Most of us spend energy and time avoiding the very thing that can provoke the most powerful breakthroughs in our lives. We spend a lot of our time, most of humanity spends most of its time and energy avoiding the very thing that can set them free.
Tonight we’re going to talk about the truth as God sees it and we’re going to talk about embracing the truth. Now, that’s a scary proposition for many of us, hang in there, God has a way of doing this. And we’re going to read someone’s mail, we’re going to look at Second Corinthians, chapter 13.
It’s the last anyway recorded, Paul’s last recorded letter to the church in Corinth, the very last chapter and some of his last words to them. Ok? And we’re going to read, we’re going to start by reading verses 5 and 6, and then we’re going to skip around…… chapter 13, let’s start with verse 5.
It says “Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves, do you not realize that Christ is in you? unless, of course, you fail the test, and I trust that you will discover that you have not failed the test.” He goes on “Now I pray to God that you would not do anything wrong; not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seemed to have failed”. And listen to this “for we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth”.
Wrap your heads around that for a moment. “You cannot do anything against the truth but only for the truth”. Now let’s skip down to the very last verse of this chapter, verse 14, and if you receive nothing else tonight, would you just open up your minds and open up your hearts and receive this as a blessing into your life, just pack this away as a door prize for having come to the house of God, and in Jesus name “..may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Amen.
Right. Paul here is writing to a church that’s pretty much besieged. I’ve heard a lot of Christians talk about Boston as if it were another Athens or another Corinth. My friends, there is no other Corinth. Corinth was a very tuff, tuff place to be a Christian, primarily because there were no presidents for what it meant to be a believer, and primarily because most believers were just bombarded by layer upon layer of challenges to their faith. On one level you had the paganism that had wrapped most of ancient Greece for years, I mean, you had a whole panoply of different Gods to worship and even among themselves they did not know really who was in charge. In addition to that, you had a lot of eastern philosophies that had made their ways in from Indian and from other places. They were also competing for the spiritual attention of these people.
And then you had just plain old fashion carnality. Corinth was a wild town. There was a lot about Corinth that just appealed to the senses. And you had on the outskirts, on the very edge, besieged this little foothold of God’s kingdom, around the sea of loss, this just pinpoint of light surrounded by all of this darkness, called the church. It’s just this fragile little light, that God had only recently lit in this dark, dark, dark corner of the world. And you had, you know, folks who were not perfect, but I consider outright heroic, living day to day in this environment, a life that honored God.
Now, they didn’t get a lot of things right. You have two letter worth from Paul to the church in Corinth, explaining so much that they got wrong. But before we say, ‘Guau, gee those Corinthians, what were they thinking?’ Think about it, think about the battle they were waging, think about the darkness that was present in on them, and think about what they had, which was the hope of Christ, and that was enough. And with that message, with that simple message of Jesus Christ, Paul says ‘you know, don’t forget on a day to day basis as you begin your day, or as you end your day or as you walk out your door, and as you face your day, as you face your love ones who don’t share your faith, as you face your neighbors who need this Jesus, who need this life, as you walk this planet as a light. “We’re the children of light”, he writes to the Ephesians. As you walk this planet as light examine yourselves, examine yourselves to see whether you’re in the faith, test yourselves.
Now, let’s stop there for a minute. You’re going to do this whether you do it consciously or not, whether or not you intentionally examine your life, whether or not you sit down and ask yourself: well, how am I doing? How am I living? How do I compare? Am I making any progress? You’re going to do this automatically. Humans do this automatically. We do.
One of the biggest problems that we face with our young people, one of the things that we try to inculcate in the young people in our church is exactly how they should handle pure pressure and how they should handle the plethor of information and stimuli that they get. Why? Because even as children we’re measuring ourselves against other people. We’re measuring our lives against other people’s standards.
The reason why advertising is so effective is because the people who spend million of dollars to try to sell you toothpaste and cars, know that you’re constantly measuring yourself against the standards that they’re setting through this stuff. All right?
You know, you want to find a husband, you better have white teeth. You want to get that race, you know, or you want to have friends, you have better drive the new Accura. If you want to succeed, this is the standard. So whether you think or whether you do it unconsciously or not, we are constantly examining ourselves. We’re constantly testing ourselves. And most of us don’t do it intentionally. Most of us don’t do it outright, because it’s a fearful thing.
And we’re going to get to that in just a second. But Paul says “it’s all right for you to do this. It’s ok for you to examine yourself and you test yourself, because isn’t Jesus with you?’, he says. Isn’t that what he says? Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless you fail the test?
And that’s a rhetorical question. As he says “…. And I trust that you will discover that you have not failed the test.” You wouldn’t be doing this. You would not be measuring your life, you would not be examining yourself in the light of the gospel of Christ if Jesus weren’t in you, to begin with.
Now, the truth is though that most of humanity spends its life (there is silence in the tape…..) how many of you remember the Matrix, I mean the first Matrix, you know, the first movie? The really cool one, you know, not the broken down follow ups, but the first one of Matrix. And in fact, a running thring throughout this movie is that here you have an entire people inoculated with their brains pretty much plugged into this fake world. Their brains pretty much living an entire life that was a lie. There they are, you know, lying on this lab, living their entire life in this cocoon, but in their heads all sorts of things are going on, in their heads it seems like they’re making progress. In their heads, you know, they grow up, they fall in love, they marry, they find jobs, they live their lives and they die, but it’s all a lie. It was all contrived, because they are plugged into this machine. The truth is that they were slaves. The truth is that they had no life, they were living, they were existing, they were breathing, but outside of that their life had no purpose. Of course, once they’re unplugged from this thing and they see the real cruel world, it wasn’t so hard, you know, the Nebuchadneezzar was a really ugly ship and they had instead of steak, they ate this nasty porridge and it didn’t look like much of a life, but it was real.
Now, you remember something in this movie? They were betrayed by someone, one of their own, and his primary motivation for betraying them is that he wanted to get plugged back into that machine. You remember that? He wanted to get plugged back into the Matrix.
And folks, you know, that doesn’t surprise me because that’s the way most people live their lives. The reality of their life, their life is so unbearable that they want, we live our lives…. If we were really to confront the truth of who we are, what we’re made of, who we are in the cosmos, where we’re going and what we’re worth, without God being in the picture, it wouldn’t be a pretty thing. And most of the people that we minister to live their lives avoiding that. The truth can be unbearable.
But Jesus says ‘you will know the truth’. Now this is something that I heard people who had never gone to church in their lives and yet they know this verse, they know this by heart. Atheist will quote this verse back to you. “You will know the truth”, Jesus says in John chapter 8. verse 32 “…..and the truth will set you free”. This unbearable thing about ourselves that we try to avoid so much is the very thing that’s going to unlock the potential of our lives.
Now, let’s break this down. What did Jesus mean by this? “You’ll know the truth”. First of all, look at the articles within there. “You’ll know the truth”. First thing that we need to know about the truth is that there is a truth. It’s the definite article. It’s not one of many truths, but there is a universal truth, there is a universal law that governs all of humanity.
Now, this shouldn’t surprise you, even if you don’t buy this, ok? And by saying this I know I’m running directly in the path of the governing philosophy of our age, which is something called post modernism, that is telling you that there is no single truth. The truth is…. There is a plurality to truth. Truth is where you find it and what you do when you search for the truth is just find the truth that is most comfortable for you, and there is no truth that there is more valid that anyone else.
You know why I don’t buy that? Because the entire self help industry is based on the idea of a universal truth. Think about it. Go to a book store, the self help section and you’re going to find books on: How to be a better golfer, or How to be a better manager, or How to be a better father, or How to invest like the pros, ok? Go to any of these sections of the book store and all of these are based, this entire industry is based on one principle, that there is such a thing as replicable principles, that we can tie into and maximize to our advantage, that no matter what our culture is, no matter where we find ourselves, if we understand these principles, if we tie into these principles, if we know how the world works and line ourselves with these principles, with these invisible laws, we can work it to our advantage.
Steven Covy, based his blockbuster book “The seven habits of highly effective people” on exactly that idea. Now, he’s not a theologian, he is a moral man but he openly pulls in principles of scripture and he tells you….. and he begins his book, even before he introduces these habits, habits that are supposed to make you a more effective person, habits are supposed to make you universally successful, even before he goes into that he says, ‘you know what? There are laws that govern human interaction.
He’s not a preacher. He’s a guy teaching leadership courses and he’s saying ‘if you want to succeed as a human being what you want to do is look at how the world works, and realize that there are laws that you have no control over, but that have all control over you. And he says something interesting, you can’t break these invisible laws, we cannot break these laws, we can break ourselves….. I love that quote, “you can’t break the laws of nature, he says, but you can break yourselves against the law.”
What does he mean by that? You’ll never break the law of gravity, don’t worry about that. You’ll never going to find a cop who’s going to pull you over for breaking the law of gravity. No one is going to give you a ticket for breaking the law of gravity. You don’t have to worry about that, all you need to do to learn the consequences of breaking the law of gravity, is go up to the roof of the Prudential Tower and take one step off the edge, without sufficient thrust to stay afloat, ok? Very simple law of physics, in about two seconds you’re going to find yourself, you know, you’re going to find yourself splat…. Like a tostón, like a Greg likes to say. Ok? Splat upon the sidewalk of Boston somewhere, because you can’t break this law, you can break yourself against the law, but you’re not going to break the law of gravity. It already governs and overwhelms our reality.
And that’s what the Lord is saying here in First 8, we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. You can’t do anything to buy….. really, you’re not going to alter these laws but what you can do is harness these laws to bless your life and isn’t that what is saying?
The word is saying ‘you know, there’s a coming fabric that we either follow and we benefit from following it or we break it and we pay the consequences.’ And then, our project once we realize that, our project is pretty simple and this is, again, going back to the whole self help deal and I could save you thousands of dollars today if you just get this principle down. With this was worth coming tonight.
The whole project of life is this: lining up our lives with the invisible laws that God created from the beginning of time and that we call truth. God’s law in our lives and the idea is to line our lives up with the law of God. All right?
Now, how do you do that? Isn’t great that the Lord thinks of everything. And there is a vehicle that the Lord created precisely for us to be able to line our lives up against the law of God, and it’s known as confession. It’s known as confession.
Now, the Apostle John writes in his First Letter, the First Letter of John, chapter 1, verse 8, he says “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.
So the very first thing we need to realize, if we want to tap into the laws of God and if we want God to bless us, the very first thing we need to realize is our capacity to deceive ourselves. The very first thing you need to realize is that once you decide ‘I want to live a life of truth’, ‘I want to live a life that honors God’, ‘I want God to bless my life’, ‘I want to line my life up against the law of God’, realize that enabling within us we have the capacity, we have the ability to deceive ourselves in this project and deny that we even need this Lord, deny that we need to line ourselves up against his law. And the Lord is saying ‘you know, if we claim that we’ve never broken this law, if we claim that our lives are perfect, then we’re just kidding ourselves, we deceive ourselves’.
But if we confess our sins, violations by the way of God’s law. Tonight that’s how we will define a sin. A sin is an abrogation of his principles, those principles that lead to the Lord blessing us, that lead to the Lord shining his presence on us, opening doors for us, giving us health, opening up the promises of God.
If we confess our sins, he’s faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have no sins, then we make him up to be a liar and his word and has no place in our lives.
Now, what we mean by this word ‘confess’? You know, I consulted a Greek scholar, one Gregory bishop on this, and I heard this word before but I wanted to get this right. I’ve heard this word years, and years, and years ago and I thought it’s one of the coolest words in Greek in scripture. So, we’re going to learn a little Greek today.
The Greek word for ‘confess’ is ‘homologaio’, which is cool. It means exactly what is says, homo meaning the same and logaio meaning the word. In other words it’s literally saying, ok, the same word, meaning you and I….. that roughly translates to this: God, you and me were on the same page, we’re are on, literally, we’re on the same page.
You know how, ok, how a friend of yours is saying something explaining what happened in the ball, or is explaining what you need to do or what have you, and you respond ‘yeah, that.’ ‘Yeah, that’, or ‘Eso es, eso mismito, eso, yes, that’. Well, when you’re confessing before the Lord you’re basically going ‘yeah, yeah, God, that. What you said goes for me’. What I read right here, ok, that’s the law.
It’s not a suggestion, it’s the law. And my life, although my life may not be in line with it right now, I’m saying ‘I’m setting my bearings on that. I’m setting my bearings on that, what you just said’.
When I began my walk with Christ, when I was a very young Christian, I took this really, really literally. What I used to do, I was already applying for law school so I knew about a principle known as ‘incorporation by reference’, where you take one document and just by referring it you pull it into this other document. Well, I used to incorporate the word of God by reference into my prayers, and what I would do is I would literally take, you know, I would read the scripture and I would take that passage, I would kneel by my bedside and I…… just because I didn’t want to mess it up, I wanted to make sure I got it right, I would literally point to God, you know, point to the scriptures and say ‘oh, God this, this, this applies to me. I’m messing up in this area and I’m considering this a commandment for my life. This applies to me, God, this promise I will never leave you nor forsake so that you may boldly say ‘the Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do on to me’. Lord, that’s for me. That’s for me, that’s for my family, that’s for my mom, that’s for my dad, that’s for my vp, that’s for everybody. God I incorporate that into my life. That. What you just said. Cool. What you said is fine with me.’
That’s what all confession is. It doesn’t mean that you’ve achieved that. What you’re saying this: I am committing my life to line myself up with God’s law.
Now, what does that mean practically? It means two things. In order for you to do that, in order for you to say, ‘ok, here’s my life, here’s is God’s law and I will align myself up against that law, it means that you have two variables down. First, you need to know yourself. That’s what Paul is talking about when he says ‘examine yourselves, test yourselves, see where you are in the faith, read that word, line yourself up against that word and constantly ask yourself, dear God where am I against the standard of your word? This is a constant thing.
And, that’s not going to be entirely comfortable because a confession says, you know, I really have broken God’s law. You know, I really have lied. You know, I really do harbor resentment. You know, I really did commit lust. You know, I really did slander someone. You know, I really did steal. You know, God, I can’t get away from that, I should have blessed my mother and my father…. And on, and on, and on. You know, I really did let God down.
Now, folks, that’s the unbearable part. Doing that alone, doing that on your own, facing the truth of ourselves would be impossible, unbearable without the other end of this equation. It’s not just about knowing yourself.
Salvation is not going to come from knowing yourself alone. Your breakthrough is not going to come from some obsessive searching in your inner soul. It’s going to come from lining that truth about yourself along with the truth about your God.
For this to work you also have to know something about your God. For instance, you got to know that you have a God that created you, a God that loves you, a God that made you eternal, a God that wants you with him forever, a God who loves your company, a God whose heart breaks when yours does, a God who watches over you, a good beneficent, mighty, all knowing, ever present God, who is on your side and wants to be your friend.
Now, God wants that to happen. And if we are going to face the truth about ourselves and if we are going to achieve the setting free, the breakthrough that we want to achieve, it’s got to be God’s way, and the only way that it could be God’s way is with his presence in his heart.
And that brings Paul’s blessing, it’s one of my favorite verses in scripture. It’s that last verse of Second Corinthians, chapter 13. The first time I heard this verse preached, it was Gordon Fee a very renowned biblical scholar and writer, just preaching to a group of gospel businessmen and he preached out of here.
That was about 15 years ago and I when I intercede in prayer that kind of set the pattern of how to pray over people. It really what I want out of my life, in a sense, in this one verse you have the gospel encapsulated. ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’, ok. Knowing our God, first of all starts with grace. But do we mean by grace? This could be a sermon in its own but just for tonight’s sake, let’s call grace the divine second chance, the divine second chance.
Just when you thought it was all over, just when you thought there were no more options, in fact you were so lost, we were all so lost, we were so out of it that we did not even know we were lost. It’s a little bit like picking flowers near, you know, railroad tracks and someone snatches us out of an upcoming train. In Spanish there’s a phrase for when you have these near death experiences ‘ese nació hoy’, ‘that guy was born today’. You get into this massive car wreck in ’93 and you walk out of it, the phrase is ‘oh, that guy was… he was born yesterday, he was born today.’ That’s what grace is.
Jesus was on a mission, it describes his entire ministry, the reason for his ministry and he says ‘these people, these poor people walking this planet on the edge of the universe cannot save themselves even if they wanted to.’ So you know what we’re going to do? I’m going to go down there and I’m going to pull them out of the fire. That’s exactly how Zechariah describes it.
The prophet Zechariah looking for it says ‘we’re nothing but twigs, our lives, it’s a beautiful image, are like twigs snatched out of the flames.’ Now, imagine that image: the hand of God, God sticking his hand in the fire to rescue a twig. God taking the risk to pull a twig out of the flames before it’s consumed and then you have grace. That’s what grace is. Grace is, I’m going to say it then from these spiritual terrorists who want to behead them and they have kidnapped them and I’m going to present them to their father unharmed. That’s my mission, Jesus says.
My mission is to rescue them and bring them before a God who loves them. And that brings us to this next blessing: the love of God. The first thing I think about when I think about the love of God is the fact that I’m never going to be able to wrap it around my head. It’s inconceivable and I strongly suggest that you not try to understand it, that you not try to parse this, that you not try to figure out God’s love for you.
I know so many people who do that, I think one of the most difficult things for people….. one of the things that makes it most difficult for people to come to Christ is this idea really, believe me. I’ve seen so many people who have a tuff, tuff time just receiving the love of God, just allowing God to love them, just to realize that God loves the fact that he created you and it would break his heart if he were to loose you and he wants to see good things happen to you, and he’s the mighty God of the universe and he wants to be your friend.
If you’re having trouble handling that, I just suggest that you just receive that here tonight. And no matter what you….. there’s nothing that you could tell God that’s going to shock him or surprise him, no left turns, no shots out of left fields that could…he knows you, he knows your yesterday, your today, your tomorrow. He knows your past, he knows your present, he knows exactly how you’re going to screw up in the future and having known all that, he still insists on loving you. And as long as there is breath in your lungs, he will insist on loving you. That’s just our God which is why we weep before his presence, which is why we cry, which is why…. It’s something very emotional. For some of us that is a little easier to get into the emotions than others, but all of us are capable of letting God love us if we just let us guards down and let him in.
And for that praise God we have help, and that’s that final blessing. We can know the truth because along with it we have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Now, fellowship is just a word that means a friendship with a purpose. The Holy Spirit is on a mission, he has a job and Jesus tells us that when this comfort comes, when this Holy Spirit comes, he says ‘when he comes, the spirit of truth, when he, the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth’.
See, the truth about us doesn’t have to blow our minds. We’re on a path of perfection, a path of sanctification and it is this Holy Spirit that is our guide through these words. It’s the Holy Spirit that knows the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who know exactly how to train us so that we can line our lives up with the law of God.
And he says ‘he will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears and he will tell you what is yet to come.’
In other words, you’re going to get straight from the horse’s mouth, you’re going to get straight from the lips of God, precisely what he thinks of you and precisely what he thinks he can make of you. And that’s all God wants out of your life. That’s his plan. That’s why we examine ourselves. We examine ourselves because Jesus is in us, and he wants to perfect us and he wants us to have the breakthrough that can only come by our embracing the truth.
All right. Let’s bow our head for a moment. I’m going to ask the musicians to please come forward and I’m just going to invite you to just say this prayer with me.
Lord Jesus I know that there’s not getting around you. There’s no getting around the fact that you’re God and that you’re in charge and that you made the rules, you own the ball, you own the field, you pick the team, you are in charge. And God, we invite you to just shine your light in our lives and we commit ourselves, dear God, to just live our lives your way, to know exactly what it is that you expect of us and what it is that you want to do with us and through us and God, yes, that. We want that, we want that life, we want those purposes for our life, we want that trajectory for our future, do this through the working of your Holy Spirit in our lives, in Jesus’ name.