Speak Truth

Being able to take someone at their word is the foundation of every healthy relationship; believing we’re each speaking the truth enables us to understand and trust each other. Without this, no working relationship is even possible. Lying thus strikes at the very heart of friendship, and even of civilization itself.

Jordan Peterson challenges us to try to stop lying for 30 days, just to see what happens. Perhaps it’s striking … that we’re so accustomed to lying we need to be dared to stop; but it shouldn’t be a surprise – this is the default human condition. (Jn 3:19) But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; God can help us choose truthful speech as a pattern of life. (Ps 119:29)

Lying doesn’t just harm friendships and society, it rewires our own brains, distorting our very own nervous systems such that we can no longer properly orient ourselves in the world and recognize reality as it is. (Pr 1:28)

Deception is aligning our very own behavior contrary to the way we ourselves perceive reality, which signals our brains and bodies that reality isn’t what our senses are telling us; this actually corrupts and fractures our own ability to accurately perceive reality. (Pr 5:22) We deceive ourselves when we don’t act out the truth we already know (Ja 1:22), and self-imposed deception is the most dreadful kind of deception. (Mt 6:23)

Yet just because something’s true doesn’t necessarily mean we should volunteer it in conversation with others (Ep 4:15); there are dimensions of truth that others are not ready to hear. (Jn 16:12) Spewing truth with the wrong motive can be very destructive (Pr 12:18a); we must carefully consider whether our speech will tend to the general health and well-being of both ourselves and others (18b), and only speak in love. (Ep 4:15)

The real challenge comes when we feel pressed to speak truth that’s harmful or destructive. We might think we have no choice but to lie or let the truth do its harm, yet violating the law of Love isn’t an option (Ep 5:2); if our words won’t edify and help the overall situation, they’re forbidden. (Ep 4:29) Rather than letting others dictate our choices, we’re obligated in such cases to wisely re-focus the conversation on what’s truly edifying.

Consider the example of Christ, when those He’d miraculously fed were trying to forcibly make Him king. (Jn 6:15) After He evaded them by walking across a lake at night (18-19), they sought after Him and caught up with Him (24), asking how He’d managed to slip away. (25) Rather than telling them about the miracle, or offering them a little white lie in its place, Christ turned the attention on their true need. (26-27)

We’re made in the image of God as co-creators in eternity, and it’s primarily through our speech that we create. Whenever we open our mouths to speak, we fashion metaphysical reality from the void before us, bringing an eternal work into being which shall ultimately be on display before the entire universe for inspection and evaluation (Lk 12:3): we’ll give an account to God for every idle word we utter. (Mt 12:36) Let all the reality we create be true and right and good, for it’s by our words that we’ll either be justified or condemned. (37)

Speak truth to everyone, all the time (Ep 4:25), yet only speak prayerfully, as Christ Himself would speak (Col 3:17), seeking God for the ability to glorify Him and edify others. (Col 4:6) It’s wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep quiet (Ec 3:7), and as a rule, less is better. (Pr 10:19) As we speak, let’s remember the power of words (Pr 18:21), and speak appropriately. (Pr 15:23) While some truth cannot be spoken in love (1Co 3:2), there’s never a good time to lie. (Ps 119:163)

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Nothing Shall Offend Them

To be offended is to be resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult, injustice or impropriety. It often happens when we’re in denial about our own sin or unworthiness and someone exposes us. At it’s core, it’s an inability to reconcile ourselves with a moral demand, an unwillingness to accept it, an insistence that a moral standard be different than it is.

For example, when Christ came to His hometown of Nazareth and taught in the synagogue, revealing Himself to be the Messiah and providing evidence through His wisdom and miracles, His neighbors were astonished (Mt 13:54) and upset, as if it were somehow inappropriate for one they knew so well to be the Messiah.

When Christ explained how such a mentality had kept people from being healed and blessed in the days of the prophets (Lk 4:24-27), rather than admitting their error, they became so enraged they tried to murder Him. (28-29) They were offended in Him (Mt 13:57), as if they couldn’t bear the thought of having been so clueless that they’d missed their own Messiah while He grew up among them.

In a similar instance, as Christ explained to those He’d just miraculously fed that they were seeking the wrong kind of nourishment (Jn 6:26-27), and that He had come down from Heaven as their spiritual food (51), but that they couldn’t be fed because they didn’t believe in Him (36), the Jews complained (42) that His claim was absurd. (52) Even many of Christ’s own disciples found this so unreasonable they didn’t see how anyone could accept it. (60) Christ noted they were allowing themselves to become offended and He challenged them (61); they wouldn’t believe even if they saw Him ascend into Heaven (62) – only those God enables can follow Him. (65) As Christ exposed this hardness and unbelief, rather than repenting, many of His disciples abandoned Him. (66)

Similarly, when we try to live for God and do the right thing, and it doesn’t go our way, when trouble and persecution come instead of blessing and comfort, if we’re seeking God’s blessings instead of God Himself we’ll be offended, as if He’s not properly honoring our service, and turn back from following Him. (Mt 13:21) It’s a refusal to acknowledge the goodness of God when He doesn’t personally bless us in the moment.

When we aren’t being treated as we think we ought to be, we’re either right about it or we aren’t. If we’re right, and a broken person is treating us wrongly, we can only be offended if we contend with them as if they’re treating us rightly, rather than dismissing their behavior as deluded and pitying them (Ps 119:158), knowing it has nothing to do with us and that God’s our Shield and Defender. (Ps 119:114)

And if we actually are being treating rightly, then we should acknowledge this, repent, and not be offended. (2Ti 2:25) So, offences don’t come because of circumstances themselves, but due to our failure to properly interpret them, to align with reality as it actually is.

So, an offense is a kind of stumbling block that turns us away from the truth because we’re unwilling to receive the truth as we perceive it to be. It should come as no surprise then that God attributes the root cause of offenses to a lack of love for His Law: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Ps 119:165) When we love God’s Law and choose to align with it we can’t be misaligned with moral reality, because His Law defines this reality; we choose to love this expression reality, regardless what it looks like at first.

When we feel an offense coming on, if we properly understand Torah and are submitting ourselves to it, we can check ourselves and realign with reality, and let the offense go rather than being overcome by it. In such a state, nothing offends us, and we can enjoy the amazing peace of God regardless of our circumstances. (Php 4:7)

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Count It All Joy

Pain and suffering, whether physical or emotional, is so unpleasant that it’s difficult to understand how God can command us to count it all joy under various kinds of trials. (Ja 1:2) Does God expect us to disconnect from reality and not feel the normal, healthy emotional response that trauma typically evokes in our lives?

No, it isn’t actually the pain and suffering itself that God wants us to glory in; we’re to rejoice in the midst of our suffering, confident that God will produce patience in us (Ja 1:3): the ability to endure difficulty without losing hope.

If we value patience, and God works patience in each of us through suffering (He 12:6), then we can rejoice in the outcome of godly suffering. It’s through suffering that God matures and completes us; it’s necessary for our growth in godliness. (He 12:11b)

Patience seems to be the primary goal in suffering: it’s the tendency or ability to experience distress in hope: the confident expectation that God is working it all out for our good (Ro 8:28) and for His glory. (1Pe 1:7)

Patient endurance of suffering produces a wealth of practical, life experience with the faithfulness of God, as we see how He works so brilliantly through chaos and pain to accomplish His purposes. And such experience produces hope (Ro 5:3), the knowledge that God will ultimately be wondrously glorified through whatever He allows. (Re 15:4)

And such hope makes us unashamed in our suffering, as the love of God shines forth from us by the Holy Spirit. (Ro 5:5) It is in the midst of suffering that our love for God and others shines most brightly, when it’s clear that we aren’t seeking God out of selfishness, but even when it hurts, even in persecution. We’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain by rejoicing in God and knowing He’s at work; we abound in hope through the power of God in the midst of our suffering, knowing God does all things well.

So, it’s appropriate to be in heaviness as we’re suffering (1Pe 1:7), to weep and grieve and struggle (He 12:11a) – this is perfectly healthy. (Ro 12:15) But this sorrow and heaviness should not be the whole of our experience; we should not suffer like the world does, without hope. (1Th 4:13) We must also look beyond our suffering in faith, rejoicing in what God will eventually accomplish in and through our suffering. (1Pe 1:7)

We can be thankful in our suffering (1Th 5:18), and also for our suffering (Ep 5:20), knowing there’s a glorious purpose in everything God allows. (Ep 1:11)

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According to Our Works

In one sense, there are only two eternal destinations: Heaven and Hell, no third option. (Mt 25:46) So the chosen strive to enter Heaven (Lk 13:24), seeking the Lord for eternal salvation until they have it. (He 11:6) We can’t afford to get this wrong. (Mt 16:26)

But this dual nature of eternity can be misleading; in only two possible general outcomes, we might fail to see the many possibilities within each one: there’s surely joy in every heavenly place (Jud 24), and sorrow throughout Hell, but some heavenly states are much more desirable than others (Mt 5:19), and some hellish places far worse than others. (Mt 11:24)

Scripture is clear that we’ll all be recompensed based on our behavior; those who’ve done good will be resurrected to life, and those who’ve done evil will be raised unto damnation. (Jn 5:28-29) It isn’t that we can earn salvation by being good, but those who know God love Him (1Pe 2:7), and do their best to please Him. All the saints will receive a reward (2Ti 4:8), yet some of us serve God better than others, and will get a better reward for our labor; it makes a difference how we live.

Christ will repay each and every one of us according to our works (Mt 16:27); so, as there are degrees of good and evil, there will also be degrees of rewards (Mt 5:19) and punishments. (Lk 12:47-48a)

To the degree that our works are deficient, corrupt, tainted with wrong motives, even as believers in Heaven we suffer loss. (1Co 3:13-15) And if we’re actually despising the truth, headed for Hell (Ro 2:8), we’d be much better off if we’d never known the truth at all. (2Pe 2:21)

The boundaries of both Heaven and Hell lie in the infinitude of God Himself. His fury can address the deepest depravity, of Satan himself, and His delight the purest heart, that of Christ Himself. He is capable of giving the saints more than the very best of us can possibly fathom or enjoy (1Co 2:9), and is able to crush His enemies (Lk 20:18) with a fierceness and indignation that even the most rebellious heart cannot endure. (Na 1:6)

Though we aren’t saved by works (Ep 2:8-9), how we live each day does make an eternal difference (Mt 10:42); whatever we sow we reap (Ga 6:7); the more we sow the more we reap, whether for good or evil. Every single choice is thus an eternal one.

Run for a reward in God (1Co 9:26); He calls us to run that we may obtain (1Co 9:24), so run with all your might — for this reward is God Himself. (Ge 15:1, Php 3:8)

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What He Seeth the Father Do

Abiding in Jesus Christ is living our lives as He would live them, doing what He’s doing as He lives in us. (Col 1:27)

And Christ is doing today what He’s always done, looking to see what His Father’s doing. (Jn 5:19) So we should follow His steps, doing the same, what we see the Father doing, and not doing what the Father isn’t doing.

Is the Father fearful of Man? No? Then we shouldn’t be (Mt 10:28); that’s not what the Father’s doing.

Is the Father envious, covetous, or discontent? No? Then we shouldn’t be (He 13:5); that’s not what the Father’s doing.

Is the Father troubled, or worried about the future? No? Then we shouldn’t be (Jn 14:27); that’s not what the Father’s doing.

When we’re not doing what the Father’s doing, we’re living like the world, alienated from the life of God through our ignorance. (Ep 4:17-18) This is a life of dead works, from which we turn away (He 6:1), cleansed of them by the blood of Christ to serve the living God. (He 9:14)

So, what is the Father doing? He’s always up to something. (Jn 5:17) We should seek His face (Ps 27:8) so we can see what He’s up to, and be about His business. (Lk 2:49)

God reveals His Way within us in and though our own will as we yield to Him. (Php 2:13) Every glance of our hearts, every whisper, every subtle move, submitted for inspection and correction to the Word of God hidden in our heart (Ps 119:11), cleansing our way all day, every day. (vs 9) Where we stray from His Word we ask Him to make us go in the path of His commands as we delight in them (Ps 119:35); God is able to do this (2Co 9:8), and so He does. (1Co 1:9)

The Father is always rejoicing in the Son (2Pe 1:17); so should we.

The Father is Light (1Jn 1:5); when we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with Him (1Jn 1:7) and become a light proving what’s acceptable to God. (Ep 5:8-10)

Known unto God are all His works from the foundation of the world. (Ac 15:18) As we obey the Father in faith and wisdom, and are faithful in the little things, He gives us more to do. (Lk 12:42)

This is our privilege and our glory, through the Son to see with the Father’s eyes, to feel with the Father’s heart, to be His members in the here and now (Ep 5:30), to hear from Him in the last Day, “Well done!” (Mt 25:21)

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