Lots of people are worried about things like the current accounts deficit or deficit spending. Such things are rather concerning indeed and do rightly occupy our attention. However there is another type of deficit which should concern all of us; certainly God’s people.
I refer to the truth deficit which is plaguing the contemporary Western world. All around us truth is under attack. It is being denied, belittled, questioned and rejected. But sadly this war on truth is not just found in the world. The church is also guilty of spurning truth and running roughshod over it.
More and more we see clear truths of Scripture being rejected by activist church leaders who are more intent on pleasing men and pushing radical agendas than they are in faithfully serving the Lord. Lies and deception seem to characterise much of the church, with truth given scant attention.
The Bible has quite a lot to say about truth. Since I am currently reading in Jeremiah, I am noticing how often truth gets talked about there. One remarkable passage which is worth focusing on in some detail appears in the opening verses of chapter five:
“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,
look around and consider,
search through her squares.
If you can find but one person
who deals honestly and seeks the truth,
I will forgive this city.
Although they say, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’
still they are swearing falsely.”
LORD, do not your eyes look for truth?
You struck them, but they felt no pain;
you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
and refused to repent.
Yahweh is obviously very concerned about the issue of truth, even if so many of God’s people and their leaders were not then, and are not today. Back then there was real difficulty finding just one person committed to truth and righteousness.
The story of course recalls a similar situation in Sodom and Gomorrah where Yahweh asks if just ten righteous people can be found (Genesis 18-19). Sometimes situations become so bad that barely a remnant can be found. But that is always the case sadly. The masses will never go with God.
But the real tragedy here is that the leaders who should have known better were also at fault. This is made quite clear in the final verse in the chapter, v. 31:
The prophets prophesy lies,
the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end?
The people love living a lie, and the leaders do too. It is a reprehensible situation, which can only call down God’s wrath. Instead of true leaders fearlessly proclaiming truth, we have false prophets pushing pleasing words and pleasant lies.
J.A. Thompson comments, “The true prophet had no regard for vested interests or long-cherished privileges. His task was to declare the mind of Yahweh. Lesser prophets could give oracles which supported the status quo.” And the priests were just as bad:
“They gave support to the popular element in contemporary religious life which was happy to pay lip-service to Yahweh and support the reforms at a surface level, but were unwilling to enter into the deep commitment of life which should have characterized the covenant people. It was against this superficial understanding of true religion that Jeremiah strove.”
And we find exactly the same thing happening today. Just recently I wrote about a group of rebellious and renegade church leaders who have sold their own souls to fully promote the homosexual agenda, even to the point of stridently endorsing same-sex marriage.
So deceived have some church leaders become that they think they are somehow doing God a favour by promoting what he clearly calls sin, and railing against his purposes for human sexuality. In this they are just like these false shepherds of old, and they have a lot to answer for.
When prophets and priests (or church leaders) are corrupt, and God’s people love it that way, then you know we really are in steep decline, with God’s just judgment rightly deserved. The lack of truth and righteousness is the death knell of any people.
We are now seeing this played out in many parts of the church. We desperately need a Jeremiah today who will give a clear word from God on this scandalous situation. Too many leaders are deliberately departing from the clear teachings of Scripture, and too many believers seem to mind this not at all. What a dangerous place to be in.
Let me finish with a few quotes from a recent book on this topic. In 2007 John MacArthur’s The Truth War appeared (Thomas Nelson). In it the California pastor emphasised the importance Scripture gives to truth, and how both the world and the church are abandoning and playing down truth.
He reminds us of how the emerging church movement is dismissive of truth, certainty and doctrine. It delights instead in uncertainty, doubt, and ambiguity. “But that is not authentic Christianity” says MacArthur. “Not knowing what you believe (especially on a matter as essential to Christianity as the gospel) is by definition a kind of unbelief. Refusing to acknowledge and defend the revealed truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief. Advocating ambiguity, exalting uncertainty, or otherwise deliberately clouding the truth is a sinful way of nurturing unbelief.
“Every true Christian should know and love the truth. Scripture says one of the key characteristics of ‘those who perish’ (people who are damned by their unbelief) is that ‘they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The clear implication is that a genuine love for the truth is built into saving faith. It is therefore one of the distinguishing qualities of every true believer. In Jesus’ words, they have known the truth, and the truth has set them free (John 8:32).”
Sadly however, much “of the visible church nowadays seems to think Christians are supposed to be at play rather than at war. The idea of actually fighting for doctrinal truth is the furthest thing from most churchgoers’ thoughts.” So we live in a time “when many so-called Christians have no taste for conflict and contention.”
Of course we are not to go looking for trouble, or be unnecessarily belligerent. “Controversy and conflict in the church are never to be relished or engaged in without sufficient cause. But in every generation, the battle for the truth has proved ultimately unavoidable, because the enemies of truth are relentless. Truth is always under assault. And it is actually a sin not to fight when vital truths are under attack.”
Quite so. Now is not the time to be sheepish about truth. Of all ages, truth is now especially needed. And if God’s people will not stand up and proclaim truth – even painful truth – then where will it come from? At the end of the day it is far better to be hurt with the truth than be comforted with a lie.
God today is still looking for that one person who “deals honestly and seeks the truth”. But will he find such people?