We have a profound need for the truth.
Imagine being at your lowest of lows; something incredibly painful has happened in your life, and I come along to say to you:
“Don’t worry, God is going to work it all out. Tomorrow you’ll wake up feeling great and everything will be better.”
Now, if that’s true, then that’s pretty comforting, isn’t it? If you knew that tomorrow you would wake up to find everything fine and dandy, you could power through whatever the rest of the day held with little worry! But consider how you would feel if it wasn’t true… My words would seem pretty empty. In fact, you might even get mad at me.
You might even get mad at God.
I recently chatted with Shane Pruitt, author of the book, “9 Common Lies that Christians Believe: And Why God’s Truth is Infinitely Better,” and the subject of truth was at the very core of our conversation. We talked about how we share “truth claims” with one another all of the time, but often forget to hold them against the backdrop of the truth of God’s Word.
In his book, Pruitt does us a wonderful service in bringing to our attention nine common lies that we are quite naturally quick to speak, and unfortunately, quick to believe. Some of the lies he confronts in his book include, “God gained another angel,” “Well, _____ will never change,” or “Follow your heart.” I don’t know about you, but I hear statements like these all of the time. But rather than do the work that Pruitt has already done for us in his book and disprove these statements, I want to take a moment to consider with you why it’s so important for us to speak the truth to one another and to be careful to believe the truth.
James teaches us that our tongue is like the rudder of a large ship, able to guide it wherever the pilot directs. “So also, the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.” James goes on to say, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5) Our words sure carry a lot of power. I think you’d agree with me that they carry power not simply in their truthfulness, or in our belief in their truthfulness, but simply because they leave the mouths of a speaker and reach the ears of a listener.
Words carry power, whether they are true or not.
Think of your wonderful high school experience. Do you ever remember somebody carelessly throwing these words at someone they disliked: You’re ugly. Well, the whole student body might disagree with that statement, the whole world might disagree with that statement, the person being told those words might disagree, even the person saying them might disagree, but the very fact that they are spoken will impact whoever hears them.
Words carry impressive power, and they are more powerful when they claim to speak the truth.
Consider another statement; You’re a good person. If the person saying these words convinces their hearer that they are “true,” and they come to believe that they’re a good person then what reason would they have to look upon the saving work of Jesus with any gratitude? I’m sure you know many, many people who believe this very thing about themselves and others. So, words that are claiming to be true, but are in fact not, can be terribly disastrous. Eternally so, in the example given.
I want to take one step further to say that though words are powerful, and words that claim to be true are more powerful, words that are actually true are the most powerful.
Consider some of Jesus’ own words: “[Father,] sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus teaches us that God chooses to sanctify His people by His Word. When we speak the truth of God’s Word to one another, God is often pleased to use these words to shape us into the image of His Son. “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Here, Jesus teaches us that to come to know the truth is to become free. When we believe something to be true that isn’t, we’re actually trapped by the lies that we cling to. Speaking the truth of God’s Word then to such people can bear freedom for them.
There’s no shortage of Scripture that teaches us the significance of the truth and the power that God puts behind it. I hope you can see quite plainly in these few examples that we have the opportunity to be used significantly by God when we simply choose to speak what is true to one another.
When someone you know is in need of comfort or encouragement, or you want to call them away from their sin, then I urge you to think through what you choose to say to them. We can do a lot of harm when we start saying things with good intentions that end up being false. But we can be an agent of God’s profound blessing when we speak the truth, and especially when we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Episode 188: The Lies We Believe with Shane Pruitt aired on August 19, 2019.