Freeing Truth

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Originally published in April 1996.

Col Jessup:“Do you want answers?”

Lt. Tom Caffee:“I think I’m entitled to them.”

Col. Jessup:“You want answers?”

Lt. Tom Caffee:(with a dramatic fist slammed to the table) “I want the truth!”

Col. Jessup – “You can’t handle the truth!” (From the movie, A Few Good Men)

Truth was, Lt. Tom Caffee could handle the truth.He was holding up the light of truth to Col. Jessup.Because he held up this light, could handle the truth.It was Col. Jessup who had to face the truth.He was guilty.The wicked web of lies he had spun was unraveling and the truth was being revealed.The truth was freeing.

This little scene comes from the movie A Few Good Men.It was a riveting scene that I still catch some of the teens imitating now and then—fist slamming and all.(Just how did they get to see a rated-R movie though?)

I believe this scene was riveting because sometimes we desire to know the truth.We want to slam our fists down on a table and know the truth.We want politicians to tell us the truth so we know our future is secure. We want the newsmedia to tell us the truth so we have a real idea about what is happening in the world.We want our kids to tell us the truth so they realize they can trust us.

Yet the truth is hidden.It’s as if “they” think we can’t handle the truth.Yet truth is what we crave.

This is one of the attributes that I believe drew people to Jesus.In the gospels it is recorded that Jesus said, “I tell you the truth…” eighty-one times.He said one phrase eighty-one times!How refreshing—someone speaking the truth.No wonder people followed Him.

I believe this is also what drew people to John the Baptist before Jesus.John the Baptist was a “wild” man in the desert yet people came the distance to hear what he had to say.And the crowd would ask, “’What should we do then?’ John answered, ‘The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.’Tax collectors also came to be baptized, ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’‘Don’t collect any more than you are required to.’ he told them.Then some soldiers asked him, ‘Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.’”Luke 3:10-14.

Of course, you didn’t want to be living in sin and have John confront you.He would tell the truth as Herod found out.He couldn’t handle the truth and had John the Baptist beheaded.

What would make people ask a “wild” man, “What should we do then?”The truth.Tax collectors and soldiers were tired of being dishonest even though they were financially gaining.They had slammed their fists down on a table and exclaimed, “I want the truth.”

We also need to be teaching truth.We need to be saying, “I tell you the truth…”And as we are saying that, we need to be sure we are saying the truth.Our stories and illustrations need to be true—not someone else’s story made yours and not a story exaggerated so it fits your point better.Our messages need to come out of what God is doing in our lives—not what God had done in our lives or what God should be doing in our lives.

It’s one of those sick-in-the-pit-of-your stomach feelings when you are at a crusade and you know his/her life is not the shiny example you see on stage.Or you have brought in a speaker for your group who impacted you and who you respect but you realize you’ve heard that same story for the past several years.Or you are at a Christian concert and the band is saying, “You are the best crowd we’ve ever had!”Then you look around and you hope for the band’s sake that this crowd was not.Your stomach sinks as you realize the band probably says that to every group.You know this is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But the times when you have heard the truth, when you knew in your gut you have heard the truth, your heart zinged.Life suddenly had more possibilities.Your mind is whirring.You find yourself asking, “What should we do then?”And when you do it, your world is not the same.

In youth ministry there is great emphasis put on the preaching of the Word, yet to youth this is a small reason as to why they come to youth group.Their reasons are social and relationships and parents.

To meet all those needs you have planning, recruiting, and training of volunteers, visitations, phone calls, and all other sorts of worthwhile busy-ness.These are all things which cut into our sermon preparation time.Plus so many volunteer youth leaders are unsure of their teaching style.They do youth ministry to do all of the other stuff and would rather not have the responsibility of preaching the message.

I tell you the truth.If you are living the truth in all these areas of busy-ness and you are seeking more of the truth in your own times with God, you can be a “wild” man like John the Baptist. Your teens will be asking you, “What can we do then?” instead of “You can’t handle the truth!”