Unless a person comes to the knowledge of the truth by God’s sovereign grace, he will be forever lost in his unbelief (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25). So it was with an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. As Luther focused on Romans 1:17, God caused a divine ray of grace to fall upon the troubled monk. Suddenly, the righteousness of God was revealed to Luther—bringing him from darkness to light.
The battle cry of the Reformation was post tenebras lux, meaning “after darkness, light.” The entire movement of the Reformation was filled with light and heat. The possession of God’s knowledge among God’s people should result in a proper passion to serve God. Knowledge and zeal are closely connected. Martin Luther and the Reformers understood the balance of doctrine and duty.
Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, writes, “So we also labor by the Word of God that we may set at liberty those that are entangled, and bring them to the pure doctrine of faith, and hold them there.”
A PROPER LOVE OF GOD
Five hundred years ago, the Roman Catholic Church suppressed the promulgation of God’s Word. They demanded that everyone come and listen to lectures of the Bible in Latin, as they refused to allow the Word of God to be printed in the common man’s language.
God raised up the Reformers to bring the Bible out of the shadows. God raised up these faithful men who courageously labored to give us God’s Word in our language. Certainly, it must be recognized that the Reformation was a return to the Scriptures. The biblical words, sentences, and phrases matter because knowledge matters. God’s people love the Bible because of their love for God—not merely because of their love of knowledge.
Jesus, in quoting the Shema (Deut. 6:4–5), said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). God wants all of us—including our minds.
A proper pursuit of God involves knowing and worshiping God with the intellect. To focus on one’s heart, soul, and strength but to bypass the mind would be a tragic mistake. James Montgomery Boice once said:
We live in mindless times, days in which millions of people are drifting along through life, manipulated by the mass media, particularly television, and hardly know it. Few give thought for their eternal souls, and most, even Christians, are unaware of any way of thinking or living other than that of the secular culture that surrounds them.
ZEAL FOR GOD
Have you ever known someone who wasted his life? How many Christians waste their knowledge? Perhaps out of timidity and fear of man, they hide their light under a basket. Consider the fact that many people join the right churches, read the right books, and attend the right conferences—but seem to lack zeal.
If you travel to Geneva and walk into St. Pierre Cathedral where John Calvin proclaimed his rich expositions, you will find the passionate motto post tenebras lux looming in the backdrop of the pulpit. This battle cry is likewise etched into the Reformation Wall on the grounds of the University of Geneva. Calvin was passionate in his pursuit of truth. He was the towering theologian of the Reformation.
However, from Calvin’s passionate preaching arose an army of zealous-hearted missionaries and preachers of God’s Word. Not only was Calvin himself zealous to serve God, but he trained many others who were filled with holy zeal. Edward Panosian writes:
From that city [Geneva], hundreds of missionaries, evangelists, and pastors traveled to all corners of the continent preaching the gospel. Their efforts, sometimes sealed with a martyr’s blood but always crowned with success, thrilled Calvin.
John Calvin’s ministry was fueled by a high view of God, and this transcendent knowledge produced a proper zeal to serve God. In a sermon on Isaiah 12:5, Calvin said:
[Isaiah] shows that it is our duty to proclaim the goodness of God to every nation. While we exhort and encourage others, we must not at the same time sit down in indolence, but it is proper that we set an example before others; for nothing can be more absurd than to see lazy and slothful men who are exciting other men to praise God.
In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul urges his hearers on to spiritual maturity and says, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29). The word translated “struggling” conveys the idea of strenuous effort. Paul was struggling or wrestling with all of his spiritual strength for the glory of God.
If you love to gain knowledge about God, but you lack a proper zeal to serve God, you must examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. We must remember the warning of James—faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Even demons are capable of possessing knowledge (v. 19). The torchlight of the gospel and the ongoing protest of the Reformation demand both knowledge and zeal for the glory of God (Rom. 12:11). Knowledge without zeal is no real knowledge at all.
*This article was originally written for and published by Tabletalk Magazine.
It was Daniel Webster who once remarked, “There is nothing so powerful as truth—and often nothing so strange.” We live in a culture of lies. The devil is the father of all lies and this world is filled with a web of lies. When it comes to life in general, people expect to be told lies. We anticipate it at the car dealership, in the world of sales, and certainly in the world of politics.
In 1988, Gary Hart was the man to beat in the presidential campaign. He was smart, charismatic, and he possessed a political savvy that enabled him to answer key questions with clarity. However, a story was told that he was committing adultery on his wife and it spread like wildfire. Gary Hart insisted that it was a lie. He even said the following, “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.” Sure enough, the media did follow him around and soon enough they found him with his mistress on a boat named, “Monkey Business.” Gary Hart was mixed up in a web of lies. Those lies ruined his chance to be president and left deep scars on his personal life.
In Jesus’ sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:33-37), we find him spotlighting the loopholes of the Jews who would swear by all sorts of things other than God himself in order to provide an opportunity to break their oath. They had arranged a system of deceit filled with loopholes in order to avoid breaking Leviticus 19:12 which reads, “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” So, they would swear by heaven because that sounded spiritual. They would swear by the earth because that sounded big. They would swear by Jerusalem because that sounded official. They would even swear by their own head, because that sounded sacred. It was all a scheme and Jesus knew it. So, he confronted that in his sermon and said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matt. 5:37).
One clearest marks of a Christian is that he or she is marked by truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). The Scriptures reveal that Jesus is the truth and that the devil is the father of all lies (John 8:58). In a more sobering warning, Jesus stated the following, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). The fact is, when we see a list of vile sinners such as whoremongers, sorcerers, adulterers, and murderers—we likewise see liars included in that list of people who will not be welcomed into heaven and who will be sent to hell (Rev. 21:8).
Tell the truth. Be marked by truth. The only way this is possible is to have a life that is transformed by Jesus Christ. When you are born again, you have a new heart with new motives and suddenly your loophole deceitful schemes violate your heart in a way that they never did before. Not only will you go to hell as a liar, but a life filled with lies will likely turn into a living hell on earth as well. Ruined marriages, broken relationships, failed jobs, and a name that is worthless in the community because you’re known to be a liar. Submit to Jesus, walk in the light, and tell the truth for the glory of God.
J.C. Ryle once said, “Think about how much falsehood and deceit there is in the world! How much exaggeration! How many untruths are added to a simple story! How many things are left out, if it does not serve the speaker’s interest to tell them! How few there are around us of whom we can say, that we trust their word without question!”
In life, there is always at least two different paths to choose from. Typically one is much easier than the other, and in the Christian life, that certainly is the case. Why do you think John Bunyan pictured Christian as one who was always put in a position to take the easier path rather than the more difficult or the more dangerous route? He was basing his story on the journey of faith as depicted in the pages of God’s Word. Sin breeds laziness and it’s the lazy route that capitulates and embraces error.
Today, I want to provide you with four key reasons why you should fight for truth.
Christians are People of Truth
As children of God, we are called out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9). This calling to live in the light involves living in the truth and loving the truth. As the Psalmist continually repeats in Psalm 119, “I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law” (Ps. 119:163). In Jude 3, we are called to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” If God’s Word is true, we should love the pure doctrines of Scripture and have a desire to be people who are marked by them.
Do you love the truth of God’s Word or do you find yourself drawn to error? The anti-God culture continues to grow, and they are asking for people to “come out” and embrace the ideas of atheism. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, writes. “I am quite keen on the politics of persuading people of the virtues of atheism.”  He goes on to write, “I think we’re in the same position as the gay movement was a few decades ago. There was a need then for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people have had courage.” 
Truth Is Safer than Error
Does it require more courage to call God a liar or to call out the lies of culture? It doesn’t matter if you find yourself struggling through the study of of the doctrine of election or if you’re an unbeliever who is trying to make sense of the claims of deity by Jesus—make no mistake about it—truth matters. Regarding the unbeliever who is trying to discern the truth claims of Scripture, the deity of Christ, and the exclusive hope of the gospel—your soul depends on truth. Truth sets a person free from the bondage of sin and leads a person to the hope of salvation in Christ alone (John 14:6). Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
As Christians, sometimes the road that’s easier is one that requires little reading, little meditation, little theological study, little memorization, and little prayer. It’s always easier to just take the popular opinion, but what if the popular opinion is wrong? When it comes to eschatology, boasting about being a “pan-millennialist” should not be viewed as a badge of honor. When it comes to the doctrine of election, claiming that God loves the whole world and without distinction while avoiding a serious study of Ephesians 1-2 and Romans 9 will not result in a healthy understanding of salvation. Avoid the lazy-minded approach to Christianity which undervalues the study of truth.
Theological error, even in the slightest form is not a safe position to hold. The moment that someone capitulates in theology and embraces error in one area the easier it will be to embrace it in other areas. Truth will cost you time and it may cost you friends—but always remember that truth is safer than error. Be mindful that truth is not always a safe place in this world, but it’s certainly the safest place to be in terms of eternity (Matt. 10:28).
Truth Is a Pride Killer
The study of doctrine is best understood as the study of God. To study theology at any level should be fueled by the pursuit of God. If truth is the desire of the heart, it will be a pride crusher. The person who is arrogant in his theology has not truly come to understand where the theology directs him. To the Calvinist who boasts in knowing the details of election, predestination, and the divine call of God—he has not truly immersed himself into the depths of that theology to the point that he views his own depravity and helpless estate. It’s only then that he can humbly call himself one of God’s elect.
- The truth of God kills the pride of atheism.
- The truth of grace kills the pride of antinomianism.
- The truth of the gospel kills the pride of legalism.
We study doctrine and learn theology not because we love words, sentences, and ideas—but because we love God. The study of truth humbles us. In order to learn truth, at some point we must be willing to embrace confrontation of truth in response to our error. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to admit that we’re wrong. Francis Schaeffer accurately writes, “Truth always carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.” 
Truth Demands Obedience
The Psalmist writes, “I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments” (Ps. 119:166). Those words should be for us the purest example of what it means to possess an understanding of truth. Once the Psalmist understood God’s law, it was joyful obedience that resulted. The same thing should take place in our lives. Those who know the truth should obey.
Remember it was Jesus who once said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Fight for truth because it will result in the purest of obedience in the end. It will also result in the most joyful testimony—for who can help but speak of what they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20; 1 Pet. 3:15)?
- Gary Wolf, “The Church of the Non-Believers,” Wired, November 1, 2006, accessed January 31st, 2018, https://www.wired.com/2006/11/atheism.
- Francis Schaeffer, A Christian View of the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994), 110.
This upcoming Sunday, I will be preaching from Mark 6 on the death of John the Baptist. As we consider how his head ended up on a platter, it provides an important commentary on the recent events with ISIS, the church shooting in Charleston, and the Supreme Court ruling regarding same-sex “marriage” in America. While it may be tempting at times to separate from modern society and go out into the wilderness and live off of locusts and wild honey, that’s not exactly what John the Baptist was doing. He wasn’t starting a compound to get away from the world, although he did dress strange and his diet did include large grasshoppers and local honey.
Christians must learn to live in a complicated world of sin. One of the first lessons that a Christian must learn is that we’re not home yet. Sadly, many professing Christians are too comfortable in our present world. Others are overly offended when depraved sinners behave like depraved sinners. As we stand upon the shoulders of many Christ followers from history, we can learn lessons about life as we consider how they navigated the complexities of sin in their day. John the Baptist provides us an interesting point of reference as we consider our present sexual revolution in America. What can we learn from John the Baptist about modern life in a confused culture?
In the aftermath of the terror attacks on America, September 11th, 2001, a religious service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. where many people and various faiths gathered to mourn the death of thousands of Americans. The Rev. Nathan Baxter prayed during the service, and as he finished his prayer, he said, “Respecting persons of all faiths and traditions, I humbly submit this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.” John the Baptist would not have cared about respecting other religions had he prayed on that day. In fact, it was duty to another religion that brought on the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
In our culture, American evangelicals often work overtime so as not to offend other religions. I’m certainly not suggesting that Christians should aim to be offensive or scandalous in tone, character, or speech. However, Christians must realize that the message of the cross is a scandal to the world and one that we cannot “dress up” or avoid. To mention the name of Jesus is offensive in our day, and to claim to be a follower of Jesus is to open yourself up for ridicule and attack. John the Baptist would stand firm and remain unashamed of Jesus Christ in the midst of a perverse culture. In fact, that’s what he did in the midst of his perverse Jesus hating culture too.
Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?
To preach the gospel is to preach truth, and to proclaim the truth is to shine light into the darkness. That’s not always a popular thing. To be clear, the message of the gospel is not centered upon monogamous heterosexuality. The message of the gospel is centered upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, Christians approach life through a gospel lens and when asked why it was necessary for Jesus to die on a bloody cross, all of the sudden human sexuality is a relevant issue.
Jesus died for sinners, and in His death He accomplished the salvation of a diverse group of sinners – including sexual sinners who would one day bow their knee to Christ as Lord. Jesus’ death was sacrificial; however, it wasn’t the end of the story. On the third day, Jesus was victoriously and miraculously resurrected from the dead. His resurrection validated His claims of deity, and thereby the right to address all sin – including sexual sin (divorce, adultery, homosexuality, etc).
Therefore, the gospel proclamation is not merely a proclamation of facts about Jesus. It goes beyond that into the dark abyss of sin and human depravity. That’s why John the Baptist wasn’t merely saying, “Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so, now come down here and get baptized, because Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” John the Baptist was proclaiming the truth, and the truth involved the facts about Herod’s incestuous and adulterous relationship with Herodias – his brother’s wife. Mark gives us the details in his gospel account:
For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her.  For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:17-18).
John MacArthur was right on target in his book, Hard to Believe, as he stated, “You can’t be faithful and popular, so take your pick.” John the Baptist was willing to be faithful to the truth and his popularity didn’t matter so much to him. The popularity of the truth was more important to the Baptizer. As truth proclaimers, we must have confidence in the Bible. We can allow those who oppose to throw their questions and criticisms toward the Bible. Those who oppose the Bible can’t harm it with their criticisms, doubts, and questions. As we see with John the Baptist, to stand on the truth often means to stand exposed and to stand alone.
Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?
Calling out Herod Antipas was not the politically correct thing to do in John the Baptist’s day. John the Baptist wasn’t willing to trade his pulpit for a political stump. He understood the risk, and he boldly proclaimed truth. Christians must be willing to take risks in order to proclaim the gospel. In fact, to spread the gospel in private or on a public stage is risky business. It could cost you your job, political advancement, friends, family, and perhaps your very life.
Let’s be honest, it’s a sad reality that the divorce culture of the world has been welcomed into the church. Could the divorce culture in the church be related to silence from the pulpit from pastors who were paralyzed by “fear of man” issues? What will the landscape of the church look like in the future? Will similar men refuse to speak out about the sexual sin of homosexuality and welcome it into the “church” because of “fear of man” issues?
Many people are willing to risk their reputation, but not their life. When clear lines are drawn in the sand of culture, Christians must be willing to stand with Christ rather than the popular crowd. John the Baptist proclaimed the truth even when he was opposed. He was warned to keep quiet, but he continued to thunder the truth about God and the sexual sin of Herod Antipas.
We need faithful and loving men who would be willing to walk in the footsteps of John the Baptist and call out the Supreme Court and the President Barack Obama on their open sinful sexual revolt they’ve been leading in America. Those who speak out must do so in love. Don’t misunderstand love and think that it’s weak, soft, or capitulating on principles. The fact is, love is bold and strong. John the Baptist told the truth and risked his life in love.
A risk-taking Christian is not a reckless Christian. John the Baptist wasn’t reckless. Bold proclamation of truth requires a certain amount of risk. J.C. Ryle said, “Duties are duties. Results are God’s.” The reason people were drawn to him was because of his calculated proclamation of truth. May our God raise up an army of faithful Christians who, in the spirit of John the Baptist, will tell the truth about sin and point to salvation in Jesus Christ. According to Proverbs 28:23, in the end, a person who rebukes a person in error rather than having a flattering tongue will gain favor. That was true of John the Baptist. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
Where is the spirit of John the Baptist today?
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Kevin DeYoung, in his article, “The God of Justice Hates False Reports” provides four helpful reasons to refrain from posting false reports. He writes, “Every blogger, every tweeter, every Christian in this digital age would do well to pray through the Heidelberg Catechism’s explanation of the ninth commandment.”
Jude wrote to the Church in his day saying, “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 3)” If there has ever been a time in history where that same warning was needed – it is today. The evangelical church seems to be shifting and sliding on the slippery ground of relativism and pragmatism as opposed to confronting error and false doctrine. The results are earth shaking and devastating! When people are allowed to come into the church and teach false doctrine in Sunday school classes or small group settings because of a lack of standards, ignorance among the leadership, or due to a desire to avoid controversy – people’s souls are led astray!
Recently Dr. Albert Mohler, current President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY led a ribbon cutting ceremony before witnesses and members of the press for the new building named “The Duke K. McCall Sesquicentennial Pavilion,” which will house the admissions and security offices at the Seminary. Along with other agenda items in connection with the 150th birthday of the “mother” Seminary of the SBC, President Mohler also wrote a letter that was placed inside a time capsule which is housed behind an encasement that will be opened in 2059 on the Seminary’s 200th birthday. The subject of Mohler’s letter was “truth.” Mohler said the following:
What I basically did was write in such a way that if this institution isn’t theologically where it needs to be whenever that thing is opened, they’re going to know it,” Mohler said. “It’s going to be the most embarrassing letter ever read if indeed this institution is not preserved in that way. That is our prayer — that it will be.
There is no room for compromise when it comes to the subject of truth. If a church buckles or bends in relation to the subject of truth, the results will be extremely destructive for generations to come. If the church endures many years – the generations affected will spill over into the community and it will breed a weak minded, surface level, theologically perverted, conviction-less people who have fancy buildings and programs but a people who do not know the Word of God. The result will be a group of people who are largely unconverted on the pews on the average Sunday morning.
Below are several reasons that seem to prevent local congregations from earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.
I. Weak Leadership
Weak pastoral leadership often prevents the church from knowing the truth and then rising up to preach it and protect it for generations to follow. Weak pastoral leadership is often the case as a result of constant turn-over in the pastoral positions in our local congregations. When pastors are only staying at the church for 1.5-2 years, the church is constantly taking on new leaders, new direction, new goals, and in most cases, the church never reaches any of them. Today the church needs a group of pastors who know their called to be a pastor and will commit to staying at a local church for 40 years. If that happens, the leadership in the church will be strong and able to see many of these goals realized for the glory of God.
II. The Numbers Game
The “church growth” mindset of many pastors and leadership teams pushes a set of models and plans that are built on a business scheme from the secular world as opposed to a God centered desire to see Him grow the church. This is often the case because of a desire to be viewed as “successful” in the eyes of the power players in the congregation or peers in the ministerial world. If fancy programs are the main foundation of the local church, the end result may lead to an increase in numbers, but the numbers may be full of unlearned, spiritually sick, and in some cases – spiritually dead members. Truth – a commitment to it – and a solid desire to teach it and defend it should be the foundation of the local church. At the core of this is Jesus Christ – who is the truth!
III. The “Evangelistic” Church
Many times we hear of churches who call themselves “evangelistic.” That sounds good from a distance, but often times the idea of an “evangelistic” church may be something that we should avoid! Some churches label themselves as “evangelistic” and by that they mean that each Sunday the main goal is going to be a message that preaches John 3:16 and then calls for people to respond to the Holy Spirit. That is not a truly evangelistic church – that is a spiritually shallow church. A church that expects all of the work of evangelism to be done on Sunday and refuse to go out and reach people with the gospel in the community is not an evangelistic church – it is a lazy church that does not know the truth. The church may know John 3:16, but under that model, it will not know the truth of God’s Word.
A truly evangelistic church views each service as a building opportunity to come together, fellowship, pray together, sing together, and grow in the truth of God’s Word as the assembly worships God. Yes, I am a firm believer that we should call for lost people to repent and turn to Jesus Christ, but if the church simply preaches an evangelistic message each week to the people – they will literally starve to death! Saved people are often referred to as sheep in the New Testament. Sheep need food. If they are only getting a message of how to be saved each week – they are not getting the full counsel of God’s Word – and thus they are starving sheep. A truly evangelistic church is one that comes together to worship – but then spills over into the community where they do the work of an evangelist each week with friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers who need to hear the gospel.
IV. The Lost Art of Discipleship
Where has the discipleship training time gone in the local church? Many pastors and church leaders have cut it out of the weekly schedule of events due to a lack of participation. Most churches are overworked, under staffed, and full of people who would rather watch American Idol than attend a discipleship training class to grow in the knowledge of God and the doctrines contained in His Word. Where there is a lack of desire for God’s Word – there is a lack of desire for God – and a shallow self-focused people. The church must guard against that type of thinking and practice if the church will continue to love God and His Word.
V. The Music Church
The church that spends more time singing than studying is a church that will be guided by an emotional “worship” as opposed to a Spirit-led worship. When we hear people in the church talk, we often hear them make statements like – “We are going to worship and then the preacher will preach.” That is a mindset that is previlent in our local congregations. According to many, “worship” is another term for singing and the rest of the service is consumed with taking up money, praying, and a man standing up to speak out of a book. The service of the local church should be centered around the Word of God. The entire service is a worship service, and all aspects should flow together in order that we are worshipping through prayer, Scripture reading, song, giving, and it should all build to a climax with the Word of God. If forced to through severe persecution and meeting in underground locations, the church can go without song, but it cannot go without the Word – or it will dry up and die. The Word must be central.
This article should not be viewed as a complete evaluation of the lack of truth in our church today. It should merely be viewed as an introductory overview of the major problem we are seeing in our local churches across the world. There seems to be a lack of truth, a lack of desire for truth, and a lack of desire to defend the truth. If our local churches are going to survive and thrive – they must get back to the basics and focus on truth, preach truth, grow on the truth, and ultimately – defend the truth – all for the glory of God! Paul told the Galatians, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)”
Pastor Josh Buice