How do you share the truth of God? The truth is an intense light, and we must consider the impact of that light upon eyes that are accustomed to darkness. We should strive to be empathetic, and choose our words wisely.
[Randy Urwiller] Have you ever struggled to explain some aspect of your walk with God? Have you ever struggled to explain some aspect of your walk with God? You know, my own experience has been… it’s not always easy to know how best to answer questions that people have about why do you do what you do. And I have a few questions I’ve been asked over the years and maybe even asked a few questions like this, too. For example, “Why won’t you work on Friday night or Saturday?” Some of our young people as they go out in the workforce, they’re probably being confronted with questions like that. Another one, “You need time off to go to the Feast of Taber… Taber-what?” We have to do some explaining sometimes, don’t we? I had a relative ask me this once, “Won’t you die if you don’t eat or drink anything all day?” Yes, but only figuratively.
And after the kids came around, we got different questions like, “Why don’t you let your children dress up for Halloween? It’s fun.” And this one I do remember telling a lady this, and I probably shouldn’t have, but she came back and said well, “What do you mean Santa Claus is not coming to your house this year?” You know. No, Santa is not coming to our house. So these are questions I’ve been asked, and maybe like me, you too have been challenged from time to time in telling others about living life God’s way. But let’s be very clear. In our answers, we do know there’s no question about whether or not we should tell the truth. We have to tell the truth in our answer. We must not lie. To lie would break the ninth commandment.
The ninth commandment, of course, “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
American King James Version×and Deuteronomy 5:20 Deuteronomy 5:20Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.
American King James Version×. It’s quite the opposite, we must tell the truth. We see this if you turn with me to Ephesians 4:14 Ephesians 4:14That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
American King James Version×. We must tell the truth. It’s an obligation. It’s an expectation. It’s a requirement. It’s a law. Ephesians 4:14-16 Ephesians 4:14-16 14 That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×. Here we read, Paul is urging the Ephesian brethren and he urges us still today. He urges us to be settled and steadfast in the ways of God. And here in Ephesians 4:14 Ephesians 4:14That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
American King James Version×. Paul writes, “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love,” or some translations will say “speaking the truth with love” referenced here to agape , that’s godly love. “But speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Speaking the truth in love is necessary for a healthy body, for a healthy church.
Paul reminds us that God has called us to reject a lifestyle where lying and deceitfulness is commonly practiced. And frankly, people expect us to lie. If you ever found yourself telling the truth and people look at you and they, kind of, say, “Yeah, right.” And it hurts because you are being honest, but they can’t believe you’d be honest, because, yeah, it is, nobody’s honest today. Lying is commonly expected. If we truly follow Christ, then we know we are committed to God’s way of life and, as Paul would say here, and I say here, speaking the truth in love. That’s our commitment. And, again, it’s very critical to our relationship with God. and it’s critical to our relationship with each other in the Body of Christ, Church.
So it seems to me then we struggle not with, should we tell the truth? But rather, we struggle with how do we tell the truth? That seems to be the challenge from time to time. The answer to that question, how do we tell the truth, a lot of that answer resides in remembering that we are called to follow Jesus Christ, the true light. That’s our calling. So if we continue reading here, now in Ephesians 4:17 Ephesians 4:17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you from now on walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
American King James Version×, Paul alludes to our need to walk in the light of God’s truth, not in the darkness of this world. Verse 17 it continues saying, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind having their understanding darkened, and being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”
Now, let’s turn to John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
American King James Version×. Paul refers to the light, I’ve mentioned the light, true light. Let’s look at John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
American King James Version×and rehearse what we know. John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
American King James Version×is where we learn that in the beginning, Jesus Christ was the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 4-5, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Now, verse 9. “That was the true Light which gives light to every man…” this reference to Light, it’s Jesus Christ. He “gives light to every man coming into the world.” Verse 10, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” Now, over please in John 3:19 John 3:19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
American King James Version×. A few pages over in John 3:19 John 3:19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
American King James Version×, John recorded Christ words regarding those who follow him, the true light.
John 3:19-21 John 3:19-21 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are worked in God.
American King James Version×Christ said, “And this is a condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” And then one more scripture here, a few more pages over John, excuse me, John 8:12 John 8:12Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
American King James Version×. John 8:12 John 8:12Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
American King James Version×we find these encouraging words of Jesus Christ. Again, recorded for us by John. John 8:12 John 8:12Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
American King James Version×, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.’” There’s no doubt. Jesus Christ is that true light. “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” And so, those who truly follow Jesus Christ will be walking in the way of true light and not in the darkness of the world.
God’s inspired Scripture coupled with His Holy Spirit provides the light we need for the direction we need to take in life. We don’t know our own way. We need God’s light and help. And so, we do need to be following the light of Christ, but there is more than just being followers. We must ourselves be lights. We must ourselves be light of that true light. Let’s turn over to Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
American King James Version×. Again, memorable, well-known scriptures perhaps. Well worthy of profound meditation in the quiet of the night, as we heard that in that very helpful sermonette today. Matthew 5:14-16 Matthew 5:14-16 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. And nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” As a light stand, we are to be shining forth in this darkened world not hidden away somewhere afraid to come out and let our light shine. We are to shine forth in this darkened world, but not with our own light because frankly, we don’t have any. We don’t have any light of our own. We have to shine the light of God’s true light and for God’s purpose, and for God’s glory.
Our good works are to help turn people to God. We read that, still here now in verse 16. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” And so, our good works, then, must include speaking the truth in love that Paul is talking about. That’s part of our good works as well, speaking the truth in love or with love. So now, back to my main question, I started with, how do we tell the truth? That’s what we struggle with sometimes, I know. Well, to be lights that tell the truth, which is what we must be, we must certainly need to be learning, must be learning from Scripture, and I’d add this, this is what we’re going to think about today. We need to be learning from Scripture, and it helps us greatly if we understand the impact of light upon eyes that are accustomed to the dark. We need to think about the impact of light upon eyes that are accustomed to the dark.
The title of my sermon today is “Speaking the Light of Truth.” Maybe a little bit different gives you something to think about. “Speaking the Light of Truth.” Now, I am not going to give you a script. I’m not going to be giving you things to say when people ask you certain questions. I have no rote answers to give you today. Sometimes that might be nice. So I have no script, but I do have three points. I do have three points to share that can help us become better at telling others about God’s truth. And so, let’s just begin, let’s just dig in. To speak for light of truth, we need to be doing three things. To be lights of truth… to speak the light of truth, excuse me, we need to be doing three things. First, pretty much foundationally, we need to be close to God. Be close to God is my first point. We must have and retain, keep it, a close relationship with God. That takes self-control, a lot of self-control, more than we have and that’s why we need God’s help because ours isn’t enough. But we need self-control and we need a lot of good, solid, diligent effort.
It also requires that we humbly revere God as our Creator. Revere God as our life Sustainer. Revere God because only God provides us a way to salvation, a way to eternal life. It’s only God that gives us a true and living hope, that living hope that’s found through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Came, He was the Word and came as Jesus Christ providing a light, and then who willingly died so that we and all humanity might have hope, might have eternal life. What God desires from humanity is right and proper, and that is our total surrender to Him. And not just surrender, you can make people surrender. God wants our surrender, but He wants it to be willing and He wants our most willing devotion and love, and obedience to Him, and to treat one another with love and kindness too.
To be close to God, we must believe God and do what He says. You’ve heard that many times in this pulpit. It’s a great way of thinking what faith and commitment’s about, to believe God and do what He says. And so, yes, we must be convicted of our need for Christ sacrifice. We must repent, we must be baptized, receive God’s gift of His Holy Spirit. And then, we have to remain ever faithful and ever committed to God. We hear it over and over again. But that’s the plan. That’s the plan. Stick to it. Don’t go looking for some other plan. There’s not one out there worth having. The plan of God and salvation, that’s our plan to stick with. And so, being led by God’s Word and His Holy Spirit, we have to keep rejecting the ways of the world, the darkness that encroaches upon us. We have to keep fighting our carnal nature who wants to bury itself back in that darkness. We must do both. We must be committed to God because all this is necessary to keep us in that right relationship with God.
Let’s look back in James 4, please James 4:4-10 James 4:4-10 4 You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
5 Do you think that the scripture said in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy?
6 But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
American King James Version×. James, in James 4:4-10 James 4:4-10 4 You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do you think that the scripture said in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy? 6 But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
American King James Version×he urges us to remain ever humble, ever faithful and ever close to God. I’d like to read here, breaking into the thought, James 4:4 James 4:4You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
American King James Version×, he says, “…Do you not know that friendship with this world” this dark world, “friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” That’s something we have to remember, it’s something we have to be sure to be teaching our young people, our children, our grandchildren. “He who wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God, or do you think that Scripture says in vain,” for no good reason that “‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’? But He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore” James says, “submit to God. Resist the devil and he will” it’s a promise, “he will flee from you. Draw near to God” get close to God “and He will draw near [and get close] to you.”
“Cleanse your hands, you sinners,” quit doing sinful things, “purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Put your minds in the Word of God. Think on God. “Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” God wants us to be happy, yes. But we’ll be happy when we turn away from the darkness and get close to Him. Finally, verse 10, James says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” That’s a promise. Humble ourselves before God and He will lift you up. You know, I read these scriptures, and I think of what God is doing with me in my life and with all of us, and the relationship He wants with us, and we’re trying hard to maintain and build, and it just occurs to me, you know, do we really… do I really appreciate what a very rare thing it is for a human being to have a close relationship with God, the Creator of this universe? Do we meditate on that? Just how rare it is. Extremely rare. And I know I can’t always grasp it, and I wonder how well we all grasp that, I wonder about that.
So it’s something we mustn’t neglect. We mustn’t neglect the rarity and pricelessness of this relationship God has asked to have with us right now. Same relationship He wants to have with everybody one day. He wants everybody in His family. So each day then, what must we do? Well, pretty much each day we must endeavor, with God’s help, because we can only do this with God’s help. So with God’s help, and all our might, we need to be close and ever closer to God. Every day, as we’ve heard, every day we need to pray to God. Daniel the prophet he prayed… he probably played but he took time to pray. Daniel prayed three times a day. You know, that’s something to think about in our own lives. How often do we pray? He prayed three times. We need to read our Bible every day. A good relationship, as we know, involves a good two-way conversation. And the answer is oftentimes those prayers we have will often be found in God’s Word. And more than that, you know, how can we speak the truth of God if we don’t read and study His Word?
People come to us for an answer, what would God have you do? And we got an empty bucket to look at. The empty bucket being our head. Shame on us. We need to be studying God’s Word every day. Every day, we need to think about God. How can we better live our lives? And we need to fast and keep focused. Keep focused on God, and especially, as we know especially first when temptations strive to overwhelm us and we feel like we can’t handle it much more, whatever it is. And I would add, we must be sure to fellowship with our brethren, we must keep meeting with each other, spending time together. The world is a very large dark, cold and lonely thing. But when you have brethren that you can talk with freely about God and share ideas with and encourage one another, we need that. We need to fellowship with each other. We need to encourage one another to trust God. We need to encourage each other to keep on enduring no matter what. You know, sometimes this bleak time of the year it can get, kind of, low for us, and sickness kicks in and bronchitis and all these other things. It’s good to stay in touch with each other and encourage each other. And we can do that as we stay close to God, first to do.
Second point, be motivated by God’s love. Be motivated by God’s love. To speak the light of truth, we must be motivated by a sincere love for God and a sincere and ever-growing, more sincere love for our neighbor, something we work on. Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 13. It’s really good for us to remember Paul’s description of godly love. We can get confused if we wander in the darkness of the world and let too much of it ease into our heads. We can get mistaken ideas about what love is. It’s good to remember Paul’s description of godly Love in 1 Corinthians 13, and I’d like to read here with you verses 1 through 8. You know, Paul’s words I find very inspiring and I’m quite confident you do too, but they also, these words here also help us to judge our thoughts. They help me to judge my thoughts and my words and my actions, how do they compare with what God defines as love? 1 Corinthians 13:1 1 Corinthians 13:1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
American King James Version×, Paul writes, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” I love that word, clanging cymbal, a hollow noisy sound.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,” and all the stuff we can do. But Paul says, “if have not love… if I have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” It gains me nothing. You know, it’s so important that how we put God’s love into practice. He’s given us principles. But now, look at verse 4, he starts giving us details, how to practice His love. And practicing God’s love truly matters. Verse 4, Paul writes, “Love suffers long, it is kind.” And so, I have to ask myself is that what I do? Do I do these things? “Love does not envy; love does not parade itself; it’s not puffed up.” Verse 5, “Love does not behave rudely, it does not seek its own, and is not provoked, and it thinks no evil; love does not rejoice in iniquity, but it does rejoice in the truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail,” you know, prophecies are going to be fulfilled one day. They’ll be over, but God’s love continues on. It’s eternal.
“And whether there are tongues, they will cease.” Languages will go away one day. Every year we lose another language or so in this world. But God’s love goes on. “And whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” Love never fails. And let’s end reading here in verse 11. Verse 11, then Paul writes, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Are we putting away childish things? Well, we must be putting away what we might call our childish carnality, or selfishness, or pride, vanity. We need to let God’s love inspire the words we say. We need to let God’s love inspire the actions we take even as Paul describes here. We must yield ourselves to God’s divine love because it is the same love that defines us as lights of that true light, Jesus Christ. Let’s also remember 1 John 2, specifically here as it regards our relationship with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
1 John 2:8-11 1 John 2:8-11 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shines.
9 He that said he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loves his brother stays in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
11 But he that hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not where he goes, because that darkness has blinded his eyes.
American King James Version×. John here is writing a very earnest admonition to the followers of Christ. John writes 1 John 2:8-11 1 John 2:8-11 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shines. 9 He that said he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loves his brother stays in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not where he goes, because that darkness has blinded his eyes.
American King James Version×, “Again, a new commandment I write you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” Christ has appeared and His light is in us, it’s in the world. Darkness is passing away.
Verse 9, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” So that’s, again, along with 1 Corinthians 13, there’s something here we need to think about. Evaluate ourselves, are we walking in love? What is our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Is love there? Is there a little bit of darkness? And if so, let’s shine the light of God on there and drive the darkness out. So John reminds us that we must take care not to speak truth motivated by pride or hate, it’s one thing we can learn from this. We shouldn’t be speaking arrogantly or with a self-righteous attitude. That would be of darkness. And yes, we need to speak God’s truth confidently. We need to speak about light, and we need to speak about it boldly at times.
But also, we need to speak about light with empathy for others, with understanding. And that brings me to the third B, the third B, be empathetic. Be empathetic. Being close to God and being motivated by God’s love, those things are necessary to be empathetic or you might say considerate of others. Whenever we find ourselves with an appropriate occasion to tell others about God’s truth, well, we need to apply wisdom to decide how to respond to those questions we’ve asked, like these questions I began with today. When we fail to be empathetic, though, and when we fail to understand who we’re talking to or to understand their motivation for asking the question, well, then we can make some unfortunate choices in speaking the light of truth.
Let me give you some examples. And again, so this is from my own experience, but probably quite similar to some of yours. So, for example, when a coworker asks why we’re taking a two week vacation in October, and then we launch into this detailed explanation about the Feast of Tabernacles, oh, and about all of God’s Holy Days, and then we reveal how the Holy Days reveal God’s plan of salvation, that’s T.M.I. Right, young people? T.M.I. It’s called Too Much Information, it’s too much information. If we do that, well, then we’d be failing to use empathy and we’d failing to use a little wisdom. You know, being so direct and thorough with God’s truth in such an instance, you know, even down to book, chapter, and verse, that might not put us or put God’s truth in such a good light with our coworker. It could be a big turnoff possibly, exactly the opposite of what we might really want to do.
And here’s another example, perhaps more recent. You know, each year during the world’s biggest holiday season, we have many opportunities to speak the truth. But saying something truthful and direct like, “Oh, I don’t keep Christmas. It’s pagan.” That’s a huge turn off to people. That’s a huge turnoff to people, especially to people who are simply trying to be cheerful and nice and just giving a customary greeting. In fact, some stores they’re required to say that, right? And let’s face it, those weary overworked cashiers at Walmart, they really may not care to know why we will not be having a merry Christmas. That’s really not the time to launch into the T.M.I. part, okay? And with certain words we say in a certain approach, I just wonder to myself, because I’ve done things like that I’m sure in the past. I have to wonder how much true light would I really be shining when I talk like that at times? Maybe having an opposite effect.
My point is we need to choose our words wisely and with understanding, with empathy. You know, those same people may see more true light when we respond to their merry Christmas with a smile and something more sincere and truthful like, you know, “I hope you have a great day.” And then we keep saying it every time all year round. We keep shining our light because that is what we are. When it comes to speaking the light of truth, a graceful candle’s glow can be far more beneficial than a glaring searchlight in the face. Think about it. You have to use wisdom. There’s a time for both, I’m sure. I’m going to talk about that. But a graceful candle’s glow can be far more beneficial than a glaring searchlight in the face.
Be more empathetic when speaking God’s truth means that we’ll remember how it feels to see light when our eyes are used to the dark. You know, light can really hurt sometimes. My grandma helped teach me that. My grandma helped teach me that. I love my grandma. I love my grandma, but maybe a little less so in the morning. To get us boys up out of bed… we’d stay overnight during the summers often times. To get us boys up out of bed, my brother and I, she’d walk into our dark bedroom cross right over to the two windows, grab the shades, yank them down and lift them right up real quick. And all that glorious sunlight would suddenly stream in and smack our dilated pupils and hurt our eyes. And we’d groan in pain and desperately try to cram our eyes back into our nice and dark pillows. I loved grandma, but she never never gave our eyes time to adjust to the light. You know, I wonder, God’s truth might be received in just such a way by people we speak to day to day, those whose minds are accustomed to the dark.
There’s a little poem that gives some good insight and even some advice about telling the truth. And if you wouldn’t mind, go ahead, Hunter, and put that on the screen for me. There’s a poem… thank you. There’s a poem written by the American poet Emily Dickinson, it’s entitled as you see, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” and she wrote this in 1868. In this poem, she suggests that when sharing the light of truth, a more thoughtful and indirect approach might be more beneficial. And let’s just read it. I’ll let you read it with me, and then I’ll come back and say something about it. And so she wrote:
[You can read the poem here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56824/tell-all-the-truth-but-tell-it-slant-1263 ]
I know that’s something you can think about. Let me explain a little thing here, what I see going on. Emily Dickinson’s… and you can leave that up for a while. Emily Dickinson agrees that one must tell all the truth. But she adds tell it slant. Now, slant doesn’t mean lie or half lie. A half lies is a full lie. A half-truth is a full… well, it’s a lie too, isn’t it? What she means in saying “tell the truth slant,” she means to tell the truth indirectly or circuitously. Sometimes, we don’t get much headway when we go at things straight out. We have to go around a little bit and come to the point. Truth told directly, she suggests, is like brilliant bolt of lightning, it’s a brilliant flash and it’s far too startling and even frightening to understand for people. Think of children in lightning storms, yourself as a child. As a grown-up, they still make me jump, the lightning.
Instead, truth needs to be explained in simple kind terms at first. You see, truth is like a light, unless comprehended gradually, little by little, its brilliance can blind us totally, and then we will never perceive it. It’s an interesting thought. It’s an interesting poem. Okay. Thank you, Hunter. We can take that down now.
And so, in our own way, Dickinson advises for a far more empathetic approach to sharing truth with others. You know, the Bible, in fact, provides a good example of speaking the truth in love and indirectly, and with empathy. And it leads to an effective outcome. If you turn with me, let’s look in 2 Samuel 12, and read an account of king David. 2 Samuel 12, this account of king David. How do you tell a powerful and stubborn king… how do you tell a powerful and stubborn king that he is wrong? Same way you tell your powerful and stubborn boss, right? Or somebody else that is powerful and stubborn we may know. Well, that’s the plight in which Nathan the prophet found himself.
King David had recently married Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah the Hittite. Widowed, we might say, through David’s own machinations. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba while Uriah her husband was fighting the war on David’s behalf. And when Bathsheba became pregnant with his child, David tried in various ways to hide his sin. Finally, David succeeded in having Uriah killed in battle, which then allowed him to marry Bathsheba. David thought his sin was safely hidden. And he remained unrepentant of his covetousness and of his pride and arrogance. But God so loved David, God so loved David that he sent Nathan, a man whom David knew and trusted to speak the truth about his sin and about his need to repent. Let’s read how Nathan shined the light of truth indirectly at first, through a story calculated to make David see his wickedness, to see the light.
2 Samuel 12:1 2 Samuel 12:1And the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
American King James Version×. “There were two men in one city,” Nathan related, “one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It ate of his own food and it drank from his own cup and it lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.” Yeah, like our little pet cats or dogs, right? “And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” It’s breathtaking. What a despicable thing to do? Note David’s reaction.
Verse 5, “So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.’ And then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” You are the man. Suddenly, Nathan shifts and speaks the truth directly now. “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword: and you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.’” With Nathan’s help, the light of truth it stunned, dazzled David’s darkened conscience. And then David saw clearly the enormity of his sin. And David denied nothing, but humbly repented.
Verse 13, David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” That says it all. If you want to know more about what David felt, read Psalm 51. And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin. You shall not die.” Well, Nathan’s approach worked. I’m sure it was inspired of God. Nathan knew David, telling the truth indirectly and then gradually by degree had its intended outcome. Now, I honestly can’t say that speaking the truth with skill like this will always bring about similar results, maybe for us, you and me, but I think by being empathetic, being empathetic is bound to help us. And in that regard, I want to draw to our attention two points from this example about being empathetic. First, when deciding how to share God’s truth with others, we really need to consider how well we know our audience. How well do we know that person? You know, it’s a clerk at Walmart, I’ve seen once in my whole life I’m probably not going to launch into a lot. Oh, I’ll put something out there, truth and then we’ll see if there’s more interest then we’ll take it from there. Again, little by little if necessary, right?
So it’s good to consider our audience. Having a good rapport or some kind of relationship with them will help us. You know, in this case, David and Nathan likely knew each other rather well. Nathan must’ve known about David’s childhood, how he’d been a shepherd boy. That would explain a story about a pet lamb. I suspect David had a number of little pet lambs growing up. Nathan knew that’s… see how well he knew David. He knew that this heart-rending story would cut through any resistance David might have to even letting Nathan speak to him in the first place. Let David put his guard down so David, excuse me, so Nathan can get a little light in there, in that darkened conscious.
And secondly, this episode reveals that prime reason for telling the truth of God. That reason we shouldn’t forget. We shouldn’t tell others about God just to prove ourselves right. We shouldn’t tell others about God just to prove ourselves right, or to prove that we somehow have superior knowledge. That’s not good on our part. We must remember that we speak the truth in love to help point people to God and even to repentance. That’s why we’re telling the truth. That’s why we’re shining the light. It’s not about us. It’s about helping them to see there is a God and He’s in heaven, and you want to know more, now I can tell you more. That’s what Nathan did for David, you see. The truth we speak might turn people to God, might turn them to repentance. But we have to say the word “might” turn them because God must first be involved in calling them. God must be involved in turning their hearts and minds to Him. We can’t do it alone. I’ve tried that. I suppose some of us, maybe all of us, have tried to get others as excited about God’s truth as we are, especially many of us back when we were first called when God first opened our eyes to understand. But I doubt if our efforts were very successful.
In our zeal and with lack of understanding and real empathy, we might have inadvertently hurt people. We might have hurt people with our… those we love with our wild brandishing of God’s light, you know, shining it in their faces. And I told my dad… we grew up on a farm. I said, “Dad, you shouldn’t be raising hogs. They’re unclean. My Dad just looked at me like… Well, I don’t know if you knew what I meant, but he knew I was… in essence I was insulting him, because Dad probably realized, “Wait a minute, aren’t you the kid a few years ago, not longer, shorter that was raising hogs to help pay your way to college, buy your clothes, and get your gas in your car? And now you’re telling me?” What an idiot I was? You know. Thankfully, I had a chance to apologize to Dad probably multiple times. But that’s just what I did, wildly brandishing God’s light in people’s faces and I didn’t have any real empathy. I didn’t understand what I was doing. I’ve learned, I think. I’m still learning. The fact is the Father must first of draw or call people.
Let’s look at John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×. We’ve got to have this deeply ingrained in our memories, especially as young people, you young people here too. I’m still young. Us young people, we need to remember these things. John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×. Only the Father can call or draw people to Jesus Christ, to open their minds to being interested in receiving His truth. John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×, Christ said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” So if people don’t respond as we’d hope, as we’d like for them to respond to God’s truth, we need to be encouraged knowing that God will call them, but He will call them in a time that’s best for them not when we want. And so, yes, we ought to speak the truth in love. And telling the truth indirectly and gradually with empathy has great merit. But there’s also time speak the truth in love and with empathy but in a much more direct and, frankly, even a blunt way.
Now, I don’t have a poem to share about this approach. I don’t have a poem, but we do find some examples of being direct with the truth in Scripture. Jesus Christ could be very direct in speaking the truth. Let’s look at Matthew 16. Matthew 16:21-23 Matthew 16:21-23 21 From that time forth began Jesus to show to his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be to you.
23 But he turned, and said to Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense to me: for you mind not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
American King James Version×. Peter once rebuked Jesus. He meant well. Peter once rebuked Jesus. And Jesus’ response was both very direct and very sharp. Let’s read Mathew’s account here. Matthew 16:21-23 Matthew 16:21-23 21 From that time forth began Jesus to show to his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be to you. 23 But he turned, and said to Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense to me: for you mind not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
American King James Version×. Here’s what happened. “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and raised the third day. But then Peter took Him aside began to rebuke Him.” He’s saying to Him, he says, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You! But Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but of the things of men.”
Now, it seems Peter rebuked Jesus with a good intention, I’m sure. I suspect he wanted to protect Him. He loved Jesus. He wanted to keep Him alive and well. And so, Jesus’s sharp reprimand… that’s what it was, his reprimand in return must really startled him like a bright light his eyes. It must have startled Peter. But Jesus spoke out, He spoke based on His love for Peter and based on His love for all humanity. You see, if Jesus had complied with Peter’s demand, then He would not have sacrificed Himself. And humanity would have remained dead in its sins. Peter’s rebuke was very well deserved. And Christ did it in love. He spoke the truth in love. Let’s also turn over a few pages, Matthew 23:12 Matthew 23:12And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
American King James Version×. Matthew 23:12 Matthew 23:12And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
American King James Version×. Mathew 23:12, here Jesus sharply rebuked the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus knew them too. Jesus knew their hearts. He knew that they wanted Him dead. They hated Him. And so, He knew them, and in His rebuke, Peter did not… excuse me, Jesus… in His rebuke, Jesus did not mince words.
Verse 12 to 15. He’s talking about humility at first. “And whoever,” Jesus says, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. But woe you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses and for a pretense” just pretend, “you make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” Let’s skip down to verse 23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. You blind guides, you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Why was Christ so very blunt and so very direct in His rebuke? It’s pretty harsh. Well, since the scribes and Pharisees were the experts in the law and were responsible for teaching the people, they knew the law rather well. And they knew better than to play hypocrite with God’s law. They knew better. And Jesus had the authority of the Father to condemn their wickedness and He denounced them directly, and with a harshness that their sin and pride deserved. But His shining of true light upon their darkened hearts and sin, His blunt truth spoken in love, it was meant to humble them, you see. He just wasn’t blasting them, blistering them, he was speaking the truth and love to them to try to get them to wake up, to see the true light, and to humble themselves. It was harsh that His intent was love. His intent was to humble them and move them to repentance to a right relationship, a correct relationship with God.
Did any of them repent? Any of them in this group here repent? We don’t know. I don’t know. The Christ example shows us how at times truth needs to be spoken directly, I think. It needs to be spoken at times to the point and even bluntly. And that’s especially true when we well understand the ones to whom we’re speaking, and when we know that the ones to whom we’re speaking have a good understanding of God and His law and His way of life. It’s hard to blister somebody for not knowing God’s way of life when they don’t know God at all. That’s not the way it seems to work. But the scribes and Pharisees, these experts in the law, they knew. They had some understanding of God’s truth. They knew, they should have known what God expected of them.
Now, for us, for me, I would give a word of caution on this point. I don’t think we should be so quick and fired up to rush out and start lambasting people with God’s truth. Yes, we can get very angry with the wrongs we see being committed in the world. Sometimes the wrongs being committed by neighbors and possibly even our brother. We might even entertain at times. I’ve done it. We might even entertain at times certain fantasies of, “Wow, just how wonderful it’d be to really hit certain people hard with the word of truth.” You just want to take your Bible and come up and pop them up the backside of the head. Who knows? I don’t know. One day we might be led by God’s Spirit to express just such, what we call righteous indignation. We might be inspired of God to do that. Meanwhile, I think we’d best leave such condemnation to Jesus Christ. You can jot this down in 2 Timothy 4:1 2 Timothy 4:1I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
American King James Version×. It’s Jesus Christ we are told there “who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” Instead, I think we’d be wise to judge ourselves according to God’s truth, God’s laws. We ought to shine God’s light upon our own hearts and search there for any hypocrisy. You know, Romans 14:12 Romans 14:12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
American King James Version×tells us that “each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Each of us, children and old folks here, “each of us shall give account of himself to God.” If we apply truth and repentance to ourselves first, I’m confident that we’d be better able to see how to best love our neighbor. I firmly believe that.
So being empathetic, we consider of others and yielding ourselves humbly to God’s Holy Spirit will help us become better at speaking the light of God’s truth whether indirectly or directly as the occasion warrants, or as people request or require. And so, we are called to be lights in this darkened world. That’s part of what we’ve heard today. We are called to be lights in this darkened world. We’re called to be shining examples of God’s love, of God’s way of life. And we will do well in speaking the truth in love, of speaking the lights of truth when we are close to God, when we’re motivated by God’s love, and when we are empathetic or understanding of others.
Now, I know and I’ll be frank about this too. I know there will be times, maybe times when we will feel that God’s light shines rather thinly through us. There’ll be times when we may even want to despair and think ourselves pitifully tiny lights set amidst the darkness of this great world. But I want to encourage us, I would tell us don’t despair. Our eyes drawn to the light, our eyes called out of the darkness to look for the light, our eyes drawn to the light even our tiny lights sparked by the one great light, God’s true great light. Our tiny lights are going to blaze most brightly and they’re most beautiful for people to see, who are in the dark, and are seeking light. So brethren, let’s consider what we’ve heard today. Let’s be lights of God in this darkened world, and let’s speak the light of His truth in love.