I’m writing a book called Practicing the Truth: The Spiritual Discipline of Living Truthfully. The brief story of how this book was conceived can be found here. It’s a work in progress, being written slowly with my congregation as its initial audience. Together we’ll see where it goes. My prayer is that it will lead us as a community to greater authenticity and integrity. Even more importantly, I pray that it will lead us all to look more like Jesus.
By calling practicing the truth a spiritual discipline, I mean that dedication to truth and integrity conforms us to the likeness of Christ, who is Truth. It’s spiritual because it’s one way the Holy Spirit makes us more and more like Jesus. It’s a discipline because it’s hard. We’re not naturally honest people. We’re hypocrites. But by grace we can move from darkness to light, from hypocrisy to integrity, and from the dominion of lies to the Kingdom of Truth. And in the process, I think we’ll discover that dedication to truth can transform our prayer lives, our relationships, our ministries, and even our mental and physical health.
The idea comes from tying together a few passages in the Gospel of John: (1) John 14:6 – Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” If Jesus is Truth, then Truth is a person. If Truth is a person, then Truth isn’t a commodity we can possess or know apart from relationship. To know the Truth, we have to know Jesus, and to know Jesus, we have to walk with him. (2) John 3:21 – “The one who practices the truth comes toward the light.” In the Greek, “practices” comes from poieō, a word meaning to do or practice. It’s the root of poiesis, the title of this blog. The point is that truth here is an action. More than something to which we give intellectual assent, truth is mean to be lived. And if truth is meant to be lived, then truth is holistic, manifesting itself in every aspect of our existence. (3) John 17:16-19 – “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (ESV). It’s a cliché phrase: the Church should be “in the world, but not of it.” Here that’s exactly what Jesus asks of the Father. But notice what lies between the verses about the Church being “not of the world” and “sent into the world”. Jesus ties these two together with the prayer that we would be “sanctified in truth.” Perhaps our ability to be faithful witnesses for Christ in the world depends upon our conformity to the likeness of the One who is Truth.
As I write this, I also plan to draw on some of the great writings of the early Church. For the early Church, truth was a way of life: Orthodox belief was holistic, sanctifying all aspects of a person’s existence. The Didache called on early Christians to “hate all hypocrisy” and pointed to confession as the remedy to hypocrisy (4:12-14). We begin our journey toward Truth by admitting that was are liars and believers of lies. St. Athanasius said that in Jesus Christ, “God became man so that man could become God.” If Jesus Christ came to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 NASB), and part of the divine nature is Truth, then we’re called to become Truth. Pope Gregory the Great referred to Jesus as “The Truth” throughout his Book on Pastoral Rule, all while exhorting ministers under his charge to pursue integrity. Because I believe this idea has the potential to unite insights from the Fathers and Mothers of the Church with present-day writings on spiritual formation, other voices from the early centuries of the Church will show up consistently.
In addition to chapters which explain the themes mentioned here, the book will contain chapters addressing specifically how we practice the truth and the benefits that come from practicing the truth. Other chapters will address how these ideas apply to prayer, mission, leadership, relationships, and perhaps even our bodies. Writing is a process of discovery, so pray for the Lord to lead us into truth throughout this process. Posts on this blog which relate to the discipline of practicing the truth can be found in the “Practicing the Truth” category. Check back regularly under that category to find updates on the progress of the book as well. Thanks for joining me in this journey towards the One who is Truth!