Walking in the Truth

“David, can we take a walk?” Those words caused my teenage heart to drop. My grandmother was staying with us for a few days as my parents were out of town and she only wanted to take a walk if something was wrong. And I knew exactly what she wanted to talk about. The day before I was home with some friends and a phone call came in for my dad. To make my friends and brother laugh, I pretended to be my father so I told this eager telemarketer to hold for one moment, before getting back on the phone in my deepest voice, “Doug Kiehn here.”

I did not know it was a telemarketer because I did not know what a telemarketer was or why she wanted to talk to my dad. She asked me to take a survey where I could win a set of Ginsu Knives. She asked me questions for 15 minutes, “Are you a Ford or a Chevy man?” “Chevy, I am like a rock?” The questions kept coming and I kept firing answers. My answers apparently won the knives, but it started getting serious when she wanted me to speak to her manager. I got nervous and made up an excuse for an abrupt departure. As I hung up the phone, I knew that I was going to regret that phone call.

            “David, can we take a walk?” My grandmother began, “I received a call today from a company that said one “Doug Kiehn had ordered some magazine subscriptions. And since your father was gone, I have a suspicion it was not your father who made the order. Apparently, your order was one of the biggest orders that they had ever received. You ordered $2,000 a month of magazines.” My heart sank even deeper into my chest. I knew I was it trouble. I was caught in the truth. My grandmother smiled and said, “I canceled the orders, but please do not pretend to be your father again.” My grandmother and I have laughed over that a few times. It was our walk in the truth.

            Walking in the truth is a great picture of the Christian life. A walk allows for conversation, contemplation and unhurried focus on the one you are with. My wife and I have always enjoying taking walks together. One of the reasons we love to walk is because it gave us time to talk and build our relationship together. We walk together. The Christian life is a walk in the truth with God. When we spend time with God in prayer, studying his word, or in obedience we build our relationship with him. When God calls us to follow him, he says, “Do you want to take a walk?” It is an invitation to a relationship with him. The Christian life is a walk. It is a lifelong journey to discover and live by the truth.

            The truth is the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the way to the Father. Our sin has blocked our way to the father. Each one of us has chosen to walk a different path. We all have walked in the way of the wicked. Our turning to our own way separated us from God and broke our fellowship with him. Have you ever had a friend break fellowship with you? Recently, someone told me how a close friend chose an organization over their friendship. In deciding whether to confront him, he said, “I don’t want friends in my life like that.” Translation, he did not want to walk through life as friends with someone who chose to allow an organization to become in the middle of their friendship.

We all have chosen to allow our own pride and selfishness to break our friendship with God. The Apostle James writes, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God?” (James 4:4) We all have chosen to walk with the world away from God. Which is the gospel is such good news! The Father reaches out to us through his only Son, Jesus, to invite us back in relationship with Him. Jesus came to walk for us. He walked with God. He lived a perfect life, but was punished as a sinner. He suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. He became the way, the truth and the life. We now have a way to God. God invites us to walk with him.

We no longer have to walk alone. We no longer have to walk our own way. We now can walk with God through Jesus Christ because Jesus suffered, died, and was raised to new life. Jesus overcame the grave and ascended to the right hand of God and sends the Holy Spirit to all who walk with Him. God invites us to take a walk with him, but it is a walk in the truth. We must walk in the way in which Jesus walked. We must walk in the truth.

The Apostle John encourages believers to walk in the truth. He shares in his brief, “postcard” epistle 4 elements that will result when Christians walk in the truth.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Community

John is an old man and at the time of the writing of this epistle is probably the last living apostle. Everyone knew who he was so the simple title of, “the elder” was the only name needed to identify himself. He opens the letter, 2 John 1:1-3,

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

John address the elect lady or the church, the bride of Christ, who live in truth and love. This letter weds those two essential elements of the faith together. One must walk in the truth. Truth being all the knowledge revealed to by the person and work of Jesus Christ. One also must love. It is not enough to merely know the truth, but one must walk by the truth in love. At the same time, one cannot merely love without the truth. We know how to love because of the truth.

            Walking in the truth creates community. John is writing to the elect lady and her children. He is writing to a community that has been formed by truth. The truth is not only for John but for all who know the truth because the truth abides in all true followers of Christ and the truth will abide and unite all followers forever. We are united not because we meet in the same geographical place every week, but because we have committed to walk in the truth and love together. God’s invitation to walk is never and invitation to walk alone, but to walk with community of the saints.

            The greatest thing that unites the church is the gospel of Christ. We all have experienced grace, mercy and peace. As Danny Akin notes,

Grace is God doing for us what we do not deserve, mercy is his not doing to us what we do deserve, and peace is God giving us what we need based upon his grace and mercy.[1]

The grace, mercy and peace of God brings us into God’s community. We are the gathering, the ekklesia, the called-out ones, the holy nation, the temple, the flock, the royal priesthood, and people of who walk in truth. The images of the church are always corporate because the truth will create community. Are you walking in the truth with others? Have you become a sheep in a flock; a brick in a building, a member of the body? If you have not joined a body, I invite you to walk with us. Walk with us as we walk with Christ.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Celebration

When people accept the invitation to walk with God, there is much celebration and joy. As John aged, we see his greatest joy was to see his children, the saints, walk in the truth. (3 John 1:4).

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 1:4-6)

John had received word that the saints were walking according to the truth. Notice again how John does not differentiate between obeying the truth and loving one another. Truth and love are always connected in the Bible. This is an essential element that must be recovered in our day.

            There is a false dichotomy that has developed with in the modern Western church. We have put truth against love and love against truth. There are churches who desire to be loving community by accepting people who live against the truth. And there are churches who desire to be about truth and are not very loving. The people of truth should always be loving. Love is obedience to God’s Word. It is unloving to allow people to remain in sin. And it is untruthful to allow people to be unloved. Truth and love should be connected. 1 John 4:10-11, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” We love because he first loved us. We love because God sent Jesus to die for us. For John, the gospel of the cross is the root and the fruit of love. Another way of saying it is, the gospel of truth springs from love and love is empowered by truth.

            We cannot allow the culture to dictate what is and is not loving. We must recapture a healthy balance of truth and love. One we can recover this balance is by rejoicing when we see people walking in truth. How? We affirm people’s obedience to Jesus. We shine a light when people walk according to the truth. Here are a few ways I have rejoiced in our body over the last week:

Kyle and Andy went to Ms. Helen’s house to cut down a tree for her. After they worked in her yard, they called and asked if they could put a sign up sheet in the back to offer their services to anyone who has work in their yard that they can’t complete themselves. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Rich needed a ride to the doctor and called Stephen to drive him to Charlotte. They spent the morning together talking about the word and church. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Robert and Heather organized and prepared a float in the Come See Me parade. Heather was intentional in inviting a cross-section of our church to reflect to the community. All who attended were greatly encouraged. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

During our women’s fellowship event on Friday night, many of our women brought their daughters with them to further connect with to the church and to intentional disciple them. I rejoice when the saints walk in the truth.

Not to mention the Bible studies with our seniors on Tuesday morning and our college students on Tuesday night, our evangelism at Rock Hill High, our partnership with BCM, a friend asking for counsel, conversation with members on how to faithfully live for the Lord in the public schools, encouraging text message to press on in the ministry, visiting and praying for the homebound and so many other examples that I could share.

Beloved, rejoice when the saints walk in the truth. Celebrate how God is working in the lives of those around us.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Challenges

John rejoices when he sees the saints walking the truth because there is an adversary challenging truth. Truth is always under attack. It can be subtle deflection, “Did God actually say?” or it can be direct denial, “You will not surely die. For God knows…?” There are two imperatives in this letter and both deal with how the church should respond to false teachers. 2 John 7-11,

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

John defines the heresy as one who denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. There were some that were denying the “fleshiness” of the faith.

 Heresies fall in two general camps. They either question Jesus’ divinity or they question his humanity. John was addressing those who were denying the humanity of Christ. Jesus came in the flesh to redeem those of the flesh. One who denies the incarnation of Christ is a deceiver and follows the spirit of the antichrist. The command is in verse 8 when John writes, “Watch yourselves.” Notice he does not say watch others, but warns for one to watch out for themselves. There is a clear implication that we all have capacity to drift from the truth. The goal is not to walk with Christ for a time, but until the end. Well begun is not enough. We want to finish the race. We want to keep the faith. We want to walk with God forever.

      It appears that John is poking at the false teachers in verse 9 implying that those who go ahead or beyond the apostles teaching do not have God. The heresy of the Gnostic, which is probably in seed form when John wrote this letter, implies that salvation came through special knowledge separate from the written Word. We do not need a special secret knowledge, but we must abide in the teaching of the Father and the Son. We must remain in the gospel. We never move on from the gospel.

The first command is to watch out for false teaching and the second is to not participate with false teaching. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” John is not saying that you cannot have people into your home for discussion on the truth. It would be fine to invite a Mormon or a Jehovah’s witness into your home to discuss Christianity, but it would be against God’s word to support and affirm their teaching in any way. Christians were not to provide a place to stay or money to any false teachers in the area.

We must be very wise in who and how we partner with different organizations. There are many organizations and churches that desire to do good, but there is often an element in their teaching that denies Christ or how one is saved. We should read the fine print of what people believe. False teachers often dress in sheep’s clothing. They weaseled their way into people’s home and invited people to walk in the way of sinners.

One of the greatest ways to protect ourselves from heresy is to know the truth. Historically, churches and families practiced catechesis to protect the saints and their children from false teaching. Catechesis is a process of systematically walking through simple questions and answers to teach the faith. Question: “What is our only hope in life and death?” Answer: “That we are not our own, but belong both in body and soul, in life and death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.”

Last year, I asked a group of pastors what they needed most in their churches, they all said, “We need our people to understand the basics of the faith.” Catechism would solve that problem. There are great resources out there that can help add your fight against heresy. And as a friend told me yesterday in a text, “Our kids deserve to be confident with the Word of God because I have little doubt that the day of testing for them will come from inside the church.” The dual natures of Christ, the propitiation of sins, the sufficiency of Scripture, a defense of the resurrection, the right understanding of the ordinances, church discipline and polity should all be understood. We should not leave complex theology to only the elders. We all should be equipped with the truth. There are some great resources out there that can help protect us from the inevitability of false teachers.

 

Walking in the Truth brings Completion

John had much to say to the church, but his goal was not mere written communication. John wanted to see the saints face to face so that their joy would be complete. He writes, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 2:12) Face to face fellowship in the truth brings a completion of joy. John’s goal was the same as the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to see us face to face so that our joy may be complete. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully know.” (1 Cor 13:12) Beloved, we are looking forward to the day when we shall behold the face of Christ. I love songs that end with that hope. A song we often sing here, I Will Glory in My Redeemer, ends this way:

I will glory in my Redeemer / Who waits for me at gates of gold / And when He calls me, it will be paradise / His face forever to behold / I will glory in my Redeemer / Who waits for me at gates of gold / And when He calls me, it will be paradise / His face forever to behold / His face forever to behold.

There is coming day when we shall see Christ. And until that day God invites us to walk with him. Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” God invites you to come and walk with him. What great love!! God invites sinners to come and take the water of life without price.

            God calls us walk in love, but also calls us to walk in truth. John warns us about those who try to add or take away from the Bible. He writes in Revelation 22:18-20,

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 

Friend, walk in the truth. Walk in love. God invites you to come and walk with him,

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, / The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; / The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, / Even so, it is well with my soul.

Take joy, beloved. One day our joy will be complete. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 

[1] Akin, D. L. (2001). 1, 2, 3 John (Vol. 38, p. 222). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.