By Allen J. Huth, President of the Ezra Project |
We may all remember the slogan from the movie A Few Good Men (Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise), “You can’t handle the truth”. In our world today, I might change that to “You can’t find the truth!”
We are in an era where truth is hard to find. Whether you care more to watch Fox News of CNN, truth on major news networks is hard to find. We just went through one of the most astounding Supreme Court Justice confirmations in our history, and regardless of what side you were on, truth was hard to find, affirm, or agree on.
I am not sure where truth went, or when it left the public discourse, but for me it’s hard to find in our day and age. It may be just as evasive in business, in school, in relationships, or even in church. Where has truth gone? Can we find it again?
And, how are we doing with truth as Christians? For years, George Barna has studied our faith. He has reported findings like:
- Being a Christian, or associating with the Christian
faith is not as attractive to Americans as it used to be. Besides the battering
Christianity takes in the media, another reason is it is relatively rare to
find someone who exemplifies the Christian faith.
- Most self-identified Christians are comfortable with the idea that the Bible and the sacred books from non-Christian religions all teach the same truths and principles.
- Faith in America is now individual and customized. We are comfortable with the idea of being spiritual as opposed to devoutly Christian.We become our own unchallenged spiritual authorities, defining truth and reality as we see fit. Only 34% of adults believe in absolute moral truth.
The Study continues, and I believe the reason for all the above trends:
- Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a
goal in the United States. Little, if any, progress is being made toward
assisting people to become more Biblically literate
- Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for its context…if they are comfortable with it, they accept it, otherwise they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on.
- Only about half of self-identified Christians firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
The Study concludes, “We cannot really call the faith of American Christians a Bible-base faith…Christians today have accepted and combined so many ideas from other worldviews and religions that they have created their own faith system.”
I believe the challenges facing our nation and our churches, are directly related to our neglect of God’s Word. Hosea 4:1, “Hear the word of the LORD, You children of Israel, for the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.” Verse 6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge…Because you have forgotten the law of your God.”
This is not the first time in history this has been the case. Go with me back to a day when the children of Israel had lost their way. They too stopped reading and obeying the truth of God’s Word.
In 2 Kings 22:1, “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.” They were rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, when in verse 8, the high priest “found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And they read it before King Josiah.
Continuing in 2 Kings 22:11-13, “Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes….Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
And in verses 16-20, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants — all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read–because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched. But as for the king of Judah (Josiah), who sent you to inquire of the LORD, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard–because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the LORD. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.”
Chapter 23:3 is Josiah’s response to hearing God’s Word: “Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.”
I believe God is searching for Josiahs today, those who will read their Bibles and obey what it says. It was no easier for Josiah in his day than it will be for us. He faced tremendous obstacles like we do, but he heard the Word of God, sold out to God and His Word, and decided to act accordingly, regardless of the price.
We will return to the text later in this article to see what bold steps he took to obey God’s Word, but take a moment to see what the Bible says about truth. Where do we find truth, what happens when we are truth-less, and what happens when we are truthful? Rather than my words, here are 12 verses on truth:
Where is truth found?
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The truth is found in Jesus.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. The truth is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. The truth is found in God’s Word.
When we ignore Jesus, we ignore truth. When we deny the Holy Spirit, we deny truth, and when we avoid God’s Word, we avoid truth. No wonder the world is truth-less today!
The next 3 verses are on truthlessness:
but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares…
And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
Truthlessness results in wrath, fury, unrighteousness, and lies.
The next 3 verses are on the pursuit of truth:
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
To pursue truth, we need to renounce disgraceful, underhanded ways, refuse to tamper with God’s Word, seek the Lord, present ourselves to him, and rightly handle the Word of truth
The last 3 are on the benefits of truth:
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;
The benefits of truth are freedom, delight, wisdom, good judgment, and peace.
Where is the most reliable source of truth today? The Bible! What’s contained within its pages?
A. Basic Instructions Before Life Everyday
B. 66 books written by 40 authors over 1600 years. 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses; and can be read at pulpit speed in 72 hours.
Yet among Bible readers, the average total time per week of Bible reading is 52 minutes, or 7.4 minutes per day. The average time in front of the television is 3 hours!
Yet…surveys show we don’t read it! Be honest with yourself and see where you stand when it comes to you Bible reading. Which one defines you? 1. I have not read my Bible at all since last ________. 2. I have read my Bible some, 3-4 times a week, but not everyday. 3. I have read my bible everyday since last ________.
The top five reasons why people don’t read the Bible:
- I am overextended
- Bad time management
- My own laziness
- Church-related activities
- Lack of a meaningful plan
Why read the Bible? I have asked this question in audiences since 2002. Here are some of the answers I have heard:
- To know God better—John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
- To learn how to live like God wants me to live—the Word of God instructs us in Godly living! “0 My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22)
- To find answers to problems I am having in my life—the Bible addresses the problems we face in life! “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)
If you are confused about life and want real answers, give the truth of the Word of God a chance in your life! He loves you! He wants a truthful relationship with you and me! He has so much to show you…and He chose to put His thoughts, His truth, His instructions to us in a Book!
How do you read the Bible? Research tells us you need a plan! Our goal at the Ezra Project is to connect God’s people to God’s Word. We have several resources to help you stay in God’s Word each and every day:
- Bible reading journals are for purchase at www.ezraproject.net.
- Download the free ADDBIBLE® app from your app store and listen to an audio daily devotion.
- Consider joining Club 365 on the ADDBIBLE® app to get all of the ADDBIBLE® recordings on each and every book of the Bible. Study the book you want, when you want.
Let’s go back to our text and see what happened after Josiah read the Word of God and made a covenant to obey the truth what he had heard.
He eliminated idols from the temple. (2 Kings 23:4) “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, the priests of the second order, and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the articles that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel.”
What idols have crept into your life? Work, entertainment, selfish ambition, sports, shopping, listening to the voices of men rather than the voice of God? What needs to be eliminated so you can get back to pursuing truth?
He removed the idolatrous priests. (2 Kings 23:5) “Then he removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven.”
Where are your eyes? Are they on the things of this world, rather than the things of the Word? What distractions needs to be removed, so you can clearly seek and find truth again in your life?
He destroyed the high places, altars, wooden images, and sacred pillars to the false gods of the neighboring nations (2 Kings 23:10-16) and he executed the false priests (20).
What worldly influences have infiltrated your Christian life? TV, music, movies, the internet? What needs to be controlled, or even destroyed so you can have time for unhurried prayer and Bible reading again?
Once all the idolatry and false gods were destroyed, he reinstituted Passover (2 Kings 23:21-23).
What spiritual activities have you left aside? Bible reading, prayer, Christian fellowship? What needs to be reinstituted so you can know the truth and the truth can set you free?
What is our challenge? Matthew 21:42, Jesus asks the chief priests and Pharisees, “Did you never read in the Scriptures?”
Josiah read the Word of God. He got a Biblical perspective and it changed his life! Because he became tender and humble before God, in the midst of calamity all around, God blessed him!
“But as for the king of Judah (Josiah), who sent you to inquire of the LORD, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard–because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the LORD. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.” (2 Kings 22:18-20)
Like Josiah, turn to the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your might. Rediscover the truth of God’s Word! As you read God’s Word, it will set you free!
Will you accept the challenge to find truth? I invite you to read with me every day. Will you seek and find, will you knock and see if God will open His truth to you?
In Josiah’s day, all the people took a stand for the covenant. I invite you to make a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all your heart and all your soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book.
You can find the truth! You can handle the truth!
Father, thank You for Your Word. We confess our lack of attention to Your Word. Holy Spirit bring us back to Your truth by giving us passion for Your Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.