Can We Handle The Truth?


Jack Nicholson sits on the witness stand, a tough man, a military man in the movie, “A Few Good Men.” Tom Cruise, the attorney, questions him…trying to get Jack to admit that he ordered a “Code Red” on one of his men. It seems an impossible task; he is a tough nut to crack. Jack’s character faces the enemy every day at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. No schmancy, dancy courtroom lawyer is going to get him to say anything that he doesn’t want to say…or will he?

As the questioning continues, Jack starts to lose his cool. His pride starts to get the better of him, he starts to feel he is above the law, and has a right to be in that elevated position-- that there is nothing that can touch him, really, because his right to be “right” outweighs whether or not he was wrong in ordering a “Code Red” that cost a man his life. His pride becomes his downfall as he is questioned and pressed for an answer. After being asked several times, “Isn’t it true…? Isn’t it true…?” Jack finally cracks, and shouts out, “You want the truth?” and then follows it with that famous line, “You can’t handle the truth!!”

All that Jack’s character stood for starts to unravel at that point. He forgets where he is, he forgets what might happen in his admission of ordering the “Code Red,” and he begins to fight for his right to be right, even if the law says it is wrong. After all his well-spoken words and strong arguments as to why he did what he did, in the end, he is read his rights, and taken into custody, while completely shocked and angry that anything so degrading could be happening to him…his “reign” had come to an end. His power would be worthless behind bars

Who couldn’t handle the truth here? Was it the lawyer searching for it, or was it Jack, the person living in his own reality of right and wrong, with his own perception of what was called for? Jack was of the impression that those outside the world he lived in, on the military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, didn’t live in the real world, his world, so he was “allowed” to make up his own rules of right and wrong and was not subject to the laws of the very government that he served under. He became too big for his britches, so to speak, and it took him down in the end. Does that remind us of anyone we know who was kicked out of Heaven and ended up here on earth with us?

This is going to be an interesting one for me to write because I am sitting here with all these pieces to a puzzle--the puzzle I’ll call, “Truth”--and I’m not sure how they all fit just yet. As the last couple of weeks have gone by, God keeps giving me the pieces, and I jot them down, and stack them up here beside my chair, wondering how they will all come together? I’m about ready to burst from these latest lessons, and some of them have been painful, to say the least. The stretching and growing and learning of Truth has been challenging. Even Jim seemed anxious to head off to work today as I discussed more of it with him… He was like, “Just get this lesson written so you can stop wrestling with it.” You see, I started with him one night when I asked him, “Jim, why does the truth hurt?” and this journey began. So let’s unravel it together, shall we? Maybe we’ll all learn something…I surely hope so.

What world do we choose to live in? Would it be the world of God’s Truth, or the world where we make up our own truth and live by it like Jack did? And which one will get us into the most trouble? Jack’s truth took him down. Will ours?

On this journey, I’ve been involved in many different conversations where the subject of truth has come up…imagine that? It’s sort of like reading a morning devotional, or a certain part of Scripture, and then attending church later that day and the pastor is “on the same page.” God is not disjointed, in some strange, unknown, miraculous way of His, He has us all together on this journey.

In one of the conversations I had of late, it was said, “We want to design our own world and live in it. That’s where we’re comfortable. We don’t want to step out. We don’t want to hear what our responsibility is, we just want to be comforted.”

Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. Psalm 86:11 (NLT)

That’s a bold request by David, who wrote most of the Psalms. It reminds me of this person I was talking to in the comment above on designing our own world…they were telling me about their marriage situation. After years of having some really serious battles, they found the reason that their marriage survived, even though they disagreed about many things, was that they were both ultimately after the truth. They would fight for the right to be right only for so long, but in the end, if it were found that they were wrong, they would admit it. They were not going into this relationship looking for a person that would make them happy, but they were looking for a person who would make them a better person. That’s honoring God, and each other in the relationship.

I once heard marriage described as a triangle. If you draw a triangle and write God’s name at the top, and then write both your names at the bottom--as you move up that triangle getting closer to God, you also move closer to each other. And isn’t moving closer to God ultimately moving closer to the Truth? As I read this morning in Hebrews 11:27 (NLT), “Moses kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.”

We look at this world, and most times, it is a mess. If we’re not keeping our eyes on the One who is invisible, we can start to create our own world to escape it…the only problem is, it’s our world and probably no one else really understands it. It seems real enough to us, but to others, it’s simply confusing. Then we feel misunderstood and alone, and where do we turn then? We need to re-turn to the only place where Truth is found, our Lord. To His Truth. To His way. He’s not out to make us happy, although He’s glad when we are, I’m sure, but He’s out to make us a better person. It’s said, “God loves us just the way we are, and He loves us too much to leave us that way.”

The very night I asked Jim, “Why does the Truth hurt?” we decided to watch a movie. Without even thinking about what we were doing, we ended up watching, “Liar, Liar.” After it got started, I laughed, and mentioned the title to Jim. We both laughed again.

Jim Carey is the lawyer in this movie, and he is an expert at lying. He doesn’t always lie to hurt people; in fact, most times he is very complimentary to those he meets. He compliments them on their hair even if it looks awful, he tells them they look like they’re losing weight, even if they’ve gained some…in the courtroom, he takes the lies and twists them into such a fantastic tale of “truth” that he wins cases no one else can win. Until…his son makes a wish, and for 24 hours, he is unable to tell a lie. When he finds out this turn of events came from a wish his son had made when blowing out his candles, he tries to get it reversed. He explains to his son that, “Everyone lies.” His son answers, “Yes, but you’re the only one that hurts me.”

As the truth starts spewing out of Jim Carey, he admits that he is a bad father, that he didn’t give his secretary the raise she deserved, that he’s not on vacation but just lied to his mother so he didn’t have to talk with her. His world starts falling apart because he MUST tell the truth! Then he said something very profound in the courtroom when the Judge asked him to proceed…he said, “How do you proceed when you have to tell the truth?”

God’s Truth is not always easy to live by, it’s not always easy to speak, and it sometimes hurts when we simply want to be comforted. As one friend recently said, “Good things hurt sometimes.”

In dealing with this whole Truth issue lately, I have been called to speak, what I believe to be God’s Truth, into at least three lives, and I can’t say that I liked it a whole lot. “How do you proceed when you have to tell the truth?” Especially, when you know it might hurt? On one occasion I was asked to pray about a specific issue and see what God’s leading might be for that person. We both prayed, and then we talked…We started with a sort of “You go first…no you go first…” discussion. So, I ended up going first and shared the answer I had gotten, the hard part being, it’s not the answer I was looking for and I didn’t think it was going to make this person “happy.” It was tough! I just wanted to be nice! I didn’t want to be truthful!! Turns out, this person got the same answer from God that I got, and the issue was settled. Truth won out, and I was relieved. Later, I was asked, “What would have happened had you both come up with different answers?” Well, the only thing we could of done was to go back to praying, because either one of us was wrong, or both of us. God is not a God of confusion!

If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he
will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy
Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because
it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. John 14:15-17a (NLT)

The world at large is not looking for the Truth…the world at large is looking to be right. This is what messes us up with religion. We want to find a “religion” that suits what we think, and follow that. Many times, we’re not interested in the Truth if it’s not what we want to hear.

“…if you wander beyond the teaching of Christ, you will not have fellowship with God. But if you continue in the teaching of Christ, you will have fellowship with both the Father and the Son.”
2 John 9 (NLT)

A.W. Tozer writes: “The truth received in power shifts the basis of life from Adam to Christ and a new set of motives goes to work within the soul. A new and different Spirit enters the personality and makes the believing man new in every department of his being. His interests shift from things external to things internal, from things on earth to things in heaven…With the ideas here expressed most Christians will agree, but the gulf between theory and practice is so great as to be terrifying. For the gospel is too often preached, and accepted without power, and the radical shift that the truth demands is never made…The gospel is concerned with a new life, with a birth upward onto a new level of being…” (The Divine Conquest)

I was out with a very good friend of mine recently. We have been discussing some very deep issues about the Holy Spirit. What does embracing the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life look like? How do we know if we have embraced Him? If we haven’t, how do we make that step in our relationship with God? And, why is this not talked about more in our churches?

In all of our discussion and our time spent together as friends, God started showing me something in my friend’s life that I had never noticed before. Not a terrible thing, not an evil thing, just something that didn’t seem to match up with that “radical shift” that Tozer wrote about. I didn’t want to see it, and I surely didn’t want to tell my friend that I saw it. I wanted to be “nice.” I wanted to be encouraging…God wanted something else. It had to be discussed. I brought it to her attention, and she received it with a heart that is open to hearing what she needs to hear, even if the truth hurts. I actually think the truth can sometimes hurt the giver more than the receiver in situations like this. Sort of like the parent disciplining the child, and saying, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” As a child, who of us ever understood that ridiculous statement? I understand it a bit better now… But truly, I can’t know the depth of my friend’s wound from what was shared, but I know that it hurts me now to even just write about it.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Proverbs 27:6 (NLT)

Perhaps wounds from a friend are tolerable because love is a factor. My brother-in-law said, regarding sharing the Truth with others, that, “It’s like a bridge that is established between two people, and we cannot share a Truth with another until we know that the weight of the Truth we are carrying will not collapse the bridge we have built between us. We can’t just carry an anvil of Truth over the bridge if the relationship will not support it.” Most times, unless called of God in another way, Truth should be shared after relationships have been built.

When Truth is shared, it should always be done in love. God operates no other way, and neither should we. Sharing the Truth without the Love, turns people off. There are times when the Holy Spirit within will have us speak to another in love--someone that we might not even know, about certain things--but for the most part, God has us build relationships before we are called to hold one another accountable in difficult situations. My sister and I discussed that there is a huge difference in running out and calling a person a sinner and telling them to change their ways, compared to speaking with a friend about a “new level of being” with God.

Still, these conversations can cause an uncomfortable feeling for a while. Even Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?” (4:16 NLT) The Truth can cause some to fear, to maybe even have the feeling of being lost for a time…one day we seem to be on solid ground in our relationship with our Savior--then we hear a deeper word of Truth, and we can feel a bit shaken and uncomfortable. The good part of this discomfort is in not wanting to miss the “more” that God is offering. O. Chambers writes, “We shall all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus on the point He has asked us to yield to Him…He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him.” Oswald has pushed me past my comfort zone many times in his writings.

Tozer writes: “The Christian who is seeking better things and who has to his consternation found himself in a state of complete self-despair need not be discouraged. Despair with self, where it is accompanied by faith, is a good friend for it destroys one of the heart’s most potent enemies and prepares the soul for the ministration of the Comforter…If we misunderstand it and resist this visitation of God, we may miss entirely every benefit a kind heavenly Father has in mind for us. If we cooperate with God, he will take away the natural comforts that have served us as mother and nurse for so long and put us where we can receive no help except from the Comforter himself.”

As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare.” That is how we should be with one another in the relationships God has blessed us with, especially in the body of Christ. And as difficult as it may be at times, we should be able to share with one another in genuine love and affection, as God directs.

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 (NLT)

Jesus didn’t hesitate to speak boldly, but he always did it in genuine love. It doesn’t always make the news easy to hear, or to receive and respond to, as in this case, but it doesn’t make it any less a Truth that needs to be shared. God doesn’t want us to love Him because He does what we want; God wants us to love Him because He is God.

The truth we live in shapes our lives. We can live our whole lives in an “unconscious unreality,” as Oswald Chambers calls it, creating our own reality and not even realizing that we have done so--but do we really want to? What if someone could call it to our attention, would we want them to? Can we handle the truth? God’s Truth is so freeing, and yet many times we will resist it until the last bit of strength we have is gone. Then we will at last surrender and tell Him, “We are done,” and we’ll discover the power, His Power, which was always with us but was covered over by our own schemes, our own plans, or our own devices that were getting us through this life…or so we thought.

Hannah Smith writes: “Of every believer in the Lord Jesus it is absolutely true that your ‘body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God.’ But although this is true, it is also equally true that unless the believer knows it and lives in the power of it, it is to him as though it were not.”

The real Truth can surround us, but if we are not open to it, “it is as though it were not.” This weekend millions, perhaps billions of people will attend church. For Christians, it is Resurrection Sunday. It is the day we celebrate our Risen Lord. It is the day that tells us death no longer holds a sting for us, and that sin no longer can control us. It is the day we, as believers, were set free--the day Christ rose from the dead and changed everything! To us, it is an eternal Truth!

For many, this Sunday will be no different than all the rest. Oh, some may even attend church, but not believe. Some won’t even think about going to church, but they’ll be hams baked and egg hunts for the kids. Some will mow the lawn, clean the house, and get ready for work on Monday…life as usual. But there is a Truth that is not to be ignored, for God’s Word says, “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatever for not knowing God…they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like…Instead of believing what they knew as the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. Romans 1:18-20, 21b, 25 (NLT)

A friend recently sent me this note: “Life is so amazing when God gets His way. If we (those who get hurt) practiced delighting ourselves in the LORD first, then we would have the mind and heart of Christ, and then He would give us the desires of our heart. Then the truth would not hurt. It would be sweet and joyful.”

“The degree of fullness in any life accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire. We have as much of God as we actually want.” (Tozer)

Isn’t it great to know that we are not limited! That all of God’s Truth is available to us if we desire it? Yes, it can be scary because it will take us out of our comfort zone and plunge us into a world that is beyond what we could ever imagine…but it is a world that is beyond the simply mundane, because we are God’s children!! Our Father is a King! We have all the rights and all the power that Paul and Peter and Abraham had when they walked this earth! We are special to God! He wants nothing less for us than to know His Truth and for His Truth to set us free so we can live fully!

Eternal life comes from knowing God…today, right here, right now! We don’t have to wait! We don’t have to get stumped by Satan’s accusations against us about all the things we have done, all the mistakes we have made, all the times we have fallen short. When he questions us, we don’t have to be shaken.

“But isn’t it true…?” “Yes, it’s true, I am a sinner, but I am forgiven,” we can answer!
“But isn’t it true…?” “Yes, it’s true, I don’t know everything I could know, but I am learning as God reveals things to me,” we can say.
“But isn’t it true..?” Yes, it’s all true, but it doesn’t matter! I love God and He loves me!”

Satan, you can’t handle the Truth, because you have no interest in it!

Everything our enemy has ever stood for will start to unravel in the end. All the lies he plagued us with through the years, trying to hold us back from knowing our Father in Heaven, will be finished. His “rules” will no longer rule anyone. The “world” he “created” will disappear. Sin and death will be obliterated. His taunts, his temptations, his evil schemes will become a thing of the past. Every knee will bow to the Truth of God and Satan’s reign will end. All the power he thought he had will be gone.

“Then the Devil, who betrayed them was thrown into the lake of fire that
burns with sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they
will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10 (NLT)

And that’s the Truth!