Can You Handle the Truth?

This weekend, as I had the joy of leading a Prayer Summit in Northern California, I was captured by a short verse that packed a punch of conviction to my heart. During an extended “Code of Silence,” I read, read again, and reflected on these two verses:

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:19-20)

I discovered a riveting nugget of truth nestled within these important verses on faith vs. works. It is not enough to simply embrace belief. Surprisingly, the demons believe some elements of theology, and they shudder. What really matters is that we are eager to apply truth to the core of our being. I underlined this question in my Bible: “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person…?” Other versions ask, “Do you want to know?”, “Are you willing to recognize?” and “Do you want evidence?”

Questions for a Core of Authenticity

These are urgent and penetrating questions that cut to the core of spiritual authenticity. Do we really want to be shown truth? Do we really want to know? Are we willing to recognize? Do we embrace evidence that will lead us to see the truth about ourselves, our beliefs, our lifestyle? If not, we live with coddled blind spots that can lead to spiritual and relational disaster. Real integrity is evidenced not in our ability to articulate biblical truth, but in our willingness to apply biblical truth to the core issues of life with a teachable mind and a receptive heart.

When David inquired of the Lord about the essential characteristic of the one who truly knows God and experiences His presence, the answer was clear: “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2). The core of an authentic life is the commitment to speak the truth in one’s heart and from one’s heart.  David had learned this earlier, following a major personal failure. His prayer of confession declared, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6). The key concern is a heart that fully embraces truth. Tough truth. Convicting truth. Uncomfortable truth.

The Power of Regarding the Word

James refers to the potential of self-deception in his short letter (James 1:22 & 28). He tasks his readers with these words: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” He promises great blessing to the one who is a doer of the word, not a forgetful hearer. To hear and do, we must have a willingness to be shown, to recognize, to accept the evidence.

How do you respond when you read a verse that exposes a major flaw in your life? What is your reaction when it seems the sermon was tailored specifically to confront a weakness in your character? Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God’s word reproves and corrects us for our own good. The question is, do we really want to be shown these things in order to be complete and equipped?

The Priority of Reproving Words

There are times when friends and relatives speak honestly to us, providing necessary rebuke or correction. Often, we cringe, argue, defend ourselves, or even counterattack. We might even play the victim. But self-pity is not a strategy for self-improvement.

In Psalm 141:5, David exhibited a teachable heart and the proper attitude when rebuked by others. He wrote, “Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” James’ question echoes again, ”Do you want to be shown, you foolish person?”

The Price Tag of Rejecting Wisdom

We need the wisdom that comes through rebuke. Wisdom is applied truth. To apply truth, we must acknowledge and accept the truth. James says even demons understand the truth. Only true Christ followers pursue applied truth, regardless of the channel through which it comes–be it Scripture, a friend, a stranger, or even hard circumstances.

The price tag of rejecting God’s initiatives to show us the truth about ourselves can be high. Proverbs 12:1 says, “He who hates reproof is stupid.” The Bible warns, “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction” (Proverbs 13:18). We are also told, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself” (Proverbs 15:1). Another passage clarifies, “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17). By disregarding the truth, we tolerate blind spots (character flaws) that actually set a poor and truth-defying example to our children and friends.

The Promise of Receiving Truth

The Bible is full of promises for those who receive truth. James says, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). Psalm 19 and all of 119 are dedicated to the positive benefits reaped by those who want to be shown the truth. Proverbs tells us, “Whoever heeds reproof is honored” (13:18), “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” (15:31), and, “He who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (15:33).

Truth-Based Freedom and Fruitfulness

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). This is a “knowing” that begins with the truth of the Gospel and results in a life that continually embraces biblical truth. This is the mark of a life that bears lasting spiritual fruit. This is a life worth living and an example worth following.

Copyright © 2016 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.