Crippled by Wrong Beliefs
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:17).
In June 2008, the “Atheism Bus Campaign” was launched in London. A bus set out to tour the country with words in large print saying, “There is probably no God. Stop worrying. Enjoy your life.” Immediately, money poured in to support the campaign. Over ₤140,000 were raised to spread the word. Probably? Is that not a little disconcerting? What if there is a God and that makes all the difference in the way we need to live? Yet, the bus seemed to say just the thing that people were feeling. Is that not our culture? We look at truth with a comic shrug.
What about Christians? Where do we stand on the importance of truth? In 2001, sociologists set out to explore modern American religion. They surveyed over 3,000 adolescents throughout America. They discovered a theme, across the board and regardless of denomination, a theme not only isolated to teenagers but prevalent everywhere in our culture. Our Lord promised us that false teachings would arise, teachings that would hurt people. Yet, how seriously do we take his warning? How concerned are we with truth?
What did they find? Researchers noticed a new understanding of Christianity. The values of Christians today hardly line up with the values of historical Christianity. They suggested that this modern religion is a sort of step cousin of Christianity. Perhaps it should be called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:
“This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of sovereign divinity, of steadfastly saying one's prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering…[rather, it is] centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along…with other people" (Smith and Denton, 2009).
Truth is certainly not the priority. The statue of truth has been torn down. In its place has been raised the Coca-Cola advertisement: “It feels good.” This should not surprise any of us. It should make us self-conscious. What is our attitude, after all? How much work to we put into checking our opinions with the gospel? The scriptures tell us that the Church is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Is that how we live? Truth should be our irresistible objective.
Does truth matter? St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place" (6:14). The “belt of truth” is a very good image. In those days, the belt was worn over your tunic. It kept your clothes fastened together. It gave freedom of movement. Without it, you would be a clumsy oaf. If you had work to do or got in a fight, you would not stand a chance with your clothes tangled up around you. You would trip and fall. Times have not changed so much. For many of us, we would be a ridiculous sight if we left home without a belt. You can imagine walking into a meeting to discover your pants had dropped. It sounds like an adolescent nightmare. To walk through this life without the belt of truth is no less disastrous. To live a good life, one must buckle the belt of truth daily, or you will quickly trip.
In our gospel today, our Lord urges us to be deliberate in seeking truth.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:15-21).
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord.’
The word ‘Lord’, ‘Kurios’ in Greek, comes from the word ‘Kuros,’ meaning: might, strength, supremacy and authority. To call Jesus Christ your ‘Lord’ is to declare He has full authority over all that you are, your desires, decisions, and actions. How often do we say ‘Lord, Lord’ with our lips and not in our lifestyle? When we do so, the words are meaningless.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person…faith without deeds is useless” (James 2:14-20).
We live in a culture where relativism is thick. Christianity has been boiled down to a thin soup, and we have all drunk it. It is so easy to shrug our shoulders at truth nowadays. Yet, Truth is unbending. False teachings bear bad fruit. Wrong beliefs hurt us. Lies cripple us.
There is only one answer. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). We must strive to align our wills with the will of God. In a vision, God told King Solomon: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon asked for Truth. “Give your servant a discerning heart” (1 Kings 3:5-9). Solomon desired wisdom over all the wealth in the world. He wanted truth, and so he was able to say as an old man: “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind… here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (1:14; 12:13).
Solomon was rare. For most of us, truth is not very important. We struggle. There is only a slight ember in our heart that wants to obey the will of God. So that is exactly where we have to begin. We must bring God that ember. Ask him to kindle it. He is waiting patiently and ever ready to light a fire in our soul.