Publication:Pastoral Letter, November 2015
Dear Friend in Christ:
I remember where I was standing on the sidelines as a freshman football player when I heard about Merlin and Billy, who had been my classmates. They were riding to the game not realizing that the tail light on their motor bike was out. A neighbor came speeding along in the night and did not see them ahead as he rounded the curve. They were both killed instantly. We stood on the football field in shock.
Sometimes our assumptions are exploded tragically because the truth is not what we thought it was. If we presume something is true, but it is not, that can have a disastrous affect. How much would it have mattered to families and friends to have known the truth about a simple tail light? It was the difference between life and death, perhaps an eternal difference. People die for truth and some die for lack of it. How can we place a value on truth any more than we can human life? Lies kill people every day.
Truth’s value to each of us can be measured by what we are willing to pay for it. And as some die without, many have and are dying for it; in every case, truth is precious.
The enemy of our souls has a better understanding of truth’s value than we do. So he does all in his evil power to obstruct, oppress, or distort it. When evil tyrants take control of a culture, the first thing that they do is to prevent the flow of truth or try to distort it. From the very beginning, Satan revealed his desire to distort, cast doubt, and outright lie in order to bring death upon Adam and Eve. In the darkness, many naïve souls travel a road with their “tail lights” out and truth is speeding to a rendezvous. Entire nations are out for a ride on a dark night.
Truth is an eternal reality; it is a gift from God to us. The Gospel of John, chapter one, tells us that Jesus brought light; a light that could not be put out. He also brought grace and truth. Light brings the gift of sight, grace brings the help to get us back up when we stumble or fall, and truth puts us on solid ground. Jesus was the embodiment of all three priceless treasures.
Truth is the gift from heaven that anchors our lives in the One that does not change—God. He cannot lie and Jesus is always the same—the very Word of God(see John 1:1-5; 14:6; Romans 3:4; Titus 1:2).
One night many years ago, I was racing a friend on a dark night on a road that I did not really know. I thought the road went straight as we raced down hill and my lights did not pick up the very sharp curve ahead and I took the curve. The friend who was behind me said he saw the whole underside of my car as it nearly flipped but miraculously regained the road. The darkness deceived me, grace saved me, and truth changed the course of my life.
The Gospel is the truth by which all statements about God can be measured. Gospel truth happened and it is unchanging. When we receive the Gospel truth, it changes us and it places within us a love for the God who gave it, and the very life of Jesus Christ. As He sits at the Father’s right hand, He is the fixed anchor of our hope and our soul.
The apostles were the stewards of the Gospel as they were witness of Christ’s life and the events that He lived. The Apostle Paul, who witnessed the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, defines the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas(Peter), then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present.”
Notice that Paul had received and given the same Gospel (Good News), and that it was all according to the Scriptures which Paul regarded as the Word of God. And notice that numerous witnesses attested to the fact of Christ’s death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection. This is core truth.
We are not called to analyze or modify the truth. We are called to proclaim it as it is, because it is the power of God unto salvation (see Romans 1:16). When the truth is altered, it becomes deception and loses its power to save. The apostle preached the Gospel and then reminded his hearers of what he had preached. Getting the truth right continually was foremost—“First of all” in His thinking.
The book of Jude is only 25 verses and likely written by a brother of our Lord (half brother). Like the Apostle Paul, he was careful to maintain the truth of the Gospel “once and for all delivered to the Saints.” He said that he was “very diligent” to write to them “concerning our common salvation.” “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (verse 3).
Jude was zealous to preserve the truth of the Gospel. Why? Because “certain men had crept in unnoticed, who turn the grace of God into lewdness and denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Apparently, vigilance is required to preserve the Gospel.
The apostles tell us to “contend” for the faith; they do not say be “contentious over the faith.” We simply need to know the Gospel well enough to be able to say, “true or false.” Life itself is a “true or false test.” We all have had those kinds of tests. Because Christ is in us by the Holy Spirit, when statements are made, the Holy Spirit inside will testify “that is true” or “Amen!” Or, our inner witness may say, “False” (see 1 John 2:27). We need both to study the Scriptures and listen to the Holy Spirit (see Acts 17:11).
We live in a time when we are flooded with information, and a lot of religious material. Some of what is presented can be extremely helpful, some extremely dangerous. I do not consider it my task to debate what others say; rather it is to declare the truth clearly enough that hearers can discern whether a matter is true or false for themselves.
Many in contemporary culture have lost their love for the truth, if they ever had it. Some who believe that there is truth have not had the maturity to discern it. Others have been taught that there is no such thing as absolute truth and they absolutely believe that! They think that truth is subjective: “If you believe that your tail light is working, then it must be.” This has led to, “Well that may be true for you but not for me.” So we watch the truth of God altered by culture in the sanctity of life, marriage, sexuality, and all kinds of behaviors. Our flexibility in defining truth is leading to disaster. Because “truth” is not absolute and because words have become mere tools, trust is destroyed. The effect on all absolutes such as civil law has become obvious.
So where do we begin to restore integrity to the word “truth”? Let’s get back to the Gospel; it is the power of God to save us from ourselves and deception.
I AM NOT ASHAMED
Another tool of the enemy is to cause us fear, shame, or embarrassment. He is an intimidator. If he cannot intimidate, he will try to harm us in some way. The politically correct view is opposed to absolute truth. Some may simply keep the Gospel to themselves and only worship behind church doors. The fear of being embarrassed has kept many Christians from sharing the precious saving truth.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for everyone who believes.” I learned that verse when I was young, a time when it was easier to share the Gospel. Now, if one contends for the Gospel, they may be called a bigot who puts down other religions or behaviors. Yet, that is how it was when Paul wrote that verse; his boldness cost him his life.
We have discussed truth, now let’s look at the motive for telling it. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Speaking the truth in love….” First Corinthians 13 tells us if we have not love, we are just noise. John 3:16 is clear: God sent His Son Who is truth because He “so loved the world.”
The prophets spoke the truth to the nation because they loved. Yes, they were usually killed, and then later eulogized (see Matthew 23:29-37). Jesus loved His nation and wept over it; because He loved people, many were saved. Love is the bridge over which truth travels. Without love for the person to whom we share the Gospel, the message falls short of its purpose.
The Gospel goes beyond loving the One to whom we witness; it tells us to love even our enemies and those who mistreat us. There are numerous testimonies of martyrs loving their murderers. That of course began with Jesus and the apostles. If we do not love the truth we will not be persecuted; if we do not love persecutors, we fall short of revealing Christ.
THE MOST DIFFICULT TRUTH
The Gospel not only gives us the truth about Christ, it gives us the truth about ourselves. It tells us that Jesus died for our sins, that we are sinners who need to be saved from ourselves. Repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit that comes when we realize our true condition. Faith in Jesus Christ and His suffering on our behalf is the acknowledgement that we cannot save ourselves, but He can.
Jesus and those who follow Him love others enough to tell the truth. Divine love speaks divine truth. Such friendship is difficult to find and often difficult to receive. We prefer affirmation; but affirmation without truth deceives us into believing that repentance is unnecessary. I am deeply grateful for those in my life who spoke the truth to me in love.
I recently visited my cardiologist. I like his demeanor; but even more, I like the fact that he tells me the truth. My life depends upon the truth, yet many people want a pastor or a church that “tip toes” around the truth. They make us feel good though “our tail lights may be out.” Most “friends” will never hurt our feelings, but is that truly divine love? Those who simply give what we want but never what we need may not be there when we need them most. The Lord is a different kind of Friend who tells us the truth, but will never leave nor forsake us.
Our call is to embrace the truth with our lives, and to share it with all who will listen, in the love of God. Treasure the truth; “It will keep your tail lights burning.” And please pray for us here at CSM as we desire to practice what Jesus preached. We also deeply appreciate all who are willing to support us financially, and we need that support as we move forward. Would you consider a special gift this month? November 1 and 8 are the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Would you please ask your pastoral leadership to remember these days on the calendar of your church? We are working to raise awareness and encourage believers to wear orange on those days to identify with persecuted believers worldwide. The card enclosed has more information, as well as ways that you can support CSM in our mission.
We appreciate your prayer, friendship, and support, and pray the blessings of the Lord for you and your loved ones this month!
All contributions to Charles Simpson Ministries (CSM) are tax deductible. CSM is a 501 (C) (3) organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.
Scripture References: Matthew 22:29-37; 1 Corinthians 13; John 1:1-5; Romans 3:4; Titus 1:2; Romans 1:16; Acts 17:11; 1 John 2:27; Ephesians 4:15; John 3:16