Remember outlining? That junior high English class exercise where you had to put everything you were going to say in a paper in an organized, neatly lettered and sub-lettered, torturous form?
I taught that.
As a writer, I know the power of outlines. As a preacher, I know people do not want to sit through a sermon that was not outlined. I’ve sat through too many of those myself. If a writer does not know where she is going, she’s going to end the article, or sermon, in a vague mess of excess stuff.
If a life isn’t lived with an outline, it’s going to end in a vague whimper of, “Yeah, I guess I’m done now. That was it?”
I don’t want that.
Truth gives us that life outline. That’s one of the answers to the “why” question of our age. Why is truth important? Because we don’t want a vague life.
There is something comforting and stabilizing in knowing that our outline as believers does not change.
We believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.
We believe he was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, life everlasting.
Truth matters because if it is timeless and steady, we have an outline for everything else. If not, we waver through life like a bad research paper that never finds its objective.
Truth gives us a framework.
I learned about building skyscrapers this week. First, engineers build a steel framework for the building, sunk into the bedrock below. Then, walls are actually hung on the framework, like giant curtains in the air. It’s a fascinating idea. The stronger and better built the framework, the higher it can soar, and the more curtain walls can be hung.
There is so much information bombarding us at all times. “TMI” is the plague of the 21st century. How do we know what to choose from the chaos as truth we will hang our lives on? How can we grow higher and farther unless we are hanging new information on an absolute steady framework dug deep into bedrock?
If I do have that, everything else I find in life, every bit of information or challenge, can be tested by its fit on the building. Yes, this stays—this will help me soar higher. I can hang it up. No, this goes. it drags down. It doesn’t fit the framework.
Truth matters because it gives us something to test everything by to know what rightly fits when building our lives.
Truth offers light.
Sixteen years ago, a surgeon cut a cancerous thyroid from my neck. To do this, she used a headlight that shone with laser-like focus on the part of me that needed cutting out. I’m not sure I would have been comfortable with a surgeon who was going to forgo the light and just reach into my neck in the dark, find something that felt “thyroidish,” and pull on it. There are important things in the vicinity of the thyroid, like a trachea, aorta, larynx, and facial nerves. I prefer a surgeon who uses a light in that dark place to see exactly what needs to go and what needs to stay where it is.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. -John 3:19-21
God’s truth shines in dark places and says-yes, this is real. This is good. Keep this. No, this is garbage. Yank it out. This is useful when so much garbage is being tossed at us on a daily basis, and we have to find the good bits in between. Light is invaluable.
To follow Jesus inevitably puts us in light, because he is the light of the world. Without fail, it forces us to see the reality of ourselves. Through his light, we see the truth about ourselves, the world, and our place in it.
Truth tells us our place in this world, which is valuable help in a world that tells us we are kings and queens of our own destiny.
Here is where both generations can come together. We have the same outline. The same framework. The same Light of the world. It does not change. Our papers may be about very different topics. Our skyscrapers may look very different on the outside and climb to different heights. The path the light illuminates may lead different places.
But the outline, framework, and light are still the same. And they’re of equal importance for both. Or at least, they should be.