This morning I announced that the topic is “The Key to a Healthy Life” and to kind of lead into the message, if you were here back in May, I think that if you boil down what I shared, if you boil it down into a single bullet point, it would be this, this is what the one thing I think I emphasized, the importance of finding out what is true. Because truth is paramount in the Christian faith. Interestingly, Jesus, when you read the four gospels, He continually issues warnings to us. And one of the great warnings He issues is, beware of false teaching, because He realizes that there’s nothing more dangerous when we embrace false ideas.
And I share all of this because what I want to do this morning is speak on the role of truth in our lives, for I contend that it plays a pivotal role in determining how healthy we are as men. And I’m not talking about just the importance of being honest with one another, which is important. I’m talking about what David refers to in Psalm 51 when he says God desires truth in our innermost being. In Psalm 15, he says the importance of speaking the truth in our hearts. And so, I think it’s quite clear that healthy people are willing to confront the truth about themselves and take appropriate action.
I want to read to you a quote from a professor down at UAB who articulates this much better than I have. He says, and this is Dr. George Graham, “It takes a tremendous amount of courage to face the truth. People who have the habit of not facing the truth have a habit of having trouble living in every aspect of their lives, in their jobs and in their personal relationships as well. Being centered on the truth is crucial to a healthy, vital human life.”
Of course, your question might be, when you say a healthy person, what are you talking about? Obviously, I’m not talking about physical health, which we all value greatly. I’m referring more to our mental, our emotional, our psychological, and most significantly our spiritual health. And I might add that the mark of a healthy person is one who has healthy substantive relationships. That’s the mark of a healthy person. And yet the problem that I see from my vantage point, which is a little unusual, is that as I look out into our community, as I look out into our culture, I’m greatly concerned that we aren’t healthy, that we aren’t healthy mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. I see it in men’s lives who come and talk to me. I see it in what I read in the media. Now, I know that I get a lot of grief about the fact, it’s almost I get a perverse delight of cutting material out of periodicals that back up this thesis, and so, I realize this morning that I could sit here and just, I don’t know that it would bore you, but review a lot of information that comes out of our media. So, I just decided just to look at a couple.
This is just right out of The Wall Street Journal just recently. And it’s on our youth, our children and our adolescents. And it says that in the last 10 years, depression among our children has doubled. And that the medication that they take for depression has tripled. Now, if that’s happening in our youth, then to me, what that is, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in our culture. It’s really probably a, a reflection of what’s going on in the lives of adults who impact our youth.
And then just recently in the, I mention this because of the audience, there was an article in The Birmingham News about how, and they were astonished, how Alabama, and I don’t know if it’s one of the few states, we have a higher suicide rate than we do a murder rate. And I’m not sure what that means, but the article said, that’s a very disturbing trend. And I share that because if you look at statistics of suicide, which I’m very sensitive to because every one of us has been touched by this, but 70 to 80% of the people who commit suicide are white males. I have a friend who is a counselor and if you called her today to set up an appointment with her, you could get an appointment in a month, not so much that she’s good, which she is, but that she’s covered up, but what’s even more interesting, the senior partner in her practice, in this counseling practice, if you called him for an appointment, he could never see you. He is so full of clients, he just can’t see any new clients, patients, I’m not sure what they call them. And you know, we’ve seen this trend coming. Sociologists will tell you since the 1950s, what we’ve watched is our economic well-being go like this, and yet our mental, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being has plummeted. And so, my assessment is this, that many of us struggle to cope with life. And unfortunately, we refuse to deal with it.
And so, this morning I want to consider the issue of truth in our innermost being and how it impacts my personal life and then how it impacts my spiritual life. And when you say personal life, what I’m talking about is how I function at work in the workplace, in my marriage, at home, socially, my habits, my personal time by myself and anything else you want to throw in there. And what I want to do is start by looking at some observations by some very well qualified people.
I heard this gentleman, he’s a philosopher. He got his PhD from the University of Oregon Douglas Groothuis. He says this about the truth as it relates to our personal lives. “Truth is a daunting, difficult thing. It is also the greatest thing in the world. Yet we are chronically ambivalent towards it. We seek it and yet we fear it. Our better side wants to pursue truth, wherever it leads, but our darker side balks when the truth begins to lead us anywhere we don’t want to go.”
I love the words of Blaise Pascal 350 years ago, he got right to, he just lasered into the human condition when he said, “It is the nature of self-esteem and of the human self to love only oneself and to consider oneself alone. But what can a man do? He wants to be great and finds that he is small. He wants to be happy and finds that he is unhappy. He wants to be perfect and finds that he is riddled with imperfections. He wants to be the object of men’s affection and esteem and sees that his faults deserve only their dislike and contempt, the embarrassing position in which he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passion that can possibly be imagined.” And listen to this. “He conceives a mortal hatred of the truth, which brings him down to earth and convinces him of his faults. He’d like to be able to annihilate it and not being able to destroy it in himself, he destroys it in the minds of other people.” That is to say, he concentrates all of his efforts on concealing his faults, both from others and from himself and cannot stand being made to see them, or their being seen by other people.
Now, just to give you a little diversity here, we’ve looked at two philosophers, one who lives today, one who lived 350 years ago, and now, I want to listen to the words of Warren Buffet, who, in an article in Fortune Magazine in December of 2001 was interviewed. Now Buffet’s an interesting guy. We all know that he is incredibly wealthy and that he is a great and astute investor, but he’s also very philosophical. And he got philosophical in this article. He reads a lot of the history of what’s happened in the investment world. And he says this talking about how so many people do so poorly when they invest. He says, “We as humans have a flaw in our makeup. It’s a psychological force,” and you’ve got to remember, he comes from no spiritual perspective at all when he’s saying this, “it’s a psychological force that causes us to cling to our ideas and beliefs, even in the face of contradictory information.” And I’m quoting him. He says, “Now, there was a man who was very smart, who did just about the hardest thing in the world to do. This man was Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin used to say that whenever he ran into something that contradicted a conclusion that he cherished, he was obliged to write it down on paper within a 30-minute period. Otherwise, he knew his mind would work to reject the discordant information much as the body rejects transplants.”
I mean, what Buffet is telling us Is that we should look reality in the eye. He says, but the problem is we’d rather cling to our old, antiquated beliefs, even if they’re false.
And then, one more, this is a man that I think highly of and I’m going to quote him three times this morning. Not only is he incredibly brilliant, but he is very Godly. His name is Dallas Willard. Willard was the head of the philosophy department at Southern California University for years. He’s recently retired, and this is the way he assesses us and the way we handle truth in our personal lives. He says, “We all hold to certain ideas and assumptions about our personal lives. We generally hold fast to these assumptions because they generally express how we want things to be. Unfortunately, we will hold on to our views, even though they may be false because we wish to continue living as we now live and continue being the kinds of people that we are. We do not want to change. We do not want our world to be really different. However, this is the irony, on the other hand, we want to escape,” listen to this carefully, “we want to escape the consequences of avoiding the truth, which we know deep down are out there, but which we are hoping will not happen.”
Guys, it’s important to understand this. This is kind of the thesis of my talk, dedication to the truth generally leads to growth and personal well-being. Denial of the truth in our lives leads to difficulty and problems and ultimately, destructiveness. And the person that I believe articulates this as well as anyone is a guy by the name of Scott Peck, who wrote what was the number one bestselling nonfiction book in America in the late seventies and early eighties. And Peck says it just perfectly. He says, “Life is difficult. Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them, or do we want to solve them? What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one, yet it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Most of us are not so wise, however. Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, hoping that they’ll go away. We ignore them. We forget them. We pretend they do not exist. Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far a feel from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try to find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality.”
And then he has a section, or a chapter, which he titles “Dedication to Reality”. And he says, “What dedication to reality is, is nothing more than a dedication to the truth, for truth is reality. That which is false is unreal. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world, the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions, and illusions. The less able we will be able to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions. Our view of reality, being dedicated to the truth, is like having a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we’ve decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. But if our map, if our view of life, if we deny the truth its rightful place in our lives, then the map is false and its inaccurate. And we generally will be lost, neurotic, and very unhealthy people.”
You know, what Peck is saying, I think, is quite right. He says, if we confront the truth, it’s like having an accurate map to live our lives. And this map tells us where we are, where we need to go, and generally, how to get there.
I’ve been taking a course over at Beeson Divinity School on the life of C.S. Lewis, who is, if you don’t know of Lewis, one of the most fascinating men I think to live in the last century. And, of course, he was an atheist for years, and you can read in his biography all about the conversion process that took place in his life. And after he was converted, he and a group of scholars got together and informed a group. I think one of his best friends was Tolkien who wrote the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and several other scholars. And they would meet regularly and discuss various issues. They called themselves the Socratic Club because of a quote from Socrates which became their motto. But they all believed that our lives should be shaped by the truth, but their motto has really impacted me, and I think about it a lot. It’s a real simple statement. This is kind of what ruled the direction that their club went. And the motto was this; listen to it carefully. Follow the truth wherever it leads. Follow the truth wherever it leads.
Now you may be asking, how does this relate to me and to my life. And, you know, as I was preparing this, I wondered, and this is something I always wonder. I know it goes on in my life, but I always wonder about is this true of everybody else’s life. And what I wondered is do we ever really stop when we’re alone and by ourselves and have time to think, do we ever stop and really examine our lives? Do we ever get really introspective and really be honest with ourselves? You know, that’s what Armand Nicholi observed as being a problem in all of his peers and his students. If you’ll remember, Nicholi is a psychiatrist who teaches at Harvard Medical School. He also teaches in their undergraduate department, and he made this assessment. He says, “Within our university at Harvard, students and professors will scrutinize every possible aspect of our universe, from the billions of galaxies to subatomic particles and electrons, but they assiduously avoid examining their own lives.”
So, let me ask you just a couple of questions this morning, and you can do your own evaluation. Then you can ask yourself, you know, am I healthy? And I would start with this question. Do you have any serious flaws or weaknesses that only you are aware of and that remain hidden from everyone else? Because, as Pascal says, that’s what we attempt to do with all of our energy. It could be depression. It could be fear, worry, anxiety. It can be loneliness. It can be emptiness, a sense of meaninglessness to your life, and you struggle with it, and yet nobody knows. What about your habits? This is, again, a serious problem with men in our age group. I’m always skeptical of statistics, but I keep seeing this over and over. And if you take a hundred men, 65 of those men will have an addiction to either prescription drugs, alcohol, pornography, or gambling. Sixty-five. That’s hard to believe. And of course, men are really good at hiding these addictions and usually live with this self-delusion that, you know, I have it under control. It’s not going to get too big of a grip on my life. And then what about the condition of your marriage? Is it vital? Is it growing? Excuse me, is it vibrant? Is it growing? Are you deepening your love relationship with your spouse? And for you who still have children at home, are you spending the time investing in the lives of your kids and providing the love and the role model that they so desperately need? And then what about your work life? You know, it’s interesting. I talk to men all the time who come to me to talk about their work lives and either they’re suffocating in their work, or they’re consumed by it. Sometimes I’m not sure what’s better because of what generally happens is it has an impact negatively on their relational lives, particularly their marriage and family. And what about your spiritual life? Are you in right relationship with God? Do you have a strong foundation to undergird your life? I mean, as you analyze yourself, you can ask, am I healthy? Am I really healthy? You know, I’ve heard it said that a man’s true character is revealed by how he conducts himself when nobody else is looking. How do we do when nobody else is looking? How healthy are we? You know, Jesus asks a very interesting question to a crippled man in the fifth chapter of the book of John. He asks him, do you want to get well. Do you want to be healthy? I think this is a good question we all should ask ourselves. Do I want be healthy emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and relationally? Do I want to be healthy spiritually? Or am I going to delude myself and tell myself everything is okay; everything is going to work out.
I could give you a number of illustrations on the pertinence of this, but I think it’s probably most effective for me to share with you from my own personal life. Many of you know, I didn’t get married until late in life and I’ve been married almost nine and a half years. And I could tell you today, the good news is my marriage is healthier than it has ever been. It is more vibrant, it is in a place that I never, ever dreamed that it would be. I share that because, if you go back eight months ago, I couldn’t tell you that. In fact, looking back, my wife and I were at a fairly scary place. There was a real coldness in our marriage. There was a lot of tension. We have three young children which created a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. I left town for almost a week with a group of my friends to go skiing, which didn’t go over really well. It was, we were going in a direction that was clearly not going to be good. And yet, I kept thinking, you know, this is just one of those valleys you go through. But, as the weeks went by, I realized, no, this isn’t the case. And when I got back, my kids were glad to see me, but she certainly wasn’t. And it was a couple of nights later, we’d put them to bed, and we were sitting at our kitchen table and to her credit, she just put all the issues that were going on between us, she put them up on the table. She addressed them. That’s one thing I can say, my wife is dedicated to the truth. And she talked about the direction our marriage was going. She talked about the way I related to her. She talked about a host of issues that were true, but that were very painful to hear. And I remember my response was that I was hurt by her words, I was angry, and I was scared. I wasn’t scared that she was going to leave me, but I was scared because we had never been in this type of situation. We’d never been in this place in our marriage. It was a painful gut-wrenching discussion. And yet, interestingly, the very next day I could see there was a difference in her. I could see over the next week or two, a healing process was taking place, a growth process. And after working through these issues, our relationship truly was transformed. But I realized when I shared this morning, what Peck says is that by my wife forcing us to look the truth in the eye, we knew where we were, and we knew where we needed to go. And with some wise counsel, we knew how to get there. Dedication to the truth.
Now I want to shift gears really quick and talk about how being dedicated to the truth is so important in the spiritual realm. I’ve always found it interesting how people get their ideas about God and religion. Have you ever thought about that? What are the sources in your life that have that it formed your spiritual perspective? Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever thought about how your ideas about God have been formed? Have our sources been accurate? I mean, have we gotten good information as these ideas have been formed? I share this because I’ve often wondered how religious skeptics or atheists have arrived at their conclusions. And I’ve wondered, has it come from the motive, follow the truth wherever it leads. Now I’m going to share this. What I’m going to to read to you is something that fascinates me, but it has pertinence to our lives.
A guy by the name of Thomas Nagle, a very prominent professor of philosophy at New York University; he’s an atheist. Listen to what he says.
“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility towards certain established religions in virtue of their objectionable, moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence, nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I’m talking about something much deeper, namely, the fear of religion itself. I want atheism to be true and am made very uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t want to believe in God and naturally hope there is no God, I don’t want there to be a God. I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
And then of course, Aldous Huxley, the famous author and philosopher wrote Brave New World, in his book Ends and Means, he makes this incredible admission, staunch atheist, defender of atheism. He says, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning and to have a God. Consequently, I assumed it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. Most ignorance is invincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know. The philosopher is concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do or why his friend should not seize political power and govern in a way that they find most advantageous to themselves. For myself, as no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness, of godlessness, was essentially an instrument of my liberation.” And then he goes on to point out, the liberation that he desired most fervently to be liberated from was in his sexuality. In other words, he’s saying, I don’t want there to be a God so I can do what I want to do.
Now I share this because both of these men who claim to be atheists arrived at their positions, not as seekers of truth, but because atheism was consistent with their agenda. And for Huxley, he says, I desired a worldview that would allow me to do whatever I wanted to do sexually.
I don’t know how many of you are, are familiar with John Templeton. I think he’s probably 90 now, famous investor, and he’s used his money to set up various foundations. And recently, one of his foundations sponsored a contest, a worldwide contest to write an essay on purpose in life. Thirteen thousand entries were made, and the winner was a guy by the name of August Turak. And he tells his story of going to this, it’s a kind of an Abbey, a monastery up near Charleston, South Carolina, that was run by 30 monks. And people go there for kind of retreats, personal retreats. And he went up there for a 30-day period and he shares what goes on during those 30 days. And he had a spiritual mentor. His name was Father Christian. This guy would be a great mentor to have. He was 88 years old. He spoke fluently in four languages, including Latin and Greek. He had multiple PhDs in philosophy, theology, and canon law and obviously was a very astute wise old gentleman. Turak went to him on numerous occasions to talk about issues with him. And he shares one of those in this essay that’s so powerful.
Father Christian shares with him, the story of one of his close friends who was a minister in the church of one of the main line denominations here in our country. And he says he got word that his friend was leaving the ministry because he had lost his faith. And Father Christian says, when I heard this, I went to him immediately in his home. And he said, we had countless hours. He said, unfortunately, a fruitless theological debate. Finally, dropping his voice, Father Christian looked the man steadily in the face and said, Bob is everything in your life all right? The minister said everything was fine, but the minister’s wife called Father Christian a few days later. She had overheard their conversation and she heard Father Christian’s question and her husband’s answer. And she told Father Christian that the minister was having an affair and was leaving her as well as his ministry. Father Christian fairly spat with disgust. He said, I was wasting my time. Bob’s problem was not that he lost his faith. It was that he couldn’t take the contradiction between his preaching and his living. So, God got the boot. Remember this, all philosophical problems are at heart moral problems. It all comes down to how you intend to live your life.
That’s why Dallas Willard, who I’m sure has had hundreds of conversations with skeptics says, when you ever talk to someone who says they don’t believe ask them two questions, ask them, would you like for there to be a God? Would you like it if Jesus was the Son of God and all of Christianity was true because he believes it’s important to help people realize that what they want to be the case is controlling their ability to see what is true. And I’ve seen this personally. A number of years ago, I went through The Investigative Study with a guy and in our first meeting, he comes up and tells me, I’m not sure I even believe in God. And so, we spent that first session talking about all the evidence that points to His existence. And afterwards, I don’t know that I convinced him, or I didn’t feel like I had. And I said, well, do you want to keep meeting? And he said, yeah. So, we went through this entire Investigative Study, and I was somewhat baffled while he was interested in going forward. We read the Bible, we talked about philosophical issues, and we got to the very end, to the last session, and he admitted to me. I really do believe in God. I’m just not sure I want to become a Christian. I’m not sure that I want to become a Christian because I’m afraid of how it’ll impact me with my friends and how it’ll impact my career. And he left out of my office that day. And I left the door open for me to come back anytime but never heard from him again.
But you know what struck me from that conversation? That for this man, it was much more palatable for him to say, I don’t believe in God than to say I do believe in Him, but I reject Him. I don’t embrace Him. It’s much easier to say, I don’t believe in God. Now let say that, in no way am I trying to put every religious skeptic in a box and say, this is the way they think, this is the way they are. I do just find, C.S. Lewis found this to be true, that he questioned what the real motivation was for those who don’t believe. The Bible is clear that if we, as men and women, are willing to seek God, He makes this one promise. He says, I’ll reveal myself to you if you’ll seek Me. However, the obstacle that I perceive is do we really want to find Him? Because if we have an encounter with God and find that He is a living reality, the question is then what do I do with Him? That’s the problem men find, I believe, what do I do with Him? And this is, I think, the dilemma C.S. Lewis found himself in as a skeptic for so much of his life. And then he says, I came to the realization and the belief that God was God. He said, “I bent my knee. I surrendered my heart to him.” And then he says, “and I was the most dejected convert in all of England.” And I can relate to that.
But you know what I find interesting to note? The word truth is used in the scriptures often. In the book of John, it’s mentioned 30 times, Jesus tells us in the seventh chapter of John, He tells His disciples, many people are going to hate Me because I tell them the truth. In John eight, He says to his opponents to their face, He says, you’re seeking to kill Me, a man Who has told you the truth.
And then in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, in chapter two, verse 10, he makes a most fascinating comment. It’s a little phrase and he speaks of those who are spiritually perishing. And he says this, “They perish because they refused to love the truth.”
I think one of the most important conversations in the Bible in my opinion is a conversation that Jesus had, if you can call it a conversation, with Pilate as He was to be crucified. Pilate says, “Are You a king? Jesus says, yes, but My kingdom is not of this world. And in John 18:37 Pilate therefore said to Him, so You are a king. Jesus answered You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born and for this, I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth will hear My voice.”
And if you look that up in the Amplified, you’ll see that in the Greek, what it literally means, He’s saying is everyone who is a friend of the truth, who belongs to the truth, in essence, everybody who loves the truth will hear My voice. And if you think about it, just four chapters previously in John 14, Jesus says, “I am the way, I am the truth. I am the life.” Therefore, He’s saying, if you love the truth, you’ll hear My voice. And as one author says, from this one verse, he says, “Our response to Christ reveals more about us than it does about Him,” in this particular verse.
One final article I want to share with you as we’re kind of closing this down, it’s an article I read recently. It’s an article about comparing science, the way we approach science and religion.
“There’s quite often a telltale difference between the way we think about science and the way we think about God. When we come across something in science that is baffling or troublesome, this is precisely the place where the scientist focuses his time. The unknown or misunderstood cries out for investigation. Within the scientist’s commitment to science is an understanding that progress depends on it. The scientist is well aware that it is often in that troubling concept, which unlocks the very truth that is needed most. It is all too often the missing piece that brings the picture into greater focus. To ignore it would be counterproductive. C.S. Lewis argues that the same is true of theology. The thing we need most is often hidden within a troubling idea, the story we don’t like, the words of Christ that we find most unnerving. It is these bothersome moments in theology that often mark the reality to which we need to be awakened most seriously. It is here where we should focus our time. To turn away would be unwise. And yet, turning away is often the approach we take, isn’t it? The concept that troubles us is the one we’re most likely to avoid at all costs, to brush over uncomfortably, and excuse as irrelevant. In that sense, we are not only failing to step forward in our knowledge of God, we are stepping backward. It is not only a dishonest pursuit of knowledge, but it’s dangerous theology. We are seeking a God we can shape ourselves, an image of Him molded to our liking. Failing to seek with all our hearts, we remain on the outside of the door. It’s as if we have chosen to avoid persistently, knocking for fear that someone might actually answer, yet choosing to avoid discomfort, we have chosen what we want God to be instead of finding out who He really is. Like a scientist shutting down an investigation in fear of the results, we are choosing to believe that our image of God is actually better than the real thing.
Let me ask you this. Are there certain spiritual issues that make you feel uncomfortable? Have you ever wondered why they make us feel uncomfortable? You know, in my dealings with people, I find that there are a number of issues that are raised by Christ that make us feel very uncomfortable. Words like repentance. When Jesus says in Matthew 18, you have to be converted and become like children or you won’t enter the Kingdom of God.
The one that used to trouble me for years was in Mark 8 where He says, if you want to save your life, you’ve got to give it up. And John 3:3, it says, unless you’re born again, you will not enter the Kingdom of God. I remember sharing this in a group and somebody was just troubled. They said, I can’t believe being born again is in the Bible. I thought it was a label that the media used to describe fundamentalist Christians.
Then there’s the issue of hell. Who wants to talk about hell? And then there’s so much in the scripture about Jesus. He talks about our wallets. It’s almost like He wants to get in our wallets. And you know, we don’t like that when He says you can’t serve two masters. You can’t love God and money. And it struck me, why would God’s words be so troubling to us? And what struck me is, well, maybe the problem is not with the words, since they’re from God, maybe the problem is us. And instead of shrinking back, avoiding these tough issues, closing our eyes to Him, maybe we ought to go towards them. Maybe we ought to go towards those troubling ideas. Maybe we should seek to understand what they mean. Maybe we should follow the truth wherever it leads us. Because if we do, I believe it’ll result in a real breakthrough for us spiritually.
Now let me say this. This is what I find so many men are looking for. Because so many of us are experiencing what I call a spiritual identity crisis. These are the kind of questions I hear from men. I’m talking about church going men. How do you know if you’re really a Christian? How do you know when you die you’re really going to go to Heaven. I’ve been going to church all of my life and I just don’t understand Christianity. It’s incoherent to me. From others, you know, Christianity just doesn’t work for me. So, what am I supposed to do? Maybe these thoughts have gone through your mind. We need to ask ourselves this question, because this is where we all should begin. Do we love the truth? Do we desire the truth? Are we willing to follow the truth wherever it might lead us? And are we willing to submit our lives to the truth when we find it? That’s the real question. Dallas Willard has given the greatest insight on this that I’ve seen. And he shares a great story with it, which I’ll tell you real quickly. Willard says, he talks about how the human condition, how we respond to God. He says, “Out in the world, there are people who have a “professing belief” in Christianity, where we mentally assent that Christianity is true and valid, but professing belief does not impact the essence of who we are. Because when you go to the New Testament and you see the word believe, it’s a Greek word pisteúō, and he says, it has a much more dynamic meaning. It’s a belief that transforms us, where our whole being is set to act and follow what is true.” And then he tells this great story of his own father. He said, “My father smoked two packs of cigarettes well on into his seventies. My father had this, what I call a professing belief about cigarette smoking. He knew it was bad for you, but he smoked two packs a day. But one day he went to the VA hospital where he was cared for as far as his health goes, and he says, while at the hospital, he saw a man who was smoking cigarettes with the assistance of a machine that allowed him to smoke even though his lips had been eaten away by cancer. For the first time, my father believed that cigarette smoking was harmful to your health because my father never smoked another cigarette for the rest of his life.”
And the point he makes is you can see what true belief does. It converts the heart. It transforms the direction our lives are going. Because if you think about it using this illustration, professing belief is really no belief at all, because real belief is not merely believing something is true. It means submitting our lives to it. It’s what I call surrendering of the heart. And this is my opinion where our basic struggle lies guys. It’s easy to believe with God in my head. It’s quite difficult to surrender my heart to Him.
I’ve got two illustrations and we’ll be finished. Two short illustrations. Scott Peck wrote a second book back in the early eighties called People of the Lie. It was a book about evil, and he tells a story of counseling a young woman by the name of Charlene. Charlene was very religious, very involved in her church, very involved in the activities, I think that that were part of the church. And yet she struggled with emptiness, a sense of emptiness, a sense of meaninglessness, and so Peck was counseling her, and he says, he honed in on her problem. And he says, I was somewhat bewildered because I thought her religious faith was so strong. I couldn’t understand where this sense of meaningless was and so I probed, and I questioned. And he said, finally there was a short silence. And he said, then she exploded with this incredible admission. And she’s basically saying her faith didn’t help her. She says, because I cannot do it, she says. There’s not room for me in that. That would be my death. I don’t want to live for God. I will not live for God. I want to live for me. I want to live for my own sake. And what she was saying was I can’t surrender. I want to live for me. This woman, I believe, admitted out loud what we all struggle with. And this leaves us with a very important question. When I consider Christianity, do I merely have a professing belief or is my belief the real deal?
And my final thought on this is C.S. Lewis, go back to his conversion. His conversion to Christianity consisted of two parts. For years, he held no belief professing to be an atheist. And then he began to wrestle with the issue of theism. And finally, he acknowledged God to be God and that Christianity was true and that he was sinful and that he needed God’s forgiveness because of what Christ did at the cross. But that’s the first part of it. The second part is, notice what he says, he bent his knee and he prayed, and he surrendered to the truth. He gave Christ preeminence in his life. And you know, what’s interesting? He did it knowing however that he was surrendering to someone far greater than himself. And I think this is why it made so much sense to him. But men, what Lewis did is what each of us must do if we want to be a Christian, otherwise, we’re left with a professing belief, which really is no belief at all. Let’s pray.
Father, I pray as we leave this morning that You would give each one of us a heart that is dedicated to the truth, not only in our personal life, but in our spiritual life, for we realize that if we truly are to live in relationship with You, we must surrender as C.S. Lewis did. We must bow our knee and say, Lord, my life is Yours. If we’re not at that point, Lord, I pray that You would draw us to that point and that we might surrender ourselves. I pray Lord that we would be willing to face all of our problems, all the issues in our lives that are keeping us from being healthy men, from being good husbands, good fathers, good business people. I pray that You would continue to draw us to that light, to draw us to the truth of Jesus, because You tell us if we love the truth, we will hear His voice. We thank you for this gathering. We thank You for all the relationships…