The Last Outpost for Truth
Do we promise to tell the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God?
As we mark the transition of government this year, it is difficult to ignore the stretch between campaign rhetoric, politicians’ promises and anything resembling truth. The very term has been so dramatically abused over the years that Francis Schaeffer felt it necessary to mark biblical principles as “true truth,” because there were so many lies and deceptions pawned off as spiritual truth even decades ago. Today, however, we cross a threshold into a new era very much like the times described in Isaiah 59:13-15:
"In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey...".
Surely these things come as a direct result of our nation’s departure from the Lord and the Word of God. We are awash with worldliness among our own ranks, and we are reaping the whirlwind of a general population that over the last two generations has been ingrained with relativism, fantasy and the priority of earthly comforts. The majority of our population has now called for a leadership that reflects their desire for those comforts and fantasies, even at the expense of personal liberty, and few care if “truth is fallen in the street.” The biblical principles of truth and equity that have made our nation great are grown scarce in our legislatures and court rooms, and a growing number of our people are content to have it so.
That we live in a time and in a place where most people have become alienated from the Word of God or the Person and Work of Jesus Christ is hardly new. Our times reflect the history and the people found throughout Scripture, whether we look at the Old or New Testaments. So then neither should we be surprised when Apostasy and Compromise continue to sweep across the professing Church. Rick Warren comes to mind, especially when he recently commended the selection of the sodomite (and “married?”) Episcopalian priest offering an inaugural invocation. One must wonder where Warren would find “common ground” with such a heretic, especially when Episcopal Bishop Robinson makes clear that the God to Whom Warren is praying “..is not the God that I know.” The question, however, is how much of this search for common ground has infected our own people and bred compromise in our churches? There are some in our own congregations, even now, who would sound very much like those described in Isaiah 39:9,10:
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits
and Jeremiah 5:31, "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” It remains for the Church of Jesus Christ to make what may well be the last stand for the truth, as revealed by God and written under His inspiration and preserved for us in His Word, the Bible. When the Apostle Paul called “..The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” (I Timothy 3:15b), he saw the very same problem in his day and pointed to the tremendous responsibility of the Church to be that one continuous and uncompromised source of God’s truth, not to be found anywhere else until Jesus Christ comes again!
Where ministries have adopted both worldly means and cultural trappings in their worship and preaching, they have failed to realize how short a distance it is from “truth fallen in the streets” to trodding “..under foot the Son of God” and counting “..the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace..." (Hebrews 10:29). Those who persist in “doing church differently” continue to ignore the wayside cemeteries that mark the theological wilderness wanderings of the previous generation that experimented with the same things and ended up so terribly far from the truth. It is the height of arrogance to think this generation will fare better.
We must begin by making certain that we are telling the truth of God’s Word. That requires the employment of a literal hermeneutic, lest we wax figurative and symbolize ourselves into oblivion and wander far away from the plain truth of the Gospel message. Figurative interpretation of Scriptures has opened the flood gate of human imagination to offer us all kinds of things, including the new perspectives of Paul, the emerging church and ecumenicism. It has also robbed the Word of God of its absolute and final authority, such that we now live in a time when the all-pleasing charm of diversity has struck a blow against Christianity in the hearts of the American people. As George Barna is quoted from his recent survey:
"Americans are increasingly very accepting of a diverse array of faiths...They’re less likely to think that Christianity is right or accurate in what it teaches...people are deriving their biblical literacy and their views of spirituality from conversations that they might have with friends, and they give that equal weight to things they might get in church or from some other religious settings...They’ll get their faith views from their own personal reflections as well as from their personal experiences and observations.
Secondly, we are obliged to tell “the whole truth.” Paul’s testimony was clear:
“I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you... For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." (Acts 20:20b, 27). The problem with today’s compromisers is as much what they don’t say as it is what thy do say. Sins of omission are no less egregious than sins of commission and pulling our punches from the pulpit, lest we offend some of the wealthy and powerful. Over the last century and up to the present, more men in the pulpit have sounded like lawyers and politicians, carefully parsing their words and selectively addressing the issues, lest they lose the support of their constituencies and their positions of power. They have purposely left gaps in their preaching and teaching so that everyone can walk away feeling good, regardless of their doctrinal persuasions, having filled in the gaps from their own perspective and, thereby, finding nothing said offensive. It is exactly the same kind of deception the Apostle Paul was accused of practicing, which he vehemently denied, in his own ministry and strenuously warned against to Timothy. The term “all the counsel of God...” (Acts 20:27) is not subject to any figurative interpretation. Neither should we preach or teach with our fingers to the prevailing winds of our congregations. Our people need the whole counsel of God. To pick and choose, in order to please men rather than God, is a disservice to God and a failure to “feed the flock of God” (I Peter5:2).
Lastly, it is incumbent that we give “nothing but the truth.” Perhaps we should consider here the final warnings of Scripture found in Revelation 22:18-19:
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
First written in Deuteronomy 4:2, God has jealously guarded the fact that it is His Word that is truth, in contrast to the words of men, as Jesus Himself made eminently clear as He prayed to the Father, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17) Since the Garden of Eden, it has been the temptation of man to add our thoughts, our words to what God has actually said. What we have failed to admit to ourselves, however, is that Scripture is replete with examples of how such additions became substitutions all too quickly. For example, consider Jesus in Matthew 15:9 "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Or Paul, in Colossians 2:8 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."
Ours is the task of proclaiming truth to a world steeped in illusion, fantasy and overwhelming deception. We would do well to understand, however, that the only reason the sheep follow such hirelings and enemies of their souls is because they have not yet learned to recognize the voice of the Shepherd. It falls to us and the ministries of our churches to introduce them to the Good Shepherd, to teach them His Word and show them from the Scriptures how to follow Him.
Dr. Charles L. Dear
Editor, THE REVIEW