I was driving from California to Texas one night on Interstate 40, and sometime in the middle of the night I pulled in to a gas station to fill my tank. Back on the interstate, I hadn’t driven long when I started seeing familiar terrain. I thought to myself, I passed one of those restaurants just a bit ago. Boy, they must have a lot of them along this freeway! But a few more miles down the road I noticed that the highway markers didn’t say Interstate 40 East. They now said West.
For 15 or 20 miles, I’d felt absolutely certain I was going the right direction, but my sincerity would never have gotten me to Texas.
This experience brings to mind a statement I hear from time to time from well-meaning religious people. “All rivers lead to the ocean,” they say. “As long as we’re sincere, God will save everyone.” But will sincerity alone bring salvation?
Jesus visited with a Samaritan woman one day, and He bluntly told her that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22, NKJV).* That statement was exceedingly politically incorrect! Had Jesus wanted to be politically correct, He could have said, “You folks sincerely worship on Mount Gerizim. We Jews worship in Jerusalem. But never mind the difference. We’ll all get to heaven and love each other!” But Jesus was far more interested in the truth than in being politically correct.
With the many voices telling us the way to eternal life today, how can we know which one is telling the truth? From the Bible. The psalmist said, “All your commands are true” (Psalm 119:151; emphasis added), and in John 17:17 Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (emphasis added). The best source for determining truth isn’t your own sincerity or mine. It’s the Bible.
Loving the truth
The truth found in the Bible isn’t always popular, though, because sometimes it hurts. So how can we accept the truth if we don’t like it? We must learn to love the truth. Loving the truth means recognizing that it’s best for us even if we don’t like it.
Jesus said, “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” (John 3:20, 21). People who love the truth welcome the light from God’s Word, even when it cuts across their natural desires.
Loving the truth has everything to do with our eternal salvation. Speaking of the people who will be lost at Christ’s second coming, Paul said, “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
But how can you and I ever learn to love the truth when in our natural selves we hate it? We can’t—on our own. We must ask God to put His love for the truth in our hearts. We can pray something like this: “God, please help me to want to live by Your truth. Put a love for the truth in my heart.”
Some people experience the change from hating the truth to loving it quite rapidly—almost instantly. Others find that the change happens over time. Either way, it’s called the “new birth,” or “conversion.” Paul described it as a renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2). If we ask Him, God will actually change the way we think and feel so that we’ll hate the things we once loved, and we’ll love the things we once hated.
Learning the truth
Even after God has placed a love for the truth in our hearts, we still have to learn the truth. That means taking the time to read the Bible. I suggest that you set aside a half hour each day to read the Bible and pray about what you learn.
“But I don’t have a half hour each day to read the Bible!” you may say. That’s how it seems right now. However, think of the busy young man who meets the “love of his life.” If you had asked him a few weeks before to give you 30 minutes of his time, he would have protested that he couldn’t spare even 5 minutes. But after he met the woman of his dreams, suddenly his priorities are drastically rearranged! Now he can find 2 or 3 hours a day to spend with her!
It’s the same with reading the Bible, the source of truth. When we learn to love the truth and to love Jesus, who is the Truth, we’ll gladly rearrange our priorities to make time for reading and studying the Bible.
Settling into the truth
Abraham Lincoln used to ask, “How many legs does a dog have?” And people would say, “Four.” Then Lincoln would say, “Suppose we call the dog’s tail a leg. Then how many legs does it have?” They’d say, “Five.” And he’d say, “Wrong! Calling the dog’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
I’ve known Christians who followed after every person who came along with some new teaching or doctrine. If this person said that such and such was the truth, then it had to be the truth. But calling something the truth doesn’t make it the truth. We must come to the place where we’re certain of the truth. And that means developing a foundation of truth on which we can build other truths.
The first step in building a house is to pour a strong foundation. If the foundation is strong, the owner won’t have to worry about whether it’s going to hold up the rest of the house. That’s how it is with our belief system. Once it’s firmly in place, we don’t need to keep studying certain aspects of what we believe.
But how can we reach that certainty? How can we know that we know the truth? Again, by the Bible—but also with the aid of well-balanced spiritual people who also know the Bible well. Peter said that “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). We shouldn’t depend on just our own interpretation or that of one or two other people. If we’re dealing with a critical issue, we need counsel from a variety of sources. Paul said that God placed preachers, teachers, and evangelists in the church to build up God’s people so they can become mature Christians (Ephesians 4:11–13). That’s our goal—to become mature Christians who have a solid, well-balanced understanding of biblical truth.
I’ve learned that the Bible is a strong foundation that provides a satisfying way to live and a wonderful hope for the future. If you’re looking for truth, first, pray to love the truth. Then spend time studying the Bible. And develop relationships with other Bible students so that you can benefit from their insights as well. This will give you the satisfaction of discovering how God intended you to live, and it will give you the security of a hope-filled future as you look forward to Jesus’ return.
* Bible texts marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®.