"For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6). "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 2-4).
If there is one thing that must grip our hearts and direct our walk, it is this: truth and Jesus are not separate. They are one--so much so that Jesus said, "I am the truth." Our lives must be on a solid foundation of truth, but that truth is all summed up in Christ. Everything that brings us into and keeps us in that relationship is truth, and everything else must be discarded, for it has no value in God. Our salvation is a person, not a teaching or an understanding. The scriptures point us to Jesus, but unless we come to Jesus and partake of life and of Him who is Truth, the scriptures will not profit us. They will remain only theory that has no power.
John says that the law came through Moses. The law was righteous, and it was given by God. But the law could not bring life, and apart from the life of God we cannot be righteous as He is righteous. The righteousness that profits comes by faith in Christ. This is because faith brings us into the life of God and His righteousness.
The truth brings us into God's grace, whereby we now can do the will of God. John says that truth came through Jesus, and that it is glorious. There is something wonderfully glorious about a believer walking in truth. You sense a fragrance, a reality, something that is divine. Sometimes you can't quite describe it in words, but you sense it is real and attractive. You sense purity, holiness, something that makes you want the same thing. This is the distinction between religion (our efforts to be righteous in God's sight) and reality (a true relationship with God, which causes us to express who He is, and which brings glory to Him). The former is death; the latter is life.
How do we discern the truth? How do we know what is of God? How do we know what will be beneficial, and what will not? There are two factors that are very important. One is the condition of our heart, which we have much to do with; the second is a provision from God, of which we need to be keenly aware.
First, consider this statement of Jesus: "If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:17). I believe we find here a basic element that is necessary for discerning truth. We must come to God with a heart that is willing to do His will when He reveals Himself. To come with just a curious mind is not enough. We must come looking for light to walk in. We come because we truly want to know God--ready to obey, deeply conscious that unless He opens our eyes and sheds light on our pathway, we will remain blind and unable to take a step of faith. We come in humility, ready to be taught by God. Apart from this attitude, I do not believe we will be able to discern. We will always be wondering and questioning, unsure of the next step, always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
This place is so dangerous. Listen to the warning of Paul as he wrote to Timothy. "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was" (2 Timothy 3:1-9).
This warning may sound too severe to us--we don't think we could ever be that bad. But how bad is our condition if we are not walking in truth? What is happening if we are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth? We are in our own righteousness, not that which is by faith in Christ. We are expressing who we are instead of who Christ is. We are walking in our own light instead of the light of God. Our heart grows cold, our ears dull, and our eyesight dims. We are on the road of death instead of the road of life. Could anything be worse? If there is any element of this in our heart, may we find a place of repentance today and come to God, ready to do His will. Then we will be able to recognize whether a teaching is of God or not.
Secondly, there is a very important provision God has made for us: "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" (1 John 2:27). This may seem too vague to us, for we all tend to look for something familiar. We would rather have a "rule book" or a person to tell us what is right and wrong. We might feel more comfortable reading the scriptures until we find something that seems good to us and applies to our situation. We want things to be made clear to our natural minds, in order to be "sure."
But the scriptures were not given to lead us into all truth. They cannot give us life. A book cannot contain God. Instead, the scriptures point us to Jesus, and Jesus must give us life. He gives us the Holy Spirit, and Spirit is the one who will lead us into all truth. "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:16-17). "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:12-15).
In the Old Testament, we see that the term "anointing" is associated mainly with oil being poured out on a person. Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. If we bring this thought into the New Testament, could we not say that the anointing John speaks about is the Holy Spirit poured out into our hearts? The Spirit, whom Jesus said is like a river flowing from within, is the one who takes the things of Jesus and makes them ours. God is spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the only one who can make God real to us. "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:11-12).
A question that may come to our minds is this: What about God's gift of teachers in the church? What about Paul's instruction to Timothy to find and teach faithful men who will in turn be able to teach others? He also instructed him to be sure to give attention to reading the scriptures. What about Paul, who said he was a teacher sent from God? The answer is quite simple. God uses men, He uses the scriptures, He uses many channels, but no matter what, in the end only the anointing can tell us what is of God and what is not. Only the anointing can make the proper application of truth in our life and circumstances. Only the anointing will enable us to apply the scriptures rightly. The reason we get confused at times is that we try to reason about the things of God with our natural minds instead of following the anointing. The anointing is always faithful, because the anointing is God, here and now. Are we listening? Are we sensitive? Do we realize God's provision?