Allen Jackson - Truth Over Deception - Part 1
It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Truth Over Deception". We are living in a season when truth is not even held in high esteem. Oftentimes people speaking in the public square don't even imagine that they're held to the standard of telling the truth. We're more convinced or convicted about what's expedient, what helps me get the outcome I want. Well, in God's economy, the truth is held in very high esteem. In fact, the Scripture said God hates a lie. So we're going to explore that a bit from a biblical perspective. I think it'll help us navigate the current culture in a God-honoring way. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly open your heart.
We're working through a series really under kind of a broad theme of God breaking forth in the earth. I have this sense that God is moving in the earth, and I want to talk about it. I want to highlight it, I want to look at it, but I'm also aware that it isn't happening in a lot of ways that I would have anticipated. And it's easier oftentimes to focus on the darkness, the destructive things, the evil things, the immoral things, the unsettling things, but I don't find that to be overly helpful. I do my best to keep my attention focused on what God is doing and celebrating those victories, the children's whose hearts are being changed, the people raising their hands and saying, "I want to be baptized," those that are coming to church, the places where there's vitality and activity and all those things that we can celebrate because I think you have to stay aware of what God is doing or you'll be overwhelmed by the negativity of what's happening in opposition to that.
And in this particular session I want to talk about the tension between truth and deception. Jesus told us in very plain language that as we approach the season prior to his return that deception is going to escalate dramatically. The most frequent warning he gave us about the end of the age was about deception. More frequent than about any other thing, more frequent than the Antichrist, more than anything, he warned us about deception. So we know that deception is going to be a reality in the world around us, and to be deceived is to believe something to be true which is in fact not true. And so there's a tension in our world, and I will acknowledge that I have had a wrong expectation.
One of the things that's happening in me is I'm learning to know the Lord in some new ways, and I've had this imagination about the nature of God's truth. I have anticipated God's truth becoming so clear, so bold, so patently obvious that everyone would be united in agreement regarding that truth. I had to, you know, that God's truth would break into the open and it would be like, duh, a shining monolith so majestic in scope and proportion that no one would dare to contradict the truth. I don't know if anybody else shared it; but, I mean, that was alive in me. I'm, "God, let your truth break forth coast to coast, border to border, from heaven to earth". Boom, there it is. And I've had to adjust that, not that God's truth is less real or less dynamic. In Philippians chapter 2, there's kind of a verse that was foundational to that idea in my heart. It said, "At the name of Jesus every knee would bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father". And I was like, "Tomorrow would be good. Tonight would be better".
Well, let me add to that Ephesians chapter 1. "And he made known to us," he's writing to believers, to his church, "The mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ". Now, it seems to me that what Paul is saying and the Spirit of God is saying through Paul to the church at Ephesus is there's a point ahead of us when the will of God will be put into effect more completely, that it will become more evident; and we're left to walk through time in this place when we don't yet see every knee bow and every tongue confess. And while God's truth may be made evident, we're probably not going to get a unanimous vote. Bummer. It takes a realignment 'cause I'm thinking, "Well, if it's God's truth, everybody will see it". "You mean like somebody that could walk on the water and raise the dead and turn water to wine and open blind eyes? That kind of obvious truth"?
You see, I was ignoring the much, much larger story of Scripture hanging on to an ideal that I preferred, and as I continue to walk with the Lord I find that he consistently invites me to understand what he's doing with a new perspective more aligned with his Word. I'll give you some examples. I made a long list, a list that was far too long for a single presentation. So I just peeled one out. We'll talk about some others, but I'll give you one that for the most part I think is accomplished fact and a little less adversarial. But in 2020 when we first began to hear something of a virus headed our way and a pandemic and it escalated pretty rapidly, one of the prayers we began to pray collectively as a community of faith is that God would let us see the truth because it wasn't clear how to behave and what to do, and in my imagination that truth was going to arrive fully formed.
We prayed on a Sunday and by Tuesday I would have preferred a full White Paper, "God's truth regarding COVID-19". And that didn't happen so we were left to walk that out. But I would have to say in the intervening period there's been an enormous amount of truth that has come into the public square. I think God answered our prayers. It's not near the mystery it was in March of 2020 thankfully. We don't know everything, but what I had to acknowledge to myself is it's not like there's uniform agreement that, "Oh yes, absolutely. We are all locked in. That's the truth".
So I began to make a list just about that topic. I didn't know in 2020 as it began to unfold that hospitals were being incentivized to report higher COVID numbers, that it was to their gain to have higher COVID numbers so that if you went to the hospital to give birth and you tested positive for COVID, you were a COVID patient, not an expectant mom. We didn't know in 2020 that quarantining healthy populations was damaging. We'd never tried that before. We know that today. We know a lot of truth about that that we didn't know then. We understand how damaging it is for children's education. We didn't know that in 2020. We didn't understand that vaccines would not prevent us from getting COVID. We had that hope, but today we have some facts around it that help us understand what those vaccines will and will not do. We didn't know in 2020 that there were treatment protocols which were being ignored and refuted as false.
It took a while for that truth to make it into the public square. We didn't know in 2020, or at least we wasn't told, that the virus had originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. That made its way into the public square. We didn't know then how little interest there would be on behalf of pharmaceutical companies or governments or the primary funding agents for what was happening to really explore and report on all the effects of COVID and the vaccines and our treatment protocols. We still imagine we were following something like a more traditional scientific approach. We didn't know in 2020 that the government participated in censorship of the truth, labeling ideas as dangerous or misinformation. Everything in that list today is a part of the public square. You can find it.
There's a tremendous amount of deception that still remains on a whole host of other topics. We'll talk about some of them in the days to come. And I want to be certain that the attitude isn't unique to the scientific community nor is it limited to COVID, but all of those things we just talked about today have a great deal of information that would suggest they're true, none of which were known in the spring of 2020. And even though there's a great deal of affirmation that they would be true today, there's still a great deal of division as we talk about it, tension between truth and deception. So when we pray for the truth, when we pray that God will give us the truth, again I have been standing in this place thinking, "Well, if it's God's truth, it will be so overwhelming, so brazen, so bold, so illuminated that there'll be unanimous approval".
I was wrong. It's embarrassing to realize how long sometimes it takes me to understand what I read in my Bible. There wasn't a uniform approval that Jesus was the Messiah, and that was a pretty brazen step of God's truth into the world with hundreds of prophetic fulfillment centered in one person event after event after event and yet there was enough antagonism. They shouted in the streets, an angry mob, far more than those who were standing on his behalf, "Crucify him". So I would submit to you that we're going to need more discernment, more wisdom, more awareness as we follow the Lord to recognize his truth. We're going to need a greater grounding in Scripture. We'll need to know his character. We'll need to know what he's promised he will do. We'll need to celebrate more every time God pulls back a curtain and truth makes its way into the public square. We live in a season of tremendous deception.
Well, I want to give you an example that I think highlights it for us, but we'll start with the counsel of Scripture; just the general notion that truth is going to be challenged. Please don't be shocked by that. Don't be frightened by that. Don't be put off by that. If you want public approval, if you want the large crowds of people to applaud for you and to be universally embraced, choosing Jesus as Lord of your life is the wrong path. Please don't be surprised. Jesus said, "You'll be hated by all sorts of people because of me". I've been in lots of churches this year and in the last few months and I can tell you there's a debate in the church about whether we want to make choices that will cause us to be more broadly applauded or whether we're going to persist in a biblical worldview, and I would like to encourage you to the best of my ability that whenever possible to choose to align yourself with God. It's important.
In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus is speaking. He's coaching his disciples. He's about to release them really on their first initiative alone. He's going to pair them up and send them out. And it's a rather lengthy instructional passage, but he says, "Be on your guard against men". Wow. That's Jesus. "They'll hand you over to the local councils, and they'll flog you in their synagogues. On my account you'll be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles". You're going to get put into the system. See, again, there's a real, there's a debate in the church whether or not we should message ourselves in such a way that the system will applaud us, and Jesus is suggesting that if we align ourselves with him we're going to get pulled into that system. Verse 19, "But when they arrest you, don't worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you'll be given what to say".
Then in verse 26, "Don't be afraid of them. There's nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim it from the roofs. Don't be afraid of those who kill the body but can't kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell". The punchline to me is when Jesus said, "What I tell you in the dark, speak it in the daylight. What's whispered in your ear," if you'll allow me good old southern language, "shout it from the rooftops".
Folks, we have good news for the world and Jesus has asked us to shout it from the rooftops, to shout it from the rooftops. Don't let anybody who knows you fail to understand you are an unapologetic, unrelenting advocate for Jesus of Nazareth. Just don't. Isaiah gives us a presentation. Again, what I want to highlight is the Bible tells us in such plain language there's going to be this tension between truth and deception. We're shocked by it. We're caught unprepared. It's like you get on a plane and you take off and your ears start to pop and you think you're having some sort of a physical failure. Somebody should have told you that's normal. And what I'm suggesting is from a biblical perspective. This tension between truth and deception is not only to be expected, it's going to intensify, which means when you choose God's truth there's going to be a chorus of people going, "You're crazy".
Isaiah 59, "Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets". This is written to the covenant people of God. He's not describing some pagan group. "Truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey". You can be celebrated if you'll choose ungodliness. You'll make the cover of magazines. You'll be lauded as a breakthrough, as an independent thinker, as a visionary, as courageous. If you take a biblical worldview, a lot of times... not always but a lot of times in those same places you'll be backwards, be a little simple-minded, haven't kept up, emotionally underdeveloped, intellectually limited, antiquated. "Whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and he was displeased because there was no justice".
You see, when truth stumbles in the streets and righteousness is not celebrated, justice diminishes. There are loud voices, powerful voices that would tell us today there's more justice absent of biblical worldview. It's a lie. It's unscriptural, church. It's another point of deception. The more broadly Jesus is celebrated, the more broadly a biblical worldview is incorporated, embraced, codified, and practiced in our schools, in our universities, in the marketplaces, the more that justice will prevail. "He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene".
God's expectation is there would be men and women who would step into the breach. It was appalling to him that no one would do that. I do not intend to be a part of a generation when God looks and he's appalled. Do you? I'm going to climb up on a rooftop looking for a megaphone. If I can't find one, I'm going to roll up a newspaper. I'll shout till I get hoarse, then we'll go to semaphore. When my arms get tired, we'll tap it out in Morse code. I don't know what we'll do after that. Maybe a signal fire. But we have a message for our world. The solutions we need aren't coming because of another election or another economic trend or the next technological breakthrough. I'm not opposed to any of those things. They could all help. But the source, the origin of the transformation will come from a biblical worldview, from the throne of God.
And the church has to believe that, but it's not a new challenge. It's not the end of the age or the end of the world. It will intensify, but it's a part of what's been playing out in the world since the garden when Satan said to Eve, "Did God really say"? Deception started in the opening chapters of the book. "Did God really say you couldn't eat that"? Look at Isaiah 5. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil". We thought that happened in the 21st century. We thought TikTok created that. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter". You see, the fundamental collision is spiritual between a kingdom of darkness and a kingdom of light. Amos wrote about it in chapter 5. "You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground".
Now, with that little background, I want you to spend just a minute, I've tried to choose some characters that were familiar to you, and one that we know from the Christmas story predominantly is Joseph. We don't know a great deal about Joseph. We know a very limited window in his life. He steps out of the narrative early, seems to suggest he died a premature death. He wasn't there when Jesus was on the cross. Jesus assigned responsibility to Mary, to John, but Joseph was a central, pivotal character in the beginning of the narrative. So I pulled a couple of passages. I think they'll help us understand a little bit of this tension between God's truth and deception and what it means to live that forward. Spoiler alert, we've got to stop collecting truth as if it's something that's theoretical. We've collected biblical facts like we are building hard drives for the kingdom of God. God knows the names of the 12 tribes. And while I think it's worthwhile to study and learn, I've spent most of my life doing that, I'm far more interested in giving expression to the truth of God than just assimilating it. I want to live like it's true.
Now, we struggle that within every area of our life. It isn't just our spiritual lives, our physical health. We probably know better than we do. We'll talk about that another time. Matthew chapter 1, "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came аbout: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit". Matthew writes that like it makes sense to us. "Of course, I understand that". "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and he didn't want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly". He didn't want to add to the humiliation that was going to be involved. "But after he'd considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She'll give birth to a son, and you're to give him the name Jesus, because he'll save his people from their sins.'"
Now, that's where the angelic message ends. That's where the quotation marks are, closed quotes. The next verse, Matthew inserts, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they'll call him Immanuel, which means, "God with us".'" Let me ask you a question. Do you think Joseph knew the prophecy? Really, how many do you know about what's going to happen? We attribute to Joseph a better knowledge of the Scripture and yet the Scripture was written on scrolls that were maintained in the synagogues and private individuals or homes or families didn't have copies. I happen to know that Nazareth, where Joseph lived, did not have Wi-Fi. I know that seems terribly unfair. He was educationally disadvantaged, but God recruited him. I don't know if he did or didn't.
The next sentence is remarkable. "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and he took Mary home as his wife". Let me suggest that truth broke into Joseph's awareness in the middle of that night. He had a set of circumstances. He's engaged. There was a legally-binding commitment to it at that point in time. The woman to who he's engaged is pregnant, and he knows it isn't his child. So he's considering his options on how he's going to resolve this problem. It's embarrassing. It's disappointing. It's maybe even heartbreaking. The very best, it's awkward. And he has a dream and he sees an angel, and Mary's going to have a son who will save his people from their sins. He was confronted with God's truth.
Everything that angel said to him about Mary was true. All the things that the angel said to him about Mary actually had been stated by the prophets, as if that makes it easier to process in real time. We know a lot of things God has said about the end of the age, but in real time it's hard to process. And Joseph processed it and said, "Okay, I'm in. Let's go". See, I'm suggesting a little different attitude towards God's truth. What I find in my own heart and I suspect it might exist in yours is this temptation to want to stand apart from it and to review it as if we're Olympic judges or quality-control experts or some sort of a position that we're a little bit above it, not as if we are subjected to it; that when we see the truth, our response is to say yes.
Joseph had the courage to say yes to God's invitation. The truth of God in his life was disruptive. It may be for you and me, too. Let's pray:
Father, I pray we'll have the courage and the boldness to say yes to you even when your invitations disrupt the plans or imaginations we have held. I thank you for it. In Jesus's name, amen.
Father, I pray we'll have the courage and the boldness to say yes to you even when your invitations disrupt the plans or imaginations we have held. I thank you for it. In Jesus's name, amen.