The Test of Truth

Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

 It always astounds me when I hear of people with astronomical IQs questioning or even denying the existence of God. But then again, the enemy is the ruler of this world, and he is very adept at “confounding the wise.” In John 4:6 it is called having the spirit of error, deception or deceit.

I recently read a book that took the reader back centuries concerning man’s search for wisdom and knowledge. Scripture was often quoted out of context to “prove” a false point in order to achieve an understanding of our purpose.

But the answer isn’t in the vast amounts of knowledge, nor the brilliance of the human mind. It isn’t in good works, or service, or generous amounts of philanthropy. And it certainly isn’t in recognizing that some random “higher power” has given us a higher purpose. It’s not even in quoting scripture unless those words are enlightening us because of…here it comes…our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.

This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood (1 John 4:1-4).

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Enlarging Our Heart

I have chosen the way of truth (Psalm 119:30a).

Have you ever heard the story of the three blind men describing an elephant? One touched its side and said that it was like a wall. The next touched its trunk and said that it was more like a snake. The third felt its ear and thought it like a fan.

We might find this story amusing, but we do it all the time. Our perception of reality IS our reality. We can’t really trust our minds or hearts because they are often clouded by past experiences, hurts, desires, and our sinful nature. True reality can only be found in one place—God’s word. He knows the big picture, what the whole elephant looks like.

And I love verse 32 which says that as I pursue His truth, He will “enlarge my heart.” How much hope is in that verse! This is God’s desire because as we develop more understand we also find delight (v35), and turn away from selfishness (v36), and turn away from worthless things (v37).

God wants to enlarge our hearts, our capacity for the delight in knowing Him, loving Him, and enjoying His fullness. He expresses this clearly through prayers in Scripture, meant for not only the early church, but for us today.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

And He richly rewards those who seek Him.

 

God is Good

You are good, and what You do is good (Ps 119:68a).

There are quite a few verses throughout scripture that woven together, describe God’s goodness and what our response to His goodness should be. In Romans we are taught that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose. We sometimes experience a disconnect when we think, in our eyes, ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here)            can’t possibly result in anything good.

A buzz phrase today is “to be intentional” and that is a fitting way to define God’s goodness. It is purposeful, never meaningless nor random. God’s purpose, to conform us to the likeness of His Son, is a much greater good than our comfort at the moment. Our definition of good is both temporal and temporary rather than spiritual and eternal.

This brings us to another challenging verse about God’s goodness, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here too)     .  This verse certainly requires some prayer and study. But we can know–we can be absolutely sure–that God’s actions are motivated by love, and that the end result will be worth it, and good.

Going through tough times is tough. But God’s word gives us promise after promise of His faithfulness in walking us through trials, in giving us strength, in giving us endurance, in supplying everything we need.

His grace is more than enough.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow (pursue) me all the days of my life.

He Talks to Me Too

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears (John 16:13a).

God speaks to every believer. Period. Sometimes His message hits us like a two-by-four. Other times it is still and quiet and we need to be still and quiet listening for it.

God speaks to us through His word. We may read the same passage over and over again through the years, and then one day, it jumps off the page and is totally relevant to our current situation.

God speaks to us through prayer. We may be praying for a miracle and He may answer by giving us instructions. Really, why couldn’t God give us a thoughtful inspiration? After all, He created our minds. God will never give us a thought that is contradictory to His word or character, but His way is always the best way.

God can speak to us through other believers. Often this can confirm our prayers and should always align with His word.

God wants to talk to us. His ways are the best. His plans for us are the best, and He is more than willing to reveal Himself to us.

 

Worthless Things

Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word (Ps 119:37).

At this time in my life, my time is  much more flexible. I find myself often praying for God to guide me and show me His will for the day. God does not reveal His will for our lives from beginning to end, and there are very good reasons for this. His plans for each of us are so tremendous that it may scare us because we haven’t grown to that point yet. Or it may be the opposite; we may get so excited that we jump ahead of God when we, or the time, are not ripe. Another very important reason is that we need to learn to trust—trust Him as He shows us the way to go—one.step.at.a.time.

This is why reading the word and loading our hearts with His principles is so vital. As our hearts are being filled with truth and love, our decisions and actions have a much better chance of being righteous. Psalm 119 tells us that the word illuminates our path and that we can stay on the right path by heeding it.

But the verse that stood out to me today is Psalm 119:37–Turn my eyes away from worthless things. This certainly doesn’t mean that we’re destined to a somber life. Quite the opposite! But many things that the world has to offer are shallow, just a veneer. We’ve all heard about people chasing power, fame and wealth and acquiring all that the world has to offer except the joy and peace that comes only from following the word.

Those worthless things are so enticing, and before we know it, we are lured and ensnared, but never satisfied. Jesus used some pretty strong words when He said that if our eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. The prayer in this verse makes it easier—Turn my eyes away from worthless things; help me not even to notice nor acknowledge them.

One Way

Jesus answered, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:16).

God is not racist. That may not be a surprise since He is the creator of all. But although He is patient and kind, and the very definition of love, He is not tolerant.

How can He be? Sinfulness cannot reside in an environment of pure goodness. That’s why, in His boundless love, He sent His beloved Son, His perfect sinless Son to take our punishment.

Jesus, God in the form of man, was the only one who could do that. His spotlessly pure, perfect righteousness was the only thing that could cover our unrighteousness. That’s why Jesus said that no one could come to the Father except through Him.

In a world where we are encouraged to accept any and everything as being acceptable, God’s word says, “Not so.”

Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (Matt 7:14). And although He desires for all to be saved and come to a knowledge of truth, only a few will find it.

Distorting the Truth

Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).

 One of the enemy’s most effective weapons today is the perversion of the truth–making evil seem attractive, or good, or even ambiguous. This is not a new strategy. It all started a few years back in the Garden of Eden, and it is flourishing in our world today. You can fill in the examples, but let’s refocus and look directly at God’s word.

People often point out “contradictions” in the Bible. I have personally questioned concepts many times and have found over and over and over again, that I was pulling a phrase totally out of context. Has anyone ever repeated something you may have said and without “the rest of the story” the meaning not only changed, but was even the opposite? The enemy delights in twisting God’s word and having us blindly believe it.

Much of the Old Testament concerns the Jewish law, over 613 rules, impossible for the even the most devout Jewish high priest to follow. Many of these Jewish rules are good guidelines for our health, for cleanliness, or like the Beatitudes, for our own righteous behavior. Some, like animal sacrifice for atonement, are fortunately unnecessary because of Jesus’s sacrifice that totally paid the price for our redemption. Because of grace we are free from those laws.

Contradictions? No, just a different context.

God wants us not only to comprehend the truths of His word, but to apply them in our lives. It is the formula for joy, peace and confidence for every believer.