In this day of directional apps such as Waze and Google Maps, we have become accustomed to “alternate” routes and “recalculating.” To use an app that helps you avoid traffic snarls is indeed a blessing. But we are now full speed ahead in a world that has no shame or embarrassment, nor offers any apology for its alternative facts and truths.
We are forced by court decrees to accept same-sex marriage as an alternative. Economically powerful interest groups punish us for not accepting gender-alternative bathrooms. Media news is so polluted that fake news and real news are hardly distinguishable. Each serves ideological biases. Politicians from every political party, camp, and spectrum intentionally quote one another out of context, and they intentionally slice and paste political commercials designed to do everything but tell the truth. Even Christians find it difficult to discern between truth, fiction and lies as the seemingly limitless stream of propaganda flood our social media. In January, Ed Stetzer, who will be speaking at the IPHC General Conference in July, warned evangelical Christians about our lack of discernment in this matter. Our lack of discernment reflects negatively on the efficacy of our witness for Christ.
Our common social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter feed our insatiable hunger for juicy “news.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked something and found out the story was either false or taken out of context. Stetzer is correct. We need to be careful what we post on social media or quote in our sermons.
Does it sound like I’m pretty fed up with this stuff? Yes. I. Am. Sometimes I feel like the Psalmist: “All men are liars.” But then I remember the psalmist prefaced his threatening cynicism with this remark: “I said in my haste” (Psalm 116:11, NKJV). When I get over my temporary “haste,” I remember that alternative facts and truths have been with us a long time. Who does not remember the episode involving Jesus and Rome’s governor, Pilate.
Jesus said to the representative of the greatest Empire of the time: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” And we all remember Pilate’s reply: “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). But the problem goes farther back than 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. It goes back to the origins of humankind in a garden. There the Tempter began with the statement that reflects the origin of all our human agony: “Has God indeed said … ?” with which the Tempter followed with an alternative “truth.” This lie led to our lost condition (see Genesis 3:1,4,5). I mention all of this because it relates to the reality of the kingdom of God. It is well known in IPHC circles that we are focusing this year on our fourth core value: “We Prayerfully Value Christ’s Kingdom.” The phrases kingdom of God,
There the Tempter began with the statement that reflects the origin of all our human agony: “Has God indeed said … ?” with which the Tempter followed with an alternative “truth.” This lie led to our lost condition (see Genesis 3:1,4,5). I mention all of this because it relates to the reality of the kingdom of God. It is well known in IPHC circles that we are focusing this year on our fourth core value: “We Prayerfully Value Christ’s Kingdom.” The phrases kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, and Christ’s kingdom are synonyms of the same reality. That reality began in the Garden of Eden where the kingdom of God was first demonstrated on this planet. It was the place where God’s reign was acknowledged, affirmed and actively obeyed by Adam and Eve.
The goodness of God and the truth of God were at stake in the temptation. But Satan convinced our first parents that God is not really good; that God’s Torah (Law) is oppressive and against “our nature;” that truth does not reside in God’s Word but in an alternative word.
Our first parents rejected the blessings and life promised in the kingdom of God. They chose instead an alternative promise they did not comprehend. They were blinded by deception and did not recognize that the kingdom of God had a gate through which one would leave this blessed place of God’s presence (Genesis 3:23, 24). They had chosen an alternative truth, and as painful as their experience was, there was no way for them to re-enter that particular place.
The good news is that God does not “recalculate” truth. There was never a “plan B” of redemption. “In these crazy times in which we live, let us recommit ourselves to God’s truth, God’s love and God’s mercy.” Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was from the foundation of the world the “slain Lamb” of God (Revelation 13:8). The gospel message that we preach, share and live out is an invitation to the lost to “recalculate” the way they are going. We preach because no one can enter the kingdom of God unless one is “born again;” that is, born from the truth that is above the deceitful “alternative truth” of our world (St. John 3:3,5,7). That same gospel message comes to us as followers of Jesus and calls us to “recalculate” how we faithfully obey Jesus in our generation. It is through such “recalculation” of our directions, our motives and our purposes that we again discover how to live in the grace, presence, and power of the Holy Spirit as citizens of Christ’s kingdom even while we live in the kingdom of this world.
In these crazy times in which we live, let us recommit ourselves to God’s truth, God’s love and God’s mercy. Let us walk as citizens of God’s kingdom amidst the nations and kingdoms where we live and serve.
This article was published in the February 2017 issue of Encourage.