How To Know What’s True
Read John 7:14-18 (ESV)
About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
Jesus gave two characteristics of false teachers. What were those traits?
We live in the information age. But experts are starting to discover that having all of this access to all of this information isn’t solving all of our problems. It is solving some problems while simultaneously creating new problems that didn’t even exist before. For example, smartphones are incredible technological devices that we hold in the palm of our hands! They have made the world so much more convenient. I can order groceries at the push of a button, I can book a trip to a faraway place and find my way there with my handheld GPS, I can locate and communicate with my wife and kids even if we are states away in just a matter of seconds. I could even type, record, and share this message all on my phone!
But even as smartphones have solved some problems and made so many things more convenient, they have also created new problems. Adults and kids are addicted to screens, and we take in so much information on a daily basis that we can’t keep up with making sense of it. Experts call this “analysis paralysis” which basically means that we struggle to make good decisions because our brains are overloaded. How do we know what is good information or bad information? How do we know who is telling us the truth? We even run across this with spiritual matters. Anyone can post anything online and call it spiritual truth.
In Jesus’ day, they obviously didn’t have smartphones, but they still had to discern who the false teachers and false prophets were. Rabbis were trained to interpret the Scripture and teach the Jewish laws and traditions. But not all of the rabbis agreed. Some were more liberal in their interpretation and others more conservative and strict. In order to give their message more credibility, they often quoted other rabbis.
So when Jesus showed up at the temple halfway through the feast and began teaching, they were surprised. First, the Jewish leaders that were hoping to apprehend Him had probably been expecting Him at the beginning of the feast. It’s possible that they were hoping to arrest Him quietly on His way into town before He was surrounded by a crowd. Instead, He made a surprise public visit to the temple which made it difficult for them to arrest Him.
Once Jesus started teaching, it was evident that this “uneducated” man sure knew His Scripture and He spoke on His own authority. He didn’t say, “thus says the Lord” like the prophets and He didn’t quote other rabbis like they did. He said, “I say to you....” No doubt the Jewish authorities felt threatened by Him. But apparently they didn’t have a good comeback to use to refute Him because they called his qualifications to teach into question instead. So Jesus told them where He got His message—directly from God the Father. But how were they supposed to know that He was really speaking on God’s authority and not His own?
Jesus said that whoever wants to do the will of God is able to discern whether a message is from God. Why? Because people who want to do God’s will study the Scriptures where God’s truth is revealed and seek to obey Him. That’s where God’s will is revealed. If they compared Jesus’ teaching to the Old Testament Scriptures, they would see that Jesus was teaching the truth! If they wanted to see the truth.
Then, Jesus gave us two more clues that He was not a false teacher. He said that false teachers speak on their own authority. They give their own interpretations and opinions. Plus, their motivation is to glorify themselves or gain something for themselves. Whereas true prophets and teachers always speak God’s Word even if it isn’t popular. The true Old Testament prophets often didn’t make many friends. In reality, they were often severely persecuted and some even killed. They weren’t preaching for their own glory but for the Lord’s just as Jesus was. So how do we know what’s true? How do we know if someone is telling us a word from God? We seek to obey God’s will and compare every message we hear to His Word. We check the authority someone is speaking from and evaluate who’s glory they are seeking.
Lord, thank You for giving us Your word and clearly communicating Your truth. But You didn’t just make truth claims, You graciously provided evidence and demonstrated that we could trust that what You said is true. Truly, You are the Messiah, our Savior. Every word You say is true. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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