Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Truth in Religion

Solomon was right: there is nothing new under the sun. Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430), demonstrated the absurdity of the idea that truth cannot be found, an idea held by many in his day. This idea still persists, and the absurdity still stands. Truth calls man into account, and the attempt to deny truth is an attempt to reject accountability. If there is no truth, then one may do as he pleases, regardless of the implications on others. If there is no truth, then there remains nothing with which to charge a criminal. “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” (Winston Churchill)

Nevertheless, man cannot tolerate ruptured relationships, so he must charge an offender with something—truth is more than probable. Those who concede that truth exists find themselves recipients of an invitation to reason with the author of truth. The options are few, so consider: the one who will not reason is intolerant and the one who will not reason does not want freedom. The nature of the discussion is the relationship between God and man is broken, and God is at work at repairing the breach with the offender.

Isaiah 1:10-20 is God speaking to hyper-religious people who were far from living in the context of truth. They sacrifice, give offerings, are regular attendees, burn incense, deeply devoted, fellowship often, and are fervent in prayer. God says their offerings are worthless and mean nothing to Him; they are a burden to Him; He cannot look at them and turns a deaf ear. Why? Because in all their effort, there is no truth. Even these people God calls evil, unclean. What they do is not good, there is no justice but ruthlessness (ferociousness) in their actions. Religiously, they were perfect, but there is no relationship with God. There is no abiding in truth.

Americans today are unable to identify the religious system followed by the President. What is more concerning is that Americans today are unable to be identified either! God’s perspective says that religiously, we are professionals; relationally, we are compromised. There needs to be a cleansing from sin, not mere forgiveness while sin continues unabated. Has anyone ever asked, “what is the ‘truth’ of my religion?” Christians are mostly those in name only, and this is blasphemy. Western Christians are practical atheists, living like truth is subjective, looking out for personal interests.

God offers a solution that leads to freedom: “come now, let us reason together” (v. 18). This is followed by two “if” statements: “if you consent and obey,” (v. 19) and “if you refuse and rebel” (v. 20a). These options are sealed with a promise, “truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (v. 20b). What are the terms of “if” #1? Simple: reason with God; that is, He is going to show you something (your heart) and what needs to be done about it. He says, “your sins are as scarlet . . . red like crimson (v. 18). God wants white, not red. God is presented with so much religiosity that He wants nothing to do with us because of sin. Agree with God how He sees the heart and by faith trust that He will both cleanse and forgive. “If you consent and obey” means you are willing to accept His invitation and think this through. Receive a blessing by doing something about that which offends God.

What are the terms of “if” #2? Well, it is just as simple: God is going to show you the same thing (your heart) and what needs to be done about it. If you will not agree with how God sees your heart and you are unwilling to accept His invitation to reason with Him, “if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” There is a payoff for keeping your little paper bag of sin and not exchanging it for what lies behind Door #1—you get death because there is no life in godlessness.

The one who will walk with God must have life that aligns profession and practice by faith in Christ Jesus—He is Way, Truth and Life. Is this something I can merely “improve” by trying harder? Read through Isaiah 1:10-20 again. God says we get to quit trying when we are reconciled to Him by His way.

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