“What is truth?” This was the question posed in frustration by Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor of Judea in the early first century (John 18:38). He asked it Jesus who stood before him on trial. The question was in reply to the words of Jesus in v37 “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness [testify] to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Like non-Christians today, Pontius Pilate was unable to recognise Truth when He was standing staring him in the face – literally staring him in the face.
How to find God when we cannot recognise Him when we are staring Him in the face?
We can read the Bible. There we find the Apostle John telling us ever so clearly that Jesus is Word of God and He is also the Truth of God. But even so, they miss it. What they wanted was the same as what we want, as First Corinthians 1:22 explains “the Jews ask for a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” It is just the same today – ‘Show me a sign – and I will believe!’ ‘Prove to me Jesus and I will believe!’ These are the cries of today – they match the cries of yesteryear.
But Jesus said that He will confuse the wise and in First Corinthians 1:19-23 He says:
“For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”
We cannot approach God through wisdom or intellectually, He says so. We are defined by Him, our Sovereign God, we do not define Him. First Corinthians 2:14 confirms that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This is compounded for the wise, the intellectual as John 4:24 states “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
But Deuteronomy 4:29 tell us “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Yes, the difference is that Deuteronomy 4:29 is asking us to seek the Lord with all our heart and soul – in which case He will be found. Most people, especially in western or developed societies are trying to seek the Lord intellectually, using their wisdom – in which case He will not be found.
How we seek, is important to the Lord. If we come to Him with humility and a yearning in our heart and soul, we come from a position of subservience and weakness which He will accept. Whereas, if we come from an intellectual or cerebral or logical or scientific view point we are seeking God from almost the state of an academic exercise, and treating Him as an equal, or beneath us. We think we can get to grips with the Lord’s thoughts and ideas and worldview and we are positioning ourselves as high as He. They don’t know, or have forgotten, that First Corinthians 1:25 tells us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
When Jesus was asked by a young man how to gain access to the Kingdom He gave a hard reply. He told the truth – a truth not preached much these days. The story is recorded in Matthew 19:16-26
“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honour your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.”
Both Pontius Pilate and this young man had the opportunity to stand before God and ask their questions 1) What is truth? And 2) What good deed must I do to have eternal life?
In both cases the questioners walked away silently and in a sorrowful condition. Both had received the answers to their questions from the very mouth of God, the lips of Jesus Christ himself. But the answers were beyond them. For Pilate he saw it as a rhetorical academic question much loved by the Greeks for mental and intellectual gymnastics – and cared not a jot for what Truth was. For the young man, he wanted the answer to be “business as usual” for himself and his life style. They were his god and he determined not to exchange the treasure of this world for those of the next and trust, or exhibit faith in Jesus, the son of the Living God himself. Ultimately, they were searching with the wrong tools – they used their mind, not their hearts. For them, the lies of Satan had overcome the words from the very mouth of God.
In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus tells us that we should seek Him and he will answer, for He says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” But we are also reminded in Mark 6:21 that “where our treasure is, there is out heart also.” To this, Hebrews 11:6 adds that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” It is conditional; for as Psalm 18:25-29 also says – if we come in pride, we will not find Him and He will not reveal Himself.
Let the final words belong to our Lord who in Jeremiah 17:10 spoke to us saying “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Amen and Amen and Amen.