James Meehan - What Does Truth Really Mean?
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So a long time ago, there was a man named Jesus. He was a middle-eastern Jewish rabbi, who along with his 12 teenage followers completely disrupted the understanding of God that his culture had. Completely threatened the authority of the Roman Empire. And absolutely changed the course of human history. This Jesus never commanded an army, he never wrote a book, he wasn't a famous singer or songwriter. And yet, today, 2000 years after he died, there are billions of people around the world who call him Lord. And before this, Jesus was to be crucified under the orders of a Roman Governor named Pontius Pilate. There's this conversation that takes place in the 18th chapter of John's gospel. John was one of Jesus's teenage followers. Who after Jesus had died, after Jesus rose, after spending time with Jesus on the other side of Jesus's resurrection. Later on in life, John made the decision to write down an account of the three years he spent with Jesus. The things he saw, the things he learned and how that changed everything for him.
So we're picking up in John 18, this conversation between the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate and Jesus. In verse 33, what we're told is that, "Pilate, went back inside the palace, and he summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?'" Now at this point, Jesus is on trial because basically Pilate's trying to figure out what punishment does Jesus deserve because the religious leaders of his time wanted Jesus to be killed because of the things that Jesus said about himself and about God. So that's kind of the context of what we're talking about. Verse 34, Jesus asked Pilate, "Hey, is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me"? Pilate replies and asks the question, "Am I a Jew? Your own people and chief priest handed you over to me. What is it that you've done"? In verse 36 Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place".
In verse 37 Pilate says, "So you're a king then"? And Jesus answers, "You say that I'm a King. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. And everyone on the side of truth listens to me". And then in verse 38 Pilate asks a really beautiful question. He says, "What is truth"? And this is a beautiful question because it's actually a question that as human beings, we have been wrestling with since the very beginning of time. Because the definition of truth has wide implications on the things we do, the things we say, what we believe. And it's seems a little bit silly at first glance to ask the question, what is truth? Because it seems like self-explanatory, truth is truth, right? Like that's just what it is. But I think it's a question that because it seems so obvious, so many of us don't actually ever think about what it really means. And I think that those are some of the most important questions to ask. Because like I said, this specific question, the question of truth, is one that we've been wrestling with since the beginning of history.
And then in our world today, a world and an era defined by fake news, misinformation, and fact checkers. The concept of truth I think is more relevant than it's ever been. But this isn't a new conversation at all. As a matter of fact, it was 1,400 years before the time of Jesus. So that would have been about 3,400 years, give or take a little bit from our time today, when a man born as a slave, raised as a Prince and remembered as a prophet, wrote a collection of poetry, story and history that we know as the book of Genesis that's found in our Bibles today. And the beauty of this book is the way that it helps us understand the truth of who God is. Of what it means to be human and how we are meant to relate to our God. Because this book was originally given, these teachings were originally given to the people of Israel, who had spent hundreds of years enslaved in the nation of Egypt.
But all of a sudden, they are now freed, liberated by their God, trying to figure out "Who in the world is this God who just freed us? What does it mean for us to live as his people? Do we even have value"? Because from like one moment, the Israelite people, they were literally slaves to Pharaoh. And in the next moment, Moses as he's delivering this teaching is showing them that now they're meant to be partners with God. And I love the way that one of the early stories in this book wrestles with this question of truth. And helps us to look at that idea in a way that I believe will be unbelievably relevant to our lives today. Now you might be one of those people where you're a little bit skeptical of the Bible. Like, is it really true? Is it really relevant to my life today? Is it really something that I can believe? And my hope is this, that you would just be open-minded enough to give it a chance?
What's interesting is I believe it was around 500 BC, there was a Greek philosopher named Protagoras. And he famously said that "Man has now become the measure of all things". Man has now become the measure of all things. As he's making the statement, what he's doing is he's describing the natural human desire to define truth based on our own desires, rather than anything outside of ourselves. He's describing this reality that throughout history, civilization after civilization, human beings have had to wrestle with the concept of truth. Is it something that exists outside of me or is it something that I define on my own terms? Is it based off of what God says, or is it based off of what I want? And it's interesting because today we've got like the very real and relevant conversation of my truth versus the truth, and trying to distinguish the difference between the two.
And I think the simplest way to understand the difference between my truth and the truth is who defines truth. Because before Protagoras made the statement, before the Greek civilization and their thinking and their ideas spread across Western civilization, truth was always defined by God. Truth was always an objective standard that existed outside of human beings. But what we saw through Protagoras and Greek civilization and now what we experience today is the very real temptation for us as human beings to define truth not based off the voice of God, but based on the voice of our own desires. And this is exactly what the story of Adam and Eve in the garden is trying to show us. It's trying to invite us into this very real conversation about the difference between my truth and the truth. About the difference between finding truth in the voice of God, versus finding truth in the voice of our own desires.
See, because in that moment when Adam and Eve took the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil into their own hands, that was the moment where they chose to separate the concept of truth from the character of God. Because prior to that moment, there was no difference between something that was true or something that was good. They were literally the same. Because if it was true, it was true because it was good. If it was good, it was good because it was true. Because both of those qualities are rooted in the character of God. Well, there's this moment where Eve is looking at this fruit, and what the author of the Bible tells us is that it desirable to her eyes. That it looked good to eat. And so she took it. Because instead of listening to the voice of God, she chose to listen to the voice of her own desires. She took truth into her own hands. And what's crazy is to think about how so many of us have walked through that exact same situation. Where we knew something was wrong, but man, we so wanted it to be right.
And so we went through with it. We did that thing that we knew we shouldn't. And then on the other side of it, we tried to justify and come up with all these reasons why it wasn't the wrong thing, because it felt good. Like how could something that feels so good be so bad? If I want it to be true that badly, then it must be true. Doesn't God love me? And I guess one of the painful lessons so many of us have to learn is that there are times where God loves us enough to put boundaries in front of us, so we don't do the things that are gonna hurt ourselves, others, or our relationship with him. But because humanity chose to rebel against God, to reject him as the measure of truth. Because humanity wasn't content with serving on God's behalf they wanted to serve in God's place. The fall took place, sin entered the picture. And because of that, humanity had to be exiled from the garden. But the beautiful thing is, is that from that moment on, God has relentlessly been pursuing all of us to bring us back into a right relationship with him.
So in this journey of wrestling with truth and trying to figure out what do we do with it? How do we define it? Where can it even be found if it's even a thing? I think what we've got to understand is that until we get this right, we're gonna continue to run into frustration after frustration. Like if you think about the last couple of hundred years is really the time in history when the concept of truth being separated from the character of God has kind of like gone to the logical extremes. It was during the enlightenment when humanity just decided you know what, let's just take God out of the picture altogether, we don't need him anymore. And then we had the bloodiest century in history that consisted of two different world wars. Multiple genocides and massacres. Because if there is no absolute truth, if truth is just what we define it, then basically, whoever has the most power decides what's true. And they decide what's good. Not only that, but we are living on the other side of the most divisive and hate-filled political election in our lifetimes. Where everybody claims to have the authority of what's true and what's not.
If I say it's true, it must be true. And there are so many of us who we've had that conversation with a friend where we've seen them going down the wrong path, and we try to have a conversation to encourage them to get back on the right track, because what they're doing is hurting themselves and others but they just look at us and say like, "Dude, who are you to tell me what to do? This is what I wanna do. It feels good, it seems good, so don't tell me it's wrong". Without an objective standard of truth. Without this understanding that truth is something that exists outside of ourselves, we're gonna continue to fall in one negative consequence after another. So what is truth? Well, I really like the definition of truth that I found on the internet. It's a great place to start. If you're trying to find answers, just Google it. It's not the best place to stop, but it's a great place to start. But the definition I found was this, that truth, it means consistent with reality or the original. Consistent with reality or the original.
So if something is true, it must be consistent with what's real. It must be consistent with the original. Which brings us to the question, Okay, so what is reality? What is the original? Like are we, are us as human beings, are we the reality? Is reality just what I say it is? Are we the original? Are our desires the original or reality? If not us, then what? Is it the universe? Maybe it's an impersonal force like karma. Maybe it's random chance. Maybe it's a loving creator. You see that's the claim that the Bible makes. That the original, that the very foundation of reality is a God who so loved the world. That he created everything and called it good. He became a human being and walked among us. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna continue operating as if God is the original. If God is reality. Then make sure you're back next week 'cause we're gonna talk about three specific reasons why it makes sense to believe that the God of the Bible is the foundation of reality.
So back to where we were going. Yep, here we are. So when it comes to understanding the reality, the original. The very first verse of the Bible tells us, "In the beginning God". That the foundation of reality is God. And the understanding of God that we have as Christians is not an impersonal, uncaring, distant creator. Quite the opposite. The Christian understanding of God is a God who 2,000 years ago entered history in the person of Jesus. And this is why John, the gospel writer that we read at the beginning, starts his account of Jesus's life by showing us that Jesus isn't just consistent with the original or reality, but Jesus is the original. Jesus is the very foundation of reality. Genesis 1 starts, "In the beginning was God". John 1:1 tells us that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it".
Then later in verse 14, "The Word became flesh, made his dwelling among us. We've seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the father full of grace and full of truth". In verse 18, "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only son, who is himself God, and as in closest relationship with the father. He has made him known". You see John, is making the case that Jesus is God. That Jesus is the original. Jesus is reality. And if truth means that which is consistent with reality or the original, then what we're starting to understand is that that idea is found in Jesus. John 14:6 says, this is Jesus declaring about himself. He says, "I am the way and the truth and the life". What he's telling us is that if we try to understand truth apart from the person of Jesus, we will never understand truth. And if Jesus was telling the truth about him being the truth, then that helps us understand more about the truth, right? And throughout this process, I think John's trying to help us see the truth. This thing that has been real since the beginning, through the person of Jesus allowed himself to be known to everybody.
So in the conversation of what is truth, John is trying to show us that the answer to that question is a man named Jesus. And so then when we route our understanding of truth in the person of Jesus, we start to discover these qualities about truth that I think will help us be able to better discern what's happening in our world and ask the question, is that thing true? If Jesus is the measure of truth, then when I look at that thing and I compare it to Jesus, that's gonna help me get a good idea if whatever that thing is is actually true or not. And when we look at Jesus, here's what we discover that truth is relational. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We've seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son who came from the father full of grace and full of truth." truth is not an unknowable idea, but our personal savior. Jesus shows us that truth is unchanging. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." truth is not a moving target. It is our unchanging king.
And Jesus shows us that truth. Truth is life-giving. Because if God, if Jesus who is the source of truth is the author of life, then if it's true, it's gonna bring life. If it's not, then it won't. And if there are way too many times where truth has been separated from something that's life-giving, it's been used as a weapon and here's the deal. If it's not life-giving, then it's not true anymore. Because for something to be true, it has to be consistent with reality and the original. And Jesus made it very clear that he is the way, the truth, and the life. truth is not a weapon to inflict shame on others. truth is an invitation to experience freedom that comes from knowing Jesus. In John 8:31 and 32, Jesus is talking to the Jews that are asking him questions. And here's what he says. He says that, "If you hold to my teachings, that you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free".
Listen to me, truth is not an oppressive weapon. truth is an invitation to experience life. And in our world that is constantly arguing about what's true and what's good, as followers of Jesus, we have to understand that we cannot separate our definition of truth from the person of Jesus. Because as soon as we do, we lose sight of truth. And it is through Jesus that we discover that truth is relational. truth is unchanging and truth is life-giving. So in John chapter 18. Pontius Pilate looks at Jesus and he asks him a question. He's having this conversation, he says, "So you're a King"? And Jesus looks at him and he says, "You say I'm a King. Because what you've got to understand, the reason that I was born, the reason I came into the world is to testify to the truth. And everyone on the side of truth listens to me".
And there's that question, what is truth? And what I find so fascinating is as Pilate is asking the question, what is truth? He is staring truth in the face. Because truth isn't just a what? truth is a who. Truth has a name and a face. Truth is a person, that person is Jesus. He's relational, he's unchanging, and he is life-giving. And as followers of Christ, as we are walking through a world, that at the same time claims nothing is true and everything is true. In order for us to live lives that are really true, we have to follow the way of Jesus. Because when we do, when we align ourselves with the truth of Jesus, here's what's gonna happen. We're gonna be people that are in relationship with others, pointing them to the father and thus the truth.
We're gonna be the kinds of people that even when everything around us is chaotic, we can have confidence, standing on the unchanging nature of our God. We're gonna be the kind of people that when people are just dying in their place, dying in their sins, we can be people that bring them life by bringing them to Jesus. Listen to me, truth is not just a what, it's a who. And that who is Jesus. And he's somebody that's inviting you to know him. To trust him, to follow him. So what is truth? It's not just a what, it's a who. It's that which is consistent with reality and or the original. It's the one who was there in the very beginning. Who's the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Heavenly Father we just come before you right now. Thankful that it is through your Son, Jesus, that you revealed to us the truth, the way, and the life.
At all of our different locations and those who are joining with us online. What I know is that there are some of you right now who you're walking through life wrestling with the question of what's true and what's good? These people tell me this thing, those people tell me that thing. And I'm gonna be honest with you at this point, I just don't even know if I care. But you're realizing that this idea of Jesus being intertwined with truth makes it to where you realize I can't not care anymore. I wanna know the truth because I wanna know Jesus, God I wanna know you better. If that's you, lift your hands so we can pray for you. Type it in the chat, let us know because we wanna be with you to pray with you, to encourage you in this journey of living truly in our crazy, chaotic world.
Heavenly Father I pray, for every single person who's asking you to help them discover truth, to know you. That God you would surround them with people who will point them to you. That God, you will give them the wisdom to navigate truths from lies. That God you would fill them with courage to keep chasing after you, no matter how crazy or difficult things become. That they would find peace knowing that truth is relational, it's unchanging, and it is life-giving.
Still in an attitude of prayer. What I know is that there are others of you who you find yourself in a place today, where the whole idea of knowing truth and knowing Jesus is something that you've never really put much thought to. Maybe 'cause you've never even thought it was that important but there's something that's stirring inside of you. You feel this need for something more out of life but everywhere you look, you just end up disappointed. What I've got to tell you is that from the beginning, the thing that you've been looking for is that thing that God has been offering a relationship with him. Because he is the author of life and the source of truth. And no matter what you've done or where you've been, no matter how far you've run from that God from the beginning, he has been pursuing you so much so, that he became flesh and dwelt among us. He entered his creation as the person of Jesus. He lived a perfect life, he died a brutal death, but on the third day, he rose from the grave so that anybody who puts their trust in him would be saved. Their life would be built on what's true and what's good.
And that's exactly why you're here today. You're done trying to define truth based off of your own desires. You're ready to root your life on something that is unchanging and that has been consistent from the very beginning. And that is our loving creator, God. And he has brought you here tonight so that you could begin a relationship with him. No matter what you've done or where you've been. You are not too far from God. And if you're saying, "Yes, Jesus I want to give you my life. I wanna put by trust in you". Then all across the room, lift your hand right now, all over the place, those of you who are joining with us at Switch online, type it in the chat, click on the link say, "Jesus I'm giving you my life". And as people are making that choice we're gonna all pray together, repeating after me:
Dear Jesus, forgive me. I'm turning from my sin. I'm turning towards you. I need your grace. I need your love. I need your mercy. It's in Jesus name. Amen.