Friday, April 11, 2008

The purpose of knowing truth

An episode of CSI involved a great deal of evidence sifting. As the characters in the show examined everything from ashes to bits of broken glass, my husband remarked, “What a lot of tedious work.”

I responded, “Not for someone who loves research, who loves collecting information. For that person, this is fascinating work.”

I’m the information-gatherer in our family. If anyone wants to know something, often I’m the search engine they turn to, even though they could easily find it themselves. Occasionally I show them how to do just that, but because I like looking up answers and solving problems, I can spend a lot of time gathering all the facts about a topic of interest to someone else.

My sleuthing tendencies make Bible study a delight, but I realize not everyone enjoys it as much as I do. God created us with differing interests, skill and strengths. A few short verses in 1 Thessalonians capture my attention in this regard.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (5:19-22).

Compliant people have less trouble heeding the Holy Spirit than do those adventurous, I’ll do it my way kinds of people. This command about not quenching the Spirit needs to be there.

So does the next one. Those who hunger for truth from God’s Word will listen to anyone who prophecies (this means “forth-telling” so can refer to preaching). Such people will give attention to every preacher, even be tolerant of those less-talented, because they have an insatiable appetite for spiritually significant declarations.

This is me. I cannot imagine anyone despising a prophecy, or not listening to the sermon on Sunday. God might speak! Who would want to miss that?

But some do. Some stumble over the noise of the children in the seats behind them, or some ineptness in the preacher, or they had a spat with their spouse on the way to the service and fume throughout. Whatever the reason, they miss whatever words God may have put in their pastor’s mouth.

However, those of us who listen to every word have a different problem to deal with. These verses say to “test all things” which of course refers to the forth-telling in the previous verse. We are to pay close attention, but not buy all we hear. We are to test it and make sure it is good, not evil.

That might seem like a no-brainer, but a brief reflection on history shows that many people have been led astray by false teaching and “forth-telling” that is not biblical. A twist of Scripture by a winsome, charismatic leader has led far too many people down the wrong path, some to total destruction.

God gave me this huge inquisitive and curious mind, but along with it, He also gave me a huge love for truth and a reluctance to believe everything I hear. I’m always listening to make sure it matches what I know from the Bible, and if it does not ring true, I will check the Scriptures for myself.

Last week our worship team introduced a new song. A line in it said something about “Jesus taking our sin to be His own.” I winched. The man sitting in front of me, also an information-gatherer and with the same desire to check things out if they don’t sound right, winched at exactly the same time.

After the service, we talked. I’d looked up 2 Corinthians 5:21. It says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us. . . .” The words in italics are not in the original Greek, so it actually says, “He made Him who knew no sin, sin for us. . . .”

Together we tested this declaration from the song and agreed that it was not evil, and not worth making a fuss about. Besides, the intent of both verses is that we cling to the good, cling to the truth. The truth is that Jesus did not sin, but God put my sin on Him. Then Jesus bore it and the wrath of God on it—so I could be forgiven and set free from the penalty for my sin.

In this case, testing those words was good, but making a fuss over the words of a song would not be good.

As I think about my appetite for truth and the warning to test what I find, I’m glad that the ultimate goal is not that I know a whole lot of stuff, or that I am an expert on my collection of information. Instead, God wants me to discern good from evil so I can apply it in the way that I live. God doesn’t care if I know everything; He cares that I simply obey what I do know, remembering that all I have comes from Him.

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