From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 11 – The complications that arise when we tell the truth, and a look at some exceptional situations where we could lie
We have spoken of the vital importance of having the love of the truth. But what if you don’t yet have it, or if you only have it to a limited extent? The answer is that it can be developed or grown. That’s because the love of the truth is a character quality. It’s not an attribute that you inherit genetically from your parents, like being tall or having blue eyes or blond hair. Those are features that you can’t do anything about. You either have them or you don’t. They can’t be developed and you can’t just decide to have those things.
That’s the crucial difference – you can decide to develop the love of the truth. It is entirely a matter of choice and depends on your own free will. So that’s the good news. Everybody is capable of developing the love of the truth – if they want it. But that’s the problem. Most people don’t want it. At any rate, it doesn’t matter much to them, if indeed it matters at all, and they certainly aren’t willing to pay what it costs to develop it.
That brings us to the bad news – there is a cost involved for those who love the truth, and it can be a very high one in terms of inconvenience, trouble, financial loss and even danger. Those are the disadvantages which you will have to accept if you want to have the love of the truth. There’s no point thinking otherwise, because it’s a fact. It will cost you.
However, the advantages and benefits that come from having the love of the truth, are infinitely larger. Moreover, they are eternal, whereas the costs and downsides are only temporary. Therefore, any wise person will choose to develop the love of the truth, no matter what it may cost them in the short term.
Let’s turn then to how this character quality can be developed, i.e. what practical steps you need to take if you want to start to have the love of the truth for the first time, or to increase it, if you know that you need more of it. I will list a number of steps and try to explain how to take them:
1. Recognise your need for the love of the truth, or for more of it, and for a stronger, better-informed conscience.
2. Make a decision of your will that you are going to seek for both of these and that you will do so with all your heart and strength, not just mildly.
3. Pray and ask God to help you to develop these, whilst recognising that He will not do it for you. It is primarily your choice to develop them, though His help is crucial. Moreover, it must be sought persistently, not just as a one-off prayer.
4. Study the subject of judgment and learn all you can about it from the Bible, in particular the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is for saved Christians.
5. Ask God to make the prospect of judgment more real to you, so that it stops being mere theory and becomes something tangible, which is frequently on your mind.
6. Ask God to give you the fear of the LORD, and in large measure.
7. Do a Bible study on the fear of the LORD.
8. Resolve to tell no more lies at all, to anybody, anywhere.
9. If you do ever tell a lie, by lapsing back into the habit, then correct it immediately, every time. The embarrassment of doing so will help to prevent you lying again.
10. Resolve not to exaggerate.
11. Likewise, if you ever do exaggerate, then correct yourself, there and then, in front of people. The discomfort of doing that will put you off repeating it and will help to cure the habit.
12. Also, whenever you tell a lie, however small, confess it to God and repent. Take it seriously.
13. Ask God to strengthen your conscience and to speak to you more clearly and more often.
14. Listen to your conscience every time, no matter how small the issue may seem, or how much it costs. The more you respond, the louder your conscience will become, and vice versa.
15. Help your conscience to become more informed by reading the whole Bible, over and over again, in daily readings and also by more intensive Bible study. This will greatly sharpen your sensitivity as to right and wrong.
If you will do all these things, and keep on doing them, you will assuredly change. God will respond and fully keep His side of the ‘bargain’, provided He sees that you are taking seriously the need to become truthful. The effort must come from you, but God’s heart will be touched, and He will help you, if He sees that you really mean business and are determined to change.