Summary: A sermon on the importance of truth: Its reality, the ability to know it and the difference it makes.
At one point in the history of the world, truth was very important and people sought to know truth and thereby gain wisdom. It used to be that people who searched after truth were called “lovers of wisdom”: Philosophers (phileo meaning to love, and sophos meaning wisdom). Today, philosophers are those who question truth. In our culture, we question whether truth really even exists or not. If there is such a thing as truth, is there anything we can call “absolute truth”. Others want to know, if indeed truth does exist, is it knowable at all? Can anyone know truth with any kind of certainty? Is truth even important? We have become people who live according to their feelings rather than their minds. We base our decisions (moral and otherwise) by what we “feel” is the right thing to do, not necessarily because we have carefully thought it through. Our feelings have become more important than our ability to think.
I always wish one of these people who do not believe in truth would ask me directions to Cleveland. I would have fun directing them to Columbus and then to I-70 West. And then if they should complain, I would say, “But I thought you didn’t believe in truth. I thought you believed that there was no such thing as right or wrong. And now you are complaining that I did not tell you the truth, and that you believe that what I did was wrong. Now which is it? Is there such a thing as truth, and nothing is really right or wrong, or not?” These people who say there is no such thing as right and wrong, surprisingly do not want you to lie to them, steal from them or harm them.
I was recently reading an article by Chuck Colson where he said : “Relativism is so rampant that in a Barna poll, 71 percent of the American people said there is no such thing as absolute truth. But don’t get smug: In that same poll, George Barna surveyed evangelical, born-again Christians — those who go to church regularly, who pray regularly, who believe in Jesus Christ, who have had an experience with Christ — and 40 percent of evangelical Christians responded the same way: There is no such thing as absolute truth! In a 1992 Gallup poll, 69 percent of the people said they believe there are no moral absolutes.” As a pastor, I have seen this many times. A church I once served hired a youth pastor who told me one day that he did not believe in absolute truth. I learned that when he left the church he embezzled money from his next employer. He was just living according to his beliefs.
What I want to say to you today is that truth is important. What you believe to be true is important, because it will determine how you see life and how you live your life. It will determine your ability to understand life and obey God. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Civilizations have grown and advanced as they have sought truth, discovered truth and lived according to the truths they found. And civilizations that did not understand truth, and live according to it, did not advance, and in some cases they perished.
The Word of God, the Bible, contains the truths that civilizations, and individuals, grow by. It is the moral foundations (like the 10 commandments) and ethical principles that the Bible teaches that hold nations together when they follow them. The same is true for us as individuals. The universe is slanted to favor those who live according to truth. But not everyone follows the truth. The truth can be painful. The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13). You remember Jack Nicholson when he played Col. Nathan R. Jessep in the film “A Few Good Men.” Perhaps Nicholson was right as he yelled: “You can’t handle the truth!” The fact that there is truth means that we are accountable to live according to the truth. It means that we may not like the truth. It means that we may be wrong.
I was so amazed to hear Mother Teresa in her speech before the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. She stood before national leaders, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, the most powerful couple in the world at the time, who were well-known advocates of abortion. Remember that Clinton vetoed the ban on partial-birth abortions. But Mother Teresa, with her small twisted body that was less than five feet tall, spoke to the large gathering of elegantly dressed dignitaries and said, “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child — a direct killing of the innocent child — murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” Many of those present could not handle the truth.