Herald Journal Columns
June 19, 2006, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Truth is about salvation and forgiveness

Rev. Eric Nelson, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

We live in a time that is commonly labeled as “post-modern.” The basic doctrine of post-modernism states that there is no is objective, absolute truth. Truth is subjective; it is a merely a construct of our own devising.

In other words, we form our own notion of what is true, what is good, and what is right. This is usually the product of our upbringing, our faith, our culture, and so forth. Consequently, it is often said that what is true for you may not be true for another.

Such a view has consequences. I recently read that a college professor made a startling discovery. His students could not find a reason to condemn the atrocities committed by the Nazis in World War II. The professor realized that this grim and distorted point of view wasn’t the fault of the students. They were simply reflecting what they had learned. His students were echoing the teachings of postmodernism.

This is a challenge to our Christian faith. Our faith claims that there is truth, and this truth is not up for debate or interpretation. Truth, in other words, is not something we define. Truth is defined by God and imparted to us by his Word.

In contrast, it is often argued today that our Christian faith is no better than any other religious faith. Who are we to say that our view of God is right and the other religions are wrong? Who are we to say that we, alone, have the truth?

This is devastating for our faith. If there is no truth, if everything is left to individual interpretation, how can sin be exposed and convicted? How can anyone be held accountable? After all, we get to decide what is right and wrong because there is no objective truth. Therefore nothing can be condemned as evil or wrong.

The death of Jesus on the cross disabuses us of this deception that truth is subjective and relative. If we decide what is right and what is good, the cross Jesus endured would be completely unnecessary. If truth can be found in any religious faith, his death was pointless. Why endure such pain and brutality if we can make ourselves righteous by coming up with our own standard of what is right and true?

The cross was necessary because we are sinners. His death was not pointless. It is because of His death that we have been saved from certain judgment. We will not face wrath and punishment because of our sins. That is what His resurrection declares. The resurrection assures us that the Law has been fulfilled so that we have complete forgiveness from our sins.

This means that there is truth. This truth is found in Christ, alone. However, such truth confronts us with an ugly and painful reality: we are sinners. This is why Christ had to suffer and die on a cross. Consequently, we cannot deceive ourselves by believing that we are basically good.

That is the appeal of making truth subjective. If we can decide what is right and wrong, then we no longer have to face this harsh truth. If we are free to interpret the Bible the way we please, then we can get rid of the passages that condemn us.

As a result, the God who hates sin and punishes is recast into a God who simply overlooks our sins and accepts us for who we are. Therefore, there is no need to repent because there is no judgment to face. Instead, we are free to live as we please.

It is true that God detests sin. But it is also true that God desires to save us from the judgment we deserve. Such salvation will not happen when we deny that objective truth exists.

Such salvation will only happen when the truth of God’s Word has its way with us. It is when the deception has been removed and we see the truth of our sinfulness that our faithful and just God can forgive us.

This is why the blood of Jesus was shed on the cross. The Law of God says that there must be punishment and death because of sin. He will not simply overlook our transgression and guilt. As a result, Jesus – who was without sin – faced this punishment and death of our sins for us. This means that He would have His hands and His feet nailed to a cross in order to give up His life as a sacrifice.

Because of Jesus, there is no need to flee from the truth. The truth of God’s Word does expose and convict us. But His Word also comforts us with the message of His Son. In other words, the truth is about salvation and forgiveness.

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