Modern psychology is the most socially acceptable ideology our western American culture. According to modern psychotherapy individuals who are considered clinically insane are people who experience a “break from reality.” If any of you have seen the movie “A Beautiful Mind” then you know it is about a famous mathematician named John Nash. This famous man was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia because he saw people who were not there and believe things about his life that were not true.
Now before we are tempted to think we share nothing in common with Nash I would assert we do. The diagnosis of the Bible is we are “sinically” insane. Romans 1 tells us the truth has been revealed to us but we suppress the truth. Sin makes our minds see realities that are not true. We have trouble seeing reality. With sin in our lives there is “break in reality.”
The truth of God reveals to us what is real.
1. God’s Glorious Truth.
The last time we got together we spent a great deal of time dealing with the glorious grace of God that was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. While that is wonderful, we cannot fully appreciate the glorious grace of God without the glorious truth of God. The best place to go to understand these two work together is at the CROSS. What the Cross of Christ tells us is our sin is an offense to God. God is not offended because of the way we eat pizza. It is not that kind of offense. It is not something petty. No, God’s problem is we are consumed with ourselves. We are constantly under the influence of sin, but we are also blind to this reality. Our vision is twisted. We see the world around ourselves and our views. We see the world as we want to see it and not how it is. For these reasons God sent His Son into the world. Jesus came into the world not just live among us, but to take the punishment we all deserve for our sin. God could have sent His Son into the world to be our Judge, but instead He sent Him into the world to be our substitute. Theologians have historically called this penal-substitutionary atonement. The Gospel of John will talk about this a lot toward the end, so for now we will table that for a later date.
2. Unraveling The Complexities of Truth.
With the rest of our time I want to talk about some ways we can begin to live in light of the glorious truth of God. The truth of God will help us understand truth. What I mean by that is only Jesus Christ can help us understand real truth or God-centered truth. I want to look at 3 ways we can live in light of the “truth of God.” We will look at how the truth of God helps understand the truth about: ourselves, other Christians, and non-Christians.
Truth to Ourselves
There is an understanding we must all adopt in order to begin to experience truth in ourselves. What we need to understand is all our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors find their origin inside of us. Jesus tells us in Matt 12 that we will know what is inside of us by the fruit that comes out of us. Jeff Vanderstelt says, “Too often, we focus our attention on changing the external rather than addressing the internal.” Dr. Robert Jones gives us a good example of this from our first father after he sinned in the Garden, “God confronts Adam; Adam criticizes God and blames Eve (Gen 3.12).” We all face the same temptation when it comes to truth. When we confront falsehood in ourselves or someone else confronts falsehood in ourselves we resort to the response of our first father. We focus on the “externals.” It becomes this person has done this or that, if only my life circumstances were like this or that, so the source of our problems are someone or something else. The way lies work in our world is they play on partial truth. Yes, this person hurt us, yes, there are systems in the world that do not help or keep us oppressed, but that system or that person does not make us sin. What comes up in our hearts is on us. We cannot stand before God and say, but that person or that system made me sin. Didn’t Jesus live around sinful people and yet live without sin? Didn’t Jesus live in a sinful world that mistreated Him and yet lived in it without sin? God holds us to the standard of His Son.
Therefore, the first step to embracing truth is being honest in our self-evaluation—the way we view ourselves. The best means of grace in seeing yourself through a truthful lens are Scripture, Prayer and Community. We must start with Scripture because their will be times when we receive assessments from others about ourselves that are not true, but God’s Word will guard against that. I do not believe it wise to work hard in Scripture to escape these assessments. When someone comes to me with a problem that see in me I ask them to give the Scripture or biblical concept I am failing at. I will then go and examine what the Bible has to say on that issue and pray for God’s wisdom. I will journal my thoughts out, pray over those thoughts, and then finally I take those thoughts to trusted men and women who can help me evaluate the truth of the claims. These are the steps I take to practice what Jesus tells me in Matt 7—get the plank out of your eye. If it is sin I will try to immediately repent to God and anyone else involved. This is the process of how I attempt to cultivate a Gospel, Biblically based eco-system for seeing myself how I am truly am. I did not come up with it on my own, but have taken wisdom from the Scriptures and many Christians to develop a basic foundation for fighting against my own sin.
Truth to Other Christians
While we must work hard to examine the sin our lives, there will be times when we our brothers and sisters in Christ will wonder away from the truth as well. The process here is not much different. If we see a brother or sister walking in a pattern of sin we must first make sure it is biblical sin and not cultural sin. There are habits that are offensive to us that are completely cultural sins and NOT biblical sins. We must examine the Scriptures to see if God is offended by this person’s lifestyle. We must be praying during this time to make sure we are not manipulating the Scripture toward our own end. At that point it can be helpful to seek counsel from God’s people to make sure you are understanding the Scriptures correctly.
If you done all of that and see this offense is a godly offense, then you still are not done. The next step is to develop a Cross-centered view of the offense. The Cross truthfully shows this is an offense to God. Christ had to die for it, but it always shows us what God is willing to do with it. Because of what Christ did on the Cross God has said I will forgive your sins. If God is willing to extend His grace to a person who doesn’t deserve it, then why wouldn’t we? If God is willing forgive this person then why wouldn’t we? If God is willing to serve His enemies then why wouldn’t we? If God is willing to confront our sin then why wouldn’t we? Most Christians like the other ones because they are centered on themselves, they want grace, forgiveness, and someone serving them. But when we confront someone we can be extending them grace, forgiveness, and service. If we believe sin blinds us to the truth then we should welcome brothers and sisters in Christ who help bring us into reality. Our sin is causing us to act like an insane person, but truth will help us see as we truly are.
If we have confronted the person with the truth, then the final step is offering them the “full truth.” The final truth we offer them is the truth of the Cross. We remind them of the available grace, compassion, hope, service, and etc. at the Cross.
Truth to the non-Christian
Finally we do not live in a world by ourselves or just other Christians, but there are people around us who are “sinically” insane just like we once were. And much like John Nash from A Beautiful Mind it takes a series of people telling us we are NOT looking at the world through the lenses of truth. Nash needed medication to help bring him back into reality. The medication God offers the world for our insanity is the Cross.
So, how do we help people see this reality who are not Christians? Well, I will admit I am not great this and still learning. But there are people who are much more gifted at this than I am so I am going to lean on their wisdom. In his new book Gospel Fluency Jeff Vanderstelt dedicates all of Part 5 to this topic. There are 3 major things Vanderstelt recommends: (1) Listen & Learn, (2) Show and Tell, and (3) Grow in Love and Wisdom.
Our Refuge Communities are spending the next month reviewing some these concepts from Jeff Vanderstelt in their formational manual. But let me give you a brief overview here. When it comes to listening we need to listen through the truth. What this means is when we understand God’s bigger story we can understand where people are in that story. Here are 4 questions to consider:
In what do they find their identity or sense of purpose and significance?
Whom or what is the fundamental problem they blame for the things that are broken in their lives?
Whom or what are they looking to as their savior to rescue or deliver them?
What does transformation look like and what is their ultimate hope for the future?
These 4 questions are the questions that are developed from a Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration mentality. This is how we should listen to others, and when we listen well we know what to say. We are listening to God and the person. Both are necessary to reveal truth. When we listen well Vanderstelt says we do “Show and Tell.”
Finally as we listen and learn God’s story and their story, tell them the truth, then form that point forward we will need to walk in love and wisdom. This is not just any love and wisdom, but the love and wisdom of God. The love and wisdom of God are fond in understanding Jesus. Non-Christians will try to find ways to move away from that by attempting to take the conversation to places revolving around Him. Revealing truth to non-Christians also teaching us how to walk with Christ in the everyday stuff of life. We must listen for the ways God is opening doors to reveal His love and wisdom to non-Christians. This is an art, which means like any art, it requires practice. You grow in this art by listening to other more gifted artist and then practicing.