DRAWING A TANGENT
38Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? (John 18:)
Now move your ruler to another part of the ball. Rest the ruler against the ball. You may use any part of the ruler and you may touch any part of the ball you like with the ruler. Now, having gotten the hang of a tangent, move your ruler all around the ball. Try placing your ruler on a portion of the ball that enables you to completely cover the ball with the ruler. Have you succeeded in covering the ball with your ruler? You haven't? Well, maybe you're not trying hard enough. Do this: Take your ruler and carefully bend the ruler around the ball until it completely encircles the ball. Did you try this? What happened when you tried to bend your ruler around the ball? Did it break? I suspected it might.
We now have a dilemma. In order to successfully complete this lesson you must take your ruler and envelope the ball with the ruler you hold in your hand. But since you find this can not be done, we have but three options left to us. The first option is to replace the solid ball with something flexible such as a deflated rubber balloon that we can encase the ruler in, thus matching the ball to the ruler. Our problem here is that the ball is the one element of this challenge that can not be changed. Why? I'll tell you in a moment.
Our second option is to force the ruler around the ball, causing our ruler to become a handful of slivered pieces of wood. With a little glue and some duct tape this might be accomplished, however the end result will not be a very pleasant sight. And since the ruler is the one element of this lesson we desire so earnestly to preserve, it being the tool with which we measure those things we accept, we must preserve he ruler at all costs.
Our third option is to abandon the lesson all together, which is the choice far too many people accept for their solution.
In order for this lesson to be of any real value we must understand the elements with which we are working. I'm sure you already know this and that you are patiently waiting for me to share this information with you. The ruler in your right hand (unless you are left handed) is the doctrines of your church. When you entered your church you were handed a slip of paper, or maybe even a book or a pamphlet, containing all the doctrines that church believes to be true. If you have attended more than one church, then you have more than one such list of beliefs from which to choose. If you, as have I, attended many different churches, then you have a drawer full of these doctrines and articles of faith, all different from one another.
In your left hand (unless you are left handed) you hold the Bible, the Word of God. As you have seen from our previous experiment, these two sets of rules do not go well together. And this holds true regardless of what church, religious organization, or non-religious affiliation you might be a part of. Not only does your ruler not conform to the rules set out in the Word of God, but they do not conform to any of the other rulers (set of doctrines) held in the hand of any of your fellow students. Turn to the person on your right, unless that person belongs to the same denomination you are a part of, if so, turn to the person on your left. Compare your rulers. The chances are very good that your ruler will not match the ruler held by that other person.
Now we've come to the critical part of this lesson. We must decide which of the two rules we hold that we are going to use in order to find truth. If we use a ruler that is not accurate, we will not be able to measure with any degree of accuracy the things we need to know. If you use one ruler in an effort to build a house, and I use another ruler that does not conform to your ruler while working on the same house, then the house will surely not be sound or very attractive. Then when the Inspector comes to examine our work, and that Inspector uses a ruler that offers a true measure, then what do you suppose will be the result of all our labor? Is it possible that we can justify our work because we went by the ruler we were provided? Or do you think the Inspector will disannul our objections because He had given us the ruler He wants us to utilize?
Let's assume we, you and I, desire to find the True Measurement rather than a measure that seems to fit our wants and our personality. Can we do that? Let's give it a try. In order to accomplish this part of the lesson, set your ruler aside, or better yet, for the time being, place it in a drawer out of sight so you won't be tempted to consult it as we search for Truth.
15But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:)
Honesty is a synonym for truth. The two words go hand-in-hand. A dishonest person is not going to find truth because truth will expose them for the dishonest person they are. And who would want that?
Because honesty is important in seeking truth, we must examine ourself to see if we truly desire to know the truth, which might possibly expose some part of us we do not wish to see or deal with; or if we would rather run back to the safety net of our doctrine. Have you examined yourself? Have you decided to take the uncertain path of the Israelites through the wilderness with nothing to lead you but the Spirit of God? I'm assuming you are nodding a hesitant and nervous yes. Then we will proceed.
1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:)
God Himself said David was a man after His own heart. What made David so special? Could it be that David delighted in the Word of the Lord and meditated on the Word day and night? Remember, when David was around there were no Psalms to meditate on (at least not his psalms), and there were no Gospels, or books of the Prophets, or even the Epistles. There was only the Book of the Law, and maybe the books of Judges and of Joshua. When David speaks of meditating on the law, he means the law, that very thing we try so hard to deny even exists today. Does the law exist today? For this study that is not an issue to be considered. That is something for you to take up with your own conscience.
David goes on to say:
3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (Psalm 1:)
Fruit is something the Christian is to produce if he or she is a true Christian. Jesus said He is the vine (John 15:5). A vine, as much as it may desire to, can not produce fruit. Fruit is produced on branches. The healthier the branch, the more likely it is to produce good, healthy fruit. An unhealthy or a dead branch must be cut off the vine (or tree) to enable the other healthy branches to do their work. An unhealthy branch will only draw from the vine and infect the other branches. To preserve the entire plant, the poorer branches must be pruned off the vine.
We see that a righteous person, like a tree, will have roots drawing its life source from the rivers of water. Water of course speaks to us of the Holy Spirit which connects us to the will of God. Without that attachment we are not part of the tree, the vine, the Church, which is the body of Christ. If we are to discern truth we must be well attached to the vine, the source of the Truth we desire to possess.
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:)
If we wish to be free, if we desire truth, then we must "continue in His Word." What does it mean to continue in the Word of Jesus? Let's see what the reaction of those Jesus was talking to had to His Words. Take note that these are not the Pharisees who are talking, but those Jews who "Believe on Him." This is you, and this is me, if we are in fact those who believe on Jesus. Watch their reaction, and examine it carefully. You will find this question on your final exam:
33They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? (John 8:)
The way we would phrase this response is something like: "What do you mean be made free? I belong to such 'n such a church. I know the truth already. What do you mean your truth will set me free?"
I think such a response can safely be said to be a closed door to any Truth Jesus desires to give us. What do you say to this?
38Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? (John 18:)
Do we really desire to know truth? Pilate didn't. His response to Jesus was not really a inquiry into the truth Jesus had just given him, but a form of rhetoric, a flippant question in an effort to avoid continuing any farther into the matter at hand. A little earlier you were asked to examine yourself to see if you really desire to know the truth, or if you just want a quick and simple answer. Was your acknowledgment, your assent, the same as Pilate's? Or do you sincerely desire to know the truth at all cost?
For those of you sincerely seeking truth, let it be known you will not find it here. This lesson is not about truth itself, that is something only God can give you. Our lesson is about how to draw out the truth and where to find the truth, not what the truth is or is not.
37Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. (John 18:)
Pay close attention to what Jesus is saying here. It's very important, and it too will be on your final test.
Jesus had just said these words to Pilate when he tossed off his flippant response. Jesus said His purpose in coming to earth was to bring us the truth. And those who are of the truth will hear His voice.
It appears to me that there are a lot of people claiming to be the spokesmen of God, but they in reality do not even hear the Words of God, the Lord's voice, because there are so many different versions of what God has supposedly said. That drawer full of doctrines of faith, and that ruler you put away is evidence of this fact. For this reason we must listen to the voice of the Shepherd Himself instead of those who are so certain they have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:)
What is truth? We see here that God's Word is truth. For thousands of years God's Word has not changed. What you hold in your hand is the same truth that David held, with the proviso that truth through the ages have been added for our benefit. The Author, however, of that truth is the same.
23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:)
Be careful now. Examine this statement carefully. Break it down and chew it up in little chunks. Don't just swallow it up in one big gulp without tasting every morsel of what is given us. For those of us in search of truth, we find that in order to worship the Father we must do so in Spirit and in Truth. Why must we worship in the Spirit? Because God is Spirit. Why must we worship in truth? Because God is Truth. Amos tells us:
3Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:)
Can you imagine a Jehovah's Witness, a Catholic, and a Pentecostal walking together discussing religion? My family get-togethers were pure havoc and a hate fest, and almost everyone in attendance was of the same essential belief. How much more of a warfare would be conducted by those of entirely different beliefs? Have you ever wondered why an Atheist or a Humanist (which I guess is about the same thing) can walk with anyone of any denomination and not have any hassle, but when two Christians of different denominations are together there are arrows flying? Does this sound right to you? Is this the "True Gospel," the "Love of the brethren" that Jesus sacrificed for? Is it any wonder the world of the unbeliever calls the Christian to be tolerant of others? If only the Christian could be tolerant of one another, that would be a nice step forward, would it not?
What color is that ruler you placed so carefully in your desk drawer?
6This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth (1John 5:)
Without the Spirit there is no truth. And were the Spirit is alive and working, there will be no bickering. Truth is not found in trying to convince others that we are right and they are wrong. Truth is found by working together, searching the Scriptures with the leadership of the Holy Spirit, which is the essence of truth. If we seek truth without the Spirit then we are fighting a losing battle. If we are working with the Spirit to find truth, then we will not be out of synch with those we search with, regardless of our differences of opinion.
17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Eph 6:)
11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:)
The Spirit is the sword by which we rightly divide the Word of Truth. Without that Sword there is no way to penetrate that iron clad ball of Truth God has provided us with.
We are coming to a close for this lesson. But first, do this: Take out that ruler you placed in your desk drawer (or wherever you put it). Hold the ball in one hand and the ruler in the other hand. Now, with the edge of your ruler, try to slice off a piece of the ball, which in this case represents the Word of God. Can you do it? I suspect you found that you cannot. That ruler of doctrine is not capable of penetrating the Word of God. Now, once again place the ruler along side the ball. Notice that just a tiny spot of the ruler actually touches the ball of Truth. Now, turn the ball around so another part of the ball touches the ruler. Can you see how the ruler is still touching the ball, but it is another part of the ball that is being touched?
This is the same as with those articles of faith, those doctrines of all the churches. And this includes all the religions of the world. Every church, every religion has an element of truth to offer the true seeker of the truth. But none, not even a single one of the religions or denominations hold all, or even but a little of the Truth God desires us to have.
Does it sound as if I am advocating the exploration into all the religions and the denominations in an effort to find the truth? Not at all. Like that ruler you hold against the ball, only a small part of the Truth is touching the ruler. All the rest of the ruler is entirely free from the truth. Exploring the other religions and doctrines can only lead to confusion in one's effort to find the touch of truth that religion possesses. In order to find the truth in all the religions we don't study the religions or the doctrines, we study the truth.
14Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Tim 2:)
Rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Part of that rightly dividing is not squabbling about those things of no importance. If two people, or if a thousand people, all work together for a certain goal they will all work in harmony. Consider a division of soldiers. If all those soldiers keep their eye on their purpose, that is the winning of the war, then they will act as a team and overcome their common enemy. But if the enemy can infiltrate this grand army, and get them to discuss religion, then they will be at each other's necks and the enemy can conquer them easily, if that army doesn't kill one another first.
Study church history. Consider the downfall of the Church. It has been "divide and conquer" until the Church is now a superficial shambles of what it's supposed to be. Jesus said:
25And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? (Mat 12:)
In today's world it's Satan's kingdom that is united, and the Church is divided. What part do we have in the dividing of the Church? How much effort are we, you and I, putting forth toward the mending of the Church as a whole instead of the melding it into an unrecognizable part of the world it is to be separated from?
17Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1Cor 11:)
Where there is division, as Paul stated earlier, there is carnality. Where there is carnality, there is bound to be heresy. Where there is heresy, you will find false doctrine. Where there is false doctrine, there will be much division of opinion. And where there is division of opinion, there is a lack of brotherly love.
A vicious circle.
24Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also (Mat 13:)
Where might we consider the conflicts and heresies to be coming from? Is it those who are producing fruit that is causing the problems? I should think those who are attached to the vine will be too busy producing fruit and learning all they can about the Truth God has given us to be stirring up dissension. It's usually those in any organization with no common purpose with the organization who stir up trouble. Would it be any different in the Church?
4I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:)
Our common goal should be the same as Paul's. We should be busy serving the One we say we love above anyone else, or anything else. Our focus should be on the Lord and not on the minor details of this life. Like the soldiers who have a common goal, so should the Church have a common goal. And that goal should be the sacrificing of ourselves and the serving of one another, which is in truth the serving of the Lord. Jesus said He came to serve and not to be served. We should have this same spirit in us if we are to further the Church and find the truth of God.
7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Mat 7:)
36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Mat 22:)
We can't find the Truth because we look in the wrong places, we listen to the wrong voices, we settle for answers that please us, and we use the wrong rule with which to measure the information that is given us.
Jesus left us with two commandments. We are to love God with all our heart, our soul, and our mind. Jesus demonstrated this attitude for us. And the second commandment He gave us was to love one another as ourself. This also He demonstrated. If we love the Lord, if we love one another, then we will do what is best for them even above what we seek for ourself. Truth is given those who seek and who ask. Those who seek God first will receive the truth. Those who only want a quick answer will find a thousand answers they can choose from. In God there is only one truth and one Instructor. In the churches there are many thousands of instructors and thousands of answers given to us.
Now comes the test for this art lesson. You hold two rulers in your hand. Your test is to decide which ruler you wish to use to measure truth. Your on the honor system, so no cheating. Have you made your choice? If you're having difficulty making the choice, that is to be expected. If you feel this lesson is something important for others, but not for you because you already know the truth, that is to be expected as well. The mere fact you've read, and hopefully given serious consideration to this lesson is a sign that you are open to at least some truth God intends for you to have. But keep in mind, whatever doctrine you refuse to let go of is going to influence your understanding of what God wishes for you to know. A double minded man, as they say.
21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Mat 6:)
Remember, we're on the honor system here. The only one you can cheat is yourself. In the final tally your score will be determined, not by me, not by you, but by the One who established this system in the first place. And He knows the rules even when we turn a blind eye to them.
Where is your heart? Where do your interests lie? When you're finished with all the absolutes of the day, where do you spend your time? When you're working, where do you wish you were instead of work? Where is your mind throughout the day? Who do you direct your thoughts to when your mind goes through its normal routine of chatter? Who is your first love? And what is it that you want more than anything else in this world?
We see from the first part of the Psalms where David's interests and attention was. We see from Jesus, His words and His example where His total absorption was. And after Pentecost we see where the lives of the Apostles were dedicated to doing the Lord's work, as we are to be, and under the very same influence.
Where is your dedication?
In times past it was customary that a family gathered together, prayed together, and studied the Bible together. The life of a person, especially a mother, centered around her family and her study of the Word. This was before the entertainment age, the age of conveniences that was intended to allow more time for such things as being with the family and studying the Word. But as with anything else, the tool used for our entertainment, instead of providing time for the betterment of the family, supplanted the very thing it was supposed to support. TV was to be a tool for education, only secondarily for entertainment. We now have no time for the necessities because entertainment takes up all our time, energy, financial resources, and our interests.
Where is your time spent?
32Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 10:)
23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:)
1Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Mat 7:)
34Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:)
God is in favor of the Tit for Tat system. What we give, we receive. If we give a little, we receive a little. If we give good, good is what we will be given. "Whatsoever we sow" (Gal 6:7).
How much time do you devote to the study of God's Word? How much time do you spend talking to the Lord? How much of your day do you spend talking about the Lord and His Word to family and friends?
What we give, we receive. We can't expect to spend a half-hearted part of our nothing-to-do time in the Word and expect God to unveil all His secrets to us. If we seek the truth with all our heart. If we desire to know Him, and about Him with everything we are, He will unfold Himself and His purposes to us. If we only give Him a moment or two seeking to support the doctrines of the church we attend, to reenforce our already established beliefs, then we will leave without truth, but with a firm belief we have all the truth God has to offer.
The test is completed. How did you do? Did you receive as good a grade as you expected? That you hoped for? If you did receive a good grade, then you had better retake the class because you were studying it from a wrong perspective. If you found yourself terribly lacking, and if you discovered a drive and a determination to better yourself and to devote more time to your study of the Word, then congratulations, you have passed this lesson and you are now ready for the next lesson.
For I am the LORD, I change not; (Mal 3:6)
18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Mat 5:)
18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Rev 22:)
14So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezek 13:)
33O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Rom 11:)
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:)
9Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isaiah 28:)
1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1Cor 3:)
10Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. 11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:)
1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this will we do, if God permit. (Heb 6:)
3Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. 4I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not. (Isaiah 66:)
10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thes 2:)
6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (Mark 7:)
8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col 2:)