Hold Fast to the Truth

We live in a strange time of absolute relativism.

In this brave new world there is no meaning except that which you give to something. Your experience is what determines and defines your reality, and outside of that experience there is no such thing as Truth or Right and Wrong. You can’t tell someone they are wrong today, just that their opinion of reality is different than your own. To insist upon one perceived truth over another is an aggression against a person’s individuality and is not allowed. To claim to be right is the only thing that is wrong.

This all started small. I remember when math teachers were proposing that 2+2 might not always equal 5. Now you can’t make judgements about someone’s life choices without being labeled close minded and bigoted. This video from the Family Policy Institute of Washington is revealing:

We are so confused today that we can’t even tell someone today which bathroom they are supposed to use.

As much as people consider this as avant-guard thinking, the reality is, as Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Durning Jesus’ trial, Pilate asks him, “What is truth?” Paul warned young Timothy that there would come a time when “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Timothy dealt with this in the Church, as we still do today.

Today, if you preach that God is loving and gracious and forgiving, well that’s fine. But don’t tell me that I might be sinning in my dating relationships, or that my career and bank account have become idols, or that I have profaned the sabbath under the excuse of “quality family time at the lake”. That’s going too far. We are all too ready and eager to go shopping for a Church and a Preacher that will love the things we love, hate the things we hate, and never criticize our personal choices.

So how are we supposed to live in the midst of all of this? God’s Word to us from 2 Timothy is a strong foundation in this world of shifting sand. Here are a few points of application:

Recognize our own Tendency to Compromise
When reading 2 Timothy 4, it is easy to say that this applies only to those who are on the other end of the political/moral pendulum than me. They’re the ones who have itching ears, who wander from the truth, who find teachers who tickle their ears. In truth, we all gravitate toward likeminded people, and we resist those who will challenge and confront us. If we love the truth, then we must continue to put ourselves in the position where we will be corrected and reproofed by the truth. We must come to the realization that when the Scriptures address sin and call us to repentance, when the Preacher rebukes and exhorts, its not always about the other person; often times, its about you.

Be sober minded
I think a modern interpretation of this phrase might read, “Don’t flip out,” or “Don’t lose your head.” Being sober minded is being grounded in the truth. Yes, we live in a world of lies, and people love and and accept the lie more than they love the truth. There is a veil over their eyes, and they have been blinded to the truth. This is the state of affairs in a broken and sinful world.

So keep your head about you. At times it will seem as though the Truth is advancing, other times its seems as though the inmates are running the asylum. But this is not the end. Christ our Redeemer has overcome all things, including the lies and deception of the evil one. Love and hold fast to the truth, suffering for it, as you certainly will, with patience and compassion for those who are sadly deceived.

Do the Work of the Evangelist
The evangelist is one who proclaims good news in troubled times. In the midst of the lies, Christ came as the Way, the Truth, and the Life; He is the light in the midst of darkness, He is the truth that sets us free. In Him there is a resounding “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, but there is also a glorious “Yes!” godly living (Titus 2:11-14).

As followers of Christ, we are called to proclaim, to those who do not know the truth, and to those who are being swayed by the lies, to live out the truth in word and deed. With truth and love we are to proclaim Christ, calling all to repent and believe. We are to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).

So as I say each week at then end of worship, “Go out into the world in peace, be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good, return no one evil for evil, but help the suffering, strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, honor and serve all people, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit!”

Grace and peace,

Blessedness is…

“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:”
(Matthew 5:2 (ESV))

Reading through the Beatitudes as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-12), I began to wonder, “Are these attributes that we would associate with ‘blessedness’ today?”  When we consider those qualities and characteristics that the world admires and endorses, we find a strikingly different list. 

Today’s Beatitudes

  • Blessed are the financially secure
    Those who have no needs are the really fortunate ones.  They can stand on their own two feet.  They need no one’s help.  They possess their kingdom.
  • Blessed are the happy
    Happiness is a right, and nothing should infringe upon an individual’s right to be happy, however that may be experienced.  Sorrow should be avoided at any cost, for it is a sign that things just aren’t right.  If you are successful in life, you will be happy.
  • Blessed are those in power
    No one wants their lives to be out of control.  Those who have power, and are in control of their destiny are blessed.  They determine what they will do and when they will do it.  They have influence and authority over others.  They’ve got their lives well put together.
  • Blessed are those who are secure in their own morality and would never impose it on others
    We avoid the term self-righteous, it sounds smug and pretentious, but it reality we kind of admire it.  As long as your “self-righteousness” doesn’t’ infringe on my “self-righteousness” we should get along.  Each of us should be able to determine what’s right and wrong for our lives.  The only thing that we won’t tolerate in intolerance.
  • Blessed are the nice
    The greatest compliment that we can pay to someone today is that they are “very nice.”  They are polite, well-mannered, doing good for others, holding their tongue, socially acceptable.  The nice people don’t make waves, they don’t upset or confront those around them.  They’re just nice.
  • Blessed are those who find compromise
    It’s perfectly acceptable to have integrity and values for yourself, but compromise is the highest sign of sensibility.  When we can cross the aisle and embrace those who disagree with us, casting aside the peripheral matters, working our way down to the lowest common denominator, then we have achieved unity and maturity.
  • Blessed are those who can avoid conflict
    The world is full of conflict and war, struggle and oppression.  It happens on a global scale, but it also happens individually.  Fortunate are those who can go through life with little conflict, who can avoid having to confront the difficult problems of life, and can sleep well through the night.
  • Blessed are those who are treated well and are well-liked
    When you are treated poorly, perhaps it’s because you have acted poorly.  If you are persecuted for the things you’ve said and believe, maybe you need to reexamine your faith, or at least learn when to keep your mouth shut.  The world likes those who like the world.

Now compare that with what Jesus taught.

The Beatitudes

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit
    Those who realize they have nothing of their own to offer God, but come empty handed, in desperate need of God’s help – theirs is the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is the promise of God’s presence and provision.  He will, and has, supplied our every need.
  • Blessed are those who mourn
    The sorrow that comes from an awareness of our sin and the brokenness of a fallen world drives us to seek forgiveness in the grace of God.  Such an awareness comes only from the Holy Spirit; this kind of righteous mourning leads us to true comfort in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our encourager, only in Him will we know the true joy of the presence of God.
  • Blessed are the meek
    The meek are those who recognize that power and control are actually an illusion, that God is in control, and we must learn to trust and obey.  The meek put aside their plans and agendas to serve others first, following Christ their Lord.  The meek long for the treasure that awaits us, and therefore are not preoccupied with the trappings of power and possession of this world.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
    To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to recognize that as bread and water are essential for life, righteousness (true holiness and justification before God) is the greatest need for the soul.  To hunger and thirst for righteousness then, means that our greatest desire is to be right with God, and to see righteousness in the lives of others.  When our greatest goal in life is to pursue the glory of God in righteousness, we will be truly satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful
    Mercy is different than nice.  Mercy is illogical, irrational, and uncommon.  It means not lashing out when wounded, but offering grace and forgiveness instead, showing compassion especially to an offender.  Mercy, like grace, is a gift that comes with no expectations of return.  It is loving the unlovable, forgiving the unrepentant, serving the ungrateful.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart
    To be pure in heart means to have a heart that is undivided, wholly fixed and directed to one end.  Having a heart of integrity, directed toward God’s glory and goodness, is what God created (and re-created) us for.  Repeatedly we are called to direct our heart to the Lord, to serve him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Such wholehearted love of God leads us to true unity and maturity as we grow in the likeness of Christ.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers
    Peacemakers are not those who avoid problems or difficult situations, but those who deal with them head on and work through them.  To be peacemakers in God’s kingdom is to proclaim the gospel, to teach, correct, rebuke, and train one another in righteousness.  Peacemakers proclaim justice for the oppressed, healing to the sick, freedom to the enslaved.  Born of a peace that comes from salvation in Jesus Christ, they are the sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted and reviled because of me
    If you have gone through this life never knowing the consequence of standing for your faith, perhaps your faith has been inconsequential in your life.  The persecution we face for believing in Christ, for contending for the faith, draws us closer to Christ.  Remembering Jesus’ words, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

Friends, judge for yourselves which teaching you will follow, where you will find the true blessedness.  One shows you where the world would have you look to find happiness, the other where Jesus says happiness is found.  One would have you follow the ladder to success and empowerment, the other would have you take up your cross and follow your savior.  As Joshua said, “if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).