At Gateway Church in Austin we began a new series asking the question: Is Jesus Fake News?
Many people, even those that don’t follow Him, concede that Jesus was one of the greatest teachers who ever lived. But what did Jesus teach? His claims were pretty audacious. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” but were those claims really “fake news” made up by His followers? If Jesus was telling the truth, if His claims were authentic, what does it mean to follow Him? What does it mean to apprentice under Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Perhaps the key to understanding this is to get past any “fake news” about Jesus and begin to unpack His teachings.
Discussion questions for your life group or family dinner are here.
This includes creating a User Manual for yourself.
Audio of the Message I Shared at Gateway South:
Notes from the Message by John Burke:
Have you ever thought about the power of a lie?
Why would anyone willingly swallow a lie?
The answer is—we don’t willingly do it—we get deceived.
A lie is a deviation from Reality.
Seems more and more that lies are “how we do business”—lies are thought of as no big deal.
But lies and deception is how evil works in the world.
Just consider the power of the lie historically. Just consider what I can get you to do if you believe lies.
- Just think, if someone can get you to slowly believe a particular type of person is not really a human being of equal value or a threat to your safety or inferior. If someone can keep telling a society that lie, then who knows what you’ll be willing to put up with or participate in.
- If someone could get you to believe you were fat, keep pounding you with the lie that thinner is always better— they could so distort your thinking that you will starve yourself to death.
- If someone could get you to believe the future is hopeless, even though you don’t know the future, and they bombard you with the lie that death is the only way out… they could get you to destroy yourself.
- If someone could get you to believe your spouse was causing all your problems, keep you obsessing on every little wrong, then lie to you that there’s no hope and no way things will change. And they could do the same with your spouse, until you both believed the lie that it’s entirely the other person’s stubborn pride and that person will never change. They could destroy your family.
- If someone could get you to believe that just one cigarette, just one drink, just one hit, just one look won’t hurt… They can keep you enslaved to something that will destroy you or others eventually.
Just imagine the power we have to manipulate and even destroy others, if we could just get others to believe our sweet little lies.
And the most powerful lie is the lie of pride that says, “Not me,” “That could never happen to me.”
We live in a world filled with lies, half-truths, deceptions, and now even Fake News.
Into this world of lies comes Jesus claiming “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Last week we talked about The Way—the Way to Know God Personally, the Way to be Fully Human.
What did he mean, “I am the Truth.” What difference would it make if we truly decided to take what He says as truth—to apprentice under Jesus as the Truth about God, ourselves, and how life best works?
Listen to exchange between Jesus and the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate:
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews…Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” – John 18:35-39
To Pilate, truth is whatever works for you in the expediency of the moment. So to preserve his power, he compromised and condemned an innocent man, he had Jesus Crucified. His excuse: Truth…what is truth? The question and confusion is at least 2000 years old.
Let’s zoom in on another Truth Encounter Jesus had in John 8 so we can see what it means to apprentice under Jesus as The Truth. In John 8, Jesus was talking to a crowd of people, some who were willing to be honest and some were just playing a religious game.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
Jesus was setting up a metaphor, just as darkness is the absence of light, a lie or deception is just the absence of truth. And truth is where God exists. Truth is Reality.
The problem with humanity is that None of us know all truth, because none of us know all Reality. But God does.
So the Religious Pharisees challenge Jesus—who do you think you are calling yourself the light of the world? Jesus replies:
You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. – John 8:15-16
God alone knows what’s true. He alone can judge Reality.
- Do you think you’re ugly? According to whom?
- Do you think you’re not good enough? According to whom?
- Do you think you’re better than another race or profession? According to whom?
Who is the standard of Truth?
Unfortunately, when we don’t know what’s true, we try to bend reality to fit what other people say is true (but what if it’s a lie?)
Only God knows ultimate truth. And what’s true is just Reality according to God.
“Reality is your friend.” Why? Why is reality your friend? Because Reality is where God lives. Reality is what’s true according to the only one who can really judge accurately. And Reality is where we Come Alive. When we learn to walk honestly in the light of God’s Reality—we find freedom. Freedom to be ourselves—in Reality!
“You are truly my disciples [apprentices] if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” [the Pharisees] said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
– John 8:31-33
They didn’t get it, they thought they were free, but they were in fact slaves—slaves to the opinions of others, slaves to pretense and posturing, slaves to a false reality that had them acting one way on the outside, but there was a totally different reality on the inside that only God could see. They were deceived by religious pride—and that’s bondage!
So lies can be dangerous, but Truth can be a dicey thing too. When we think we know all Truth and are arrogant—that too can deceive us. Like these Pharisees, we don’t need to be free, we know!
I’ve met Christians who claim to know the Truth because they follow Jesus (who is the Truth), they could spout off His Word, yet the more you observe their lives, the more you can see a destructive wake of hurt trailing through all their relationships—spouse and children feel manipulated and even beaten up with the Bible’s Truth. Or people around them who love them try to tell them how they’re hurting others, but they can’t see it—“It’s not me, I’m free, I’ve always been free.” Just like the Pharisees who killed Jesus, The Truth they claimed to know has actually become a shield to keep God from messing up their high control lives. So there’s a danger with lies, but there’s also a danger with Arrogant Truth. The arrogant religious have been the foundation of so many horrific acts of injustice like Slavery, the Crusades, and even the Crucifixion of Jesus.
In a book by Philip Parham, he documents how many young criminals can’t see that they’ve done anything wrong. The problem is society or other people – and until they SEE that They have committed a crime, they feel no guilt, can’t be helped, and will almost assuredly be repeat offenders.
You say, wait a second. I’m not a criminal – no, but there’s this universal thing we humans all do – we unconsciously develop an image of ourselves as we want to be, then we censor any contradictory evidence (be it good or bad). Then many of us rely on defending, blaming, lying, criticizing, advice-giving, or gossiping to prop up our image not have to address our defects.
We can all be deceived. Jesus’ disciples were deceived: Peter, James and John—so why would you or I think we can’t be deceived? And think about this, if you are deceived, you’ll be the last to know it.
So here’s the thing, we all need to invite Truth-speaking people into our lives. What we call Spiritual Running Partners—1-2 people you will trust with everything and give them permission to speak into your life what they see—truth in love.
Can you imagine truly being free? Jesus said, “I am the Truth…apprentice under me, live and pattern your life as if what I say is truth…and the truth will set you free.” Jesus is not just claiming propositional statements about what’s true, He said He IS Truth embodied. That’s significant. In other words, truth is not only words and statements about life that correspond to God’s Reality—Truth is Relational—Jesus embodied what Truth Lived out looks and acts like. That’s why deciding to Apprentice under Him—to study, read, copy, pattern, your life after His relationally is the path to Freedom.
Truth requires Trust.
What would it be like to truly be free? Free to be yourself—fully? Free to embrace and live in reality—what if you could feel Loved, Accepted, Whole, Important, Special, Purposeful, Hopeful, Peaceful, Joyful—even facing the reality that you don’t live up to the judgments of others, or the judgments in your head? Even facing the reality that you’ve really messed up. Even facing the reality that life isn’t what you’d expected? Wouldn’t that be freeing to feel whole and complete, loved and lacking nothing—even in the light of reality? That’s the truth Jesus wants to teach you. God’s Reality is bigger than you can control, but you’re safe under His Reality. That’s the Freedom Jesus came to purchase for you—at a hefty price—he paid with his life to set you free.
But Do you walk in the light of that freedom? Survey says…Not really!
If we’re honest, most of us lie, we hide, we run from reality—and so we stay stuck, in prison, slaves. Why? What’s Wrong with Reality? How can we know the Truth Jesus is talking about and walk in the light of Freedom to be ourselves fully? To not feel the need to lie, hide, pretend, cheat, defend, blame, make excuses or cover up?
It starts by being honest with ourselves–growing up in a world separated from God, where God’s truth and reality are not welcome, we all get wounded, broken, and robbed of God’s Reality. And then we believe lies about ourselves, God, and others, and as we live out of that false Reality, we hurt and wound others.
We lie, cheat, hide, manipulate, pretend because we’ve lost God’s Reality about who we are. We aren’t able to rest, be secure, comfortable in our own skin—so we try to be something other than reality. So living in the Truth that sets us free means we start to believe what God says is true about us and act that way. There is no one else on earth like you—you are unique. And uniquely valuable to God:
“This is what the LORD says–he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid.” Isaiah 44:2 To the prophet Jeremiah he said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God…For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10
God knew you—your unique fingerprint stamped with God’s image, before you were born. His Masterpiece, his plan for the good He created you to do–that existed in the Mind of God before all the hurts and lies stole your innocence, and God still Knows who He created you to be.
Know any identical twins? Did you know, even though their features are so similar—their fingerprints are unique. Of the billions of fingerprints on file around the globe, no two have ever been found identical—not even with twins. I think that’s God’s physical reminder of a spiritual reality—God created each of us unique for a purpose. No two souls are identical for a reason. Like different facets of a diamond reflect different colors of the same light. You were uniquely created to reflect something about the image of the Creator out of a uniquely special relationship. God alone knows you.
But in a world separated from God—that Reality gets lost and confused. Jesus paid the price to freely restore relationship with God for all who want God, then we can learn to live in God’s Reality. “If you soak in my teaching you will know the truth” Then we won’t need to lie, or hide, or cheat, or defend our actions, or blame or cover up—as we walk in the Light, we are free.
We renew our mind through studying God’s word, and understanding it. The mind soon becomes aligned with the Spirit, and the light and potential inside us begins to pour out. It is a process of maturity, character, and building a foundation, becoming deep rooted in God ‘s Word, living with certainty of what He says, and also staying obedient, and it creates the space for God to speak to us, give us divine truths. “
That’s why we encourage you to learn what the scriptures teach—learn what Jesus taught about the Reality of how God sees you—Truth that sets us free. If He is Truth, pattern, apprentice after how he lived—He showed us Truth is relational, not just propositional—that’s why Truth became flesh and lived with us.
There’s another reason we run from Reality, hide, pretend, tell white lies or dark lies—Fear! It comes from the same root—not experiencing the love of God. John says “God’s perfect love casts out all fear.” Jesus confronts the religious people who thought they were free, but were really slaves to lies that would soon have them kill Jesus in the name of God—how deceived! Yet it was fear driven. They based their security on what others thought of them, how good they were, their knowledge, their religious image—and Jesus’ truth threatened that false Security. When our false security gets threatened by the truth—we either must die to that false Security and step out in faith Trusting God for new security…or we resist God’s Truth and become more enslaved to the lie. Jesus confronts them in John 8:
You are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me…You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:40-44
We must turn from lies and half-truths, because when we cling to lies Evil gains power over us. Pride and Arrogance, hiding and protecting, this is the glue that keeps us in bondage to the lies. Lies are the weapon of evil that slowly turn us to do things that hurt ourselves and others, all the while thinking we’re right!
How do we get Free? – we walk in light with God and each other– because everything will come into the light eventually—by our own confession, leading to freedom now, or against our will, leading to shame later. Jesus is the Truth, the Truth Loves You, wants to lead you into His secure Reality. Will you keep your eyes on Him and walk in the Light?
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us. I John 1:5-9
Don’t stay alone in the dark—we can walk together in His light! This is the amazing Grace of God. He wants you to live free! In this broken world, we all sin, we all struggle, we all hide and pretend—that just keeps us stuck. When we come into the light—that’s where God lives—in Reality. He knows, and when we confess, he cleanses us. Not so we can go do it again, so we can walk in the light with Him and with each other—and His love heals us. It happens when you get relationally connected and learn to walk in the Light.
“confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16
It’s the Truth the Recovery movement realized and patterned steps 4&5 after—that until you make a complete moral inventory, confess to God and do Step 5, tell one other person—you’ll stay chained to your addiction. Once you bring it into the light with God and one other person, you find it easier to tell a second trusted person, then a 3rd or 4th—and you reach a critical mass of confession after 3-5 people know, you are truly Free! You really don’t care who knows, you’re free of any shame, it’s reality of what you did, but not who You Are or Will Be—once a mark of shame, it’s now a trophy of God’s grace that can be used to set others free as they see you walking in the Light—they find courage to come out of the dark and start that virtuous critical mass of confession setting them free.
Friends, some of you are in dark prison cells right now. You’ve been living a lie, hiding an addiction that’s enslaving you. Some of you have done things you’re ashamed of, hidden them, lied to yourself or others about them, found yourself more and more in prison and in the dark. It’s time to come into the Light and be free! I’ve watched people come into the light, when they feared the light would destroy them—confessing a hidden life of lies and affairs that might end their family, confessing crimes they’d been running from that might send them to jail, confessing a hidden secret that had power over them because no one else knew. 5 years later, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t glad they walked into the light of Truth—they felt free! Even facing the pains, consequences, uncertainties—they found freedom. In God’s Hands you’re safe, in God’s Reality you’re secure, in God’s Light you’ll be free at last.