Grace For The Journey
How many times have you heard someone say, “You can’t handle the truth?” By saying that, they mean that you are either ignoring the truth or not open to dealing with the truth. In John 3:19-21, Jesus states, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” In John 8:34, Jesus says, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.” In John 18:37, Jesus declares, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
In these statements Jesus says something very similar
But for very different reasons.
He tells His would-be followers, “You cannot hear My word.” Or, in other words, “You can’t handle the truth!” These would-be disciples cannot bear His word, which is true, because they belong to a different father and another world (John 8:23, 44).
No matter how much truth He may speak,
They simply will not understand.
Because truth and untruth
Cannot be harmonized
Brought into agreement.
They are on two different planes of existence. If something is true, say 2+2=4, then it cannot be untrue. Something is either one or the other; there is no in-between.
And so, when Jesus speaks, the men hear truth but cannot understand it. To them, the truth is a lie for which Jesus must die because the truth is too terrible to bear. They can do no less because they belong to the father of lies and to the realm of untruth.
Thus, in order to understand truth,
One must first be in the truth.
So how can one be persuaded
To the truth if it is unbearable?
Various research has dealt with this knowledge paradox. One such study outlines what is now called the Kruger-Dunning Effect (Kruger, Justin; Dunning, David (1999), Article in “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Unskilled And Unaware Of It: How Difficulties In Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead To Inflated Self-Assessments.”) Basically, it states that the knowledge necessary to produce correct judgment is the same knowledge necessary to recognize correct judgment. If one happens to be incompetent in a certain field for lack of knowledge – like English grammar, for example – it is that same lack of knowledge that impedes one from realizing he is incompetent in English grammar. So if your grammar is bad, you won’t know it, because you are bad at grammar!
In other words, you need to know what you don’t know in order to know if you are right.
What an insurmountable situation!
Philosophers and scientists have dealt with this question of discovering that which is unknown for millennia. How is it possible to seek what we are unaware of? How can we recognize what we don’t know?
One Christian philosopher, Kierkegaard, probably comes closest to finding a solution to this problem. He argues that “mankind, who is in a perpetual state of untruth due to past actions, is in need of an other-worldly Teacher, who ultimately becomes a Savior, who can give us truth and the condition to understand it.” Without this Teacher-Savior, we are lost in perpetual untruth.
Clearly, Jesus is the only Teacher-Savior who can do this. In His earthly ministry, we see Jesus continually speaking truth, but its reception is varied. Many are curious but confused. Some interpret it to serve their own personal agendas. Others flat out reject it (like those in John 8). And one even wonders, “What is truth?” (John 18:28).
A few sense a shimmer of the truth, but it is not until after the cross and outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the disciples finally receive the condition to understand. People can hear, see and even parrot the truth all day without ever understanding it. As Kierkegaard argued and Jesus taught, it is not until individuals receive the condition to understand the truth that they can bear it. Without being given the condition to understand, we remain on the dark plane of untruth. There are many examples where the disciples’ minds and eyes were opened so they could recognize truth. Some examples include illumination to recognize: (1) the identify of Jesus (Luke 24:31; Acts 9:18); (2) to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45); and, (3) to turn from Satan to God (Acts 26:18). The opposite is also true, where eyes or minds were “darkened” so they could not understand (Romans 11:8-10).
What can we make of all this? First, do not underestimate the power of the Gospel. Remember that we all, on some level, have preferred the darkness (John 3:19-21) because it allowed us to live and work by our own code of honor. Yet someone challenged our untruth and planted the seed of truth in us. And one day, by the grace of God, that tiny seed of truth burst forth in power and overcame our untruth! Remember, the Gospel overpowers all untruth (Romans 1:16).
Second, proclaim boldly the Gospel in the fields of untruth. The culture in Jesus’ day reviled the truth, and many in our postmodern culture can’t handle it either. Still, our mission remains, and we must bravely follow in our Teacher’s wake. We belong to God and speak His truth, not our own ideas. We represent Christ and His Kingdom, not our personal relativism or agenda. Let us, then, as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, boldly proclaim the unbearable truth with love, compassion and courage (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Lastly, do not fear the mission. Fear is one of the reasons Christians refrain from proclaiming truth. We get apprehensive about being called narrow-minded or a fanatic; when are put on the defensive and challenged to “prove” something to those who cannot understand it.
It truly is a hopeless cause
Because the Gospel cannot
Be explained, only announced.
We do not need to make excuses for the truth to those who cannot grasp it yet. The Gospel may appear weak because, at the present time, it is an offer of grace that can be rejected. But again, do not confuse gentleness and grace with weakness; the Gospel is the power of God and the only way anyone has to escape untruth.
No matter how hopeless
It may feel
To preach the truth
In our world of untruth,
In the end,
Truth will prevail.
This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”