Hey, good morning and welcome to our Sunday service. My name is Monte Strickland. I serve as one of the elders here in our Broward County region of our church.

And I’m glad you’re worshipping with us this Sunday. It’s good to be back in the building. And as enticing as it is, it’s still elbow bumps and virtual kisses. Love to see you guys. It’s really good to be with you today.

We would have been talking about picking up the pieces in 2021 and 2020 left us with a lot to think about and what I believe God is doing in our lives and allowing things to be fractured and our normalcy to be challenged is he’s giving us an opportunity to only pick up what’s really essential.

You know, the last couple of weeks Tony’s been telling us and teaching us about Jesus’s way and him bringing life to the full. And Jesus offers us his easy yolk, and his light burden in place of our heavy load that we often carry. So last week’s message left me really wondering the following. Are my influencers, are they worthy of my investment? Are they worthy of my my interest? And how do I bring the rabbis way in 2021 in a very socially distant format.

How do I do that?

This week I want to conclude this talk with bringing these ideas together, in a single verse that Jesus gives us when he describes himself.

And when asked by one of his disciples what was the direction Jesus was going, he responded with a very basic scripture, which I believe is the boldest statement in all of scripture. So I believe that this following verse in John, chapter 14. Is the boldest scripture that Jesus has ever said where he answers them, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

This is an incredible verse for anybody to claim who can say this.

When you think about the people that influence you the most, how awesome it would be if they were able to come out and say, I am the way I am the truth and I am the light. Just smash the subscribe button and subscribe and say you like it, you know, and we would do that.

But I don’t think they can guarantee what was just said. You know, Jesus has an important word here, he says, the sprinkled in between all of these statements, you know, Jesus says, I am not a way.

I am not a life and I am not an optional truth. He says I am the way, the life and the truth. How can this be? So we hope to kind of talk about this this morning and discover this aspect of Jesus being the truth, we’ve covered his life, we’ve covered bringing the rabbis way, as far as being a disciple, what does Jesus being the truth have to do with how he’s helping us pick up the pieces in 2021?

So what we’re going to do to scale things down for the time that we have, we’re not going to talk about philosophical truth. You know, the binary choice of right versus wrong, good versus evil necessarily, or this is true philosophically versus this is false.

Instead, we’re going to talk about eternal truth, but we have to start somewhere, right? It’s a lot to cover. So I’m going to start with this question for us all this morning. How do you tell the difference between a fact and the truth?

How do we do that? And I think if we can do that, we can be well on our way. So here’s an idea that I have about the facts and the truth.

Facts are something that you can prove. The truth is something you believe to be true even if you can’t prove it and there are several things in our lives that we hold as truths, but we can’t prove, but we will believe them like the facts. You know, facts are evidences that you can use to build your case when you’re trying to convey an idea or a thought and you want to make a statement

of honest evaluation and you can say what I’ve just said is provable because I’ve got these facts to back it up, sometimes we find ourselves trying to speak about truths without facts, but we believe them wholeheartedly. Jesus says, I am the way the truth and the life is Jesus telling the truth? How might he back that statement up with facts?

You know, we’ve got a lot of sources for facts today. This slide is about a couple of years old, I’m going to talk to you about the disclaimers, right. It probably would be a little different if it said. 2020, and you can see that on the lower right hand side, it’s 2018, so it’s a couple of years old. Just some things to point out before we before we begin, for those of you who scrutinize the facts.

And lower right hand corner, it also says forty five hundred people were a part of the survey used to build this slide. And then I want us to pay special attention to the very top, which says, which news source do you trust the most to deliver unbiased news? Now that we’ve covered that ground, we know that this is talking about new sources and we know that it says that it’s meant to be unbiased, right.

And so what do we see?

We see local TV news, which is at the bottom here with twenty six percent.

It’s that blue bar and it has the highest trust rating from all these sources of facts.

Which are supposed to be unbiased. Followed closely by cable news, a little bit behind that is broadcast network news, but the very smallest portion is that little gray bar at the bottom. 3 percent social media. That’s how, you know, this slide is old. See, if it was 2021, the bottom would be 26 percent and all these other ones would be a little different. But what’s important about this slide, because, you know, it’s changed a little bit, right, from 2018.

The bottom line with any one of these sources is no one even cracks 50 percent. No one’s even trusted 50 percent.

Isn’t that amazing? 26 percent is the best that they got. There is no 50 percent. 75 nothing. Just 26.

That is where we are with the facts that we consume on a daily basis. That’s scary. Now, this slide would be better, like I wish I had it, because I think it would be more interesting and it would be a lot more entertaining if it said which news source do you trust the most to deliver biased news?

Now, see, that’s the one that we want that we want to see. And, of course, we would have all kinds of different things on here because all of these guys are biased and that’s why they’re all sitting at 19, 21, and 15. So of course we believe broadcast news is 81 percent untrustworthy on that bias scale.

He just reversed the number and that’s where we would be. That’s pretty tragic in a time where we really need the truth at no time in our lives, none of us have we needed the truth more than we need it today. And it feels like it’s so hard to get to something that’s credible, that makes sense, and that you can really stop and take action on and be assured that you’re basing your action on the right information.

Like every day I go out of my house,

hop in my car, drive down the street. And everything seems like it’s back to normal, like there’s no pandemic, like there hasn’t been a riot at the Capitol, like there hasn’t been any social injustice, people just going on about their lives.

And it is hard to see that we’re actually in two or three crisis’s all at the same time. That’s really what’s going on right now. And maybe that’s good for the public at large to keep us calm and not at each other’s throats, but the bottom line is real stuff is happening in our lives. If you’re lucky, you’ve only heard of someone who’s contracted the coronavirus. You may not know someone personally that has it. If you’re lucky, you know, and you’re blessed for sure if you know of no one who’s passed from it, but guarantee there are people that, you know, where a loved one has passed because of the coronavirus and because of how bad the pandemic is

it’s also affecting our economy where people have really lost jobs. Now, that’s stuff I hear on the news, but I don’t touch it or see it with my eyes in a way that makes me feel panicky.

But the news makes me kind of feel panicky.

However, for me, it comes home for me when I drive down the road on Wednesdays, because on Wednesdays they open up the pantry where people who don’t have jobs, who don’t have food can come and pick up some food and

a city block where I live is a two mile by two mile block of area, and so I’m driving down the street on Wednesday morning and I see from a three lane street going in one direction, there’s two lanes totally backed up from from cars all two miles.

And then the two miles going in the other direction towards the pantry is also stretched with cars for two miles straight with police cordon with cones

and I’ve only got one one lane for me to travel. Now, this this is really happening. These are real people that live within a couple of miles from me who don’t have enough to eat.

And you could think, well, maybe they’re scamming the system. Maybe they know that there’s free food and since it’s free, they’re just going to partake of that and it’s worth it to them to sit in line.

But think about the fact that if you’re in a four mile long line and it’s two cars deep, it’s going to take you hours to get to the front of the line to get food.

And you probably would get there and think a lot of it is going to be gone and maybe the best stuff is gone, you know how food pantries work.

These folks really need it, if they had another option, of course, they would hop out of that line, spend the 15 bucks, 20 bucks, whatever it is, and go to the grocery store and go back home and within a half an hour and they can watch TV for the rest of the day.

They’re obviously struggling and it’s hard to qualify that. It’s hard to grasp that when I see it,

but when I sit there and think about sitting in that line for four hours in my car, when I would rather be somewhere else, I know that these people are there because they’re being impacted by the coronavirus, maybe not directly with their health, but definitely with their ability to find jobs and have enough money to pay for food. This was really going on.

And for me, it’s how do I take these facts in a way that’s real and impact my life in such a way that I can take action, or I can make good decisions.

These things are really happening to us and we are in this moment together. And at no time have we ever needed the truth as much as we need it today.

But we have to start somewhere.

We have to start with the facts and then we can build on those to get to the truth. Where do you normally get your facts? This slide here talks about where the news is available, but this isn’t where the facts are available. You may have other sources from which you derive the things that you call facts of a buddy of mine

and we were having this conversation about where do you get your you know, you’re so Johnny on the spot, you always have the skinny on everything, where do you get your information? And within moments, you know, we’re texting, we really weren’t talking we’re text and that’s what we do.

He shoots back nine instances of here’s all my places where I get my news from where I get my facts. And I was immediately, like, stunned. I was like, oh, my gosh, I only have like four or five that I really trust. I’m outgunned here. Do I reply with my four or five? He’s got me beat. But what we have to do, I believe, and what I’ll try to discuss this morning is how we can begin to investigate the truth by filtering it through the truth of Jesus.

They’re are facts.

Maybe they’re disputable, maybe they’re untrustworthy, maybe they’re very believable, but we need to learn how to glean the information from them and then filter those through the truth of Jesus.

You know, we’ve democratized the facts over time, you know, and when everybody has a vote or what the facts are, then they lose all value right? And for some of us, we’ve been around long enough to where the news and the facts came, came to us from a single source. We had a couple of TV stations, maybe a local radio station and whatever they said. That’s what the facts were.

Years later, cable news and cable TV came into play and now there’s access to more channels, there’s more information, there’s more potential facts in that group. Than later on the Internet came into play.

And now there’s an explosion of places that you can go to find your facts.

So what do you do when you don’t know how to do something today, where do you go? Yeah, you said it, Google, that’s what we do, Google University, if you need to find out how to get up to speed on something really fast, you Google it. And sometimes YouTube’s great, too, because you can see the visual on how to perhaps repair something that’s broken in your home.

You know how to fix something that’s messed up with your car. Somebody knows that secret trick on how to get the key FOB battery out. Youtube. Well, in addition to all of that information, we now have social media and now social media is where you get to make up the facts and then you get to convince everybody to believe what you just posted.

That’s where we are today, the facts coming from a single source, which is much more reliably vetted to a place where now we make up our facts as we go and we want the world to revolve around those set of facts. My truth, for example. Think about that, you know, back when we were using newspapers, if the newspaper printed something that was wrong, you use the source that was not truly the right source or misquoted them in any way.

They get caught up in the next day, they’d have to print a retraction. Not only what they have to print, what they should have said, but they have to say we got it wrong because they had a responsibility to the public to put out what was true. When’s the last time that’s happened?

There has been nobody saying, well, yesterday we said this, we got it wrong, there’s a few people that have done that. I can’t speak for every news agency, but you get where I’m coming from.

The truth has now been manufactured by so many different places, it’s hard for us to figure out what do we follow, which ones are believable. And we’re not in a really good spot when this is our trust measure,

two years removed. As 2020 has poured in 2021, look at what the results and the impact of having all of these facts available. We are not more just than we’ve ever been. Justice has not been the thing that we could claim that we are good at. You know, we are not more peaceful than we’ve ever been. We’re not more secure than we’ve ever been. Many of us are not more profitable than we’ve ever been. 2021 only shows us that the truth is absolutely essential because when you don’t have it, all of these other things begin to suffer.

And long before anything that’s happened in our politics of recent days and weeks and months, the truth has really been under assault because people have been willing to make their own and call that the only truth that exists. And so it’s been under assault and these things have impact and they have real consequences. They have consequences because some people believe, hey, do I need to wear a mask or do I not need to wear a mask? Do I need to get vaccinated?

Do I trust the vaccination or will I will I refuse to get vaccinated because I don’t trust the source? And these are real life implications not only for that person, but everyone around that person, it affects all of us, our decisions affect all of us, now, that’s 2021. And we’re making real decisions that impact other people, whether we like it or not. So that is our challenge. I think the right visual for us is something spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, and he uses some very specific language that I think really gives us a great visual on what it is we’re experiencing.

Isaiah 59, verse 12 to 15 says the following, “for our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us and we acknowledge our iniquities, rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

So justice is driven back and righteousness stands at a distance. Truth has stumbled in the streets. Honesty cannot enter truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.” This describes 2021 to me. You know, instead of being the most educated and the most racially inclusive country coming from where our history has been, justice is even further away now than it’s ever been.

At least, though, it’s now visible, it’s now seen.

What about righteousness, men, women doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do?

We find out there’s more unrighteousness than ever before, even though we have more facts available to us than at any other time in history.

This truth has stumbled, it’s like truth is a person and has been tripped and beaten, so it stumbles in the street and honesty cannot enter, there’s no room for honesty to come in. And if you’re a person that speaks on behalf of any of these things, well, you’re liable to become prey. You’re going to be subject to beating, you’re going to be subject to violence because you spoke up in defense,

of one of these attributes. That feels like what we’re going through in 2021, and that makes us feel bad. You know it makes you feel like we’ve lost something important, we’ve lost something crucial.

And I believe that at this time, God is allowing us to be shattered so that the pieces that we do pick up are the essentials, the ones that truly bring us the truth that we need in our lives.

The truth can’t be something that we make up on our own or that we simply accept at face value, it needs to be something that we investigate. You know, Jesus. Jesus gives us the challenge. I believe that he is the way he is the truth and he is the life, and no one gets to the father but through him.

You know. All our kids are driving now, and I tell them the same thing all the time, the best car insurance is to not need any. So don’t get into an accident because the insurance only covers you after you’ve been in an accident. It won’t help you otherwise. And Jesus gives us the best insurance by taking care of our very most important need, our very most important need is for our sins to be forgiven. Eternal life.

Jesus says no one gets to the father, but through me, he says, I’m the way the truth and the life. And here’s why these things are important because salvation is really what’s at stake. Everything else can be dealt with, everything else we can figure out along the way.

But not being in a right place with God is the worst place to be. You know, if we were to take this series of statements here and put them to video, it would look like our country. You know what happened on the nation’s capital a few Wednesdays ago, look just like this. Where justice was being driven back, where there are some who just stood at a distance. Others who were stumbling in the streets. Truth was nowhere to be found, and those that were trying, they became prey.

And there were lots of failures that day by a lot of different people, you know, there’s a failure in leadership all the way at the very highest levels from a president on down.

You know, as an elder, I’ve got things that I’m both responsible for and I’m accountable for. The things I’m responsible for are the things that I need to do. I need to get these things done. I need to make sure that when they’re done, people know they’re done, that it’s signed off, it is a function of doing a duty. Things that I am accountable for are things that I am sure happen, whether I do them or not.

In other words, I am accountable for making sure the environment is one where people can grow spiritually. I can lead the horse to water, so to speak, but in the end, the horse has to drink the horses responsible. I’m just accountable and I’ll be held accountable as if I didn’t do it. That is the difference.

And we haven’t seen that in the leadership of our country in regards to this, this incident in the Capitol where people are being put in harm’s way

for political reasons, and justice is nowhere to be found. You know, we have to be a people as disciples of Jesus Christ who practice the truth. Who put the truth out there so people can make the right decisions and people that were there at the Capitol who know what their reasons are, but are they working with the truth? Do they have all the facts?

Are they able to make the best decision? And what this look like? What happened with that?

Would this be the result if they did, when the truth is not there

our society, it falls apart because all works on trust. I’ve got to trust that you’re going to be a good actor and you’re going to do what’s equitable for both of us if we’re driving down the street, I gotta trust that you’re going to obey the laws. Otherwise, I can’t be on the street with you, right? That’s when I’m going to need, that insurance. You know, the truth is critical for you and me to work together in a way that’s equitable, equitable for both of us.

And so Jesus gives us a filter in order for us to determine the truth. Now in John, chapter 8 and verse 31 through 32, Jesus tells us two things that we need to do. Number one, he says,” to the Jews who believed him? Jesus says, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.'” You know what I like about what he says here is the following to the Jews who have believed, you know, if believing was enough, Jesus would stop right there.

End of sentence.

No need to say anything else. Done.

Believing, however, is not enough, he says, “but if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples,” you know, holding to his teachings is really the work that you and I do.

It doesn’t simply mean that we agree with his teachings, it means we’re actually trying to put them into practice.

That’s what it means to hold to something. We’re actually trying to put them into practice, and by doing that, that’s when the truth is revealed. In 2021, I want the truth to be revealed up front, like I want to know my news sources, my information sources, my truth sources, I want to know they’re truthful, unbiased, right, correct, accurate before I invest in them.

And that’s not a bad thing to want, Jesus approaches that the other way, though, Jesus says you need to hold to my teachings first in order for you to yield the freedom that you require.

And at least freedom is in the offering, but he says, “then you will know the truth.”

So the process means we have to put in some work. It takes work to vet your facts.

Sometimes you do the work and it takes you down a rabbit hole, but it’s up to us to vet the things that we call facts so we can make good decisions, right. So if you had a sickness or you had a malady, you would try to get all the facts you could,

so it would lead you to the right prescription because you just can’t take any medicine for just any set of ailments.

You’ve got to have the right medicine to the right ailment. It takes facts, you know, no matter how bad you believe it’s the right thing, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to vet it.

And the truth is the same way. Jesus says we have to do the work. We have to filter the truth through the word of God, and we have to do the work of investigating our faith.

Jesus says here that he is the personification of truth. You know, and when you look at Isaiah 59 and it talks about justice is driven back. Imagine Jesus being driven back. Imagine it being that Jesus is the one stumbling in the streets, honesty, Jesus’s words cannot enter. Why? Because our evil offenses are always before us and we want to hear what we want to hear, how many of you have an Alexa?

Don’t answer that. Don’t tell on yourself. She’s listening. And remember, you know, Alexa works no matter who says what in the room, as long as they started with Alexa. If I were an advertiser, what I would do

is every five words in my advertisement I say the word Alexa.

So as people are playing the TV and my advertisement comes on, they be ordering my stuff nonstop, you know, we are in that same bubble when it comes to what we believe to be facts and truths.

We’re in our own echo chamber somehow because when it’s social media, the Internet uses these things called cookies to track where you go.

And then you got your advertisers and they buy this data, they cobble it together, and then they start serving up all the advertisements that sound a little bit like what you were looking for.

You know, you ever run at that scenario where you’re thinking your phone’s been listening to you, you’re talking with a friend about something, all of a sudden you go on your phone and there’s an advertisement for a pair of shoes or something like that.

That’s that bubble.

You know, that’s the bubble that we are in, in our goods and services, but it’s also the bubble that we’re in for our facts and our information. Jesus calls us to say, hold to my teachings and the truth will be revealed by you

holding to my teachings first. He gives us a way out of our dilemma by calling us to do a little bit of work. He doesn’t ask us to simply believe him because he’s good for it, He says, hey, try me. I wish our influencers did that.

The people that we look at and say, hey, what they’re selling to me, I’m going to invest in because I know it’s good because he gave me that money back guarantee that if it doesn’t work, I get to send this thing back and he gives me all my money. You know, Jesus says if you hold to my teaching, you’re really my disciples. He knows what really being a disciple means in 2021.

So Jesus commands us to investigate our faith. You know, when the apostle Paul was teaching the gospel in the first century, he would get different responses from people, but one response that he got was from the city of Maria.

And the bereans, it says were more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examine the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Paul could preach the message and they would have received it and probably said man that was a great message, end of story, but not the bereans. They actually receive the message with great eagerness, but it says they examined the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. It gives me the idea that this was just the kind of people that they were, they just didn’t take things at face value, they actually were like, I’ll listen to you, but I’m definitely going to check and make sure that what you’re saying is the thing that I need to do.

And this is what they did. And then they took it a step further. They did it every day, that’s impressive. Does your thirst for the truth lead you to examine the scriptures every day? Does your need for the facts drive you to do extra legwork to find out if the facts that you’re looking at are accurate and true? For those of us for whom that is true, it says you have a noble character and hey, if you’re not in that boat, then it means we have a little bit of work to do.

And this is what Jesus is calling us to. So we look at these key verses here in John, Chapter 8, and I’ve bolded out the words that are really important. HOLD, REALLY and THEN. You know, Jesus is asking us to be very sincere about our search for truth, and so I have a little phrase that I like to use to remind myself of what it is Jesus is looking for. And that phrase is “the truth can’t be received simply by being told. It can only be recognized through Jesus teachings if you hold.”

I also use that to remind myself that somebody can tell me something, and it may be true, but I can’t really do anything with it until I’ve really filtered it through the word of God, filtered through Jesus’s teachings that I hold to, and then I can test and approve what that was. You know, I’ve got a., This little red hat, you know, right here as we come to a close. And there’s a story behind this hat a couple of years ago, few of us, we organized a fishing trip.

So me and a couple of brothers were going on a fishing trip together. And for those of you who have been out on the ocean, you know that sun is punishing.

So although black don’t crack, it does burn. And so I needed the hat and I knew I wanted to bring a hat, that if I lost the hat, I wouldn’t be crying, any spilt milk, but I wanted to, had to have it. So I got my hat down there on the dock. I’m talking to a brother and we’re just carrying a long conversation.

Then a good friend comes out, his brother comes up and he’s giving me that stinky face like something’s wrong, like I got a booger, my nose or something like that, you know, give him a squinty eye, head cocked to the side and he gets within a couple of feet of me goes, man, I was about 3 seconds away from throwing you into the ocean. Then the brother next to me that I was talking to goes, yeah, but I was about four seconds away from diving in and pulling him right back out.

And I was in this awkward moment of feeling both unsafe, but very loved. Those two things usually don’t go together, but the reason was, was because brother number two thought I had an maga hat.

And he didn’t like that, and so he was like, I’m throwing you in the ocean. But brother number one was like, even if you had a maga hat on, I was coming to get you. And these two men are in our fellowship even today, they are currently studying the Bible with people together, they are helping people get restored to Jesus together.

And even though their political alliances are different, they still love one another, in Christ Jesus.

This is what we’re called to as disciples when Jesus says really a disciple. That we have the maturity to allow other facts and other viewpoints and other opinions into our mind, and we can consider them without pushing the other person away. We are not in that place in a society in general, but as disciples, we can demonstrate this. And these two brothers, they did just that that day and it was, like I said, surreal to go from, you know, oh my gosh, you know, this guy is about to throw me in the water to man

I really appreciate my brother over here. These guys are incredible examples of what it means to be able to hold two things to be true, what they believe and the truth, that Jesus binds us together as sons and daughters of God.

And as a result of that, you know, we may disagree.

We may disagree as brothers. We may disagree as sisters. But at the end of the night, we still come back to the table of fellowship. We’re still in the same family. We work it out.

You know, the world at large has lost the capability of doing that.

But we have the opportunity to demonstrate that these are two of the things that Jesus calls us to today as his disciples, if we really want to be his disciples. So Jesus, being the way the truth and the life are absolutely essential to us, it’s not just theology, it’s something that we have to work at every day just to operate in the world around us.

And so as we talk about communion. We remember that not only do we recognize the body and the blood of Christ, Jesus and what that does for us and our salvation, we also recognize that it removes the barrier that used to exist between one another

and we commune together as family. You know, there’s two things going on.

You know, we are part of the family of God. So we commune together, but we also remember what Jesus has done. And I’d like us to kind of meditate on those thoughts as we take our communion today that God has brought us from far away through the blood of Christ, called us to really be his disciples by having us agree to hold to the truth and to put it into practice. Let’s think about that this week and let’s take up the triple E challenge of the Marines by continuing to be eager by examining the truth.

And also by doing it every day, that’s the challenge. Let’s pray for the body and the bread right now. The father, we come before you and we thank you, Lord, for providing a way for us to have a solid place to stand called the truth. A place where we can make our decisions and have complete confidence that we’re working with the right information that’s intended to do us good and Father, your truth is profound because you went first, you sacrificed first, you led the way and you’ve paid the price.

God to pray that that inspires us to know that you have our best interests at heart, that you care about what’s going on in our lives. And in spite of the difficulties that we face, you are completely trustworthy and your words we can put our faith in. Thank you for your son Jesus, who is the embodiment and the personification of truth. God, he is everything that we need in a world that seeks to tear away everything that we need.

We’re so grateful that we have him to hold on to as an anchor. God we love you so much. Thank you so much for just giving us this opportunity to be together in Jesus name, we pray. Amen.