37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John 18:37–38, NKJV)
The editors of the Oxford Dictionaries chose “post-truth” as the word of the year in 2016. Post-truth suggests facts are less influential in shaping opinion than emotion and personal belief. Yet, by definition, truth is not relative. It is fixed, constant, absolute. The fact that we may not know or perceive truth does not make it any less the truth. For example, 12 inches equals one foot (30.48 cm, or 304.80 mm) regardless of how we feel about it. This was true before we understood it. You see, we learn truth, we are not the source of truth. When Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Jesus bore witness to the truth that He was born to be king. Those who are “of the truth” hear His voice (accept His word of truth, v. 37). Jesus identified God’s word as truth, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jno. 17:17). God’s word is truth – not my feelings, and not yours. Not my reasoning power, and not yours. Not my perceptions, and not yours (Prov. 14:12). Truth is fixed, constant, absolute. Truth has been revealed, and we cannot be saved without it. Jesus said His word is truth (Jno. 8:31-32). Indeed, He is “the Truth” (Jno. 14:6). The gospel calls us to conform ourselves to the truth, not try to change the truth into what we want it to be.
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3–4, NKJV)
The devil tempted Jesus to perform a self-serving miracle. After all, Jesus was hungry after a 40-day fast (Matt. 4:2). If He were the Son of God, turning the stones into bread would be within His power and solve his hunger. The devil used His hunger to tempt an unholy use of His power. But Jesus did not yield to the temptation of the flesh to misuse His power for temporal pleasure. That would not be the way He would reveal Himself to the world as the Son of God. He would live by the word of God first, even at the expense of temporary physical pain (Deut. 8:3). We should follow the example of Jesus when we are tempted to please the flesh instead of keeping the word of God. God promises to sustain and fill our lives with our necessities as we seek first His kingdom His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). With trust in God, let us live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” and reject the temptation to satisfy the urges of the flesh that violate the will of God.
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)
David’s life was in jeopardy from the enemies of Israel as well as Saul, Israel’s king. David faced his fear with trust in the Lord. This did not mean David recklessly put himself in the way of danger (1 Sam. 22:1; 23:14). His faith directed him to live with humble trust in God. God’s word shaped David’s faith. Thus, David celebrated (praised) God’s word. It gave him confident assurance amid danger. With trust formed by God’s word, David would not be drawn away from God by being afraid of men. David repeats his confidence in God in verse 11 of Psalm 56: “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 draws Christians’ attention to this passage, where it is linked to contentment. Our faith in God is to be so resolute that external forces will not shake us from its moorings. Our faith is in God, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5; Deut. 31:6). Faith overcomes the world with its threats (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Faith fashions fear into contentment as we trust God and obey His word (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 8:31-39). Do not live in fear. Trust the Lord, celebrate His word with thanksgiving, and be content in Him.
How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26, NKJV)
The church of Christ is a spiritual kingdom (Jno. 18:36; Matt. 16:18-19). According to the New Testament model, local churches of Christ exist to spread the gospel (evangelism), to serve Christians in times of deprivation (benevolence), and to strengthen the souls of the disciples (edification). Edification (building up) is spiritual strengthening that occurs through our worship and the instruction from the word of God (Col. 3:16; Acts 14:22). The Scriptures do not describe social and recreational activities as edification and fellowship. Spaghetti suppers, volleyball games, and camping events are not sources of spiritual edification. It is the word of God’s grace (the gospel), “which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). In today’s passage, the proper use of the temporary miraculous spiritual gifts (tongues, revelation, interpretation), as well as psalms and teaching of God’s word, would edify the church (1 Cor. 14:27-33, 3-5). Miraculous spiritual gifts served their purposes and ended, but our need for spiritual growth to maturity in Christ endures (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-16). Thank God He arranged the local church to come together so we can grow and be strong in Christ (Acts 20:28; Heb. 10:24-25).
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Colossians 2:20–22, NKJV)
The gospel of God calls sinners out of the world’s darkness into the light of fellowship with Christ (1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Cor. 1:9). The gospel calls us to no longer live according to the wisdom and will of the world, but by the truth of Christ (Jno. 8:31-32). Yet, just as in the first century, Christians must continue to be warned not to be ruled by the religious regulations of men. It is not God’s will that humanly devised expectations are bound upon people as if they were God’s will (1 Tim. 4:1-3). The “commandments and doctrines of men” have often taken the form of creeds and confessions through the ages, resulting in Protestant denominations. The inspired Scriptures are sufficient to define and regulate our lives (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). Yet, literally billions of souls religiously obligate themselves to things that “perish with the using.” Instead of this, obligate yourself to God’s word. It purifies the soul, it is incorruptible, and it abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25).
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV)
Jesus repeatedly used this exhortation (Matt. 13:9; Lk. 14:35; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Having “ears to hear” is about having a heart that is ready to accept the teachings of Christ. Jesus used a similar exhortation when He said, “He who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matt. 19:12). Ears are closed to hearing the gospel of the kingdom when hearts refuse to receive it. So then, our heart condition reveals whether or not we have “ears to hear” God’s word. This is the essential message of the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:3-9). The hard, closed heart does not receive the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19). The shallow, emotional heart listens – until the cost of discipleship is too great (Matt. 13:20-21). The crowded heart is overtaken by other concerns that choke the word and prevent hearing and fruitfulness (Matt. 13:22). The good heart is the soil that listens to God’s word, understands it and bears fruit (Matt. 13:23). The good heart hears (receives) the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18). We must guard against having ears that “are hard of hearing” God’s word (Matt. 13:13-15). If you have “ears to hear” it means your heart receives the word of God, holds it fast, and bears fruit with endurance (Lk. 8:8, 15). The good news is we can change our hearts and start having ears to hear by repenting, receiving the truth, and obeying it. Do you have ears to hear God’s word?
My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. (Psalm 119:25, NKJV)
The Bible addresses the problem of being overwhelmed by grief, sorrow, and depression. Psalm 119:25-32 is a passage that helps when our heart is “in the dust,” and when it “melts from heaviness” (Psa. 119:28). When grief seems unbearable, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, when anxieties immobilize us, God can revive (renew) our souls through His word. How is this possible? First, God’s word helps us trust in God’s way instead of in ourselves (Psa. 119:26). It produces faith and reveals priorities and goals upon which to focus, that help us maneuver life’s moments of doubt (Matt. 6:33-34). Second, as we mediate on it, God’s word helps us perceive His ways for our lives (Psa. 119:27). It teaches us what to concentrate our thinking upon so we can clear our minds of worldly clutter and concentrate on eternal things (Phil. 4:8). Third, rely on the strength of God’s word (Psa. 119:28). It is true, regardless of what others tell you. Its redemptive power can raise you out of sin’s despair to heavenly places (Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:4-7). Fourth, instead of continuing to “cling to the dust,” deliberately choose “the way of truth” and cling to God’s testimonies (Psa. 119:30-31). Finally, stay the course (Psa. 119:32). Continue following God’s commands by faith, and your heart will be enlarged with His gracious blessings of salvation, hope, and eternal life (Psa. 119:32).