Knowledge of the Truth
Here is the bottom line, the pivotal issue that I see this morning regarding my salvation.
Where am I putting my trust, my confidence, my hope, my faith?
For most of my life I have found myself placing my confidence in acquiring and clinging to a superior knowledge of what is right and wrong. Having the truth seems to be of the utmost importance and anything that threatened to shake my confidence in the truth was viewed as a threat to be resisted.
Jesus says that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. But how do I understand these words? What do I believe they mean? And I am referring to the word belief here as primarily what my gut believes more than my profession of theology. Do I believe that this 'truth' Jesus referred to is a correct systematic theology that has been carefully worked out over years of study to ensure that I am not embracing any error? Or is this truth Jesus spoke of referring to something far more essential?
Jesus said that He is the truth, the way and the life and that no one comes to the Father but by Him. But even that statement has been so often interpreted to mean that in our systematic process of converting people and getting them saved we must be meticulously careful to say just the right words or have the right formula, for if we don't get it right a person might be rejected from entering heaven. If there is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved, then anyone who does not specifically use the name 'Jesus' (or whatever other label we might happen to latch onto as the magic word that must be pronounced), then they might still be lost irregardless of anything else they might feel or believe.
What is becoming more clear to me is that all of these facts, no matter what you may believe about them or what you want to emphasize, all of these approaches are simply our way of placing our trust in having a knowledge of truth in order to get saved. The bottom line for us in all of these is primarily about getting our skin, or soul, or whatever, into heaven. We are intent on getting just the right formula in order to be saved. We also want to make sure we know what or who to avoid in life so we are not deceived, and also need to know just the right words to speak and the right forms to practice so that we can have the right combination to unlock heaven's gates to allow us entrance.
How could there be anything wrong with pursuing a knowledge of the truth? How could there be any danger in filling our minds with 'the truth' of Scripture, analyzing it and honing it until the truth shines with brilliance? After all, we need the belt of truth mentioned in Ephesians to hold the sword called the Word of God. If we are going to fight the good fight of faith the most important weapon we need to acquire is the longest, sharpest, most intimidating and aggressive instrument we can possibly have to stave off deception. And knowing the truth and how to effectively use it against error seems to be what will keep us safe.
After all, we became trapped in the slavery of sin in the first place because our first mother was deceived. So by God's power and with His assistance we are bound and determined to fix that problem by figuring out at all cost the true answers to every possible deception that might ensnare us until we can explain clearly what is right as well as what is wrong in every situation. If truth is ever to triumph we must be filled with an accurate knowledge of the truth in order to defend and protect it, don't we?
Is there anything to fear in pursuing a knowledge of truth? Isn't the truth the most important thing we need to pay attention to? If we don’t have a correct knowledge of the truth how in the world can we expect to be approved (and saved) by God?
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
That settles it, right? Now we can wrap this up and go on our way to fight the good fight of faith with our sword sharpened every morning with a fresh round of ammunition loaded up from our belt of truth looking for targets to shoot and deceivers to expose whom we view as a clear and present danger to the vulnerable and ignorant members of the house of God.
I am reminded even as I write all of this that I am in constant danger of running down this very path all the time. I have been trained and mentored all of my life to keep a sharp eye out for error and to protect myself by knowing 'the truth' through a diligent study of Scripture (and other inspired writings). This has fostered a siege mentality where I feel compelled to protect truth at all costs while exposing what is wrong with other people's beliefs.
As I was waking up this morning an epiphany flashed into my mind. Part of it was along the line of everything I have described so far. But what I sensed is who closely this mentality fits so neatly into the shape of a particular tree, a tree I recall being labeled TheTree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
I feel convicted that if I focus my highest priority on acquiring ability to accurately assess what is right or wrong, truth or error, who is in or who should be viewed with suspicion, then I am really putting my trust in the very same tree that got us into this mess in the first place. And no matter how much I may protest that fact or try to deny it or attempt to explain this conviction away by piling Scripture upon Scripture and quotation after quotation, all I do is reinforce the very problem in which I am already trapped.
This sounds a lot like an old story about Brier Rabbit and the Tar Baby which likely hardly anyone has ever heard of in our day. But the gist of it was how a rabbit thought he could win a fight with a figure made out of sticky tar only to discover too late that every time he hit the tar baby his hand or foot would get irretrievably stuck until all of his limbs were helplessly trapped and the wolf who had set it up in the first place could then come along and make an easy meal of him.
This is the problem of a reliance on knowledge for our salvation. So long as we keep thrashing around relying on the same methods even from different directions in our desperate attempts to prove we have the truth, we are in reality only entangling ourselves deeper into the snare of branches on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet all the while we feel convinced that we are on our way to heaven and we need to expose all who are in the wrong because they disagree with our version of reality.
What is the alternative? What other option could there possibly be if I were to admit that maybe my efforts to be right and have the truth may not be the path to salvation? Is it true that I could arrive at all knowledge and have all prophecies correctly interpreted and maybe even have power to work miracles and can convert thousands to the truth in one day, and still discover that I am completely unfit to live in the presence of the Lamb of God?
The Tree of Life is my only hope. And there can be no compromise or collusion between these trees. What is becoming clear is that the real meaning of 'truth' is not found in a superior ability to discern between what is right and wrong or who is in or out, but rather coming into a total and complete reliance on One who is called Truth, to enter into a relationship of humble dependence as I get to know with my heart the One who came to reveal to me the Father. And even when a person has never heard of the human name of Jesus or is aware of the story of how He revealed to us the Father in His life on this earth, by responding to His Spirit that speaks within every person they can experience the very same transformation of character that I can experience and be prepped to live in God's presence.
I want to remain alert to the danger of slipping back into any dependence on my own ability to know right from wrong and making that skill more important that listening and fellowshipping with the Godhead in my own spirit. I am not suggesting in the least that it is a bad thing to use my mind to have an awareness of the difference between what is good and right and healthy versus what is dangerous and intended to deceive and enslave me. That is not my point at all. But for too long we have made discernment more important than the kind of knowledge of truth that relates to heart knowledge.
The problem that has consumed mr far too long is this, in my incessant pursuit of a knowledge of the truth I have for too long made this such a premium that I often fail to give even higher priority to coming into intimate fellowship with the One who's name is The Truth. If my desire to know factual truth becomes at any point more important than my pursuit of intimacy with God at the heart level, then I become a prime target for the enemy – no different than the target my first mother became standing in front of that tree that enslaved all of humanity since that day.
Human nature leads us to be suspicious of anything that we can't control. Yet falling in love involves losing control, at least if we are really in love and not just infatuated and believe it is love. And how can we know the difference? By the core motivation that dominates our heart and actions.
Is my desire to be saved primarily for the purpose of escaping the pain, suffering and inconvenience of this world? If I find myself even working hard to have a relationship with God in order to be saved for these reasons, then I am still eating from the wrong tree even while thinking I am finding life. The sap of that tree is filled with self-interest and is in the tasty juice of its fruit. And this self-interest then permeates every thought and motive and action in our life because the tree has the wrong roots. Consequently our veins have been filled with juice from the fruit of that tree and our very nature is bent in that direction ever since this fatal infection was acquired by our first parents.
Jesus came to this earth to become a human like us for the express purpose of perfecting an antidote to the terminal infection of selfishness that is killing all of us. By replacing Adam as our natural father who passed along this infection to us, and taking upon Himself the position as head of all humanity, Jesus now is offering us the option of receiving a blood transfusion.
Remember, the biblical understanding is that the life is in the blood, so as long as our perception of what it means to be truly alive is rooted in selfishness, then the infection of sin is still leading us toward death. As we accept His offer to drink His blood and eat His flesh (metaphorically, sort of like having a daily dialysis treatment), we may remain connected to His heart and be filled with His Spirit of agape love which is the only power that can effectively counteract the deadly virus of selfishness. As His agape, selfless love, which is foreign to our natural way of thinking and living, begins to act as healing medicine internally, transformations all throughout our thinking and reasoning and relationships begin to emerge until the externals of our lives give increasing evidence of a healing power working within.
I cannot explain grasp much more than this because honestly I am still experimenting and seeking and grasping for a secure connection myself with this life-saving transfusion experience. I have been tasting it frequently and by faith I am trusting that God is making progress along this line for some time. But I also find myself still relying too often on acquired knowledge of 'truth' to save me more than resting in a simple dependent trust in the ability of Jesus to change me and allowing myself to be ravished in an awareness that He really does love me and will bring to completion what He has started in my life.
All through the experience of writing this out the chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13 keeps resonating in my head from different angles. If I have all knowledge and can work miracles etc., but don't have that love connection to God's heart, then everything else becomes completely worthless – or maybe even worse.
Yet as I ponder that warning I also see hope from the other side. I believe what this chapter is also saying is that if I do make knowing God's love in my heart my highest priority and pursue a growing appreciation and an intimate knowledge of His passion for me, then all of the other things listed in that chapter are not brushed aside but actually make me more secure in His love. In other words, as long as I focus my highest priority in coming to know the love of God for me personally over everything else, then knowledge and truth and power and prophecies and any other factor that before has usurped the place of love will now be used by God to reinforce my security in love. God then uses them to facilitate my ability to share His love with any who may be open and hungry to know for this love themselves.
The past few days I have had an increasing intensity of desire, an awareness of my own desperate need to cry out to God with all my heart in complete desperation to experience an overwhelming awareness and confidence in the kind of love exposed by His Son. I am not talking about an intellectual ability to explain how love works or what it looks like. What I desperately need and crave and beg God for now is a radical experience of the real deal, not just a description of it. I must feel loved or it is impossible for me to ever be able to reflect it to others. Without first being loved it is impossible to love, for as I learned years ago I am only a mirror and so I cannot produce anything I do not first receive.
The reason I have so little love for others is not because I have not worked hard enough to overcome sin in my life or because I don't have enough knowledge about how love is supposed to work in the life. It is because I have not been on the receiving end of love for whatever reason. And I am also aware that this is not because God is holding out on me, waiting for me to follow just the right formula or find a password to unlock His reservoir of love for me. What I have been learning about Him in recent years assures me that He is not at all a God who uses conditional love to manipulate my compliance or cooperation.
What I am coming to realize, at least with my head, is that the only reason I am not living fully within the passionate power of God's love for me is because of internal resistance to His love on my part. It is because God fiercely respects my freedom and dignity that He refuses to force His love on me before I am willing to embrace and accept it from Him. But how do I get there from here?
Since I often don't even realize how I am resisting Him all I can do is keep asking Him to melt away my resistance, expose to me the ways in which I am resisting Him and give me a spirit of repentance to help me let go of all my resistance to Him so that His love can flow freely into and through me the way He wants for me to live. I have little doubt that this could possibly a very painful process, for removing deeply entrenched resistors always involves extraction or friction which can produce painful heat when increased power (love) is applied. But I trust in God's faithfulness to answer my prayer for complete healing from all my resistance to His love so that He can move me as fast as I am capable to becoming the channel of love that He designed for me to be.
Here are a few verses that I just found and feel impressed are showing me the way forward today. As I ponder over each one that came up in a search for the phrase 'knowledge of the truth' I realize that there are important things to pay attention to as I seek to know the truth through knowing the One who is the truth. I will simply leave these verses for you to ponder and consider what God may want to say to you.
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, ...arrogant, ...ungrateful, unholy, ...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these [who are] always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 4-5, 7)
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.... (Titus 1:1-2 NIV)
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:25-27 NIV)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)
This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)