The Love of the Truth 2

At the turn of the millennia, in the eleventh century and for the next five hundred years, there were reformers within Christianity who stood up and refused to be comforted by the Christianity that they had been given. It started fairly slow, at least when you regard that there are only a few names until about the sixteenth century that fall into this stream. One after another, these men defied the Catholic overlord, and even while some still desired to honor that Catholic root that they had been so devoted to, they were all deemed as heathens and rebels at the least, damnable heretics at the worst.

It is a misrepresentation to claim that these who rose up in severe adversity did so because the Bible was being misinterpreted. Another grave mistake is considering that these were heralds of the poor and oppressed. While both of these might indeed have been something that the reformers were passionate about, the secret of their defiance grew out of something else. There was a different “truth” that they stood upon. Scripture and doctrine were indeed very important, and of course the great solas of the reformation are heralded to this day by Protestants. More than Scriptural truth, however, was the love of Him who claimed, “I am the truth”. Beyond the reformers were the radical reformers, later called the Anabaptists, who simply wanted to live like Jesus in their own generation. Whether they got everything correct, or understood everything, is debatable, but the groundbreaking and radical position these ones took was far beyond what either the Catholics or the Protestants could bear.

To conclude our discussion of truth, I had in mind of discussing the word of truth, mentioned in Psalm 119, Daniel 10:21, and a couple places in the New Testament. I wanted to examine the way truth is mentioned in the eschatological passages, such as Daniel 8:10-12. Yet, I found myself unable to do so, because such a dissection of an important subject would lead to the subject being exactly that: a subject. You don’t dissect a living frog; you have a dead frog that you cut to pieces. And once the frog is cut to pieces, you might be able to mention a lot of fascinating things about the inner workings of the frog, but that frog can never be brought back together again. Truth, whether in a general sense, or in a specific narrow discussion of a connotation of the word, should never fall to such a discussion.

For a theology book, the discussion of truth has incalculable benefit, simply because we claim that the statements that we are believing are true. Yet, are the statements true because they are fact, or are they true because they are tangible? When we talk about anything within theology, we are talking about something real that we’ve all experienced, and thus we have something to talk about in connection with one another. To be led by the truth in theology is not to be led into all understanding, as many Pentecostals and Charismatics would like to believe. It is to be led into all experience with the truth. Salvation is a real thing, and not merely a doctrinal stance. While there are many discussions of how things work within theology, the leading of the Spirit into all truth is about having that relationship with these things in reality, and not in intellectualism.

As we continue into bibliology for our next unit and onward into other aspects of theology from there, let us not forget that our love is not of “truths”, but of the truth. May our zeal not be in something that we hold to doctrinally, and the tradition of our fathers handed down to us, but rather let our zeal be in truth according to knowledge. And let that knowledge be as Paul would express it in 2 Corinthians 4:6, that it isn’t merely “knowledge”, but the knowledge of the glory of God shown in the face of Jesus. Our fellowship with truth is only found in the fellowship we have with Christ our Lord. May that be our pillar and our anchor, and whether we attempt to understand the deeper aspects that are so nuanced that you can barely detect such an understanding, or whether we remain at the foundational level, may in both cases we do all of our studies unto the glory of God forever, amen.

Led By Truth

It is rich within the Psalms. There is a “path” and a “way” that the righteous walk in. In a couple places, that “path” is defined with the word truth. Psalm 25:5 says, “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me…” The previous verse is asking God to show His ways, and to teach His paths. Here there is a parallel happening, where the paths and truth are being considered related, and the last segment both speak “teach me”. Psalm 43:3 puts God’s light and truth together, asking that they would lead the psalmist. Where exactly are they leading? The verse ends with the answer: unto thy holy hill, and thy tabernacles. Psalm 86:11 asks that God would teach His way, and I will walk in your truth.

Notice that in all of these cases in the psalms, the truth that is being walked in, or is leading, is always in some way synonymous with God’s paths and/or ways. Jesus had spoken to enter through the narrow gate, and spoke of a difficult path for the righteous to walk. In the Hebrew mind, the paths and ways of God are the ways of righteousness, the manner of living and thinking like God lives and thinks. It is about learning what it means to be a living sacrifice, and now that we are no longer dead in our sins and trespasses, how ought we to live to reflect that we’ve been raised with Christ? The Psalms might not specifically give all of those details, but that is precisely what is being conveyed.

Colossians 3 begins by telling us to put our focus upon the things above. This makes sense, because we are not any longer of the earth, but now have been made in union with God through Christ Jesus, seated with Him in heavenly places. The old habits and lifestyle has been done away with; we are new creations. Maybe this is why the psalmist perceived that light and truth would be leading him to Zion, the holy hill of God, and the tabernacle where God dwells. The path of truth will ultimately lead us to God’s abode, the very place described in Revelation 4-5, which the writer of Hebrews calls the Holy of Holies, and tells us that we’ve been given access into that Most Holy place.

An infamous verse in John says that the truth shall set us free. What is the nature of truth to set free? What is the nature of truth to lead us unto Zion? What is the nature of truth to be what causes us to live in eternal life, rather than in the ways of death? The Holy Spirit is even called the Spirit of Truth in the Gospel of John, both in chapter 14 and in chapter 16. John 16:13 doesn’t give us the isolated term, but even says that one of the roles of the “Spirit of Truth” is to lead us into all truth. While it might be easy to say that this was only for those gathered around Jesus in that moment, I simply cannot believe that. If truth is not merely a matter of knowledge, but is a matter of reality and perception, a matter of a way in which we walk before the Lord, then certainly the Spirit of Truth shall indeed lead us in all things.

John rejoiced that the truth was in his disciples – a statement that should be dwelt upon for a while – and that they were walking in truth. He even says that he has no greater joy than to know that his children are walking in truth.1 In all of these things, the point is to say that truth itself must be something beyond a factual knowledge. While factual knowledge of how God demands that we live might be a part of it, I think that it misses the fullness of what God is speaking. There is a way that seems right to a man, even a studied man who has an impeccable Christian ethics, but the end thereof is death.

From my earliest time in church, when I was first saved, I was able to recognize two different types of Christians. There were they who had all of their ducks in a row, and they knew the Scripture, they knew doctrine. Yet, in all of their knowledge they seemed to lack the fire. They knew the Scripture, debated the Scripture, demanded that we walk according to the Scripture, had all of the seamless and pristine doctrines lined up, and yet in all of their ‘being scriptural’, it did not make them Christ-like. While all of their theology was in tact, and they were heralded by many as being elders and men of renown, something was strangely missing. It was assumed that in having all of the right understanding was what made them Christian, and made them mature in the faith. Yet, there were others who might not have been as deep in their understanding, and yet they walked like Jesus walked. They cried, they loved, they visited the orphans and widows, they gave richly to the saints who had need, they lived as if the things that they own were not their own. In all things, they communicated the wisdom of God, and the very heart of God oozed out of them in almost all matters. Why was it that the truth of the educated led them to making sure people believed correctly, but the truth of the less educated seemed to lead them to love?

Are there exceptions? Absolutely yes. Is this the guide by which you should measure? God forbid that you should think this. Paul, being educated beyond anyone that I know, was able to have the intellect and theology, and at the same time have emotion and compassion. It might be the common reality, but that doesn’t mean it should be. It is often the untrained that make the most impact. It is often the unorthodox that bring the most radical reformation. And, I would add that it isn’t always bad when they do. Let us not forget that our own patriarchs, the Twelve that Jesus chose, we mostly fishermen and louts, men trained in their father’s trade instead of theology. And the ones who Jesus most vehemently chastised were the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees who were the elite few. Of all people, they were the ones who knew their Bibles. If they didn’t have the whole Old Testament memorized, you better believe they weren’t a Pharisee or Sadducee. They were more studied than our greatest theologians, more familiar with the Scriptures than our sages, and more familiar with the interpretations of their fathers than our most scholarly church historians. And yet, in their own day, we see the same cycle that it did not cause them to know the heart of God and live in that “truth”.

1 3 John 1:3-4

Zeal Without Knowledge

Paul says of his Jewish brethren that they are zealous, but without knowledge. I think we can safely say the same for new believers. Sadly, we can say the same for many old believers as well. What constitutes the “zeal without knowledge” is not a lack of theological knowledge, nor a lack of biblical knowledge. To be quite candid, the Jews that Paul would have known, especially considering that he studied under Gamaliel, were much more studied and scholarly than our modern theologians and thinkers. The fact that you can come out of seminary without the New Testament memorized is a testimony of this. Those first century Jews would have had the entirety of the Old Testament memorized by the time they became a rabbi, let alone if they were a Pharisee. These were incredibly intelligent and studied men. Their “zeal without knowledge” cannot be a statement of a lack of study or biblical insight.

What, then, is it that they lacked that Paul is saying that we have obtained? Is it only the knowledge of Christ, that this man Jesus died for our sins and rose again so that we might go to heaven when we die? Or is it that Jesus is Messiah, and that’s somehow enough to constitute that we have knowledge and they don’t? Where does Paul get off on saying something like this? Or, is it something a bit deeper than this, that if we could grasp what it is that Paul is saying we would suddenly gasp at the reality that we are not living up to?

For those of you who know the verse, you know the context is the righteousness of God, a phrase that came up earlier in Romans 1:16-17. The righteousness of God is shown to they who walk in faith, and are therefore justified by faith, and not through ‘righteous deeds’. We can conclude, then, that the knowledge that we have that they don’t have is one of righteousness through faith. Yet, I would still contend that there is a real sense in which this amazing truth has not yet settled upon the consciousness of many. We still speak of tithing, church membership, reading your Bible, serving in church, praying, and other sorts of activities as if they are acts that must be performed. Heaven forbid that you miss church a couple weeks in a row. Are you still even saved if you do this? And God forbid that you might start eating your food without praying first, especially when you’re in front of your fellow church people.

My point is that we have too often made much of the little things, and little of the big things. You’re never called a heretic for not feeding the poor, or willingly condemning someone that you disagree with, or purposefully walking on the other side of the road when you see someone in need. It is not the people who ignore the cry of the oppressed, or the ones who don’t ever help when the widows in their church can’t afford to have heat in the winter, or the people who don’t notice when the flock is searching like sheep without a shepherd – it is not these who are considered unrighteous by their unrighteous deeds. No, it is the people who dance too closely with their crush, or the girls who wear a shirt that fits perfectly (and is now “tempting” the men), or the pastor who allowed a secular marriage to take place in the church when sister Margaret came walking in unwarranted to hear that godless music (which was actually just The Temptations, but how dare we play non-Christian music in a church?).

How many times have we been zealous, but not according to knowledge? We have established our own church views and traditions, passed down by generations, thinking that we’re upholding the very faith itself, and yet it can be shown to be a fraud. Am I saved because I don’t wear the AC/DC shirts that I used to wear? Am I no longer saved if I find one of those shirts in the bottom of my drawer, and I decide to wear it for old times’ sake? This isn’t an issue of ethics, per se, but of the motives behind the offenses. For the Jews to have a zeal for God without knowledge is for the Jews to hold tightly to a law that they have poured over again and again to establish a code of ethics that then legislates morality to all. If you walk too far on the Sabbath, you are officially working on the Sabbath. In the same way, if you show up to church without makeup and jewelry, are you really wearing your Sunday best for God? They keep a kosher diet, which we think we don’t have to eat. Yet, we get downright offended when someone doesn’t like Chris Tomlin’s music.

Our spirituality stinks, and our theology reflects it. When you have to wear a tie in order to go to seminary, and you have to keep your hair a certain length (depending on if you’re a man or woman), otherwise you’re breaking their rules and regulations, I question entirely what it is that you’re actually teaching. It isn’t about the dress code. It is about the law that Christianity has made, all the while claiming to be ‘free from law’. Notice in all these things I have not mentioned things that are direct sins and in contradiction to what God has said. Some of what Christianity has given as a code of ethics is body shaming, and some of it is rejecting what God has called beautiful. Some of it is nit picking from the older generation that the younger generation doesn’t do things like they do. In none of it is the point to find God and learn what it means to live as Jesus told us to in our own day and age. It is not to continue the faith that has been handed down from the apostles, but the faith that has been handed down from ‘the forefathers’ – whoever they might be.

In all of this, the main point is still to focus upon truth. Truth sets free, and the many unwritten laws in church-ianity is not setting free. A theological system that can go through the doctrines of the faith without addressing these sorts of issues, setting free the captive while kicking goats and bashing wolves, is simply not Christian theology. Sometimes the sheep need you to take a knife and boar out the bottom of their hoof because it has begun to rot. The sheep doesn’t like it, but it needs to be done. Sometimes you need to take that knife and clean out a worm or bug from their nose. The sheep doesn’t like it, but it needs to be done. Whether we’re healing the sheep, kicking the goats, or chasing off the wolves, our focus should be upon the reality that is eternal, and the protocol that God has ordained from before the foundation on the world. Our zeal should be upon being those people that Jesus taught us to be, which is rooted in the Old Testament – as far back as Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Zeal with knowledge, which is to say, zeal in truth, is zeal that has been confronted with the Kingdom of God, and therefore spends all and is expended upon living in and for that Kingdom. It is like a man who finds hidden treasure in a field, and he then buries it to go home and sell everything, only to then buy the field with the proceeds. This is the simple faith, no gimmicks and no additives. If that doesn’t describe what you’re zealous for, then maybe your zeal is misplaced.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

In our generation, worship is an elusive term. While everyone would agree that worship is more than music and singing, every time the word is used, it is used in reference to music and singing. These words from John 4, that God is Spirit and we must worship Him in spirit and truth, seem both bizarre and out of place. They are bizarre because we simply don’t understand what worship means outside of the context of music and singing, or at least an artistic expression, and they are out of place because in the story of John 4 there doesn’t seem to be a reason that the discussion goes there. We might assume that the woman at the well has been asking this question, and now that a prophet is before her she is going to ask, or it might be that she has resentment against the Jews for their mistreatment of the Samaritans. Either way, this episode has a statement about truth that we must burrow into.

The woman speaks of worshiping on ‘this mountain’, as opposed to Jerusalem. Jesus then says that God is not interested in your location, but rather the character of the worship. In both cases, the worship being described here is sacrifices. Whether you are on ‘this mountain’, or in Jerusalem, the worship that the culture understood was the sacrifices to please and appease God. Yet, Jesus takes the focus away from that, and He tells the woman it isn’t about the sacrifice, nor the system that you subscribe to, but about what the sacrifice itself represents. Just as the Sabbath was not created to rule over man as a law that we must all obey and submit to, so too the sacrifices were not commanded for strict adherence in order to appease God. God is not hungry; He is jealous.

Worship that is in spirit and truth is worship that sees the Throne, and that Jerusalem is not chosen because God says so, but because it is the place of the Throne. One perceives God, and in that perception, the heart responds with praise. This verse captures my attention, because I recognize that often we think of spirit and truth as being opposed to one another, as if intelligence cannot be ‘in faith’. Faith and intelligence do not square off against one another, warring as if they are the flesh and the spirit. No, the spirit goes hand in hand with the truth, and the Holy Spirit is even called the Spirit of Truth. Worshiping in spirit and truth is worshiping God in His own nature, because we have seen God, and we know God, and we love God.

Taking these things seriously, worship is expressed in lifestyle as well as instantaneous and spontaneous expression. Within the first couple centuries, we can find exactly this sort of expression recorded in a few sources:

They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word – what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.”1

They abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. As for their servants or handmaids or children, they persuade them to become Christians by the love they have for them. And when they become so, they call them without distinction brothers. They do not worship strange gods, and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them and they love one another. And when they see the stranger, they bring him to their homes and they rejoice over him as over a true brother for they do not call brothers those who are after the flesh but those who are in the Spirit and in God. And there is among them a man that is poor and needy and if they have not an abundance of necessities, they will fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with his necessary food. And they observe scrupulously the commandment of their Messiah. They live honestly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and all hours on account of the goodness of God toward them, they render praise and laud Him over their food and their drink; they render Him thanks. And if any righteous person of their number passes away from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God and they follow his body as though he were moving from one place to another. And when a child is born to them, they praise God, and if again it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. Such is the law of the Christians and such is their conduct.”2

The early church fathers, called the ante nicene fathers, wrote about their lifestyle. It was communal, wrestling together daily with the saints. Whatever cares the world brought, whether from persecution or from the needs of life, they were counted as secondary in importance to the cause of Christ and living the message that He has given us to proclaim. The zeal of these first couple century saints is an indictment to our modern Christianity, in all forms, because we think that by having the same doctrines, or by progressing their thoughts a little further, that we are somehow in the same expression of faith. Our Christianity is utterly anemic in comparison, and even their Christian culture is anemic in comparison to the fervency the apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ have displayed and commanded. Those Jewish saints recorded in Acts had the Bible memorized, if not in its entirety, then certainly in its content and intention. They knew the words, and they lived the words. What Paul says of the Church in Corinth was likewise true of them in respect to Jesus: Ye are our epistles.

My own heart aches for the lack of this apostolic expression in the earth. It isn’t that no one is serious, but that our passion is either misguided or stunted. How is it that fishermen and the sinners were sent out, and within a couple handfuls of years cities were proclaiming, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also”? A single generation had not yet passed, and already their mark was made on the whole of the known world. Metropolises that were devoted to Caesar worship were flipped upside down to becoming epicenters of Jesus worship, and this is the very thing that got the apostles killed. So full of the spirit and truth were they that not a single one died easily, even though not a single one resisted. Their own physical bodies had so much life in them from the Spirit that they simply would not die, and the apostle John himself had to disquiet the rumors that said he would live forever.3 I conclude by asking the question, “Has the expression of worship in your life followed the example that has been laid before us?”

1 The epistle of Diognates A.D. 130

2 From The Apology of Aristides, an outsider view of Christianity being recounted to Emperor Hadrian A.D. 117-38.

3 John 21:22

The Love of the Truth

Within 2 Thessalonians 2 we have a statement about the love of the truth sparing the lover from deception. Something to note about the context of the statement is that Paul has just finished speaking about the end of the age and the coming of Jesus. He is saying that the false manifestations and false signs and wonders to be performed by the man of sin at the end of the age will only be resisted by the lovers of truth. There is something within the truth itself that will cause for the lover to see the forgery.

When Daniel was taken away to Babylon, he and his companions were able to smell the aroma of the king’s table, and it was the stench of death to them. Such a statement cannot be said of the many others who were taken with Daniel. Because Daniel knew of the Lord’s table, and ate of it with joy and love, the opposing table was not pleasing or appetizing. So it is in the love of the truth. To love the authentic thing, what God has truly called for, and what God truly acts in the earth, is to then despise any counterfeit or inauthentic display. To those who are being saved, the fragrance of Christ is the most beautiful aroma to perfume the air. Yet, the sweetness of that aroma is the stench of death and massacre to they who are perishing. God allows such a testimony to be made, whether of the sacrifice upon the altar, the way in which we view the atonement, or even the wisdom of God itself.

It has never been enough to believe. Faith and works go hand in hand, and the authentic apostolicity of the believer will lead them into truth in the inward parts. When Jesus or the apostles healed someone, it was not merely an outward manifestation of physical healing. There was a wholeness that entered the one healed. It was a demonstration of a certain Kingdom, and the character of that Kingdom was revealed. When demons were cast out, it was not enough that they flee the victim. There was then soundness and life that entered. A half healing is not a healing, and a miracle that leaves you in need is not a miracle. Elijah did not leave the widow, even though he had prophesied and the miracle of the oil and grain continued. He remained with that widow, because in the wisdom of God the miracle was not the provision, but rather the revelation of, “Now I know that the word of God in your mouth is truth.”

Whether we are talking about state church, about institutional religion, about righteousness according to the law, about false signs and wonders, about dubious manifestations, about flashy gimmicks, about glib truisms and cliches, or about entertainment to occupy the day, in all these cases the lover of the truth cannot settle for unreality. Many are coming out of the systems called church buildings, because they can no longer believe in a system of worship that the Bible doesn’t speak of. For these lovers it is more important to them to keep themselves undefiled than to settle for something until the alternative comes. A cheap alternative for the sake of having “something” is not a love of the truth, but rather an outright disobedience.

Even within our most Charismatic denominations, where the Spirit is celebrated highly and with joy, if we have sought after miracles or manifestations for the sake of these things, we have abandoned the truth, and certainly have abandoned the love of the truth. Such an abandonment is spiritual malpractice at best, and making a covenant with death and hell at worst. To applaud something simply because it has the correct words, or the correct theology, or the display that ‘only God can do’ is to leave oneself susceptible to even more erroneous and dangerous kinds of things. If the Toronto Blessing was not a dubious and false manifestation, and the many that followed afterward likewise, then what will differentiate the actual false thing? And, what will cause they who profess to be believers to stand against such falsity when discernment was utterly abandoned for the sake of a blessing?

Truth in the inward parts demand integrity. Even if we don’t go along with the crowd and get mocked, misunderstood, or even wrongfully accused, we should rejoice that we are counted worthy of such treatment, for the prophets and apostles before us were treated the same way. I don’t want to suggest that we should be critical of all things, but rather that we should be trusting the truth that God has revealed to us, and if something does not align itself with that revelation of God in us, to us, and through us, then we will not allow ourselves the leisure of being exposed to such a phenomenon. Better to miss out on the blessing than to dive in and find out it was actually a false blessing that has now damaged your walk with the Lord. The love of the truth is discernment. A high degree of knowledge with a nonexistent discernment is not only dangerous to the individual, but to everyone else also. Apostolic and prophetic perception sees past the physical and into the very spiritual reality, and can speak to that reality the words of God in healing and wholeness,1 so that the one hearing is set free, and free indeed. Yet, a love for words without a love for truth will allow us to rejoice at the physical display without the spiritual manifestation. This is the danger, and this is why the love of the truth will spare us from deception, both now and in the days to come.

1 It isn’t just that there is healing, but there is wholeness. The apostle and prophet see past the physical, and into the spiritual, and that doesn’t diminish the physical, nor exalt the spiritual, but says they are connected together, and that without healing both infirmities, neither will truly be healed.

State Church

State church is often thought of as something medieval, in history and no longer a part of what we experience. We know that the Roman Catholic church was given political power to add to their already overwhelming religious power, and that united something sinister that we protestants are still fighting against to this day. This state church is what protestantism is protesting against. And yet, the very thought processes that underlie state church are what many protestants have built their entire theology and evangelical view upon. To love the truth we must be willing to part from even these things.

How many people are praying for revival in America, hoping that it will bring about a Christian nation? Where does the idea of a Christian nation come from? Can you find a Scripture that speaks of it? The point that I want to make here is that over and over again God is interested in a City whose builder and Maker is God, a dwelling that is above, and that we are ambassadors of that heavenly City. Any mindset that leads us to thinking that the nation that we are a part of could be that City on earth, which is very Augustinian and Calvinist, or that we can build the Kingdom of God1 on this earth in a physical display, is the very essence of state church.

This cultural Christianity is something based upon ethics, and instituted through fear tactics. In order to consider whether what you are a part of is indeed a state church, or maybe “state church” without the generality, is to ask whether there are rules and regulations outside of the obvious parameters given in Scripture. It isn’t about unity, nor about disallowing any and all kinds of debauchery, but about the ethics that are presupposed on the basis of cultural etiquette. A Christian nation is a nation where the people in it, whether a majority or all, believe in a certain system that teaches a certain morality and idealism, and that those people then are given the right to judge on the basis of their ethics whether other nations, people groups, or cultures are indeed Christian or moral.

Such a statement does not come from the God of the Bible, nor of Israel’s example in the Bible, but rather from the very enemies of God. Those nations that despised Israel, under the wisdom and guidance of the principalities and powers of the air, being wholly given over to the false gods of Baal, Dothan, Molech, etc, were at odds with the very God of creation, who is God of gods, and Lord of lords, and King of kings, simply because they believed this state church mindset of ruling over other nations because our gods are better. Assyria displays it vividly in Isaiah 36-39. Egypt gives the manifest display of the wisdom of the principalities in Exodus, enslaving an entire people whose God is truly God simply because they are great in number and therefore constitute a threat. Who gave the Philistines the right to come against Israel, or Moab to tax Israel, or the Babylonians to strip and burn her with fire? In all these times, the answer is God, but that does not then mean that these other nations were operating under the wisdom of God.

This brings an interesting perception. When a “Christian nation” goes to war, it isn’t that they are warring against someone else because they started it, but because they must battle the evil that is in the world. We pray for the victory, because we fully believe that what we are doing is God’s will and purposes. Yet, in the Bible, there are numerous times where God stops the victory, or stops the prophet from praying. A sure sign that we’re dealing with idolatry is that we don’t hear of people who are stopped, but rather that we must continue to push through until we gain the victory. Yet, what if the LORD’s angel is standing with his sword drawn, and we’re about to send our boys into battle against God Himself? Such a thought is never considered, because we aren’t fighting for the Lord. We’re fighting for our nation, which has now become the substitute for the Lord. Whatever tactics are used for the victory are justified, because it’s better to rid the world of evil, or even this specific kind of evil, than to do nothing or allow evil to continue.

This is the kind of mindset that will allow the Anabaptists to be burned alive, or drown in the lake, simply because they won’t fight in the army. These quiet ones of the earth were not simply nonviolent; they were nonresistant. Such a belief in the words of Jesus that we should love our enemies and pray for them, and that they who strike us on the right cheek should have the left also turned to them, was anathema, even to Martin Luther and John Calvin. The Anabaptists and Libertines were burned alive by the Catholics, and mercy was shown from the Protestants with death by drowning. All of this was simply because they wouldn’t join their movements, and wouldn’t serve in armies, and wanted to live in communities that were focused solely upon living the message of Jesus. And even today there is hostility against those who are outside of the church buildings, claiming that you can’t be Christian and break fellowship, which only goes to show what those ministers and ‘churches’ are gripping onto.

With state church claiming to be “Christian nation”, and you have several different nations at the same times in history all claiming to be, and they even war against one another, you have to ask the question of what it all even means anyway. But it gets even more confusing when you add the detail that the state church believed in a “hidden” church. That is to say, the true people of God, or the “true saints”, or the “true church” is not the general mass that claims to be Christian, but rather the select few who really get it. Thus, we can conclude that “state church” is completely self defeating in every way. Everyone is Christian because everyone holds to these beliefs, but there is a “hidden remnant” that is really the “true church”. That is a contradiction through and through. Yet, it is precisely this that most, if not all, congregations in the West hold to. You have to go to church so as to not break fellowship with the fellow believers, but everyone knows that not everyone who goes to church is truly a believer. How, then, do you decipher whether you’re truly fellowshipping with believers in the church, or whether you’re getting along because you’re all goats and wolves?

1 It isn’t that this is the Kingdom of God, but rather their perception of Christianity made manifest in principles and regulations.

Truth in the Inward Parts

In Psalm 51:6, David has an astonishing epiphany. When you look at the sacrifices of Leviticus 1-7, God does not ask for the hide of the animal to be sacrificed on the altar. Rather, He commands that it be burned with the dung outside the camp. The flesh, or the hide, is the part that you and I would consider to be most choice. Yet, what God requires to be placed upon the altar is the inward parts – the liver, kidneys, the fat around these areas, etc. God is not interested in our outward appearance, but rather with our inner man. God desires truth in the inward parts, and that is what He considers as the fragrant and pleasing aroma.

As a youth in Christ, I desired holiness and righteous living. To my despair, this was seemingly unattainable. What seems so casually commanded in the New Testament was becoming my unbearable burden. The onus was upon my shoulders to live in a manner worthy of the calling that I had received. And yet, none of those verses in the New Testament mean that. The whole point is that we live what we are. You have been made a new creation, and therefore you shall live like it. With truth in the inward parts, it is not a matter of desiring to have a better lifestyle, or making sure to examine whether what we believe is truth. It finds its way into every aspect of life. Sometimes that is seen by others as unacceptable.

One of the most obvious places that we have this display is in our very ways in which we think of and relate to God. There are people who have replaced knowing God for knowledge about God, simply so they have a formula to know how God works. There are people who have called the church buildings and systems “God”, and even though they know that God is not the building and system, they cannot separate the two. Thus, when something happens within that system, or if an inconsistency is shown in their doctrine, it is not the system that is flawed, but God Himself. When God is known through the sacraments and traditions of church practice, and our relationship with Him must be weighed with our devotion to “go to church”, or any other form of gathering, we have neglected truth in the inward parts.

The beauty of holiness is brought to its optimum in the combining of truth and righteousness together with grace and humility.”1 The beauty of holiness is found in the expression of truth and righteousness, not from a laborious sort of self-control, but rather from grace and humility. In the true expression of grace walked out, walking humbly before our God, we find truth and righteousness are indeed in those actions. It is on the basis of grace, through faith, that we are saved, and that same grace is what continues in expression through our lives. What exactly is it that Paul is pressing in Ephesians 2 when he makes this claim? You read the chapter and find that he has this glorious view of grace, and that it isn’t some cheap forgiveness for the sake of relationship. Paul actually believes that grace has effected something within the one who has received it.

This grace, through faith, has caused for us to no longer be the same thing we once were, following the patterns of the principalities and powers of the air, those darkened forces that the whole world is under. We have now been liberated, taken out of and into a new mode of being. That new mode of being is the wisdom of God, rather than the wisdom of the principalities. It is on the basis of love, the great love with which God has loved us, that we have been given this mercy and grace, that we might be His workmanship – a term used solely of Israel and creation in the Old Testament – predestined for good works to walk in. And what are those good works to walk in, you might ask? They are the acts of the righteous life lived out. They are the acts of truth in the inward parts.

It is not enough to herald a message of love. We must first understand that in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Truth in the inward parts does not come from a meticulous study and analysis of “the truth”. It comes from the deep dwelling of Him who is Truth. We cannot command to love one another, nor make statements of how love covers a multitude of sins, if we do not first understand the love with which He has loved us, and the power that is in that to equip us as more than conquerors. Similarly, we cannot comprehend truth, nor understand truth in the inward parts, if we do not first understand that He is truth, and that He has sent to us the Spirit of Truth, even baptizing us in that Spirit.

1 Lars Widerberg, Apostolicity chapter 10, pp 1.

Speaking and Doing Truth

Αληθευοντες δε εν αγαπε αθξησωμεν εισ αυτον… (Ephesians 4:15). The verb here “to speak truth” can also be rendered “to do truth”. Understanding that there is a context to how we determine how to translate this, let us not miss the point. It is not possible to confine truth to words and fulfill all that Paul is requiring here. When Paul tells us that we need to speak the truth in love, he is not commanding that we point out one another’s flaws, as if “for the truth of the Gospels sake” we need to beat one another into submission to that truth. I’m not convinced that this verse requires speech every time. It is possible to speak the truth in love by the way we act, displaying with our lives the very words we desire to speak.

In many ways truth has become something compartmentalized, abandoned to the various “areas” of life. Instead of seeing one whole life that is constituted by one Spirit, and one mindset, we often segment life into multiple compartments that each have their own mindset and attitude. There is leak from one into the next at times, but for our work and home lives to be the conducted by the same motive and mentality is a foreign concept to many of us. Truth in that mode of being is not truth, but mere factual statement that fits whatever compartment we’re currently living from. Truth itself must break out of the molds and into all aspects, or else it isn’t truth.

Within theology we have a contention precisely at this point. Theology is necessary for the meditations of the heart and mind, but this is as much a jab as it is a comfort. If our meditations in life are often of the things of this life and this world, then even within theology we will find an overflow of the heart. It cannot be escaped, even by rapture, to attempt to run from what we are. Our meditations will find us out, even in the most spiritual of places. It is not within the intellect of man that we find theology flourishing, but within the heart. It is the overflow of the heart from which the mouth speaks, and our meditations are what we have set our heart upon. Lofty consideration about God is seemingly good, until that lofty consideration is found out to be nothing but self-conceived intellectualism, and cerebral exercise, for the sake of “getting it right”. In this way, theology is not the magnum opus of our meditations, but the great revealer of them. When truth is being dwelt upon, then theology comes out in a beautiful limelight that swiftly raises the tenor of our hearts to palpitate joy and zeal – honest joy and zeal – where the character of God and the perspective of God are kept intact and guarded jealously.

It has been pointed out by Art Katz that those who are true, rather than being taken up with truths, are not silver plated. Back in the days of silver dollars, the way you would test the coin was by throwing it down upon the table or floor. If it rang out with a resounding ping, then you knew the coin was legitimate. If it would hit and make a dull thud, then you knew that it was counterfeit, and was only silver plated. Many times we have silver plated Christians, and in the furnace of life, with various circumstances that are strenuous and difficult, the reality of the condition is revealed. It is not by how biblically correct we are when we speak that reveals the truth of our condition, but the sound we make when we hit the floor. Does our theology represent a lifestyle that is lived in love and patient endurance, or does it reflect rather a lifestyle of preservation and promotion? The ultimate test is found when our meditations result in words spoken in duress.

In the life of David we find a moment of confrontation. Nathan comes with a story that convicts the king of his sin with Bathsheba. There was enough time to elapse for Bathsheba to have the child, and for the child to die, before Nathan went to the king. The king continued to live a life that displays a love for justice and a heart of compassion. Yet, that incongruity of David’s outward command and his inward justification of his own sin was revealed, thus true and deep repentance resulted. How many of us love the truth enough to allow God to send a prophet to expose us in a manner to bring breaking and wholeness? Or are we still desiring to hide our pornography addiction, our self-conceited elitism, and our shameful “doing business” in our everyday lives – which we’ve brought into the church as well? The question for David, which is the question for you and I, is whether our sin causes us to hide from God instead of seeking Him in repentance. “Where are you” was the question asked of Adam, and in a very real sense it was also asked of David in that moment. Instead of recognizing his falling, David went on with life, and the LORD had to send a Nathan in confrontation. How susceptible are you and I to the same clothing ourselves with fig leaves of religion, hiding all the while, because shame erodes our conscience?

Such shame is completely absent in the New Testament. From the book of Acts onward there seems to be nothing but pure expression of union with God, and any moment of lapse is met with prayer, love, and restoring one another gently. Paul writes to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:15) that his words came with demonstration of power. I don’t believe that demonstration was miracle and healing, but the day to day life lived out before all. His words rung true because he lived them. He wasn’t hiding in the paralysis of shame, but was completely free, found utterly in the love of Jesus. That man exuded theology that was pure, because he himself was pure. His meditations were upon truth, and truth caused him to ring out loud with a ping when he hit the floor. This man could speak the truth in love, because he was living the truth in love.

When truth is seen as a summation of truths that we profess, and we even categorize the word of God to include church proclamation, we then rob ourselves of what the cogency of God’s prerogative demands. Church is not a collection of individuals who all profess the same truths. It is a collection of individuals, all corporately connected to the same Head, globally and not locally, that have experienced the same breaking in of truth into the inward parts. They all live as pilgrims, knowing that their culture is of heaven and not of the earth.

That culture that is above is expressed in the outworking of daily life, an expression of unfeigned love (1 Pet 1:22). In fact, if we take seriously what Peter is telling us, we find that that have purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, and the evidence of that purification is unfeigned love. Sincerity itself seems to have a ring of “truth” in the connotation. To be unfeigned seems to portray the ideology of being true. How much more of a connection do we need than to see truth and unfeigned love both being wrapped together in the same verse? To love the brethren, even in duress and hardship, is to love the truth and obey the truth. The Spirit itself has a logic by which it operates, and if we’re alive to that Spirit, then we too shall operate by that logic.

And, is it not possible that this love that Peter speaks of is a reflection of 1 John 1:5-7? John posits light, fellowship, truth, and purification all together intertwined. When we perceive things as they are – truth being reality – we are at a place of truly fellowshipping with one another, in sincere and unfeigned love, because we have nothing hindering us from one another. We don’t view by the law, which says that you must be circumcised and follow certain ordinances in order to be right before God, but instead through the Spirit of the Truth, which is through Jesus, to see all things as they really are, and to therefore love one another in the truth. It is not by the flesh that we know any man, but by the truth, which is to say, by the Spirit. Our very perspective changes when we take seriously the walking in truth, living in a manner where our words are truly true, and our hearts titillate with love to all. Such a thing is impossible outside of the working of God in the inner man.

Walking in Truth

It was John’s joy to see those whom he loved, his dearest children, walking in the truth. Of all the things that could describe our relationship to truth, why does John choose walking? Wouldn’t performing, or speaking, or demonstrating seem to fit much better? Walking seems to denote a movement, and specifically an unconscious movement from years of development and practice. Walking is as commonplace as breathing, at least to those who are old enough to know the balance and strength that it demands. For the infant or toddler, walking is an exercise, and sometimes a chore or impossibility. Yet, for you who are reading this, walking is so basic that you barely notice when you’re doing it.

For John to say that it gives him exuberant joy to see his children walking in truth indicates that his joy is not full in their mere apprehension of truth. It isn’t that they are reciting the words they were taught, and giving an answer to all opposition. John’s disciples were not students of theology, being able to give grand depth in what they were proclaiming, and showing magnificent insight into the ways of God. Speech was only a medium, but the real action was in the daily lives. Magnificent insight into the ways of God leads us to walking the way Jesus walked, and talking the way Jesus talked, and living the way Jesus lived. Insight itself devastates. When we’ve perceived something of God – especially something magnificent – it crushes anything that does not add up to that into powder.

They were walking in truth. Living out the principles of God, and the things that God approves of, was so natural to them that they didn’t even have to continually tell themselves “not to” and “to do”. What if these children of John’s didn’t have to seek the Lord in every decision they made? What if they didn’t have to fast every time there was a major consideration? What if in the daily practicing of walking in truth, God has revealed to them a character and mindset that allows them to actually know the intimations of His heart? Can you say of yourself that you’ve become so fluent in truth and understanding God that you might intimate His heart and thoughts, even without needing to pray to get His heart and thoughts? And do you have faith to believe that such a place in God is possible?

The Word In Your Mouth

1 Kings 17:24 has an interesting way of wording. It is in the midst of a story that we’re all familiar with from Sunday school, and yet because it is such a minor detail in the midst of the story, it’s almost passed over entirely. Elijah is at a widow’s home, and God is providing oil and flour for bread that they don’t starve while in famine. It is a miraculous provision, and yet the son of this widow dies. The prophet Elijah takes the son up to his own bed chambers, and stretches upon him three times, praying unto God, and the boy is revived. What strikes me in this story is that the widow’s response after this is quite telling.

Now I know that the word of God in your mouth is truth.

Has there been a more severe statement in the records of men? The miraculous provision wasn’t enough for this widow to believe that the word of Elijah was indeed the word of God, and that it was indeed truth. Something else was required. A death of her own son came upon them, and in the frantic of the situation, she hastily conceived that her sin has come upon her. It was with the resurrection of this boy that she now sees something she didn’t see before. Miraculous provision was not enough to sustain the soul of this woman, even though her body was being fed. And it is quite obvious it wasn’t even enough for the body of her son.

Why is it that the word of God in Elijah’s mouth is truth? Could it be that the same word, though technically truth, could be considered non-truth in the mouth of someone else? Could it be that even though the word was truth, that until that time truth had no lodging in this woman? Where do we draw the line in our questions and assumptions?

I think it necessary here to point out that the difference in the widow’s heart was enough for the statement. And yet, within the realm of theology, it does not warrant us a freebee. What exactly happened here? Elijah’s word was not what convinced the woman, and the same can be said of many words that take place every Sunday morning throughout our world. I’m not convinced it was even the miracle of resurrection that convinced this woman, because it if were only something miraculous, then why didn’t the provision cut it? Did they not see day after day that the Lord provided, even though the story begins with the woman telling the man of God that they were about to eat the last bit of bread that they have and die? No, something else was being demonstrated beyond the realm of miracles.

The word of Elijah was not simply the word that we read as his response, nor the word that God had commanded to give. The word is something deeper than speech. It finds lodging within. The new covenant itself demands that God’s word is written upon our hearts, no longer outside speaking and making commandment upon our lives. Now we have become one with the word, and the word has been made flesh even within us. It is not only what was said, but what was done. The life lived out, the logic and perspective of the word of God manifest within the prophet, was what caused this widow to reconsider.

In Elijah’s mouth God’s word was considered truth. Yet, how many times do we find ourselves listening to sermons, reading books, or discussing with others the things of God, and something within us rises up rejecting the very thing being said, even when that speech is “truth”? It is the strangest sensation to be hearing or reading the words of truth, but all the while in the demonstration of that truth it is rendered a lie. Our spirits can sense it, and the claptrap meter inside starts raging against the drivel that permeates the air.

Even the apostle Paul told the Corinthians that he did not come with persuasive words, but that he gave demonstrations of power. A similar statement is found to the Thessalonians, adding that they know what manner of men they were. Paul lived among those he witnessed to. Just as much as he might have proclaimed a message from heaven, a truthfully true message, it was not on the basis of that kind of message alone that Paul puts all of his emphasis. If it were on the basis of sound reasoning, and powerful philosophy, and ingenious persuasion that Paul rested his testimony, we would have reason to rejoice in our own flesh. But Paul gives no basis for the flesh to boast. No, Paul exclaims emphatically that they knew the manner of men that they were in the presence of all.

The demonstrations of power that Paul boasts in has nothing to do with miracles. It has nothing to do with healing. These things are obviously supposed to accompany the one sent from heaven. These things display an overcoming of the kingdom of darkness. Yet, what really seems to get Paul excited was that in the life together with him, all were able to witness a man who subscribes to a completely different way of living, way of thinking, and way of reacting. He ruled with righteousness and justice, mercy and equity being the chief pillars of his government, and love being the garment that he enshrouded himself with. While kings rule with rods, and wear robes of purple, being crowned with gold and splendor, Paul chose rather to show a different kingdom.

This puts a finger directly into our chests. As much as it might expand to us theologically the nature of truth and proclamation, it also challenges us. We who proclaim, are our words charged with demonstrations of power? Or, do our demonstrations render our words to be hokum and hot air? It might be true, but what is more important than having true words is showing the example of those true words. Practicing what we preach is a hard task, but it will reveal to others and to ourselves whether our theology is truly reflecting the very God we claim to serve. If putting into practice the things we preach lacks in character and eternity, then we are wrong.