Summary: Just what is the truth about truth?
“Cross Currents: It’s All Relative”
A cartoon pictured Pastor Wilkins behind his desk, a look of utter disbelief on his face. Standing in front of him was a church member, Mrs. Trent. She had just said “According to my horoscope, this is a good week to preach against false doctrine.”(i) It raises the question, “What is truth?”
It’s an appropriate question since we live in an era when truth is proclaimed as relative. The theory is that people and organizations define truth according to their experience and belief. There is, then, no absolute truth. In fact, the Barna Research Group found in a survey that 72% of Americans do not believe there is any such thing as absolute truth – and, sadly, 40% of evangelical Christians do not believe in absolute truth. (ii) The surveys also reveal that most Americans do not rely on the Bible as their primary guide for truth but would rather figure out truth for themselves. Yet, sadly but not surprisingly, when people are in the midst of crisis and turmoil, they long for something solid, something permanent, for some sure answer – for truth.
So we begin this morning by looking at THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUTH. Verse 8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Paul states that there is truth and untruth – THERE IS ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Absolute truth is defined as “unchanging truth from God that is applicable to all persons in all situations.” (iii) Paul warns the Colossians not to be taken captive – not to be kidnapped – not to become a hostage to untruth. Paul understood the danger. Verse 4: “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” He knew the human tendency to be caught up in fancy words and powerful speech – and that fancy words and powerful speech spewed out wrong truth, false teaching and doctrine, and worldly traditions and philosophies. Jesus knew it too (Mk. 7:6-9 NLT): “Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.”
It’s not surprising, then, that there is also a large group of Americans who believe there is absolute truth but that it is found in all major religions; for them, therefore, there is more than one path to God. (iv) The central assumption of many is that at their core, all religious people are striving for the same thing, and are just using different words and concepts to get there. But how true is that assumption? If we look closely at the four world religions that represent about three-quarters of the global population – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity – and summarize their most basic belief in the idea of God, we find that God is one with creation and takes on millions of forms, God may or may not exist, God is one and absolute, and God is one but exists in three persons.(v) They simply cannot all be true because they are contradictory. As Ed Stetzer asks, “If we cannot agree on even the basic definition of God or his character, how can we say that all the major religions are on the same path toward the truth about God?” (vi)
So Paul urges the Colossians to measure all philosophies, teachings, speeches, and traditions by Jesus Christ. Why? Because JESUS CLAIMED TO BE ABSOLUTE TRUTH. As we read in John 8: 31f: “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…” Jesus said there is absolute truth – in Him. Listen again to what He said while on trial before Pilate (Jn. 18:33-38): “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Jesus said that when it comes to truth, a choice must be made. Later, in the Upper Room with His disciples on the night of his betrayal and arrest, Jesus said (Jn. 14:6) “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus said there is absolute and exclusive truth about God – and it is found in Jesus Himself. In His last prayer before His arrest Jesus prayed (Jn. 17:17 NLT), “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.” Jesus said we are made holy through absorbing His truth, which is the Word of God.