4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
2 John 1:4-6 (NIV)
The more I think about it the more I realize that we all desire to know the truth. That is, we desire to know what is real, what is genuine, what is right, what is trustworthy. Don’t we? I mean isn’t that why manufacturers and advertisers spend millions of dollars on prominent labels and speeches declaring their product as the “real” thing and that it is something we just can’t get along without in our lives? They are trying to convince consumers that what they are telling you is the truth!
It is very hard these days to know who to believe. Everyone is trying to lead us to their version of truth. A freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair by showing how conditioned we have become to alarmists spreading their fear of everything in our environment through junk science. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “Dihydrogen monoxide” because:
1. It can cause excessive sweating and vomiting.
2. It is a major component in acid rain.
3. It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.
4. Accidental inhalation can kill you.
5. It contributes to erosion.
6. It decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes
7. It has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.
He asked 50 people if they support a ban.
43 said yes
Six were undecided
And only one knew that the chemical is….water. (Phil Proctor, “Planet Proctor,” Funny Times, December 1997, p.5.)
And yet even in our desire for truth isn’t it interesting what we will believe? For instance…
If you tell a man that there are 300 billion stars in the universe, he’ll believe you. But if you tell him a bench has just been painted, he has to touch it to be sure. (Autoillustrator.com, “TRUTH”)
Last week we began a new series entitled the Joy of Truth. I introduced one of the most prevalent themes in the writings of the apostle John. If you were with us last week you would have heard me speak on the clear teaching of scripture that truth brings freedom. Freedom from the lie propagated by Satan since the creation of the earth that man can determine his own truth apart from God. The lie that says truth is relative.
I hope you understood what I was trying to declare last week. Truth is NOT relative! Truth is absolute and is determined, is set in place, and is exemplified in God. This is where truth gets its liberating power. As I said last week, a lie has no power in the face of truth. Just as darkness disappears in the presence of light.
When Jesus said I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life, he emphasized firstly that He is the only way to the Father. But that’s not the only thing Jesus is declaring with that statement. Jesus also describes himself as the TRUTH. The real McCoy. 100% pure. Absolutely genuine. Jesus was effectively saying, “there is no truth apart from me.” What He says is true, what He does is true, Who He is – is true. Now this presents an interesting dilemma for those who have not decided yet in this matter of faith. Either Jesus is right and He is truth or He is a great liar. Jesus leaves no room for a middle ground. You are either on the side of truth or you are not. Jesus then goes on to say that He is the life and that is really the test of what He already said. If Jesus is the way, if He is the truth, then He must also be life. For we know that from the very beginning of creation God has established and it has born witness throughout the centuries that a lie harbors death. Death emotionally, death spiritually, and death physically.
But Jesus, said I am the way, the truth and when He rose victorious from the grave on that glorious Easter morning He effectively proved it by the awesome display of power in majesty in making the statement that “I am life”. And He has proved that statement in every single person who has believed in Him.
So what’s the point of everything I’ve just said? The point is that as I speak to you about the joy of truth I am not speaking from a subjective point of view. I am not speaking from the standpoint that what I have to say is right or that what I tell you is truth. I am speaking objectively – I am speaking on what God says is right, on what Christ has proved is truth. An effective discourse on truth begins and is sustained by the measure in which we judge right from wrong, truth from fiction, life from death. And that measure folks is found in God Himself. For He IS truth.
Now already, I’ve clearly demarcated the line between two camps, those who know and believe truth and those who don’t. If you are here this morning and you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you aren’t even sure of your need for Him then you are confronted right away with a decision to make. You can either decide that you desire to discover the truth and know it in your own life or you can decide to reject everything I’m saying and continue to live as you are now. But those are the only two decisions you have and my prayer is that you make the right one.
The point that John makes in this passage this morning is that truth is not a vague idea or even an ideology, scripturally TRUTH is the personification and life of Christ. Truth is something that is walked or lived out – it is not something that we merely experience in life but rather is a way of life. In order for truth to bring freedom and for a person to experience the “joy of truth”, truth must be operating in a person’s life. The question that comes out of that statement then is, how does truth “operate” in a person’s life?
When truth is in operation it…
encompasses your life (2 John 4)
One of the key phrases in this passage is found in verse four, “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth”. Walking. You’ll find this phrase used in a similar context in John’s 3rd letter,
3 John 1:3-4 (NIV)
3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
John was joyously commending his readers for “walking” in the truth. I believe what he’s observed is that truth has encompassed their lives. They are living by the truth. Truth is the foundation of everything they think, say, and do. After all, John wrote in his first letter,
1 John 1:5-9 (NIV)
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
In this message being put forth by John he is using the word “walk” to refer to something that is lived out.
The important observation here is that when truth is in operation in a person’s life it encompasses your whole life. You can’t say you are “walking in the truth” in only certain areas of your life – if you walk in the truth then truth defines who you are, what you say, and what you do. John was so filled with joy because he saw sold out committed believers like Him who had made Christ their life! Not just a part of their life and not just playing a role in their life – but all of their life! The psalmist accurately portrayed the mindset of a person who walks in the truth when he wrote,
Psalms 86:11 (NIV)
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
When truth is in operation it encompasses all of your life. The idea of falsehood repulses you. If you do lie you feel sick and haunted. But in the light of truth you feel free and full of joy.
Warren Wiersbe made an interesting observation when he said,
It is much easier to study the truth, or even argue about the truth, than it is to practice it!
How true that is! But nevertheless truth is to encompass all our life if it is to operate in our life.
George Barna in an article titled, “Practical Outcomes Replace Biblical Principles As the Moral Standard” states…
Religious institutions have failed to present a compelling case for a biblical basis for moral truth. Families, who hold a major responsibility for shaping the moral values and attitudes of children, are ill-equipped to do that job in relation of a Christian worldview or on the basis of a comprehensive and coherent notion of faith-based truth. The result is that busy people, regardless of their faith affiliation, wing it when it comes to moral decisions.
Are you winging it in the big decisions of your life? Or do your decisions flow out of the all-encompassing truth in your life?
Which brings me to my next point, when truth is in operation it…
ensues from obedience
A woman and her husband were invited to her rich aunt’s home for dinner. The wife instructed her husband to be sure and be nice to her aunt as she was getting up in years and appreciated the attention. After dinner had been served and the dessert came, her aunt explained that she had baked the cake herself, from an original recipe. The niece’s husband ate a huge piece of it and said, “I must say this is the best cake I have ever tasted.” On the way home from the party, his wife said, “Why did you say that was the best cake you had ever tasted? It was awful. I bake better cakes than that all the time.” The husband replied, “I know you do, but you told me to be nice to her and I told the truth when I said, I must say this is the best cake I ever tasted. (Autoillustrator.com, TRUTH)
Sometimes truth isn’t so easy to live and we’ll try to find loopholes to make it easier! But are these loopholes always justified?
As we continue to read this letter we find that John continues by saying, “…your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” (2 John 4b). What is clearly stated here by John is that walking in the truth is a command of the Father. When truth is in operation it ensues from obedience – it begins with obedience – it flows out of obedience – to the commands of the Father.
So what are the commands of the Father? Well it’s obvious from what I’ve already observed that walking in the truth is a command of the Father but then John goes on to write something that at first seems to confuse the issue.
2 John 1:5-6 (NIV)
5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
First John makes it clear that this command is not a new one but one that has been around for a long time. In other words it’s not a new revelation, it’s not something John was freshly given but something that God had already laid down in the beginning, at the time of creation.
Second, John emphasizes another command, “that we love one another”
Third, John then describes that what he means by love is walking (there’s that word again!) in obedience to the commandments of God.
Fourth, John then reemphasizes the command of God to walk in love. Notice the progression here from walk in truth to walk in love. And if I understand it correctly, walking in love is obeying God’s commands. Therefore, walking in truth is equivalent to walking in love and all of this is possible when obedience to the commands of God is present.
John perhaps put it a little bit more clearly in his first letter when he wrote:
1 John 3:11 (NIV)
11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1 John 3:16-24 (NIV)
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
This second observation then is an action statement. Just as John wrote in verse 18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in the truth”. And it is in obedience to the commands of the Father that we know truth is in operation in our lives (see verse 19).
When truth is in operation it…
exemplifies the life of Christ
This last point is really present in the previous two but I just wanted to make sure you understood it’s presence. I stated at the beginning of this message that truth is the personification and life of Christ. It only follows then that when truth is in operation in your life then the characteristics of Christ will be present in your life. The predominant one which John mentions in 2 John 5-6 is that of love.
I’d like to just draw your attention for a moment to something John wrote in his first letter:
1 John 2:5-6 (NIV)
5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
There is that word again! “Walk”. Only here John is telling his readers that you know you are in Christ, in God when you walk as Jesus did. There is only one way – you can’t know any other way – and there is no other way to have the truth in operation in your life. In order to walk in truth, you must walk in love, which is really walking as Jesus did. (repeat sentence)
Stanley Jones tells of a missionary who got lost in an African jungle – nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He found a native hut and asked the native if he could get him out. The native said he could. “All right,” said the missionary, “show me the way.” The native said, “Walk,” so they walked and hacked their way through unmarked jungle for more than an hour. The missionary got worried. “Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?” The native said, “Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path.” (Autoillustrator.com, TRUTH)
Truth is narrow. If we were hiking and came to a wide river, and we learned that there was one bridge, down the river a mile or two, we wouldn’t stomp in disgust and moan about how that was such a narrow way to think and that the bridge should be right there, where we were. Instead, thankful that there was a bridge, we would go to it and cross over. Or consider the following. When we go to the doctor, we want a prescription for exactly what we will need to get well. We would be quite startled if the doctor said, “These pills ought to cure you if you’re sincere. After all, we believe in health, don’t we?” Or would you trust yourself to a surgeon who had received no specialized training but was simply a really good person who meant well? Of course not! You know that truth is narrow. And you will trust your life only to someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing! (Autoillustrator.com, TRUTH)
There is an old story about the theologian, Karl Barth [pronounced “Bart” with a soft “t”], who was on a speaking tour of the United States. On college campuses all across the country, he was drawing huge crowds to hear his very complex answers to the questions of life.
When he was speaking at Princeton University, the great hall was packed with faculty, students, and visitors who came to hear Karl Barth speak. During the question and answer period, one student asked, “Dr. Barth, may I ask you a personal question?”
Dr. Barth smiled and said, “yes, you may ask anything.”
The student then asked, “Dr. Barth, you are a very educated man. What is the greatest truth you have ever learned.?”
Dr. Barth bowed his head, thinking for a moment about how he would respond. Then, he raised his head and looked out at the student who asked the question and he said, “The greatest truth I ever learned was at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'” (Autoillustrator.com, “TRUTH”)
The secret of joyful living is to discover the truth in Jesus Christ. When we focus on him, we have discovered that truth is a caring love, truth is the Word becoming flesh. Truth is experiencing his life-giving power. Truth is discovering his love with arms outstretched to embrace us. When truth encompasses your life, when truth ensues from obedience, and when you exemplify the life of Christ (Walk in Truth, Walk in Love, Walk in Christ) then truth is in operation in your life, it will bring you freedom, and you have discovered the Joy of Truth!!