I’m currently reading an excellent book by John Mark Comer titled Live No Lies. He’s the author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, another book I highly recommend, especially for those of us who are perennially busy. In Live No Lies, John Mark provides definitions of truth, reality and ideas, which I found very helpful. Truth, he said, corresponds to reality. Reality, he defined as; “what you run into when you’re wrong.” He added this example: If you believe you can fly, reality is what you encounter when you jump off a ten-storey building. Lastly, he gave a borrowed definition of ideas as being; “assumptions we make about reality”.
These definitions are practical filters we can apply in everyday situations. We all should ask ourselves regularly if the things we believe correspond to reality because truth and reality don’t alter to accommodate our beliefs. Additionally, reality is usually open to scrutiny. After NASA launched the Hubble telescope, astronomers decided to focus the telescope on a seemingly empty patch of space for ten days. The results were astonishing. If you and I were to stare at the same patch of space, we would erroneously conclude it was empty. That story illustrates how easily we can be wrong about reality if we don’t thoroughly investigate our convictions. Sadly, ideas or paradigms based on inaccurate beliefs will eventually be harmful to us.
It’s evident in the early pages of Genesis that God created human beings to be rational. As early as Genesis 4, we see human beings building cities and inventing instruments. Unfortunately, we haven’t always used our intelligence as God intended. Nevertheless, the fact remains that God gave us the ability to reason. I’m stressing this because one of my challenges growing up was that only a handful of people would attempt to explain the questions I had about my faith. Often, their answers weren’t satisfactory. But in many situations, I was told: “Just believe”. They weren’t being malicious. I doubt they knew the answers to many of my questions anyway. But, I struggle to conform to beliefs I don’t understand. So, my faith suffered until I started to find satisfactory, rational answers. Unfortunately, this continues to be a significant problem today, and as a result, many are abandoning the Church.
The hinge point of Christianity is the resurrection [1 Corinthians 15:12-17]. I smile when people respond incredulously to the resurrection as though people in the first century weren’t aware that people don’t rise from the dead. The same response often surrounds the virgin birth for some, even though Scripture states that Joseph wanted to divorce Mary because he knew her baby wasn’t his child. Scripture highlights that most of Jesus’s first followers, including writers of the New Testament like Paul and James, didn’t initially believe in Jesus or the resurrection. So, today’s doubters aren’t unique. The question isn’t: “Do you really believe dead people come back to life?” Instead, it’s: “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” Because if He did, our assumptions about reality need re-examination.
I believe Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 in response to people who had doubts and questions about the resurrection. He didn’t say to them: “Just believe”. Instead, he presented a rational argument affirming that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead – based on the word of God, eyewitness testimony and his own experience. His hearers could easily scrutinise his claims. They could go to Jerusalem and talk to those who saw the crucifixion, visit the public tomb where Jesus was buried and talk to eyewitnesses who saw the risen Jesus. They could examine Scripture passages written centuries earlier about the death and resurrection of Jesus and even Paul’s transformation and conversion.
Those who were first to believe in the resurrection did so after coming to a rational conclusion based on evidence, not because it was an accepted fable. It became the interpretative lens through which they viewed life and reality. That’s one of the reasons they were willing to die for their faith. They understood that if Jesus had risen from the dead, the resurrection wouldn’t just be the hinge point of Christianity. It would also have universal implications. In other words, if Jesus has indeed defeated death, and He’s alive today, that single fact would vindicate His claims about who He was, how to live life and what happens after death.
It saddens me that many people haven’t taken the trouble to investigate the resurrection claims. Even within the Church, many people profess to believe in Jesus but haven’t really thought through what the resurrection means and the corresponding implications for their lives. Consequently, their paradigms are at odds with their faith. It might be uncomfortable to read, but any beliefs we claim to hold, which have minimal impact on our lives and choices, especially when we face pressure, aren’t genuine convictions. Ultimately, if our assumptions about reality have been irrevocably altered, as was the case for many early Christians, not even the threat of persecution will sway our convictions.
One more thought. Jesus once called Himself The Truth [John 14:6], which means truth is a noun and a proper noun – a moniker. Furthermore, the Bible teaches that Jesus created the universe and continues to sustain it today [Hebrews 1:2-3]. If that’s the case, He’s the Reality behind all reality, vindicating His claim to being The Truth. As finite beings, we lack the capacity to examine all truth. Yet, the Bible has given us enough to inform our assumptions about reality from God’s perspective. So, we can scrutinise its contents and determine their trustworthiness for ourselves.
Lastly, we all make assumptions about reality. But have you undertaken an honest examination of the truths and ideas that govern your choices and decisions yet? Are your beliefs anchored on truth, The Truth [John 18:37]?