The world is starved for truth and is living on lies. We must respond:
Many Christians are wondering how we are to proceed as the days get darker, as evil accelerates, and as lies and deception abound. There would be many responses to this, but let me offer one: we must speak truth, we must speak it boldly, and we must speak it regardless of how it is received.
The proclamation of truth in the face of evil and lies is our chief weapon. The truth of God is what we must use to tear down strongholds. It is how we are to take on the surrounding darkness. And that has always been how God has operated.
What God told Ezekiel long ago in Ez. 2:7 is relevant for us in dealing with the surrounding culture today – and even much of the church: “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen.” The fuller word of God to Ezekiel is found in Ez. 2:3-8:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people.
Like so many of the other prophets, God told Ezekiel that the people would not listen to the prophetic word. ‘So why even bother?’ some folks might ask. The answer is this: if God calls us to do something, we are to do it, regardless of the outcome.
Whether we have been involved in the culture wars for decades on end, with no one seeming to listen or take any heed, or whether we are on the mission field with little or no fruit in evidence, we keep speaking truth. Our job is to proclaim the truth, and we leave the rest up to God.
Ian Duguid comments on this portion of Scripture, and he also speaks to this reality, in light of the missionary task of the church. He is worth quoting at length:
Were those pioneer missionaries who died within days or weeks of arriving on the mission field wasting their lives, because they saw no one converted? Are those who today labor for many years in the difficult areas of the Middle East or Japan, while seeing only a handful of converts, operating in the wrong place? If the primary goal of missions is to see the world converted, then the answer to both questions is yes. But if the primary goal of missions is the same as the goal set before Ezekiel – faithfulness to the task to which one has been called, no matter what the consequences, so that God may be glorified – then the answer is different. In biblical perspective, reaching the world is only the secondary goal of missions, behind the primary goal of bringing glory to God through faithful obedience.
We are, after all, followers of the Son of Man, who came to his own and his own did not receive him (John 1:11). Yet to all those who did receive him, and to all those who will receive him through our proclamation, he gives the right to become children of God (1:12). In this obedient mission, he brings glory to the Father’s name (12:27-29).
In order to carry through such a ministry where there is little success in the eyes of the world, a strong sense of calling is essential. Why should we preach the gospel to those who stubbornly refuse to hear? Because God has called and sent us, and he has the right as our Sovereign King to use us as he sees fit. He is not only the One who calls us to the task and strengthens us for it; ultimately he alone is the One whom we are seeking to please. Thus, in Isaiah 49, when the Servant of the Lord struggled with the idea, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing,” his reply to himself was, “Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God” (49:4). The Puritan William Greenhill comments:
“Sometimes God gives large encouragement, promises, hope, success, providing for our infirmities; at other times a bare commission and command must suffice to do that which would make one’s heart ache: it is his prerogative to send whom he will, and upon what service he will.”
We can be thankful that Scripture gives us examples of these brave prophets who kept speaking truth despite all those who would not listen. And as mentioned, often God told the prophets ahead of time that their message would not be received. It takes real commitment and dedication to speak truth when you know ahead of time that it will be rejected.
And it is not just their message that was rejected – the prophets themselves were rejected. Think of the experiences of Jeremiah for example. He was hated on by the people and thrown into prison, into a miry pit, and so on. When you risk your life to proclaim truth, that is a great example of bold faith.
Jesus of course had some very strong words to say about those who rejected the prophets and their words. For example, we read this in Matthew 23:29-37:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
This is the way it is. Dare to speak the truth of God, and you will be hated on, rejected, and persecuted. And as I said, it is not just those in the world who will respond this way – many in our churches will react in the same manner. Truth always hurts those who live in lies. They will accuse us of hate speech, when in reality it is speech they hate.
But given how truth is in such short supply nowadays, all the more reason to proclaim it. This was also the case when the prophets ministered. As we find in Isaiah 59:14-1: “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.”
Jeremiah said much the same. For example, in Jer. 7:28 we find these words: “Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips’.”
As we seek to speak truth to a truth-starved culture where politicians, the media, the tech giants, etc., have all seemed to conspire against the truth, we need a few things to persevere. We need a strong faith in God and a good grasp of his Word. And we need his heart as well.
What angers God should anger us. What breaks the heart of God should break our hearts. I very much like how John Stott put it in his classic 1992 volume, The Contemporary Christian: “I long to see more Christian anger towards evil in the world, and more Christian compassion for its victims.”
And I always must turn to the words of the great Alexander Solzhenitsyn. As he stated in his Nobel Prize in Literature lecture in 1970: “Proverbs about truth are well-loved in Russian. They give steady and sometimes striking expression to the not inconsiderable harsh national experience: ONE WORD OF TRUTH SHALL OUTWEIGH THE WHOLE WORLD.”
Let us go on and share words of truth. The world is desperate for such truth, whether they know it or not – and whether they initially receive it or not. Being enslaved to lies, the truth is exactly what they need. As Jesus put in John 8:32: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”