In many universities, over the doors of various buildings, you will see the phrase: the truth will set you free. (John 8:32) Well, for a criminal (or a crooked politician), the truth may do the very opposite-it may send them to prison. Jesus did not say ‘the truth will set you free.’ Here’s what He said: If you continue in my word (i.e. my way, my input into your life) you will truly be my disciple, and then you will come to know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
Have you ever tried to tell the truth? It is not easy once we recognize how shallow our view of life is, especially our own life. I have written my story several times. The first version is somewhat accurate in its descriptions of places, times, and events, but the overall impression you would get from reading it is that Clay was a sad victim of others’ failures. That was only slightly true. It wasn’t the Truth.
The second version, written about a decade later, was even more accurate in its recounting of details, but in this version I emerged as the hero, the courageous faithful follower of Jesus who endured hardship but rose above the resistance to a place of honorable leadership. With a good deal of editing of facts and deforming of the character of others it was believable that I was heroic. Believable doesn’t equate with true. So I was not yet free from many dark things, because I was not yet able to know the Truth. But I kept on with the Lord best I could, as He kept on with me.
When we left Texas and moved here to North Carolina I found myself reviewing that second version of the story of Clay, and was strongly moved to lay it aside and try once again to tell the TRUTH. So I dived into the deep waters of reviewing my previous story in the brighter light of middle age, marriage, children, grandchildren, and some deep disappointments, as well as the loss of some precious relationships. In this version I was not nearly so wise, or so mistreated. I was not the hero for sure. And the sins of others were not presented nearly so bad in order that I might look better. I was slowly emerging from the pages of my testimony as a man with a dark and wounded childhood, a shameful lustful confused young adulthood, and an eventual encounter with the Holy that set in motion a series of miraculous, slow, progressive divine interventions-interventions that I could not see at the time, but clearly discerned after the fact. I was not so impressed with myself, but very impressed with the Grace that had carried me. And I was beginning to be…free.
A year or so ago I pulled that version out of my files and re-read it. There are many parts I see more clearly and honestly now. No, I never willfully lied in any of my previous versions. I just told it like I saw it-from my point of view. And the way I saw it was wrong, shallow, jaded, unloving, unforgiving, ego-centered. Need I go on? It truly seems the farther away I get from those memories the clearer they become. But really all that is happening is that as I live my life with Jesus, and become His life-long disciple, He is little by little able to help me face the truth that previously had been too painful to face; and facing the truth is setting me free. It is HIS perspective, not mine, that matters.
Jesus did not say knowing truth will make us free. Our culture knows more truth than ever and knowledge is doubling every 30 days. And look at us. What a horrible mess! John 1 said that it is grace AND truth that saves us. Not just truth. Grace has to precede truth or we couldn’t bear the truth by itself; for Grace is the power of God set in motion on our behalf to help us endure facing the truth, through His eyes. And grace has to come BEFORE truth or the truth will not only not set us free. It will kill us.
Don’t just seek truth. Seek the One who is Truth. For Truth is not information. Truth is a Person. Seek to know Him. That’s the only way you can come to know yourself. For He alone knows the true meaning of your whole story.