How Do We Know What is True?

A minister friend of mine recently shared on Facebook this Nelson Mandela quote that former president Barack Obama tweeted just after the events in Charlottesville, and asked this simple question, “Do you believe it is true?

The responses were all over the board, but there were at least a few responses that looked at this quote in light of what Scripture says.

According to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Romans 3:10-12 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

And Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us to his own way.”

So what can we discern from that? Is what Nelson Mandela said true? I think not, at least not all of it. It’s clear from the Bible that we are born into sin, wanting to go our own way, being led astray by our own deceitful hearts. Apart from Christ, we cannot even want what is good, let alone carry it out.

In the digital, social media-saturated world that we live in today, sound bites like this are coming at us faster and more furiously than ever before. But just because they sound good, doesn’t’ make them true.

That’s so important, I’m going to say it again: Just because something sounds good, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

And that applies to all the information we come across each day, from the things we read on Facebook, to opinion pieces in big publications, even to best-selling books and devotionals being marketed to the Christian community, and the songs we sing in church. If it doesn’t line up with the Bible, no matter how wonderful it sounds, it isn’t true.

The early apostles we deeply dependent on the words of Scripture as they went about sharing the good news of Jesus across the entire Roman empire. But as Christianity became more widespread, believers began elevating other things, especially the traditions of the church, above the words of the Bible. This was one of the major issues the Reformationists had with the Catholic Church. Martin Luther is famous for his “Solo Scriptura” stance, meaning that the highest authority in a believers life should be the Bible alone.

But when the period of Enlightenment came, people found another false idol to elevate above the Bible. But this time it wasn’t the church. It was human reason. We think that what makes the most sense to our rational minds must be the truth. But this is a dangerous trap to fall into, my friends.

We are not able to discern the truth simply by what makes the most sense to us.

In today’s world, we must be able to “correctly handle the world of truth” to move forward. We must pass every idea, every quote, every thought, every blog post (even this one!) through teachings of the Bible to be able to discern what is true. And if we want those who come after us to follow God wholeheartedly, we must teach our children to do the same.

My kids probably get tired of hearing sometimes, but often, when they come to me with a question, my answer will begin with, “well, the Bible teaches….” I want them to understand, deeply in their hearts, that the Bible is where we go for all of our answers.

I believe with all of my heart that we are living in the last days, dear ones. And what Peter said about these times is coming true before our very eyes: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Peter 4:3-4)

But may that not be true of our families. May we instead discipline ourselves to be daily in the word the word of God, to lean into the unchanging truths of Scripture and let them shape what we believe.


If you don’t know where to start when it comes to learning the words of the Bible yourself, and teaching them to your children, you can check out all the discipleship and personal growth resources on this site, and grab the free 17-day devotional we put together to help you practice reading Scripture with your kids and discussing what it means. May God’s grace abound to you as you point your children to him!