How do you know if what you hear is the truth? Let’s pretend you are in the kitchen when you hear glass shatter in the playroom. Your [grand]child runs up to you, waving his little arms, retelling the frightening story of how your cat knocked pictures off from your fireplace mantel. How do you know he is
Or, let’s think back to November. You had two presidential candidates trotting around a stage with microphones in hand. A moderator asked questions of each one. One candidate claims to have voted a certain way on healthcare legislation. Another candidate points back to a promise made on immigration. Both candidates dust off a statement on college tuition and claim to have always stood behind their statement. How do you know if what you are hearing is the truth? Well, you have fact-checkers. During every presidential debate, certain individuals scour every past voting record, every promise, and every statement and compare those proofs to the words given now. You gather evidence, examine the proof, and then form a conclusion.
I find it safe to assume that people want the truth. No one wants a false report. You know that building your life on a lie can have long-term results. You may punish an innocent cat. You can vote for an elected official who will change the campaign promises you support. Having proof allows you to determine if what you hear is the truth.
So, when it comes to your faith, how do you know if what you are hearing is the truth? How do you know if what I am telling you is truth (and not a lie)? How do you know if Jesus truly removed sin’s consequences free of charge (or if you must do something to earn forgiveness)? Since so many different teachers share so many different teachings on the same Bible, you are encouraged to Fact-Check Your Faith. Use Scripture for proof. Examine Scriptures for truth.
Paul the missionary does just that. He travels along the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, pass[ing] through Amphipolis and Apollonia, [and] came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. There, Jews read the Old Testament Scriptures, hear a sermon, and offer up prayers.
Yet, their attentions still fixated on a Christ to come. Yes, even though Jesus had already died on the cross, rose on Easter, and ascended into heaven, some did not (1) know these events happened and (2) others believed the man Jesus was not God’s promised “Christ.”
So, for three Sabbath days [Paul] reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. How will those Jews know if Paul is telling them the truth? Well, do you see how he taught? [H]e reasoned with them from the Scriptures.
Paul’s beliefs do not come from preconceived notions; he is not teaching his personal opinions. They ask questions and Paul points to the Old Testament prophecies to (1) explain what it means that the Messiah must die. In the Old Testament, the prophet Zechariah predicted: “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (13:7). Jeremiah the prophet set the price of Jesus’ betrayal at thirty pieces of silver (32:7; Matthew 27:9-10). Isaiah says: He [God’s appointed Son] was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (53:5). King David knows the Christ would be forsaken by God, men would gamble for his clothing, the wicked would scowl at him (Psalm 22:1-18). These are clear prophecies.
So, Paul takes them and (2) gives evidence that these events are fulfilled by Jesus. His disciples scatter when he is arrested (Matthew 26:31). Judas betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (which the chief priests used to buy a field). Jesus suffers on a cross for our sins, being forsaken by God while men gamble for his clothing (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:24). Yet, not only does the Christ suffer, but he rises again. Paul opens to Psalm 16, where it promises: you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay (Psalm 16:10). This man Jesus not only dies, but so many witness that he lives!
So, Paul could say with certainty: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ. He Fact-Checks Faith by using Scripture for proof.
But the Jews were jealous. They are not merely upset Paul’s preaching gains followers; they feel Paul tells lies. Doesn’t that sound odd? Paul points to the Bible, uses clear prophecies and connects them to clear, factual events of Jesus, and still many reject his words. Why? Because some Jews had already made up their minds of what they wanted in the Christ. They wanted a Christ who would chase the Romans out of their land, give the Jews free reign to rule their country, and feed them forever (John 6:14-15; Acts 1:6). And since Jesus appears to completely fail at this task, then (they conclude) he could not be the Christ.
Yes, you might be shaking your head, wondering: “How could they ever believe that?” Well, when you divorce the Bible from your beliefs, then you will create anything to believe. The constant temptation in life is to form your beliefs first and then to use the Bible to defend those beliefs.
The Bible teaches: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ selflessly loved the church” and “Wives, listen to your husbands as believers listen to Jesus” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Yet, how easy for husbands to change those clear words and say: “Well, I will only put the needs of my wife ahead of my own if she earns my love first.” Or for wives to say, “Well, my husband does not deserve me following his leadership.” The Bible is clear and yet the mind feels free to change its clear meaning.
God calls you to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:7)— to stand out from a world which cares so little for the Word. Yet, the mind quickly wonders: “Would God really be angry over my words, my lifestyle, my drinking?” The Bible is clear and yet the mind finds reasons to excuse behaviors.
Jesus teaches, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31). Still, the moment you realize a friend does not agree with Jesus’ teaching of baptism, how quickly you may want to remove Jesus’ teaching so that you do not anger your friend! The Bible gives a clear teaching and yet the mind feels it has enough authority to cancel out God’s Word!
How tempting it is to change the clear meaning the Word of God to fit your beliefs! Yet, if you do that, then how do you know if what you believe is the truth? Basing your faith on your personal feelings of “right” and “wrong” really provides no truth. You have no certainty that what you believe is true. At best, you can only guess. You will never have certainty that you are on the right path to eternal life.
Fact-Check Your Faith. Recognize the Bible exposes our heart’s rebellious condition. A part of us will always find fault with God. So, that is why it is necessary for the Christ to suffer and die.
When Jesus lives in this world, he sees the words of Psalm 14 come to life: All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good not even one (Psalm 14:3). Yet, Jesus has done good; he alone is perfect. Never does he change the Word to gain popularity; never does he form his behavior first and then use the Word to defend it. Instead, God promised the Christ would die, Jesus goes ahead to be pierced and crushed for our rebellion.
Yet, Christ had to rise… because your debt to God had been paid in full. No more debt means no more death. So Jesus can promise you a room in his Father’s mansion (John 14:2-3). The only Way into heaven is by trusting Jesus (and only Jesus) has removed your sins. You can be sure this is true because Scripture gives clear proof.
Paul continued using Scripture for proof sharing with everyone (1) that the Christ had to suffer and die and (2) that Jesus is the Christ. This is his custom— even when arriving to a new city called Berea. He shares this marvelous truth in another synagogue. As these Christians listen, they examine Scriptures for truth.
Instead of simply listening to Paul and assuming his words were automatically correct, they fact-checked his teachings with the Word of God. If Paul called Jesus “the Son of God,” then they read Psalm 2:7 where God calls Jesus my Son. If they wanted to know if Jesus had to suffer, they could turn to Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22. Psalm 16 reveals God’s promise to raise Jesus from the dead. They paid close attention to Paul’s teachings and compared them to the Bible clear teachings. They Fact-Checked Their Faith by examining Scriptures for truth.
It never offends the preacher if the congregation wishes to fact-check his words. In fact, a Godly preacher delights in seeing a congregation place their allegiance to the Word over their allegiance to a denomination or a personality. When we start saying: “I believe because Pastor so-and-so said” or “This is the way we’ve always done it” or “It just feels right,” that is when you do well to return to the Word and learn again the reasons you believe the teachings you believe. The devil knows the more he keeps you out of the Word, the more you will create your own God to follow. Either you rely too much on what you think you know or you grow so lazy that you do not care what you do know. Fact-Check Your Faith by examining Scriptures for truth.
This is what makes you “Lutheran.” Being “Lutheran” is more that applying a name to your denomination. It means you follow the approach to the Word of God that Martin Luther had. Luther pointed everyone back to the Word of God and demanded that life and teachings are founded on the Word. So when the Catholic church declared you could be forgiven by paying money or praying or traveling to holy places, Luther asked: “Where does the Bible teach this?” When friends taught the Lord’s Supper simply pretended Jesus’ body and blood were present, Luther declared: “But Jesus, in the Bible, says: ‘This is.’”
When you are confronted by an unfamiliar teaching, scour through the Bible. When social issues flare up: same-sex marriage, divorce, how to raise children, how to help those in need— how tempting to stop and blurt out what you think. (What you think might be entirely wrong!) Instead, start with the Word. What has Jesus said? Do your beliefs line up with his teachings? Only then will you know the truth. This truth will place you on the path to Life. Fact-Check Your Faith by examining Scriptures for truth.
No one wants a false report. Building your life on a lie can have long-term results. You could base your hope on something that will never come true. You may believe an event (or fact) that simply did not happen. Having proof allows you to determine if what you hear is the truth.
So, when it comes to your faith, how do you know if what you are hearing is the truth? How do you know if what I am telling you is truth (and not a lie)? How do you know if Jesus truly removed sin’s consequences free of charge (or if you must do something to earn forgiveness)? Return to the Word and Fact-Check Your Faith. Use Scripture for proof. Examine Scriptures for truth.