TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES
Over the past 75 years there have been many television game shows involving telling the truth or trying to trick people by lying to them. To Tell the Truth was a television game show in which four celebrity panelists are presented with three contestants and must identify which is the "central character" whose unusual occupation or experience has been read out by the show's host. When the panelists question the contestants, the two "impostors" may lie and the "central character" must tell the truth.
Another was the game show, Truth or Consequences. On the show, contestants received roughly two seconds to answer a trivia question correctly before the buzzer sounded. It was usually an off-the-wall question that no one would be able to answer correctly and of course there wasn’t a lot of time given for the contestant to answer. If the contestant could not complete the "truth" portion (which they usually couldn’t), there would be "consequences," usually a zany and embarrassing stunt.
Over the years in the youth groups I have been a part of we have played the game “Two Truths and a Lie” in order to get to know each other better. The idea is for the group to identify which of three statements is the lie. I have found that it is difficult to distinguish between the truths and the lie because the lie is usually very believable.
I want to play a little game of true and false with you this morning. I am going to say some statements and I want you to tell me if you think that statement is true or false. The first one is one dog year is equivalent to seven human years. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Next, drinking 8 eight ounce glasses of water a day will aid in good health? How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Next, Napoleon was short. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Reducing salt intake will prevent heart attacks or strokes. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false?
Just so you know, all of these statements are false. Most people think you just multiply by seven to get your dog’s age, but they’re wrong. It’s just a made-up number that’s been circulating since the 13th century. Also, it has never been shown that reducing your salt intake will prevent heart attacks or strokes and there’s good reason to believe that Napoleon was actually a bit taller than the average Frenchman of his day.
Here are some others: We only use ten percent of our brains. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? We lose most of our body heat through our heads. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? If you swallow chewing gum, it will stay in your system for seven years. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false? Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis. How many would say that is true? How many would say that is false?
If you answered “true” to any of these, you’re guilty of believing falsehoods. But don’t feel too bad. According to the British Medical Journal, even doctors endorse many of these so-called ‘facts,’ and they show up frequently in both the popular press as well as medical publications.
According to research whether we realize it or not, most of us harbor at least some false beliefs. Why do we so easily believe false things? Psychologists have shown that we all tend to make mental shortcuts and those shortcuts can explain a lot about how false notions take root. People routinely use mental shortcuts to understand what happens around them because they don't always have the time or energy to sit down and carefully examine all that happens to them. So, we tend to use quick and largely unconscious rules-of-thumb to determine what we should believe—and these shortcuts sometimes steer us in the wrong direction. Here are some of the shortcuts we use. The first is what they call the “availability heuristic.”
If I asked you, which job is more dangerous—working as a police officer or a fisherman, what would you say? If you guessed police officer, you’re wrong. According to figures from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, fishing workers are ten times more likely than police to be killed on the job. The reason most of us believe that police officers are more likely to die at work is because of the availability heuristic, a mental shortcut that can lead us to overestimate the frequency of an event when that event is more “available” or vivid in our memory. When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, it’s widely reported in the news and sticks in our memory, so we tend to believe it must be more common than deaths in other professions. Unless we’re careful, the vivid nature of the news stories in our memory can unconsciously bias our estimate of how often these events actually happen.
The second shortcut we take is “emotional reasoning.” Whether we like it or not, all of us can be powerfully swayed by our emotions. We'd like to think that our feelings are driven by logic and reason. Unfortunately, this relationship is often reversed. Sometimes we end up using our reasoning ability to justify or defend a conclusion that we’ve already drawn based on our emotions. This phenomenon, called emotional reasoning, can lead us astray without our ever knowing.
The third shortcut is “confirmation bias.” Once we have a belief, we tend to cling to it, even when it’s untrue. The confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that supports what we already believe. We do this in two important ways. First, we tend to surround ourselves with messages that confirm our pre-existing opinions. Second, we tend to ignore or discount messages that disprove our beliefs. This protects us from having to change our beliefs. When our ideas are true, this probably isn’t such a bad thing. Unfortunately, it also can keep us firmly believing things that are false.
Now, it has never hurt anyone to believe that we use only ten percent of our brain capacity and it doesn’t make a big difference if your dog is 70 or 60 years of age in human years. But there are things that if we don’t believe they are true could bring serious consequences. One that comes to mind is a hot stove. If we don’t believe that the stove is hot and we touch it, it will burn us.
But when it comes to spiritual things, not believing in the truth can bring even more serious consequences. Which brings us to our scripture this morning.
According to scholars, our story takes place probably during the month of October of AD 29. The people of Israel had come to the Temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Feast of Tabernacles. But there was a different atmosphere at the feast that year - beneath the surface of the usual worship rituals and prayers led by the priests each day there was plenty of whispering, quiet discussions and arguments going on in the crowds. And they were all talking about the same person - Jesus of Nazareth. Some were excitedly telling others about His miracles they had witnessed. Others were expressing their doubts about Jesus. Many were curious to know His whereabouts because 3 days of the feast had already passed and He was nowhere to be seen. The Jewish leaders were also anxiously looking for Jesus, because they wanted to get rid of Him.
They wanted to get rid of him because He had spoken against them and had violated the Sabbath law. They had judged Him wrongly based on their own man-made rules and on His outward appearance and according to their unrighteous judgment Jesus was worthy of death. Now they were looking for an opportunity to have Him arrested and condemned.
But when Jesus finally made His presence known to the crowds on the 4th day of the feast these Jewish leaders seemed to have forgotten all that they had planned to do against Him. Why? Maybe it was because of the unusual power and authority with which He spoke and taught the people. It left the Jewish leaders spell-bound and wondering how He could teach the way He did. They were so amazed at this that none of them tried to stop Him or rebuke Him or remove Him. Or, as Pastor Stuart related to us last week, Jesus’ identity may have been veiled for a little while and that could have been why the religious leaders did not immediately take action.
We also see that the people were confused about who Jesus was because they saw how the religious leaders were reacting to him. They had preconceived ideas about what they thought was true about Jesus. They did not believe in Him even when he told them the truth about who he was. They were swayed by their emotions about Jesus and had been biased against him. The problem was that because of their unbelief Jesus said that when the time comes for him to leave they wouldn’t be able to find him and the consequence of their unbelief would be very serious. The same is true for us today. If we do not believe in who Jesus is there will be serious consequences for us as well. Our consequence will be eternal separation from God and that brings us to the big idea that John wants us to know this morning which is “We need to know the truth in order to see the truth.” We need to know Jesus and be in relationship with him now on the earth so that when we die we will see him in heaven and spend eternity with him there.
But before we dive into our scripture this morning, let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word and for its eternal truths that guide us day by day. We thank you most of all for your living Word, Jesus Christ, and the truth that he is your Son and he is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Teach us to have eyes to see and ears to hear your truth when this world tries to feed us its lies. Help our thoughts to be your thoughts, and our ways to be your ways. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Our scripture this morning is found in John chapter 7 verses 25-36 and the first point we are going to unpack is “truth.” God cares about truth. We know this because the word "truth" is found over a hundred times in the New Testament. The truth always matters to God, and it ought to matter to us. But we live in a day when a lot of people believe that truth doesn't matter. They actually believe there is no such thing as an objective or absolute truth meaning you can have your truth, and I can have mine. In October 2018, the Christian Institute of England reported on a new survey for the Coalition for Marriage. Among the 2,000 people asked, 32 percent supported self-definition of race. Nineteen percent thought it was okay for people to choose their age. Ten percent of those people also said it was okay for you to choose your own species! In other words: If they got up tomorrow and decided they wanted to be a horse, then that is what they would be. That and more are the kinds of things that happen when people reject the reality of truth, especially when they reject the greatest truth of all which is that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We know that the truth of Jesus Christ matters! It matters that Jesus is sent from God and if we don’t believe in the one that God sent there will be serious consequences.
In verses 25-29, we are going to see people who are looking for the truth, they are questioning the truth and we are going to see Jesus telling them the truth. Follow along as I read verses 25-29. This is what God’s Word says: 25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”
First, we see that it is “some of the people from Jerusalem” and not the multitude who are confused about the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. Many in the multitude who were from other places would not have known of the religious leaders’ plot to kill Jesus, but the people from Jerusalem are aware of it and talk about it amongst themselves.
They knew the dominating, ruthless, manipulating authority of the Jewish leaders in their society. They knew the Pharisees would not mess around or put up with anyone who upset the status quo. They knew the outcome of Jesus’ bold words should be His death.
Second, since the religious authorities controlled the merchandising area of the temple court where Jesus was teaching, the people reach the possible conclusion that maybe the rulers’ failure to arrest Jesus was because they recognized His claims to be the Messiah were true.
This leads to a discussion of His origins. In a culture without surnames, the place of origin was a means of personal identification. “Jesus son of Joseph” or “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Joseph of Arimathea” are typical identifiers. Once again the misunderstanding of the crowd is displayed by their statement. The crowd is examining Jesus on an earthly level and think that since they can trace his human origins, He is disqualified from messianic status.
They held to the erroneous popular belief that the Messiah would appear suddenly without indication of His origin based on some vague inferences from the Apocrypha. The rabbis taught that the Messiah would make Himself known suddenly at the temple and without warning according to their understanding of the prophet Malachi. This was probably based on Malachi 3:1. God is speaking and says, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming.” The thing was Jesus actually fulfilled that prophecy when He went into the temple and cleansed it at the beginning of His public ministry in John 2:13-16. There was something terribly wrong about the source the Jews placed their confidence in for information about the Messiah. That source was not the scriptures but the Jewish traditions regarding Him. There is no verse or passage of Scripture that teaches when the Messiah comes into the world no one would know where He is from or that He would appear mysteriously 'out of nowhere.’ This unbiblical view was apparently quite widespread among the Jews. Another popular belief was that the immediate ancestry of the Messiah would not be known. In fact, many of them believed that the Messiah Himself wouldn’t know who He was or where He was from. Since they knew that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth and he lived in a plain house in Galilee, then He could not be the Messiah. They concluded the Messiah could not come from a background like Jesus had. But those of this tradition were ignoring that God had already clearly predicted that the Messiah would arise from the tribe of Judah in Genesis 49:10. Listen to that: The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. God also revealed that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2. Listen as I read that verse: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” God also predicted the Messiah’s birth in Isaiah 7:14 and had revealed in the Scriptures and that he would be called a Nazarene in Mathew 2:23.
Jesus knew what all the conflicting voices in the crowd were saying and in verse 28, He interrupts His teaching and cries out to the crowd with a loud voice so that everyone could hear. There is more here than just speaking loud to be heard. “Loud voice” in Hebrew is used for the voice of God and Jesus answers them by making an astounding claim. There is irony in his statement as he says they know him and where he is from. In a sense that is true but in a far more important sense they do not. Here is our truth this morning: Jesus has come from God and knows God with an unparalleled intimacy. This was paramount to a divine claim but it broke with all of the precepts of Judaism. A Messiah might be powerfully sent by God, but Jesus was claiming to know God and to actually be the Son of God, who has the same authority as God because of His divine origins.
Just as in chapter 5, Jesus says again that the Jews’ inability to comprehend this reality is evidence that they don’t really know God. The thought they knew God, but how could they really have known God when they had not placed their confidence in the Scriptures that He had given them. Whatever real knowledge they had of God was merely superficial. If they had truly known God, they would not have failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and to believe in Him.
Then in verse 29 just as Jesus claimed his teaching came directly from the Father he also claims his mission comes directly from God. He says “I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” The I’s are emphatic. Jesus’ claim is simple and straight forward. No one truly knows the Father but His Son with whom the Father shares His divinity and purpose.
With such clear information in the Scriptures about the Messiah, why did the Jews believe that His origins would be unknown? The reason is they had not placed their confidence in the Scriptures. They allowed their ideas of the Messiah to be determined by the imaginations of men. Their misplaced confidence was therefore the cause of their ignorance which in turn caused them to wrongfully reject Jesus as their Messiah.
Nothing has really changed. This still occurs today. People do not place their confidence in the Bible about who Jesus is but in man-made religions and who they say Jesus is. The Mormons believe that God and Jesus are not one and the same but are two distinct beings. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah created Jesus as the archangel Michael and that Jesus did raise spiritually from the dead but not physically. We don’t really need to wonder why people today don’t believe in Jesus as the only way to God when they are hearing so many other conflicting man-made views of who Jesus is. But Christians also struggle with the Bible and what it says. One example is whether there is a Hell or not. The argument is that God is love and so there is no Hell because he wouldn’t send those he loves to an eternal separation from himself. The truth is yes God is love but he is also holy and just and we have been given free choice to choose. We can choose Jesus as our Savior and spend eternity in Heaven with Him or we can reject Jesus as our Savior condemn ourselves to eternal separation from God in Hell. God’s love is not in question here, but what is, is our love for God and in being a fully committed disciple of Jesus. We need to read and know what the scripture says so we can have confidence in them and not be swayed by the world and other religions into believing the lies it tells about Jesus just like the Jews believed the lies about the Messiah in Jesus’ time. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card. Maybe this next step is for you. My next step is to believe in and hunger for the truth of God’s Word as the final authority in every area of my life.
The second point we are going to unpack this morning is “division.” In verses 30-32 we will see that when Jesus speaks the truth there is division amongst the people. Follow along as I read verses 30-32. This is what God’s Word says, 30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.
In verse 30, we see that Jesus’ claim that he was the Messiah causes division among the people. It says some in the crowd try to seize him for claiming to be the Messiah. These words enraged those from Jerusalem. If Jesus was not the Messiah, which is what those from Jerusalem had just concluded, then the words of Jesus were blasphemy against God rather than the truth. They wanted to immediately arrest Him.
But their efforts are frustrated. It says no one could lay a hand on him because his “hour” had not yet come. This word “hour” is used as a marker of time but means much more than just chronological time. Jesus was talking about the hour that he would go to the cross. John spoke of this special hour 8 times in his Gospel. Jesus’ first reference to his “hour” was to His mother in John 2:4, when he said, "'Mine hour is not yet come” and the last was to His Father in John 17:1, when he said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” Everything Jesus did, had to do with this hour. All of Jesus’ ministry pointed to this hour. But God’s plan and timing was perfect and only when the appointed time had come for Jesus to be taken to the cross would he be given over to the authorities and not a moment before.
In verse 31, we see that many in the crowd believed in Him. Their reason for believing in Jesus was not a profound one. They could not conceive that when the Messiah came He would do more signs than Jesus.
The truth about Jesus caused division among the people and this division caused the Pharisees to finally take action against Jesus. They heard the favorable things the crowd was saying about Jesus and were further enraged. Their dominating opinion did not permit the people to speak favorably in public about him. The religious leadership in Jerusalem was vehemently opposed to Jesus and willing to employ any resources at its disposal to get rid of Him. So they seek help from the High Priest, who was a Sadducee. Normally, these groups hated each other and had even fought wars against each other, but now they were united against a common foe and they sent the Temple police to arrest Jesus.
The truths in the Bible and the truth about Jesus brings division between Christians and the world today. We can start with Creation. The Bible says that God created the world in 7 days but the world discounts a creator and says the earth was created by a Big Bang or by chance. Next, we see that the Bible says marriage is to be between a man and a woman but the world says that a man can be married to another man and a woman can be married to another woman and it’s ok. The argument is that doesn’t God just want us all to be happy? In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But the world tells us that there are many ways to get to God. You can believe in any religion you want and you will still go to Heaven. The truth is that there are many gods but only one true God and the only way to him is by believing in his son Jesus Christ and what he came to earth to do.
But we also see division in the church when we take our eyes off Jesus and the Great Commission and look to ourselves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important truth that we can share with those in our community who do not know Jesus. We must be unified as a body of believers if we are ever going to reach our community for him. If fact I truly believe that we must be unified as a body of believers if we even want Jesus to entrust us with reaching our community for him. Which brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card. Maybe this one is for you. My next step is to be in unity with this body of believers so that God will entrust us to reach our community for him.
The final point we are going to unpack this morning is “consequences.” In verses 33-36 we will see that not believing in Jesus as the way the truth and the life will have eternal consequences.
This is what God’s Word says, 33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
In verse 33, Jesus knowing that His time on earth was drawing to a close spoke of His coming death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. In verse 34, he warns the people that eternal separation from God is the consequence for those who reject Jesus.
They do not understand his statement because they continued to think in earthly terms about Jesus and not in spiritual ones. Their responses in verses 35-36 shows that they think Jesus is talking about some physical place on earth such as another country. They seem to be mocking Jesus when they speculate that “this man” (a demeaning way of referring to Jesus) may leave Jerusalem and go among the Greeks. The only place these Jews would not go was among the Greeks or the Gentiles, so they speculate that Jesus is simply leaving Israel to go and teach the Jews who lived outside of Israel. The Jews failed to grasp Jesus’ meaning again.
They completely missed His statement that He was returning to “Him who sent Me.” Jesus made four such references in this dialogue and had already identified the “Him” as God. Because they missed that, they did not understand that they would not be able to find Jesus in the future because He was returning to God. They also missed the rebuke that they would not be able to go to heaven where Jesus would be.
Even more tragic was if they had wanted to know the truth about Jesus, He was still present with them. There was still a hope that the Jews could “go with him.” The hope is found in the words of Jesus in verse 33, 'Yet a little while am I with you.' This means that the door had not been completely shut yet. The day of grace was not yet over for them. Jesus was lovingly extending His grace to them to come out of their ignorance and into the saving knowledge of their Messiah. But they remained arrogant and debated it amongst themselves instead.
Up to this point, Jesus has been at work in the world, searching for those who would believe in him. But, once He departed, God’s fullest revelation would be withdrawn. They would search for deliverance and salvation, trying to find what they have tragically opposed and missed. Jesus’ ministry demanded an allegiance to Him by believing in what He said about himself. Many were hanging on to their own understanding or the understanding of the religious leaders instead of being willing to trust the convicting, teaching, and leading of the Holy Spirit of God.
We too must make up our mind about Jesus. If we do not chose to follow Him and His life challenging teachings, then where He goes we will not be able to go either. That may suit us well on this earth but it will not suit us when it is time to go into eternity. Your eternal destiny depends on believing in Jesus while you still have the opportunity. Which reminds us of our big idea, “We need to know the truth in order to see the truth.”
Which brings us to the third next step on the back of your communication card. Maybe this next step is for you. My next step is to turn my life over to Jesus and believe in him as my Lord and Savior. If you have taken that next step this morning for the first time please put your name on the front so Pastor Stuart and I can contact you about your decision to follow Jesus.
Now maybe you have already accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior but you want to rededicate your life to following him and being a totally committed disciple of his. If so, the last next step is for you. My next step is to rededicate my life to following Jesus and become a totally committed disciple of His.
I want to conclude with a story. A successful young lawyer in Hungary during the 1950s was a strong believer in freedom for his country. When the uprising failed, he was forced to flee the country. He arrived in the U.S. with no money, no job, and no friends. He was, however, well-educated; he spoke and wrote several languages, including English. For several months he tried to get a job in a law office, but because of his lack of familiarity with American law, he received only polite refusals.
Finally, it occurred to him that with his knowledge of language he might be able to get a job with an import-export company. He selected one such company and wrote a letter to the owner. Two weeks later he received an answer but was hardly prepared for the vindictiveness of the man’s reply. Among other things, it said that even if they did need someone, they wouldn’t hire him because he couldn’t even write good English.
Crushed, this young lawyer’s hurt quickly turned to anger. What right did this rude, arrogant man have to tell him that he couldn’t write the language! The man was obviously crude and uneducated — his letter was chock-full of grammatical errors! So he sat down and, in the white heat of anger, wrote a scathing reply, calculated to rip the man to shreds. When he’d finished, however, as he was reading it over, his anger began to drain away and he remembered the Bible verse, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”
No, he wouldn’t mail the letter. Maybe the man was right. English was not his native tongue. Maybe he did need to further study it. Possibly this man had done him a favor by making him realize he did need to work harder on perfecting his English. He tore up the letter and wrote another. This time he apologized for the previous letter, explained his situation, and thanked the man for pointing out his need for further study.
Two days later he received a phone call inviting him to New York for an interview. A week later he went to work for them as a correspondent. Later, he became vice president and executive officer of the company, destined to succeed the man he had hated and sought revenge against for a fleeting moment — and then resisted.
Life is filled with choices, isn’t it? Most of those choices have a reason and a motive behind them. Some of our choices can have long-lasting effects, as that illustration pointed out. The only choice in this life that will change the direction of our lives for eternity is the personal choice to believe in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior and follow Him. In verse 28, after describing His relationship to His heavenly Father, He looked around at His listeners and said: “you do not know him.” Do you know God? It is not possible to know God without having a personal and intimate relationship with Him. It’s not possible without knowing, following and obeying the One whom He has sent. This is an opportunity to reconsider what you believe about Jesus Christ. Please don’t turn it down. Don’t respond to the truths of God’s Word with anger, hatred, or excuses. Resist that urge. Tear up those thoughts and feelings and start over again. Let God give you a fresh perspective and a new life as a result of believing in Jesus Christ and following Him. He will give you peace, joy, and purpose, with no regrets.
As the ushers prepare to collect the communication cards and the praise team comes forward to lead us in our final song let’s pray:
God, I thank you for your Word. I thank you for the truth of your Word and truth of your son, Jesus. I pray that as we leave this time together and go out into the world that we would be truth amongst the lies and that we would be light amongst the darkness. I pray that we would strive to be unified behind the Great Commission that you gave us to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples. Help us to strive for holiness in our daily lives and bring revival to our hearts and minds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.