What Is Truth?

Reformation Sunday, October 31st, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church. San Diego, CA
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What is truth? In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But what is the truth?  Well, our message this morning is truth!  It is the Word of God in Law and Gospel; it’s that Word, which sets people free!  Our truth this morning is the living Word of God, Jesus Christ who is with us this very moment giving us His truth. God the Father is a God of truth.  Christ is truth.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and He guides us into all truth.  Because God is truth, we must worship Him in truth; walk before Him in truth; serve Him in truth; rejoice in truth; speak to one another in truth, and meditate on His truth.  Those who are found without the truth are punished for their lack of it.  Because the truth is the Gospel, it can come only through Jesus Christ…and that’s the truth!  The truth is purifying, justifying and sanctifying.  In your baptism God clothed you with the truth; truth is your robe of righteousness.  Truth is abundantly and daily revealed to you who are loved and called according to His purpose and it always abides with you always.  God desires that the truth be acknowledged, believed, loved, and obeyed, and by His Spirit of Truth you are able to do this very thing!  This is most certainly true! 

I. In order to help us know what the truth is, let’s briefly discuss what the truth isn’t.  In the early 16th century, a young German monk named Martin Luther desperately wanted to know the truth about God.  The church taught him since he was a child that God was an angry God, who relentlessly kept track of each and every person’s sins, patiently waiting for the moment of judgment so that He could punish their sins!  Luther was taught that if there was any hope for him at all it would come through the traditions and teachings of the Church.  Luther was also taught that through a prescribed series of religious exercises, he and the rest of humanity may be able to find favor in God’s eyes.  But Luther soon found himself in a dilemma; how was he to know if he performed enough religious exercises to please God?  So in response to his desire to “know the truth” the young monk was sent to Wittenberg to attend Seminary and to become a priest.  It was during his study of God’s Word, that He discovered the truth that set Him free, and that truth was found in the very Epistle lesson we heard read this morning: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. [Rom. 3:21-25,28]  

These words, these living Words were the very truth that Martin Luther knew to be the key that explained all of God’s Word.  For years, he lived under the tyranny of God’s Law alone, but he discovered that God’s Law was only half of God’s truth, because you see, it lacked God’s Grace, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So now armed with the whole truth of God’s Word, this young monk became consumed by the word of God!  He could not stop reading and studying.  And as he read, he was changed.  He quickly began to see the folly of sinners who placed their trust in the church or their own good works.  

ILLUS: If Luther were here this morning, he would tell us this about the devils lies and God’s truth: The devil wants us to look at God and see Him as one who is angry with us and out to punish us when we sin.  He is encouraged when we ask ourselves, “Why is God punishing me?” because this type of thinking is what he uses to get us to abandon our faith.  But if we see God this way, then we don’t see Him correctly, but instead “we’re looking at him as if a dark storm cloud has been drawn across His face.  God’s Word tells us that if we truly believe that Christ is our Savior, then we have a God of love; and to see God in faith is to look upon His friendly heart.”
    “So when the Devil throws your sins in your face so that you will abandon your faith, and when he declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it?  For I know one who suffered, died, and paid for my sins; His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God and where He is there I shall be also.”

II. So what is truth?
  Jesus graciously answers this question for us with these words, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [Jn. 8:31-32]  Friends, the word of Jesus is the truth because it is the Word of God.  It is the Word alone that brings spirit and life; without the Word there is only spiritual death.  The only way to know God is through the Word, and if we want to live in truth we must live in the Word.  Jesus said, “If you remain in me, and my words I will remain in you.”  Whether we are babies in the faith or the most honored elder of the congregation, we are all equally held safe by the same power of God’s Word.  It is this truth, this Word that holds us within the true faith.  This relationship of faith can only come from the Word and it can only be retained through a continual reliance on that same Word, through which the blessed power of truth and faith are given to each of us.  So the truth dear friends, is found in living out God’s Word and sharing that truth with others.  No one who rejects God’s truth can ever find saving faith.  No one who refuses to be led by God’s Word can expect to hold on to it.  God’s Word must have its way with us or it will not live within us.   

III. But what is the purpose of truth?  Well Jesus answers this question pretty well when He says, “and the truth shall set you free.”   If it is only truth that sets us free, then we can surmise that without truth we are in bondage…we are slaves.  But slaves to what, or to whom?  This was the question of the unbelieving Jews who were mixed in with the newly converted Christians when they said: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” [vs. 33]  Can you hear the pride and sarcasm in their voices?  It’s like they’re saying, “If the truth you’re speaking about is only good for slaves, then don’t bother us with it…WE ARE Abraham’s children and we have no master except God Himself!  We have rules that we follow that God Himself gave to us.  And by following these rules we will appease God’s anger and find salvation!  And to this, Jesus, the Living Word of God, gives them more truth: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”  He says to the Pharisees and he says to us, “So how are you doing with keeping God’s rules?  Have you ever broke one?  Have you ever sinned?  Of course you have, and you will continue to sin…You are a slave to sin…you are in captivity of it and there is nothing you can do to save yourself!”  

Friends, Jesus is asking us to understand and believe that everyone of us who does what is sin is enslaved by it and can never on our own break away from it.  We are, without question trapped in spiritual soul slavery, and that is the worst kind of slavery you can ever be captivated by.  He is asking us to accept the fact that we do sin in thought, word, or action every day, every hour, and even every moment.  If God were to put us on trial, our very own conscience would be the best witness against us.  So what are we to do?  Nothing…nothing but confess that there is nothing we can do, and then we rest in our own helplessness and receive the help of God.  What is that help?  Well it’s His truth, the true and Living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  He is your champion who speaks God’s grace to you:  ‘Friend, even though you are guilty of many sins, I forgive.  Even though you have ignored my presence in your life and refused to enter into a relationship of trust with me, I shall show your mercy and love.  By the power of God’s love through Jesus Christ you are forgiven.  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” 

ILLUS: At a certain seminary in Chicago there’s an outdoor gathering in the summer where modern thinkers can come and lecture. On this day each attendee is encouraged to bring a lunch to be eaten outdoors in a grassy picnic area. One year the school invited a modern religious scholar who spoke for two and a-half hours trying to prove that the resurrection of Jesus was false. He quoted scholar after scholar and book after book. He concluded that since there was no historical evidence proving the resurrection then it must not be the truth.  He said that the faith of orthodox Christians was based on groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it relied on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, in fact, never rose from the dead in any literal sense. He then asked a stunned crowd if there were any questions.

After about 30 seconds, an old, dark skinned preacher with a head of short-cropped, white hair stood up in the back of the crowd.  “Excuse me sir,” he said, “I got one question.”  Now all eyes were turned toward him. He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it.  “Sir” he said while crunching his apple.  “My question is a simple one.  Now, I ain’t never read them books you read and I can’t recite the Scriptures in the original Greek like you can.  I don’t know nothin’ about them other fellas you keep quotin, but…” Now he  finished the apple. “All I wanna know is, this apple I just ate, was it sour or sweet?”

The scholar paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: “I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple.”  The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at the scholar and said calmly, “And neither have you tasted my Jesus.”

The 1,000 plus in attendance could not contain themselves as they erupted with applause and cheers. The scholar thanked his audience and promptly left the platform. Have you tasted Jesus?  

CONCLUSION: Friends, I believe that each of us must answer that question.  It’s really an old question; it’s one that can only be answered yes or no.  How do we taste the Lord?  By faith!  How do we acquire this faith?  By being in the Word of God.  So tasting the Lord is being in His Word.  Tasting the Lord is believing in His Word.  Either you believe or you don’t.  But be warned, you can’t pick and choose which parts you believe and which parts you don’t.  It comes as a whole; both the Law and the gospel!  It’s like that old preacher’s apple, you gotta taste it and eat the whole thing in order to know the sweetness of its truth! 

Let me close with a portion of truth this morning, a portion of Psalm 34: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!  I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” [Psalm 34:1-8a]  May each of us taste and know by faith that the Lord is good!  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost… AMEN!

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One Response to “What Is Truth?”

  1. Childbirth says:

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