Summary: While no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him, it’s also clear that Christianity does not require a "leap of faith" to believe.
Sanctified by the Truth
March 5, 2006
In what some commentators call His high priestly prayer, in John chapter 17, Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for us. One of the things he prayed was:
John 17:17 (NIV) Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth
Jesus asked our Heavenly Father to sanctify, that is, to purify or make holy and set apart, His disciples. And He asked God to do this “by the truth.” That is, to use the truth as a means to sanctify them, to purify them, to equip and set them apart for useful service. And just to be clear what the truth was, He added that God’s word, is truth.
I want to read an excerpt from a letter to the editor that appeared in the Tulsa World in January. When I read this letter, I had already sensed a direction for this morning, and had already been reading and studying things toward that direction, but this letter encapsulated quite well the problem that I want to deal with today, and it’s related to the passage of scripture we just read.
The letter happens to be about Carlton Pearson, and his preaching of universalism, but it could be about almost any “religious” issue. Rather than the particular issue which prompted this letter, I’d like to address the general attitude of this letter writer, because it’s a prevailing attitude in our culture today, and we even see it in the church.
Tulsa world letter to the editor, Jan 18, 2006
Several letters have been published regarding minister Carlton Pearson’s views and arguments for and against the religious universalism doctrine. Those opposed to Mr. Pearson’s beliefs usually try to defend their positions by quoting passages from the Christian Bible.
Matters of religious faith are just that, faith. They will never be proven to human beings, so I just say believe what you want and live your life accordingly. Do not criticize or try to prove a different faith wrong, because it cannot be done.
Any religion can make claims based on their bibles and texts. It solves or proves nothing to argue matters of faith because we will never know the answer. I think this was God’s plan all along.
Do you understand what this writer is saying? He’s saying that in matters of faith, we can never know if what we believe is really true. We can never know anything for certain in matters of faith. In other words, your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth, so believe whatever you want to believe. What’s more, this writer believes God intended it that way. He uses the word “proven,” so I guess we have to ask ourselves, what is the standard of proof in matters of faith, and are they significantly different from the standards of proof in other areas of life, such as in courts of law, or other matters?
What this writer has illustrated is exactly what Francis Schaeffer wrote about almost 40 years ago in his book The God Who Is There. He noted that our culture, and even some segments of the church, has accepted this dichotomy, this separation, which separates faith from reason. He called it the “two-story” view of reality.
In other words, on the bottom story are facts and reason. On the top story are faith and values. As long as they stay on their own floors, one upstairs, one downstairs, things are fine. The culture can live with that. But as soon as one begins to encroach on the other, conflict begins.
Now, before we examine these ideas more fully, it’s also important to note that there is a spiritual element to faith that’s much harder to define. That’s God’s grace, which enables saving faith. While we must choose to receive His grace and forgiveness, it’s also clear that we are saved by grace through faith, as it says in Ephesians 2:8,9, and this faith is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. So, before we get into the meat of this morning’s message, let me be absolutely clear. We cannot come to the Father, unless He draws us. We cannot come based solely on our own reasoning. The Holy Spirit must energize our reasoning
for us to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
That said, Francis Schaeffer’s contention, which is also reflected in another book I read to prepare for this sermon, Total Truth, by Nancy Pearcey, is that biblical truth is a one-story building. There is no conflict between faith and reason - in fact, faith is quite reasonable or it’s not true faith, and faith really is quite worthless unless its grounded in some sort of fact.
As Nancy Pearcey notes, biblical truth is total truth. She writes: “Christianity is not just religious truth, but the truth about all reality. It is total truth.”