John MacArthur writes,
“Every true Christian should know and love the truth. Scripture says one of the key characteristics of ‘those who perish’ (people who are damned by their unbelief) is that ‘they did not receive the love of truth, that they might be saved’ (2Thessalonians 2:10). The clear implication is that a genuine love for the truth is built into saving faith. It is therefore one of the distinguishing qualities of every true believer. In Jesus’ words, they have known the truth, and the truth has set them free (John 8.32).”1
Though MacArthur’s words ring true the tendency of some is to position the concept of truth into the spiritual realm. That is to say, they make it an issue regarding religion rather than something that pertains to all of life. This attitude is prevalent even within the domain of the Church; the body of Christ.
As seen in the words of Pilate during his interrogation of Jesus on the day of His crucifixion:
“Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews? ...Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm. Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18.33-38; NASB; emphasis added).
Pilate’s response was based on the pluralism and relativism of Rome. There were many roads to “god” all of which measured the “truth” as the individual saw it. Pilate’s rhetorical question demanded a negative answer: “There is no truth.” For truth is what we make it, nothing else. And so, many who profess the name of Christ compartmentalize the concept of truth to fit their own preconceived scheme. Their own view of reality. One that does not encroach upon their freedom to determine what truth is, and what it is not.
And yet, we are confronted with the reality as God sees it. Truth is defined by Him, because He is the author of reality. What things are, what things come to be, they are what they are because God has determined them so. It is said of Jesus that “in [Him] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2.3). Consequently then, we are commanded to “…examine everything carefully; hold[ing] fast to that which is good [or true]” (1Thess 5.21). Notice that both Colossians and Thessalonians stress two universal categories of truth: all and everything. The believer is to take into consideration all things that are presented as truth and to examine them thoroughly, and retaining only that which is good. Meaning that in our effort to examine the “thoughts of men” we are to cast aside the “vain” ones in our desire “to bring all” teachings under Christ’s feet (cf. 1Cor 10.3-5).
Typically there are various responses given when one is confronted with the truth. We have various examples from Scripture that we might draw from on this point. We’ve already looked at one. I would classify Pilate’s as the passive denial: “It may or may not be a truth, but either way I am going to ignore it for who can truly know?”
Another is the denial of sorrow:
“And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘All these I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18.18-23; ESV).
When confronted with the truth, when confronted with the reality that he still was not serving God with all his heart, the man went away sorrowful. Why? Because the truth was presented that it was either all for Christ or none. There cannot be any other ties that bind us to this world. It is not that wealth is wrong. Nor, is it that we must be poor in order to be saved. But, if we are to have Jesus, if we are to follow Him, then we must be willing to lose it all for His namesake. This, the ruler could not do. When confronted with the truth he went away sorrowful, having denied what he’d heard.
Then there is the response of pride:
Jesus heals a beggar who was born blind. When news spreads of the sign performed in their midst, the man is questioned by the religious leaders. Some of the Pharisees denied that Jesus was from God. However, when they asked the man about what had occurred, how he received his sight they refused to believe what was reported to them. After questioning the man’s parents (for they did not believe he was really born blind), they once again brought him before them to challenge him.
“So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.’ He then answered, ‘Whether [Jesus] is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ So they said to them, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples, do you?’ They reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hear him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and you are teaching us?’ So they put him out.” (John 9.24-34).
When confronted with the truth—right before their eyes, pun intended—they failed to see it for their own foolish pride blinded them. How could a man born blind, a man who begged for his living know anything about God or His Word since they were teachers in Israel? Men who had been weaned on the Word from their youth.
There is the response of blind and deafening rage:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it. Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7.51-58; ESV).
Rather than hear the truth. Rather than see it as it was laid before their eyes. They shut their ears and eyes in anger. How dare they be challenged. How dare they be confronted. And so in rage against the clear testimony of Stephen, they murdered him.
Finally, let us look at the response of humility:
There are several examples that we might draw from in Scripture that illustrate this point. We might point to the man who beat his chest, refused to look towards heaven because of his shame, and cried out for the mercy of God to fall on him a sinner (cf. Luke 18.13). We may look at the disciples confronted with a truth that caused many in their numbers, many in Israel, to grumble against the clear teaching of Jesus, but in humility of heart they confessed with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6.68; ESV). Or we might turn to a man caught in his sin that he had covered up so long, who was confronted by a cunning word from the prophet Nathan. Nathan tells the story of a richer man stealing his neighbor’s little lamb. A lamb that was dear to the previous owner, for he loved it. But the rich man was not satisfied with the life God had given him, and so sought the life of another. When David first hears the story he is filled with indignation. Who would dare do such a thing? How vile! How evil! To take the life of another so that your life might be blessed!
“Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hands of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites…David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’” (2Sam 12.7-9, 13a; ESV).
If we want to see how contrite of heart David was, then all we need to do is turn to Psalm 51 where a song and prayer shows the misery of heart that brought him to his knees before the Lord of Hosts.
David, like so many of us at times, failed to see his sins in the proper light because he had hidden them in the dark. We are tasked with bringing such things into the light so that they may be repented of. Do not think that this is limited to our personal sins, but the sins of a nation as well (cf. Dan 9.1-19).
Where evidence leads…
Evidence can lead no further than the mind that is dragging it in the direction they seek. It is akin to asking “Let us follow where this rock leads us” and yet, we are the ones tugging on the rock with an invisible string made up of our own presuppositions. Evidence does not lead because it cannot. Neither does evidence speak, for it does not have a voice.
The reality is that we follow people, not evidence. It is the interpretation provided that offers a voice to our ears. It is the interpretation given by a person or persons that makes us see this or that. Facts are what they are. Our conclusions about them are derived from the governing worldview that directs our thoughts in this life.
Greg L. Bahnsen wrote,
“The problem is not that we…believe things without evidence, the problem is that the [person in question] doesn’t like the kind of evidence we have.”3
Gary DeMar adds,
“The mind is designed by God to (1) reason, (2) test, (3) investigate, (4) examine, and (5) accumulate knowledge through the study of the Bible, creation, history, experience, and everything else but with certain interpretive first-principles called presuppositions.”4
God has blessed mankind with the ability to think and draw conclusions about reality. This is meant to be done in a God honoring fashion, which requires a Scripture first approach. If reality is God’s then all of reality is what God says it is, and it the human’s responsibility to learn after God; to think His thoughts after Him. We see this in the beginning with Adam in the naming of the animals. Adam did all the things mentioned above as he viewed the evidence of God’s other creature made on the 6th day of creation. He observed the details before him, he reasoned through them, he tested certain characteristics he witnessed through his five-senses, he investigated and examined the animals thoroughly, and then after accumulated as much knowledge as possible from what God had given, he named each animal according to its kind.
We live in a world where we are told that we need to follow the facts. We are currently living in a time when we are also being told that certain information is false and should not be looked into. “MISINFORMATION” is the scare word of our day. If you don’t follow who the government deems as experts, then you are in a world of hurt. You will hurt yourself, others, even your country, and quite possibly every one else in the known world. You are being told to submit to the reasoning, testing, investigation, examination and knowledge of others, rather than trusting your own ability to do these things in a God-honoring fashion. You are being herded to think according to an accepted paradigm (worldview), and to throw out all other considerations as heretical.
There is a war for the truth going on in our nation.
“The war is not between reason and faith; it is between faith and faith…one which admits a word from God while the other does not.”5
What we must remember is that
“There are high level emotional stakes here because, depending on the answers, people will have to change their lives and maybe their professions. They’re going to have to see the world differently. And when it comes to those sorts of things, the facts don’t always move people.”6
But, Christ’s people are called to maturity. To carry one’s cross also means to not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. We are to weigh all teaching, all evidence, all presuppositions under the light of God’s Word. We are to be slaves of Christ, not the powers that be. We are to bring every idle thought under Jesus’ feet, regardless of where the thought might originate. The war for truth is a war for God’s reality…not man’s.
I want to close with the following excerpt from John MacArthur’s book Slave:
“As one historian explained about the early martyrs [Christian witnesses]:
‘They [would reply] to all questionings about them [with] the short but comprehensive answer, ‘I am a Christian.’ Again and again they caused no little perplexity to their judges by the pertinacity which they adhered to this brief profession of faith. The question was repeated, ‘Who are you?’ and they replied, ‘I have already said that I am a Christian; and he who says that has thereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things else besides.’
Following Jesus Christ was the sum of their entire existence. At the moment when life itself was on the line, nothing else mattered besides identifying themselves with Him.”7
1John MacArthur, The Truth War: Fighting for Christianity in an Age of Deception (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), xi.
2This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of responses, but is illustrative of typical reactions by persons when confronted with truth.
3Greg L. Bahnsen, Against All Opposition: Defending the Christian Worldview (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2020), 31, PDF e-book. This work is the transcribed work of the late Dr. Bahnsen’s lectures at “American Vision’s first Life Preparation Conference entitled Pushing the Antithesis” (p. xxi; italics in original).
7John MacArthur, Slave: The Hidden Truth about Your Identity in Christ (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 8-9.