Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Time to be Truth - full

Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth. ~ John 17:17

It is cold. Not a cosy winter wonderland kind of cold. Gnashing and ripping, winter bares its fangs and all life scuttles away and hides. Day breaks with a moaning at the windows, an absence of birdsong. Tall bare trees bend like old men, tired and weather-beaten. Bitter as it may seem at times, winter is necessary. Pests and their larvae are eliminated to a large degree, stubborn forms of bacteria are dealt with. Extreme weather also reins in some invasive plants. It purifies, invigorates. Even though my whole body seems to offer resistance, I wrap up in un-matching layers and a charity bought fake fur, and brave the outdoors with my family. In tumbles over kite lines, with wet noses and stiff fingers, laughter borne away by the wind, the threat of winter is pushed aside for a short while. We return as happy conquerors, with large appetites.

Earlier in the week, I received a phone-call from a delightful woman who also lives a simple life in a relatively isolated place. She had been reading quite a bit of what I churn out each week, and it was a generous thirty minute conversation, rare in these days of abbreviated text messages. She made me realise once again, that people often weave an image around someone who puts their inspired thoughts into writing. And the truth is often far removed from this "image". It was humbling, because I knew as tempting as it was to leave her with this flattering impression of me, it was time to be truthful.

I sat down on a chair, dog-fur on the seat (and on mine...). I was wearing the same striped leggings in which I had slept, with a floral stretch skirt hastily pulled on over it. Feet shod in long socks and my husbands sheepskin slippers, an overlarge fleece top over two long-sleeved T's and a paisley scarf around my neck. My graying hair uncombed, and eyes still puffy from sleep. I took a deep breath and started telling her the truth about myself.

I know that some of the stuff that I have written over the years is actually quite good. That much I will admit. But that does not make me "good". Nor am I a writer or a teacher, or aspire to be. When I read over most of what I write critically and honestly, I realise that time after time after time, my haphazard thoughts, and unstructured research, are brought "together" by the leading and guiding of the Author and Perfecter of my faith - Jesus. Writing used to be such a discipline. I used to "sit" on a blog for days, before I felt ready to let it go. Probing each sentence for accuracy. Depending heavily on my husband's editing and opinion. Since I have realised that a God-given gift needs God-given inspiration, and submitted my thoughts to Him, it has become increasingly easier. I may now enjoy the intimate times of writing, knowing that the Holy Spirit will cover my mistakes, and God's grace will take the messages into hearts and places where there is a need for it.

That is part of the truth about me. But that is trivial. Truth itself presents the greater challenge to us all. How absolute (infinite, pure) is truth? Can there truly be more than one truth when it comes to our salvation? Wikipedia refers to truth as being "in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or a standard". But if there is no single original or standard against which to test the truth, who's belief or teaching is truth and who's is falsehood? There are probably many clever arguments from great minds, which I can add to substantiate that truth is absolute. The opposing argument would be that it is relative to what you believe.

Paul wrote to the Romans telling them to "not be conformed to this world." Part of that means that I should not buy into a system of belief that says absolute truth is a myth. That parts of the Bible are not relevant to us, or have been superseded by another part.

But I know that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to open spiritual eyes, and to seal Truth into people's hearts. Judgement begins in the house of God, with His church and His people. Firstly my own heart and understanding needs to be searched and rooted in His truth, before I can try to point out the error in another's.

For me, there is a wonderful simplicity behind the issue regarding truth. Jesus says in John 14:6: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. He did not say: I will lead you to the truth or reveal the truth, but I AM THE TRUTH. There is no knowing the Truth without Him. One with the Father, before the first tick of time had sounded or the circle of eternity had commenced, there was Him. The original. Alone. In no need of man to validate Him. Yet still, He created man, as an expression of  His Love. His image, and the truth of his existence made visible.

Denying truth can not make it false. Ever. It sadly only leads to deep spiritual confusion, to places where there may be many truths. Leading further and further away from infinite Truth. Measured against conscience, which is as unreliable as a plumb-line blowing in the wind, truth shifts and changes. Often only a small deviation from the truth, which seems so temptingly acceptable, is in reality laced with a miniscule amount of poison, not enough to detect, but enough to start a slow death.

Spirit-filled Christians do not need to be subjected to this poisoning. This verse is one of many which gives me this reassurance: "But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him." (1 John 2:27) If we abide in Jesus, true Christians have an inward confirmation of the divine truth which they have absorbed. The Holy Spirit has imprinted it on our minds and hearts. Jesus should have a constant witness in the hearts of His people. The pouring out of the gifts of grace on sincere followers, is a seal to the truth and doctrine of Christ, since no one gives that seal but God himself.

I recently listened to an in depth explanation of our spiritual armour, which reminded me how crucially important truth is in the spiritual battles we face. The first piece of armour Paul mentions is: the belt of truth. It made me realise that this belt is not an accessory. Without it, as a soldier in God's army, I would be ineffective and defenseless.

The belt—known as the cingulum or balteus—played a crucial role in the effectiveness of a Roman soldier's armour. It was the belt that held the scabbard, without which there would be no place to put a sword. The breastplate was secured onto this cingulum - if it was not firmly in place - the breastplate would simply slip off. In addition, from this belt hung strips of leather to protect the lower body. 

Truth should cleave to me as a belt cleaves to my body. With false doctrine, I cannot enter into spiritual warfare and expect to be effective. As the belt encompasses the waist - the truth of the gospel encompasses, protects and empowers us.

Jesus, praying to the Father, gives a clear and straightforward definition of truth: God's Word. The Holy Bible (Scripture—the word of truth) was given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek expression translated "inspiration of God" literally means "God-breathed" He actively and fully inspired the Bible to reveal His truth to us.

His promises, His commands, His word—they are all truth, plain and simple. After all, "The LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:27). If God says something, there is no force that can stop Him from doing it—we can rest assured that it will be done.

The world we live in teaches that truth is what we make it—that good and bad are relative and that there are no absolutes, only equally valid opinions. But I know that the Bible teaches that truth is God's Word—that good and bad are defined by Him and that they are eternal and unchangeable absolutes, uninfluenced by time or opinions.

Imagine a belt with a segment missing. No matter how tiny the sliver that isn't there, the belt is still useless. To do its job, it must be one continuous, unbroken piece. I cannot try to live God's way without total belief in its validity - it would be like trying to hold your sword up with a belt that isn't continuous. Neither will work. My trust in God and His Word must be solid, without break, or else I will quickly find myself powerless, without a weapon.

Truth sets us free. It is a promise. As we come to know Jesus, we come face to face with Truth. He shows us the beauty of Truth in quiet moments at His feet. In every line of His Word, pure, dividing, life-giving and sustaining. It is the difference between a life lived in the shadows, under the artificial light of self-proclaimed truths. Or life in the light of His Truth, glory and grace. Freed, transformed, equipped and victorious.