“One who gives an answer before he hears, it is foolishness and shame to him…The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18.13,17; NASB).
“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in secret You will make wisdom known to me” (Psa 51.6).
“For my mouth will proclaim truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips” (Prov 8.7).
“…Just as truth is in Jesus…put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, ridding yourselves of falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4.21, 24-26).
Where are we to project our responses to the situations that we face in this life? To whom do we bear the responsibility of our actions? Years ago, I remember a disagreement between professing Christians over David’s prayer in Psalm 51. It was the following line of the song that caused the disturbance:
“Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when you speak and blameless when You judge” (Psa 51.4).
The rub, you see, was that some wanted to lay the stress of David’s sin in equal parts against Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba his wife whom David had an adulterous affair with, and against the Lord. But the emphasis in the text is that David’s sin was against God alone. It was God that was the offended party. And while, one might argue that David had also sinned (i.e., wronged) Uriah and Bathsheba in his sinful activities, the reality is that when we sin it is God alone who has been wronged in our pursuits.
The problem is in our approach to God, His Word, and the creation as a whole. Either our approach will be man-centered or God-centered. I think that this is the reason why we have such a difficult time determining the proper course of action in various scenarios. Not to mention we struggle with making the necessary category distinctions in order to properly weigh what our activities in this life should look like.
When David spoke in the way that he did in Psalm 51:4 he was right to do so. Sin properly defined is a violation of God’s Law-Word. It is a refusal to abide by the dictates of what God has determined to be good. This may be done purposefully or accidentally (i.e., in ignorance), but in either case we are still culpable before God. We are still presented to Him as guilty in His court. Now it is true that my sin may hurt others around me. Perhaps “may” is not the right word, how about “will,” for my sin will definitely hurt others around me. Our actions in this life have a rippling effect. Consequences come from the decisions that we make. And, in David’s case the lust of his heart, which at that moment in time was Bathsheba, rippled generations beyond that fateful day on the roof of his palace.
David, having been laid bear before the Lord through the word of His prophet Nathan recognized his plight. His eyes had been opened that which were formerly blinded by his sin. In response to this awakening he cried and confessed his sin before the Lord above. David knew that it was the Lord alone that he had personally violated with his sin. Though others were harmed by his behavior, it was the Lord God who bore the brunt of David’s sin. Being a God-centered man, having been enlightened by the Word of God, he recognized this and immediately confessed as soon as the sword of the Spirit had pierced his hardened heart.
God-centered versus Man-centered approach…
All of life is ethical, therefore, all of life is religious. Some might prefer the term “spiritual,” which is fine as long as we understand that to be truly spiritual means to be “Spirit led,” or “led by the Spirit.” In fact you cannot be truly God-centered without being guided by the Holy Spirit. If the spirit leading you is any other spirit than the third person of the Triune God, then your approach will most certainly be a Man-centered approach.
Of course this raises an important question: “What does it mean to be guided or led by the Holy Spirit?” In John’s gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that when He finally departs this earth to return to the Father, sharing in the glory that He had in the beginning (John 17.4), He will not leave them alone but will send to them the Spirit of truth (cf. John 14.7; 15.26; 16.13). And the Lord explains that it will be the role of the Holy Spirit to “…guide [them] into all truth; For He will not speak on his own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16.13). Later on, when the years of John’s apostleship are coming to an end, he reminds members of the body of Christ the following:
“We are from God; the person who knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.” (1John 4.6; NET).
A similar refrain is offered by the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth:
“Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1Cor 2.12-13).
In short, it is the God-centered man who has been enlightened by the Spirit of truth. Meaning that such an individual will not only have their thoughts imbued with Spiritual things, but Spiritual activity as the Holy Spirit brings about a reformation of the mind and will of the redeemed person (Rom 12.1-2; cf. Eph 4.17-24). Moreover, this is the reason why Christians are commanded by the Holy Spirit to
“…examine everything; hold[ing] firmly to that which is good, [in order to] abstain from every form of evil” (1Thess 5.21-22; brackets added for clarification).
The Perfect Image…
Why must we do that? Why are we commanded to examine everything? Why are we told to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…?” (1John 4.1b). The short answer is because God’s people are called to imitate Christ (cf. 1Cor 11.1; 1Thess 1.6), who is the perfect image of God in human flesh (Heb 1.3; Col 1.15, 19). And, Christ tested all things. He never made a decision that He did not first weigh in His mind, “Does this honor God or man?” As His own testimony affirms,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in the same way” (John 5.19; emphasis added).
Now I have given considerable thought to this truth for quite a while. Jesus did nothing outside the purview of God’s will. Just as He told the serpent that, “man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4.4), so too did He live. Furthermore, this is the requirement that He lays at the feet of all those who desire to follow Him, to be His disciples:
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8.31-32).
For it is the true disciple of Christ that is sanctified by the Word of Truth (John 17.17). But how are we to know what is true if we do not take the time to carefully examine all things in light of God’s Law-Word? How can we say whether or not we have sinned (either in ignorance or purposefully) if we have not taken the time to weigh all things in accordance with God’s objective standard of truth (cf. John 8.46; 2Cor 5.21)?
Unjust Weights and Measures…
There is a passage repeated in the Old Testament that bears repeating. I believe that it provides a necessary justification for what Paul later calls on Christians to do in Thessalonica, as he is prompted by the Holy Spirit. What I am referring to is the various passages on unjust weights and measures:
- “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measure of weight, or volume. You shall have accurate balances, accurate weights, an accurate ephah, and an accurate hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. So you shall keep all My statutes and all My ordinances, and do them; I am the Lord” (Lev 19.33-37).
- “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a correct and honest weight; you shall have a correct and honest measure, so that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deut 25.13-16).
- “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight” (Prov 11.1).
- “A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights of the bag are His concern” (Prov 16.11).
- “Differing weights and differing measures, Both of them are abominable to the Lord…differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good” (Prov 20.10, 23).
- “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matt 7.2).
As with many truths in Scripture there are often layers to them. Or to use my favorite illustration of the diamond with its many cuts, the truth will reflect the light a little differently depending upon the manner in which we look at it. One truth; many points of contact, or application.
The same may be said of these passages regarding unjust weights and measures. The concern is about truth versus falsehood. In the law court this would be seen in relation to issues of justice or injustice. God abhors favoritism. He hates using opposing standards of measurement when weighing right or wrong; meaning He hates arbitrariness or inconsistency. We are told to examine all things, and when we identify that which is good we are to cling to it. Being people of the Lord of Truth, guided by the Spirit of truth, we are to be reformed in our minds by the Law-Word of the God of Truth.
People of the Book, People of the Truth…
All aspects of this life are ethical, religious, and are therefore spiritual. God’s people are to be defined by one standard alone. This is why historically, Christians have been known as people of the book. In Ephesians 4, after Paul explains what the sinners thoughts are guided by, he asserts that Christians are to driven by another standard:
“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, ridding yourselves of falsehood, speak each one of you with his neighbor, because we are parts of one another” (Eph 4.20-25; emphasis added).
How can a person weigh in the balance anything if they refuse to see the issue in its entirety? If you only see one side of the scale, and allow the other side to be hidden, will you have truly examined it in light of God’s Word? If you use God’s Word as the standard for this area of your life to make a judgment call, but then refuse to do the same in another area of your life have you not proved yourself guilty before the Lord? What right does the creature possess to use one standard here, but another standard there when weighing the issues of life? Who is truly “centered” in that choice of action, God or man?
Do you not know that God’s people are called to be bulwarks for the truth? Unmovable towers that do not bend or buckle, regardless of the pressure applied to them? Christ says that He is King, and Scripture testifies that He is King of kings and Lord of lords—He is above all—and, at the same time He says that His people are for the truth. How then can His people abide by a lie? How can they willingly live in it without being tormented day and night? Do you not see that to allow the lie to stand without your opposition to it, you are making yourself an enemy of Christ? That in that instance you are not being faithful to Him, but are sinning against Him?
David lived for nearly a year blinded by the lies of his own heart. How long are we going to live with the lie that is being perpetrated daily through our politicians and media? How long will we allow false weights and measures—arbitrariness and inconsistencies—to rule the day? Who are we to be responding to first and foremost in these things that we currently face? Is it not God alone who is to be our top priority? If we love Him above all, will we not in turn honor Him above all? Will this not also put us at odds with the current cultural winds that are blowing? Yes, but isn’t that the point?
“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts” (Prov 17.3).
God is turning up the heat in our culture, not just as a judgment against sinners, but as a manner of testing (and proving) the hearts of His people. If Christ were hated, so too will you also be. But know this,
“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1.2-4).