Truth is a Person

This is an edited article I originally wrote and posted July 15, 2015

“What is truth?”

This was Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus.

Don’t we all encounter this question in our lives? In a world where everyone alternately claims to have the truth or that there is no such thing as truth, does it exist and can we really know what it is?

That’s a question I’ve been asked before. With so many conflicting opinions and beliefs, is there any objective way to know and define truth?

Some believe that truth is everything. Everything is truth, everyone is “right.”

Although every religion claims to have the “truth,” each embraces teachings that contradict every other religion’s beliefs. When opinions clash, philosophies disagree, and beliefs part ways, everything and everyone cannot be completely “right.”

Others have decided that truth is nothing. Nothing is truth. Truth cannot be known. It is an exercise in futility to try to seek it out.

A Man entered this world 2,000 years ago Who claimed to BE Truth. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).

This was a watershed moment in the history of mankind.

But even as believers who are indwelt by THE TRUTH, we often find ourselves confused about truth. One look at the many different sects, denominations, and doctrines within the broad spectrum of Christianity itself would seem to contradict the assertion that
truth can be known. Many little groups, sects, or cults within the church claim they have all truth and all the others are wrong. We speak of truth as if it was a personal possession—something we have mastered and now own with exclusivism.

I am from a conservative background. Growing up, my family was heavily influenced by the teachings of one man and his ministry. Speaking from my side of the aisle, I am familiar with many of the movements within the conservative Christian community and the groups that spawned from them, and I’ve realized that many of us (myself included) have been lured by the mindset that one group, or one denomination, or one teacher, or even one movement for that matter, held all the truth.

Whether we’re being offered the Christian life in a package, doctrine in a box, or theology in a catechism, it’s all the same thing. Someone, some group, some theological or lifestyle persuasion, or some church has ALL truth (or at least more of it than anyone else),
and if you want to get a piece of it, listen to him/it/them. Take it all. Join the club. Because the more you take the more “right” you are and the more truth you have.

But truth is not the private, patented property of any man or any creed.

Truth is a Person.

It is the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world, the Word, Who is full of grace and truth (see John 1:14-18). The “truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21).

Truth is absolute and immutable. It does not change, just as Jesus does not change, but is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). What we know about it has been manifested to us through Christ, Who is our wisdom, our righteousness, our
sanctification, and our redemption (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). And He has chosen to reveal Himself in His Word, which is truth (see John 17:17), all Scripture pointing to Christ, Who is Ultimate Truth.

In my daily Bible reading one morning, I was in the book of 1st Corinthians and noticed, in the first four chapters, that Paul was addressing similar issues and attitudes in the Corinthian church that we struggle with today as he rebuked them for their petty sectarianism: “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not
carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:4).

He repeatedly emphasized that spiritual things are spiritually discerned; that every believer has the mind of Christ. Truth, wisdom, righteousness—these things did not belong to any one man (or church). Paul instructed them, “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

Christ is ours. Truth lives within us. Our desire should be to know Him intimately.  The more we learn of Him, the more we learn of Truth. His Word is a tool to that end. It can give us knowledge and direction (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and the Holy Spirit has been given to us to illuminate it for us (John 14:26). It is our responsibility to carefully study and rightly divide it (2 Timothy 2:15), to examine all things carefully, and hold fast that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21; see also Proverbs 23:23).

Is there such a thing as absolute Truth?

Absolutely.

Is it the sole, private property of any one man, group, or church?

Absolutely not.

Truth can be known and obeyed.  Pilate foolishly failed to wait for an answer to his own question.  He wasn’t truly seeking truth.  But it is there, and those who seek will find.

But even as we pursue truth, we need the wisdom and humility to see that none of us has perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, perfect doctrine (ouch! I so wish I did!), and certainly not perfect obedience. The Word is perfect. Our interpretation of it is never going to be completely perfect in everything. No one and no church among us has “got it all.” We have Christ, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. In that sense, as believers we share all there is to share. We will always have to grow, be challenged, be stretched, and therefore be open to correction.

There are two practical points to this: first, we must pursue knowledge and truth in the context of pursuing intimate fellowship and a rich relationship with Christ. Richard
Wurmbrand has said that Christ is the Truth, Scripture is the truth about the Truth, and theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. Unfortunately, it’s possible to pursue theology and the study of the Word without actively pursuing Christ Himself. The result—if it even leads to the discovery of truth—will be truth without love.

Second, we need a humble open-mindedness to accept correction and instruction from other believers. Christ has placed His children within the community of the church. We need
one another. If we foolishly believe we (or our church) have arrived at all truth, we will not be open to the perspective and insight of other fellow believers. We will lose opportunities to
grow and be stretched and challenged.

The search for truth and a following after it is a life-long pursuit. No doctrine-in-a-box stuff can replace a growing relationship with the One all biblical doctrine points to. Joining
the “perfect” group or church denomination will not cause us to “possess” more truth than
anyone else. Learning from Christian teachers cannot replace learning at the feet of Christ. And we should never use neatly-packaged Christian-life-in-a-box teachings to relieve us of the
responsibility we each have personally before God to study His Word, get to know His Son, and grow in what pleases Him.

Because Truth is not a creed, a catechism, a membership, or a lifestyle list of do’s and don’ts.

Truth is a Person.

Santa and the Gospel

Naughty or nice?”

“Have you been good this year?”

“Will Santa be bringing you all the gifts on your list or will you be getting a lump of coal for Christmas?”

As the holidays near, last-minute shoppers crowd department stores, multi-colored lights merrily twinkle along the houses in the neighborhoods, the gaiety and bright colors of Christmas parade floats fill the streets, and the sweet and spicy smell of gingerbread cookies wafts through kitchens. In the hustle and bustle of it all, adults stop to ask children if they’ve been good this year, and are ready for a visit from Santa.

This iconic character of prodigious proportions who sports a bright red suit, a big white beard, and a jolly smile has, in one way or another, been a fond part of Christmas traditions throughout the western world for centuries. The evolution of the plump philanthropist who sits in the mall next to a lavishly-decorated evergreen tree each Christmas season with lines of children waiting to take their picture with him, is an interesting one.

The story begins over 1,600 years ago.

In the 4th century, a kind bishop of Myra (in present-day Turkey) named Nicholas, gave up his santa-claus-2984222_1920inheritance of wealth to minister to the poor and the sick. Legend says he once helped three daughters of a poor man who were in great trouble because they did not have dowries for marriage. Their father was going to sell them into slavery. But one night the bishop dropped a bag of gold down the family’s chimney and it landed in a stocking, which was discovered in the morning. The first daughter had her dowry! This happened twice again on future nights, so that both the second and third daughters received money for their dowries.

They were saved!

For all his kind works he was named a saint, and after his death, legends and tall tales continued to grow about him, while a feast day held on December 6 (the day of his death) was instituted.

And then came the Reformation.

With the Reformation came many changes, not only in the church, but in politics and society as well. Special days commemorating “saints” of the church were in many cases abolished.  

So holiday traditions changed with the times, but they never disappeared altogether. There was always someone to deliver the Christmas gifts: In England and parts of Northern Europe it was “Father Christmas,” or “Old Man Christmas.” In France it was “Pere Noel.” In parts of Austria and Germany it was “Christkind,” a baby with wings, symbolizing Jesus. And in the early history of the U.S. it was “Kris Kringle” (from “Christkind”). (See this article for a map of “Father Christmas” and his—or her!—name in every European country.)

When Dutch settlers in the U.S. combined “Kris Kringle” with the legends of St. Nicholas, “Sinterklaas” was born.

A.k.a “Santa Claus.”

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Tradition building on tradition, gathering up new bits and pieces as it wound its way along, Santa Claus eventually came to be the jolly holiday icon who makes his home at the North Pole, flying over the houses at night to deliver his gifts in a sled pulled by eight reindeer.

There are many ways in which this symbolic figure embodies the spirit of the season: he is kind, generous, benevolent, and always looking to do good. He brings happiness wherever he goes.

But there’s one major difference between the kindness and generosity of Santa, and the Christ for whom this holiday is celebrated.

Santa comes to give gifts to nice people. Christ came to give Himself for the wicked. Santa blesses the good. Christ blesses the sinner. Santa’s benevolence is based on the merit of the receiver of the gift. Christ’s benevolence is based on the merit of the Giver of the gift.

Christ came to earth as a baby, grew up and fulfilled His ministry, was hung on a cross to die, and then rose again three days later. He didn’t come handing out gifts to “deserving” people; He gives the gift of eternal life to the very undeserving miscreants whose sins nailed Him to the cross. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

The blessing of the gospel is not for the “righteous.” It’s not for the “good.” In fact, Christ said, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (see Mark 2:17).

When the rich young ruler came to Christ, asking Him what he could do to earn eternal life, Jesus told Him that there is none good but God (see Luke 18:18-27). But the young man thought that he was quite a good person, so he told Jesus he’d kept all the commandments, thinking Christ would commend him.

Jesus then posed a “test” for him in order to reveal the man’s sinful, covetous heart to himself. He had not kept all the commandments as he had foolishly boasted. His love of money took precedence over his love for God, which was in direct violation of the First and Second of the Ten Commandments.

Now the man was confronted with his sin. He had fallen short. He had missed the mark of God’s perfection, just as it says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Would he now submit himself to the righteousness of Christ, admitting his sinful state and trusting in the goodness of God alone?

No. He turned away from Christ. He was grieved, pricked, convicted. But unrepentant. His lack of faith was clearly evidenced in his lack of obedience. Had he come to Christ already under conviction of his sin, troubled and trembling before a holy God, casting himself on His mercy, would the outcome not have been much different?

That’s always been the trouble, hasn’t it? Man pushes Christ and His righteousness away because he’s already “good enough”—at least “good enough” to “help” God out with his salvation. In fact, like the Pharisees, he believes he can come to God on the basis of his own righteousness. But Christ had to tell them, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind…If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (see John 9:39-41).

Christ doesn’t find anyone who isn’t lost. He doesn’t heal anyone who isn’t sick. He doesn’t save anyone who doesn’t “need” a Savior. He doesn’t make righteous anyone who is already “righteous.” And since we know that in God’s eyes there is no one who is good—we’re all lost, sick, and unrighteous (see Romans 3)—then only those who recognize their true state and transfer their trust from themselves to Christ can be saved.

The qualification for salvation is that you must be a sinner (and acknowledge it!): the “righteous” need not apply.

You must be lost before you can be found!

* * * * *

With a merry “Ho, ho, ho!,” Santa will be making his gift-giving rounds to good people soon. Meanwhile, Christ stands ready to give the greatest gift—eternal life—to repentant sinners whose very righteousness isn’t worth so much as a lump of coal—nor deserving of anything more.

How about you? Have you received Christ’s righteousness? Do you know the true Gift of Christmas?

Whether your family’s holiday traditions include Santa or not, don’t forget the Gift-giver whose acts of generosity are not contingent on your own goodness.

And Merry Christmas!

–Cliff and Tabitha Alloway