by their love for each other.

“The Jesus way wedded to Jesus truth brings about the Jesus life. Jesus as the way is the most frequently evaded metaphor among the Christians with whom I have worked for 50 years as a North American pastor. The way comes first. We cannot skip the way of Jesus in our hurry to get to the truth of Jesus as He is worshipped and proclaimed. The way of Jesus is how we come to understand the truth of Jesus, by living Jesus in our homes and workplaces, with our friends and our families.” (Eugene Peterson).

The Truth. Jesus claimed that truth isn’t some abstract idea or principle. Truth is a Person. Truth represents reality, and Jesus embodies the true essential reality of God. Truth is the revelation of established fact, and Jesus represents the indisputable fact of God’s existence in the world. Truth is not tainted by error or falsehood. Jesus was pure truth, there was no falsehood in Him. Truth is an inextricable part of Jesus’ DNA. Truth and Jesus are indivisible, it is intertwined with His essence and character. So when He taught, He told others the divine truth. When He healed, He communicated the truth of God’s zeal for wholeness. Jesus contains truth the way water contains oxygen. A few hours after His Farewell Discourse with His disciples, Jesus would be standing face-to-face with Pontius Pilate. And Jesus told Pilate, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” And Pilate, ever the skeptic, then asked Jesus his famous question, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). Pilate didn’t realize it at the time, but he was staring at Truth full in the face. He was talking with Truth in the flesh, Truth with skin on. Jesus testified to the truth by revealing Himself, the Author of truth. Jesus came into the world to show us what truth really is, what truth looks like in real life.

Freedom. In what way are we free once we start following the Truth? Once slaves to sin, we have our shackles removed and we freely follow the Lord without that paralyzing soul-slavery. We are no longer bound to the evil desires with which we were born. As disciples, we are freed from our fallen DNA and given a new spiritual DNA, allowing us to live a life that will please God. When in bondage to sin, we were self-deceived. As a free follower of Christ, we are truth-enlightened, able to freely choose the way to eternal life. While hopeless slaves, Jesus paid to ransom us and set us free. He paid with His life. His blood frees us from the darkness and confusion of sin and brings us into the light of God’s brilliant glory.

The Holy Spirit. The quiet partner for us in our living into the truth is the third Person of the Trinity, the person whom Jesus called the Spirit of Truth. “He will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-14). The Father gave us the Truth, Jesus is the Truth, the Holy Spirit reflects Jesus and the Father and thus is the Spirit of Truth. We are promised that the Spirit of Truth will reside inside us and will be with us forever. (John 14:16-17). So in  a sense, the Godhead is trying to make it easy for us to find the truth. That is an act of mercy.