In an earlier post on the importance of discerning truth, I made a statement that God’s Word is unambiguous. G. K. Chesterton once said that “the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” I believe he is right. I have certainly found the Christian ideal difficult and but for the grace of God, I would abandon it. The Bible may have been written in a cultural context foreign to many who read it today, but God ordained it to remain relevant and applicable across every sphere of the human experience for all time. Our struggle isn’t that we have tried to do what it says and found it futile, it is that we have found certain things within its pages difficult to accept, and therefore live out.
There is no avoiding the fact that following Jesus is difficult. One of the fundamental requirements of following Him is denying oneself [Matthew 16:24]. This means that if what I want is not in line with God’s Word, I must say “no” to myself and fall in line with God’s Word. This is difficult because the longing to satisfy my flesh is very real and often overpowering, compelling me to part ways with God’s Word to satisfy it. Knowing our frailties, God never compels to us to obey Him. Rather, He gives us the grace to make those difficult choices if we rely on Him rather than ourselves. Mercifully, when we fail, He is ever willing to forgive and restore us.
I am assuming at this point that the reader reads the Bible and seeks to live a godly life. Such a person is confronted and convicted by God’s Word anytime he or she is tempted to choose a path at odds with it. This is a good thing because God’s Word is meant to make us uncomfortable if we aren’t living godly lives. That discomfort is proof that the Spirit of God is at work [John 16:7-15]. When confronted, we ought to yield but often we are tempted to compromise. There is that voice that whispers “…did God really say you shouldn’t…” [Genesis 3:1]. Yet, there are no blurred lines of morality with God and His standards never change. There is no ambiguity when it comes to good and evil, right and wrong. So, we deceive ourselves when we rationalise our actions and choose the path of compromise but God is never mocked [Galatians 6:7]. As followers of Jesus, we must discern the truth, then live and proclaim it.
Jesus once warned His followers that not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter His kingdom [Matthew 7:21]. It is a caution we should heed too because it is a warning for Christians. Jesus warned that He would say to those peddling falsehood, whose conduct doesn’t match the creed they profess; “I do not know you, away from me evildoers” [Matthew 7:23]. As believers who live in a world at odds with God, our mission is to proclaim His message with grace and love without compromising its truth in any way. If we dilute it to make it popular or palatable to our hearers, then we end up delivering a false message. This makes us complicit in perpetuating evil.
Speaking the truth is difficult. It can potentially make us unpopular, hated and may even lead to persecution. Additionally, we must also live it, otherwise, we lack credibility. A thought occurred to me recently about living and speaking the truth in God’s Word. The Scripture is useful in rebuking, teaching, correcting and training us in godliness so that we are equipped to do things that please God [2 Timothy 3:16]. This means God cares about godliness and His stance doesn’t bend to political correctness or modernity. Moreover, I believe that every act of ungodliness adversely impacts the world and God is not indifferent to anything that blemishes His creation. For this and other reasons, the Bible is rigidly unequivocal on right and wrong, good and evil. If we choose to follow God, it must be on His terms, not ours [1 Peter 1:16].
As evident in our day, a permissive and self-indulgent society is not going to willingly embrace God’s instructions for righteous living. This is not because God’s Word is ambiguous, but because it confronts ungodliness and leaves its hearers guilty or upright. There is no neutral ground. The truth often hurts when we are confronted. However, the grace of God which has already been poured out for us acts as a balm to heal that hurt and set us right with Him. This is one reason grace and truth go together. Grace without truth leads to permissiveness and truth without grace is unloving. Jesus showed us exactly what the right balance looks like. He could never be accused of being permissive or ambiguous but equally, He couldn’t be accused of being unloving either. Jesus loved people but He was uncompromising with the truth and intolerant of ungodly practices.
Jesus remains our perfect example but compromise is subtle. Therefore, we must be watchful especially in the Church which is meant to be the pillar and bulwark of truth [1 Timothy 3:15]. We don’t have the permission to alter God’s Word to make it contemporary so that it fits with our lifestyles or social norms. As our Creator, God’s Word is the standard by which we judge our lives and the culture to discern what is true and right in God’s eyes.
At the very beginning, God issued an unambiguous instruction to man concerning the fruit of a tree [Genesis 2:16-17]. Interestingly, the devil’s first words in Scripture were: “did God really say…”. He still uses this trick today.