Lies Christians Believe (Part 1): No Place for Truth

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  June 26, 2011
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Last week we began this new series, "Lies Christians Believe." And I sort of laid a foundation for it, and today, and in the coming weeks I want to look at some of those specific lies that we are tempted to embrace from the culture around us. We live, and I think you're aware of this, in very unsettling times. I remember back in May of 2005, in an issue of Newsweek magazine, George Will (who was at the time their most conservative commentator, and of course, there are now no conservative commentators in Newsweek,) wrote an article entitled, "The Oddness of Everything." George Will concluded that article in Newsweek with these very sobering and frightening words. He wrote,

The greatest threat ultimately to civilization is an excess of certitude. The world is much menaced right now by people who think that the world and their duties in it are clear and simple. They are certain that they know what or who created the universe and what this creator wants them to do to make our little speck in the universe perfect. [George Will says,] If you believe that there is truth and that it can be certainly known, you are the most dangerous person on the planet. [And George Will is not alone. There is an increasing note of intolerance from the secular world around us for the person who says, "This is truth."]

Tragically, that same mindset, that is permeating the world in which we live, has become increasingly popular inside the walls of the professing church inside Christianity. Just last month Richard Stengel, the managing editor of Time magazine, spoke to the graduating class of 2011 at Wheaton College's 176th commitment commencement; 176 years Wheaton's been around Christian college, and the editor of Time magazine spoke to their graduating class. In an article on Wheaton's own website, they explain the primary message that Stengel wanted to get across to the next generation of Christian students. The article's title will give you the essence of it.

The article on Wheaton's own website is entitled "Embrace Uncertainty." The article on the website begins "In today's mass media and across the spectrum of American politics, Stengel sees an epidemic of certainty. People who are absolutely sure that they know they are right…." [and he goes on to say …] "… I am telling you today beware of certainty. Beware of ideas and theories that cannot be tested. Be aware of people who know they are right." This is part of the mindset of the age in which we live. And tragically there is a real danger of Christians embracing that same sense of uncertainty about even the most basic and fundamental truths of our Christian faith.

Last time, we began a new series entitled, "Lies Christians Believe," how the various world views around us are reshaping our own. As a foundation for our study, we examined Romans 12:1 – 2, and I invite you to turn there with me again just to remind you of this foundation. This is why we are doing this, Romans 12:1 - 2 are hinge verses in Romans. They are verses in which Paul begins to lay the foundation for the practical application of all that he's taught in the first 11 chapters.

He begins in verse 1, "Therefore …" in response to all that I've said about salvation and God's accomplishing it…. "Therefore, I urge you brethren by the mercies of God…." by all of those mercies of salvation I've unfolded in the first 11 chapters to do two things. He exhorts us, first of all in verse 1, to present our bodies as a sacrifice. Your body doesn't belong to you; present it as a living sacrifice to God to live out your life not for yourself but as Paul says to the Corinthians "for Him who loved you and gave Himself for you." [Live out your existence for Him.]

The second command he gives, the second exhortation in response to all those mercies of God in response to the salvation we enjoy comes in verse 2: "And [here's the other exhortation] do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." [Now, in that verse we learn one very simple truth; we owe God, in light of all of His mercies to us in Christ, not only our bodies but our minds as well. We don't have a right to decide what we think about anything.] The question is what does Christ want us to think?

He says this in two commands; first a negative command and then a positive one. The negative command is resist the thinking of our age. Look at the first half of the verse, "do not be conformed to this world …" literally this age. He says I don't want you to allow your thinking to be pushed into the mold of the mindset of the age. That's what that word age means; it speaks of a period of time and its prevailing mindset. He says don't allow your mind to be pushed into the mold of how the world around you thinks. Instead, the second half of the verse is the positive side, embrace the thinking of our God. "Be transformed" the Greek word for transformed is the word from which we get the English word "metamorphosis." It describes a radical inward change in our fundamental character. Be transformed. How? … "by the renewing of your mind." We're to allow the Spirit of God to transform us, and He does that by renewing our minds with what? With the Word of God. That's the foundation for our study over the next few weeks.

Starting today, I want us to begin to examine several dangerous ideas that dominate the culture around us and that we risk beginning to emulate, beginning to be reshaped by ourselves. Now, let me just warn you, normally, when I'm preaching expositionally through a passage, we start with the text of Scripture. Today, and probably through most of this series, we're going to start by examining the dangerous idea that is part of the culture. We have to identify what it is to avoid it.

We have to understand it, and then we'll come to the Scripture and see how the Scripture counters it, how it responds to it. So, don't be surprised by that slight change in how we normally handle things here. Alright, ideas that reshape our thinking, if we're not careful, if we don't see them, if we don't identify them, if we don't understand them, and if we don't intentionally understand what the Scripture teaches, we'll be sucked in, we'll be shaped by those ideas. What are they?

Well, the first dangerous idea, and the one I want us to understand today is this: "Truth is relative." Truth is relative. Now, I want to start by making sure we understand what that means. We hear that, you've heard it around, but what does it mean? So, let's start with the basic definition. When somebody says, or when I say "Truth is relative" Talking about the philosophy, that dangerous idea that's out there in the world, what do we mean by that? Well, it means our knowledge is relative, that's what it means, our knowledge of truth is relative to our limitations. We can't really know it, or it can't be known. Basically, this dangerous idea denies something and affirms something. Let me tell you what it denies and affirms.

First of all, it denies that there are any truth claims that are universally, eternally true. They would absolutely deny that there are any truth claims, any truth propositions that are universally, eternally true. Instead, those who hold this view would affirm this. There are no moral spiritual propositions that are objectively, universally, eternally true. There are none. That's what they would say. To whatever extent they would argue that something can be said to be true, it's only true in a particular circumstance, a particular time, for a particular person, in a particular context. Now, you don't ever hear people say those sorts of things in your daily life. Instead, this idea that truth is relative takes several popular forms. And you will hear and have heard these. Let me just give you a few ways this is expressed on a more everyday basis.

First of all, you will occasionally hear someone say this, and I've heard it, perhaps you have. There is no absolute truth. There is no absolute truth. Instead, each individual gets to decide in each circumstance, or the culture as a whole gets to decide what is practically true. In other words, what works. That's really all we have. There is no absolute truth. It's a matter of what works.

That brings us to a second expression that this commonly takes, and that is "Well, you know that whole God-thing, Christianity thing, that may be true for you, but it's not true for me. It may be true for you, but it's not true for me." What does that say? It says there is no objective outside truth that's true for everybody. It's taking the view that truth is relative.

A third expression of this is, "You believe that if it works for you." You go with it if that's good for you, if it works, if it helps your life, helps you live better, if it calms you in life, then you do it. Again, it assumes there is no absolute truth.

Another perspective is "Well, you know, there may be absolute truth, but if it exists, then we can't know if for sure; there's no way of knowing for sure what it is, so frankly, it's just as if there were none."

Another expression is: you'll hear somebody say something like this, "You know, there are many ways to God and they're all true." You've heard the illustration of a mountain, you know and everybody and all the different faiths are climbing this mountain, and we're all taking different paths, but in the end, we're all going to arrive at the same destination, the top. And well get to God. Everybody will get there. We're just taking different paths. That is a logical inconsistency. It's an incongruity. It violates the most basic law of logic, the law of non-contradiction. If A is true, and B is the opposite of that A, then both A and B can't be true.

Another way (and this is my personal favorite), that you hear this expressed is, "You know you just need to stop searching for truth, and you just need to embrace the mystery. Just embrace the mystery." You heard that?

In an article I first read in November of 2004, Christianity Today introduced the ministry of a man who was then an up and coming emerging church pastor named Rob Bell and his wife Kristen. He pastors a huge community up in Grand Rapids called Mars Hill. The author of that CT article writes this about the Bells. He says the Bells, "found themselves increasingly uncomfortable with church" [Now, remember he's a pastor.] "Life in the church had become so small" Kristen says. "It had worked for me for a long time, and then it stopped working." The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself. "Discovering the Bible as a human product," as Rob puts it, "rather than the product of a Divine fiat." In other words, a human production rather than a God produced Bible.

"The Bible is still the center for us" Rob says "but it's a different kind of center. We want" here it is "to embrace mystery rather than conquer it." "I grew up thinking that we had figured out the Bible" Kristen says, "that we knew what it means. Now, I have no idea what most of it means, and yet I feel like life is big again, like life used to be black and white, and now it's color." Just embrace the mystery; don't try to discover truth.

Listen, Rob and Kristen Bell didn't come up with that. They are merely reflecting the culture around them. Over the last forty years there's been a huge paradigm shift about the nature of truth. It happened first outside the church in the secular culture. In fact, let's look secondly at the philosophical background. I want you to understand this. Stay with me because you need to know that these ideas didn't just sort of pop up. They grow out of a philosophy.

Every metaphysical idea is based on some sort of supporting philosophy. Where exactly did the popular level idea that truth is relative come from? Well, as with many philosophical ideas, it was born in the academic world. It started in an area of academics that is called "epistemology." Don't be scared of that word. Epistemology is simply the study of knowledge. It primarily answers this question: How do we know what we know? How do we know what we know?

Well, if you look at the span of human history, there have really been only three basic views of how we know what we know, three epistemologies. One of them we'll call "Pre-Modern," the second one "Modern," and the third "Post-Modern." Let me unpack those for you.

First of all, "Pre-Modern." This view of how we know what we know dates from Creation frankly until about 400 years ago. There was nearly universal agreement through that entire span that how we know what we know is through God, or God's revealing it to us. There was essentially universal agreement. There were obviously exceptions, but the culture, as a whole, embraced the idea that we know what we know because there was a divine being or beings who revealed it.

Of course, paganism would say those gods were revealing themselves through nature, through creation; the god of storms or rain, and you could tell if they were angry or not by what they did, whether you got storms and how bad they were. And of course, the God of the Bible reveals Himself through a book and through His prophets. But for thousands of years the prevailing view was that the knowledge of truth was based on revelation; God or God's revealing it to us. That's the "Pre-Modern" view. And that lasted until about 400 years ago.

And that brings us to the second predominate view of epistemology or how we know what we know. And it is the "Modern" view. Near the beginning of the 17th century, the early 1600's, the tide began to turn. An increasing number of intellectuals rejected the idea of authority and revelation as the source of our knowledge. They said, no, we don't know what we know because God somewhere out there reveals it to us either through nature or through a book. It really began, this "Modern" view, with Descartes and the period known as the Enlightenment, the great philosopher. It lasted from the early 1600's until the early 1970's.

So, for a better part of 400 years, modern epistemology, this view, still teaches that truth exists and that we can know it, but no longer did they say we know it because God reveals it. They said, no, we can't know truth that way. We can't know whether God has spoken or not or if there is a God. We know truth, the only reliable way to know what's true is, through the scientific method; through the use of reason and our senses, empiricism. If I can reason my way to it, if I can put it in a test tube, put it in a laboratory, reproduce it, then I know it's true. That was the "Modern" view of how we know what we know or epistemology.

The end of the 20th century brought us to what was the only third view of knowledge in human history and that is the "Post-Modern" view. Now "Post-Modernism" is a label for the prevailing intellectual mood in western society today. It began in the early 1970's, and if you want to know more about the history of it, see me afterwards. I'm sure there may be one or two of you that might have that question. See me afterwards, and I'll direct you to some materials I did a few years ago on that. But essentially, early 1970's there were some professors and academics that began to write, but basically let me simplify it for you. You can reduce the prevailing mindset of the culture in which we live, the "Post-Modern" view of how we know what we know to two simple propositions.

Number 1: Truth does not exist. There is no objective absolute truth, and if it does exist, you can't know it, so you might as well forget it anyway.

Secondly, "Post-Modernism," the prevailing mindset of the day in which we live, says there is no universal explanation of meaning in the world. There's no story that tells the whole story of human history. There's no, as they would call it, "meta narrative;" there's no great overarching meaning and explanation to meaning in the world in which we live. Christianity would be one of those meta narratives, those over-arching explanations that they would reject. But they would reject them all except theirs.

By the way, if you're a student in junior high, high school, certainly college you are being exposed to "Post-Modernism." You are hearing over and over again in subtle or perhaps not so subtle ways the reality that truth doesn't exist, can't be known. It doesn't permeate every discipline yet in the science classes, there's still a whole lot of modern epistemology where they would say reason and experiments, but in other areas it's beginning to permeate. You're hearing it. At its heart, Post Modernism, where we live today, the mindset of the age in which we live is a rejection of certainty about anything and everything. That is the philosophical background in which we live today and the rejection of certainty. Now, that brings me to, how has that infiltrated the church?

Let's look thirdly at the lethal consequences of these ideas in the church. How does this play out in the life of the church? You see the same "Post-Modern" ideas that were in the academic institutions and are in the academic institutions have begun to enter the church. It came originally through the pens of "evangelical scholars."

In 2001, this is not a book you have probably read, but in 2001 Stanley Grenz and John Franke wrote a book entitled, Beyond Foundationalism. It was a book to scholars, and in that book they argue that theology, now we're not talking about the world at large, we're talking about theology, theology is in a constant state of change and that no theological issue should ever be considered as ultimately and finally settled. None, whether you're talking about the nature of God, or whether you're talking about salvation, or whether you're talking about the nature of the Scripture.

Their major target in their book was, guess what? Certitude. They had drunk the Kool Aid. Now, what began in the university began to filter down into the local church. It started scholars to scholars. Now, it has infiltrated the local church. What does it look like? If you were to walk into a church today that has been influenced by "Post-Modernism" by the idea that truth is relative, what would you see? What would it look like?

Let me give you some examples, and by the way I promise you that there are hundreds of churches in the metroplex that have either been influenced by this idea or have completely bought into it and are seeing these lethal consequences lived out in the life of the church. I know of a number myself, but let me just give you some of these lethal consequences. Here is what you'll see in a church.

Number 1., You may see them or hear them saying that truth is not absolute. You say well, what would they call the Bible then? How do they deal with the Bible? They would say the Bible is like a trajectory line. The Bible, think of the truth revealed in the Bible like a line on a continuum, and the Bible ends, and then there are dots that continue, and all the Bible does is map out the points on a continuum in a given point in time showing where God is really headed. So, we have to, sort of connect the dots and draw the line out past Revelation to see what God really wanted.

Brian McLaren, one of the main voices in what is now the drifting emergent church movement, writes this: "The Bible sets a trajectory. It helps me aim for a continuing trajectory so that we can live in our day" [as opposed to the first century when the Bible was written] "in ways that are pleasing to God and are good for God's dreams for the world." The Bible just shows us God's dreams, and it's just the beginning, and we have to draw a line out and see where God was really headed. The Bible isn't the end of the story. It just points on the continuum of where God was headed.

British theologian N. T. Wright uses another image. He says, that Bible you have in your hand, he says, "Don't think of that as a finished book. Think of it like a play. And God gave us four of the five acts of the play. There are four acts there, but the final act is lost. And so, guess what, it's your job, it's my job to write the final act, to tell the story of how it ends. The Bible merely points us in the right direction; we write the ending. And of course, this means that I'm free to decide where God was ultimately aiming." You say, well, that seems pretty ethereal; what does that look like in real life?

Let me give you an example, from a large local church in the Dallas metroplex, in dealing with the issue of women and women pastors. So, they say to themselves, truth is not absolute, so what we read in the Bible is like a trajectory. It shows us where God was heading. So, you look in the Old Testament, and women were treated better than the culture around them in the Old Testament but not really good. And so, that wasn't where God was headed.

It gets better in the New Testament so you see this line; they're treated better, and so you see where God is headed, but the New Testament doesn't end it. You know He couldn't tell them everything they needed to hear because they were bound by those first century cultural ideas and all that, so you just start connecting the dots and keep drawing out, and so today we can disregard all that stuff about women not being pastors because the trajectory was up, and now of course it's perfectly fine.

They do the same thing with homosexuality. They say, look at the trajectory line. Today it should be acceptable. I'm not making this up. This is what is said; this is what has been said in churches in our area. Truth is not absolute.

Another lethal consequence is: they will say the Bible is not propositional truth but a narrative, a story. You'll hear that a lot. It's a narrative. It's a story. Again, Brian McLaren writes,

"None of us want to throw out the Bible, but what we want to do is become more savvy and more aware of our interpretive grids that we bring to the Bible. One good way to think about the Bible for me is to think of it as a scrapbook or memorabilia, the essential documents that tell us the story of people who believed in one, true, living, just, holy, loving, merciful God."

So, don't look for truth in the Bible. Don't look for things that are propositionally true. Instead, just sit back and enjoy the story of those who pursued God. You hear a lot of talk about narrative, and I'm talking about portions of Scripture that aren't narrative. You hear a lot of talk about the Bible being a story as opposed to propositional truth. It's a church that's been influenced by this idea.

A third lethal consequence is, they would say, that no one can claim an interpretation of any truth is certain. You can't be sure your interpretation is right, they would say. In fact, to claim your interpretation is right is the height of arrogance. Now, it's true that there are passages and issues on which Christians have disagreed for the last 2000 years, and on those secondary issues we ought to show humility and grace to one another. We ought to. But listen. When Paul says to the Galatians in Galatians 1, "Here is the gospel; everything else is a damning error and if somebody including me or an angel preaches that to you, grab them by the seat of their pants and throw them out" he was affirming that, in fact, you can know the truth. We have been told in the Scriptures we are to fight for and defend certain truths.

That brings us to a fourth lethal consequence, this mindset leads churches to say this, "There is no body of doctrine that Christians must believe. There is no foundational doctrine in the Christian church. There is nothing you have to believe to be called a Christian." Earlier this year, Rob Bell argued both on line and in a book called, Love Wins, against the reality of eternal hell. He said it was arrogant to hold that anyone will actually go there. McLaren takes the same view on hell. In fact, McLaren goes a step further and says that he takes issue with why Jesus died. He said,

"It wasn't to die as a substitute satisfying the wrath of God against sinners." He

said, "… in fact that's the equivalent of divine child abuse. That's making God

the Father a child abuser of His Son. There's no truth that is absolutely essential

to the Christian faith and must be believed."

Now, let me just mention, I won't touch on these really more than just mention them, several other lethal consequences to the church when you believe that truth is relative.

Number 5, there's an emphasis on feelings and emotions rather than on the thinking and the mind.

Number 6, there is a focus on experience rather than on the Bible.

Number 7, there's a focus on discussion and conversation rather than preaching and teaching. I mean if we can't know the truth, then why is my view any better than yours? Let's have a conversation, and you tell me what you think it means, and I'll tell you what I think it means.

Number 8, there is an emphasis on inclusivism rather than exclusivism. Because we can't be certain of the truth, we should include everyone and exclude no one, regardless of how heretical their views might be or how sinful their lives might be. Even pluralism, opening your arms to other faiths and embracing them as knowing God, is now becoming popular. In fact, there's a church in our area that calls itself an evangelical church that sent out a flyer within the last few months. (I got it, you may have gotten it) in which they publicized a conference in which they were going to invite Rabbis and Imams and representatives of other religions to come together so they could all understand each other better.

Two Christian colleges, that is two colleges with decidedly Christian roots that I'm familiar with, today have turned to be colleges to educate all faiths. I'm not just talking about opening their doors to people who believe other faiths, which is bad enough; I'm talking about purposefully teaching them the foundations of their faiths. That's the mindset of the age in which we live. So, what are we to do with this idea that truth is relative? Well, according to Romans 12:2 we are not to allow our minds to be influenced by it, to be shaped by it. Instead we are to allow the Word of God to renew our minds. So, that brings us to the key question. What does the Bible say about the nature of truth?

And that brings us to our fourth point. What is the biblical teaching? What does the Bible say about this terrible idea? The dominant mindset of our age is either a blatant denial of absolute truth or a denial that we can know it. In contrast to that, the Bible both assumes and teaches that there is objective, universal, eternal, propositional truth and that you can know for certain what it is. That's what the Bible teaches. This is what our Lord affirmed.

Now, let's begin with what is truth? When we talk about truth, what are we talking about? If I were to say to you what is truth? What do we mean by that? What would you say? Theologians would define it this way: It is the self-expression of God. Truth is the self-expression of God. You see absolute truth doesn't begin here on our little planet. It begins in the character of God. It is God's attribute of truth or veracity.

Truth begins this way: God is true. God is true. Now, when we say that, we mean that He's true in His person. We mean several things. We mean that He is truly God. Just like when we say that's true gold we mean it's thoroughly, really, genuinely gold. When we say God is true, we mean He really is genuinely truly God. We also mean that He is true to Himself, that is, He always will be what He always has been. He doesn't change. He is consistently true to His character, to who He is.

We also mean by it, when we say God is true, that He knows what is true. You know, we can be confused. We have a lot of ideas that might be wrong. God doesn't. When God thinks something, it perfectly matches reality. There's absolutely no error to it. He knows reality as it is. Now, you put that together, and what that means is when God speaks, He reveals Himself and everything as it really is. Whatever God says matches the way things really are.

Go back to Numbers 23. This is one of my favorite foundational verses on the character of God. And, interestingly enough, it comes from the mouth of Balaam. God can speak the truth about Himself even through a wicked prophet. God forces him to speak the truth against his will. Number 23:19, he says this about God; listen if you're doubting this prophecy, he says, let me tell you something about God.

"God is not a man," [He is exalted above His creation.] [He's] "not a man, that He should lie," [God can't lie. He's true. He's true to Himself. He is true in His words. He's true in His knowledge of everything, and so He can't lie.] Nor a Son of Man, that He should repent;" [that is that He should change His mind.]

You say, well, what about those passages that talk about God changing His mind. Understand that is from a human perspective it appears God is changing His mind. In reality, God decided in eternity past what He would be and do and that's what's transpiring. So He accommodates us by using that kind of language, but here the prophet says, "God is not a man, that He should lie nor a Son of Man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it?"

You see what he's doing, he's basing now on what God speaks back on God's character. Because of Who God is, "Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" What God says perfectly conforms to reality. When He speaks in His revealed word, what He says is absolutely, eternally, unchangeably true. His communications with us perfectly correspond to both His unchanging nature and to reality as He knows it to be.

You know what that means? That means that truth of God's Word is not subjectively determined. It stands outside of us. Whether we believe it or not, whether we understand it or not, it is a reflection of reality. It is what Luther called, "the external word." Like it or not, it's there and it's true. In fact, according to Jesus, God's truth has been revealed to us in a book. You understand the reason you believe the Bible? It's not because of all kinds of arguments you might can muster. In the end, you believe the Bible because of Jesus Christ. Jesus affirmed the Old Testament again to be God's Word. He quotes it as God speaking. Then He said of His Own Words, "I'm not speaking what I came to say; I'm speaking what the Father told me to say."

Then He said "and these eleven men I'm going to send the Spirit Who will remind them of everything I taught, and they will speak what I want them to speak." So, Jesus affirmed the Old Testament, He affirmed His Words in the gospels, He affirmed the writing of the apostles.

You say, well how do we know that Jesus was telling the truth? He staked everything on the Resurrection. He said, "Destroy this temple, in three days I will raise it again, and that proves the authority by which I speak." In other words, because Jesus' body is not in some Middle Eastern grave, but He's alive, everything He said can be trusted, that includes what He said about the Bible. That's why you believe the Bible.

This is the consistent testimony of the Bible to itself. Second Samuel 7:28, "Now, O Lord GOD, You [were] … God, and Your words," David said, "are truth." "Your words are truth." What You say is truth. Psalm 24:4 and 5, "Make me know Your ways" the psalmist says, "oh, Lord. Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth." Psalm 119:160, "the sum" [that is the totality] "of Your word is truth." Put it all together and the entirety of what Scripture teaches is truth. Second Timothy 2:15, Paul calls the Bible "the word of truth." And by the way it is true that every person in every circumstance in every culture in every place in every time.

You say how do I know that? Again, I stake it on what Jesus said. Look at Matthew, Matthew 28. Matthew 28, the end of this chapter is, of course, the Great Commission. Jesus, in those 40 days after His resurrection, He gathered, some two weeks after His resurrection, all of His disciples; some 500 of His disciples gathered as Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 at one point in time and saw the resurrected Christ, (I was in Galilee at a mountain in Galilee) and in that context He gave the eleven disciples minus Judas of course, the twelve minus Judas eleven of them, plus 500 others these words of command.

Verse 18, "… Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, "All authority has been given Me in heaven and on earth." In light of everything I've accomplished, God has given Me full authority to do whatever I choose, and here's what I'm commanding you to do, verse 19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations." That's the key. I want you to make followers of Me among all the nations on earth, everywhere and then when you've made disciples of them, I want you to baptize them. And verse 20, and then I want you to "[teach] … them to observe all that I have commanded you."

In other words, Jesus says, listen, everything I have said here in Israel and Judea and in Galilee to you everything I have commanded you is just as appropriate for all those nations into which you will go. Truth is not bound by the borders of Israel; it'll be true in all the nations wherever you go, I want you to teach my followers all that I have commanded you. But it doesn't end there; look at the rest of verse 20. "and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age."

In other words, Jesus said it is appropriate for followers of mine to make disciples and then teach them everything I commanded in the first century to those people in that little country of Israel, wherever they go in the world to all the nations and until the end of the age. It's always true. It doesn't change, wherever you are and in whatever time period you live, the truthfulness of Jesus commands is not restricted by place or by time.

Truth does not change; it cannot change. It was true in eternity past. It was true when it was written. It is just as true today, and a billion years from now, it will still be true. Because truth is not a trajectory. It's not a moving line. Why? Because it's based on God. He is true, and He doesn't change. So, if it is true, it is true because it's who God is, and it's an expression of His will, and that doesn't change.

Look at Psalm 119. I want you to see just a few examples, and these aren't the only examples, but I want you to see just a couple of examples of how this Psalm makes it clear that truth is eternal. Psalm 119:89, the psalmist writes, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in Heaven." Your word stands firm.

And then he goes on to talk about God's faithfulness, "Because of Who You are and what You said doesn't change. It is reality. It was reality when You said it; by the way this Psalm was written now almost 3000 years ago. It was true then. It was true in the days of Jesus when Jesus affirmed the Old Testament. It's true today, and it'll be true if our Lord tarries another 1000 years and then to eternity. "Forever, oh Lord, Your word is settled in Heaven." Look at verse 152: "Of old …" [the psalmist says,] "I have known from Your testimonies …" I've learned from studying Your word, "That You have founded Your testimonies forever."

I learned from the word of God itself, the psalmist says, that the word of God is forever, that God intends it to be eternally true. Look at verse 160. I mentioned a few moments ago, the first part of this verse in which we'd learn the totality, the sum of Your word is truth but notice the second half, "And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting." It doesn't change.

Jesus made this very clear Himself in Matthew 24:35 He says, "Heaven and earth will pass away" this universe as you know it will go out of existence "but My words will not pass away." In other words, what I say to you is not only true today, it'll be true when the universe ceases to exist. First Peter 1:24, Peter quotes from Isaiah 40, "ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS; [we are like grass] AND ALL IT'S GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS." [It's like those wild flowers that grow by the interstate in the spring in Texas.] THE GRASS WITHERS, THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD [what?] ENDURES FOREVER. And this is the word which was preached in you."

So, the truth is objective. It's outside of us. It's not subjective, something we feel. It's written in black and white. It's universal, it's true in every place and it is eternal; it's true in every time. And here's a key point. We can know this objective universal eternal truth with certainty. You say, does the Bible teach that? Absolutely it does. Jesus taught that. Turn with me to John 7. There's so much more I wish I could say about all of this, and I said some of this a couple of years ago, on a Sunday night. We were talking about the absolute nature of truth. Go back and listen to that if you want, but let me just point out a couple of things here.

John 7, look at verse 14, "But when it was now the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews then were astonished saying, 'How has this man become learned?'" [How has he become knowledgeable since he's never been educated? Jesus was educated in the normal flow of how education went in those days, but what they're saying here is He was never taken under the wing of one of the Rabbis and trained theologically by a Rabbi.] Jesus' response to that, verse 16, "Jesus answered them and said, 'My teaching is not Mine.'" [This isn't self-generated stuff He says] "but His who sent Me."

[Ultimately, the truth I'm teaching has its source in God. And then He makes this monumental statement in verse 17.] "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." [Now, notice here Jesus argues that the truth will become self-authenticating by the work of the Spirit, but there's a condition. Look at the "if" statement, "IF you're willing to do His will."

You see, understand this. People's problem with truth is not an intellectual problem; it's a moral problem. "We will not have this man to rule over us." That's the reason they don't embrace the truth. If you are willing to do His will, if you're willing to obey, Jesus, to follow Him, to give your life to Him, then you will come to understand and grasp the truth of Who He is and the truth of what He says. It starts with a humbling yourself.

Let me just stop here and say, if you're here this morning and you're struggling with all of this, listen, your problem is you have not humbled yourself before your Creator. And you've not expressed a willingness to do whatever it is He wants you to do. If you will come to that point, then Jesus promises you will come to know the truth. But it starts with "I am willing to do whatever God my Creator wants me to do."

You see the same thing by the way over in chapter 8; 8:43. Jesus has just affirmed that again that He is not speaking on His own, He's speaking for God. Verse 43, "Why do you not understand what I'm saying?" [Why don't you get it?] "It is because you cannot" [do to My you are not able to] "hear My word." You are not able to hear it. Why? Verse 44, "It's because you are of your father the devil" [and notice what you want. You don't want to do His will.] "you want to do" [what?] "the desires of your father." There's the issue. You want and love your sin, and therefore you can't really hear what I'm saying. You're not getting it because you're not willing to do what I'm saying. Jesus says you can understand. You can know, but it first requires a willingness to do.

Ultimately, the truth of God was revealed and manifested in a Person, His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you remember what Jesus Himself said in that upper room discourse in John 14:6? "I am the way, [what] the truth," "I am the truth." Think about that. In a world that is adrift with relativism, Jesus claims that everything He is, and everything He teaches, and everything He does is absolutely, eternally, objectively true.

Jesus says I am the only truth about God, about sin, about heaven, about hell, about salvation, about the future. I'm the only truth about anything. Put your complete trust and reliance in Me, Jesus says. Truth is not relative. Truth is objective and eternal and universal, and it was embodied in a Person, our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, how do you respond to truth? You're sitting here and you say, "Ok I believe this, I don't believe truth is relative. What do I do?" Let me show you, John 17. In our Lord's high priestly prayer He's praying for His disciples, those who have followed Him through His life. This is the night before His crucifixion, and His prayer tells us how we ought to respond to truth.

Look at verse 6. He's praying to the Father and He says, "Father, … I have manifested Your name" [I've told] "to the men whom You gave Me out of the world" [Your Name. I've explained You to them. They were Yours in eternity past, and You gave them to Me as a love gift] This is, that eternal covenant of love and the eternal counsels of God. It's talking about election really. "[You've] … given them to Me and they have kept Your word. Now, they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You;" [Now watch verse 8. Here's how we ought to respond to truth, the same way the disciples did.] "for the words which You gave Me I have given to them;" [And here's how they responded.] They received them. That is, they accepted them as Your words, Father.

That's where the pursuit of truth begins. Because Jesus affirmed it, because He was resurrected from the dead, and everything He said was affirmed, we take what He said as truth. We accept it from Him as the truth. So, it starts in receiving it or accepting it as God's Word. You remember that's what Paul said to the Thessalonian believers, you received it not as the word of men but for what it really is in truth the Word of God.

Secondly, notice what He says, you received it, but more than that they truly understood that I came forth from You. The first step is receiving it as the Word of God whatever God says, that's what I receive, but you can't stop there. You've got to understand it because you can't ultimately believe what you don't understand. It's like the guy who's being interviewed for membership in a church; and they asked him, "So, what do you believe?" And he said, "Well, I believe what the church believes." They said, "Well, what does the church believe?" He said "Well, the church believes what I believe." And exasperated at this point they said, "Well what do you and the church believe?" He said. "We believe the same thing."

Listen, you can't really believe what you don't understand. So, the first step is to receive, to accept it as the Word of God. The second step is to understand it. That's why we're doing this series on Bible study on Sunday night. You have to understand the truth. And once you understand it then look at verse 8, "[Then] … they believed that You have sent Me."

You put your full trust and reliance in it. You receive it as God's Word. I believe everything between the covers of this book is God's Word because Jesus said it was. Then I'm going to study it to try to understand what it means, and once I understand it, I'm going to believe it. I'm going to stake my eternity on it. I'm going to put my reliance on it. Let God be true and every man a liar.

But there's one more step. Look back up in verse 6: "They have kept Your Word." They have treasured it to the point of obeying it. How do you respond to the truth? You believe there is absolute truth as Jesus did and taught? If you believe this book is the absolute reflection of the character and mind of God, how do you respond? You receive it as His Word.

Secondly, you try to understand it. You study it. You soak your mind in it until you get it. You pray for the Holy Spirit to give you insight until you understand it, then you believe it. You put your reliance in that truth regardless of how out of sync it might be with the culture, and then you obey it.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for Your objective, universal, eternal truth. Father, thank You that You are true, that You are truly God, and that You always will be what You always have been, that You are unchanging. You are true to Yourself. Thank You that You understand reality as it actually is, and therefore, when You speak to us in the book that our Lord Jesus affirmed, You speak the truth.

Father, help us to respond to it as the disciples did. Help us to receive everything our Lord affirmed in this book that is true, to receive it as the truth as not the words of men, but as it is, in fact Your Words. Father, help us to understand it. Help us to be diligent students. And then, Father, help us to believe it. Help us to sink our roots into it, to rely on it, to depend on it, whatever comes. And Father, help us to obey it.

Lord, I pray that for the person here this morning who has not yet expressed a willingness to do Your will, and so they don't get it. They don't understand the truth, they don't grasp the truth. Lord, help them today to humble themselves before You, and to acknowledge that You are their Creator Who has every right to make demands on them and that if You will show them the truth, they will follow it.

Lord, may this be the day they humble themselves before You. Lord, help us as believers not to be conformed to this pattern, this dangerous idea of thinking that truth is relative, but Father, help us instead to be transformed, to be metamorphized through the renewing of our minds with what Your Scripture says, what our Lord said about the truth. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.