Shining the Light on Truth

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Lent 4 March 15, 2021
SCRIPTURE: John 3: 14-21
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
John 3: 21 (NIV)

TRUTH & LIGHT

We are now in the middle of Lent. Easter is just three weeks away. Then we will remember the horrors of the crucifixion and the celebration of the resurrection. It was on the day that he was crucified that Jesus stood before Pilate the prefect or governor of the Roman province of Judea. The Jewish authorities had taken Jesus to the palace to get Pilate’s opinion on the matter of his execution.

It was during the conversation between Jesus and Pilate as recorded in John 18:37-38 (NIV) that Jesus said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” In response, Pilate uttered the now famous question, “What is truth?”

We touched on the subject of truth last week very briefly and we are going to explore it today in more detail. What we are going to discover is that truth and light are intimately connected. Without light, there is no truth and without truth there is no light.

To do this, I want us to refer to John 3:14-21 (NIV) which says this:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

The passage, of course, is contained within the classic story of Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisee named Nicodemus. It is in this passage that Jesus connects the truth and the light. We particularly see it in John 3:21 (NIV) where Jesus says, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” Whoever comes into the truth also comes into the light. You can’t have one without the other. Truth and light go together, hand in hand.

That makes sense. If you want to examine something you have to shed some light on it. Why is that? Because it is only when you shed light on something that you can clearly see it. I’m sure that I’m much the rest of you in that as I get older, my eyesight is not what it used to be. I can still see quite well but not as well as I used to. I didn’t have my first pair of glasses until I was in my mid-forties but ever since then my eyesight has become increasingly challenged. I remember when I could read a Bible with very small print with no trouble. I could read the tiny little warning labels on medication bottles without a second thought. I haven’t been able to do that for a long time.

Because I’m far sighted I need my glasses for reading. There is one notable exception to this. When I am outside in the bright sunlight, I can still read almost anything. The more light there is, the more the words on page reveal themselves to me. The same holds true for the truth. The more light we shed on something, the more truth we discover.

JESUS – THE TRUTH & THE LIGHT

Truth and light go together. We know that the more light we have, the more truth we are able to see. Jesus puts a new spin on this because he says that the exact opposite is also true. In John 3:21, he says that whoever lives by the truth comes into the light. That means that the more truth you have, the more light you see. Isn’t that cool. Light reveals truth but truth also reveals light. It goes both ways.

And here’s the really amazing part. Truth and light go together because Jesus is both truth and light. He himself said that he was both of them. First of all, Jesus is truth. In John 14:6 (NIV) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Did you get that? Jesus said that he was three things. One of them was truth. Jesus is truth. What is that truth? It is that no one comes to the God except through Jesus. He’s the only way. That’s the truth that Jesus reveals.

Second, Jesus is light. In John 8:12 (NIV) he says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus is light. He says that those who follow him will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

Jesus is truth. He is the only way to the Father. Jesus is light. He offers the light of life that chases away the darkness. The themes of truth and light flow through the gospel of John much as the Holy Spirit flows through the people of God. Light and truth. Truth and light. It’s all there for those whom have eyes to see.

But what is truth? Do you remember Pilate’s question? What does Jesus say about truth in response to Pilate’s question? The surprising part is that he says absolutely nothing. Jesus doesn’t answer him. Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t get a chance. As soon as Pilate asks the question he leaves the room and goes to talk with the Jewish authorities. He tells them that they are nuts for wanting to execute Jesus. He has done nothing wrong. I believe that Pilate didn’t need to wait for Jesus’ to answer because he already knew it. He knew that what Jesus said about himself was true. Everyone on the side of truth would listen to him. Pilate may not have had all the details figured out but he realized that there was a connection. Jesus and the truth go hand in hand.

Here’s a question for you. If Pilate could figure it out, why do so many people today have such difficulty with that concept? Why is it that so many people doubt who Jesus is and what he represents? Why do they have so much trouble with the concept of the truth claims of Jesus? Maybe it’s because people in general have trouble with the concept of truth on a much wider scale.

I read an article the other day by Dr. Justin McBrayer. He’s a professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. This article was inspired by his visit to his son’s public school class room. We need to note that his son is in grade two. Interestingly, the day he was visiting was the very day that they were discussing the notion of truth. That would be a very interesting subject for a philosophy prof. What would seven year olds have to say about truth? As it turns out, they didn’t say very much at all because most of the time was taken up by the teacher telling the students how to define truth.

Here’s what was taught. You have to be clear about what is fact and what is opinion. A fact is something that is true because it can be tested or proven. An opinion is something that someone thinks, feels or believes. What that means is that, by definition, the only things that can be deemed true are facts because they are the only things that can be tested or proven. Everything else is opinion.

That means that gravity is truth. It’s a fact. It is true that one plus one equals two – depending of course on what base is used – and that the square root of sixteen is four. It is true that water expands when it freezes and that iron contracts when it freezes. These are all true because they can be tested or proven. So they must be true. What Dr McBrayer was concerned about was that the public school system in Colorado was teaching his children that beyond mathematics, science and some history pretty well everything else is opinion. And if it is an opinion than it is not true.

What it means is that there are no philosophical truths because philosophy consists of subjective ideas that can’t be consistently tested. There are certainly no moral truths because morality is based on the culture in which it exists. And there are no religious truths either because that’s all matter of opinion too. In a nutshell, if you can’t prove it, then you’re welcome to your opinion but don’t push it on me. By that definition here are some opinions that are not true. Think about these: All people are created equal; Copying homework assignments is wrong; It is inappropriate to swear in class; Rich people should never steal from poor people; Education is a good idea; Murder is wrong; Helping the poor is right. According to what Dr. McBryaer’s son was being taught, these are not truths because they cannot be tested or proven. They are only someone’s opinions and will vary with each culture and generation. So it’s all just relative.

When children are being taught that in grade two is it any wonder why people as they get older have difficulty understanding the broader concept of truth? Is it any wonder why moral standards are declining and people see no need for a higher power in their lives? Here’s what I want to say. I have no problem saying that things that can be tested and proven are true. I think that’s self-evident. But when we limit our concept of truth to that extremely narrow definition, we lose our moral compass. I would submit to you that there is philosophical truth. For example, education is a good thing and all people really are created equal. There are also moral truths. It is wrong to murder. It’s always wrong. And of course there are theological truths. God’s not dead and Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our sins so that through faith in him we can have eternal life. In my life, those things are true. And they aren’t true just for me. They are universally true for everyone.

Can I prove those things? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t true. God doesn’t need me to prove his existence. He exists whether or not someone wants to believe it. And Jesus doesn’t need me to affirm his sacrifice in order for it to be sufficient for all of our sins. Just because we can’t prove those things does not in any way take away from the validity of those truth claims.

Pilate understood that. He understood it 2,000 years ago. He knew that either Jesus was who he said he was or he wasn’t. He was so sure that it was true that when he asked Jesus to define truth, he didn’t even bother waiting for the answer because he already knew it. He understood that Jesus was the way, the truth and the life. He may not have fully understood what that meant but I believe that he understood validity of that truth.

So here’s a question. If Pilate understood those things, why did he hand Jesus over to be crucified? The short answer is because he had to. It was the part that God had given him to play on the stage of life for the salvation history of creation to be fulfilled. I don’t believe that Pilate was a bad person. Jesus had to died on the cross and in order for that to happen, Pilate had to do his part by handing him over to the Jewish authorities. And aren’t we glad he did.

What is truth? The truth is revealed by the light. Jesus is the truth and Jesus is the light. To love the truth and to love the light is to love Jesus.

SHINING LIGHT ON OUR LIVES

So what’s the point? The point is simply this. There is more to truth than mere facts. There are also the truths that we all live and experience each and every day. They are truths about ourselves, our relationships and our God. And the fact that they cannot be tested or proven does not in any way take away from truths that we proclaim.

So here’s my challenge for you today on this forth Sunday of Lent. If Jesus is the truth and Jesus is the light then we should be living the way that he wants us to live. Remember what he said in verse John 3:21 (NIV): “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” What about you? Would your life hold up under that scrutiny? If your actions were put under the light for all to see, would they be consistent with Jesus’ teachings?

Here’s the reality. All of us fall short. None of us truly lives up to Jesus’ standards because none of us is perfect. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t get better. So what I want you to do is look at your own life. What is there in your life that would not bear up under the light of Christ? Note that I’m asking you to examine your own life, no one else’s. It’s so much easier to find fault with others but they can examine their own lives. You stick with yours. I want you to forget about everyone else and concentrate on your life. Where do you fall short of the truth of the Gospel? What is the light of Jesus showing to you?

As you think about that, I want to give you some parameters. First, if something you are currently doing is a secret that you prefer that others didn’t know, it probably doesn’t measure up. Second, if you would be ashamed if others discovered what you are doing, it probably doesn’t measure up. Here’s the third one; if you would not want to admit to your mother that you take part in this behaviour, it probably doesn’t measure up.

I want you to note this. There is a different between behaviours that are private and those that are sinful. There are certain private things that we don’t need to share. We don’t need to share our medical history. We don’t need to tell others about our intimate moments with our spouses. Those things are and should be private. There is nothing wrong with them.

That is different, however, from behaviours that are inconsistent with the clear teachings of Scripture. Our goal during Lent is to walk more closely to the way that Jesus calls us to walk, to act like he wants us to act, to talk like he wants us to talk. And we need to stop making excuses for ourselves when we fall short.

Truth is truth in every day and generation. Jesus is truth. Jesus is light. Let his light shine on your life to reveal the truth and then allow his Holy Spirit to transform you from the inside out from the person you are into the person he created you to be. But as you do that remember this. You are not alone. You are part of a body of believers that is called to support you as you seek the truth in your own life. You are not alone and you will not be judged. The only time we cast stones in this congregation is at the devil. We are all equally in need of Jesus’ blood to save us and redeem us. If you need to come and talk with me or anyone else please do that. If there is a confession that you need to make, please make it. If there is something that you need to get off your chest, my door is always open. If you would rather talk with someone else, then by all means do that. Just get past the darkness so that you can live fully in light of God’s amazing love.

What is truth? What is light? Jesus is truth and Jesus is light.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of the Ages, speak to our hearts. Remind us, once again, of your infinite love. Cleanse our souls and calm our fears. Give us the assurance of your presence and the strength of your Spirit living within us. O God, the Rock of the Ages, speak to our hearts.

Lord of Love, help us to keep the priorities of my life in proper order, always putting you and your way of doing things first above all else. It would be most foolish to give away that which is of infinite value for that which is of no lasting value. We want to live, with you, forever, and there is nothing in the universe that could ever be of equal value to that. Thank you for the gift of eternal life with you.

We remember the struggle of people the world over. We pray that their concerns and issues may be addressed and that solutions can be found for problems that, in many cases, have continued for centuries. We also pray for your Spirit to be upon the world as we continue to deal with a global pandemic. Give us peace, and wisdom and strength. Give your Church, O God, the courage to continue to struggle against attitudes of violence and injustice. In doing so, may we work toward the society that you have called us build on the foundation of your love.

We pray for those who mourn, especially the family and friends of Mary Kiss and Jim Elford. Thank you, Jesus, that you died for their sins and rose again for their eternal life. May we, who mourn in this season or Lent, never fail to look toward the promise of empty tomb of Easter morning.

Finally, we lift up in prayer the sick of our congregation and community. We pray, this morning, for those who have been in hospital, especially Richard and Gary, . Grant to them and to all of us, O God, your healing touch. Grant us your peace and strength in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

March 14, 2021 / Lent 4

SCRIPTURE

Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; John 3:14-21; Ephesians 2:1-10

CALL TO WORSHIP

ONE: Give thanks to God who loves forever.

ALL: Give praise to the Lord who rules Creation.

ONE: Sing to God who redeems and saves us.

ALL: Honour the One who calls us home.

ONE: Come, let us worship our God in a celebration of faith.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Your love, O God, endures forever. Your faithfulness to all generations. We are grateful for your assurance which tells us that you will complete what you have begun in our lives. We come as your children, like the seeds of spring waiting to be watered and nourished by your Spirit. We come seeking the nurture and growth that only you can provide. Enable us to learn more about your ways and to walk more confidently in the strength of your love for each of us. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Loving God, our Saviour and Friend, sometimes we are overwhelmed by the circumstances of life. Sometimes, we do not know where to turn. Sometimes, we forget to turn to you. Forgive us. Give us the courage to hold on to faith, refusing to let it go. We seek a fresh experience of your love, a love which is greater than we can comprehend. It is an unconditional love that has been offered to us by your grace. Enable us to set our hearts on your path and to turn from our sinful ways. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The choices that we make are ours alone. The consequences of our actions will be revealed in the light of God. Thanks be to God that, when we make wrong and destructive choices, God is there to mend and heal the damage and to lead us back along the path of righteousness.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

We bring our best to you this day, O God, represented by our tithes and offerings. We bring, also, our hearts that you may use our lives for your holy purpose. All that we are, all that we do, all that we ever have we offer to you. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

The time to leave is upon us. It is time to return to our lives and to take our faith with us. May Jesus shine in your work and your way. May the Holy Spirit thrive in your prayers and meditations. May God be with you ‘til we meet again.

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