Steven Furtick - Trading Truth
In Romans 1:25, there's a scripture I've been thinking about for quite a while now, and I've been looking forward to the opportunity to preach it. And this weekend, I believe it's the appropriate time. And God has really been using it this weekend. You're not the first group that I've seen this weekend and yet I believe that God has saved the best for last and that He desires to minister to you in a specific way today. And I'll read this verse and this will give you the premise for our message. And it's found in Romans 1:25. It says that, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Amen". "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie".
And people say that the Bible is not relevant to today's culture, but let me read this again. It sounds like it was written on Twitter last night. "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator". Have you ever gotten your priorities mixed up and started serving something that God gave to you and forgotten about the who gave it? And that's what happened. "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and began to serve created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Amen". The subject heading I wanna use today is "Trading Truth" and I wanna talk to you on this topic. "Trading Truth".
Lord, I thank You that Your word is truth. Illuminate it now and help us to receive it with courage to obey it. In Jesus' name. Amen.
You may be seated. God bless you. I lie to my kids sometimes. You have to do it sometimes. "You know, what were y'all doing in there"? "Taking a nap". Sometimes it's just for their own, "Why was the door locked"? "Safety. Dangerous criminals". You have to do it sometimes. Don't look at me judgmentally. If you never lied to your kids, you haven't had them yet. But sometimes it's really a matter of survival. And even a few days ago, we were at the beach for the kids' spring break. And they had talked me out into the ocean. They talked me out of the hot tub into the ocean. I'm too old for this crap. It was 51 degrees outside and but I'm, hey, hey, I'm dad of the year. Don't worry about it. I already got the title. I'm dad of the year.
I went out in that cold ocean with all three kids, and Abby was hanging onto my arm the whole time, just every time. It was a really rough ocean, but it made it kinda fun until it wasn't fun anymore. And you know how it is when you're kinda playing out, you're kinda stepping further and further out and you don't even know how far out you've gotten. And then you kinda get carried away and you don't really realize how far you've been carried away until you're looking and kinda look at the original point where you were, which would be a whole sermon in itself, but that's not what I wanna preach about.
What I wanted to tell you is we were kinda getting carried away and then the undercurrent got really strong and started just pulling all of us, all four of us. The only one who had good enough sense to be in the house was Holly. She's not as committed to parenting and making memories as I am. She was on her phone. And I'm out there realizing in this moment, wait, nobody else is in the ocean. It's just us. Everybody who knows anything about safety in the water is inside right now. This is dangerous. And then it really got scary. I couldn't touch the bottom and Abby's on my arm. And her being on my arm is a problem. I can curl her all day long. She's very well below my curling maximum weight ability. Trust me. But when she's on my arm and I can't touch and then Graham jumps on my back and we're all simultaneously being pulled.
And I realized like whoa, we're way further out than I intended us to be and Abby's on my arm and Graham's on my back. And I'm like, "Graham, I love you, dude, But you gotta swim right now. It's every Furtick for himself right now. I need to take at least two of us back in the house for your mom". We start swimming back in. Abby's on my arm and Graham's swimming. Now Elijah's the bravest one. He's out way past all of us and he's screaming at me to come get him or something. And I can't come get him, his sister's on my arm and she's my favorite and so... just kidding. But this calmness came over me or at least I pretended that it did. I said, "Elijah, it's fine, son".
And secretly I'm looking at him thinking this is our last time talking together, you know. But I knew I had to keep them swimming. It was just the leadership instinct that came over me. I'm like, "It's fine. Just swim. You'll be fine. It's not that bad here where we are if you can just get here". Meanwhile, I'm dying, you know. And so, we made it. We made it back to the shore. Aren't you glad? Thank you for praying me through.
And then Elijah said something really funny to me. I thought this was really, really profound. He's like, "You didn't even seem scared. Were you not worried about me? Were you just gonna let me stay out there"? "You know, well, of course, I was. Your sister has only had eight years to live, you've had 13 and". But I think he was amazed. He was like, "You just didn't even seem worried about it". And to which I told him, "Well, son, I was lying. I was lying for your own good. I knew if you knew how bad it was, you'd stop swimming. And so the best thing I could do for your survival was to lie to you".
It's like the Rahab lie. It's just a lie for the purposes of God. Don't judge me. Don't judge me, but sometimes I lie to myself. It's the survival instinct. It's just that sometimes my feet can't find the bottom and life gets a little bit turbulent and I find myself drifting. And in the new reality that I'm trying to embrace according to what God says I am, sometimes what I used to be feels more solid, more stable, and more comfortable. And sometimes it's easier for me to lie to myself and tell myself a story. I got good at it even as a little boy. It wasn't that my childhood was bad or anything like that, but all of us experience things in life that teach us to lie to ourselves.
When we read a scripture like Romans 1:25 that says "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie", a part of us says, "Who would do that? Who would trade a perfectly good truth for a lie"? And yet the fact is there are some lies that we have learned so well that they feel true even more than the truth does. I wanna show you today an illustration from the life of Jesus. And I wanna show you how sometimes the enemy doesn't sabotage your life with a lie, he tells you a truth and he twists it just enough. And I believe that the Lord desires to set us free today, but only by the truth can we be set free.
You know, Jesus knew the truth because He was the Truth. He knew the word of God because He was the Word of God. And when the enemy came to Jesus in Matthew Chapter 4 in the wilderness to tempt him, He made the crucial mistake with the Son of God of debating the word of God. And it's a bad idea to debate the word of God with the Word of God. John 1 says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God". He's not arguing with someone who knows about the word of God, he is arguing with the embodiment of the word of God. And it gives us a pure picture of the principle that is illustrated in Romans 1:25, but only in reverse.
In Matthew 4:1 our perspective is immediately challenged because it says "Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil". And that is a strange construct that Jesus was led by God to be tempted by the devil. If you've been told that God won't lead you into difficult situations, you've been lied to. If you've ever been told or it's ever been implied or inferred that the will of God will always lead to the path of least resistance, you've been lied to. If you've ever been told that the proof of the favor of God on your life is that situations become less difficult and more agreeable, you've been lied to. Because Jesus before His ministry was fully announced was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And yet I want us to see that this passage is as much about trust as it is about temptation.
Now, let me say this real quickly, it's not the truth that you can quote, it's not the truth that you know mentally, but it is the truth that you do that guides your life to its ultimate outcome. I will never forget watching y'all when I was a kid with the Jane Fonda workout DVDs. Eating a bowl of ice cream, watching the Jane Fonda workout DVDs. And when I asked, "Why aren't you doing the DVDs"? I'm only like eight years old and my mom and dad are eating Breyers, watching Jane Fonda. They said, "Well, we've got to know what to do before we can do it". But sometimes if you would do what you knew...
My mic isn't working. "After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry". I nominate this for most obvious verse in the Bible. The tempter came to Him at His weakest moment. The tempter came to Him in the area of His appetite. The tempter came to Him at a place of great vulnerability and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread". And how many times in my life have I been tempted in this exact way? It's a good thing Jesus knew the truth. It's a good thing Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan River. It's a good thing that Jesus had just heard His Father say, "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased".
It's a good thing He had just been told the truth because when you've just encountered truth, when you know who you are, when you have a full understanding of who you are in God's eyes, you don't have to prove it in anybody else's. How many times have I been susceptible to the temptation to prove who I am by what I do? But when you know that who you are is not dependent on what you do, your value is not assessed by others, then you don't have to post stuff to prove stuff. Gonna set somebody free today. You don't have to post stuff to prove stuff when you know the truth about it. And Jesus answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
One of the hardest years of my life was 2013. My dad was dying, our church was under heavy criticism in the media, and I was going through so many things at once I felt like Rocky when he said, "I don't know which one to hit. I see three of 'em out there". And they said, "Hit the one in the middle". And there were so many things going on around me, I didn't know what to do, but it was really comforting to me that the things I had preached to you, I was able to live off of for me. The proof that something is true in your life is not that you can understand it or say "Amen" to it, but that you can live on it. That you can live on it.
Sometimes, we are too impressed with cliches and sometimes we think something is true just because it rhymes, you know? I found that in preaching sometimes you can make something rhyme and it can be totally, totally opposite. You know, you can make something start with the same letter. And some stuff sounds good, but it ain't true. Just because it sounds good, doesn't mean it is. Just because it rhymes, just because it is aligned with your life experience up to this point, doesn't make it true. Just because it's the way it's always been for you and your mom, it doesn't make it true.
And, so, then we get really bad advice and we say really bad things that sound good on the surface, but beneath them, they're really bad belief systems. I thought about calling this message, "What's Your B.S."? for, Belief System. "What's Your Belief System"? I wanted to call it that because that's what's driving your life. They say live your truth. I heard that before. Live your truth. That's the important thing. Just live your truth. It sounds good, but what if my truth is a trap? What if your truth isn't the truth? Do you have to stay stuck in a story and call it the truth?
Let me go back to Matthew 4, "Jesus said, 'It is written, men shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" So, then the devil, he does something that I was very interested to study this out, and if I preached on this passage 10 times before, I apologize to the other 10 that I never pointed this out because I never saw it. We always assume that the enemy comes to us with lies and then we quote the word of God, which is the truth, and then the lies go away. Okay, fine, whatever. But many of us love God too much to just believe a lie if we see it as a lie. And so what the enemy does is he presents you not with a lie, but with a truth.
The next thing the enemy does to Jesus, remember He's hungry, He's in a weakened physical state, He's on the verge of three years of ministry that will shape the world and overturn the Roman Empire. He's in a period of preparation. He knows who He is. He not only knows truth, but He is Truth. And so the enemy knows that the only way that he can fight truth is with truth. And I promise you, I'm not just trying to be confusing. A lot of times, what the enemy will attack you with is a truth. A truth. And in this particular instance the devil took Him to the holy city, verse 5, and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. "'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written...'"
The enemy doesn't attack Jesus with a lie; he attacks Him with a Bible verse. He quotes to Jesus Psalm 91:11-12. He quotes the word of God to the word of God. "'For it is written He will command His angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" That's true. That's actually true. This is not made up, this is not imaginary, it is the word of God, it is the truth.
So, here's what I'm realizing in my life. A lot of times, I'm not deciding between a lie and the truth, a lot of times, I'm stuck between two truths. One, is the truth of my situation and one, is the truth of my revelation. I told you, Holly, this was going to be the best one. One is the truth of what I'm going through and the other is the truth of Whose standing with me in the fire as I go through it. So, I got two truths. I've got two truths. And what Jesus said was so powerful. When the enemy tried to get Him to turn the stones into bread, He said, "It is written...'" because He knew the temptation to turn something into something that it's not.
A lot of times, we try to do this with relationships; we try to turn them into something they are not. We turn people into our God and we need their approval more than we need God's approval. And then when they disappoint us, we lose our hope because we try to turn stones into bread.
You know, some of us try to turn money into security, but your trust was never supposed to be in resources. Your trust was supposed to be in the One your help comes from. The source. You're supposed to lift your eyes to Him. Your trust was never supposed to be in the stuff. Your trust was supposed to be in the source. But when you don't know the truth of who you are, you will try to turn stones into bread, and you will try to live off of people's compliments, and then so you die by the criticism because you try to turn it into what it was not. And you trade the truth for a lie. And you trade the truth of God's assessment of you for someone else's opinion of you, "...serving created things, rather than the Creator, who is forever blessed, Amen".
Romans 1:25. I love what Jesus said. I never saw it before. Did you ever see this before I preached, at 9:30? I never saw it. The first and He said, "It is written...", but this time He said something different. He said, 7, "It is also written..." What you just said is true, but I know something truer. It's true I made some mistakes in my life, but it's also true that my greatest mistake has the potential to become my greatest miracle. It's true, but it's also true. Somebody shout, "It's also true". Come on, shout it from Riverwalk to Roanoke, "It's also true".
Paul said, "I'm pressed, it's true, but I'm not crushed". See, I know how to stand between two truths. One is what I'm thinking, one is what I'm feeling, one is what the doctor said. One is what I'm experiencing, but it is also true I'm not crushed. I'm persecuted, is true, but I'm not abandoned. It's also true. I'm struck down for a minute, but it's also true I'm not destroyed. I'm lonely, but I'm not alone. I'm weak, but He strong. Poor, but He's rich. It is also written. I've got a better word on the situation. I did it, but I'm not it.
I've got a new truth. I've got a new truth. I've got a new truth. That means I know the difference between my truth and my story. So, when Jesus was confronted by the Jews, He had a conversation with them about truth and it says that many of the Jews had believed in Him because of what He did, but they didn't fully understand who He was. And they were putting their faith in Him, but they were still attached to the old story, the old story.
You know, the old story. The one you tell yourself about why people reject you. And you did it as a means of survival because it's sometimes easier for you to reject yourself in advance than to put yourself out there and risk rejection again. So, when you can't touch the bottom, you tell yourself a story for survival. It's called "pre-jection". It's one instead of dealing with the reality of rejection and healing from it, you begin to tell yourself a story about how worthless you are, and now you stay alone because to really be loved requires vulnerability for the sake of connection so you would rather stay stuck in an old story than embrace a new truth.
"And Jesus said to the Jews who believed in Him...", watch this and John 8:32, "He said, 'You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'" Now, see, the second part of that does not work without the first. "You will know the truth". This is not a propositional statement. This doesn't mean you will be able to quote the truth. To know the truth is not to quote the truth, it's to trust in it. It's to trust in the truth. And what you trust in is what is true to you. What you trust in is what is true to you.
That's why He wouldn't turn the stone to bread. It wouldn't have been a sin for Him to do it; it would have been a substitute. I don't live by that. I don't trust in that. That's not my truth. When you know the truth, and a lot of times we think we know the truth better than we do. We think we know what other people are like because we've never traded truth with them. We think we know what we would do if we were them. Sit down with a single mom. You know what she would do if you were them, you would have a pill addiction. You wouldn't make it out of bed in the morning. You wouldn't be strong enough to do it.
"Well, if I were them, I'll tell you what right now, if I was running that Elevation Church, I'd do a few things differently, I sure will say that right now". So, Jesus is trading truth. Oh, it is written, it is also written. Okay. I'm accepting it, but it's not my truth, it's just my story. Sometimes you can live in a story so long that you become a slave to it. Have you become a slave to your own story? To the extent that you now think it's the truth? Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free".
And the next thing they said, the response that they had to that shows us just how embedded their identity had become in their story, because you got to remember some of these are people who had spent 430 years in Egypt as slaves, making bricks without straw under Pharaoh. They had been taken captive by the Babylonians, the Assyrians, multiple times before Jesus came onto the scene. And when He said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free", it offended them, so they look back at Him, in verse 33 and said, "We are Abraham's descendents and have never been slaves of anyone". The same people who had spent centuries as slaves had told themselves a story that had become so true to them they no longer knew the difference.
A lot of times in my life I've lied to myself so much that my lies became truer than my truth. It is pretty good. I don't willingly exchange the truth for a lie. It's just that certain lies I tell myself I've learned to love. I like self-pity, it's comfortable, it's my Snuggie for my soul to feel sorry for myself. No one's checking on me. No one cares about me you know why? Because I don't want to check on anybody, so, rather than face the fact of the truth that I'm not checking on anybody, I would rather tell myself the story that nobody's checking on me. I've never seen every collective head-nod in the church like it just happened at Ballantyne.
When you become a slave to your story, you die a death between two truths. And preaching to somebody today who's standing between two truths. One is the old story, the way you always saw yourself. You know if David had stayed stuck in his old story, he never would have thrown that stone at Goliath's forehead? Because the way his brother saw him was, "You're just down here to make trouble and you didn't even get anybody to keep the sheep".
There comes a time when you have to challenge your old story so that the truth can set you free. They used to train us in evangelism that we would ask people, "How do you know if you're going to heaven when you die"? And when they said their answer, you would've asked them the follow-up question: "If you were wrong, would you want to know"?
What a powerful question. If the story you've been telling yourself about where you are and why you are and what you can, and what you can't, remember, the Israelites stayed stuck in the wilderness not for 40 days like Jesus was tempted 40 days, they were there 40 years. All because of the story they told themselves. They're bigger than us, they're stronger than us, they're greater than us. None of it was true. But when it becomes true to you, it will keep you stuck and you are not stuck in your reality, you're stuck in your story, but if the Son sets you free, if you get this Truth, you will be free indeed.
So, I want you to stand up on your feet, right now, because the spirit of the Lord is in this place and where the spirit is, there is freedom. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And the spirit of the Lord is leading you, today, into the wilderness to set you free from the story you've been telling yourself, perhaps, your whole life long. And I realize, sometimes it's easier to tell yourself a story of why you failed, and tell yourself a story that you're a disappointment, because then you don't have to actually step out and try, because you've already told yourself a story that I'm a disappointment, but that's why Jesus went into the wilderness; not only to be tempted by the devil, but to rewrite a story.
What Moses couldn't do in 40 years, Jesus did in 40 days. He wasn't just fasting, He was directing a new story. The gospel is a new story, the cross is a new ending. And, you don't have to turn stones into bread. You don't have to trade truth from lies. And you don't have to own the story that you were handed if it does not match the reality of what God has spoken, not another day. And we say things that locate us and let us know that we've embraced our story and turned it into truth. And something bad happens and we say, "It's the story of my life. It's the story of my life. It's the story of my life".
You need a new editor. You've been letting the enemy edit the story of your life. "But it is also written", it is also written this tension between two truths. What I feel and what I know. What I was and what I'm becoming. This tension between two truths is exactly how faith grows. I've been waiting to preach this message for a year and a half. And, today was the day that God wanted me to preach it perhaps so that you could hear it and be set free from your old story. Are you trapped in an old truth? When God has given you a new one? A higher one, a greater one.
You know, the law was true "...all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". But in Jesus, "was given grace and truth". Both are true. I don't deserve the blessings of God, nothing I could do could earn it, but it is also written that I am the righteousness of God in Christ through faith in Him. God brought you here today to give you a new truth and to receive your new truth, you're going to have to let go of your old story. You let go of that old story, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. With your head bowed and your eyes closed at every location, no one moving and disturbing this moment, what is the story that God needs to set you free from today? The key is your belief that it is also written and that the blood of Jesus has spoken a better word. There's a new covenant, a new baptism, a new reality.
Father, I thank You for each person who You brought here today whether they're physically in the church building or watching on their phone. Whether tears are streaming down their face because they're facing a situation right now that's too great for them or whether they're in a place in their life where they've actually accepted the lie and it no longer even feels like a lie, anymore. I pray that You would disturb those places of disbelief and dysfunction in our life so that we can know the truth and be set free. We choose the unpredictability of freedom over the comfort and the certainty of slavery today. We want to be set free. Thank You for telling us the truth. Thank You for speaking over our lives the true identity. I asked now, Lord, that in this moment, that You would speak Your word in that personal way whether it's an area of bitterness or resentment or maybe it's something much more subtle than that that we been telling ourselves to keep ourselves in a cycle of failure. We believe that You have called us overcomers and we will only overcome as we embrace that truth.