Fearlessness in Defense of the Truth (with Portuguese Interpretation)

FIEL Conference for Pastors and Leaders | São Paulo, Brazil

I hope that the Lord will use what I say to overcome fear in our lives so that we speak the truth with openness and with courage. Even if the truth is unpopular or even dangerous. There are two reasons why I feel a burden to give you this challenge.

The Apostle Paul’s Burden for Timothy

The first reason is because the apostle Paul had this burden for young Timothy. Let me read the way he expressed it in 1 Timothy 4:3: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

So, what the apostle Paul is saying to Timothy is this. “Timothy, it is very likely that when you speak, some of it’s going to be unpopular. Some of the things you say are not going to scratch where they itch. It’s going to take courage to speak the truth. There will be opposition, so be courageous and take your share of suffering for the truth.” So, my first reason for having this burden is because the apostle Paul had the burden for his young Timothy.

Challenges of Relativism and Subjectivism

Here’s the second reason. We live in a day that is filled with relativism and subjectivism. These two things, relativism and subjectivism, destroy churches and denominations. Let me define these two terms. Relativism is the assumption that there is no absolute truth. There’s only truth for me and truth for you, whatever you think it is.

Now, subjectivism is the assumption that in that atmosphere of relativism, I, the subject, am sovereign. I decide for myself what is good and bad and right and wrong. I decide what is true for me, and you decide what is true for you. I decide what is beautiful and I decide what is ugly. There is no objective standard outside me, the subject. There’s no authority outside of me that I have to bow down to. Subjectivism means that I, the subject, am king.

The Unpopularity of Strong Convictions

Now, when you put those two things together, relativism and subjectivism, the result is this. It is very unpopular in our culture to have strong convictions about anything. Nobody should believe that they know a truth others should believe. If you think that you know something other people should believe or if you think you know a behavior that other people should do or avoid, you can be called terrible names. They can call you ayatollah, or fascist, or Nazi.

For example, there is a well-known television commentator in America. He’s very liberal, and he was criticizing Christians who speak about family values, and he basically compared us with Hitler and the Nazis. That’s the kind of criticism that can come to you if you have strong convictions.

If you commend truth with confidence, if you make a case for your view with objective evidence, and if you call people to agree with you with urgency, you will be called arrogant and even dangerous. But if you avoid talking about truth, if you give the impression that there is no objective standard, then people will think you are humble.

In America today, you’re not supposed to use the words “should,” “ought,” or “must” because that gives the impression that you know something others should agree with. And if you have confidence that you know something other people should agree with, most people think you are arrogant. On the other hand, if you have a sense of uncertainty about everything and that you don’t know anything about truth, then you will be viewed as humble.

Now, there was an English man about 80 years ago named G.K. Chesterton. He was a Catholic commentator, a very wise man. He pointed out that a strange change was happening in the Western world. He said that pride was now being defined as conviction about truth, whereas formerly pride was vain ambition, wanting people to praise you. Now, that is a remarkable change. Pride has become an issue of knowledge, not an issue of attitude.

I think one of the reasons for that change is this. If there is an objective reality outside of myself, then I must humble myself under that reality. I can’t make reality mean anything I want it to mean. And so, one of the ways that people protect their pride is by saying there is no ultimate reality, so I can decide what reality is. And so, really it is a humble thing to believe in absolute truth because I have to bow down before that truth if it exists outside of me. But if there is no absolute truth, I can be sovereign and I can make truth whatever I want it to be.

That is one of the main issues in America today. It’s one of the ways that people with itching ears collect around themselves teachers to please them. You see, if you are a pastor or a teacher, you don’t like to be called arrogant and dangerous. You like to be considered humble. So, there’s a tremendous temptation not to take strong stands or convictions, but to give in to this relativistic atmosphere. And so, you can see why there is a tremendous need for courage in our day. If you speak strong truth, you’ll be called arrogant.

Courage in Speaking Truth

Now, let me turn with you to Matthew 10:24–31. I want you to hear a call from Jesus for courage, and this text is specifically about speaking the truth with courage.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

The main point here is very clear. It’s repeated three times. Matthew 10:26: “Have no fear of them.” Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body.” Matthew 10:31: “Fear not, therefore, you are more value than many sparrows.”

The main point of this text is don’t be afraid, be courageous. But courageous to do what? The answer is given in Matthew 10:27. “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light.” He wants us to be courageous in speaking. “What you hear whispered proclaim on the housetops and do not fear.”

So, the main point here is be courageous in speaking the truth. Speak the truth clearly that is in the light. Speak the truth openly that is on the housetops. When you speak, don’t hide it, speak it openly and don’t be afraid. So, speak courageously even if it costs you your life, he says.

Spreaking Truth Requires Strong Convictions

Now, to have this kind of courage, you need to have strong conviction. You need to be a discerning person as you consider various ideas. So, let’s talk for a few minutes about being a strong discerning person. Let’s take as our text at this point in Ephesians 4:13–15. Paul is calling the church to be mature, and he says that the body of Christ is to be brought to the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God.

We may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:14–15)

So, love speaks truth. Truth that builds up the church. Truth that is not gullible or vulnerable when people try to manipulate us.

Beware of Manipulative Language

We live in a day where many people manipulate language to get you to feel what they want you to feel. In English in America today, there is a phrase called political correctness.

Political correctness means what the liberal leaders say is proper to speak. So, for example in the university, if you don’t speak with political correctness, you can be disciplined. So, you have to take views on homosexuality or views on politics that are politically correct. There is not a lot of reasonable discussion about what should be politically correct. Instead, words are chosen that are emotionally loaded so as to manipulate the feelings without using clear thinking.

Now, the apostle Paul wants the church to be mature in its thinking. He doesn’t want us to be like little children that are easily carried along by political correctness. I want to give you a couple of illustrations of how language is manipulated. The reason I give you these illustrations is to help you become discerning as you look at your culture. Most wrong ideas begin with subtlety. People don’t come along with a new wrong idea and state it clearly. They use slippery language that could mean two things and draw you into their way of thinking without stating it clearly.

Inflated Statistics on Homosexuality

My second son just graduated from high school. The high school was called Roosevelt High School named after President Roosevelt. I visited his school several times last year as he was finishing his studies and one time, there were posters on the wall, and these posters were good examples of manipulative language.

Let me tell you what they said and then analyze it with you. One of them said, this. “One in ten people are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. They could be your brother, sister, parent, or friend.” That’s all the poster said. It was a big beautiful poster with a big rainbow on it. Now, what’s the point of that poster? Are we discerning enough not to be drawn into what that poster is endorsing?

Here are the two problems I have with that poster. First, the number 10 percent is inflated. It’s too big. That number of 10 percent is discredited in America today. For example, a University of Chicago study puts the number of gay and lesbians at perhaps 1 percent. The National Center for Health Statistics puts the number at about 3%. The Kinsey Institute puts the number at 2 or 3 percent.

But my son’s high school ignored all of that research, they inflated the number and they gave the impression to hundreds of teenagers that every tenth person they passed in the hall was gay or lesbian. Now, do you see the effect that that begins to have on their mind? If every tenth person is gay or lesbian, “Well, it just can’t be that bad.” So, very subtly the poster begins to reduce the moral indignation that many feel.

Here’s my second problem with that poster. There’s no moral assessment of the behavior in the poster. There’s only this emotional appeal. It says your parent might be a homosexual. Now, what does that do to a young person’s mind? He begins to think, “What if Daddy were a homosexual?” The likelihood is very remote, but as he thinks about it, he couldn’t be against it as strongly if Daddy were one. And so, there’s no moral reasoning offered here, only an emotional appeal.

So, I wrote this poster down, I copied the poster on a piece of paper. And I spoke about it with my son, and I spoke about it with my whole church because the apostle Paul wants the church to grow up and be strong and discerning. Not like little children who are just blown along by the wind of a poster.

Slippery Language Promoting Respect Without Discernment

Here’s what the second poster said. “Respect sees no color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.” Now, many teenagers read that and they say, “Well, what’s wrong with that?” It’s very slippery language.

Here are my three problems with that poster. The first one is that it puts homosexuality in the same category with gender and race. So, it short circuits the whole process of thinking whether there might be a right and wrong here in homosexual behavior. The poster wants the teenagers to think like this. To act like a male and to act like a female is not wrong. To act like a white person and to act like a black person is not wrong. So, since homosexuality is in the same category, to act like a homosexual and to act like a heterosexual, there’s no difference. So, this is the implicit teaching of the poster.

Here’s my second problem with the poster. It bases respect on what we don’t see. Respect sees no color, no gender, and so on. And so, the poster eliminates or ignores the positive foundation for respect. And there is very little respect in American high schools. Young people don’t respect their teachers, they don’t respect each other, they don’t respect their parents.

One of the reasons is that the positive foundation based on what you do see is removed. The first most basic foundation for all respect among humans is that we are all created in the image of God. Even if you are a murderer, you should be respected in a certain way. You should be arrested and brought to trial and put in prison. You’re not an animal — an animal we would just shoot if he killed our child. So, there is a way to respect even the worst of persons. But to decide how to respect a person, you have to have your eyes open and see. You can’t base respect just on what you don’t see.

The third problem I have with this poster, it destroys truth and behavior as God meant it to be. For example, it says we should be blind to gender. So, when a boy sees a girl, he should just see a person and the respect that he should show is only based on the fact that there is a human in front of him, not a girl. That simply won’t work because there are ways that a boy should respect a girl that’s different from the way he respects another boy.

For example, very simply, he should pay her the respect of not walking into the girl’s locker room, and the only reason he would do that is because he knows she’s a girl and not a boy. It will not work to say, “Respect sees no gender.” There are many acts of politeness and courtesy that are going to come because he does see she’s a girl.

The same thing is true about religion. It’s not enough to say, “Respect sees no religion.” Of course, there are ways that we should respect equally a Buddhist and a Christian, but I don’t think we should respect a Satanist involved in Satanic ritual abuse the same way we would respect, say, a Jew who tries to keep the Ten Commandments. So, you can see that in defining respect in terms of what you don’t see, they remove the foundations of much good respect.

Now, my point here in dealing with these posters is not to make life hard for those who struggle with homosexuality. My guess is that in a group this large, there are some who struggle with homosexual temptations, and I want you to know that I stand with you in that struggle—not against you. I told my church one time that the most courageous people in the church were the people who struggle with homosexuality and confess it publicly and ask for help.

I would encourage you to create an atmosphere in your churches where homosexuals feel that if they confess and leave the lifestyle, you would accept them. There are thousands of people who are struggling with homosexuality who want to leave it, but they look at the church, and all they see is anger, and they conclude, “If I confess to those people, they’d hate me.” We have to find a way in our churches to take a firm, strong stand against the behavior of homosexuality and a compassionate treatment of those who are willing to fight it. So, my point has not been to make life hard for homosexuals.

Political Manipulation of Religious Language

My point in dealing with these posters is to challenge you to be discerning and to have strong conviction and not be like children blown about — not to be easily manipulated by the way television uses their little news flashes, or by the way politicians even use Scripture. Let me give you an illustration here.

In the 1992 presidential campaign in America, President George Bush was running against Governor Bill Clinton. Both of them wanted thirty million Christians to vote for them, so they manipulated biblical language to get votes. Let me give you an example. President Bush was addressing the religious broadcasters, radio people. He knew that these people were religious people — most of them were Christians. He was defending American involvement in the Persian Gulf War. This is the sentence that he used: “I want to thank you for helping America as Christ ordained to be a light to the world.”

Now, that’s an outrageous misuse of the Scripture. He was quoting Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine,” and he used it as a divine endorsement of a war that we were waging in the Persian Gulf. It may be right that America was there, but that passage of Scripture did not mean what he said it meant. That’s an example of manipulating people with religious language, and my goal in this message is to alert you to that and make you strong against it.

An example from President Bill Clinton. He was speaking at a convention, and he quoted partially 1 Corinthians 2:9. Here’s what he said, “Scripture says.” So, he actually meant for them to hear it as Scripture. “Scripture says, ‘Our eyes have not seen and our ears have not heard, nor our minds imagined.’” Now, what the Bible really says next is, “What God has prepared for those who love him.” And he said, “Our minds have not imagined what we can do.” He turned the text right on his head. Why did he do that? Because he knows millions of religious people don’t think — they only feel. And they feel, “Oh, he quoted the Bible. He must be a good man. I will vote for him.” That’s the way campaigns are won.

Now, you must not be that gullible. Don’t be swayed by the manipulation of language in the politicians or in the church. One of the great things about this Fiel Conference is that it puts a high premium on clear thinking about doctrine. And I was so glad to hear our brother here the other night say, “We don’t have to choose between clear thinking in doctrine and strong passions of the heart.” The world is literally dying for lack of men and women who are lovers of the truth.

Love the Truth

As we close, would you look with me at 2 Thessalonians 2:10? This is a very serious and sobering verse. It says that people are going to perish because they did not receive a love for the truth so as to be saved. It does not simply say knowledge of the truth. It says love of the truth. We will perish if we don’t love the truth. We must think clearly and be discerning to know the truth, but our hearts must embrace the truth with love.

And so, my concluding appeal to you is this. Love the truth with all your heart. Seek it and speak it with courage. I would rather you seek the truth with passion and believe it and speak it with boldness. I would rather you do that than agree with all the details of my teaching this week. The issue of manhood and womanhood is one issue among dozens of controversial issues. The issue here is much larger than whether you agree with me on the details of my teaching. The issue is, will you have the courage to love the truth and to seek the truth and to live the truth and to speak the truth with courage no matter what?

We have every reason as we conclude this conference now to be confident and courageous in God. The promises of the Lord are wonderful and precious. For example, the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? “

The Lord has promised in Hebrews 13:5–6, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” With those kinds of promises, we can be courageous, even if our courage costs us our lives. May the grace of God go with you back to your churches, make you strong, and make you joyful, and make you courageous in speaking the truth, for his glory and for your satisfaction.