We are living through a cultural moment defined by this question, yet our culture asks it not in an effort to truly discover it, but to wash its hands of it altogether. The world’s prevailing idea around truth sounds like this:
“There is no absolute truth”.
Truth is whatever we define it to be for ourselves. We throw up our hands at the question, taking the effortless road by not pursuing the necessary answer. We echo the vary spirit of Pilate when he interviews Jesus. His reaction to Jesus’ message was to ask, “What is truth?” And then to wash his hands of the responsibility to determine it. Just as he made no effort to find truth, but instead turned to the crowds for whatever they might say about it, so the world does today. The result of this apathy to truth is the crucifixion of it.
A man’s unwillingness to pursue and recognize truth leads to the ruthless rejection of it, the result of which is chaos and division. Both Rome and Israel were presented with “ the way, the Truth, and the life” in the form of Jesus and both rejected it. It is no coincidence that one destroyed the other only 40 years later. Jesus speaks to this reality when he says
“Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” - Matthew 7:13
We see this manifest today in the simple statements “Follow your heart”, “Speak your truth”, “the heart wants what it wants” etc… following your heart is easy.
It takes no self control.
It suggests that the center of reality is the individual person and whatever is good for them (as long as it doesn’t interfere too much with someone else’s “good”) is the ultimate good. There is no submission, no sacrifice… not at first anyway. When humans go about choosing our own good and evil, when we pursue whatever it is we desire, we quickly become slaves to ourselves.
We recognize this in those who suffer from drug addiction or those who relentlessly murder, but we fail to see how our lives parallel those more glaring examples. We are appalled by someone who enjoys killing and we seek justice against them (rightly so). We make no defense for them when they are only “following the heart”. In doing so, we acknowledge that there is some higher truth than the individual heart, but we fail to submit to that truth because we see ourselves as “good people”… but so do many murderers.
If we can, in one instance, agree that someone’s heart is wrong, then we must also say that no one’s heart is right.
We cannot live in a world where the primary virtue is to follow your heart and at the same time say certain hearts are wrong. There must be a truth that is higher than us which defines what is correct and incorrect. Otherwise, not only do we become slaves to ourselves, we become slaves to each other.
If truth is relative, the strongest among us will rule over us and so will their truth.
Look no further than modern-day China or Nazi Germany. In an unwillingness to submit to the Truth, we are forced to submit to a false truth of the most powerful among us. In reference to the ideas of C.S. Lewis in his book The Abolition of Man,
“Giving the power of truth to man does not give equality to all, it simply gives power to some men over other men, making them not a man at all." - C.S. Lewis
Following this cycle to its conclusion, Lewis would argue, leads to the abolition of man altogether… So again, the question is asked, What is truth?
The author and pastor John Mark Comer quotes the best definition of truth as:
“Reality, or that which corresponds to reality”.
Truth is what is real. He goes on to say, reality is what we run into when we are wrong. Jesus says that He “is the Way, The Truth and The Life”. He is the reality in which we live. Rejection of Him and His teachings is rejection of reality and of how the world works. Rejection of Him results in us living a lie. Failing to put in the effort to know Him does not make Him any less real. One can refuse the reality of air as a necessity to live, but if one chooses to live without it, they won’t live at all.
Shifting our focus away from what is true is the essence of the original lie man accepted in the Garden. God told Adam and Eve that they could eat from every tree in the Garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If they did, they would die. When the serpent says to Eve
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” - Satan
The Bible says that Eve’s desire to eat came after she saw that it was good and desirable. She followed her heart and Adam did too. Because of their decision, the heart of humanity is now disordered; we are bent towards making that decision again and again. As this choice led to the death for Adam and Eve, so it leads to death for the rest of us. Yet Truth, even when assailed by death, cannot be overcome by it. Just as the sun setting doesn’t mean it will never rise again, so Truth, even when crucified, is still Truth. Jesus proves Himself to be the Truth when He sprang forth from death just as the sun dawns in the morning. Reality cannot be undone by fallacy. Lies never prevail over Truth.
Just as a lie led to death, so does Truth lead to Life. It is hard to let go of our natural desires in submission to a greater Truth. Despite this, Jesus tells us that for those who lay down their life to Him will find it… in Him. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God tells us
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” - Ezekiel 36:26
We will never desire the right things apart from God, but with Him, we CAN begin to follow our hearts as they conform to His will.
In the Psalms, it is said,
“Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” - Psalm 37:4
To “want” and to “long for” aren’t inherently bad, but we all want and long for the wrong things. God offers to make our hearts right if we would only turn to Him. The life He extends to us is altogether better than the one onto which we desperately grasp. The Lord said long ago to his people:
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” - Jeremiah 6:16
While those who heard this message rejected it, we are challenged with the same exhortation. There are many paths in this world but only one worth taking, only one that leads to life.
Will you take this ancient road or will you go the way of the effortless road?
Questions for further discussion:
How has your belief about what’s true been challenged by God’s Word?
Describe what your life would look like if you simply obeyed every impulse of your heart.
What action or belief is the Lord challenging you to let go of that you are currently justifying?