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September/October Issue 2004 - Volume 23 Number 5
“Buy the Truth”
“Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6
Several years ago while a guest in a home in Hyderabad, India, I had the pleasure of talking for a while with older, Indian gentleman who believed that he was quite a debater and philosopher. The conversation turned to the question that Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:36). According to this gentleman, there is no such thing as truth. His proof, and the only proof he offered that day, was the fact that Jesus never answered Pilate’s question. This gentleman chose to ignore the entire context of the scripture surrounding the question, and preferred to base his philosophical conclusions on the fact that Pilate left the room when he had asked the question without any response from the Lord recorded. Rather than assume from these facts that there is no such thing as truth, we might be justified in concluding that Pilate simply didn’t give Jesus an opportunity to answer. However, the context proves that Jesus had already answered Pilate’s question before he ever asked it. Pilate had been probing Jesus to find out if Jesus claimed to be a king, as the religious leaders alleged. Pilate realized that if Jesus really claimed to be king that Pilate would incur the wrath of Rome if he ignored Him. At the same time, Pilate was under pressure from the religious leaders to punish Jesus. The problem was that Pilate could not really find any fault in Jesus (18:38). When Pilate asked Jesus for a second time if He was a king Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (18:37). At this point Pilate left the room after saying, “What is truth?”
Pilate wasn’t waiting for an answer. The answer didn’t make any difference to him or to the mob awaiting his verdict outside. Pilate knew that the inevitable would happen that day. He made one last attempt to release Jesus instead of a notable murderer named Barabbas. He was not successful and he went on with business as usual. Pilate was not interested in the truth that day. He was not one of those who heard the Lord’s voice. His question of Jesus was more rhetorical than inquisitive. Jesus plainly stated that He had come into the world to bear witness to the truth, but the mob outside submerged the truth that day with lies and impassioned speeches. Pilate showed his contempt for all of them with his pointless question, “What is truth?”
Hopefully, we are interested in the truth. And, hopefully, we believe that there is such a thing as the absolute truth. While our feelings about the truth may be subjective, the truth itself is objective. There is a certain temperature at which water freezes. One man may prefer to measure his degrees in Celsius and another in Fahrenheit, but this doesn’t change the objective fact that the water is frozen. According to the dictionary Celsius is a temperature scale that registers the freezing point of water as zero degrees Celsius and the boiling point as one hundred degrees Celsius under normal atmospheric pressure. Fahrenheit designates the freezing point as thirty-two degrees and the boiling point as 212 degrees. These are merely two man-made conventions for measuring the same phenomenon. The actual fact is the same whether we measure it in Celsius or Fahrenheit. The water is either frozen or it is boiling. In addition, it makes no difference what language we use to describe this phenomenon. We can use English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Hindi, Telugu or Pig Latin. The facts remain the same no matter who the speaker is. What I feel about frozen water or boiling water does not alter the facts in any way. I may prefer one in the winter and the other in the summer, but whatever the season when the water’s temperature, Celsius or Fahrenheit, reaches a certain point it will either freeze or boil.
It may seem that we are over emphasizing this point. However, there are many who believe that one man has his truth and a second man has his truth and yet a third man may have his own truth quite separate from the other two. But once more we must insist that a square is still a square no matter whether one measures it in centimeters or inches. The moon is still the same distance from the earth whether we measure it in kilometers or miles. These are physical facts and they are absolutely true. The economies of the entire world depend on these absolute truths in the physical realm. One kilogram of English tea is equal to 2.2046 pounds of American tea and the merchants in each of these nations know the difference. We may use different standards of measurement but the amount of tea is constant and absolute. It is important that we recognize a standard of absolute truth.
Absolute truths are fine in the physical realm; in fact, they are necessary to avoid chaos. But are there also absolute facts in the spiritual realm? We must acknowledge at this point that there are those who do not believe in a spiritual realm at all. If the spirit world does not exist, there are certainly no facts there that have any bearing on our physical existence. This objection brings us to a foundational doctrine of the Bible. The entire Biblical system rests on this basic statement of fact. This basic fact is illustrated, emphasized and restated time after time in both the Old and New Testaments. It is stated very clearly and forcefully in Hebrews 11:6. We must believe that God exists and that it is worth our while to seek Him.
The Psalmist proclaims very eloquently and convincingly that God exists: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4). The Psalmist says that creation itself is proof that God exists. It is interesting to note one of the metaphors the Psalmist uses here in the word, “line.” A marginal note in the New King James Version gives this equivalent translation: “measuring line.” Just as the measuring line helps to determine absolute truths in the physical realm, so also creation is the “line” that measures the absolute truth of God’s existence in the spiritual realm. I just looked at the watch on my arm. I bought this Timex Indiglo watch in Hyderabad, India, some years ago. I haven’t seen the factory where this watch was manufactured, nor have I spoken with the man or woman who operated the machines that caused this watch to come into existence. However, I know by the very existence of this watch on my arm that somewhere in a Timex Watch Factory some employees produced this watch. Without a cause there is no effect. Without a watchmaker there is no watch. Without a Creator there is no creation.
This doctrine of the Creator is one of the great dividing lines between believers and unbelievers. The Apostle Paul attributes the fall of the Gentile world to its failure to acknowledge these very facts of creation: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man---and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23). The Gentile nations failed because they did not glorify God as God. They acknowledged His existence; they “knew Him” (v. 21). However, they became ungrateful to Him and did not honor Him as the Creator. They began to worship Him as if He were just one of His creations. This passage teaches us that we must not only believe that He is, but that we must also diligently seek Him. We must honor and hallow Him above the creation. He is not a creature; He is the Creator. The truth that God is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him is basic to understanding life. If we base our lives on any other doctrine, then we have forsaken the truth; we have sold the truth and bought a lie.
The Bible has much to say about truth. Jesus made it clear who was telling the truth and who was lying in a discussion He had with some of His contemporaries (John 8:12-59). To begin with Jesus told them that He was the light of the world (v. 12). The Pharisees upbraided Him for bearing witness of Himself and alleged that He was the only one testifying about these truths concerning Himself. Jesus pointed out that both He and the Father bore witness to these facts (v. 18). Jesus also affirms that the Pharisees were judging according to the flesh (v. 15), and that, while the Pharisees were of “this world,” He was not of this world (v. 23). While the Pharisees were looking to find His earthly origins, Jesus was pointing to His heavenly origins. This passage clearly demonstrates that there is a spiritual realm and that Jesus came from the spirit world.
In the course of this discussion, Jesus makes the statement, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (v. 31-32). The truth shall make us free from what? His audience immediately appealed to the fact that they were children of Abraham and had never been in bondage to anyone. Jesus once again emphasizes the spiritual implications of His statement. He answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (v. 34). This context shows that Jesus was talking about freedom from sin and its power. The truth about Jesus is able to make sinners free from sin. However, the answer that the Pharisees gave about never being in bondage to anyone is a refrain that still reverberates throughout the world. It is the big lie that the world has bought instead of buying the truth. A little later in His conversation with them, Jesus states: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (v. 44). The devil has been lying from the very beginning, and only the truth as revealed in Jesus Christ can make us free from the bondage of sin.
But here again we find a great divide in the way men interpret and understand the world. The Bible clearly presents man as a fallen creature. Man is a sinner in need of a savior. This is another central truth that men have rejected. In the philosophies of human origin, man is not fallen but rather he is emerging. Man was not created by a Creator God, rather he emerged from the primordial mud. He has continued to advance through the millennia and only a fool would fall for the idea that there is a God who will judge the world in righteousness.
The Bible presents the truth from its opening pages. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The devil lied to and deceived the woman and she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She gave to Adam and he also ate (Genesis 3:6). This whole episode resulted from the big lie, the devil’s lie. God said that in the day they ate of this fruit they would die. The devil said you will not die, but you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4-5). In essence the devil said that man could direct his own steps; he didn’t need God. Man could be God himself. He could be the master of his own universe, the maker of his own destiny.
When the devil tried to sell his lie to the Second Adam, who is Jesus Christ, Jesus answered him thus: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’…It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’…Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 3:4, 7, 10). The big lie was answered with the truth.
The Apostle Peter says that we purify our souls by obeying the truth: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…” (1 Peter 1:22-23). The Apostle Paul states that this word of truth is found in the gospel: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise…” (Ephesians 1:13). The gospel is the truth and it is God’s power for our salvation: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).
The Gentile nations failed because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25). James assures us that even though people have believed the lie, there is still hope that they can turn from their error: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
The world continues to peddle its wares of falsehood and deceit. In its attempts to twist and disguise the truth, it is like the lawyer who was questioning a twelve-year-old boy who was an important witness in a lawsuit. After cross-questioning the boy severely, the lawyer growled: “Your father has been telling you how to testify, hasn’t he?” “Yes,” the boy replied. “Well now,” said the lawyer, “just tell us how your father told you to testify.” “Well,” said the boy meekly, “father told me the lawyers would try to tangle me in my testimony; but if I would just be honest and tell the truth, I could tell the same thing every time.” The Bible gives the same testimony time after time. It is a wonderful story of love, but the world rejects it because it affirms that man is a sinner in need of a savior. The world lies about its sin, and disdains any need of a savior.
The big lie may wear many disguises, but we must not be deceived by so-called science, pop-psychology, humanistic manifestos or the many "feel-good" therapies that parade themselves as the truth. The world wants us to ask ourselves, "How do I feel about this?" The world is abhorred, insulted, shocked and angry when someone suggests that we ask the question, "Is it true?" After all, what is truth? Like Pilate, the world never asks this question in an honest attempt to discover the real answer. It may be asked in mockery or in contempt or in disgust. As far as the world is concerned, I make my own truth and you make yours.
The wise man assures us that there is a real and objective truth available to all who will listen, and admonishes us, "Buy the truth and do not sell it." The truth is a stock that will pay eternal dividends in the end.
“Astounding Benefit of Believing in Hell”
Countries whose citizens believe in hell are not only less corrupt, but also more prosperous. That's the word from economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who were trying to figure out why some nations are so much richer than others. In addition to looking at productivity and investment factors, they examined some unconventional ideas to explain differences in national prosperity, reports Reuters. It turned out that belief in hell was very telling.
Drawing on the research from several outside economists, the St. Louis Fed studied 35 countries, including the United States, European nations, Japan, India, and Turkey and realized that religion was a powerful economic force. "In countries where large percentages of the population believe in hell, there seems to be less corruption and a higher standard of living," the St. Louis Fed wrote in its July quarterly review. In the United States, 71 percent of the population believes in hell. Perhaps it's no coincidence that it also has the world's highest per capita income.
Don't believe it? Look at Ireland. As Reuters says, the Irish have a healthy fear of a nether world with 53 percent of the population acknowledging hell's existence, and the country is not far behind the United States in terms of income.
What’s New Compuserve
Oct. 1, 2004
“Breaking The Rules”
Most folks in Ponder Point are really enjoying watching Rip Thrasher's boys, Nip and Tuck, grow up in our small town. We enjoy it because they aren't our kids and we don't have to referee. It’s just good natured scuffling most of the time, but they go at it like cats and dogs. So when Rip came in to the Bottomless Cup for his daily decaf and doughnut today, he pulled up a chair and prepared for the usual onslaught of questions about the Thrasher brothers.
Ol' man Lister was the first to pop off: “What's the news from the war front, Rip?”
“Well,” Rip said, “last night we were talking about not breaking the rules, when Tuck said, ‘Daddy, Nip broke the rules. He stepped on my glasses today and broke them.'''
I said, ‘Tuck, one of the rules, too, is that you are to wear your glasses until bedtime. If you had been wearing them, they wouldn't be broken.’
Tuck said, ‘But Daddy, I was wearing them at the time! I didn't break the rules!’”