I didn’t grow up in church and, for the longest time, I wasn’t a fan of God or Christianity. Those things held zero interest for me. I didn’t understand why people went to church or why they worshipped some invisible being in the sky. It seemed like a waste of time and a strange way for people to make themselves feel better. Clearly, I can be very cynical when I’m left to my own devices.
When I was in middle school, my parents started attending church and I was forced to go with them. I would try to get out of it any chance that I could—I would fake being sick, I would stay over at a friend’s house—anything to avoid having to go to church. Though I was hearing truth and the gospel every weekend for years, it took quite a while for that to pierce my hard heart.
In Nehemiah 8, we see that the people didn’t have the same hard exterior that I had: they were hungry and thirsty for the truth. They wanted God so deeply and were moved when they learned his word.
“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” Nehemiah 8:9 (ESV)
That last sentence hit me so hard today when I was reading through this chapter again. They wept when they heard truth spoken. They had a visceral and emotional reaction to learning about the Lord. The people were contrite and repentant. They understood the holiness of God and their own short-comings.
Their reaction to truth reveals the state of their hearts.
When I am walking with the Lord, I respond more like these precious people in this story. Even if the truth is difficult and exposes a part of my life that I would prefer to keep hidden, I will repent and choose God’s ways instead of my own. I will understand my own sinful nature in light of God’s goodness and grace. And I will run to him even when it’s difficult or shame is doing its best to keep me away.
But when I have neglected my relationship with the Lord, my heart becomes incredibly hard and I tend to reject truth. Instead of seeing the error of my ways and admitting that his ways are better than mine, I will dig my heels in, certain that I am right. Contrition and repentance aren’t words in my vocabulary and you will never find me weeping or heart-broken about anything.
When I’m on auto-pilot, truth bounces off my hard exterior.
When I’m truly living, truth is welcomed into my life.
I’m so amazed at the reaction of the people in this story. It would’ve been easy for them to dig their heels in and reject the truth that was being taught to them, but they didn’t. They chose to step outside their comfort zone and embrace the Word of the Lord.
Even if we’ve been Christians for years, we still have opportunities to respond to truth every day. There’s always more freedom to experience and deeper relationship to walk in. There are truths that we all probably need to accept and respond to, but this is almost always easier said than done. And I believe that our responses to truth reveal a lot about the state of our hearts.
My hope is that we would each take a look at how we respond to truth and adjust our hearts or our posture accordingly. After all, God is good and loving and, when we know his character, we can trust that the truth he reveals is for our good and his glory.
How do you respond to truth?
Why do you think you tend to respond to truth in that way?