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Bible Basics: Accepting the Mind of Christ

 

bible basics

WE NEED BIBLE BASICS

It’s time to get back to Bible basics.  With the entrance of each new century, breakthroughs occur which seem to amaze mankind and contribute to exponential growth and possibilities for mankind.

However, even with the advent of new thinking and extraordinary technology, as Solomon once stated, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles. 1:9).  We continue to be plagued with the difficulties of managing relationships, occupations, and our own “inner demons.”  We cry out for a “new way” of living when all we need is to get back to Bible basics.

We can see this playing out in our communities as people seek homeopathic and holistic options for managing their health needs; ultimately realizing that what they are doing is “what grandma use to do.”

We are desperately seeking ways to reclaim our lives through simplification, some even becoming minimalist.  We are realizing that the “basics” provide the best quality of life rather than the 21st century’s claim to the “best life”.

THE NEED TO RETURN

This same trend is occurring with people of faith as we return to Bible basics—prayer, Bible study, practicing the presence of the Lord, and scriptural meditation, just to name a few.  Enamored with new practices and the “repackaging” of old disciplines, we forgot the basics we learned when we first fell in love with Jesus.  Mindfulness is really nothing new.

It is because of this trend that we will be focusing on getting back to Bible basics.  We will begin with A—“Accepting the Mind of Christ”.

In today’s text, the Apostle Peter writes to God’s persecuted “elect” who were scattered throughout what is now modern Turkey. In this broad statement, Peter describes for those early believers what Christian living should look like. This would be of great benefit to them as they deflected attacks by those who challenged their “good conversation in Christ” (1 Pet. 3:16).

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Pet. 4:1-2)

Since Christ suffered in the realm of the fleshly existence, Christians are to arm themselves with the same attitude that guided Him. To arm metaphorically means to “take on the same mind”. Christ “who suffered in the flesh” by way of the Cross dealt with the “sin issue” once and for all.   Paul reminded the new believers that Jesus Christ “has once suffered for sins…that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit ” (1 Pet. 3:18).

CHRIST’S POWER AGAINST SIN

As a result of Christ’s action, we have been released from the power of sin and can, by appropriating Christ’s power, cease from sin. Through the sanctification process, the believer is transformed and conformed into the image of Christ, turning from sinful behavior and activity.

The Apostle Paul describes this process in Romans 6:6-8 (Phillip’s Translation):

Let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken—for as dead man can safely be said to be free from the power of sin. And if we were dead men with Christ we can believe that we shall also be men alive with him.

 THE WEAPON OF CHOICE—THE MIND OF CHRIST

Peter gives a two-fold purpose for arming ourselves with Christ’s attitude.

First, we  are not to spend the rest of our life chasing after evil desires. Although we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, we must continue to deal with the reality of living in our physical bodies or “unredeemed flesh” (Rom. 7:17-19).

While we remain contained in our unredeemed flesh, we can, however, arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. The believer’s life is not to be lived in satisfying the urging of their old flesh but we are to “reckon themselves dead to sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).

OBEDIENCE AND LOVE NEEDED

Second, we are to be governed by the will of God. Christ was obedient to all God directed Him to do (John 4:34; 5:30). Obedience to God goes beyond issues of “time, talent and treasures”.

Obedience begins in the heart (Ps. 40:8).  Jesus loved the Father and show that love by following His instructions and commandments (John 14:31).  There are occasions when our love is divided—still tethered to this world. Such division results in “love breakers” more often than “law breakers”.

If we truly love God, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Furthermore, if we love Him we will also love others (1 John 4:20-21). This love will be evidenced in our service and our desire to share the Good News of the Gospel.

RISE TO THE CHALLENGE

Today we are under attack by a society who challenges the authority of God’s Word as well as the authenticity of our faith.  Peter’s message speaks to 21st century believers as we strive to live lives that honor and glorify God.  As we face these affronts, let us arm ourselves with the mind of Christ.  Remember Peter’s counsel to the persecuted elect:

…even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. (1 Pet. 3:14, 15)

Join us next week as we continue with back to Bible basics with “B—Building Spiritual Endurance”.

Spiritual Discernment: Then you will know

Spiritual discernment

Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. Hosea 6:3 (NKJV)

How do we become better at discernment?”  We now know that we have the means to be discerning.  We have God’s Word which establishes the standard for truth which is the cornerstone of discernment.  In addition, believers have the Holy Spirit, the very presence of Deity within them to help (John 16:13-15).

Let me be clear to distinguish between personal discernment and the gift of spiritual discernment that is given to certain believers within a Church.  This discernment is available to all believers to assist them in navigating the error traps and poor choices presented in this broken and fallen world.

In Hosea 6:3 the prophet encourages the nation of Israel to “know” and to “pursue” the knowledge of the LORD. The literal translation is this:   “Then shall we know if we follow on to know”. The conjunction, “if” supposes that a certain condition is needed to accomplish the specific task.  In this case, to know the knowledge of God—His mind and His will—one must first “follow on or pursue” Him.  It requires action on pursuer’s part.  Such is the case with the pursuit of discernment; to have it you must be committed to pursuing it.

IT’S NOT ONLY ABOUT WHAT WE CHOOSE BUT ALSO HOW WE CHOOSE

The pursuit of discernment requires that we know “what we are looking for”.  It is not only “what to choose” but as importantly, we need to know “how to choose”.  This eliminates the need for checklists of “do’s and don’ts”.  How do we “follow on to know”?  How do we increase our spiritual discernment?

Spiritual discernment begins with the desire for it.

Watchman Nee, in his book Spiritual Discernment, puts forth the thought that believers already have within them the ability to discern rightly.  This is possible because of our new nature—the old man is dead and we are now new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Man simply needs to be “trained” to obey the spirit man within him.

In addition the Holy Spirit is gifted to everyone who believes to help us discern correctly.  That is why the unregenerate, natural man, cannot discern the things of God (1 Cor. 2:13-14).  Watchman Nee further contends that the training in discernment begins with the “breaking of man’s self-will”—to bring him into submission so that he will choose God’s way versus his own.  This breaking is accomplished through our trials and tribulations (James 1:2-3) which help to reshape our wills for God’s purposes versus Satan’s and the world’s (Rom. 12:2).

Our intellect cannot help us gain discernment (Prov. 3:5). It is God’s discernment that is needed to “separate, understand, and make known the right choices”.  Nee offers the position that to discern God’s truth, man must die to self in order follow God’s way.  Spiritual discernment starts with our desire for it.   

Spiritual discernment requires BELIEVERS to be THOUGHTFUL and intentional.

In his book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Tim Challies urges believers to be vigil and steadfast in pursuit of discernment.

A lack of discernment leaves Christians unable to protect themselves and others, and allows sin to flood in.  God offers you the cure when he offers you spiritual discernment.  Empowered by His Spirit, you can be equipped to distinguish “light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteous from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics.

It is our responsibility as believers  to test and examine everything that comes into our sphere of influence and insure that it conforms to God’s standard.  This requires that we not only affirm and accept the accuracy and the sufficiency of Scripture but that we, as believers, accept its authority over our life.

Such spiritual conviction requires that we spend quality time with Jesus—receiving His instructions and directions.  It is in our quiet time that we can train our ear to hear His voice above the crowd and do the right things (John 10:27).  This will be critical as the sounds of the world cry out for our attention and for our loyalty.  We will “know in our spirit” when something is “not right” because we have genuine truth provided by God as our standard of excellence.    Spiritual discernment requires believers to be thoughtful and intentional.    

Spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness and excellence of God

I remember when I received my first pearls from my parents.  It was a single strand necklace with matching earrings (non-pierced).  I cherished those pearls because they helped in shaping my new identity as a young woman.  No more “plastic pop beads” (Am I dating myself?)  While the plastic beads were “OK”, the pearls my parents gave me, were “the best.”

Discernment not only helps us identify error but it also helps us to choose God’s best for our lives—the more excellent things in life. Jesus taught this concept in His parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:44-52).  Are believers settling for “OK” when “God’s best” is awaiting them?

Hannah Anderson in All That’s Good:  Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, uses Paul’s final words in Philippians 4:8 to define what is good and excellent.  Recognition of God’s goodness and excellence can assist believers in their development of spiritual discernment.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.  

  • Truth stands under the scrutiny of God’s Word and God’s truth. “Only in the light of truth can we be safe; only in the light of truth can we know what is truly good.”
  • Noble or honorable requires that we respect and regard the life of our fellowman, created in God’s image. “When we fail to honor those whom God honors, we will miss goodness because we lose access to their unique gifts, capacities, and experiences.  As we pursue honor, we become honorable people.”
Justice is more that kind words.
  • Justice requires fairness. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.”   
  • Purity judges things against the standard of God’s holiness and faithfulness—it seeks out deceitfulness and unfaithfulness. “The solution to impurity is not simply abstinence or ignorance; it is to pursue what is pure.”
  • Lovely requires us to seek those things worth being loved. The primary thing in the life of the believer that is “worth loving” is Jesus.  When we consider “things that are lovely” we lift our eyes above this world to the things of heaven (Col. 3:1-2).  “We find goodness binding our hearts to Him, drawing us on, ever pursuing, ever seeking, ever searching until the beauty of the Lord finally rests upon us.”
  • Good report (commendable) deals with “speaking well” and refers to speech that is thoughtful, appropriate, considered, and careful. What we talk about says a lot about who we are.  “We are all curators, collectors, and exhibitors of information.  How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  If we spend our days sharing trivialities, life will be trivial.  If we spend our days focused on fear, life will be filled with anxiety.”  Spend your days talking about good, worthy, glorious things and see your life change.

Spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness and excellence of God.

HOW DO WE BECOME BETTER AT DISCERNMENT?

Gaining spiritual discernment is not only about what we choose but also about how we choose.  It begins with having a true desire to discern—even in the midst of resistance and persecution from the world.

Spiritual discernment requires believers to be thoughtful and intentional—committed to unearthing the truth through the filter of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Lastly, spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness of God including the excellence of His character outlined in His ways and His works.

Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.  Let us pursue spiritual discernment.

Spiritual Discernment: What is It?

What is discernment?  More specifically, what is spiritual discernment? We’ve described it as our error detection system and something that is needed to lighten our darkened eyes.  Today we will explore in greater detail the definition of discernment and how it fits in the life of the believer.

What Is It?

John MacArthur in his book Reckless Faith:  When the Church Loses its Will to Discern, describes discernment as “the ability to understand, interpret, and apply truth skillfully.” Let’s begin our study with this basic definition and how discernment is used in the New and Old Testament.

The Language of Discernment

In the Old Testament (written in Hebrew), there are three (3) key words used to describe discernment.  The first (ben) refers to intervals or spaces placed between different objects. It implies a judgment that is needed in order to make the proper separation. This word is used in an earlier scripture we studied in which Solomon requested from God the ability to judge or make the proper separation between right and wrong.  (1 Kin. 3:9)

The second (bina) translates to mean understanding; it refers to intellectual understanding.  The warning is Proverbs 3:5 to “lean not to you own understanding” highlights the use of this translation of discernment.  Daniel’s ability to understand dreams also illustrates this word in Daniel 10:1.

The final use (tebuna) implies skill or cleverness for determining the right course of action.  In Deuteronomy 32, the central theme is the prophecy of Israel’s future apostasy as a result of their inability to discern the right course of action: “They are a nation void of sense; there is no understanding in them. If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern what the end would be.” (Deut. 32:28-29)

The Greek word for discernment (diakrino) in the New Testament carries similar meanings as in the Old Testament but introduces the concept of making a distinction or judging.  Paul uses this translation in 1 Cor. 2:14-15 as he explains the inability of the “natural man” to accept (or make a distinction between) the things of God and the world because they must be “spiritually discerned”.

Truth:  The Standard for Spiritual Discernment  

Recognizing the various descriptions of discernment, how are we as believers to separate right from wrong?  On what are we to base our understandings?  How do we choose the right course of action?

On what do we base our spiritual discernment?

At the heart of discernment is truth.  That is why the Church and Christians, in general, are concerned with the definition (and decline) of truth in our current society.  Without a standard for moral conduct and behavior, man constructs his own definition of truth which, many times, is influenced by his personal beliefs and individual preferences.

In the absence of a reliable standard, counterfeits fill the void.  These counterfeits deceive, distract, and ultimately destroy those plans God has designed for individuals and for the furtherance of His kingdom (Eph. 2:10).  So how does truth work with discernment?  Truth operates as a “counterfeit detector”.

To Catch a Counterfeiter

One would think (at least I did) that to identify counterfeit money, one need only be trained to look for errors or mistakes on the fake bill.  To the contrary, agents of the government are trained instead to recognize what a genuine bill looks like.  The approach used for distinguishing a genuine bill is summarized in the phrase “touch, tilt, look through, look at”.  In each step, the examiner knows the characteristics of the genuine bill   Thieves are continually at work to improve their counterfeit techniques so the fakes often “change”.  However, the genuine bill never changes—it always the same.

God’s Truth and Discernment

This is also the case with God’s truth (which includes His character)—it never changes (Malachi 3:6).  God’s truth is found in two places—His Word (the Bible) and His Holy Spirit.  These two “truth standards” remain unchanged—regardless of time, circumstance, or social deviations (Heb. 13:8; Isaiah 40:8).  God’s Word and Spirit allows us “to separate truth from error”, providing us a foundation on which “to base our understanding” and equips us “to determine the right course of action.”

When we spend time with God and become familiar with His Word, we will be able to quickly identify His truth and His will for whatever situation we may encounter in our life.  Truth, God’s truth, is the ONLY STANDARD by which spiritual discernment is possible.

Truth or Error

Take a look around the world we live in today. Whose truth would you say is being followed–Satan’s or God’s? It is evident that we live in a broken world.  However, that does not negate our ability to recognize and utilize God’s truth and authority in guiding our choices and lifestyle.  With God’s truth and the Holy Spirit, spiritual discernment is possible.  Without these two, spiritual discernment is impossible (remember 1 Cor. 2:14-15).

When we choose to disregard the authority of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are inviting chaos and disorder into the world.  We become willing participants in Satan’s plans.

Have we, as a nation and Church suppressed the truth in exchange for political influence?  Have we chosen social correctness and financial gain over that which honors God?  Have we exchanged the truth for the lie?  (Rom. 1:18-25)

So what is spiritual discernment?

Spiritual discernment is the ability to recognize and use God’s truth and authority to guide our life.  God’s Word and His Spirit is the “standard for truth” and help to identify error and deception.

Discernment: Light for Darkened Eyes

Image of Discernment text

If you haven’t noticed, In The Word Ministries has dedicated at least one teaching series each year to the general topic of truth.  We’ve delved into truth through series on the whole counsel of God, seeking truth, and the wisdom of God, just to name a few.  And now, in support of  this year’s theme, 20/20 VISION, we are focusing on the topic of discernment.

Why discernment?

So what!  Why should we care about discernment?  Without spiritual discernment we risk “the light within us becoming darkness”.  There are many factors that affect our ability to know truth.  For purposes of this teaching, I’ll share two that immediately necessitates the need to cultivate a spirit of discernment.

Truth redefined  

In the 21st century there is little understanding or agreement as to what truth really is.  As defined in the postmodern world absolute truth does not exist. Supporters of postmodernism deny long-held beliefs and conventions.  They maintain that all viewpoints are equally valid.

Political posturing and social jockeying have taken the pursuit of truth to new levels.  Individuals and organizations utilize misinformation (the unintended sharing of false information) and disinformation (the deliberate creation and sharing of information known to be false) to influence advocacy and individual agendas.   Even institutions once deemed guardians of truth—media, government, business, and non-governmental organizations—are now viewed suspiciously.[1]

[1]  The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report

The Heart wants what the Heart wants

People reject a standard for truth because of their greater desire to do “that which seems right in their own eyes”.  But what is right?

A recent Barna Research study, The End of Absolutes: America’s New Moral Code, found no agreement on the definition of morality today.

What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions? According to a majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience. This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults. Three-quarters of Millennials (74%) agree strongly or somewhat with the statement, “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know,” compared to only 38 percent of Elders. And Millennials (31%) are three times more likely than Elders (10%) and twice as likely as Boomers (16%) and Gen-Xers (16%) to strongly agree with the statement.  

People want “what they want” including freedom to choose what fits their preference and life style, even if it means disobedience to God.

The Need for Discernment

Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.    Luke 11:34-35 (RSV)

In our text Jesus teaches the “Parable of the Lighted Lamp” to the Pharisees and the crowd.  Jesus uses the metaphor, the “lamp of the eye” to describe the use of the eye for more than “sight” but also for “light”.   Jesus explains when the “eye is bad”, the problem is not due to a lack of light—but due to a lack of perception or how they see truth.   Even with light, only those with eyes to see will see it.

Discernment is needed to provide “light” within us to contrast error with the goodness of God.  The lack of spiritual discernment is like color-blindness–it may not seem that important initially but its harm become evident when your life depends on it.  Error paints the world, not in terms of black and white, right or wrong, but in dangerous “shades of gray.”  Be careful lest the light in you be darkness.

Spiritual Discernment: A Request for Discernment

Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice.”  1 Kings 3:11 (NKJ)

Discernment, the process of keen insight and good judgment, has always been desired by men as they attempt to successfully execute their duties as leaders, managers, and advisors. Requesting spiritual discernment, on the other hand, is something that requires a fuller understanding of its power and personal responsibility.

In the Old Testament, Daniel depended on spiritual discernment in his role as ruler over the province of Babylon and chief administrator over all the wise men in Babylon.  As Daniel interpreted his vision to King Belshazzar, he acknowledges it was “he (an angel) who told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things.” (Daniel 7:16)   Daniel sought spiritual discernment.  The psalmist asked the Lord to “open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from your law.” (Psalm 119:18) “Opening the eyes” metaphorically described supernatural vision enabled within the psalmist to comprehend the astonishing things God revealed in His Word—that which could not be physically perceived.  The Psalmist prayed for spiritual discernment.

In the New Testament, Paul describes the dilemma of the unregenerate as they attempt to receive spiritual discernment.  “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The unregenerate is denied spiritual discernment.

In our study text (1 King 3:9-14), King Solomon, upon ascension to the throne of Israel, asks the Lord for what he feels is essential in order to serve this great nation.  Here Solomon models for us the key essentials in approaching God and requesting spiritual discernment.

First, Solomon recognized his position as a servant before the Divine Regent of the world (Is. 33:22).  He was retained by God to administer all the functions of government on behalf of God.  Solomon was to be judge, lawgiver, and king.  Secondly, Solomon requested an understanding heart to judge the people.  Solomon was concerned with possessing not only compassion and tenderness for the people but that he would perform his duties with virtue and integrity so that the people would feel they were treated justly, honestly and free from bias.  Finally, Solomon asked for the ability to discern between good and evil.  To discern (shama) is interpreted to mean to perceive or to hear.  More specifically it means to hear in such a way as to give one’s undivided listening attention.  The main idea behind shama is the need to “perceive the message being sent”.  In other words, Solomon is asking that he will hear a word from God to help him distinguish between good and evil.

The Message paraphrase expresses Solomon’s request this way: “Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil.  For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?”  

Because of Solomon’s request for discernment, God honored Him with more than he could have ever imagined (1 Kin. 3:12-14).

To discern good from evil has become more difficult as evil rapidly gains new levels of acceptability each day.  Just listen to the news or read your favorite blog.  People are calling what’s wrong right and what is right as wrong (Is. 5:20-23).   Charles “Chuck” Swindoll, Christian pastor, author, educator, and radio preacher, has noted three troubling changes in our nation that highlight the need for spiritual discernment.

  1. The blurring of the line between right and wrong, truth from error, and between morality and immorality
  2. The growing ignorance of biblical knowledge and the following of Scripture as our moral guide
  3. The intensified embracing of post-modernism and secularism by Christians

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 16

Imagine in your spiritual mind…

  • What this nation would be like if our elected officials asked for understanding to discern justice as they administer their duties?
  • What would our cities look like if people had God-listening hearts to guide their relationships with others?
  • How would our churches operate if they asked God for spiritual discernment to serve the communities with understanding hearts?

It is time for us to be intentional in our pursuit of spiritual discernment as we continue in these “evil and wicked days” (Ep. 5:15-21).  Like Daniel, we must seek it.  Like the psalmist, we must pray for it.  Like Solomon, we must humbly yet boldly ask for it.

Spiritual Discernment: Our Error Detection System

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10   (ESV)

In television technology, Error Detection and Handling (EDH) protocol is commonly used as part of the standard interface.  This protocol allows a television receiver to verify that each field of video is received correctly.  The EDH contains certain “bits” to signal that a prior link in a broadcast or transmission chain contained an error.  The EDH protocol does not provide for error correction, only error detection.  Why are we talking about television technology, errors, and correction systems?  We too need spiritual methods to not only detect moral errors that are so prevalent in this present world system but that also provide a way to correct them.  We need discernment.  Today we introduce a new series, “Discernment:  Seeing with 20/20 Vision”.

Discernment involves the process of keen insight and good judgment.  People are usually discerning about things that are important to them.  For example, if you are watching your weight, you will be very discerning about the food you select and its preparation.  If you are in need of legal advice, you will exercise great discernment in the selection of the best lawyer to assist you.  In similar manner, spiritual discernment helps believers “judge well”.

Spiritual discernment encompasses separating divine truth from error.  This is a difficult task as we are torn between the world’s influence, our human flesh, and Satan’s deception.  First Thessalonians 5:21 advises us to “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.”  The world has told us there is no such thing as “good”—no standard of right or wrong; it is all relative, based on each person’s unique situation.

When the Church exercises spiritual discernment, it is accused of being intolerant: individuals who “hold fast to what is good” are labeled as narrow-minded and bigoted.  If believers, individually and collectively, are to be “salt and light” in a fallen world (Matt. 5:13-16), spiritual discernment must be practiced and protected. Spiritual discernment equips believers to clearly recognize error by “seeing through God’s eyes.”  It finds its basis in God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.

God’s Word is the ultimate source of truth.  It becomes the spiritual “EDH” by which we can detect error and is the perfect standard by which we distinguish right from wrong.

    • For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb.  4:12)
    • The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. (Ps. 119:160)

The Holy Spirit, living within us, is the Truth Discerner, who will lead us into all truth.  He knows the mind of God and will direct us based on God’s purpose and plan for our life.

    • But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13)
    • So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Gal. 5:16)

God has given us His Word and His Spirit to guide us in all wisdom and knowledge, that we may live righteous and holy lives (2 Pet. 1:3-4).  If we seek only to be “healthy, wealthy, and wise”, we will not be spiritually discerning.  It is our responsibility as children of light (Eph. 5:8) and defenders of truth (1 Pet. 3:15) to embrace and cultivate spiritual discernment.

Dare to be a Truth Teller

I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed.

Psalm 119:46, (NKJ)

Are you a truth teller?  This might seem like a strange question to ask but it provides a great starting point for personal reflection as we close this series.  We began by asking the question, “Can you handle the truth?”  We defined truth as the meaning and reality of life defined by God versus truth shaped by postmodern thinking.  The believer’s source of truth is presented by God Himself in His Word and through the direction of the “Spirit of Truth”, the Holy Spirit.  Truth defined by God becomes the compass by which believers are able to discern truth from error (1 John 4:6) therefore allowing them to live out their God-ordained purpose (Ep. 2:10).

How well am I doing with being truthful?   Following God’s truth may result in rejection and personal persecution.  Inside the safety of the church walls it’s easy to agree with the ethics and morality inherent in God’s truth.  However, once outside the “physical boundaries” of the church, it is the “heart” which must reflect God’s truth.  It is the heart that directs the mind, will, and emotions (the soul) to sieve the noise of the world through the filter of God’s truth.  Truth and obedience are closely connected as believers must choose between God’s instructions or man’s acceptance (Matt. 10:28).

Does the world want to know the truth?  Or is truth simply a remnant of the 20th century—no longer relevant in today’s fast-paced, high tech world?  Unfortunately, truth is often defined by what’s trending on social media.  To further complicate the search for truth, corporate/community leaders and aspiring politicians create “untruthful” responses to difficult social issues that simply satisfy people who don’t really want to know the truth; so the community and nation are given a lie (instead of truth) to make them feel better.  Unfortunately people would rather believe a lie than the truth—think about that for a minute!  Are people really being deceived or are they simply choosing to believe a lie? It’s easier (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Am I ready to be a truth teller?  We must ask ourselves why we sometimes choose to believe a lie rather than the truth.  The truth may be related to our life style, our family, or even about us personally.  Perhaps we are judgmental, critical, or unforgiving.  That’s why it is so important to regularly pray that the Holy Spirit expose those areas that interfere with receiving the truth of God.

To be a truth teller requires boldness to stand for holy “rightness” (Heb. 13:6) and to proclaim what is God’s truth versus what is politically or socially correct (Luke 12:4-5; Ps. 119:46). When Jesus taught the Beatitudes to His disciples, He established a new standard of truth that was to be actualized in the life of the believer—a standard that would result in holy and sanctified (set apart) living.  Paul declared himself to be a truth teller.  While it resulted in his persecution and polarization from the mainstream, he boldly proclaimed:  “None of these things [persecution and prison] move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I can finish my race with joy.” (Acts 20:24)  Dare to be a truth teller.

The Spirit of Truth

 

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”   John 14:16-17 (NLT)

John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the USA, shared the following observation about truth.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”  

Likewise regarding truth, the Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy of the dangers that await him as new converts would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).  Truth, unfortunately, is being packaged in many forms; many are more speculation and creative editorializing, than substantive truth.  Because of this trend, it is important that believers have a “real-time” reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  While our primary guide is the Word of God, as we discussed last week, God has also provided another source—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Earlier we defined truth as that which agrees with reality. For the believer, our reality has been defined by what God has placed in His written Word.  For the disciples in our text today, however, there was no written Word as they faced a hostile world without the presence of their Beloved Jesus (John 15:18-20).  It was Jesus’ presence that gave them the courage to challenge the spiritual tyranny of the religious leaders.  It was Jesus’ loving response to the diseased and disenfranchised that modeled what true love looked like.  They would need God’s truth as they turned their focus to witnessing (Acts 1:8), baptizing and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

In John 14 Jesus promises to send the Spirit of Truth that would abide with them forever.  It was the Holy Spirit Who would now come to live within them.  We generally think of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifting or empowering believers to accomplish the purposes and ministries of Christ.  However, the attribute Jesus chose to share with His disciples in John’s text focused on “truth”.  It would be the Spirit of Truth that would assist the disciples as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would be tempted to denounce and deny Him Whom “the world could not receive, because it neither saw Him nor knew Him” (v. 17).  They would need the Spirit of Truth to call “to remembrance” the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—especially His work of salvation for sinners (John 14:26).  The Spirit of Truth would assist the disciples in accomplishing the “greater works” promised by Jesus (John 14:12).   Jesus was indeed “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.  After Jesus’ departure, the ministry of truth would continue because the Spirit of Truth.

Like the disciples of the first century, believers in the 21st century have the assistance of the Spirit of Truth to assist them especially in exposing the spirit of error.  The spirit of error is seen in the morays and life styles of the world.  For unbelievers, it leads them to be deceived and disobedient to the purposes of God in their life (Ep. 2:2).  For the believer, the spirit of error tempts them to doubt God truth and draw them away from the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:15).  The Spirit of Truth stands ready to silence the lies, myths and fables of the 21st century.  Our confidence lies in the promise, power, and presence of the Spirit of Truth.  He is our True Compass as we search for truth.

Can You Handle the Truth?

“…and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

John 8: 31-32 (NRSV)

Can we handle the truth?  Especially when that truth is measured against the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus Christ?   To walk in biblical truth while living in a postmodern world will be a major challenge for believers as we enter into this second decade of the 21st century.

With all the political rhetoric and social bantering, it is clear that this world is in need of truth.  But can we handle it?  Behind the news bytes and sound bits, there is an intention movement currently underway to redefine what truth is and what it isn’t.  This is nothing new.  This inclination to “repackage” the truth comes directly from the father of lies, Satan himself (John 8:44).   Be careful how you define truth or you too may fall prey to the subtly of deception.  “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1, NLT)

In decades past, people could depend on the media to communicate the “truth” with regard to specific issues of the day.  Newspapers, magazine publications and newscasters were committed to operate at the highest ethical standards.  In addition, people could depend on their local leaders—civic or religious—to offer truth, as they knew best.  But over time that has changed.  Unfortunately both media and individuals can only offer their own opinions based on personal agendas or corporate bias, leaving individuals still “in search for truth”.  Truth is now shaped by social media and image consultants—by the number of “likes”, “retweets” and “followers” one can amass.

What is truth?  Truth is defined as that which agrees with reality.  The believer’s reality and meaning is grounded in God.  That reality began in the Garden of Eden.  Created in God’s image, our purpose and destiny is tied to our identity in Him through Christ (Col. 3:3).  This reality was sidetracked by sin and replaced with Satan’s counterfeit that placed self on the throne where only Christ was to be seated and exalted.  Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross, our sins were forgiven and we are now reconciled back to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).  When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood.  Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15).   “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).

More than ever before, believers must connect with the only True Source of Truth, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (John 14:6).  God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth stand ready to silence the lies, myths and fables we might hear  (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  God is the only source of truth for our lives.  Can you handle the truth?