Truth Exchange (1)
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1.24, 25
Living in the light
The Scriptures are very clear about the fact that everyone lives his or her life on one or the other side of a metaphysical and epistemological divide.
On one side of that divide is the truth of God, which is in Christ Jesus. Likewise, the Word of God is truth, so that, through its lens we can see things as they really are, the way Christ sees them (1 Cor. 2.16), and know things the way God knows them, at least, to an extent appropriate to our ability as creatures (Jn. 17.17; Eccl. 3.11). Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of truth; all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are to be discovered in Him (Jn. 14.6; Col. 2.2, 3).
God, to be concise, is true.
On the truth side of the divide, the Kingdom of God is advancing (Dan. 2.44, 45), and everything throughout the vast cosmos is moving toward being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, Who is Himself truth (2 Cor. 5.18, 19). He enables those who trust in Him to know the truth in ways that liberate them from the sin and lies (Jn. 8.32) and empower them for good works of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
To live in the truth is to walk in the light, as Jesus Christ is in the light, to be children of God, His peculiar possession, and heirs of eternal life and glory. All who have ever known the truth have found in it the way to fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in the Presence of God – Who never fails nor forsakes those He calls unto Himself and to His Kingdom and glory (Ps. 16.11; Heb. 13.5; 1 Thess 2.12).
They who live in the green meadows and beside the still waters of the truth that is in Jesus, feed on His truth with joy and rejoicing (Ps. 23.2; Jer. 15.16), growing daily in grace and being ever more fully equipped for lives of good works (2 Pet. 3.18; 2 Tim. 3.15-17).
The great privilege of every Christian is to know the truth that makes us free, the truth that is from, through, unto, and all about Jesus Christ (Rom. 11.36; Jn. 5.39).
Living in the lie
On the other side of that divide is the lie, as Paul explains in Romans 1.24, 25. Those who turn their backs on God – Who is their Creator and calls them to know His truth – embrace the lie. But not just a lie, the lie, a gross perversion and tragic misrepresentation of every aspect of life, a Bizarro world, where all that is solid melts into thin air and people do whatever seems right in their own eyes. This is not so much a world of unbelief as of wrong belief, as we shall see.
Ensnared in the death grip of the lie, having turned away from the One Who made them, people are lost in the world and dead in their trespasses and sin. But, since they are made in God’s image and likeness, they have stamped into their very souls the need to connect with transcendence, to know and serve something greater than themselves – that is, to know and serve God.
At the same time, because they have rejected God, they can only look to various kinds of created things, worshiping and serving these, whatever they may be, as though these were the very fount and meaning of life itself.
They make themselves their own gods, the final arbiters of all things beautiful, good, and true, and the obsessions and pleasures of this world are the sacred gifts they eagerly pursue as offerings to themselves. The folly and tragedy of living on this side of the divide, trapped in a death spiral of wrong belief, should be evident to all.
Folly, empty, deadly hopes
Over the centuries, people have taken to themselves all manner of created things as the objects of their worship – animals, trees, mountains, lakes, wealth, sex, and power among them. Those who devote their lives to the pursuit, pleasure, and promise of created things are living the lie. They have wrongly believed that ultimate goodness and joy can be found in impermanent things. They have exchanged the truth of God, which He plainly has shown them, for the lie of idolatry. They deny God His rightful place and erect instead an idol of their own devising, although they may still know a measure of truth, and even acknowledge that God has some place in the great scheme of things.
And this truth exchange can have disappointing, frightening, and even deadly, consequences (Rom. 1.18-32).
But in their heart of hearts, those who make this truth exchange want what they want, not what God wants, and they pursue all manner of material things and agreeable conditions, hoping in this, that, or the other, and clinging with all their might to what they imagine to be their greatest good and the promise of happiness it portends.
All such hopes, however, are hollow, empty, and deadly. We must be very clear and firm about this. Those who live in the lie, desperately trying to reach the high ground of happiness, are on the slippery slope that leads to disappointment, despair, and death. The lie insists that God either does not exist or is not relevant to human happiness, or at best, relevant on my terms rather than His. Those who live on the divide of the lie are persuaded that God is merely a construct, a fabrication of weak and fearful souls, a cosmic killjoy whose greatest pleasure is denying them theirs, or a butler deity available to their beck and call. Every human being, they loudly insist, must decide for themselves where true happiness will be found. With the speaker in William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus, they boast “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul!” (cf. Ps. 12.1-4)
But this is vain hope whistling through the graveyard of dead uncertainty. This is the way that seems right to so many of our contemporaries, but, in the end, it is the way of death (Prov. 14.12). This is the truth exchange which holds our world in thrall.
And this is the lie.
1. Do you agree with the idea that everyone is living on one side or another of a great divide? Cite evidence for your answer.
2. What is the Kingdom of God? How do we engage it? What are its prospects in a day such as ours?
3. Paul emphatically writes the lie in our text, not just a lie. What’s the difference? Why is it important to us that we make this distinction?
Next steps – Conversation: What will you do today to make sure that your conversations – however brief or lengthy – are free from any exchanging of truth for lies?
T. M. Moore
The lie holds our age captive in a death spiral of wrong belief. We need to understand our times so that we will know what we should do. Our book, Understanding the Times, can help. Order your free copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.