The Truth Shall Make You Free!
By Raymond D. Sopp
Jesus said in John 8:32, ". . . the truth shall make you free." But, how can you know what the truth is with so many voices saying so many different "truths" about God, and Christianity in general? The first thing you must do is place such a great value in your heart for the truth that you will seek it with all your heart. Matthew 13:44-46: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
The truth can only become that valuable to you if you come to understand that you have a need to be set free. For example, we see that the Pharisees thought they had no need to be set free in John 8:33, "They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham's offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, You shall become free?'" The Pharisees knew the Scriptures inside and out; they could quote volumes of Scriptures at the drop of a hat. Almost every day they spent the day debating the Scriptures but somehow they did not know they were slaves to sin and needed to be set free.
John 8:34-36: "Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.'" In the pride of their heart the Pharisees thought they already had the truth; they were Abraham's offspring, holy, and God's chosen people. Therefore, Jesus' statement, "the truth will set you free" had no real value to them; upon seeing no value in the truth, (being unteachable -- unyielding -- stubborn) they turned away from the truth and embraced a lie. The Pharisees' pride blinded them to the truth. Jesus had said something to them that they did not want to hear; after all, they already knew the "truth" -- or so they thought.
But you might say, "That was the Pharisees; what does that have to do with me?" The Apostle Paul, talking about the last days in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 said, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths." If this is indeed the last days, should we not be careful that we do not reject the truth simply because it was not what we wanted to hear? Millions are going to hell, because they (like the Pharisees) don't like being called a sinner, and therefore, they accept the myth, "it's an alternative life style." Beware that you don't reject the truth for a lie because you are too proud and hardhearted to accept it. If you think that cannot happen to you -- think again. Jesus told us -- no, He commanded us, that we must forgive. But how many of us quickly reject that truth because that is the last thing we want to hear after someone has deeply hurt us?
Proverbs 1:7: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." If you want to be blessed with the discernment to know the difference between truth and error, you must be humble and teachable. The word "fear" as used here just means you respect God -- respect God enough to take His Word seriously. To fear (respect) God enough to esteem His Word even if it is not what you want to hear; allowing God's Word, and not your emotions, to be a lamp unto your feet.
I lent a book to a friend by Roy Hession, titled The Calvary Road. As you can tell by the title, the book was not going to be an easy read inasmuch as it was all about taking up your cross, i.e., denying yourself. My friend ended up becoming very angry, even throwing the book across the room a few times! It was very obvious my friend did not like what the book had to say. However, my friend did pick the book back up off the floor. You see, my friend feared (respected) God so much that even though the book contained things that my friend did not want to hear, if the book contained the truth; my friend wanted all of it. After getting past the emotions, my friend found the book to be full of God's truth. If we want to gain discernment between truth and error, we must at ALL times value the truth as a great treasure, being willing to give up everything to have it.
In our quest to recognize the truth from error we must learn to discern God's voice. In John 10:25-27, "Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.'"
When you are with someone for a long period of time, you not only know their voice, but you begin to know their wants and desires. And those who have been married for many years will begin to say, "I know him; he would not do that," or "Yes, I can see him doing that." Or they may say, "Yes, that's something he would say," or "No, he would never say that." She would know her husband so well that she could make such statements and be correct, actually becoming one with her husband. The bride could easily, at any time, pick her husband's voice out of a crowd. How did she come by such an intimate relationship with her husband? It's simple -- by spending time with him. Of course you already knew that was going to be the answer. And yet, we as the Bride of Christ, wanting an intimate knowledge of God, wonder why we don't have it when we just give God an hour on Sunday. You know, you cannot develop an intimate relationship with someone here on earth like that; so why then should we expect our relationship with God to be any different?
If you want to discern God's voice from among the myriad number of voices saying, "I have the truth," yet you know they cannot all be true since they contradict each other, then you are going to have to value your relationship with God as a pearl of great price, willing to sell everything to own it; spending time in prayer until you begin to recognize His voice. Spending time in His Word until you begin to understand His heart. There is no one else who can do it for you. Others can help by pointing you in the right direction, but it is up to you to get intimate enough with God to discern His voice from among the myriad number of voices that are constantly clamoring for your attention.
The Word of God is an exact representation of God Himself. We know this because in John 1:14, we find Jesus described as "the Word in flesh;" and in Hebrews 1:3 we also find Jesus defined as "the exact representation of God Himself." That being the case, we can come to the conclusion that if we want to learn to recognize God, then His Word would be the obvious place to go. Since God is spirit, we cannot use our eyes to recognize Him, so we must allow His Word to form an image of God within our heart. Whenever I begin to hear a myriad number of voices proclaiming that they have the truth, I begin looking for God. I can recognize God through the image I have within my heart, placed there by His Word. If I don't see God, I take what I hear with great skepticism -- throwing out the chaff and keeping only the grain, if there is any grain to be found.
Since God is spirit and we cannot use our eyes to gain His image, we must become very diligent in our study of His Word to assure we attain an accurate image of God in our hearts. In our quest for God's image we can gain a very important lesson from the childhood fable about the three blind men and the elephant. One of the blind men, trying to gain an image of the elephant, grasped the elephant's tail. From that brief encounter, he came away thinking the image of the elephant was like a rope. The second blind man wrapped his arms around one of the elephant's legs and came away thinking the image of the elephant was like a tree. And finally the third blind man grasped the trunk of the elephant and became convinced the image of the elephant was like a snake. As you can see, all three actually did have hold of the elephant, but each came away with a very distorted view of the whole. Although all three blind men gained their knowledge directly from the elephant, the image they came away with was 100% wrong! You cannot gain a true image of anything piecemeal!
Just because someone uses a quote from the Bible -- even if the Bible is quoted accurately -- they can still be 100% wrong with their conclusion. Yes, exactly like the three blind men: 100% right inasmuch as they were touching an elephant, and yet 100% wrong with their conclusion. If you want to come away with a true image of God, you must study the complete Word of God, both the Old and New Testaments; and along with your teacher and helper the Holy Spirit, begin to harmonize every detail. I know of no one that can say, "I see God perfectly," but if you approach the Holy Scriptures in this way, over time your discernment of God's truth will be GREATLY enhanced.
Let me give you an example out of God's Word from Matthew 4:5-7, "Then the devil took Him (Jesus) into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down;' for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge concerning You; and on their hands they will bear You up Lest You strike Your foot against a stone.' Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
We must understand that Satan's most successful tactic in his war against the truth, is to quote God's Word to us, but have us come away with the wrong conclusion. This is no small thing; it can cause the falling away of many. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, this was the tactic he used against our Lord. Satan accurately quoted God's Word to Jesus, but with a 100% wrong conclusion. How did Jesus know the conclusion was wrong? Because He knew the complete Word of God, and said in verse seven, ". . . on the other hand, it is written." Jesus had to use a different part of God's Word in order to properly discern God's truth. Although both were true quotes from God's Word, they had to be combined in order to get to the whole picture -- the whole truth. Whenever you do not understand something in the Bible, just keep reading; in time, you will find the answer in the Bible. In other words, the Bible needs no special or private interpretation; the Bible will interpret itself.
You may hear many different interpretations of Scripture, but the flaw is not with the Bible -- it's with the interpreters. If you want to discern truth from error, you must treat the Scriptures as a hidden treasure and, with a sincere heart, search the Scriptures with diligence. There is no shortcut. However, your heart must be sincere, or you will only see what you want to see and become as blind as the men who thought the elephant was like a rope, tree, or snake. If your heart is sincere, ask God for your teacher and helper, the Holy Spirit, to help lead you into all truth, and with His help, you will find it.
Satan has yet another tactic he will use to cause you to accept whatever someone says about God without putting it to the test of God's Word -- God's entire Word. It begins when you want something for yourself so bad that your desire causes you to have "tunnel vision", making the only thing you wish to see is your miracle, the fulfillment of your desire. It is at that point where you cross the line, loving your desire and/or truth more than God's desire and/or truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11: ". . . the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false." You must love God and the truth above all else, even over your own desires and/or truth, or it will cause you to have a blind spot -- blinding you from God's desire and/or truth.
That is why I tremble when I see "miracle crusades" filled to the rafters, with indeed a Scripture or two given, but all the emphasis is placed on receiving your desire and/or miracle. This becomes very dangerous when we reach a point in time when people gather to seek their miracle and/or desire more than they gather to just seek God. We already know Satan will use miracles and Scriptures to cause someone to believe a lie. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying every miracle crusade is of Satan, but I do see it as one possible way for Satan to get us to let our guard down if miracles become our focus. I very much believe in miracles, but the Word of God and God's truth should be the focus for believers, not the miracles. Jesus used miracles to attract the unbelievers and to help the helpless. But in the Holy Scriptures, when the people became more interested in the miracle than for the truth, they were notably and severely rebuked by Jesus.
I have prayed for people and I have seen God do miracles (doctor confirmed). But as believers should we not be in love with God and His truth more than our wants and desires? Would it not disturb you if all your children wanted from you is to have their desires fulfilled? Yes! So why then in times of trouble does God's Word and prayer become very important to us, but in times of plenty we just can't seem to find the time? When God becomes as important to us as our own life, then we will begin to know the truth, and the truth will set us free.
Finally, if you truly want discernment in your life, you must be willing to act on what you already know. John 7:16-17: "Jesus therefore answered them, and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.'"
If we are truly in the last days let us remember Jesus' warning to us in Matthew 24:24-25, "For false Christ's and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance."
Deuteronomy 13:1-3: "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let we go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul." Anything other than the truth about God is indeed another "god", even if it goes by the name "Christian". Therefore, keep your love and passion for the truth fervent, for only God's truth will set you free!
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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