How Do You Know?
Do you know right from wrong? Or truth from error? Are you sure what you think is right is right? Is what you think wrong actually wrong?
Is every thing up for debate every day? Are there no fixed points? Are some actions moral whilst others are immoral? These are important questions. They arise every day.
Confusion would reign if no one told the truth. You could never trust your neighbour. And each one would do what we think right in our own eyes.
There was a time – not long ago – when sex before marriage was taboo. So was adultery. And so was divorce. We could add to the list. Public opinion has shifted. The so-called tolerant generation of today is seen to be more understanding, more enlightened, and more correct than those of earlier days.
All is made more complicated because you are seen as being a bigot if you do not treat others as having acceptable beliefs and practices. Here is the problem. How can two contradictory ideas both be right?
We come back to our first question. Can we know for certain the difference between right and wrong, truth and error, moral and immoral? The answer is a resounding, Yes, we can.
Here are three facts.
First, public opinion changes. What one generation accepts another may reject. In an earlier age the death penalty was deemed right for those who commit murder. At the same time, except when a mother’s life was in danger, abortion was outlawed.
Who is right? Those today who reject capital punishment and agree with abortion, or those who argue for the death penalty and disagree with abortion? Can we know?
Secondly, we are reluctant to go against what others do. It is easier to conform – much easier.
Thirdly, we live at a time when we are told no one is to be excluded. No one must to be left out. No one is to be told they are wrong. This is not new. Opinions shift; going with the flow seems so natural; and to be inclusive is to be seen as loving.
There are two ways to live. You either reject God or you seek to live by his Word.
To live by God’s Word means you:
(1) believe God exists,
(2) accept that God has spoken; and
(3) know that God has given to us a record of what he has said.
A Christian confidently affirms all three. On what grounds? He has one solid and unassailable foundation for his claims – Jesus Christ.
Jesus taught that he came from God. To the Jews he said: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God… I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (John 8.42).
Jesus taught that God was in him. He said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14.6). He asked, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” and went on to say “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14.10).
Jesus taught that his words were God’s words. “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14.24).
Jesus taught that he would return to be with God. He said, “I came from the Father and have come into the world.” And then he added, “and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16.28).
Jesus taught that he had authority from God. He said that he was given authority to lay down his life and to take it up again on the third day (John 10.18).
Jesus taught, after he was risen from the dead, that he would ascend to heaven. “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20.17).
Jesus promised that he would not leave his people without help. He said that he would not leave them as orphans. Instead he said that he would send the Spirit of truth to be with them (John 14.18 and 15.26).
Clearly, Jesus was different from any other person who has ever lived. To put him as a mere equal alongside all other religious leaders is to make a profound mistake. Only he was perfect. Only he lived the perfect life we can never live. And he did, so that we might know his perfection reckoned as ours the moment we believe on him.
There are vital truths about Christ and God’s Word that you should not miss. I shall present them by asking questions.
What did he believe about the books that make up the Old Testament – the first part of the Bible? He believed them to be God’s Word written. Hence, though he was aware that men like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Jonah were prophets, he also believed that the words they uttered were messages from God. In other words, God used those men to convey God’s truth to God’s people and the peoples of the world. Because God always speaks the truth his word is true. It cannot be broken. It will never prove false or lead anyone into error. It is the revealed will of God for mankind. It has been preserved for you and all people. It stands as the rule by which all our thoughts, words and actions are to be judged. That is what Jesus taught.
What is true of the first part of the Bible is also true of the second, the New testament. Like the prophets, the apostles were used by God to convey his truth. The Spirit of Truth taught them and empowered them to preach and write God’s truth.
The sixty-six books of the Bible are the definitive word that God has given to you. God’s purpose is that his written Word, the Bible, shall be the rule by which all thoughts, words, and actions are to be judged. It is the one and only final rule in all matters of faith and conduct, belief and behaviour, that God has given to mankind.
That is the starting point. Knowing what the Bible is and why it is given is vital. To be confused at that point leads to uncertainty and confusion. You also need to know what the Bible says.
Prayerful Bible reading is essential. Its message must be heard and understood. You need to listen to its message both at home and with Christians. That is one reason why you should meet with Christians each week. At their meetings the Bible is read and taught. Why? So that you may know God and his will.
It takes time to get to know the different books of the Bible. It takes time to understand each part of it. As you grow in knowing God and his word you will see that you build on a solid foundation. You will discover what is right or wrong, what is true or false, what is moral or immoral. And you will see why.
You will learn not to lean on the changing views of people. You will learn not to follow your own ways. You will see that only the Bible can be, and is to be for all people, the final and only rule in all matters of belief and behaviour.
EPC 22 May 2016