When is the last time you sharpened your go-to kitchen knife?
You know, the one you use to chop everything from onions to kielbasa?
Unless you're an extra-regimented cook, chances are the last time you sharpened that bad boy was also--coincidentally--the last time your trusty blade squished a tomato and made straight for your left thumb.
It's just that way with tools that are meant to be sharp: If they're neglected, they not only become ineffective, they actually turn on you and leave you grasping for an empty box of Mickey Mouse band-aids.
(No, I haven't had this experience lately, why do you ask?)
Where were we? Ah yes, sharp tools. They're either sharp and good, or dull and bad. Effective instrument in the hands of its wielder, or tomato-smashing turncoat in need of a good sharpening.
And so it is when it comes to truth.
Truth is sharp, by its very nature. And, when truth becomes dull, it doesn't just become less effective... it becomes downright dangerous.
Two Presuppositions About Truth
In talking about truth, I'm making two, what I believe to be key, presuppositions I'd like to let you in on.
First, truth exists. That is, truth isn't relative. It's not bound by time, dictated by social trends, defined by media pundits or created by religious authorities. This is not to say the truth that exists never lines up with time, social trends, the media, or religious authorities. Thank God, sometimes it does. Without His help, truth would be opaque, general at best, and ultimately, unknowable.
Which leads to my second presupposition: truth is knowable. How do I know that? Well, I could reason (actually, tons of alive/dead guys a million times smarter than me have already done this) from natural laws like gravity and the Second Law of Thermodynamics that, since these immutable laws exist, the truth of these immutable laws therefore must exist, which points to an underlying truth that must therefore undergird all truth.
But then again, I'm not that smart. More to the point, even if truth's existence could be proved by this kind of reasoning (and I think it can be and has been by many), I might emerge from the process with enough confidence to cut through a tomato, but not nearly enough to take a sword into battle.
No, the real reason truth is knowable is that truth is revelatory. That is, truth is made known because God has chosen to make it--and Himself--known to humans by the creation itself, by countless actions of self-disclosure--flowing forth from sheer grace--and by the ultimate act of revelation called the Incarnation, when, the eternally existent Word of God took on flesh and dwelt among men.
The Story of Increasing Specificity
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:1-3a)
When God desired to show "his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature" (Romans 1:20), He created the world and all that is in it--especially man and woman to behold and delight in our Creator.
When, after our first parents rebelled against him, God desired to show His unstoppable, gracious purpose to rescue His image-bearers, so He swore to save them through a promised Rescuer (Genesis 3:15).
When God, with an eye to the ultimate deliverance that would come through the Rescuer, desired to show His people--and eventually all people everywhere--our desperate need of him, He sent Moses down Mt. Sinai, not with an ethical code by which men and women would be saved, but with 10 specific ways His people should gain a hunger and thirst for the righteousness these Commandments prove we do not possess.
And God continued this process of creating a hunger for His Rescuer in the "many times and... many ways" in which "God spoke to our fathers by the prophets," all throughout the history of Israel, until finally... finally... FINALLY!!! ... "in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son..."
Jesus is the Father's 'Selfie'
In His Son, God showed us "the exact imprint of his nature." My good friend, Garrett, recently captured this idea perfectly when he said, "Jesus is the Father's selfie."
And God's selfie doesn't just end when a baby is born in Bethlehem. God's selfie isn't fulfilled in with a teacher in Galilee, or a healer in Bethany--even one who brings a man back from the dead (John 11). No, God's selfie goes all the way to Mt. Calvary, where Jesus Christ--sin-bearing Savior--bore the wrath reserved for sinners like you and me (2 Cor. 5:21).
God's selfie includes an empty tomb three days later, when God's Savior, Jesus Christ, broke the back of sin, death, Hell and Satan by rising from the dead (1 Cor. 15:55). God's selfie continues today at the Father's right hand, where Jesus pleads for sinners by His blood, ensuring God's acceptance of all who put their trust in Him (Hebrews 7:25).
God's selfie will one day be consummated when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead (Hebrews 10, Revelation 20:11-15, Matthew 26:31-46), as He takes His rightful place at the center of the new Jerusalem, where--finally!--there is "no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (Revelation 21:22-23)
Friends, Let's Sharpen our Blades
All this to say, God has not left us with vague truth.
He didn't send Jesus as a stick figure, for us to fill in the details. He left us with specificity in revelation, at great cost to Himself, and for our salvation by faith in the shed blood of Christ on behalf of sinners.
We who were dead enter life by believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who bore the terrible--appropriate, righteous and fierce--wrath of God for sinners like us.
He takes our sin and we take His righteousness by faith alone. That's called the Great Exchange--"imputation"--and it's the foundation on which the church is built. We perish without imputation, and with it, "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:2) This is a specific, exact truth.
No wonder, then, God's Word is compared to a sword (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12).
His revelation is specific. His work is precise. His disciple-making mission is as clear as it is unshakable.
Then so the Christian's message to a watching world.
Friends, let's not settle for general, sloppily applied truth. Let's not equate testimonies of "faith in God" through a difficult time with "faith in the work and person of Christ." One is a vague claim any theist can make, while the other implies and requires a total life change, a daily death to self, and a Spirit-wrought resurrection by trusting in the sufficiency of Christ alone.
One may get us through a tough season. The other gains us access into the presence of God as we enter through the wounds of God's Son.
Friends, let's always be about the hard, joyful work of sharpening our swords. That's what our world needs. That's what we need. That's what I need.