There are different times in history, in reality-all the time, that the church is challenged to live true, and not be deceived by lies and deception. Just in the past century one of the best and saddest examples of this is Nazi Germany. The question “How could people have ever believed Hitler?” is glaring, yet then we must also ask what lies permeate our own society, and how can we be the church in an age of deception?
People believe a lie because they want to:
Malcom Muggeridge, English journalist, author, WWII soldier and spy, and advocate for Mother Teresa said:
“People do not believe lies because they have to but because they want to.’ Looking back to Nazi Germany we may ask “How could they have bought the lie” but the lie was gradual, consistent, insistent… In Hitler’s own words “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it…It is not truth that matters, but victory…How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”
How can I know truth?
In a world of no absolutes what is absolute? How can I know truth, and not be deceived? Proverbs instructs- “Get the truth and never sell it”
Look at the Bereans in Acts chapter 17: “…they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Jesus points us to scripture as truth revealed to us by Father-God in John 17:17. “Make them holy by your truth: teach them your word, your word is truth.”
And also in Matthew chapter 22- “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Francis Schaeffer speaks about how the early church was able to live in a world of deception:
“(God gave) absolutes which enabled the early church to withstand the pressure of the Roman Empire. Without a strong commitment to God’s absolutes, the early church could never have remained faithful in the face of the constant Roman harassment and persecution.”
This remains as true today for the church as it was in the first century. The church fails to be the church when it fails to have absolute truth, a solid foundation of truth as has been revealed to us. Schaeffer said that the Bible speaks to us and gives us guidance, if we’ll let it. Paul said “I know what is right & what is wrong because of the law” (Romans 7:7)
The church can make a right stand in whatever society, if they stand on truth as it has been revealed. This requires not picking and choosing what suits us, and disregarding the rest, but wrestling with, and engaging scripture. We must honestly read and study, like the Bereans in Acts, and then submit our opinions, preferences, and values to God’s truth first, as best we can.
To pick and chose, or disregard altogether, is exactly what the early church had to stand against with the early heresies. Huge sections of the gospels or Paul’s letters had been left out by those who fell into dangerous teachings. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians:
“…stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”