What is Truth?

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Having pardoned the woman taken in adultery, confronting the Pharisees for their own sin and addressing their unbelief, Jesus then turned His attention to the people that believed on Him. In a word of encouragement, He said, “If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

How amazing it must be to know the truth and to be set free by it. It seems simple, yet liberating. Easy, yet hopeful.

Then, questions arise in our souls. Questions like the one that plagued Pilate, “What is truth (John 18:38)?” And, “From what are we being set free?”

To answer these questions, lets travel back in time to the days of Christ. Israel was under Roman occupation, and the people faced oppression, not only from the Roman government and military, but from many of their own people.

From the publicans who enriched themselves by extorting tax money from the people, to the religious leaders who enriched themselves by seizing power through the religious institutions. For the people who followed Jesus, there were few points of hope, save for one… that the Messiah would come and set everything straight.

As Jesus walked the earth, the people had become hopeful. The timing of the arrival of the Messiah was nearing as predicted by the Prophet Daniel. John the Baptist fulfilled scriptures in Isaiah concerning the forerunner to the Christ, and John himself pointed out Jesus as being that Christ.

As Jesus taught and ministered, many of the people came to believe that He was, in fact, the Christ that had been promised to deliver Israel. Those who followed found salvation, love, compassion and deliverance in His words.

The people who were constantly being called upon by their own religious leaders to sacrifice more, to suffer more, and to obey more, were being told by Jesus, “Come unto Me, and I shall give you rest.” And, for a time, they accepted that invitation.

Jesus knew that there would be those who would follow for a while, and leave. Indeed, it is a common thing when one is overcome with the struggles of life to cling to religion, or a religious leader, in order to find some sort of answer or resolution. Often, when that resolution is found, or when hope of a resolution is lost, the follower will fall back to their old ways.

It was that pattern that Jesus spoke to when He said, “If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed.” The ones who are truly the followers of Christ are those who continue to follow and trust Him regardless of outcome, who continue with Him until the end.

That level of dedication leads one to know the truth.

What is truth?

Truth is objectively true, and which is true under any consideration. Truth is real regardless of how men may perceive it.

Regarding the Lord, truth is the reality of the Gospel, and the blessing of hope that comes through the Gospel.

Jesus told His followers that if they continued in His word, then they would truly be His disciples. They would know the truth of the Gospel, Who He is, and the truth of God’s grace, and thus they would be freed from the oppression of the religious leaders and the anxieties of living under Roman rule.

For us today, continuing in the word means continually learning the truth of the Gospel from the scriptures. The more we do that, the better we know and understand the Gospel, the more we know the truth, and the more we are set free by the truth.

Being set free by the truth means being freed from fear of God’s judgment, from the questions of whether we’re good enough to get into Heaven, and freed from the fears peddled to us by cable news. We have been set free, because we know the One who holds tomorrow, the One who holds us, and we know that our eternal life and deliverance is in His hand, not ours.

And that is liberating.

Jesus: Light of the World, Destroyer of Darkness

In chapter 8, the Apostle John records the account of the woman taken in adultery, in which Pharisees challenged Jesus by bringing a woman who was allegedly caught in the act of adultery, and demanding that Jesus tell them what her consequence should be.

In that famous passage of scripture, Jesus told the Pharisees that the one without sin could cast the first stone. After they all left, realizing both their own sin and their inability to win this particular debate with Jesus, the Lord asked the woman where her accusers were. When she said no one stood there to condemn her, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

John 8 is a beautiful account of the sinless perfection of Christ, and His grace and mercy upon us as we struggle with sin.

After this incident, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Jesus being the Light of the world is a recurring theme in the book of John, beginning with John 1, in which states that “in Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”

With that, we are reminded that life with all of its meaning, fulfillment and blessings, comes from Christ. He is the source of life, intellect and creativity. This means that, ultimately, Christ is the source of all that is good in life.

Check out this message, as Pastor Leland Acker discusses how Christ being the Light of the world brings goodness to our lives and gives us deliverance from the darkness of this world.

And the Soul Felt its Worth

What is the value of a human soul? How much are you worth to God?

As Jesus concluded His teaching of the Kingdom Parables, He shared two parables that answer those questions. Two parables, one message, told in such a way to remove any doubt as to the preciousness of the human soul to God.

In the first of these two parables, Jesus told the story of a man who found a treasure in a field. This man found a treasure hidden that was so precious, he found it necessary to buy the entire field so that the treasure could be his. He went and sold everything that he had to raise the funds to purchase the field, so he could have the treasure.

While there may have been value to the field, the driving force behind the man’s purchase was the treasure. The result was the man bought an entire field, but his only interest was the treasure.

Employing the symbols and rules of interpreting the Kingdom Parables we’ve previously discussed, we find that the man represents the Son of Man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The field represents the world. Thus, the man, Jesus Christ, purchased the entire world (the field), to obtain the treasure He truly wanted, which are those of us who believe.

This concept is proven in scripture. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.” In essence, 1 John 2:2 says that the Lord paid for everyone’s sins so that He could save those who repent and believe.

That concept offends some who hold to the doctrines of Calvinism, because they believe that it would paint the Lord as wasteful, having wasted a payment on the sins of those who would never come to salvation. However, not one of those Calvinists would feel that they wasted any money purchasing a barn that contained an all-original 1962 in showroom condition. Though the Calvinist had no use for the barn, in that transaction, he would receive what he was truly paying for, and that would be the Corvette.

The beauty of this concept is not only that we are so precious to the Lord that He paid for the sins of the world so that we can be saved, but also that, with all sins having been paid for, anyone can be saved. Anyone can be redeemed. Anyone can be transformed. As long as there is the breath of life in the individual, there is hope that he can be saved, no matter how far he has drifted.

As for the treasure, scripture clearly teaches that God’s love for us motivated the Gospel. Hebrews 12:2 states, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

It was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross. That joy was not the glories of Heaven, nor the ownership of the universe. He already possessed those. The joy set before Christ was His people. To redeem His people, He went to the cross to pay for the sins of all people. With the sins of all people being paid for, there would be no limitations on the redemption of His people.

He truly purchased the entire field so that He could have the treasure.

In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus followed that parable up with the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price.

In this parable, we find a merchant man seeking good pearls. He finds one, the greatest, most beautiful pearl he has ever seen. Needing to add this pearl to his portfolio, he goes and sells everything he has so that he may purchase the pearl.

Once again, employing our rules of decoding the Kingdom Parables, we find that the man represents Christ. However, what about the pearl?

If the treasure in the field represents all of the saved, then the pearl represents an individual who has been saved. Whereas the treasure in the field shows us the big picture, the pearl of great price shows us how precious each individual is to the Lord.

Notice how Jesus described the man. He is a merchant man looking for goodly pearls. Pearls are his business, and he depends on that business to thrive.

For the Lord, 1 Timothy 1:15 says that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” The Lord’s business was saving souls, individual souls. And in 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul said that out of all of those individual souls, he was the worst, and he was saved.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus Himself said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and save that which is lost.”

Jesus is in the business of saving souls, and each individual is precious to Him. The Lord did not merely go to the cross to save the mass of humanity, but He went to the cross to save you as an individual.

This idea is backed up by the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

So, what is the value of a human soul? How precious are you to God? So valuable and precious that the creator of the universe willingly and steadfastly laid down his life for you. And if you truly grasp that idea, then your soul has felt its worth.

Trying to Solve Spiritual Problems with Worldly Solutions

The scene must have puzzled Pilate. The man who had entered Jerusalem as the Messiah was now in custody and detained in his judgment hall. Even more puzzling, it was this Messiah’s own people who arrested Him and turned Him in.

The traditional understanding of Holy Week is that Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, so named because as He rode the donkey colt into Jerusalem, multitudes of people laid palm leaves in his path while cheering, “Hosanna, Hosanna, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”

This caught the attention of the chief priests and Pharisees, who wanted Jesus to tell the people to quieten down, saying, “Master, rebuke your disciples.” Such an event likely caught the attention of Pilate, whose job it was to keep the peace in Jerusalem, a task that was seemingly impossible.

With the people’s desire to overthrow Roman rule, and with a popular Messiah entering the city to the cheers of the crowd, Pilate was possibly bracing for the worst. Then, he awakens to find that the Pharisees had arrested that Messiah, and He was being held in the judgment hall.

When Pilate asked Jesus why He had been arrested, Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”

The Pharisees opposed Jesus because they wanted an earthly kingdom, and they wanted to rule that kingdom. Pilate lived in the flesh, and in the tangible aspects of this world. Even though he saw the truth of Who Christ was, and the words He spoke, Pilate was unable to repent and trust the Lord as His Savior.

And through this account in John 18, we find that the Kingdom of God is a Spiritual Kingdom. It being a Spiritual Kingdom, that means that our mission is a Spiritual mission, our priorities should be Spiritual priorities, and that the things of this world are mere distractions.

Check out the above video, where Pastor Leland Acker encourages us to live for the Spiritual things of God, not the temporary things of this earth.

Why Doesn’t God Reveal Himself?

Why does God have to be so enigmatic?

If He wants us to know the truth, if He wants us to believe in Him, why doesn’t He just appear before us and remove all doubt?

In the above-posted clip, Pastor Leland Acker addresses those questions. In reading the Bible, we learn that God has, in fact, revealed Himself to mankind on a number of occasions.

He appeared to Adam after giving him life, and as He paid out the plan of salvation following Adam’s sin. He appeared to Noah, to Old Testament Israel, and then He appeared to us through Jesus Christ.

When God presented Himself to all mankind through Jesus Christ, man rejected Him and crucified Him.

The idea that man would simply accept God if He were to appear is a false assumption. Adam saw God, and rejected Him. Israel saw God, and rejected Him. The people of Jesus’ day saw Him, and crucified Him.

And the Bible says that when Christ returns, the armies of the world will gather to battle against Him.

God has appeared. He has spoken to us. The question is, do you accept Him, or reject Him?

Sanctified and Sent (John 17:17-19)

As Jesus prayed the High Priestly Prayer in John 17, his time with the disciples was winding down. There in the upper room, Jesus and the disciples had just observed the Passover, and Christ had just instituted the Lord’s Supper. Both of those observances symbolized what He was about to do.

The Passover was a celebration of God leading the children of Israel out of Egypt by delivering them from the curse of the death angel and by leading them through the Red Sea. To commemorate this event, the Israelites were commanded by scripture to sacrifice a yearling lamb, without spot or blemish, to sweep all leaven out of the home, and to eat unleavened bread and drink wine (but not in a way to get drunk).

In scripture, Egypt is a symbol of the bondage of sin. The Lamb symbolizes a sacrifice made to God to atone for sin. The blood pays the penalty for sin. The Passover celebration pictured Christ, that sacrificial Lamb that took away the sins of the world, and by so doing, led His people out of the bondage of sin.

The unleavened bread given by the Lord as He instituted the Lord’s Supper symbolized His body, and the wine symbolized the blood that redeemed us from sin. This was about to be fulfilled by Christ as He went to the cross.

This truly was a powerful moment in the life of Christ, the lives of His disciples, and truly one of the most powerful moments for all human history. The symbols of our redemption intersecting with our moment of redemption, coupled with the imminent separation of Christ from His beloved disciples, drove our Lord to prayer, and thus we have recorded in the Gospel of John the High Priestly Prayer of Christ.

In John 17:17-19, Jesus prays for God to sanctify His disciples through truth, noting that God’s word is truth, and declares that He is sending the disciples into the world. From this, we learn about the sanctification of the disciples of Christ, the mission of the disciples of Christ, and the sanctification of Christ Himself.

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In John 17:17, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.”

The word “sanctify” was translated from the Greek hagiason, which in this case means to purify internally by the reformation of the soul.

In this prayer, Jesus was praying that God would transform the disciples from the inside out through His truth, which is written in His word, the Bible. Indeed, the Bible has transformative power, especially when one completely grasps the central message of the scriptures.

The Gospel, how Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day is the central theme of the Bible. Scripture fills out this message by introducing us to God through the creation in Genesis 1, demonstrating Him as the source of our lives in Genesis 2, depicting His formulation of our redemption in the immediate aftermath of our sin in Genesis 3:15, teaching that He demands sacrifice by faith and not empty works in Genesis 4, showing His gracious rescue of His people in Genesis 6-8, His ultimate sacrifice in the story of Abraham and Isaac, His redemption of His people from the bondage of sin in Exodus through Deuteronomy, and His provision for the faith-filled life in the book of Joshua.

Psalms declares His glory. Song of Solomon declares His passion. Isaiah declares His salvation. The four Gospels the events of the life of Christ that purchased our redemption, and Revelation foretells God’s final victory and our final deliverance.

These scriptures depict a God who gave us life so that we could have fellowship with Him, and Him companionship with us. Instead, we rejected Him and tried to overthrow His presence from our lives. Instead of accepting this rejection and allowing us to die the death that comes from cutting ourselves off from the source of life, He (through Christ) died that death on our behalf so we could be reconciled, endowed with eternal life, and reunited with Him in His Kingdom.

The deeper we understand this truth, the deeper we understand the Gospel, the more our souls are transformed into the people God intended on us being. The more fully we understand the Gospel, the more sanctified we are.

After praying for our sanctification, Christ then told why He wanted us sanctified.

Jesus told the Father that, as He was sent into the world, He was sending His disciples into the world.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8, we find that Christ sent His disciples into the world to preach and bear witness of the Gospel. Like His disciples, we are called to go into all the world preaching the Gospel to all who will listen, and baptizing those who believe, following up with good doctrinal teaching.

That is the reason we live as followers of Christ, and the reason our church exists.

Finally, Christ said that He sanctified Himself so that the disciples could be sanctified. In this sense, Christ was set apart, consecrated, and holy, as He prepared to go to the cross to redeem us.

These few verses in the larger High Priestly Prayer of Christ should remind us of the transformation God has worked in our lives, and motivate us to carry His Gospel to a lost and dying world.

Jesus Said Goodbye (John 17:11-13)

What if today were your last day on earth?

What if you knew, without doubt, that this was your last day to live. How would you spend your time? How would you live? How would you feel?

As Jesus prayed the High Priestly Prayer of John 17, He knew He was in His final hours. In a short amount of time, He and the disciples would retire to the garden on the Mount of Olives, and He would be arrested, stand trial, and be executed by crucifixion.

For our Lord, this death would actually accomplish His divine plan. Through His betrayal and death, Christ would bear the wrath of God for man’s sin, clear us of our guilt, and rise again, conquering death and winning us eternal life.

You see, God is the master conductor, who can make the symphony sound magnificent regardless of whether the members follow the sheet music. If the woodwinds get off tune, God can adjust the brass section to off-set their error and keep the symphony sounding amazing. If the brass lose time, God can adjust the percussion section.

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Moreover, when man rebels against God, God not only corrects the sin and redeems man from the condemnation and destruction that follows, but He also has a way of using man’s misdeeds to further His cause. That’s one reason why Romans 8:28 says that “all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

So there Jesus is, in the upper room, with His disciples, having just observed the Passover and the first Communion, praying for them, as He prepared to go to the cross to redeem man from sin.

In His prayer, the Lord mentions that He will be leaving the world and going to the Father, so He prays that the Father will keep the disciples by His name, so that they will be one as Christ and the Father are one.

Jesus prayed that God would keep the disciples through His name. In this, we learn that we are not only saved by the authority of God, we are kept by the authority of God. Therefore, there is no danger of us losing our salvation.

Then, Christ prayed that we would be unified. That unity comes under God’s authority, and it comes from the Gospel. For a more in-depth look at John 17:11-13, see our pastor’s message posted above.

You Best Believe in Love Stories, Because You’re in One.

What was the happiest moment in human history?

The most glorious, victorious moment would be when Christ paid for our sins on the cross and then rose from the grave, conquering death.

But, what was the happiest moment in history?

To answer that question, what is your happiest memory, excluding your salvation?

Ask this question to the general public, and you will find that most people’s happiest memories involve their families and loved ones. Such memories involve weddings, the birth of children, family reunions, Christmas celebrations with the family, or just the memory of how you used to spend time together.

Our best memories involve the ones we love, and those times are often the happiest times of our lives.

With that in mind, what was the happiest memory from human history?

Genesis 2:15-20 records how God spent personal time with Adam, having placed him in the Garden of Eden to keep and dress it, and creating animals for Adam to name. Genesis 3:8 records how Adam and Eve heard the voice of the LORD walking in the garden in the cool of the day, which gives you the idea that those walks were common, if not daily.

Reading between the lines of Genesis 2-3, you get the idea that life was good. God and man dwelt together, spent time together, created things together, and even dreamed together. Before the fall of man, there was no sin in the world, no illness, no problems. Life was just good.

For us, this sounds like a dream! Obviously, this was the happiest time in human history. However, when it comes to the happiest time in God’s memory, this would also be it.

God created man for that fellowship, a fellowship that came from a gratitude and a recognition of God’s blessing, but by man’s choice (hence the tree in the garden).

When man sinned in the garden, that fellowship was broken, death entered in, and the problem filled life we know today emerged. God was no longer physically present, and could no longer dwell among His people. Paradise truly was lost.

However, God loved us so much that He refused to let the story end there. Though man ended the relationship by taking a tangible step to remove God from his life, God undertook a centuries-long project to reconcile with man, and to redeem His creation so that He could once again dwell with His people.

It’s God’s desire to live with His people that motivated Him to order the construction of the Old Testament Tabernacle. Situated in the middle of the camp of the Israelites as they lived in the wilderness in Exodus-Deuteronomy, God’s presence filled the tent, and thus He literally dwelt in the midst of His people.

When the Lord became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), God once again was able to dwell among His people, this time in a more personal sense than when He dwelt in the Tabernacle.

In the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), we see the Lord’s love for His disciples, His compassion for people, and His frustration at the impact their lostness had on them. In John 17, we find Jesus in prayer in the hours prior to His crucifixion. In that prayer, we can see the heartbreak He experienced, not over His own death, but His pending separation from His disciples.

Having only lived His biggest dream for a few years, the Lord was about to undertake the redemption of all mankind so that He can once again live with us.

Once our redemption was completed on the cross, Jesus continued to advocate for us in Heaven. To this day, that advocacy continues, along with His ministry to us through the Holy Spirit, and His reaching out to us with the Gospel through His ministers on this earth.

All of this is building to the day when the Lord will return, and we will be reunited with Him forever, and that day will come when the last man on earth to accept the Gospel does so.

God’s love for us is so profound, that He sacrificed Himself, giving His only begotten Son for us, so that we can be reunited with Him upon our belief. There is no higher love than that.

And the center of this love story is our Lord, but the object of that love us you… so you best believe in love stories, you’re in one.

What Repentance Really Means

Facing death is an indescribable experience. We all know we are going to die, but we don’t know when, where, or how. There’s a moment of intensity you experience when all of those questions are answered.

Such was the case for the woman taken in the act of adultery in John 8. Here, she’s been thrown to the ground in front of Jesus, with a small mob of Pharisees accusing her of adultery and quoting Old Testament scripture in calling for her to be stoned to death.

The whole thing was a set-up to discredit Jesus and cause Him to lose followers. They intended on derailing His ministry altogether, but when you fight against the Lord, you lose every time.

John 8 records that Jesus wrote in the dirt, then told them that the one among them who had no sin could cast the first stone. Realizing their own hypocrisy, or maybe in an exercise in hypocrisy at its finest, they left.

Jesus then turned to the woman and said, “Where are your accusers, does no man condemn you?”

“None, my Lord,” she replied.

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

As teachers of grace, we often harp on the first part of our Lord’s pardon of the woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” However, the latter part is just as important, “Go, and sin no more.”

However, is it possible to go through life without sinning? Romans 7 teaches us that it is not.

So, did Jesus tell the woman to do the impossible? He did not.

Going back to the original language, Jesus was telling her to leave the lifestyle of sin. And in that, He painted us a perfect picture of repentance.

Repentance does not mean you live the rest of your life perfectly. It does not mean that you go back and make everything right with everyone you’ve ever sinned against. Repentance is more than simple sorrow or regret over sin. The act of repentance carries with it the notion that we are leaving our sinful ways behind.

Jesus instructed the woman to leave her adulterous lifestyle behind. Likewise, scripture commands the drug addict to leave the dealer and the user-buddies behind. The porn-addict is to step away from his computer, and the prideful man is to step away from the spotlight.

In the late 1980s, there was a church in the Dallas area that ministered primarily to Hippies and Rock and Rollers. This church routinely went into the nightclub district to find those who were being swallowed up by the darkness of sin. When they found someone ready to turn their life around and trust the Lord for salvation, they not only congratulated them on their profession of faith with a church invite, they took concrete steps to help that sinner leave the lifestyle they were caught up in.

Drug addicts were found homes away from their influencers. Prostitutes were rescued from their pimps. Homeless people were given food and shelter. They were all given the tools and opportunities they needed to leave the sinful lifestyle. That church didn’t merely preach repentance, they led you to it.

So, with all this in mind, let’s do a little self-assessment. Have we left our sinful lifestyle, habits, choices, and the tools that fuel them behind? Or do we keep them in a side-pocket in case we need them? Have you truly repented?