THE TRUTH THAT SETS US FREE
“And so Jesus went on to say to the Jews that had believed him: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
– John 8:31-32
This symposium on truth is founded on the above scripture. To recap:
On What is Truth?
We first clarified what truth is. (John 14:6) It is Jesus himself, man’s creator by the will of the Father in heaven. He is truth incarnate. We can know truth by examining the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. No matter who we are or what religion we belong to, the extent to which the ideal of Jesus Christ is taught is the extent to which a disciple or student will find truth.
We need only to look at other religions and examine where they are successful in developing honest, forthright people who genuinely care about others, and recognize their spiritual connection to the Father of All. The principles upon which they base their ideals are the same principles demonstrated in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, whether or not he is acknowledged as its source. Take a close look at the highest concepts of the religions of others to see for yourself whether this is so. Jesus’ message of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man is the planetary solution for peace on earth. While doctrines may differ, this simple message unites in faith all who have faith in it, and practice it.
On Preparing for Truth
Man has developed many concepts about God and life. Some are beneficial, some are not. Some are used to control people, to fleece people of their material goods, to manipulate people into serving man, etc. But when we begin our search for truth, the first thing we must do is disembowel ourselves of these manmade creeds and ideas. As Jesus said, “disown ourselves.” (Matthew 16:24) And as Paul wrote “strip off the old personality with its practices.” (Colossians 3:9-10), and “be made new in the force actuating your mind.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) We call that a spiritual reboot – being born again. (John 3:3-7)
And when we have let go of all ideas of man, we start anew with the two ideals that we know for a certainty to be true: that God is the Father of every man, which makes every man our brother. When we build our most holy faith on this foundation, we are safeguarded from all error. When we know these precepts to be true, who could convince us that God favors one people over another? Who could convince us that it is acceptable to physically enslave another, or use another as a beast of burden? Who could convince us to harm another? And who could convince us that God does not want His children to be with Him in the heavens?
On Receiving Truth
When we have emptied ourselves of error, we are prepared to receive truth and build on our firm foundation. Since we know Jesus is the truth, we turn to the book that is most widely recognized as containing the historical accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus – the Bible.
The entire Bible is beneficial for “teaching, reproving and setting things straight.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Section 1, from Genesis to Malachi, serves as a tutor leading us to Jesus as the Christ (Galatians 3:19-25), and represents the highest ideal of God at the time. Section 2, from Matthew to John, contains the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, and represents an enhanced revealing of God to mankind as a personal Father. Section 3, from Acts to Jude, contains the acts of the apostles and disciples and their understanding of Jesus and his teachings. And section 4, the book of Revelation, contains a great and complex prophecy that rounds out the spiritual feast. But clearly, sections 2 and 3 contain the most important message that God has for us in our day.
A thoughtful and sincere examination of sections 2 and 3 reveal “the truth” and how it is to be known and lived. They give us a front row seat to the drama of successful living in our temporal world. They form the measuring rod for understanding the remaining portions of the Bible, and all wise sayings. The lessons learned therein form the building blocks for our faith. Not a hearsay faith, but a faith based on being a competent percipient witness of the truth of Jesus Christ.
On Living the Truth
When we come to know the authentic Jesus, we are in a position to imitate him in our lives. It means ‘putting on the mind of Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 2:16) Coming to know not only what he did, but why he did it; not just what he said, but why he said it; not just what he thought, but how he thought – looking at life and filtering all matters through his eyes.
Living the truth requires that we take our stand with Christ and openly and publicly confess our union with him – not by self aggrandizement, but by humbly submitting to the will of the Father, instead of the will of men, and serving one another. This is the meaning of ‘picking up our torture stakes and continually following him.’ (Matthew 16:24) Living the truth is true religion.
On Being Led to Truth
Once we have put on the mind of Christ, we are in a position to be led by spirit – specifically, the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth is the helper sent by Jesus to lead us into all truth. (John 16:12-14) When Jesus was on earth, he could teach his apostles and disciples only when he was in their presence. Thousands had the privilege of gaining first hand knowledge of truth. However, millions alive at that time did not. And since his resurrection, there have been billions who have likewise missed that opportunity. The pouring out of the Spirit of Truth is Jesus’ means of personally fellowshipping with each one of us. The Spirit of Truth speaks and teaches the things Jesus wants us to know. It is Jesus in our midst.
We can learn about Jesus in a group – in our associations and congregation meetings. But the spirit’s leading is individual according to our individual love for truth and our individual capacity to receive spiritual things. The spirit does not necessarily provide new facts or new information; instead it enhances what we already know and imparts meaning and value. It is more properly designated as ‘the conviction of truth’ as it helps us to discover the ring of truth in every wise saying. That is the meaning of ‘hearing what the spirit says.’ And when we know truth, we are to follow it, heed it, apply it, live it. And in this way, we are made free.
Freed by the Truth
Really, true freedom depends on allowing the Spirit of Truth to lead us. And we can trust the spirit’s leading because, as Jesus said:
“However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.”
– John 16:13-14
The spirit will not lead you in any path in opposition to what Jesus taught when on earth. It will not lead us in one direction and then reverse course as if it had made a mistake. Jesus ‘came correct.’ So does the Spirit of Truth.
The spirit will not lead you to glorify men or teach the commands of men. Instead, it will enlarge, expand, deepen and illuminate Jesus’ teachings and show you how to better apply them. It will give enhanced meaning to the parables and illustrations Jesus used without altering their fundamental message. This is the meaning of the ‘light that gets lighter and lighter.’ (Proverbs 4:18) It will promote brotherly love and tolerance. It will inspire courage and service to one another, and give peace of mind. And most importantly, it will ultimately glorify the Father of All.
Without the Spirit of Truth, we are left to the custody of men and are subjected to their personal understandings and interpretations. As a result, we would be nothing more than “the blind leading the blind.” (Matthew 15:14) This was the fate of those who trusted in the guidance of men such as Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, and others.
But what about you? Do you believe that Jesus sent a spirit guide, a real helper, to lead us? Do you truly believe in the existence, the wisdom and the power of the Spirit of Truth? Or have you lapsed into the belief that the ‘age of miracles’ has passed, and toil under the misconception that God no longer deals with man through spiritual or angelic aid? If so, you have no hope of finding and living the truth, or being truly free. As Paul wrote:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
– 2 Corinthians 3:17 (RSV)
Keep in mind, however, that the freedom given by means of truth is not absolute. It is contingent upon justice, intelligence, maturity and fairness. The failure of man to distinguish between true freedom and false freedom, or liberty vs. license, has led to many problems. Truth gives us the freedom to serve God without fear of men. It recognizes our divine obligations to the Father and to our brothers. False freedom – license – presumes to do whatever one wants regardless of the consequences. It is unintelligent, unconditioned, and uncontrolled. True freedom is real and leads to life eternal; false freedom is illusory and leads to non-existence.
True freedom is associated with self-respect; false freedom is associated with self-admiration. True freedom leads to service to our brothers to uplift and encourage them for their ultimate benefit; false freedom leads to exploitation of others for selfish means, a rejection of righteousness for the sake of possessing unjust power over others.
False freedom is driven by the flesh and results in the works of the flesh:
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”
– Galatians 5:19-21
Whereas, true freedom is led by the Spirit of Truth and result in the fruits of the spirit:
“On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Moreover, those who belong to Christ Jesus impaled the flesh together with its passions and desires. If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit. Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”
– Galatians 5:22-26
Those seeking truth must look beyond implied or perceived freedom for actual freedom and develop their ability “to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) True freedom is attached to character. A spiritually free person would not think to harm another or to mislead another or to control or manipulate another. True freedom is always subject to love. God is love (1 John 4:8), thus love is supreme.
Freedom is a gift from the son:
“Moreover, the slave does not remain in the household forever; the son remains forever. Therefore if the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.”
– John 8:35-36
The Son, Jesus Christ, believes wholeheartedly in freedom. One of his greatest demonstrations of love is extending the gift of freedom to mankind. It is a testament to the confidence and love he has in his creation, thereby conquering without compulsion. The Son sets us free by making us sons – faith sons by adoption – so that we become those who can ‘remain in the house forever!’
The truth as personified by Jesus does more for mankind than simply satisfy his curiosity about God or answer his troublesome questions. It does much more than simply promote a successful way of living. Jesus’ truth gives us:
- Freedom from intellectual bondage to the physical world. Truth broadens our vocabulary and our mental capacity to understand facts, and allows us to think beyond the physical into the spiritual.
- Freedom from spiritual darkness. Truth enlightens and empowers the individual so that he cannot be held spiritually captive by the weak and mundane ideas of men.
- Freedom from moral uncleanness. Truth raises our standard of behavior without law. It moves us to act in our own best interests and in the best interests of others without compulsion.
- Freedom from a sense of loneliness and isolation from one another. Truth promotes the realization of a worldwide fraternity, a united brotherhood of man.
- Freedom from a sense of loneliness and isolation from God. Truth enfranchises the individual as a faith son of God and a citizen of our vast universe.
- Freedom from the fear of extinction. Truth shows us the way to life, eternal life, the real life, in the heavenly realm after the physical body has been exhausted.
True freedom promotes spiritual independence, but not in the absolute sense. We continue to associate together, uplift one another and have an interchange of encouragement:
“And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”
– Hebrews 10:24-25
The free children of God honor one another and recognize and respect our interrelationship as brothers and sisters. We demonstrate love for one another and seek each other’s advantage.
“All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own [advantage], but that of the other person.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
We deem it not a duty, but a privilege to use our God-given freedom in the service of one another.
Along that line, we recognize that as free children, we are to speak truth to one another. (Ephesians 4:25) We will not be afraid to let our light shine. We will think, act and live honestly, loyally, fearlessly and truthfully.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its strength, how will its saltness be restored? It is no longer usable for anything but to be thrown outside to be trampled on by men. You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”
– Matthew 5:13-16
And when difficulties or differences of opinion arise, we should make it a point to engage and respond with kindness and respect:
“But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.”
– 1 Peter 3:15
How much better our relationships and our religious associations will be if we keep this counsel in mind! In fact, all of our associations will be improved by seeking truth and living the truth that we find. And how wonderful that the truth is so simple – it is Jesus Christ himself as articulated in his plain and open teachings! The accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry reveal that he was bold, yet respectful; courageous, but not reckless; enthusiastic, but not fanatical; emotional, but not flighty; imaginative, but always practical; unique, but not eccentric; pious, but not sanctimonious. He was so well-poised under every circumstance because he was so perfectly unified.
We, too, can develop these qualities in ourselves by getting to know the authentic Jesus and allowing the Spirit of Truth to guide us ‘into all truth.’ When we do, we will truly be free.