One of the functions of the Bible is to provide us with a trustworthy framework for life. Like a map we consult when we are lost in a maze of crisscrossing streets, the Bible orients us in the world so we can tell which way is which. Not only does the Bible keep us on the right road, but it ensures that we are not surprised or taken off guard by the sudden turns or dead ends.
And in the world in which we live there is much that is disorienting. Gender and sex swirl with controversy. Racism is constantly in the news. Education in the public schools trends towards indoctrination. Governments have lost the trust of many and conspiracy theories abound. Even the language we use is being co-opted.
How do we make sense of all this? How do know what is true and how do we explain why we know it is true? Why does it seem like so many are blind to God and have no desire to seek truth? Are we on the precipice of the end times?
The Bible does not give us simple, precise answers to all the questions we might have. But, as a map, it provides us with an accurate picture of what we see around us and points us in the right direction.
So, as we stand in the middle of a society that denies even the existence of absolute truth, we ought to be taking our Bible in hand and using it, above all else, to guide us in the truth. One passage we ought to have earmarked is the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. It is in this chapter that Paul gives us a very useful phrase
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie…”Romans 1:25
In the surrounding verses, it is explained exactly how this works. The basic human problem is not that God has hidden himself from view and has left us wandering in the dark below heaven, trying to figure out what is true and what is not. “What can be known about God is plain to them” says Paul earlier in the chapter. In other words, humans have all the information about God they need. Through God’s creation we can know certain things about God and we can know, in general, what is right and what is wrong.
So, what’s the problem? Why is the world so messed up? Because humans have taken the truth, put it conveniently out of sight and mind, and exchanged it for a lie. Thus, the problem is not that we cannot know God, but rather, that we do not want to know God.
If we acknowledge God and rightly worship him, that means we have to submit our will to His. And we don’t like that. We want to do what we want to do, and to do what we want to do, we convince ourselves that what we want is better than what God wants. We exchange the truth for the lie. Just like in the garden of Eden.
Now, when I say “we” I simply mean all humankind according to our sinful nature. That means, at least on some level, what Paul describes in Romans 1 is true for all of us, even Christians. Our sinful hearts are all bent towards our own will and towards exchanging God’s truth for a lie. In God’s grace, that sinful bent is curbed and restrained as we are sanctified by the power of Christ in us.
But what happens if it is not?
What happens when God lets go of the reins and lets humans go where their foolish hearts and futile thinking will lead them? Well, look around us. All the darkness; all the foolishness; all the madness that we see in our world, is a result of exchanging the truth for the lie.
Not only is the truth swapped for a lie, but the lie is thought to be the truth and is celebrated as such – “claiming to be wise, they became fools.” and “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” This is precisely what we see in our present age: people rejecting God’s truth, embracing lies, calling them truth, claiming to be wise, and celebrating the genius of their “wisdom.”
What do we do amidst all the chaos and confusion? Again, we pull out our maps, align our lives to the Truth, and keep course, all the while pointing others to the gospel Way – that Christ died for the fools and frauds. As Paul says elsewhere in Romans:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”Romans 5:6
While we were still weak. While we were enemies of God. While we were fools and rebels living out a lie, Christ died for us. That’s good news for everyone.
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