Is this pandemic God’s way of changing YOU?

This is from a friend–Dr. Keith

Ask yourself these questions:

Are you more attentive to unnecessary habits or preoccupations?

Have you found yourself more aware of hidden items or secret areas of your life?

Have you taken notice of things you’d routinely ignored before COVID-19?

Have you discovered some dormant frustrations which need to be addressed?

Have you been able to restructure your time to accomplish tasks you’ve been wanting to do for quite some time?

Have you allowed yourself to reflect more on relationships and priorities?

Have you been able to slow down and notice different or even unfamiliar elements around you?

Have you created new habits or rituals that are beneficial to your body and soul?

Are you more aware of people around you who are hurting or in need of help?

Have you more easily or intentionally connected with people close to you or with those at a distance?

Are you eating better and/or taking better care of your health? 

Have you been praying more or taking more time to commune with God?

Are you spending more time outdoors – walking, working in the yard, resting on your porch?

Are you reading a book that’s held your interest for quite some time?

Have you started a new hobby that you’d like to continue?

Could it be that this is for your good?

________________________________________________

We usually don’t know God’s ways since He is lovingly infinite and we are blindly finite. Our desire to make sense of things usually gets us into a bind when it comes to trying to figure out God.

Yet, aren’t there a few things about God that we take by faith? Like, “all things work together for good for them that love God?”

Perhaps it’s an oversimplification to think that even a pandemic can be used for good. This does not discount for one moment the lives of those who have been directly affected in sickness and/or death.

God’s ability to orchestrate the elements of this complex world and its creatures is astounding. We may claim to “know” His ways but He is far too mysterious and profound for us to be dogmatic about our comprehension of Him.

Yet, we can be confident of at least one thing. He desires us to be conformed to the image of His Son.

So, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to believe that God is using this pandemic to make us more like Jesus inwardly and in our actions…if we’ll let Him. 

If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, then you’re already experiencing this work of God in you.

There are two ways to respond and cooperate with this work of grace right now:

  1. Be thankful. Take time to thank God for what’s going on in you during these days. You may not like what’s happening around you. Yet, there is much good happening in you if you’ll take notice. Have a grateful heart for that good part.
  2. Be thoughtful. Think about what you can apply to your day from this good experience when the pandemic is over. Don’t waste this experience. Envision ways to keep the good going. Obviously it won’t be the same. But you also don’t have to slip back into your “old familiar ways” after experiencing God’s soul-worthy handiwork.

Where Does our Help Come From?

Psalm 121(NIV)

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

This Psalm has been on my heart during this time of separation and concern.  When the panic seem to crowd into my mind, and the uncertainties seem to carry me away, I think about the God that watches over us day and night.  He is our help, keeps us from harm, and is aware of our comings and goings.  I work on my alertness to the Lord’s presence and protection.

I hope all our family at Charlestown UMC is finding the certainty and care of the Lord in this time of aloneness and uncertainty.  We anticipate that soon we will be back together worshipping our caring God and encouraging each other in our walk and work for the gospel.

We are following the advice of our Bishop and Conference about the time we should begin public worship together.  This week the Administrative Board of CUMC and I discussed the procedures for us as we prepare for worship.  We are following the guidance from our Bishop, Tracy S. Malone about when to restart our worship and activities.  The Conference’s advice is to not to restart public services until the state has reached Phase 3 in its reopening plans. 

I would recommend each of you check out the Conference Website to understand what reopening involves, and other ideas for ministry in this time of COVID.  (eocumc.org)

You are all in my prayers.  If you have any concerns, please call me on my cell phone, or by email, or here on Facebook.  I miss you all greatly, and greatly anticipate the time we are together again.

Pastor Greg

True Religion Is Developed by Trial and Testing

April 7, 2013

Charlestown United Methodist Church

Book of James

Second Sunday of Easter

True Religion Is Developed by Trial and Testing

James 1:1-15

Today we begin a series of seven messages from the Book of James that will take us to Memorial Day. In these messages we will look at trials and testing, faith, wisdom, works, love, and prayer. These are still as important to us today as they were to the new Christians in the middle of the first century.

Even though the new Christians were undergoing persecution in James’ lifetime, James was all about doing the work of Jesus Christ. And so the main focus of his letter was to describe the practical aspects of what it means to be a Christian.

Among the apostles, Peter was usually considered the fighter and Paul was considered the thinker. But James was the doer. He was a man of action. James, the half-brother of Jesus, was one of Jesus’ several brothers and sisters born later to Mary by her husband Joseph. As Jesus started his ministry, James was certainly not a believer and was convinced his older brother was nothing more than that, an older brother or maybe one of the many prophets of the time that considered themselves the Messiah.

But after Jesus’ resurrection and his appearance to the five hundred and then to James, which you can read about in 1 Corinthians 15, James became one of the strongest believers in his brother’s teachings, death, and resurrection. James would lay claim not to his physical relationship to Jesus but to his spiritual relationship as a bondservant, a slave, of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, that is the way he begins his letter: James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A bond-servant required absolute obedience, absolute humility, and absolute loyalty to his master. James took a certain amount of pride in being a servant of the Risen Christ.

After Jesus’ resurrection, James became a pillar of the Christian church and the leader, the bishop if you will, of the Council of Jerusalem. You can read about that in Acts 15. It was James who sent Peter off to preach the gospel to the Jews and Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Around 62 A.D., James was accused by the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish Council in Jerusalem, of “breaking the law” and was taken to the top of the wall of the Temple and thrown down. Barely surviving the fall, he was then stoned and beaten over the head with a club. He was martyred for the Body of Christ, the Church.

And so today, we begin with James’ writing to the Jewish Christian faithful about trials and testing. More about that in a moment, but first would you pray with me?

PRAYER

If you remember about ten years ago, Krispy Kreme opened a manufacturing facility right here in Ravenna. I was ecstatic. Krispy Kremes were all the rage at the time. We used to get the day old donuts on Sunday mornings at Ravenna First for our coffee and fellowship time. It was heaven. People used to line up in the area stores to purchase the sweet, tasty delights. But do you know how they were made?

First the little balls of dough are shot through with a piercing blast of air to create a hole. Then they go into the proof box where they ride up and down an elevator in an atmosphere of heat and humidity, causing the dough to rise. After this, they are dropped into hot oil and boiled thoroughly. After surviving this ordeal, the donuts pass through a cascading waterfall of icing.

Does anyone here today feel like a Krispy Kreme? Do you feel like you have been blasted with air? Do you feel like you have been boiled in oil? If you do, just remember that these experiences precede the sweet delight that follows.

None of us look forward to trials and certainly none of us love hardship. But without them, we will never enjoy the sweet fruit of maturity. Listen to James once again: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.[1]

Paul echoed these same thoughts about trials in his letter to the Romans, Chapter 5, verses 3-4: …we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. [2]

Billy Graham once said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.” You see, joy is the correct response to the times of testing our faith because the result of our steadfastness in faith allows us to mature, to be perfect, to be complete, and to lack nothing. Testing makes us stronger and purer. It purges us of all impurity and turns the trials of our life into greatness and glory for God. Testing can increase our faith.

In Luke 17:5, the apostles said to Jesus, Increase our faith! So how do we do that? I would like to have more faith. I know you’d like to have more faith. But how do we get more faith? I don’t think you are going to like the answer. But the truth is God builds your faith and my faith by testing it.

Faith is like a muscle and when it’s stretched and it’s pulled then it develops. When you test your muscles against weights then your muscles develop. In the same manner, your faith develops as it is tested.

As Rick Warren once said, “You don’t develop your faith just setting on your blessed assurance in church.” You develop your faith through testing so that you may be mature and complete.

But the next question to ask is this, “How are we to respond when the unexpected trials of life land on our doorstep?” And you and I both know they do. Sometimes it seems like every day. How are we to respond?

In verses 5-8, James says to pray to God without doubt and ask for wisdom, not knowledge, but wisdom. If we pray in faith for God’s wisdom, then we won’t be confused or mislead by any outside influences on our life as we move through our testing. We can’t waiver between believing and unbelieving.

Someone once said that knowledge is the ability to take things apart, while wisdom is the ability to put them together. Wisdom is using knowledge rightly. And if we
pray to God he will give us wisdom generously and without criticism or blame. We need wisdom so we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature.

You may have heard the story of the farmer’s donkey that fell into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway. It just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey, so he invited all his neighbors to come over and help him.

They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit the donkey’s back, he was shaking it off and taking a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

Here’s the moral. Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. James knew that. The trick, though, to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles and trials in life is a stepping stone to becoming closer in our relationship with God and our dependence on Jesus Christ. We should never waste the opportunities God gives us to prove his awesome power to us. Because when we ask for wisdom to handle our trials God will give it generously and without finding fault and we will persevere.

So far we know that God tests our faith through difficulties so that we might become mature and complete. And that God helps us through those difficulties by generously giving us wisdom if we only ask. But then James also tells us that wealth may be another test of faith, not a proof of faith.

Verses 9-11: 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

James says that the brother or sister of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position. Why? Because that person, a brother or sister in Christ, matters to the church, matters in the world, and matters to God. The person of humble circumstance has nothing else to offer but himself or herself and their life in Christ. So many times God uses our material possessions as a test of character and a test of faith.

In Luke 16:11, Jesus says this, “If you haven’t been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth [that’s dollars, that’s money], who will trust you with true riches?” Jesus is teaching us that there is a definite, direct relationship between how I handle my money and the spiritual depth in my life. In fact, Jesus says if I’m not faithful in handling material wealth, he will not trust me with spiritual wealth.

The great peril of riches is that they tend to give a person a false sense of security. She feels that she is safe; she feels that she has the resources to cope with anything and to buy herself out of any situation she may wish to avoid. But James draws a very vivid picture that was familiar to the people of Palestine. In the desert places, if there is a shower of rain the thin green shoots of grass will sprout; but one day’s burning sunshine will make them vanish as if they had never been.

A man or woman who puts their trust in riches is trusting in things which the chances and changes of life can take away at any moment. Life itself is uncertain, so uncertain that calamity and disaster can come at any moment and the wealth can disappear. Better, says James, that we put our trust in things which we cannot lose. Trust in God, he says, who alone can give the things which abide forever.

If we trust in God, persevere through our trials, ask for wisdom, and don’t allow wealth to lead us astray, then, writes James, we will receive life even more abundant. Blessed is the [person] who perseveres under trial; for he or she will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Folks, this is the crown of royalty, the crown of joy, the crown of victory, the crown of dignity. As Paul would say, you have finished the race.

As James finishes this section of his writing, he wants to remind us to take responsibility for our actions and for our sins. Since God cannot be tempted by evil, then he himself cannot tempt any of us to sin. Don’t blame God for the sins you commit. If you remember the Fall, when confronted by God, Adam blamed Eve for eating the forbidden fruit and Eve turned around and blamed the serpent. We like to blame others for our shortcomings.

But James says don’t do this. Take responsibility for yourself and don’t let your temptations carry you away into sin. In other words, don’t let desire become action because it brings spiritual death. It is through the grace of God alone that can make us and keep us clean. And that grace is available to everyone.

Every person here today can think of a trial which you have gone through. If I asked you, “Would you like to go through that again?” You would undoubtedly say, “No way.”

But if I asked you, “Are you grateful for what that difficulty accomplished in your life?” Many of you would say, “I wouldn’t trade those lessons and the character developed in those trials for anything.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we consider it all joy. We consider it all joy because we know that when tough times come, the end result is going to be perseverance and maturity. Perseverance and spiritual maturity are things that please God. They are essential traits for the Christian life. The only way to get them is to face trials of many kinds.

Remember that cascading waterfall of icing on our Krispy Crème donut? Well that is the sweetest part of the whole process of making a Krispy Crème. The mature Christian life is like that. It is the sweet fruit of bitter times.

True religion is developed by trial and testing. So, the next time your faith is being tested, consider it all joy!


 

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Jas 1:2–4.

[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ro 5:3–5.

I Believe in Jesus Christ!

March 31, 2013

Charlestown United Methodist Church

Eastertide

Easter Day

I Believe in Jesus Christ!

Acts 10:34-43

I believe in Jesus Christ! Why? Because many secular, historian writers from 30 – 90 A.D., especially Josephus, wrote about a man who was crucified and came back to life. All of them could not have been in a conspiracy to fool the people.

I believe in Jesus Christ! Why? Because the Bible tells me about Jesus and the Bible is the inspired word of God. Besides, over and over again archeology has proven the facts in the Bible to be true.

I believe in the Risen Christ! Why? Because hundreds of eyewitnesses saw Jesus, not only before his crucifixion, but after his resurrection. They can’t all be wrong about such an extraordinary event. You see, people would not have remembered Jesus at all if it were not for his resurrection. How many people come back from the dead to show themselves before hundreds?

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 the following: 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. [1] People saw the resurrection story unfold before their very eyes and as of Paul’s writing, many of those witnesses were still alive.

Michael Green wrote the truth when he said, “Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenets of belief. Without faith in the resurrection, there would be no Christianity at all. The Jesus Movement would have fizzled out like a damp firecracker, if [Jesus] had not conquered death.”

Martin Luther, the great church reformer once wrote that “the gospel does not explain the resurrection. The resurrection explains why we have the gospels.” And it is the gospel that Peter is proclaiming in our scripture lesson today. Peter never let a chance pass him by to give a good sermon about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And his sermon to Cornelius and his household was no exception.

In our scripture today, Peter talks about the message of the gospel. He talks about the Messiah of the gospel. And lastly, he talks about the ministers of the gospel. More about this in a moment, but first would you pray with me?

PRAYER

It is on this day, this wonderful Easter Day, that we proclaim the good news of the Risen Savior. If you are a believer then you should be shouting for joy, because it means an eternity for your spiritual life. You will have the blessing of being in the presence and worshiping the almighty and powerful God for an eternity.

William Sangster, the great Methodist leader who helped guide Londoners through the horrors of the World War II bombings, fell ill to a disease that progressively paralyzed his body, and eventually his vocal cords. On the Easter just before he died, he managed to scribble this short note to his daughter: “How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, ‘He is Risen!’ But far worse,” he wrote, “to have a voice and not want to shout.”

Staying in the household of the Roman centurion Cornelius, Peter has a voice and tells the good news of the gospel. I believe in Jesus Christ! I believe in the Risen Savior!

As our scripture opens, Peter has just come to a revolutionary realization through a vision he had earlier in Chapter 10 on his way to Cornelius’ house that swept away the prejudice and indoctrination of generations of Judaism. Verse 34: I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men [and women] from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

In his vision, God had told Peter that what he creates is good. Therefore, not only Jews but all men and women, all Gentiles, all people like Cornelius and his household, could be saved through the price Jesus paid on the cross. God makes no distinction among nations or among people. All can be saved.

That phrase, God “accepts men and women from every nation who fear him and do what is right,” reminds us, too, that God goes ahead of us to prepare the way for the Gospel. Like Cornelius, there are no doubt an untold number of people around the globe or even in this church and community who are not far from the Kingdom.

These people love and fear God and sincerely do what is right in God’s eyes. Like Cornelius, they are lacking the final step of the way to God, which is the fullness of eternal life through Jesus Christ. They are near to the Kingdom; they just need to meet the King! They need to hear about Christ and come into a living relationship with him.

God, through the work of the Holy Spirit had been working on Cornelius’ heart to bring him to Jesus Christ even before Peter arrived. Even though Cornelius was a Gentile and a member of the military, the beginning of Chapter 10 tells us something about Cornelius. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. Cornelius and his family were ready to hear Peter talk about the message of the gospel.

Verses 36-37: Peter says, you know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached…

Look what Peter says to Cornelius. “You know the message.” Peter assumes that Cornelius and his family and friends already know something of the good news that Jesus preached. Jesus’ death and resurrection had only been a few years before.

Cornelius, who was living in Caesarea, only 65 miles from Jerusalem, had surely heard the stories of Jesus’ life and death. He heard them from some of the soldiers present at the crucifixion in Jerusalem during that fateful Passover week and that glorious resurrection Sunday.

As Peter continues his sermon, he talks about the Messiah of the gospel. Verses 38, 39 and 43: How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen….All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Peter is pointing out that what Jesus did was by the Holy Spirit who empowered him to free people from satanic possession. Note the connection between the devil and sickness: Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.

This is a short summary statement, and we cannot build a whole doctrine on it, but clearly Peter thinks that behind most disease and sicknesses is the devil. God is not the one who sends sickness! God will use all things and turn them around for good. Jesus came to heal and to make whole and to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus came to break Satan’s stronghold and power over us and give us renewed hope and a new life.

Now comes the most concise account of the gospel story in the New Testament. Peter knows it. He witnessed it. He tells it. They killed Jesus. God raised him from the dead on the third day. God caused Jesus to be seen. Whoever believes in Jesus will be forgiven and saved. This is about as crisp an account of the gospel story that anyone could give.

Folks, the gospel story isn’t hard to tell. Peter lays it out for you right here. Peter makes it quite plain that God is the one who sent Israel and the entire world this message of salvation by Jesus Christ.

The truth is this. Jesus is the anointed one of God. It was declared by God at his baptism. Jesus is the Messiah. He was sent by God and it is by him and only him that you and I are saved from a spiritual death removed from the presence of God. Remember John, Chapter 3: Whoever believes in [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[2]

Each year, Easter brings up life-and-death concerns. Many people are skeptical about Jesus’ death and resurrection. But if we cannot believe this, then all of Christianity falls apart.

A Canadian scientist said, “I have only two questions to ask: One, has anyone ever defeated death? And two, did he make a way for me to do it also?” The answer to both questions comes in one statement: “Because I live, you shall live also.” You see, on Easter, we celebrate the Great Reversal, the triumph of life over death. Resurrection answers crucifixion. Life answers loss.

Resurrection is “going on through death and beyond death to a new existence that death cannot touch.” When we place our trust in Jesus, we enter a new world in which death is defeated. As Christians we must live and die by this truth.

Peter talks about the message of the gospel. Peter talks about the Messiah of the gospel. And lastly, Peter talks about the ministers of the gospel. Verses 39-42: We are witnesses of everything [Jesus] did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.

The first ministers of the gospel were not only the disciples but all those to whom Jesus appeared. I read you that at the beginning of this message from 1 Corinthians. There was no conspiracy. For you see, all the apostles except John were executed for their faith. Their story about Jesus’ life and death and resurrection held firm. Not one of them ever said, “Wait, it is all a fraud, I’ll tell you the truth. Just don’t kill me.” It never happened.

These witnesses gave their lives for the truth of the gospel. If you really look at the story, the only thing that changed a group of frightened and broken disciples into a world defying and world changing force was the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing else would be strong enough to do it. It is their testimony that changed the world. It took them from hiding behind closed doors afraid of persecution to challenging the same authorities that crucified Jesus. They believed in Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe in Jesus Christ!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus is the peace of God, the power of God, the presence of God, and the pardon of God. He will judge the living and the dead.

Jesus was resurrected in time and space by the supernatural power of God. By conquering death, Jesus proved he was who he claimed to be. This is the major reason why we should believe the Christian view over Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any of the other “isms.”

A pastor was talking to a youth group about the high cost of dying. “People today waste thousands of dollars on coffins and monuments,” he said. “Jesus was so unconcerned by his death that he had to use a borrowed tomb.”

But leave it to one of our youth to get to the bottom line and put things in perspective. A teenager raised her hand and said, “But Jesus only needed it for three days.”

Jesus is the peace of God, the power of God, the presence of God, and the pardon of God. Like Cornelius, being born again by faith in the risen Christ means we stop trying to live our lives without God, and begin putting our faith and trust in Jesus. As a Christian, our goal each day should be to become more like Jesus in our attitude, our behavior, and in how we treat others. As we grow in this relationship with Jesus, he will fill more and more of our lives! I believe in Jesus Christ! I pray you do too!

Let us shout about the Risen Savior. Christ the Lord is Risen today! May we all be like Peter and talk about the message of the gospel. Talk about the Messiah of the gospel. But most importantly be a minister of the gospel. Amen!


 

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 1 Co 15:3–8.

[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Jn 3:18.

What Is Truth?

March 17, 2013

Wayland Community Church

Lenten Service – Sunday Evening

Fifth Sunday in Lent

What Is Truth?

John 18:29-40

Last week, Pastor Tim taught us through the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus, that lies can have great consequences on our life. How often do we sometimes deny our Christian faith even in white lies? How many times do we flog and crucify our Savior over again through our denial of God’s truths that convict us. Pastor Tim talked about lies in the course of our Christian journey. Tonight, we will talk about truth.

You see, truth is sometimes what we want it to be. That is our problem as a human race. We many times think our truth is just as valid as your truth or your truth or your truth. But many times our truth is not always what we mean.

For example, the other day I found the book, “The Men’s Thesaurus.” Here are some treasures I found. Remember, truth is not always what we mean. When a man says, “It’s a guy thing,” what he really means is “There is no rational thought pattern connected with this and you have no chance at all of making it logical.” Or when a man says, “Can I help with dinner,” what he really means is “Why isn’t dinner already on the table?”

Or when a man says, “Take a break, honey, you are working too hard,” what he really means is “I can’t hear the game over the vacuum cleaner.” Or when a man says, “I’m not lost, I know exactly where we are,” what he really means is “No one will ever see us alive again.” And finally, when a man says, “Uh huh, sure honey,” or “Yes, dear,” that means absolutely nothing, it’s a conditioned response. We don’t always say what we mean.

So much of our lives are lived around relative truth. Relative truth is the theory that something may be true for one person, but not for all people. Or, it may be true at one time, but not at another.

I have been in educational courses before where we were basically told, “No one is really wrong, and everyone is right, and the important thing is that we have unity and all get along.” What was being described, if it had actually been lived out, would not have been unity, but chaos.

If you and I live in a world where no one is really wrong and everyone is right, then the sniper out on the east coast is as right as the police who are pursuing him. If everyone is right, and no one is wrong, then the morals of the serial rapist on a college campus are on equal par with the ethics of Mother Teresa, who selflessly and sacrificially ministered to the lepers of Calcutta. At some point in our belief system, there has to be some absolute truths on which we can depend.

Absolute truth says that what is true for one person is true for all persons, times, and places. Absolute truth is discovered, as in the Bible, not invented. Absolute truth is the same across different cultures. Absolute truth is unchanging; it is the same across time. Absolute truth is true despite the beliefs of a person or how sincere they are. Absolute truth is grounded in a source that is personal, unchanging, and sovereign over all creation. In our scripture story today, Pilate comes face to face with truth. More about that in a moment, but first, would you pray with me?

PRAYER

As we move into our scripture story today, Jesus has been arrested and taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, for questioning. After Annas was through with him, Caiaphas, the high priest, questioned him. It was while Jesus was being questioned that Peter, his disciple, denied knowing him. Once Caiaphas was through with him, Jesus was led in the early morning hours to the palace of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

The Jews wanted Jesus dead, something they could not carry out under Roman law. Pilate was only trying to follow proper legal procedure when he asked the question, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” When the Jewish leaders knew they had no specifics that would stand up in a court of law, they called Jesus a criminal and a revolutionary. They wanted Pilate to do their dirty work for them. Only Pilate, a Roman authority, could invoke the death penalty for a non-Roman citizen, crucifixion. But Pilate was reluctant.

Then comes the one on one encounter with Jesus as Pilate asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answer is interesting. “Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?” Jesus’ answer was not what Pilate expected. Jesus is probing Pilate’s conscience, calling on him to think this through for himself. In other words, Jesus is asking, “Are you just parroting what others have said or are you sincerely asking the question?”

How Pilate answered that question, would determine if Jesus would reply from a political perspective as a revolutionary or from a spiritual perspective as the Messiah of a kingdom not of this world. Jesus chooses the latter. “My kingdom is not of this world. I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” And then comes the rhetorical question to which Pilate did not really want an answer, “What is truth?”

Truth was standing right in front of Pilate and Pilate did not recognize him. When we do not want to see the truth, it is impossible to recognize it, even when it is staring us in the face. And so this begs the question, “What is truth?”

First, truth is a person. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus Christ was the revealed truth of God which came to us in the form of a person. Truth finds its source in God who is personal and moral. God did not send the world abstract ideas, he sent us a person. Jesus did not say that he came to tell us the truth, or show us the way; he said he was the truth. Being one with God, Jesus is the embodiment of truth and we began to understand that as he lived and taught among us during his time on earth.

Second, truth is real. Truth is tangible. It is not subjective or something that is decided by majority opinion. Rev. Rodney Buchanan, a retire Methodist Pastor once wrote that “water is wet, rocks are hard, and grass is green. We could take a vote and agree that rocks are wet, water is dry, and grass is red, but that would not change the nature of rocks, water, and grass. Truth is not only real, it is knowable.” The Bible says that, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). So we can know the truth, and when we know it, it brings freedom into our lives.

It is important to know that truth is real, because without it we cannot live in the real world. If truth is not real then the world is not real, and we find ourselves living in a world of illusion where we delude ourselves and each other.

Abraham Lincoln had a favorite riddle he used to put to his colleagues. It went like this: “If a man were to call the tail of a dog a leg, how many legs would the dog have?” “Five,” was the usual reply.

“Wrong,” Lincoln would say with a homely smile. “The dog still has four legs. Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”  How many times do we delude ourselves or do the media create an illusion by repeating something over and over again as if it were the truth? Just because we say it’s so, doesn’t make it real or the truth.

Buchanan continues, “We have a real God who sent a real Savior, into a real world, to save real sinners, from real sin, that they might experience real forgiveness, in order to live real life, and inherit a real heaven. No other religion except Christianity makes exactly these same claims. That is why one religion is right and the others are wrong. They cannot all be right, because they contradict each other. If there is a real God, he wants us to know the real truth. If he wants us to know the real truth, he must have provided a way for us to know the truth.” And he did. He gave us a book. He came in person.

Third, truth is eternal. Truth is as absolute as God himself. Truth did not originate in man. Truth originates in God. Truth existed before the world began. It is transcendent and unchangeable. God does not just tell us truth or reveal truth, but God is truth. God is love. God is holy. God is righteous. An understanding of all these things comes with an understanding of God.

So why is it then that people have so much trouble understanding the truth? In 2 Corinthians 4: 3 – 6, Paul explains it with these words: 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age [this word “god” has a small “g.” Paul is speaking of Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. [1]

Satan has blinded the minds of people who do not want to know the truth, in order to keep them from seeing and understanding truth. Pilate was blinded to the truth. Remember what Jesus said about the devil, “there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

But as Paul says, for those who seek the truth, God shines his light in the darkness and gives them the ability to see and understand the truth. But you have to want to know. You have to believe there is truth. You have to ask before you are answered, seek before you find, and knock before the door is opened. Herschel Hobbs, writing in his book My Favorite Illustrations, said this: “Persons often speak of defending truth. Well and good, but truth is not so weak that it cannot defend itself. What is needed most is to declare the truth in love. If let loose in the arena of ideas, truth will defend itself. Truth is of God; falsehood is of Satan.

And lastly, truth is transforming if obeyed. First Peter 1:22 says this, 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. [2] Results don’t just come from hearing truth. They come from obeying the truth. Pilate was hearing truth from Jesus. In fact, he was standing face to face with Truth incarnate. Yet Pilate was making the wrong decisions.

“Now that you have purified yourselves…” How? “…by obeying the truth.” Truth is an essential element in the solution to the problems we face in life. When we have a problem we want God to fix, he normally does it through a process that involves truth. God brings truth to bear on the problem, and as we walk in that truth, we enter into liberty and victory in that area of our lives. God operates in the realm of truth and he teaches us that we have to operate in that realm ourselves.

Winston Churchill once said, “[People] occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” You and I need to encounter the truth. We need to obey the truth, and when we do, life transformation takes place.

I was standing in line at WalMart the other day, and a woman and her young son were ahead of me. The child was unhappy because he saw something he wanted and his mother was not allowing him to get it. His disappointment began to get louder, and she suddenly blurted out, “What can I tell you, Billie? Life sucks, and then you die.”

Imagine having that as a truth on which you operate your life! The kind of truths we tell ourselves and our children are molding us and the future generation. The truth is that God created a good world, and life is good, when we live it for God and base our lives on his Word.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is truth? Truth is a person. Truth is real. Truth is eternal. Truth is transforming. When you really think about it, all truth is absolute. There really are no relative truths. If something is really true, then it is really true for everyone, everywhere, and for all time. All other so called relative truths are just a smoke screen of the evil one.

The absolute truth is this. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.[3]


[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 2 Co 4:3–6.

[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 1 Pe 1:22–23.

[3] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Jn 3:16–17.