So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
For the season of Advent this year, I toyed with the idea of revisiting some meditations I penned in the past; dusting off some ideas from an old blog and revisiting them with what I have learned about the Lord in the intervening years. And if you are interested, feel free to let me know and perhaps I will dredge them up after all.
But… as I prayed about what to write, all I could really think about was Jesus. After all, He is the sometimes overlooked celebrity of this story, buried as He may be beneath piles of wrapping paper, parties, and endless strings of lights. For today, let’s put aside all the chaos that we have added to this season and simply take a look at the King of kings as He first came to us, not with great pomp and privilege as royalty rightly should, but as a tiny sojourner wrapped in scraps of cloth whose first bed on earth was a temporarily requisitioned feeding trough. . .
It is no small thing that the Truth Incarnate came into the world in such a humble and unexpected circumstance. On that first Christmas, Truth came as a gift heralded by angels; knowable and yet known by few. Ironically, about thirty-three years later, this same Jesus would stand before a Roman governor who would look Truth in the face and respond in doubt; “What is truth?”
Perhaps Pilate believed, as many still believe, that truth is subjective and not something concrete or unchanging. But that is a lie. Despite what the ancient deceiver would have us believe Truth is knowable. Jesus is knowable. Yet we will not come to know Him by accident, nor will we do so without an expense of time and effort on our parts.
So how do we come to know this Man, Immanuel? How do we know Truth?
I think, to illustrate, I would like to give an example of how not to know Him; or rather, how to know a portion of the truth without knowing the whole.
Perhaps you have seen something along the lines of this floating around on social media:
It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three candidates.
Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologist. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.
He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.
He is a decorated war hero. He’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and never cheated on his wife.
Which of these candidates would be your choice? Decide first… no peeking, then scroll down
for the response.
Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.
That sounds compelling, doesn’t it? However, while there may or may not be some fact to these descriptions, not a single one of them contains the whole truth.
To be perfectly honest, I am woefully ignorant of the lives of FDR or Churchill. I know nothing about the former president. And despite my good intentions, I only made it through a couple of chapters of Churchill’s famous biography, The Last Lion, but in that portion I did read that he was a sickly child and as an adult would often nurse a single drink for the better part of a day in order to appear to be a “manly” drinker.
But after reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, I can tell you that the facts about Hitler are only a tiny slice of the picture; a piece of the puzzle lifted out of context of the complete life of the man to prove a silly and useless point. To know the whole truth requires a little more effort, but it gives you a more complete portrait of the man.
For one thing, Hitler was only a vegetarian later in life due to severe stomach trouble. Although he may never have cheated on his wife, he scarcely had the opportunity. Hitler and Eva Braun, his long-time mistress, were married for less than 48 hours before committing a double suicide in an underground bunker near the end of World War II.
As far as morality goes, besides having mistresses it is also true that a younger Adolf had an extremely jealous and possessive relationship with his niece, Geli Raubal, who later was found dead by gunshot in her room and ruled a suicide. Besides these things, he was also responsible for the breaking of many treaties, millions of deaths, and horrendous persecution of the Jewish people.
In that solitary and far-from-complete example, it is easy to see how misleading a picture one can acquire from a partial truth.
In the same way, we cannot rely on social media memes, snippets of Scripture, or the opinions of others if we want to acquire an accurate portrait of Jesus Christ. By His own statements, to know Him is to know the Father, and in order to know them well, there are absolutely no shortcuts to reading and understanding the full counsel of the Word of God.
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
That, my friends, requires time, dedication, prayer, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. If you truly want to know the Truth, you must read the Word of Truth and be guided by the Spirit of Truth.
Today I find myself fascinated that my incomprehensibly great God is all these things: the God of truth, the Word who was in the beginning, the Truth, and the Spirit of Truth. Check out Isaiah 65:16, John 1:1-14, John 8:28-32, and pretty much all of John 14-17 for more insight on His truth. I would love to hear how you are experiencing the Word of Truth this Advent season!
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.