What Is Truth?

In the early 1970's I lived in a 4th floor apartment in New York City. One day a girl appeared at my door and offered to sell me an ounce of "pot." In those days I was foolish enough to smoke the stuff, and had been looking to buy some for several days without success. Detecting an interest, she launched into a full-scale sales pitch, including a recent medical "report." Doctors, she said, had discovered that the resins in pot neutralized the harmful substances in tobacco and those who smoked both cigarettes and pot would suffer no ill effects from either. She could have saved her breath. I wanted the pot! I wished she'd just take my money and leave. Who could believe such nonsense anyway? I knew it was bad for my health. But it was a provocative thought, especially since I also smoked cigarettes. A few days later I shared these "medical findings" with a friend, and then several others. One day after dropping it again, the thought struck me, "Why am I even relating that nonsense? I don't really believe it, do I? Or do I?" I began to wonder. And how many of those I told would believe it? And how many would they tell? But nobody would really believe it, would they? I didn't, did I?

Later I encountered another rumor making the rounds at that time. Again it was the result of "scientific research". Two groups of rats were chosen. One group received LSD for several months, then both groups were exposed to massive doses of radiation. Wouldn't you know that rats given the LSD were totally unaffected, while all the others died? Even a "street hippie" could get the message. In case of nuclear war, only the "acid heads" would survive. Some drug dealer had really outdone himself in thinking that one up. Unfortunately, the young hippie who told me about it really believed it was true. I recalled my experience with the ounce of pot. The point was made. I concluded that people can believe almost anything they want to hear!

You might be tempted to believe that you have to be on drugs to be that gullible. P.T. Barnum, the great circus man once said, "There's a sucker born every minute." I'd guess that in our age of electronic media, the rate is up to several per second! Like it or not, even you are likely to believe some things just because you'd like it to be that way. When P.T. Barnum coined his famous phrase, he could have limited it to the world of religion. It would be just as true. But he couldn't have taken credit for that idea, because that one is as old as the Bible itself. Listen to how the Apostle Paul describes some of the "religionists" of his day:

"For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." 2 Timothy 3:6,7
That describes many in our day too, no matter how "sincere" they may be. Paul also foresaw a time of greater religious gullibility than his own. He said:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." 2 Timothy 4:3,4.
Self-styled religious teachers have become almost as popular in America as they have been for centuries in India, many of them "Christians" Is it any wonder that many write it off as nonsense? But it doesn't solve the problem. Does truth exist?


Two men faced each other in a hall of judgment, one as judge, the other accused. Pontius Pilate asked Jesus again, "Art thou a king then?" Jesus answered:
"Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." John 18:37.
Pilate's situation was difficult; outside there was an angry mob, before him a noble being who seemed to read his innermost thoughts. Caught between these two forces, he asked Jesus, "What is truth?" But he never waited for the response. Anxious to pacify the crowd, Scripture tells us, "And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all." John 18:38. Pilate missed an opportunity. But we need not miss it. Jesus gives us the answer in a prayer He had offered earlier. "Sanctify them through thy truth," he prayed to His heavenly Father, "Thy word is truth." John 17:17. God's word is available to any who care to investigate its claims.


For whom are the paths of the Lord mercy and TRUTH? Psalm 25:10

Helps and hints: The best product on the market will not sell if people do not believe in it. And even if they buy it, it will do them no good unless they use it. Truth is always truth, but it is only truth for us when we accept it and use it. We must practice it in our daily lives. God is not interested in our mere mental assent to the truth. Psalm 51:6 says, "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts."


How can a knowledge of the truth benefit us? John 8:31

Helps and hints: Believing a fantasy places us at another's mercy. Children who believe in Santa Claus actually depend on their parents or someone else to make their dreams come true. Likewise the smoker who believes the subtle "promises" embedded in cigarette advertisements (like youth, invigoration, and sexual attractiveness)? Can the tobacco industry fulfill those dreams? What of the generation who believed Hitler's fantasy of the "Master Race?" The slavery of the mind can be the most oppressive slavery of all.


What does the Bible identify as the source of truth? John 1:17; John 14:6

Helps and hints: The question should not be "what", but "who" is the source of truth? Truth is not merely cold facts. It is a way of life, embodied in the character of one man who walked the face of this earth. If we would know truth, we must know Jesus. God is not so unreasonable as to demand "blind faith." Psalm 34:8 says, "O taste and see that the LORD is good." But most refuse even to give God a chance. Few dare give the Bible a fair reading because of instilled prejudice, fear they might encounter unpleasant responsibilities, or a sense of false security in the things of this world. It was true in my life. It was true for the Jews in the time of Jesus. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." John 1:11 "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." John 3:19.
There's only one way to determine whether the Bible is true or not, and that is to study it. My first covenant with god was a simple one: to study His book. I agreed to continue only if I found truth. I've studied it ever since.
What about all the interpretations? Doesn't this alone prove the Bible false? Doesn't it show that you can find anything you want somewhere in the Bible? While it may appear to be so on the surface, the answer is a definite NO! What it does indicate is the importance of HOW one studies the bible, and how quick we are to receive the interpretations of others. The apostle Paul admonished his friend Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15


What warning is given to us by the apostle John? 1 John 4:1

Helps and hints: The charge of "false prophets" applies to many who call themselves Christians today. Jesus delivered sober words when he said,
"Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23.
Notice the following important points in this statement:
  1. Jesus speaks to professed Christians. They call Him Lord!
  2. They boast of being prophets, exorcists or faith healers, i.e. miracle workers.
  3. They are rejected by Jesus as impostors.
Many Christians are prone to fall for the sensational or spectacular. They think that only God can work miracles Revelation 16:14 Some base their religion on emotion. These would do well to heed the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." God's word, Holy Scripture, separates the real from the counterfeit.


Why did Paul commend the Bereans? Acts 17:10,11

Helps and hints: If there ever was a preacher who could be trusted at his word, certainly it would be the apostle Paul. But Paul commended the Bereans for studying for themselves to prove the things he told them. Too many Christians today place their confidence in their preachers and pastors instead of heeding the apostle Peter, who said, "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." 1 Peter 3:15. Preachers and teachers were given as part of God's plan, but He never intended them to replace the Bible. Too many Christians will discover this only when it is too late.


Is it possible to twist the words of Scripture? 2 Peter 3:15,16

Helps and hints: Peter admits that some of the things that Paul has written are difficult to understand. But those who pervert them will nevertheless be held accountable. This is not a case of simple misunderstanding, but willful distortion; caused by pride, or greed, or some other carnal weakness. Many are simply more willing to repeat the traditions they have grown up in than to search the truth for themselves. Others are wise in their own conceits. But whatever the case, the fault is with them, not with the word of God.


How else can we be deceived? 1 John 1:8

Helps and hints: The prophet Jeremiah says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9. But God responds, "I the LORD search the heart." Jeremiah 17:10. He has given us the tool by which to know ourselves; that tool is the Bible.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12.
A simple rule of thumb can help keep every student of God's word on the straight and narrow. This rule is illustrated in the following two verses:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Timothy 3:16,17.

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4

Every incorrect interpretation of Scripture can in some way be traced to a violation of this principle. Whenever any part of the Bible is obscured or eliminated, it will affect the meaning of the rest. This can happen in several ways.
  1. The teachings of a church may be placed above the bible. The Bible becomes obscured, and only used to support these teachings (usually out of context).
  2. Some portion of the Bible is rejected or claimed to be no longer needed. The Jews reject the New Testament as an inspired testimony from God and many Christians reject the Old Testament as only for the Jews. Jesus said, "Search the scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:39 The Old Testament scriptures were the only scriptures available at that time.
  3. Sometimes verses are quoted as though surrounding verses did not exist, or pulled from different passages and thrown together as though related. Consider the following Biblical "teaching" on suicide:
"And he (Judas) cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." "Go and do thou likewise."
While obviously intended as a humorous exaggeration of the misuse of scripture, the same thing is often done much more subtly, and unfortunately, quite seriously.
We live in a push-button, pop-a-pill society where we have come to expect everything to be quick and convenient. Understanding the Bible in its context is more difficult than soaking up instant interpretations from others or following the traditions you may have grown up in. But it is worth the effort for anyone who values the truth. As Jesus promised, "the truth shall make you free." John 8:32.
"The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth." Psalm 145:18.

"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13.


How does God want people to worship Him? John 4:24

Helps and hints: The concept that God does not care what we believe as long as we are sincere about it is not taught in the Bible. God wants us to worship Him in truth. But knowing the "facts" alone does not make us a true worshipper of God. We must have our heart in it. We must be personally involved in all that "truth" implies. We must be personally involved with God.


Who will be granted to live in the house of God? Psalm 15:1,2

Helps and hints: Speaking of those who are not allowed entrance to God's city, Revelation 22:15 includes "whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." Paul says that those who perish, will do so, "because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. . . . who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. God wants everyone to voluntarily receive the truth into their lives and be saved. Those who reject the truth will believe one lie or another. They could never be trusted in God's kingdom for they "had pleasure in unrighteousness."


The search for truth will never appeal to the majority of people. But still we are encouraged to follow it. The Bible says,
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:13,14
The path to truth may at times seem like a lonely one. Elijah, a prophet of God, once thought he was the only one on the earth who worshipped the true God of Creation. God informed him that He still had 7,000 living faithful ones. The Bible promises that God's kingdom will be inhabited by millions who knew Him on earth and desired to live according to the truth. They learned to know Him who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." John 14:6.

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