The Truth Shall Make You Free
Here is a question we almost never stop and think about. But we should because it affects everyone around us, and it affects us. It’s a question that we focused on during Sunday’s commencement ceremony here at Herbert W. Armstrong College.
The question is this: Why do we have so much information, yet so many problems?
Now more than ever in human history, human beings have enormous amounts of information. We celebrate that. We marvel at it. We wonder at the things we can build and invent based on all that knowledge.
And yet, now more than ever in human history, we have enormous amounts of problems: failures, inadequacies, confusion, self-destruction of all kinds, unspeakable evils we do to others and to ourselves.
How is that possible?
Doesn’t information solve problems? Doesn’t knowledge make things better? Doesn’t knowledge make us better?
Knowledge is multiplying and multiplying and multiplying. Yet finding the plain truth has never been more elusive. It has never been so easy to acquire knowledge, yet it has also never been so easy to acquire wrong knowledge.
Our college’s namesake, Herbert W. Armstrong, said this is a paradox. It doesn’t seem like both of these things could be true. But take a look at the news. Human beings have enormous amounts of knowledge. That’s inescapable. And they have enormous amounts of problems. That is maybe even more inescapable!
We almost never stop to realize that we human beings are producing gigantic amounts of knowledge that is wrong. We assume that we generally can tell the difference between true knowledge and false knowledge. But this assumption is false!
This reality is now staring us in the face. We now live in a post-truth age in which objective fact and truth rarely determine which stories spread or how rapidly they spread. The fastest-spreading, farthest-reaching knowledge is often false knowledge.
As Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
We are now living through a pandemic—a pandemic of disinformation and outright lies. This intensified decades ago with the idea that truth is relative. People began to teach other people that there is no such thing as absolute truth. But if nothing is absolutely true, it follows that nothing is false. Generations have been raised and educated by people who think this way.
And so here we are in the final, silly stages of our societal decline. Everyone has their own personal version of truth.
The actual truth, the absolute truth, is virtually impossible to find.
The truth has been blotted out and replaced by “your truth.” Reality has been replaced by fantasy and fable. It’s not substance that people care about most. It’s the spin. A noble lie goes over better than unpopular truth. Personal views, emotional appeal and social values matter more than objective facts and evidence.
The world today is absolutely full of phoniness, fakery, dishonesty and deception! Enemies of the truth are everywhere!
So often we think this is something that affects others but not ourselves. But it does affect us. It affects conservatives, it affects religious people, it affects even traditional Christians!
Christians say they believe in the Bible, so what does the Bible say? It says in 2 Corinthians 11 that Satan the devil has raised up fake apostles moved by a satanic spirit to preach a fake gospel message about a fake Jesus Christ!
As Mr. Armstrong wrote many years ago, “It may be hard to accept, but it’s true—millions who believe they are Christians actually are still unconverted, deceived, having accepted a false conversion!”
Notice what Jesus said to the leading conservative, religious people of His time: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).
Yes, there is a source of wrong knowledge. There is a source of lies. There is a source for all the resulting evil and the suffering—a mind, from which it originates. That source, as Jesus Christ said, was and is Satan the devil.
Satan hates God and everything God believes and teaches. Satan rejects all of God’s truth. There is no truth in him. When he speaks, he speaks a lie—he is a liar and the father of it. And your Bible says this wicked, deceitful being is the god of this world and has deceived the entire world! (see 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Revelation 12:9).
In the Epistles of Paul course here at the college, we recently studied how Paul warned his assistant in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
Has that time come? People today love lies so much that they have contempt for those who dare speak the truth. (See also Isaiah 30:9-10.)
“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).
We don’t stop to realize that human beings, including ourselves, actually do not have the power to discern good knowledge from bad knowledge, truth from error, good from evil.
But the lesson of our age and of all history is that people don’t like the truth. That’s why their leaders lie. They know that if they tell the truth, they will never get power. So the reason that politicians lie actually traces back to all of us. We don’t like the truth because it is often embarrassing and hurtful. Fantasy is much more pleasant than the truth, so people prefer fantasy.
This is why human knowledge is such a hopelessly intermixed blend of true knowledge, errant knowledge and outright deception.
So how can we be free from deception and disinformation? We need the truth! And the truth comes from God!
“The Eternal God nevertheless has made this vital revealed knowledge and truth available to any willing to believe what He says—in His inspired book, the Book of books—the Holy Bible,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Incredible Human Potential. “This book has actually become the world’s bestseller. But this precious book has been interpreted and misinterpreted, distorted, twisted, misrepresented, misunderstood, and maligned as no other book ever has.”
“As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:30-32).
“Sanctify [the disciples] through thy truth,” Jesus prayed, “thy word is truth”! (John 17:17).
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6)
God’s truth absolutely crushes deceit. If you forsake the truth and replace it with “your truth” or “relative truth,” then you become a slave to human nature, which is powerfully influenced by Satan’s nature.
Notice what 1 John 4:4-6 reveal about the truth. It shows us that if we are of God, then we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. This gets down to the very origins, the very sources of truth and error.
“We must know not only truth and error, but ‘the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error,’” my father writes in The Last Hour. “It takes Christ’s mind in us to discern the spirit of truth and error. We can have the truth and still teach it in the wrong spirit.”
Human minds will always believe something different from reality (the truth) without God and His Word!
Years ago, Mr. Armstrong aired a classic World Tomorrow radio broadcast that looked at the four ways that human beings come to believe what we believe.
Again, this is something that most human beings never think about. But it’s fundamental to understanding who and what we are. And it’s absolutely fundamental to understanding the difference between true knowledge that solves problems and false knowledge that causes problems.
The first way we come to believe something is by taking for granted, without question, what we have been brought up to believe.
Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9).
In his radio program “How to Search for Truth,” Mr. Armstrong said, “I want you to stop and think a minute. How much did you know the day you were born? Do you realize that at the moment of your birth you had no beliefs, no convictions, no opinions? You have acquired every idea, conviction and belief that you now hold since the day you were born. And if you are an average individual, most of your present convictions entered your mind without so much as thinking to question what you heard, what you were taught, what you found others believing, what you were brought up to believe. You just took it for granted. You assumed it without question, without proof. You just accepted it, and now you firmly believe it.”
The second way we come to believe something is by sheep instinct. We believe it because we want to go along with the crowd. Human nature wants to conform. We follow a multitude to do evil.
The Bible warns against doing this: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil …” (Exodus 23:2).
The older version of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course (Lesson 5) that Mr. Armstrong published states: “Few people seem to know that the Bible is actually the Maker’s instruction book to the mankind He designed, created and made. … Yet almost no one uses this very Word of God for its intended purpose. What do they do? Most people, ignoring or disregarding the Maker’s instruction book, follow like blind and dumb sheep going to the slaughter the wrong ways and customs of other people. They absorb and gullibly accept without question the false beliefs of other people …. God says, ‘Remember,’ and people promptly forget.”
“It seems to be human nature to want to belong and to go along, to conform,” Mr. Armstrong said in that radio program. “People like to join in some organized group such as a club, a party, a church. The human tendency is to just go along, to accept blindly and without question whatever ideas or doctrines or beliefs may be held by that particular group or organization. One will often express his beliefs somewhat in this fashion, ‘Well, we of our party or our church, our club believe (so and so).’ It seems human to fear to disagree with the policies or the beliefs of one’s organized group and usually this union in belief is the tie that binds the members together.”
To blindly accept whatever an organized group may adopt is to place one’s trust wholly in that human movement instead of utilizing one’s faculties to prove what is true or instead of relying upon the Supreme Divine God.
The third way we come to believe something is by believing what we want to believe.
Winston Churchill addressed this in a House of Commons speech on Oct. 5, 1938, after Britain signed the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler. He said: “I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat. … Our loyal, brave people … should know the truth. They should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defenses; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road; they should know that we have passed an awful milestone in our history.”
In his radio program, Mr. Armstrong said that when people study into an issue but “encounter some truth which they do not want to accept or to act upon, they reject it or they reason their way around it or they ignore it or they dispose of it by ridiculing it. Such people are simply not honest with themselves, and since it is only the truth that can make them free, they sentence themselves to continual slavery.”
As we study at AC in Old Testament Survey and other classes, this trait is what produced the horrible time of the judges, summarized in Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The fourth way human beings come to believe what we believe is by learning to seek, find and act upon the truth.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). “Prove” here means to put to the test, to examine, to discern, to scrutinize, to verify, even to try by fire, and to deem worthy or confirm as genuine.
And how do we put our beliefs to the test? By doing! When we seek, find and learn the truth, we must put it into action. We must not only believe that which is good but hold it fast. You won’t hold fast the actual truth, God’s truth, unless you act on it.
“We must first of all come to be willing to admit it when we are proved wrong,” Mr. Armstrong said on the radio. “We must bring ourselves to be willing to confess error, to repent of wrong whether it be wrong thoughts, wrong beliefs or wrong doing.”
Truth hurts! Someone once said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To rightly understand, we must study. We must prove every belief. We must question what we study until it is proved true!
“The most important question that the human mind can contemplate is the subject of life,” Mr. Armstrong said. “Why are we here? Were we put here for a purpose? And if so, what is that purpose and how may it be achieved? Just what are we? Where are we going? What happens when we die? What lies on beyond death? And above all, how do we know?” (ibid).
Again, Jesus said, “[Y]e shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Make the Word of God the source you rely on to determine what you believe and practice! That is not just a religious-sounding sentiment. That is a practical, crucial, absolute requirement for understanding the truth. And only by seeking, finding and acting upon the truth in God’s Word can you solve problems.
Human beings all the way back to Adam and Eve have believed wrong knowledge. They have believed what Satan claimed to be the truth. They believed then—and most humans believe now—that our own minds can find the truth, that our own minds can even define the truth. And today we are drowning in millions of different versions of so-called “truth.”
We are doing what is right in our own eyes. Just as every human generation has back to the first one. We believed Satan’s big lie and didn’t know it. Now we are drowning in lies.
The pandemic of lies and disinformation traces back to a wrong spirit—meaning a wrong influence from a wrong attitude.
The truth, as Armstrong students are taught, is that human minds are incomplete! They do not have the capacity to discover the essential knowledge needed to solve the problems of this world. The truth is that human minds need guidance from our Creator’s mind.
Finding and understanding the truth isn’t a matter of producing more human knowledge. It’s a matter of submitting our attitudes to the source of right knowledge—knowledge that solves problems and prevents evils!
The fact that so many human beings reject that so strongly in itself proves that we are totally influenced by another mind. That mind is inspiring an explosion of problems, of evils; and we still follow after it! This is proof positive that enormous amounts of knowledge are useless against the infection of a wrong spirit.
Truth traces back to a right spirit—an attitude of submitting to the Creator of human minds and the Source of right knowledge.
2 Thessalonians 2 reveals that the wrong spirit influences even those rare few whom God has called into His Church. So many who understood this fundamental truth have lost it. Why? It wasn’t a matter of knowledge. They had the knowledge! It was a matter of spirit, of attitude toward God. Verse 10 says they did not love God’s truth.
It is not enough to only receive knowledge. In fact, it is not enough to even receive God’s knowledge. You have to love it. Seek the truth. Know the truth. Submit to the truth. Use the truth. And love the truth.