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CBN.com On an old Street Talk television shoot in New York City, I posed the question to people on the street, "What is truth?", and, "How does one know if something is true?" I also asked, "How does one find the truth?"
For me personally, none of these questions are solely philosophical. Raised in Scotland, our family came to America when my father's work as a minister brought him to this country. Although I was only a nine-year-old boy at the time, the United States was a culture shock to me in every way. Suffice it to say, I had to adapt to a new way of living. Activities such as going to the movies, listening to radio, watching TV or even going out on Sunday, other than for church, were forbidden. However, after moving to America, what was once taboo was now allowed. The inconsistencies provoked a struggle in my life that carried through my teen years into my twenties. I consider those times my "prodigal period"-a time of reckless extravagance that almost killed me. Eventually, I experienced a personal reformation that changed my life and set me on the course I am pursuing now.
In many ways, I reflected my contemporaries, that group known as the baby boomers born between 1946 to 1964. Within this group, lay an inherent dissatisfaction with the status quo that resulted in much of the upheaval of the sixties. There was a massive defection away from things institutional. For many, those heady years turned into disillusionment as they pursued a counterfeit kingdom that never quite materialized. Yet even today, within the heart of this cohort lies an idealism that, like a sleeping lion, only needs it's tail pulled to wake up.
We are currently living in a time of change so momentous that practically each day, throughout the world, we hear of a government that has toppled to be replaced by another.
I believe this search for truth is what has happened in recent years in Eastern Europe, Russia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, South Africa and most recently Zaire. Watch China and Cuba as events there continue to unfold-and of course, the Middle East, most particularly Israel, which is a prophetic time clock for the world.
Often the new leadership will seize the reigns of rule without knowing exactly what form of government they will institute. Revolution is one thing, governing is quite another. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians are presently grappling with this reality.
Although the majority of the changes in these countries have been political and sociological, the transformation goes even deeper. It is also spiritual.
There is a principle that states: First the natural and then the spiritual. Commensurate with the shaking that we are seeing socially and politically, we, likewise, will continue to see similar changes in the spiritual dimension. From this, new forms are emerging. These are not the old systems with a new paint job, but rather are a clearing away of the rubble of outmoded tradition so that we can build on foundational truth. If we build on a faulty foundation, the whole building is in jeopardy.
In the United States, the baby boomers have deserted their churches, synagogues and other religious institutions that once reflected their respective tradition and religious expression. Of the 76 million American boomers, only 15 million go to church every week or more. Meanwhile, 44 million go to church less than once a month or not at all. Obviously, something is not working.
A number of years ago, I was invited to visit some of the underground churches in a number of the Eastern Bloc countries, at that time under communist rule. They were known as underground due to the fact that they were not sanctioned by the government and were, therefore, illegal. Many of the people involved with these churches were putting their lives on the line for their faith.
Inherent in the request for me to come, was the prerequisite that I not talk about American Christianity. That gave me food for thought. What did these people, who were living under such persecution for their faith, consider American Christianity? After subsequent research and conversation with those who worked with cross cultural people groups, the issue became clear. We had built a Christian church system around that which Christ meant to be primarily relational. Jesus and His disciples are the model. If we are to be honest, we have to make a distinction between tradition and truth.
The problem is not a new one. Many people have been caught in this trap of tradition in the pursuit of truth. Man-made traditions often militate against the truth we profess. Legitimate tradition is fine as long as it doesn't become primary. Tradition should serve truth, not vice versa.
In about A.D. 61 Paul the apostle wrote to the church in Colossae, a small town in the province of Asia, and warned them about religious legalism:
Don't let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men's traditions, thoughts and ideas. (Colossians 2.8 Living Bible)
It's interesting to note that one of the characteristics of religious people is a lack of joy. They take themselves so seriously and they feel they have a mandate to straighten the world out starting with you. I can relate. I was one of those self-appointed moral policemen and I was also a recipient of that kind of legalism. The fact is, it's impossible to live by those kinds of rules and regulations.
Paul continued with his fatherly counsel: "Don't let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink or for not celebrating religious holidays, feasts, ceremonies or sabbaths for these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. He has set you free from following the ideas of how to be saved, by doing good and obeying various rules. Such rules are human teachings. These rules may seem good, but they have no effect, they only make you proud. (Colossians 2.16-17 Twentieth Century New Testament)
Truth is supposed to set one free, not tie you up in knots in a futile attempt to fulfill rules, that often times, are imposed to control and manipulate. I am not saying we don't need guidelines, we do. There is a delicate balance. But one is a system of rules that is imposed from without by man; the other an inner law that is initiated from within by the Holy Spirit. The former results in an ecclesiastical hierarchy, the latter a spiritual family.
Jesus Christ said He would build His church, His way. He then went on to state that there are two basic commandments, or foundation stones, of that relational building: Love God, and love your neighbor. Jesus defined the practice of these truths in everyday life in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, 6 and 7. These principles tell us, among other things, how to live life in relation to our friends and enemies, and the poor and needy. They tell us, how to respond to the self-righteous and hypocrite, the sexually immoral and murderers. The people who practice these laws of truth are considered to be the merciful, the meek and the peacemakers. This is the true people church, the pillar and ground of the truth. They will not die in the wilderness but will ultimately inherit the earth. That isn't an American brand of Christianity, that is the Kingdom of God.
What about our initial question, "What is truth?", which was posed to Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate? Although the personification of truth was staring Pilate in the face, he didn't recognize it. Truth is a person, not a philosophy. Be assured if you desire truth, you may stumble and fall in it's pursuit, but Truth can be known and it will set you free!
Even from religion.
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