A recently married man received a call from his wife just as she was about to fly home from Europe. “How’s my cat?” she asked. “Dead,” he said matter-of-factly. “What?” she exclaimed. “Oh, honey, do you have to be so honest? You could’ve broken the news to me slowly.” “What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, you could’ve first told me the cat was on the roof, and when I called you from Paris, you could have told me he was acting sluggish. Then when I called from London, you could have said he was sick, and when I called you from New York, you could have said he was at the vet. Then, when I arrived home, you could have said he was dead.”
The new husband had never been exposed to such protocol but was willing to learn. “OK,” he said. “I’ll do better next time.” “By the way,” she asked, “how’s Mom?” There was a long silence, then he replied, “Uh, she’s on the roof.”
The truth can be very surprising, and a bit difficult to take or comprehend sometimes. But it’s what is really real. (See news clip) What a guy! The whole truth can blow us away, can’t it?
I want to talk to you this morning about living the truth. It’s better to live by the truth than hide from it. When we hide from it, then we’re hiding from how God is trying to guide us and help us. The truth is on God’s side and God is always on truth’s side.
Psalm 15 tells us of the person who will never be moved and dwells in God’s presence. This person is described as one “who speaks the truth from the heart” and “keeps an oath even if it hurts.”
The book called Proverbs places truth on the highest pedestal, standing over and above all qualities and good things in life. “Buy the truth and do not sell it,” it says, “get wisdom, discipline and understanding.” I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure buying gossip magazines at the checkout counter doesn’t qualify as buying the truth. We should dig a little deeper into
the human experience. Read a real book. Take on something your mind and heart can sink into. It’s never too early or too late to become wiser than we are.
1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” In 2 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of Christians as those who are sanctified by the Spirit and through belief in the truth, who “love the truth and so are saved.” We are told in the Letter to the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God, which includes the belt of truth.
The full armor of God where truth is the centerpiece, the lynchpin for everything else, is such a manly image, a warrior image. I like it.
I’ve played a lot of sports in my life. I tend to try to become as good in a sport as I possibly can. This includes individual sports, such as skiing, golf, jogging, and biking. I do the same thing with team sports. I’m on a volleyball team at the YMCA in Boynton Beach. Last season we won the championship.
There’s another good team that became even better this season by off-loading two of its, shall I say, least good players. They have good hitters on their team, and one very good hitter. The first two times we played against them this new season, we played cautiously, scared, intimidated. And as in most sports, part of the game is a matter of will power, imposing your will to win on the other team. But, here’s the thing, I’m not good at letting someone do that to me and my team. It tends to make me try to rise to the occasion and make a strong mark for the good guys.
In sports, I believe very strongly that you have to believe in yourself, no matter how good someone else plays. You have to play your hardest whether you win or lose, because that’s the only way the other team will respect you and you will respect yourself. And you can never let the other team win by a matter of their will putting you back on your heels. You have to put your will to win and to be better out on that court. You have to believe you have the right stuff, that you belong there.
When we play them in the finals, we’ll be ready.
Live what’s true to you. Never give it away to anyone else. Living the truth gives you the courage to lead, to fight for what’s good and best, and keeps the faith in yourself and God.
It’s truth, following the truth, talking the truth, and believing truth will carry the day that keeps us in our right state of mind and our heart strong. When we live a lie it hurts from the inside out. Living the truth and standing by it makes for a clear conscience and a strong witness.
In our scripture reading we saw Jesus with a Samarian woman. In their conversation, Jesus told her that their worship on a mountain was misdirected and worship located in Jerusalem alone had its limits. Why does he say this?
Because true worship knows who God is and puts nothing between worship and the Lord. Nothing is more important than God, not a mountain or a location. Where we are so often willing to set up permanent camp in God’s name, and cling to it as if now we got God forever in our possession, Christ tells us the Lord may have already moved, like the wind, like the Spirit that blows where it will. God will not be put in a box of our making.
Our scripture is telling us we have to be courageous enough, filled with the Spirit enough, in order to be able to follow where God’s truth leads. This is why the New Testament constantly talks about the freedom we enjoy in Jesus Christ. There isn’t a system of laws we have to follow. We’re not tied down to anything because we’re only tied to the truth of Christ through the Spirit.
So now let me tell you a little secret: Jesus isn’t talking just about Samarian and Jewish worship of God with their mountain and Jerusalem Temple. What he’s really talking about is the human impulse to stick something, anything, between us and God. You see, the human impulse is to want things in black and white, put in order, and labeled. We want clear instructions as to who’s in and who’s out, what God likes and what God doesn’t like. So often Christians have turned the New Testament into little more than a rule book. Paul constantly fought against this idea of our faith even back then. How often he loses, and we fail to worship God in spirit and truth.
Real spiritual freedom scares us. And yet the most famous statement about truth comes from Jesus’ mouth in John 8 when he says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” By free, Jesus meant you will be free from manipulation, free from hypocrisy, free to keep faith in yourself, and free for the Spirit to find you, keep you, encourage you and show you what is true in God’s sight.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the scene from the 1992 movie, A Few Good Men, where Lieutenant Kaffee, a Navy lawyer played by Tom Cruise, questions Colonel Nathan Jessep (played by Jack Nicholson) on the stand. Jessep challenges lawyer Kaffee, “You want answers?” Kaffee replies, “I think I’m entitled to them.” Jessep repeats, “You want answers?” to which Kaffee shouts, “I want the truth!” And then, Colonel Nathan Jessep responds with one of the best known and most parodied lines in recent film: “You can’t handle the truth!”
The truth isn’t always easy to handle. We have to be a disciple of the truth in order to really see what a great friend it is.
It’s a lot easier to cut corners, shade in areas, do some self-negotiation to hand yourself a slightly better deal—at least temporarily. But Jesus tells us that God is the God of truth. God is the God who always keeps it real and doesn’t just roll with the times nor get stuck in the past. So important to the Lord is the truth that time and again Jesus used the phrase, “I tell you the truth.” In the Gospel according to Matthew alone he said it thirty times.
The truth has its costs. I like what someone said about this: “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you really angry.” Mel Panacos
To tell the truth may cost you something. To stop a lie may cost you something. It may cost you ease. It may cost you family harmony. It may cost you money. It may cost you pleasant feelings. It seems obvious: the truth will cost you something. But what you get from it is worth what you may lose.
Someone rightly observed, “Falsehood is cowardice, the truth courage.” It takes courage to face and follow the truth.
Of course there’s more to life than just the truth. This message isn’t an endorsement for the “courage” to chew people up and spit them out. Some people delight in speaking the truth as they see it. They love to go around and tell others everything on their minds. They shoot down thoughts and ideas, and figure starting fights is just the cost of doing business in the truth. They’re of the mindset that their opinion is always right and needs to be heard, and let the consequences fall where they may.
We’re cautioned against this. Scripture tells us we should “speak the truth in love.” We’re not told to lie. John describes Jesus as grace and truth. We don’t steamroll people with our view or let the wind out of our bags just because we can. We don’t shoot others down because they disagree with us or maybe are even out-and-out wrong. Grace and truth, friends, grace and truth.
So be careful how you say things. Don’t burn bridges even when you’re right. Just because something is true doesn’t mean it needs to be said or said that way. And if you can’t speak the truth with grace or in love then wait until you can. Let the Spirit work on you to give you the right words with the right attitude at the right time to the right person. Perhaps by then the person will see what you’ve already seen and made the change and you won’t have to say anything. That’s the best of all.
But my gosh we get set in our ways fast. We see something one way and it takes a Mack truck of truth to come through our front door to get us to look at something in a different way.
There was a boy on Elise and Lucas’ 7/8 year old basketball team who was a really good player. He’s a big kid. His dad’s really tall. This boy had really, really good shooting form, especially for a tall, big-boned boy now of 9 years.
The thing is I talked to his parents twice about him and his ability and potential and both times they described him as “clumsy.” The first time it took a bit for me not to ask, “Are we talking about your son.” I felt like pointing to him and asking, “him?” They were also quick to tell me “he’s not like his older brother and sister.”
They actually hadn’t let him play organized basketball until that season. They’d been busy being involved in the other two children’s sports life. That was his first basketball season and he was really good.
But they already had him cornered in as one type of kid by the age of eight. It was a bit shocking that they had so much trouble seeing their son as he really is, a talented basketball player, and not as a clumsy youngest sibling. I felt sorry for him, but he’s got such a good disposition that I’m sure his family will see him and his talent soon enough.
Have you ever put someone in a box and not let them out? Do you ever hold onto illusions in order to feel comfortable? We don’t always seek the truth, do we? We’re quite comfortable with not quite the whole truth, as well as the truth but only as far as that goes. We sacrifice truth in order to keep things running as they have been.
But this wasn’t Christ’s way, and it cost him everything. He sacrificed himself in order to establish truth that cannot die. It was upon him that the truth was forever raised up. He is our rock.
Follow the truth and build your life on it like on bedrock. Be courageous enough to follow God’s truth. Look hard at what’s in front of you rather than just rely on what has been. Turn away from easy compromises and keep your soul alive. Let your actions follow what you know is the truth because it’s by following the truth that you know God’s will for your life. Can anybody say Amen?