The paper mill

I live in a paper mill town. For decades Camas was infamous for the fragrance it shared with its neighbors. No one for miles around could escape us if the wind was blowing their way. But that’s changed—new process scrubbers have made a huge and happy difference.

Yet another worse sort of pollution is still in the air, and not just in Camas. Our national and regional media is thick with competing versions of reality and morality. Politics are combative and regularly reflect twisted truths. Our computers are hacked, identities stolen, and funds siphoned away. Integrity and nobility are rare; and even among close relationships low-key dishonesty is often tolerated. Gossip and small fabrications are woven into life.

This, taken together, fits the Bible portrayal of “the Truth” versus “the Lie.” We’ve probed this theme before but it bears repeating. The opposition pits God’s character against Satanic ways as Paul outlined in Romans 1:25—“they exchanged the truth about God for the lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”

Paul was certainly alert to what Jesus told a group of unbelieving but professing believers: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). This group instantly rejected what Jesus said.

What “truth” had Jesus offered? “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father” (v.38). Later in John’s gospel Jesus also identified himself, along with his teachings and his Spirit, as personified “Truth.” Jesus, in other words, brought the ethos of heaven to earth as he presented his Father to his followers. And it was too much for some to swallow.

In this debate over spiritual paternities Jesus also exposed his opponents’ collective character: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies [lit. ‘speaks the lie’], he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies [lit. ‘it’]” (v.44). Falsehoods, in other words, all flow from a single source. And Truth comes from another ultimate source.

With this Truth-versus-the-Lie opposition in view let’s ask a practical question: so what? How do we embrace “the Truth” and dismiss “the Lie”? Do we just pinch our spiritual noses and try to ignore the pungent atmosphere around us?

As Paul would say, “May it never be!” Every Christian friendship and every body of believers should be spiritual “scrubbers” who embrace the Truth and confront the Lie. So that we’re known as those who speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Yet it’s easier said than done. We live in a fallen world and it’s easy to adapt to those around us. To use a feisty analogy we can be like fish swimming in polluted waters. Problems only arise when inedible fish are cooked and served for dinner. Or, as Jeremiah asked (in 5:31), “But what will you do in the end?”

But how do believers turn into faithful Truth-tellers? The answer, not surprisingly, starts with Jesus. If we take up the Bible as our guide we can only be different by loving him with whole hearts—so that our motives and values are aligned with his heart. Or, in the terms Jesus offered us, when we live by the Spirit.

Let’s go back to the fish analogy. Safe fish are those that swim in pure water. Or, in Bible terms, good fruit come from good trees. Sweet grapes are those attached—that “abide”—in good vines. So the question for every believer is simple: where do our hearts like to go? In our family time? And in our public and private entertainments? Do we aim to delight Jesus in every choice we make? In every conversation we share?

The question may seem unrealistic, but is it? It’s what eleven of twelve disciples did with Jesus in their three years together. At the end of each day, do we have a sense of having moved towards Jesus in all we did? Do we “pray always”—whether at work or while watching a show?

So try it. Ask Christ’s Spirit to be alive to you throughout the day. He’s the ultimate spiritual scrubber who makes all the difference. And his work in us is sure to be a relief to all those around us.



  1. Huw

    Thanks Ron! So helpful (as always) – and especially in my musings while I prepare a sermon on Philippians 3:1-14 this Sunday…

  2. R N Frost

    Good, Huw, I pray the sermon went well. And I love Philippians. This coming Sunday I get to preach chapter 4:8-13. So satisfying to live right-side-up in an upside-down world.

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