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3.3. | truth and the Kingdom
III | TRUTH
In John 18, Pilate and Jesus are having this very discussion about truth. The first thing Jesus does is mention his Kingdom. Then he says clearly, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” In John 14:6, Jesus refers to himself as the “way, the truth and the life.”
Living in a culture dominated by postmodern ideology, it is common to arrive at the conclusion that truth is subjective. Critical Theory is just one worldview that espouses this notion. Without CT, subjective truth is still extraordinarily popular. Pilate himself asks the question “What is truth?” There are infinite schools of thought, ideologies and philosophies. We can define our worldview in whatever way we want. But if we want to have a Kingdom worldview, we must see truth a certain way.
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The dictionary defines truth as a body of real things, events and facts; the actual state of a matter; conformity with fact or reality; a verified indisputable fact, proposition, principle or the like. (1, 2)
That seems clear to me. Truth is reality, the way things actually are.
Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg.”
No matter how bad you may want a tail to be a leg, legs are legs and tails are tails. That’s how truth works. What matters most are the facts, not what we want those facts to mean or how we feel about them.
It’s a little confusing to me that Jesus calls himself the truth. How can a person be truth? How does a person embody an ideology? (If anyone could do it though, it’s Jesus. I mean, he can do whatever he wants.)
Ideally, truth is the foundational bedrock thing that everything is compared to. The truth is something that we can trust in. The truth is something that is unchanging, that we can measure everything by. The truth enables us to go past how things seem and see things as they really are. How can Jesus be truth? He is the standard of thoughts, attitudes and actions to measure ourselves by. He is the ultimate and absolute example of what it means to live a good life. His words and his life are trustworthy. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.
If we are attempting to live a good life, we cannot base that in subjective truth. A good life is too often subject to interpretation. Jesus teaches us that he represents what is good. Not our opinions, not the prevalent intellectual movement. He is the standard. What Jesus said, and what Scripture teaches and represents, is what we should trust in, what we should measure everything by, and the lens we should see the world through.
That’s how objective truth works. We must endeavor to live a life to the fullest, a life of meaning and purpose. The way to do that is to measure our thoughts, attitudes, and actions against the objective truth of the thoughts, attitudes and actions of Jesus and the teaching of Scripture. If we call ourselves Christ-followers, then we cannot live with subjective truth. There is an objective lifestyle established in Jesus. There is an objective, unchanging and followable way to live life. That is living like Jesus. The truth of Jesus is not socially constructed by people in power seeking to oppress us. Truth is not mixing some Bible verses in with another philosophy or lifestyle that we prefer. Living well is living like Jesus.
A Kingdom worldview makes no room for subjective, socially constructed truth. It is unbiased, independent of judgments and opinions, factual.
What is Scripture then? Paul describes it this way in 2 Timothy:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” // 2 Timothy 3:16-17
During the Reformation, the leaders of the church used a term, sola scriptura. It means “scripture alone.” We should use Scripture alone to determine the way to live our lives. The Bible is the sole, infallible source of authority and truth for a Kingdom worldview and the way that we ought to live. The Bible does not change with culture. It is independent of power structures in society and of ideological and social movements.
To live the life God wants you to live, you don’t need the book you’re reading right now. You don’t need a preacher; you don’t need worship. What you need is the Bible. Martin Luther said this: “A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it.”
What does Jesus say about this?
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” // John 8:31-32
What is the proof that we know the truth? If we do what he taught us. How do we know what he taught us? To know the truth, we’ve got to know Scripture.
If you and I do not read the Bible, it makes no sense for us to call ourselves Christ-followers. How can we?
If we do not read the Bible, we cannot live like Jesus.
If we do not read the Bible, we cannot have a Kingdom worldview.
If we do not read the Bible, the world gets worse.
Remember, only 21% of Christians have a Kingdom worldview. 6% of Americans. So there’s a 78%-94% chance that you or I don’t have a Kingdom worldview. If someone told me that I had a 78%-94% chance of dying, I’d be planning my funeral right now. It is clear that being a Christian does not correlate to having a Kingdom worldview.
Why is this important? Because many Christians will claim to believe in the absolute truth of scripture while simultaneously being biblically illiterate. If we claim to believe in absolute truth but we don’t know it for ourselves, it may as well be subjective.
If you’ve never read the Bible before, start in John 1 and read through the New Testament. The book of John shows us the life of Jesus. Right after John is the book of Acts, where you can see how the Church began. Read through the book of Acts about how the Church began. As we end this chapter, let me show you what Paul says in Romans 1:18-34 about objective truth.
18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
What does it mean that God shows his anger from heaven? The Greek word used here is ὀργή (orgḗ). When used in relationship to God it means his hatred of sin mixed with his longing for us and his grief for those who are wicked. What does wicked mean? That word in Greek is ἀδικία (adikía). It literally means injustice. When we refuse to embrace God’s absolute truth, we create and perpetuate injustice.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.
We will talk about sexuality later in this book. But we live in a world where we often see people worshipping the things God created instead of him as the Creator. This is what humanism is. The idea that we function as gods of ourselves, and that goodness, moral values and ethics are based in human nature and experience alone. In humanism, a “higher power” of any kind does not exist. The term “humanism” may be new, but Paul shows us that subjective truth and the rejection of God in culture is nothing new.
28 Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.
People who live with subjective truth don’t acknowledge, understand, or apply God’s truth to their lives. And their lives become full of wickedness, i.e., injustice. The Bible tells us that the closer we get to subjective truth, the further we get from justice. It is a shame in our culture that many of those who scream the loudest for justice also make a stand for subjective truth. God’s justice and truth walk hand in hand. We cannot have one without the other. It is impossible to have justice apart from truth. As long as truth is subjective, justice will be impossible.
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