There is a long-running TV show called "To Tell The Truth" where three contestants claiming to be the same person are questioned by a panel of judges who attempt to discover who is telling the truth and who is lying. Perhaps you've seen it. Stumping the panel reaps great benefits, which means that the liars have to be very convincing, while the real McCoy must not try too hard to give himself away.
The show's not popular because it's unusual, it's popular because it's so familiar. Let's face it, each one of us has spent a great deal of time wondering if people have been purposely trying to mislead us. We have become skeptical of much of what we hear, but unfortunately, we're not much better at judging than the TV panel of judges has been. For in judging by words we are often mislead by those words.
Is it the words that make the person who he is, or is it simply that a person IS who he is and his words are only reflections of his true identity? The trouble with words is that they can be copied and memorized and formulated and manipulated and falsely spoken. In the confusion, we have allowed the best talkers to convince us that hot air has actual substance, even though we have repeatedly vowed never to be taken advantage of again.
So, what is it that causes us to reconsider trusting our fate to the quicksand of verbal rhetoric? Could it be that we are so desperate for something REAL that we are willing to take a chance on anything that sounds even remotely possible? The real hurt in all this is that many of us have bought into some form of Christianity only to be disappointed by its failure to produce anything substantial. If Jesus doesn't deliver, what's left?
What if it's simply that our panel of judges keeps picking the wrong guy in the line up? What if the real Jesus is so understated that we assume that it can't be HIM! What if the other contestants know what we have wanted to hear and have played into it? Would Jesus ever sit quietly by while His identity was in question? It wouldn't be the first time.
In a letter the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, he addressed the contrast between the EMPTY TALK and the REAL STUFF of Christ. One leads to speculation, the other to reality. Because Timothy was in a place where he was getting hammered by the religious talkers hoping to snag him in fruitless discussion, Paul reminded him what it was that the two of them offered with their message:
... love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.1 Timothy 1:5
LOVE FROM A PURE HEART
Would Paul be referring to anything other than the love that flows from a heart that has been purified by the power of the risen Christ and indwelt by the Spirit of God? Timothy already knew this from having learned from Paul himself. It is in hearing the good news of Christ that our hearts are stimulated to real love for one another for it declares WHO our real life is and WHO is also our real connection with one another.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE
This is nothing less than a conscience that has been set free from sin and made alive to God through Christ. This is the conscience of one who is given confidence through the good news of Christ that there is NO MORE remembrance of sin.
A SINCERE FAITH
Sincere means genuine or real, and it has nothing to do with that pathetic ATTEMPT at sincerity that is often thrust upon us by the religious mind. The only sincere faith that has ever occurred has been the faith we have received in Christ. It is REAL because something has been done to us to cause us to actually be DEPENDENT UPON God - Christ has become our life. Paul was drawing a contrast between REAL faith and PROFESSED faith. In other words, one was the real stuff, the other, merely hot air.
I have written this because I have watched many get suckered into the ILLUSION of reality simply because the words SOUNDED so Christian. I'm here to tell you that if you're in Christ you HAVE the real stuff because you have HIM. The fact is that MOST Christian teachers offer nothing but words, but with those words will cause you to question the very reality of the substance of God that has been put within you. As you come to realize that strange doctrines are ANY teachings that "give rise to mere speculation rather that furthering the administration of God which is by faith" you will also realize that MOST of what passes for Christianity is nothing but strange doctrines. The true gospel of Christ is not an argument or a set of beliefs, it is the announcement of the REALITY produced by Christ that fills the empty heart!!shovel quote
Timothy, ... remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.1 Timothy 1:3-7