About 40 years ago, I was at a camp in the mountains. Alone in a room, I prayed, “God, if there is a God, I’m open. If you’re real, I want to know you’re real. And, Jesus Christ, if you can change my life, if there is a purpose for my life, I want to know it.”
You know what happened? Nothing. I didn’t get goose bumps. I didn’t cry. No bright lights shown down. Nothing.
But that was the turning point in my life – because I was no longer biasing myself against God. I wanted to know the truth, even if it was inconvenient.
As we teach our congregations, we need to help them understand that Truth can be discovered once we develop an attitude of openness that says, “I want to learn God’s Truth more than anything else.”
Once they understand this, we can explain that God uses these five ways to show us what is true. You can take these points and adapt them for use in your congregation —
- Through creation — We learn a lot about God and a lot about truth just by looking at nature. This is why science is so important. It helps us understand God and His universe. The Bible says in Romans 1:19: “The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is.”
By knowing there are 60,000 varieties of beetles, I learn God likes variety. By seeing a volcano, a tidal wave, or an earthquake, I know God is powerful. From the delicately balanced ecosystem, I realize God is organized.
- Through conscience — Some things are hard wired in us by God; we know they are always right or always wrong, no matter what anybody else says. Our conscience tells us this. The Bible says this in Romans 2: “Some people naturally obey God’s commands even though they don’t have the law. This proves that the conscious is like a law written in the human heart…”
Say we take a random sample of one million people from around the planet and put them on a corner in New York City. We say: “Here’s a 92-year-old blind lady with a walker. She needs to cross the street. Tell me which of these three options is morally right. One, you can let her try to cross on her own. Two, you can help her cross the street. Three, you can push her into oncoming traffic.”
You don’t have to be a Christian or Jew or Muslim or even a spiritual person; inside you know the right thing to do.
- Through consideration — Truth is knowable. You can test it. You can experiment with it. You can prove it.
If I want to go to San Francisco and I follow a map that takes me to San Francisco, and the next week I follow the same map to San Francisco again, eventually I figure out this map is true. For 40-plus years, I’ve been following this map called the Bible. I have found it to be true. It always takes me where it says it’s going to take me. I don’t always like it there. But it always takes me to where it says it’s going to take me.
Often people say, “Why won’t God just write it in the sky?” Why would God do that? He gave you a brain. But most people never slow down long enough for consideration. Most people just drift through life. The Bible tells us over and over “Ponder the path of your feet.” Spend some time in consideration, in observation. Ask yourself: “Am I on a true path?”
- Through God’s commandments — 2 Timothy 3:16 says: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what’s true and make us realize what’s wrong in our lives. It straightens us out. It teaches us to do what’s right.”
If I discover truth from the Bible, how do I know the Bible is true? Does objective evidence show me the Bible is true? There’s a world of objective evidence, both external and internal, that says that this book is true.
External evidence proves the Bible is a historical book that you can rely on. There are 5,366 copies of the Bible dating from the time it was written to just 70 years afterwards. That fact dispels the urban legend that the Bible was changed as it passed through generations and languages.
External evidence also includes many archeological discoveries. For example, historians used to say that Solomon couldn’t have had the horses the Bible says he had because no one had horses at that time. But then thousands of horse stables were found in a dig.
There’s also the internal evidence of the Bible itself. In a court of law, a prosecutor with two or three eyewitness accounts has a good chance of making his case. The Bible is filled with eyewitness accounts. Moses was there when the Red Sea split. Joshua was there to watch Jericho fall. The disciples saw the resurrected Jesus.
The internal evidence of the Bible also includes the fact that it tells one story with consistency – though it was written over 1,500 years on three different continents by 40 different authors from every walk of life. No human being could account for that. It’s an amazing example of the power of God.
- Through Christ — The Bible says that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Truth is not a principle. Truth is a person. Truth is relational. Truth is Jesus Christ.
One of the clearest and the most well know verses in the Bible is “Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Notice he says, “I.” Not a religion. Not a ritual. Not rules and regulations. I. Truth is a person.
This is what separates Jesus Christ from every other leader of every other faith. Other leaders have said, “I’m looking for the truth” or “I’m teaching the truth” or “I point to the truth” or “I’m a prophet of truth.” Jesus comes and says, “I am the truth.”
A lot of people say, “I think Jesus was just a great teacher.” He couldn’t be. No great teacher would claim to be God if he wasn’t. Either Jesus is conning 2.3 billion people who totally believe a lie, or he was nuts, or he is who he said he was.
Everybody’s betting their life on something. I’m betting my life that Jesus is who he said he was.
What do I do with the truth once I’ve discovered it? Four things:
- Believe it.
- Do it. Truth is not just an intellectual exercise; it’s something you obey.
- Stand for it. The Bible tells us our responsibility is to never oppose the truth but to stand for it at all times.
- Spread it.
The Bible says, “Let everything you do reflect your love of the truth and the fact that you were in dead earnest about it.” (Titus 2:7, The Living Bible) There’s a lot in the Bible that I don’t understand and that makes me uncomfortable. But the fact is, it is the truth. It is a map that always takes me where it promises.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.