Teach Your Congregation 5 Ways to Recognize God’s Truth


Rick Warren

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 —

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?”

  1. 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.

  1. 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:

  1. Believe it.
  2. Do it. Truth is not just an intellectual exercise; it’s something you obey.
  3. Stand for it. The Bible tells us our responsibility is to never oppose the truth but to stand     for it at all times.
  4. 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.

Ministry: How Real Servants Think

Called to Serve

By Pastor Rick Warren
Saddleback Church


To be a servant you must think like a servant.

My servant Caleb thinks differently and follows me completely. (Numbers 14:24, NCV)

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. (Philippians 2:5, Msg)

Servanthood requires a mental shift, a change in your attitudes. God is always more interested in why we do something than in what we do. Attitudes count more than achievements. King Amaziah lost Gods favor because “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart.” Real servants serve God with a mindset of five attitudes:


Real Servants are Self-Forgetful

They focus on others, not themselves. This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. Paul said, Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. This is what it means to “lose your life”- forgetting yourself in service to others. When we stop focusing on our needs, we become aware of the needs around us.

Jesus “emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant.” When was the last time you emptied yourself for someone elses benefit? You cant be a servant if youre full of yourself. Its only when we forget ourselves that we do the things that deserve to be remembered.

Unfortunately, a lot of our service is often self-serving. We serve to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. That is manipulation, not ministry. All the time were really thinking about ourselves and how noble and wonderful we are. Some people try to use service as a bargaining tool with God: “I’ll do this for you God, if youll do something for me.” Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.

The quality of self-forgetfulness, like faithfulness, is extremely rare. Out of all the people Paul knew, Timothy was the only example he could point to. Thinking like a servant is difficult because it challenges the basic problem of my life: I am, by nature, selfish. I think most about me. That’s why humility is a daily struggle, a lesson I must relearn over and over. The opportunity to be a servant confronts me dozens of times a day where I’m given the choice to decide between meeting my needs or the needs of others. Self-denial is the core of servanthood.

We can measure our servants heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when youre taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as an inferior? The Message paraphrase of Matthew 5:41 says, If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.


Real Servants Think Like Stewards, Not Owners

They remember God owns it all. In the Bible, a steward was a servant entrusted to manage an estate. Joseph was this kind of servant as a prisoner in Egypt. First, Potiphar entrusted Joseph with his home. Then the jailer entrusted Joseph with his jail. Eventually Pharaoh entrusted the entire nation to him. Servanthood and stewardship go together since God expects us to be trustworthy in both. The Bible says the one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master. How are you handling the resources God has entrusted to you?

To become a real servant, you’re going to have to settle the issue of money in your life. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and Money.” He didn’t say, “You shouldn’t serve both,” but “You cannot.” It is impossible. Living for ministry and living for money are mutually exclusive goals. Which one will you choose? If you’re a servant of God you cant moonlight for yourself. All your time belongs to God. He insists on exclusive allegiance, not part-time faithfulness.

Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than anything else. They say, “After I achieve my financial goals, I’m going to serve God.” That is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity. When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave. Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for Gods glory is. Real servants are more concerned about ministry than money.

The Bible is very clear: God uses money to test your faithfulness as a servant. That’s why Jesus talked more about money than He did about either heaven or hell. He said, If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? How you manage your money affects how much God can bless your life.

I believe people usually fall into one of two categories: Kingdom Builders and Wealth Builders.

Both are gifted at making a business grow, making deals or sales, and making a profit.

Wealth Builders continue to amass wealth for themselves no matter how much they make.

Kingdom Builders change the rules of the game. They still try to make as much money as they can but they do it in order to give it away. They use the wealth to fund God’s church and its mission in the world.

At Saddleback Church, we have a group of CEOs and business owners who are trying to make as much as they can, so they can give as much as they can to further the kingdom of God. I encourage you to talk with your pastor and begin a Kingdom Builders group in your church.


Real Servants Think About Their Own Responsibilities, Not What Other Servants are Doing

They don’t compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. They’re too busy doing the work God has given them.

Competition between God’s servants is illogical for many reasons: we’re all on the same team, our goal is to make God look good, not ourselves, we’ve been given different assignments, and we’re all uniquely shaped. Paul said, We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

There’s no place for petty jealousy between servants. When you’re busy serving, you don’t have time to be critical. Any time spent criticizing others is time that could have been spent ministering. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping with the work, she lost her servant’s heart. Real servants don’t complain of unfairness, don’t have pity-parties, and don’t resent those not serving. They just trust God and keep serving.

It’s not our job to evaluate the Master’s other servants. The Bible says, Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful. It’s also not our job to defend ourselves against criticism. Let your Master handle it. Follow the example of Moses who showed true humility in the face of opposition, as did Nehemiah, whose response to critics was simply, My work is too important to stop now and visit with you.

If you serve like Jesus, you can expect to be criticized. The world, and even much of the church, does not understand what God values. The disciples criticized one of the most beautiful acts of love shown to Jesus. Mary took the most valuable thing she owned, expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus. Her lavish service was called “a waste” by the disciples, but Jesus called it “significant,” and that’s all that mattered. Your service for Christ is never wasted, regardless of what others say.


Real Servants Base Their Identity in Christ

They remember they are unconditionally loved and accepted by grace, so they don’t have to prove their worth when they are threatened by lowly jobs. Most of us are too insecure to be servants. Were afraid our weaknesses and insecurities will be uncovered so we hide them with layers of protective pride and pretensions.

One of the most profound examples of serving from a secure self-image is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Washing feet was the equivalent of being a shoeshine boy, a job devoid of status. But Jesus knew who He was, so it didnt threaten or bother Him to do it.

The Bible says Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God…so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist…

If you’re going to be a servant you must settle your identity in Christ. Only secure people can serve. The more insecure you are, the more you’ll want people to serve you, and the more you’ll need their approval. On the other hand, when you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectation of others. You are freed to serve.

Servants don’t need to cover their walls with plaques and awards to validate their work. They don’t insist on being addressed by titles and they don’t wrap themselves in robes of superiority. Servants find status symbols unnecessary and they never measure their worth by their achievements. Paul said, You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord’s approval.

If anyone had the chance of a lifetime to flaunt his connections and “name-drop,” it was James, the half-brother of Jesus. He had the credentials of growing up with Jesus as his brother. Yet in introducing his letter, he simply referred to himself as “a servant of God and the Lord Jesus.” The closer you get to Jesus, the less you need to promote yourself.


Real Servants Think of Ministry as an Opportunity, Not an Obligation

They enjoy helping people, meeting needs, and doing ministry. They “serve the Lord with gladness.” Why do we serve with gladness? Because we love the Lord, were grateful for His grace, we know serving is the highest use of life, and God has promised a reward. Jesus promised, The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves Me. And Paul added, He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other Christians.

Imagine what could happen if just 10% of all Christians in the world got serious about their role of being a real servant. Imagine all the good that could be done. Are you willing to be one of those people?

Albert Schweitzer said, “The only really happy people are those have learned how to serve.”