My son and I were on the edge of the river bank on the St Croix. We decided to yell out the first thing that came to our minds. While my son yelled, “Go Vikings!” … I yelled “Dad’s awesome!” I suppose I could’ve yelled, “Jesus Saves” but apparently I was way to impressed with my hiking skills and leading my son to a breathtaking moment he will cherish for the rest of his life (he doesn’t even remember this memory…I asked him). My point: what you say (or scream on a river bank) literally impacts what’s around you. Literally.
Here’s what I mean…
Take for example an echo. An echo is made by a sound being bounced on a solid. Sound can be reflected and refracted (or bent) when it collides with something. You then hear the sound repeating itself, getting fainter and fainter and it repeats as it’s bouncing off other objects in its path. Those words my son and I spoke on the banks of the St Croix, left our lips and was heard by and hit. The sound waves that came from what we were saying (or screaming) have real results. What we say has an impact. Our words matter.
We release sounds. More importantly we release words. Words are used to communicate. Words can build people up or tear people down. Words can divide or they can unite. If you have been around the leadership spheres, you have heard this phrase:
Words create worlds.
What we say about ourselves, about others and our organizations create the culture that are living in and leading from. Your words create your conditions. Your vernacular creates your environment. As a communicator for a living, I have to listen to what I am saying so that I am creating a community that is lifegiving and not self-defeating. As a theologian, I have to be aware of my words and what I am sharing with others because inaccuracy in what I am saying should be corrected. We do have a responsibility to listen to what is being said and challenge what is being said around us. To be listening to phrases that culture grabs on to and won’t let go of.
In 2018, Oprah Winfrey received a lifetime achievement award in the 75th Golden Globe Awards. Many people look up to Oprah. She is a shining example of success and a very powerful woman. She is an icon for many women who hope to achieve greatness and become powerful themselves. When she speaks about what is a “powerful too”l in her toolbox, many are all ears. In her acceptance speech, she made these comments,
“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have…”
The most powerful tool we have is speaking … your truth. Don’t get me wrong, we love Oprah. After all, she is “America’s life coach.” But even Oprah can get it wrong. Let me be blunt…DID getting it wrong. The “echo” of Oprah’s words are reverberating through the culture: the most powerful tool you have is “my truth.”
Maybe you have already heard or seen those phrases in our culture: “That is my truth,” or “know your truth.” That phrase has been since repeated by many and is used to justify a lot of feelings, beliefs and ideas that aren’t helpful and in many instances are even more hurtful and harmful to others. As Christians, this phrase is one we cannot keep perpetuating. It seems to be one of those phrases that has caught on, one of those phrases that people use without even knowing why they are using it.
During a time in culture when being tolerant and understanding with others is expected, it feels uncomfortable to say “don’t speak your truth.’” It seems unacceptable to have me question this cultural phrase of “speak your truth to power.” After all, if this is my truth, shouldn’t I be able to speak “my truth?” I am writing this to say that this phrase that seems to make sense and that is very personal to say, believe and use is actually … NOT TRUTH.
This begs the question:
What is truth?
In the Bible, Pontius Pilate, asked the question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea from A.D. 26-36, serving under Emperor Tiberius. He is most known for his involvement in condemning Jesus to death on a cross. Pontius Pilate is not a fictitious character in the Bible. But is mentioned by Tacitus, Philo, and Josephus who were famous historians outside of the Bible. Not only that, the “Pilate Stone,” discovered in 1961 and dated c. A.D. 30, includes a description of Pontius Pilate and mentions him as “prefect” of Judea.
Pilate and Jesus come face to face with each other…and with the idea of truth in their modern world. The Gospel of John offers some more detail of this discussion, Jesus’ trial, including the conversation between Pilate and Jesus. Jesus acknowledges Himself not just as a king but who also claims to speak directly for the truth,
36Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
37Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
38“What is truth?” Pilate asked. John 18:38.
Pilate responded with the famous question, “What is truth?” Jesus confirmed it many times through out Scripture and most importantly with His famous words found in John 14:6,
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” -John 14:6
The Bible is the truth. Jesus always spoke the truth. And they both continually tell the truth about God, about man and about evil. As Christians, we are meant to communicate the truth of Jesus Christ to a hurting and broken world. And not just a world in chaos, but a world under the influence of a personal enemy that is constantly affecting us, hurting us and lying to us. If the opposite of truth is a lie, and Jesus is the source of truth, then it seems to make sense that there is a source of lies as well.
There is an enemy that stands in opposition to our souls. This enemy is named in the Scriptures as the devil. The devil is known for a lot of things and named a lot of things in the bible: the enemy (Matthew 13:39); satan (Revelation 12:9;20:2); Devil (Matthew 4:1, 5, 8, 11, 9:32); the accuser (Revelation 12:10); one name that speaks to this context that stands out the most is the name: “the father of lies” (John 8:44).
A quick study on the devil reveals to us that he was originally called Lucifer, a reference that occurs only in Isaiah 14:12. Lucifer can that means "morning star.” Lucifer, before receiving one of the many names listed above (e.g. devil), was one of several created spirit beings in a class of angels known as Cherubim (Ezekiel 28:14). His initial responsibility was to cover God’s thrown. When Lucifer rebelled against his Creator, God rejected him and cast him from heaven (Isaiah 12:12-15). An angel that was once, one of the most beautiful and honored in heaven becomes one of the most ugly and dishonored. Then God then makes man who is one of God’s premier creations and makes them to rule over everything:
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority— Psalm 8:4-6
Instead, giving man exactly what the devil wanted: power and authority
And this very enemy, and all of his legions of fallen angels (1/3 were cast out of heaven who joined Lucifer in this rebellion interpreted in Revelation 12:4) will do anything to bring as many of humankind with him.
Why am I expounding on this story specifically? Because Lucifer is named by God in the Bible as the father of lies. Because the greatest threat to the truth of Salvation and and our eternity with Jesus is the lies of the enemy. The first time that man had to make a choice between God’s truth and the devil’s lie, he believed a lie instead of the truth. When Adam and Eve rejected God’s truth and accepted the devil’s lie, that was the moment that all the troubles of the whole world began.
You have the same option.
When you are faced with a decision, to make a judgment call, to decide on a moral dilemma, you have the same ultimatum to discover: is this a truth or lie? Siding with truth will always confirm Jesus will and future for your life. Our sinful nature often sides with the devil’s lie instead of God’s truth, because we are sinners. We’d rather believe the devil’s lie than God’s truth. But Jesus wasn’t afraid to call Satan what he is: a liar and the father of lies. Jesus said,
“There is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Again, if the opposite of truth is a “lie” then it makes sense that if Jesus is the ultimate truthteller then the devil is the ultimate “lie carrier.” This begs the question: in a world of opinions, fake news and deception from both the natural and supernatural realm, what is truth?
Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He said, “I am … the truth.” Jesus did not say, “You shall know a truth” or “any truth” but “the truth.” He’s the embodiment of all truth. Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). If you don’t believe that and don’t accept Christ, the truth is that you will die in your sins and you’ll be lost. Jesus Christ claimed to be ultimate truth. In a world that is adopting the idea that we are free to believe, speak and live from “my truth”, are we open enough to believe differently and be willing to face the truth?
Three Ways to Life Less Emotional and More Truthful:
Decipher the Difference Between Truth and Opinion
Truth is a powerful concept. When you hold a belief as a truth it can be a source of strength, motivation, even comfort. But there is a difference between truth and opinion. Here are a few:
+ Truth refers to something that can be verified vs opinions refer to judgements or beliefs about something
+ Truth is shown with unbiased words vs opinions are expressed with bias words
+ Truth is objective reality vs opinion is a subjective statement
+ Truth is universal but opinion differs from person to person
While, there are multiple ways to express the truth, but there is still one truth. Declaring something as “my truth” gives the inaccurate and unhelpful perception that truth is changing, that truth is not a constant and inevitable reality we must respond to. It does not help people but hurts them as we are left without anything consistent or trustworthy on which to stand.
For example we build our whole mathematical system on the fact that 2 + 2 = 4. We may want it to be more, feel it should be more but it will never, ever equal 5. Just because I insist something is true for me or “my truth,” does not mean it is “the truth.” There have been plenty times in my life when I have believed something as true for me but it was not actually true. There was once a time when I was emphatic that Santa Claus was real. No matter how much I was sure this jolly, saint was sneaking into my house with presents, there came the reality when I was in 5thgrade (I was a late believer) that my parents finally told me the truth (even though I told the guys at my lunch table that they were lying to me. There was “no way” that my parents were actually Santa Clause. I mean sure my dad was overweight but to have the superpower of making animals fly and travel at 5, 083,000 mph to ensure presents delivered by morning was not just crazy…it was a dream come true. My parents are super heros. Awesome!
No matter how much I believed Santa was the one putting a few presents under the tree for my brother and I, it was always “my truth” it was never “the truth.”
Start desiring God’s truth instead of designing our own
The desire to hold to “my truth” is not a new desire. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we can insist it is our right to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We have the mental capacity as grown men and women to decide what is right and good and what is not. But by doing so, we place ourselves in the position of defining truth. We are not the creators of truth, and we should not act (or speak) as if we are. As Christians we believe that He is the true. And as Christians we must be consumed with Him and His truth and not our own.
Even hearing the world “half-truth” is an interesting word we have created in our culture. It’s a word that we have designed. A half truth is “a statement that is only partly true, especially one intended to deceive, evade blame, or the like; a statement that fails to divulge the whole truth.” A half of a truth is like watching 1/2 a movie and leaving in the middle. I think films are modern day parables. I think the movie theater is on many occasions the modern day “stained glass window” telling us stories about forgiveness, redemption and love (with of course some great CGI and amazing fight scene choreography). But what I hate is leaving a film in the middle. I have NEVER done it. Even it it’s a bad film. I can’t leave and walk out in the middle of it. I can’t. I have to know what happens. Because I don’t like the thought of imagining what could have happened to the character when all I had to do was stay another 35 minutes. What you think the ending should be.
What I love about being a Christian is that I don’t have the pressure or the confusion to build my life on “my truth.” This gives me freedom! I am free from the stress of trying to make my purpose. I am free from trying to figure out what happens after I die. I am free from constructing my own fragile reality when God has shown me what real life is like through the lens of Scripture. I am free from figuring out what my future could be with my own limited knowledge and understanding when all I have to do is surrender and trust a God who knows every day of life before I ever lived it (Psalm 139:16).
Stop Living According to How You Feel Because It’s Not Always Truthful
Facts and feelings are at odds on a regular basis. But feelings can’t be the driving force behind our decisions, our actions and our beliefs. Reshaping your life around your feelings will result in a fragile life that can switch direction on a dime (if it’s raining, if your computer crashes or if you stayed up too late on the weekend). Life was never meant to be built on the fragility of emotions. Because how you feel is not always how you are or who you are If my feelings line up to what the truth of my situation…then those moments are treasured. But we have to be mature enough to differentiate when my feelings aren’t in alignment. True life is meant to be lived by embracing the truth (even when it’s uncomfortable and doesn’t feel good), God’s truth helps us to understand the complex reality of the world we live in which is essential to functioning as a human.
Feelings come across so genuine. Feelings usually feel so authentic. Feelings are so strong and they get us so emotional. They are so vivid. They seem so tangible. They seem to validate who I am and what I am doing, which makes them easy to trust.
But they are also misleading.
There are days and seasons when you feel like you love your spouse and then there are days when you don’t feel it, because life happens. You have to clean the house, you have to go to work, you have to change a diaper, you have to pay bills, you have to get up early or you are running late, you are short-tempered, you haven’t seen each other in a few days … and the grind wears on you.
Ask me if I love my wife like I did on our wedding day when we are in the middle of a fight, the answer would be “not feeling it.” But ask me if she is the love of my life on our anniversary and I would say “YES!” before you can finish the question. But here’s the truth: we are legally married and have been for over 22 years. Even when I don’t feel like we are married, we are! The truth is I have a legal obligation to my wife, my kids, my whole family. I chose Heidi when I feel like it and I choose her during the times when I don’t. I will always choose her because the truth is: we are husband and wife till death do us part. I can’t let my feelings dictate my marriage, instead I let the truth of what a marriage covenant is remind me and compel me to live this truth every day. I can’t fall out of love with her because I never stumbled into it. The truth is, we chose each other to love each other the rest of our days. My emotions don’t disqualify my marriage when it’s tough, but my emotions do affirm my marriage when we are close.
The struggle for The New Young Christian is just because you I feel it’s right, it must be true.
That’s emotional living. Emotional living doesn’t tell the truth. Emotional living wants your emotions to speak first and then let truth back up what you’re feeling. Living by the truth of Jesus inspires you to rely on Scripture to confirm and affirm the truth of any and all situations. Emotional living leads you to believe that the only tangible and reliable evidence of truth is your tears, your joy, etc. Just because you I feel it strongly confirms this must be my reality. Living according to the truth means understanding that what you feel right now is not always what is actual.
Paul was a theologian in his day who cared deeply about sharing the truth of Jehovah. He held onto it so tightly and believed so much in preserving his “theological point of view” that Paul would say,
Believe in “my truth” or be killed. The choice is yours.
To be exact, Paul said in Acts 22:4
“I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison…”
Another case of being sincerely wrong.
Paul came face to face with Jesus and exchanged “my truth” for “the truth” that Jesus died and was resurrected. Paul became a carrier of that truth. That that truth became “my gospel” in the Scriptures:
If there is an argument to be made for having “my truth” then let it be found in being declared as “my Gospel.” 2 Timothy 2:8 the Paul calls the good news of Jesus “my gospel”:
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel” – 2 Timothy 2:8
He was personally impacted by the gospel. The Gospel or the “Good News” of Jesus Christ saving him from His sins, was carried deeply and held tightly by Paul to the end of his life. But unlike “my truth,” the phrase “my gospel” was not a phrase about Paul’s ability or his self-reliance. He was not declaring a path for himself. He was not differentiating himself from others as if there was one gospel for him and another for someone else (see Galatians 1). Contrastingly, Paul viewed himself as a fragile jar of clay holding the real treasure – the Good News of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:7). Which is how we must view ourselves – fragile and dependent on Jesus and “the truth” which is more liberating than the pressure to discover and declare “my truth.” Let’s silence the echo of the fake truths in our lives and shout from the top of our lungs the Good News of a good God who has a good future for us all. Because that’s the truth!
Anything you would add?