A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Monday July 6, 2020
2 John 1-3
The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:
3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
I have a confession to make: from ever since I can remember, I have been very good at lying. Even when directly confronted, I could look my parents straight in the eye and without hesitation deny any knowledge or involvement of anything that I thought might get me in trouble. As you might imagine, on more than one occasion my habit of not telling the truth in small things grew to be a big problem. Growing up, my younger brother—I stopped calling him my “little brother” after he joined the US Army Infantry and could easily beat me up— and I shared a bedroom and bunkbeds. As is common among siblings, nearly everything between us quickly turned into a competition. Because I was two years older, not only did I have a built in height and strength advantage, but I was often able to subtly manipulate the rules of the contest towards my own advantage. One night, while we were supposed to be sleeping, we began a new game to see who could touch the lightbulb on our Mickey Mouse Fantasia nightlight the longest. We began by each just tapping it for a moment, then gradually touching it longer and longer until it got too hot. Then, I pretended to put my entire hand around the bulb and hold it for a full minute. Not to be outdone, my brother decided to do the same thing, except he didn’t realize I hadn’t actually been touching it. He held on for what seemed like minutes, but was probably only about 30 seconds. For possibly the first time in our lives, I conceded the victory to him, but it came with a price. In his efforts to best me, he actually burned his hand and left the room howling in pain. He was so upset that my parents were never able to get him say what happened, and when they came into the room to ask me I denied knowing anything.
Alarmed at their inability to understand what was wrong and unable to calm him down, my dad and brother quickly rushed off to the emergency room. It wasn’t until the triage station at the ER that the burn was finally discovered, and when the nurse asked him what happened, my brother said that he had touched the clothes iron, which was not true at all. My dad of course denied this, but since he didn’t know about our little game of “touch the light bulb,” he couldn’t offer an alternative explanation. Hospital staff then began to interrogate about the safety of our home and demand answers as to why a young child would be left unsupervised around a dangerous object. It wasn’t until the next morning, after fortunately being allowed to return home with a relatively uninjured child, that I finally spilled the beans to my parents as to what really happened. There are few things in life more frustrating and disappointing than discovering that someone you love has not been truthful. The truth matters, and even a little lie can have big consequences.
As John the apostle opens his brief letter to a particular church, who he calls “the elect lady and her children,” he once again emphasizes the importance of the truth, a constant refrain throughout his writing. John’s gospel and three other letters bearing his name contain nearly as many uses of the word “truth” as the entire Old Testament combined. As the early church began to emerge and spread in the first century, so did half-truths and false teachings. The distinguishing mark of the true church of Jesus is that she knows the truth. What is the truth? The truth is the Gospel, the good news of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, which John 3:16 so beautifully lays out for us: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” All who believe this message, who have received the gift of God’s Son, given for them in love, make up His bride, the church.
To be a part of the body of believers a person not only must agree intellectually to the truth about Jesus, but actually know the truth in a personal way. In John 14:6, Jesus revealed of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” The truth can be known, and His name is Jesus. Everyone who knows Him and loves Him is given His Spirit to live within them and be with them forever. To know Jesus is to receive God’s grace, mercy, and peace. Grace is being given a gift that we do not deserve: salvation through Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross. Mercy is not receiving a punishment or a penalty that we do deserve: eternal condemnation for our sins. Peace is the absence of conflict: being made right with the Father through the Son. This is the eternal truth of the gospel; may we cast aside any temptation to believe anything else.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the truth. You know the truth about us, You see our hearts, that we are so easily deceived into sharing and believing half-truths and outright lies. The truth is that You made us, You know us, and You love us. The truth is that we could never be deserving of Your love, but the truth is You don’t ask us to be. The truth is that we can receive grace, mercy, and peace only when we know You. We ask that You would reveal Yourself to us, help us to know the truth so that we would be set free from our tendencies towards self-righteousness and feelings of shame. Help us to fix our eyes on You and You alone. We pray this in Your perfect name, Amen.