97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. 98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. 101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. 102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Josh McDowell, in one of his books, tells about a conversation he had with a 16 year old Christian girl.
“Is it wrong to engage in premarital sex?” he asked.
“Well, I believe it’s wrong for me.”
“But do you believe the Bible when it teaches that premarital sex is wrong?”
“Well, I know it’s wrong for me, and I have chosen not to have sex until I’m married. But I don’t think I can judge other people on what they do.”
He came to the conclusion that she had been conditioned to believe that truth is not true for people unless they choose to believe it. Very much a modern worldview.
Just like many people today, this young lady has been taught to believe that all truth is relative to the individual and our circumstances.
In a survey conducted in the USA by Barna Research some years ago, people were asked whether they believe that there are moral absolutes that are unchanging, or that moral truth is relative to the circumstances. 75% said truth is always relative to the person and their situation, and that figure rose to 83% among teenagers.
Only 6% said moral truth is absolute.
So people are left with philosophies such as “if it feels good, do it,” “everyone else is doing it” or “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s okay.”
The decline of moral foundations among our youth today has resulted in a one-word worldview: “whatever” - and the alarm bells should be ringing, especially in the Church.
The problem is though, that Christians are increasingly adopting spiritual views that are influenced by Wicca, secular humanism, and the eastern religions. And because so many Christians have a very basic understanding of the Bible at best, many in the Church don’t even realise that it’s happening.
We are sliding towards syncretism.
The word syncretism comes from synchronise - it’s a belief system that combines beliefs from many different faiths, and kind of mixes them up until we find an end product that suits everyone.
If there are bits we don’t like, we either change them or we get rid of them altogether.
Paul warns us about this in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 when he says, “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
“The time will come.” Just in case you haven’t noticed it, that time is here now.
In another survey, 44% of adults in America believe that the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths.
And of the Christian kids polled, 63% say that all religions pray to the same God.
The Barna Research Group said, “It’s not that Americans no longer believe anything. It’s that they believe everything.”
Now I know that all these opinion polls are done in the States, and there might be some differences here, but I think you’d find that give or take a few percentage points, we are in much the same spiritual place in South Africa. Words like tolerance and reconciliation have become part of our vocabulary in the new South Africa, and that’s a positive thing, but only to a certain point.
It becomes a concern is when Biblical theology is watered down in favour of a culture-based theology. One of the points which is stressed often in the Truth Project is that we are engaged in a cosmic battle: The battle between the truth claims of God, and the truth claims of satan. We need to know about this battle, and that we are involved in it. But the only way we will be able to stand firm as Paul says in Ephesians 6, is if we clothe ourselves with the armour of God. And one of the best ways of doing that is to get to know what God has to say to us in His Word – the Bible.
Jesus said in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
And in 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The difficulty today in our post-modern society is that so many people are confused about the truth.
On the one hand, we demand truth in almost every area of our lives.
We demand the truth from our spouse, from our children, from our doctor, from our financial adviser and from our politicians.
We expect the truth when we’re watching the news or reading a newspaper.
On the other hand, despite our unwavering demand for truth in all those areas of our lives, there are a lot of people today who aren’t really interested in truth when it comes to morality and what the Bible teaches.
“Truth is in the eye of the beholder.”
“That’s just your opinion.”
“Whatever works for you.”
“That might be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
This is known as relativism. In today’s society, we are told that truth is relative – that there is no such thing as absolute truth.
Even though most people intuitively know that absolute truth exists and they live their lives with that understanding, to the intellectual elite that dominate our education systems and media, this idea that truth is relative is considered enlightened and progressive.
We are told that a fact can be true for one person yet at the same time not true for someone else.
The very idea of absolute truth is considered naïve and out-dated.
In this modern age of tolerance and pluralism truth has become a casualty, and the Church is not exempt from this spiritual war.
Relativism claims that what we believe to be knowledge – what we believe is a firm grasp on truth and reality – is only an opinion. Relativists boldly claim that objective, universal truth simply doesn’t exist. Only opinions exist.
But why do so many people reject the idea of absolute, objective truth, especially when it comes to God, the Scriptures, or morality?
Could it be that they simply don’t want to be held accountable to any moral standards, or to have to answer to someone greater than themselves?
I think that’s certainly part of the answer.
Augustine said that we love the truth when it enlightens us, but we hate it when it convicts us.
In other words, there are many people who know that absolute truth exists, but because they know it will expose their own shortcomings, they redefine their own truth to suit their own purposes. That, in a nutshell is relative truth.
The apostle John puts it this way in John 3:19-20: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Relativism is not new, but it is now very much a dominant feature of the modern world.
And as Christians we need to be aware of its threat to Christianity and Christianity’s truth claims.
Today the Christian faith is increasingly being pushed aside and brushed off by universities, the media, and politics.
Rather than having a major voice in public life which it once had, Christianity has been relegated to the private and the personal. Rather than being a matter of truth, it’s all just opinion.
And that is why we need to be not only aware of the threat, but we also need to be grounded in the Truth – in good, solid, Biblical doctrine.
So what is truth? Webster’s Dictionary defines truth as “the quality of being in accordance with experience, facts, or reality; conformity with fact; correctness; accuracy; an established or verified fact or principle.”
What this means is that contrary to what is being taught in schools and promoted in today’s secular society, truth is not relative but it is absolute.
If something is true, then it’s true for all people, at all times, in all places.
All truth claims are absolute, narrow, and exclusive.
And by definition, all truth claims exclude their opposites – even religious truths.
If something is true, then it stands to reason that there should be at least one alternative which is not true.
Truth deals in reality and facts, not opinions.
Facts do not cease to exist just because they are rejected or ignored.
Truth is still truth even if you don’t believe it.
Here are a few truths about truth:
Truth is discovered, not invented. It exists independent of anyone’s knowledge of it. (Gravity existed long before Newton discovered and defined it.)
Truth is transcultural. If something is true, it is true for all people, in all places, at all times. (2+2=4 is true for everyone, no matter who, what or where you are).
Truth is unchanging – it is only our beliefs about truth that change. (When we started believing the earth was round instead of flat, the truth about the earth didn’t change, only our belief about the earth changed.)
So even if we don’t like something which is true, it doesn’t change the fact that it remains the truth.
There is a vast difference between truth, and the perception of truth.
Simply believing something to be true that isn’t true – regardless of how strongly or sincerely you believe it – does not make it true. A person can be totally sincere about what he or she believes, yet be sincerely deceived.
Someone can sincerely believe that thin ice on a frozen lake will support him, but he will soon realise that he was sincerely mistaken.
A belief cannot change a fact, no matter how sincerely it is believed.
Reality is what it is whether you agree with it or not.
So what does all this mean to us as Christians?
How do we apply the principle of absolute truth to the Christian faith?
I’ve already mentioned syncretism.
Another term for that is religious pluralism, which is directly related to relativism.
While relativism is the belief that all opinions or beliefs are equally valid, religious pluralism is the belief that all religions lead to God, Heaven, or salvation.
Of course this is in direct opposition to Christianity’s exclusive claim that salvation is found in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone.
Acts 4:12 - “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
1 Timothy 2:5-6 - “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.”
And of course, Jesus’ words in John 14:6 again – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This verse will be central to next Sunday when we explore the Bible’s truth claims in more detail.
Now of course there is some degree of truth in other religions, but to claim that all religions are equally valid or true when so many of their core doctrines and beliefs contradict each other is totally illogical.
Contrary beliefs are possible, but contrary truths are not.
When Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, that is an exclusive claim that leaves no room for religious pluralism.
If we claim that there are many ways to get to God, then we stand in direct opposition to Jesus’ words in John 14:6, and we are calling Him a liar.
You can’t embrace other religions if you believe John 14:6 to be true.
Muslims believe Jesus was only a righteous man, a prophet. They completely reject the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and they also deny the resurrection.
Jehovah’s Witnesses also believe that Jesus was only a man – albeit a perfect sinless one. They also deny the resurrection.
Mormons believe that God is not eternal. They say that He was not always God, but that He was once a man like you or I who grew to become a god through obedience and good works.
Atheists believe that God does not exist at all. They say that the universe and everything we see around us is all a product of chance, random mutations.
Most Eastern religions as well as the New Age Movement teach that “everything is God” and “God is everything”. And since everything is God, “I Am God” and “You Are God”. They also believe that the universe is eternal and not created.
All these beliefs are in direct opposition to what Christians believe.
Christianity teaches that God does exist and that He, through Jesus Christ, created the universe and everything in it.
Revelation 4:11 - “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
John 1:3 - “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made.”
Christianity also teaches that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, that He is the Son of God and God the Son – the second person of the Trinity - that He is the only Mediator between God and man, and that He is the one and only Saviour of the world.
The Christian Faith is also the only faith that teaches that salvation is by grace alone.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”
All other religions – or at least those who believe in a “God” or “gods” and in an afterlife of some kind – teach that salvation can be achieved or earned through human effort – whether through mysticism, meditation, illumination, good deeds, or by participation in and obedience to a particular religious system.
So Christianity’s truth claims are exclusive and narrow, and they exclude all their opposites.
And it is because of these claims that Christians are accused of being narrow-minded and intolerant. In today’s modern and enlightened society, tolerance is considered to be one of the highest and better-informed virtues.
To make an exclusive claim is regarded as intolerant and arrogant. We’re not very bright.
But this is a point they often miss – those who accept all views regard themselves as tolerant, but if they insist on accepting all views, then they must also accept the views that are wrong. If you’re going to be tolerant, then you have to welcome and accept all errors and all non-truths as well.
If Jack, who is an enlightened, tolerant person, says that 2+2=4, and John comes along and insists that 2+2=5, then Jack’s tolerance requires him to accept John’s definition of the truth as well. Now who’s not being very bright?
Any relativist worth his salt knows that 2+2 does not make 5, and he will be able to prove it very simply. But he cannot prove it without acknowledging the absolute truth that 2+2=4!
Let’s apply that again to religions and faith systems.
To say that all religions eventually lead to the same God is the most illogical, uninformed and ridiculous of statements.
You simply cannot claim that both Jesus Christ and Mohammed will get you to God.
Either you believe the truth claims that Jesus made, or you don’t.
You either believe that He is the only way, the only truth and the only life, or you reject Him.
By definition, it is impossible for a Christian to agree that Jesus is only one of a number of ways to salvation. He either is or He isn’t.
And if you are one of those who chooses to believe the truth claims that Jesus made, then you need to be able to defend that belief in this post-modern, relativist, wishy-washy world that we live in.
And the only way to do that is to get into Scripture and become grounded in the Truth of God’s Word.
When you say to someone, “Oh well it’s okay for you to not believe the same as I do, and my faith is very personal to me,” then all you’re doing is being evasive. There is a cosmic battle raging around you and whether you like it or not, the moment you say “Jesus Christ is Lord,” you are involved in that battle.
1 Peter 3:15-16 says, “If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”
As followers of Christ, it is our God appointed duty and responsibility to share and witness to the truth – standing up for what we believe in and know to be true. But you also need to know that you will face a lot of opposition for proclaiming the exclusivity of Jesus.
But we have no choice. We must emphasise the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. In an age that is clouded by the confusion of syncretism, Jesus must be lifted high. His claim is exclusive. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” His exclusive claims though, do not mean that we, His followers, should be obnoxious, bigoted, or proud. It means that we should humbly and compassionately insist on the truth.
Do you want to hear another truth? We’re actually not the arrogant ones.
The greatest arrogance, the greatest blasphemy of all is to say to the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who died for you, “I don’t need you.”
The world is desperately lost, and it is dying.
It needs to hear the Truth.
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”
Our prayer should be the same as Paul’s in Ephesians 6:19-20.
“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”