Godly Men Seek the Right Side of Truth

path4_origJohn 18:36-37 – Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” [37] “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

An Audacious Claim

Truth is a very big deal in the Gospel of John. Jesus, in a good number of verses, begins his teachings with phrases like, “I tell you the truth.” In John 14:6, Jesus claims not only to speak the truth, but to actually be truth itself. In our text above Jesus says he came into the world to testify to the truth. Furthermore, he says, if you are on the side of truth you will listen to him.

It’s an incredibly bold move to say you are truth itself and your purpose for coming into the world is to testify to the truth. In fact, it’s downright arrogant, unless your claim is true. And that’s where the rub is. If it is true that Jesus is the truth, (and that he came to testify to the truth), then it would be prudent to listen to what he has to say. In fact, it would be an imperative.

Just A Good Teacher?

The thrust of our text reminds us, rather loudly, Jesus was not simply an interesting teacher. He claimed to be much more. People who say Jesus was just a good teacher are actually revealing at least two things about themselves.

The first thing is there is a high probability they have never read the gospels for themselves. If they had, they could say they do not believe the things Jesus taught, but it would be intellectually dishonest to say his self-referential claims were not audacious. The “good teacher” response is evidence a person has not likely read what this “good teacher” taught.

The second revelation is they do not want to submit to Jesus’ Lordship nor trust in him as their Savior. Autonomous man still wants to be God. Even postmodern man, with his many “relative truths” – however contradictory they may all be – does not desire the One who claims to be the Truth (capital “T”). The sinful inclination of their hearts suppresses the truth they know (Romans 1:18).

Who Are You Listening To?

The words of verse 37 are powerful: Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

You don’t have to be an expert in logic to understand the implications here. If you don’t listen to Jesus, then you are not on the side of truth. And if Jesus is the truth and his purpose in coming was to bear witness to the truth, then what Jesus says about every sphere of life matters. It matters a lot.

Of course, “listens to me” means much more than simply hearing what Jesus has to say. It implies “responding in obedience” to him as well. Submission is key here. Jesus is not suggesting he would be happy if you went to Starbucks, sat down with your favorite cup of coffee, and merely listened to someone tell you about Jesus. The person, work, and words of Jesus Christ demand a response. For centuries people recognized this and chose to either submit to him or reject him. But today some folk opt for patting him on the head and then moving on, ignoring him. But as the wise philosopher-theologian Geddy Lee, from the rock group Rush, sang, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”

Jesus will not be ignored, at least not with impunity. He will not be placed on the backburner of your life, only to be thought about at funerals and on Christmas mornings. He is the truth. He testifies to the truth. In fact, as Jesus put it in verse 37, he is a King.

Does all of that really describe a person you can blow off if you want to, without consequence?

The Right Side of Jesus

It’s popular today to talk about being on the right side of history. Jesus wants us to be on the right side of truth. And to be on the right side of truth is to be on the right side of Jesus. Therefore, let me encourage you to pick up your Bible today and begin listening to Jesus. Start with the Gospel of John. Then move to Matthew, Mark and Luke… then read John again. After that, you should start listening to Jesus as he speaks through his appointed apostles and prophets. God’s ordinary and significant means by which he has ordained his Son to be encountered and heard is through his Word – the Bible. So pick it up and side with him today.


Walking Points

• Reading and studying the Bible on your own is profitable. However, when you talk about it with others who are also reading Scripture, it can be a real blessing. Ask a couple of friends if they’ll start reading the Gospel of John with you so your group can discuss it together.
• Move through John’s Gospel one chapter at a time, recording in a journal the significant teachings of Jesus. Ask yourself why each teaching you highlighted stands out to you. What implication would that teaching have in your life if you started believing it was true and obeying it? What are the implications for not believing and obeying it?
• Give special attention to the claims Jesus makes about himself and the implications those claims have on your life.
• Lastly, what miraculous works in John’s Gospel capture your attention? Why? What do they tell you about Jesus?


Prayer

God of truth, I give you praise that you have not left me to grope in the dark, seeking your path on my own. I am grateful that you have provided me with the Way and Truth, indeed, Life itself. And so forgive me Father when I seek to go my own way or when your truth scares me. I confess that I have sometimes been so fearful of obeying the truth you have so clearly given me that I have chosen to ignore it at best and rebel against it at worst. Both are sin and I ask you to please forgive me. Instead, gracious Lord, fill me with your Spirit, the Spirit of truth, and enable me to not only want to follow your truth, wherever it leads me, but to also be able to do so. I pray my faithfulness to your truth will lead others to give you praise in heaven and make a difference for the sake of your Kingdom here and now. In the name of the one who was and is the Truth, I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Lord, help me to faithfully participate in the life of my congregation and for the sake of my community…
 By my prayers
 By my presence
 By my gifts
 By my service
 By my witness
• Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• For those who serve in government, at the national, state, and local levels
• For those who serve in law-enforcement
• For those who serve in fire and rescue
• For those who serve in our nation’s military
• Other needs

 

The Old, Old Story

church2Below is an excerpt from my book, Foundations for Godly Manhood.

Dr. Craddock

One of the highlights of attending seminary in Atlanta was sitting under the teaching of Dr. Fred Craddock. Dr. Craddock was a gifted and world-renowned preacher and preaching instructor. It was a privilege and blessing to take a preaching class taught by him.

One of the things Dr. Craddock taught us, something that’s always stayed with me, came from a story he told us. He shared with our class a snippet of a conversation he had with one of his former students who had graduated and was serving a little rural church.

The former student told Dr. Craddock he was going to wake that little country church up. He was going to bring them into the present. He was going to be new and fresh. As an example of this, he wasn’t going to preach the same old tired stuff during Christmas, stuff they all knew. He was going to hit them with something new.

Dr. Craddock lovingly, and I’m sure, convincingly, shared with this eager new preacher that what those people needed, what we all need, especially during the seasons of Advent and Lent, is the old, old story of what God has done in Christ.

The Old, Old Story

It’s not that a preacher shouldn’t seek to know the needs of the congregation and connect with them in their context. The preacher should not seek to be irrelevant. However, the truth is, a clear and honest telling of the old, old story is the most relevant subject there is. Many hymns remind us the “old, old story” is the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here’s how the hymn, “Victory in Jesus,” communicates the old, old story,

I heard an old, old story,
how a Savior came from glory,
how he gave his life on Calvary
to save a wretch like me;

I heard about his groaning,
of his precious blood’s atoning,
then I repented of my sins
and won the victory.

O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!
he sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood;
he loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him;
he plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

That’s the old, old story.

When we think about the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the Good News of what God has done in and through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ, we usually go back 2,000 years. But the story is older than that. In one sense, it goes all the way back into eternity, into the mind of God who’s always existed.

Godly Men Have Changed

The World Around You

A few years ago the men in our church’s men’s ministry studied the words of the Apostle Paul to his young son in the faith, Titus. In chapter three of the letter that bears his name, Titus was instructed to encourage the people entrusted to his care to not be like the world around them – foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating (Titus 3:3). He then reminded them of something very important with these words: At one time they too were… just like that.

Paul told Titus that because of God’s love, the redeeming work of Christ, and the renewing and washing work of the Holy Spirit, the Christians in Crete were no longer like the world around them.

Have You Changed?

That fact, very naturally, brought up a painful question in our group discussion: What if we still are like that? What if we’re still like the world around us? One possible answer to the question was even more painful: No change in your life may mean you aren’t in Christ, you haven’t been redeemed, washed, and renewed.

We’re all at different places in our relationship with Christ. And, of course, we all walk at different paces with him. Thus, we won’t all look alike. Yet, if we can’t look back at our lives a year ago, two years ago, or five years ago and see some sort of growth, some level of maturation in faith, love, godliness, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, then we may well need to ask the question: Am I truly in Christ? Of course, only God knows the heart and this isn’t about others judging you. But it is about each man doing an honest assessment of himself.

There’s no getting around the fact that true faith in Christ will result in a changed life. We can’t possibly remain the same.

Facing the Music

About eight months after I graduated from college I went back to visit a few friends who were still there. I also returned to share with them the news that God had called me into ordained ministry and I would be heading off to seminary soon. I was very excited. I was also a bit nervous. Why was I nervous? Well, I had not always lived a godly life while in college. I knew it and I knew my friends and fraternity brothers knew it.

What happened? Well, my closest friends thought my news was great and wished me well. Others laughed me out of the room. I absolutely deserved it.

Glory to God

I give glory to God, and God alone, that 28 years later I can point to real change in my life. And, as the old saying goes, while I’m not where I pray I will one day be in my faith, by God’s grace I’m not where I once was. I don’t know if I was the chief of sinners way back then, but I certainly was competing for the title. That fact makes the following words from Paul all the more precious to me.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15b-16)

If God could work in Paul’s life, as well as my own, then he can work in any person’s life. I praise God for the truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives.

Where Are You?

So where are you now compared to where you once were? Do too many of the descriptions in the New Testament of the unbelieving world still describe you? Are you moving on to maturity with Christ, training yourself for godliness day by day? The progressive nature of growing in Christlikeness means it will never end on this side of heaven. But faithfulness to Christ does require we get started. We start with rebirth. We continue by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of God’s grace and Spirit. Are you moving forward? Have you started yet?


Walking Points

Can you think of a Christian you know whose life is different than when you first knew them? What about them has changed? How about your own life? Can you identify areas in your life that are markedly different than when you first came to know Christ? What are those areas? Did they change all at once or was it a slow process? How did you know you needed to change? How did the process take place (i.e., what did the change look like)? Name two or three areas that are still “works in progress.” What are you actively doing to become more like Christ in those areas? Discuss these issues with two or three brothers in Christ and actively pray for one another.


Prayer

Gracious God, you are the Lord of our lives. I confess that all too often I resist obeying and following you and resist the change you desire. I am grateful for your patience with me and for the wonderful news of your Gospel. Move me, by the power of your Spirit, to pursue you for all I am worth, for surely in that pursuit I will also find myself becoming more like you. Help me to find Christian brothers who also seek to walk with you and help us to build up and pray for one another. Enable me to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, encourage other men to do the same, and bring glory to your name. In Christ I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

·         Give me greater knowledge, depth of insight, and understanding of God’s Word.
·         Remind me daily of who I am in Christ. Let me be defined by who God says I am, not the world around me.
·         Guide me into greater understanding and faithfulness of God’s call in my life.
·         This week’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
·         Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

·         My family
·         My pastor(s), church staff, and missionaries
·         Those struggling with anger, anxiety, or the overwhelming desire to please people at all costs
·         Other needs