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.

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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.

Truth and Language

If we are being careful with portraying truth, then it will cause us to be careful with our language. It is not enough to be meticulous in our lifestyle, conforming all things to the image of our proclamation. Truth itself demands speech. That speech demands the use of language. While I’m not saying we need to embrace large vocabularies, what I am saying is that we need to be aware that words have meaning. To use a word or phrase because everyone before you has used that word or phrase, or to have the attitude of, “you know what I mean,” is sloppy theology.

What does sanctification mean? That question is not one of asking for a definition. That question is asking what the common consensus is. You can define it however you want, but if you can’t understand that others use the same word to mean something completely different, then you are not truly communicating. The way that others use the words that we choose should interest us just as much as our own definitions and connotations. If sanctification has a connotation that we disagree with, then let us not use the word. This is altogether difficult, because it not only means that we have to understand what the word actually means, but then also adopt a synonymous word or phrase that is not as popular.

Truth demands that we would be careful with the way we convey our message. If speaking of the culture of heaven is something that better suits what we’re describing, then let us toss aside the words and phrases we’ve previously used to describe our salvation and journey in the faith. Sanctification, putting to death the sin nature, carnality, and these other sorts of terms are absolutely useless if they don’t actually convey what we’re trying to say. On the other hand, if they convey perfectly what we’re trying to say, then let us embrace them with love and excitement. I am not opposed to using the classic terms; I am opposed to using the classic terms without thinking.

The Triunity of Truth

We read the words of Jesus as, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus then in that same discourse calls the Spirit the “Spirit of Truth”. We worship the Father “in spirit and truth”, and the Spirit of Truth proceeds from the Father. John rejoices that some are walking in the truth, and says this was a commandment from the Father. All three aspects of the trinity are represented in the discussion of truth. All three are not only associated with truth, but have intimate connection with truth. In fact, Jesus says He is truth. Beyond association, the Godhead is truth and true, and all three aspects of the Godhead are tied together in unbreakable bond with truth.

If the premium of truth is so high that God would associate Himself in all three persons to it, then we need to pay extremely close attention to the way that we handle this subject. For God to call Himself truth is a statement that goes deeper than “truths”, and should cause us to be baffled. What does it mean when Jesus says, “I am the truth”?

The Gospel of John starts by saying that Jesus is “full of grace and truth”. Jesus says that the truth shall set you free, and yet “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”. You must worship the Father in spirit and in truth, which is interesting considering that John the Baptist says Jesus came to baptize with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus later personifies truth in Himself. It is taking up the character of the Spirit and the Son, reflecting that which is itself truth, that we must worship the Father. Truth is, in this context, not something that we come to grasp, but something that we are. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Is Jesus not simply reiterating the same thing He expressed in John 10? He is the gate, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. Anyone who does not enter by the gate is a thief. And, we can ask, what is the gate an expression of? Do we not also find the answer within John? Jesus tells Nathanel that there shall be a greater thing seen: angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. This is a reference back to Jacob seeing God at Bethel, which means the House of God, and Jesus calling Himself the “house” by claiming that the temple shall be destroyed and rebuilt in three days, and Jacob also claims that place is the gate to heaven.

Jesus’ words are spirit, and they are life. The Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Truth and life also pair together within the wisdom of God. To have the truth, which is to say, to walk in truth, to follow the Way, entering through the Gate, is to obtain eternal life. It was said of Jesus that He alone has the words of eternal life, and yet Jesus Himself says, “This is eternal life: to know You” (the Father). Truth no longer stands as something that we believe and hold to, affirming it and debating it, but now opens up as a disposition, a lifestyle, and a mindset. Instead of focusing upon knowing truth, we should be focusing upon being true. Does the life that we live reflect the words that we speak? Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, because it is the heart itself that either loves truth or loves “truths”.

This is the quintessential question. Do we love truth, or do we love “truths”? Aren’t we asking whether we love knowledge about God versus loving God Himself? The difference is convicting. Our lives are built upon the rock only to the degree that we love truth more than we loves truths. We can have all of our words correct, and all of our doctrines lined up in a row, but if we don’t actually live the reality of what those words convey, then we’re as much liars as they who blatantly deny and reject those truths.

The Battle For Truth

If we are to believe that truth is something more than factual statement, then what exactly is the definition of truth? Truth is reality. It is all things that are real. Reality is not something that we merely believe in. Reality is something that we experience, that we can interact with, that we can live. The battle for truth is the battle for reality. Sobriety and sanity are expressions of truth. Because we live in reality, perceiving as things actually are, even if that perception is mocked or opposed, we are able to live in sobriety and sanity. We are either insane for believing there is something beyond this physical universe, or we are heralding ultimate sanity.

Nothing gets the secular, atheistic populous to foam at the mouth more quickly, nor more heatedly, than to insist that what we see and experience is not all that there is to the story. To insist upon the existence of God, and the necessity of His existence, is in their eyes the ultimate deception. Not only are we deceiving and deceived, we are a hindrance to society and the moving forward of our culture. Either we are promoting the ultimate reality, blowing the whistle on the lie, and therefore causing the father of lies to gnash his teeth in response, or we are indeed the very thing that we are accused of.

A restoration of truth in this generation is a restoration of reality. The prophetic and apostolic foundations need to be laid, even in this generation, if the next generation is to have any testimony at all. What is prophetic? What is apostolic? Why are they considered the foundations in Ephesians 2? To be either prophetic or apostolic is to perceive things as they actually are. You have priestliness, which demands an identification and compassion upon those being ministered to and interceded for. You have had a vision1 of heaven and eternity. Your whole way of thinking is moved by a jealousy for the glory of God, and the demonstration of God’s wisdom to the principalities and powers of the air.

These things, which all require a seeing past this temporal world, are what constitute truth and reality. To forfeit these fundamental insights is to forfeit the faith itself. We need a restoration, and not a reformation or revival. It is the Gospel itself that is lost, and not simply “truths”. The Gospel is of a Kingdom, of a King, and of a specific people. We have exchanged our glory for shame, exchanging it for the image of a calf, blessing God who brought us out of Egypt, only to shamefully dance naked before an image of our own imagining.

God is truly after something within the realm of theology. I don’t think that God cares so much about our correct apprehension of “truths”. What I think God is more captured by is when truth itself apprehends us. When we have moved beyond the desire to understand truth, and have entered the realm of walking in the truth, we have truly began to come into fullness. Our lives will reflect that which we love. If our love pants after sound theology, and correct doctrine, then our lives will look just like the rest of the world, but with a little Jesus sprinkled on, and maybe a bit more morality. Yet, if our hearts flutter and long for “the truth”, for reality itself, then our lives will be governed by a completely different mindset and purpose.

Shifting from one side to the other is what it looks like to move from Sinai unto Zion. We no longer live under a law, whether of the world, or of religion – even Christian religion – when we are no longer caught up with doing the right thing and knowing God’s plan for our lives. Truth itself speaks and dictates. To walk in the truth is to keep in step with the Spirit. There is no variance between walking in truth, putting on love as a garment, or being led by the Spirit. All these are synonymous, for they all manifest a demonstration of the character and heart of God in all aspects of life.

The Law is summed up in two verses, according to Jesus. 613 commandments were reduced down to two. And those two could be reduced down to one: love. One of the Jewish sages, I have heard from Rabbi Dovid Goetlieb, believed that Messiah would compact the Law into one command, which would expound the heart of all the commands. This is what it means to walk in truth, to love the truth. It isn’t about correct statements, but about a life correctly lived. It isn’t about “truths”, but about He who is truth.

1 This doesn’t mean an actual vision, but rather that you have perceived something. It might be that you have an actual vision, like some of the prophets are recorded as having. Yet, that is not a requirement of being apostolic or prophetic, as opposed to they who are called to be prophets and apostles. To be apostolic and prophetic demands a comprehension that is personal, where you have truly touched and been touched by eternity.

What Is Truth?

The issue of truth is often neglected within theology, specifically within prolegomena. I’m not certain the root of this, but I have noticed the general trend. When we “contend for the truth”, or “defend the truth”, often what is being argued is a certain way in understanding. It is as if the whole realm of truth is narrowed into a funnel of factual statement. If we could only get all of the facts correct, and make sure that our theology is “sound”, we then will be giving people the whole counsel of God, and be bringing the Gospel in unadulterated glory.

If we take seriously the texts of Scripture, it doesn’t take long before these mindsets are destroyed. Truth is, of course, factual statement to the degree that truth is reality. What does it mean that the truth shall set you free? What does it mean that God desires that we have truth in the inward parts? What does it mean when Joseph was challenged as to see if the truth was “in” him? Why is the word of the LORD in Elijah’s mouth considered true, as if it could be untrue in someone else’s mouth? The issue of truth must, by necessity in these verses and the plethora of others, expand far beyond the conventional comprehension of “facts”.

We are in a day and age when truth is being lost, and not truth in the sense of “correct understanding”, but truth in the sense that when it enters “into” it brings freedom. Truth is being diminished into something less than truth, into cliché and truism, as if a statement that is technically correct somehow constitutes truth and reality. All of this is for the sake of perpetuating systems and institutions, both educational, political, and religious. We exchange the truth for “truths”. Doctrine becomes most important, and in this, we negate all reality.

Why is it that so many see that church is boring? Why are so few interested in the weighty matters of theology and discourse of the Bible? Why do so few probe for answers? It can be said that many simply don’t actually care about God, even though they come to the Sunday meetings and put in their tithe. I know this is fact. Yet, even among those who have had the heart circumcision, and they want to know God deeply, there is so often an abusive neglect of the Scripture, of serious reflection, and of a godly study. Truth is about turning the hearts from the things of God back to the God of all things.

Where does it happen that in standing upon truth that you can actually end up rejecting and denying truth? The “where” here is obviously within the heart, but the question that we all need to wrestle with unto the shedding of blood is where that dividing line can be drawn in our own hearts and lives. In our emphatic zeal to uphold and defend truth, we can make the statement to stand as the end all be all, rather than realizing that the statement is speaking of something real. There is an actual substance to what we are speaking about. A fact, ultimately, is only a statement of something beyond itself. The law of gravity, which we take as fact, is not the expression of gravity, but the explanation of it.

Art Katz has said somewhere, “I don’t think we love God any more than we love truth.” And indeed, what Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2 is that what saves us from that ultimate deception of the last days and the false signs and wonders is the love of the truth. Truth, then, is something more than fact. If our love for it has the capability of guarding us from deception, and not the mere comprehension of it, then there must be something beyond the statement in and of itself that we must love. You love a person, or being, and not simply a concept. To love a concept is often a faulty love, self initiated, and self focused. Loving truth, though, is a love for the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that the spirit of the speaking that “true word” must also be in line with the word itself, and that character and life of the one speaking must also stand in strong affirmation of everything that this true word stands for.

Shall we consider the question of deception? Is it the utterly false thing that Satan uses as temptation? Does he not parade around as an angel of light? The lie is not always a lie. Sometimes it is actually true. In the Garden, it was the serpent that deceived the woman. Yet, the deception did not come from a lie. It came from a truth. She misquoted God, and I believe unintentionally. The serpent then corrected the woman, and in correcting her, deceived her. The word of truth in the serpent’s mouth was rendered a lie, because the character of the serpent was not in line with the reality of that truth.

Our premium of how we consider truth needs to be elevated. We worship a Messiah that claimed, “I am the truth”. It is only a couple chapters later that Jesus stood before Pilate and was asked, “What is truth?” The answer was silence, not because Jesus had no answers, but because to give an answer in the moment when Pilate is staring truth in the face would be to rob Pilate the reality of what constitutes truth. In this we see that truth is not something to have, or to comprehend, but rather it is something to be. God desires truth in the inward parts. Even the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth, and He leads us into all truth. It is not by having truths, or correctly explaining truths, that we or they we’re speaking to are set free. It is by being true, by having truth in the inward parts, being led into all truth by the Spirit of truth that liberty comes.

If we think that the whole point of the Bible is for God to inform us of how to be saved and how to live in godliness, then we have completely forfeited the Gospel for which the apostles all died. It is not about information, but transformation. It is not about perceiving correctly, but being correctly. Any statement within the Bible, whether Old Testament or New, if it is held on to as mere fact, it is as dead as the letters of the Law written on the tablets of stone. We, even we Christians, have made a Law and brought “another Gospel” by which men might be saved. We claim it is all of grace, quoting various Scriptures throughout the letters of Paul, only to then turn around and use the very same letters of Paul as regulation and “truth” that we must be held accountable to.

This is not the Gospel. This is not truth. Jesus’ words were spirit, because it was by the Spirit that He spoke. Jesus spoke truth because He is truth. If the Law alone, no matter how correctly understood and obeyed, could not bring one to righteousness, because righteousness is by faith, then how is it that we claim that truths alone, no matter how correct our understanding of those truths might be, can justify us before God? Do you honestly believe that God is impressed with all of your debates and arguments and divisions? Do you seriously think that God actually cares about whether you’ve held doctrine more correctly than your brethren that you purposefully split from? Is it not more important that the reality of that truth come into your heart, so that you could never divide over such trivial matters? Would it not be more important that the actuality of these statements drive us to loving the brethren enough to build them up in love instead of dividing in animosity?

The Tension of the Eschaton

When you read the epistles of the New Testament, there is language that is used that comes directly from the new covenant passages in the Old Testament. They speak of unity in Messiah, the breaking down of the dividing wall of hostility, we are the temple, we are united under David, and more. With all of the writing of how the new covenant has come upon us, there is also language that suggests that it is not upon us. In Philippians, Paul mentions that there are those who are trying to preach the Gospel in order to stir envy in Paul. In Galatians, Paul confronts Peter to his face in front of everyone. There are multiple disputes between believers that are attested in the New Testament. While there is all of this declaration of unity in Christ, and that the new covenant has come in, there is at the same time various places that mention the exact opposite taking place among those who are in Christ.

This is the tension of the eschaton. How can rumors of Paul’s message being heretical reach the Jerusalem congregation if there is truly the fullness of what Jeremiah wrote being poured out in their midst? Jeremiah declared that they would no longer need to tell one another, “Know the LORD, know the LORD”, for they would all know Him. Yet, here we are finding that there is now question concerning Paul’s message. How can we read of the many passages in the prophets that speak of peace in Messiah, and how there would be unity among Israel, and yet people are preaching Christ to add affliction to Paul’s chains?

What we are witnessing in the New Testament is the exact same tension that we all feel in our own modern time. We can read their words and yearn because our own lives don’t match up. A lot of ministries are based around discomforting the believers because we don’t fit the description of the New Testament Church. However true it may be that we fall short in many ways, we mustn’t use the tension of the eschaton as a way in which to manipulate, condemn, or taunt. This tension was felt in the first century as well, and the reason for the tension should be obvious.

Reading Ezekiel 36 and finding this as an explanation of our salvation is obscure. The same is true for Hebrews 8, and the quotation of Jeremiah 31. It is difficult, because we can read these passages, as well as the many more in the prophets, and we can explain that this is precisely what has happened to us, but that explanation falls so short of the context of these passages. Jeremiah 31 is a new covenant with the House of Israel, and the passage ends with God decreeing that He will never forget them. It bleeds right into chapter 32, where we find more language of the unity that will be experienced in Messiah, but at the same time it expresses very specific prophecies that concern Israel as a whole. Ezekiel 36 speaks about the new heart, and the pouring out of the Spirit, and the being washed and cleansed, but it also speaks of the restoration unto the Land of Israel, and the whole House of Israel being made right before the LORD, and the nations of the all marveling at the spectacle.

You and I are not experiencing the new covenant in that depth. The contention is that we experience it at all. How is it that these prophecies are being used to explain what we’re experiencing, when the context is so blatantly against such a statement? To answer that, we must understand that all of the New Testament authors speak of our inheritance as something that is yet future. Even the book of Hebrews, whose author alludes us to this day, specifically states that these things have not yet taken place, and continues to point toward an event in the future that would go beyond our own experience here and now. But the point of Hebrews is that while there is future expression that we are all longing for, we have a current expression of those same things in Christ Jesus here and now. The tension of the New Testament is the tension of the eschaton. We do experience that end time fullness, even if we don’t yet experience that end time fullness. And the reason that we can experience such a tension is because that event is an eternal event that every saint, from Abel unto forever, has experienced and walked in.

What we are a part of is an eternal faith, a covenant that God has made from the foundations of the world. God hovered over the darkness, walked in the Garden, came down to talk to Cain, came down to examine the tower at Babel, came down to walk through the sacrifices of Abraham, spoke audibly at Sinai, promised that He would walk in the midst of Israel, came in flesh, and at the end of the proclamation has promised to be on this world for all of eternity. It has always been about God dwelling in the midst of His people, just like what He has spoken concerning the Tabernacle itself. If we experience God’s presence with us, we are experiencing the eschaton. That is the ultimate end of God’s purposes and plans. How exactly He shall reign forever upon this earth in unadulterated splendor is the essence of the Gospel, and the grand paradigm of eschatology. That grand paradigm is something that we currently experience and walk in as saints.