“…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Those are the famous words of Jesus as recorded in John 8:32. So, what do you know and has it set you free? Or put differently, are you enslaved to anything – drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, power and so on? Is your identity or self-esteem dependent on what you do, who you associate with, what positions you hold or how much money you have? Jesus’ words place a lot of emphasis on the authenticity of the information that dictates our beliefs, as those beliefs will either free or enslave us.
Most of us have opinions on the things which are important to us and we defend those beliefs passionately. However, how often do you ask yourself “is what I believe true?” I believe Jesus’ words also imply that the truth isn’t subjective or relative, but absolute. This means there are things which are true and things which aren’t irrespective of our feelings and opinions. Therefore, it’s worth assessing the things we believe and why we believe them. Sometimes we believe something because we come to our own conclusions, other times we simply trust the source of the information. Often, we believe something because it’s been said repeatedly. I’ve observed that many Christians fall into the last two categories. However, what is the guarantee that the source of your information is authentic?
Also, if the truth is objective, who decides what is or isn’t true? Yes, some things are self-evident and inarguable like, humans need oxygen to survive. Yet, some things aren’t that easy to observe and do leave room for debate. So, an adjudicator is required. The Christian worldview holds that God is that adjudicator. Jesus confirmed this when He told His disciples, I am the Truth [John 14:6]. This statement infers that the truth is a Person; nothing is true apart from Jesus. Anything else is from the father of lies [John 8:44].
Remarkably, the statement I began this blog with came while Jesus was being challenged over the authenticity of His message and His identity. Both are still being challenged today. It was in this context that after reiterating His identity and authority to teach that Jesus said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [John 8:31-32 NIV]. Interestingly, a year or so after Jesus made that statement, Pilate asked Him; “what is truth?” [John 18:38]. There are many people today still asking the same question and the answer is simple. All the truth we need for every aspect of life is in God’s Word because it all points to Jesus [Luke 24:27,44], who is truth personified.
This means each of us has a choice to make as we wade through life. We must ask ourselves “is Jesus The Truth, the source of all truth, as He claims? If so, how well do I know and follow His teaching?” We may answer “yes” to the first question because we identify as Christian, but following Jesus is all about the second question. It stresses that we know what He taught and live it [Matthew 7:21-23]. This is what makes someone a follower of Christ, in other words, a Christian. It isn’t going to church and being involved in religious activities. So, how well do you know God’s Word? We may read our Bibles occasionally but that’s not enough because there is a significant difference between reading and studying the Bible. Prayerfully studying the Bible will bring a depth of understanding, revelation and discernment that just reading it won’t.
I recently attended a weekend retreat where we studied the book of Titus in the New Testament. Titus is 3 chapters long and takes about 5 mins to read but after over 20 hours of study, all of us left the retreat knowing that there was still more studying required to fully understand the book. That experience drove home three points for me. First, studying the Bible properly requires significant time and effort. Second, no one can do it for you, it’s a do-it-yourself venture with the Holy Spirit. Lastly, God’s word is unambiguous. That last point struck me because we often treat God’s word as though it is subjective when in fact, it isn’t up for debate. The truth is God has given us His Word; our feelings and opinions on the what He has already said are frankly irrelevant. The choice is simple; obey or disregard.
However, what if you don’t know what God said about the situation you are in? Then search the Bible for a similar scenario and study it. The Bible has all the answers because God wants us to be informed. Moreover, you can trust what it says because God said it [2 Timothy 3:16]. Yes, there are people who have genuine reasons for not knowing God’s Word. For instance, some people don’t have access to a Bible but for many of us, this isn’t the case. We either have higher priorities than studying the Bible or if we are honest with ourselves, we are simply too lazy and we prefer someone else to tell us what it says.
Here’s what I’ve realised. I am responsible for the information that informs my beliefs. My beliefs determine the choices I make and ultimately, how I live my life. Therefore I own the consequences of my beliefs, be that slavery or freedom. We all bear this responsibility from whatever age we are able to properly discern good and evil. This means I need to be confident that my beliefs align with the truth in God’s Word. So, assess your life, what are the beliefs that inform how you live? Are they true?