One of the hardest crimes to investigate in this world is when you hear a thump in the other room, and two kids start crying. I’ve heard the thump and walked in with two of my kids crying and both of them swearing up and down it was the other one who caused the problem. I’ve tried to look around for clues, asked probing questions of each of them, but for someone reason children have an innate ability to dream up an alibi that is plausible. That is, until I realized early on in my parenting career, that their all lying and everyone is at fault. Now when this happens, everyone gets in trouble and it doesn’t matter who started it, or caused the most harm.
Truth for us can be one of those ideas that seems to hard to grasp; it’s not like a rock that is physically there. Sure there we can have things that point to the truth, the victim was bludgeoned to death, and look there’s a bat on the ground. But then the case goes to court, and what seems like a simple case of murder, we find out that the perpetrator was actually being attacked by the deceased, and the truth turns out that in fact the victim was defending themselves.
What can seem like undeniable truth, can get clouded, because we do not know all the facts, and when presented with more facts, what we believed was the truth begins to erode. Then we’re left with a sense of being lost, with doubts plaguing our mind.
This idea of trying to know truth is what brings us to our fifth week in our “No One Talks About It Series.” For the last four weeks we have been looking at an ex-worship leader and writer for the church Hillsong, named Marty Sampson, and his instagram post revealing that he is walking away from his Christian faith.
In the first week we addressed Sampson’s topic how no one talks about preachers who fall. We showed this to be untrue, and instead talked about how we need to not only being praying for preachers, but also for each other. Because none of us is immune to temptation, and it is a responsibility of the Church to be in prayer for each other. And when we’re cognizant of temptation, we can be better on guard in our own lives, so that we might not fall as well.
Then in the second week we talked about the idea that not many miracles occur today. And we saw how, though Sampson acknowledged that there were some miracles, the amount wasn’t enough for him. This led us into taking a look at two instances where Jesus was approached with people who wanted more signs and miracles from him. To these people he revealed that no amount of miracles would be enough for someone who simply desired them. So we talked about how, we need to make sure that we are seeking God for who he is, and not for the miracles that he can produce for us. Because if we seek God just for miracles, then he will never satisfy us, but if we seek him for who he is, we will be satisfied with whatever he gives us.
Our third week brought us to the common objection that the Bible is full of contradictions. We then took a website called atheist.org, where fifteen contradictions are given. Then we took time and answered three of those contradictions, showing that every contradiction was due, not to the Scriptures being contradictory towards itself, but rather because we look through a twenty-first century lens at the Bible; not allowing it to be read as it was intended. Then, in a packet of paper, we answered the other twelve supposed contradictions. Showing the Bible is in harmony and is not contradictory.
Finally, last week, we talked about the question, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” In that question we talked about the love of God, and how, on his side of the relationship, his love is boundless and unending, even when we are in rebellion against him. But there is a condition on experiencing his love, and that condition is that we must accept it. And after we understood God’s love and what it meant to accept and reject that love, we talked about hell being the last loving gift of God to a person who has no desire to experience his love. How that when we come to a place of total rejection of God and his love, then we choose for ourselves a place where we do not have to experience God. This means that God sends no one to hell, but rather hell is a free choice given to those who do not desire God.
All this brings us to the fifth reason Sampson gives for why he is walking away from the Christian faith. He says, “I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth.”
There’s two parts to this statement, so this will be a two part response. We’ll tackle the first sentence today and the second next week.
Sampson brings up one of the most ancient desires of man. Biblically speaking, the discovery of and understanding the truth is as old as the first humans. If you have your Bibles, open with me to Genesis chapter 3, where we’ll begin in verse one. It is here that we are given a situation where Eve and Adam are within the garden God created for them. Eve is then approached by a serpent and a conversation ensues. Let’s read through this conversation.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
Let’s stop right there, where did Eve get this understanding that they were not to eat of the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden? We can say from God, but there is no explicit communication between God and Eve on this subject. On the other hand, we do get an explicit conversation between God and Adam in chapter 2 verse 16. In that verse it reads, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’”
The command to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was given by God to Adam, and in the very next verse, we’re told that God then moves forward in making a companion for Adam. So Eve was not involved in the giving of the command, yet she knew it. Now there’s two possibilities on how Eve knew the command: first, God said it again to both of them, or, Adam told Eve.
I believe it’s the second option, because when Eve retells the command to the serpent, she doesn’t give the tree a name, it’s simply called the tree in the middle of the garden. And then she gives an additional perimeter to not only not eating the fruit, but not even touching the tree. This stipulation to not touch the tree was not in the original command from God to Adam, and sounds more like what an older child would tell their younger sibling to not even go near it, just in case you can get in trouble that way too.
So with this understanding that Even more than likely was given this command through Adam, let’s continue the conversation she has with the serpent.
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Right here, is the moment that truth is challenged. Up to this point Adam and Even simply believed God, no question, no hesitation. God’s command was truth and that was it. But now the truth of God is questioned.
To which we get Eve’s response in verse 6.
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
In this moment, Eve succumbs to the challenge of God’s truth, and eats the fruit. Now, Adam isn’t off the hook, because he’s right there too, not saying one word. But it’s within this conversation, that we see truth being questioned for the first time in the Bible. Eve states God’s truth to not eat fruit form a certain tree, the serpent questions that truth, and from then on, truth has become something that seems elusive to humanity to this day.
Fast forwarding to about the fourth to fifth century BC, the Greek philosopher Plato began to think deep thoughts about the world. In one of his analogies on truth, he came up with something I’ve shared with you before, called the Cave.
Within this analogy Plato calls us to our struggle with truth. Within the deep dark cave, sits you and I, chained from foot to head with our bodies contorted to only look at the wall. On the wall, we see black shapes revealing the things of nature to us. We hear the sound of wind, crashing rocks, and other noises that seem to be coming from the shapes on the wall. These, are our truths. From brith to death, all we see are the black shapes on the cave wall. But we don’t know the real truth. The real truth is that the shapes are shadows that dance on the wall, because behind us there is a fire roaring and a puppeteer conducting a show for us. The puppeteer makes the shadows and the sounds we believe are truth, but are really only poor recreations of real nature.
Plato tells us that we are chained to experience what we believe is truth, but in fact is not. And at the end, Plato tells us that we need someone from outside the cave to come in, break the chains that hold us there, and bring us out into the real world, the real truth.
Four to five centuries later, two men stand speaking to each other, with one of their lives being decided. One is a governor, one is a carpenter.
The governor speaks, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
The carpenter replies, “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” The governor replies, “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
The carpenter said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said the governor.
The carpenter answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted the governor, and he left the room.
This is the interaction between the carpenter Jesus and the governor Pilate as John records it in the Gospel of John chapter 18, verses 33-38. Pilate, a learned man, sought after truth almost two thousand years ago, just as Marty Sampson, and many others are seeking after truth today. Pilate must have understood Plato’s analogy of the cave, and how we are only seeing shadows of the truth, and when Jesus says that he born to testify to truth, Pilate scoffs, because he believes that truth is elusive to humanity.
But before Pilate scoffs, Jesus had already addressed Plato’s acknowledgement that we need someone from the outside of the cave to release us from our shadowy truth. Jesus tells Pilate, that he came into this world, into this cave to testify to truth, but Pilate is so enamored with his false truth, that he can’t see his Savior, the one who has come to break his chains, standing right in front of him. The one that could provide truth to Pilate goes unseen, by someone who thinks they are looking for truth, but in reality their more interested in shadows.
Just ten chapters before this carpenter and governor meet, Jesus says this about truth, in chapter 8 verses 31 and 32 of John’s Gospel, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus sends us back to Genesis 2:16, when God commanded Adam to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of God and evil. Jesus sends us back to following and obeying the Word of God when it is spoken. Because only in the Word of God, is truth revealed.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and we celebrate those who answer the call to stand between us and the forces of this world that would want to destroy our nation. In the founding of our nation, when the delegates met for the constitutional convention the whole thing was falling apart. Benjamin Franklin, who today is believed to be a deist that bordered on an atheist, at 81 years old stood up and addressed George Washington and the other delegates.
Listen to what he said, “In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection.
“Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance. I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men.
“And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that ‘except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
“I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service. (http://www.theconstitutionalistsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Benjamin-Franklin-Constitutional-Convention-Address-on-Prayer.pdf)”
This is just one instances where the founders of our nation realized that only in God is truth found, and we must seek him if we desire truth. And there is no other way to know truth, if we don’t first study the commands of God.
In our society right now, children are being aborted, yet the Scriptures say do not murder (Exodus 20:13). In our society, love is being used as a justification for sex with anything, same-sex, trans sex, animals, even children, yet Scripture says that sex is for one man and one woman in the bond of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). In our society, our justice system seems to be corrupted in that sentences are lenient for those who have money, and strict for those who don’t, yet the Scriptures call us to justice that is impartial to a particular party based on wealth or social status (Deuteronomy 16:18-19).
This world can’t find truth because we’re bond in chains looking at shadows of it. But Jesus enters into the cave to release us from our bonds, and tells us that truth is found in his Word. Marty Sampson is seeking genuine truth, but has missed that truth, for shadows on a wall.
We can so easily get into the idea that we, on our own, can discern truth from lies, but the reality is, without God’s Word as our foundation, any shadow of truth can lead us into a realm where truth can’t be discerned. And God’s prescription is simple, we need to know his Word to know truth, and it’s there that we will be set free from shadows, and brought into the light.
My challenge for you this week is to ask yourself, “Am I believing the Word of God as truth, or am I trying to discern truth on my own?” This week, I want to challenge you to read through Jesus’ words in John chapter 8 and 18, asking God to give you a desire for his word, so that you may know the truth.
Let us be people who seek real truth which is found in God’s Word, and not the shadows on the wall. Amen.