Where Is the Truth That Can Set Us Free?
“Jesus went on to say . . . ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”—JOHN 8:31, 32.
1. What are some of the freedoms people in this world have desired?
FREEDOM! That word has stirred the minds and hearts of people for centuries! Wars have been fought for freedom. Millions of people have died for it. Many have felt as did American statesman Patrick Henry over 200 years ago when he declared: “Give me liberty or give me death.” During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for “four freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
2, 3. What must real freedom include?
2 Yet, in a deeper sense, real freedom has to include more than that. For example, can any of those freedoms bring us freedom from human imperfection? Can they bring us freedom from sickness? Furthermore, no matter what measure of health a person may have, he is faced with the hard fact that sooner or later people grow old and die. What can a person enjoy in the grave? The Bible answers: “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” That is why it also says: “A live dog is better off than a dead lion.”—Ecclesiastes 9:4, 5.
3 For us to be free in the fullest sense of the word, we have to be rid of the bondage of imperfection, sickness and death. And, yes, along with that we need to be rid of poverty, oppression, crime and war, awful things with which history has been filled. But who can give us freedoms like that? Can any doctor guarantee a cure for cancer, heart trouble and all other illnesses? Can any scientist keep us from getting old and dying or bring us back to life after we die? Can any political leader guarantee peace on earth and freedom from war forever? Is there any mayor or police chief in any city of the world who can bring about total freedom from crime? What economic system can produce freedom from poverty, unemployment or inflation, and deliver real prosperity for everyone—permanently?
4. On what must real freedom be based?
4 If there is any hope that the many bad conditions now engulfing mankind can be eliminated, the answer has to be based on the truth. Real freedom cannot be based on deceptions or lies. Thus, if anyone, whether a world leader, a scientist, an economist or a clergyman, gives an opinion on what will bring longed-for freedoms, the question must be asked: Is he telling the truth? And mankind has had a long, long time to see whether the opinions, promises and efforts of humans have conformed to the truth.
Hopes Not Based on Truth
5. To what extent has the hope for freedom from sickness been realized?
5 For instance, some decades ago many people felt that with medical enlightenment mankind would be freed from disease. While there have been many medical advancements, have these brought freedom from sickness? No, for scourges such as cancer and heart trouble have reached epidemic proportions. At one time, too, it was thought that venereal disease would be conquered by new wonder drugs. Yet the respected British medical publication The Lancet reports: “The World Health Organisation concludes that throughout the world there are something of the order of 250 million new cases of gonorrhoea and 50 million new cases of syphilis annually. Other sexually communicable conditions may be even more common.”—Compare Proverbs 7:10, 21-23.
6. Why can it be said that science and industry have been disappointing?
6 What, too, of the great hopes stirred by science and industry a century or two ago? As just one example, the automobile was hailed as a great advancement, and in some ways it was. But it has helped choke cities with congestion, noise and pollution. Throughout the world over 200,000 people are killed in vehicle accidents, and millions are injured every year! The disappointing results of technology were noted by Orville Wright, one of the inventors of the airplane. During World War II he wrote the following to Henry Ford: “Wilbur and I thought the plane would hasten world peace. So far it seems to have done the reverse. I suspect when you introduced mass production —one of the great inventions of the ages—you little thought it would be used . . . in building tanks for world destruction. It seems that no beneficial thing can be introduced without some one finding a vicious use for it.”
7. Can any of this world’s economic systems bring prosperity for all?
7 Have all the centuries of experimenting with various economic systems produced one that is stable and brings permanent prosperity for all? No, for economic instability now is the order of the day. As Jack Weldon, a professor of economics at Montreal’s McGill University, declared: “Any economist who is competent and honest will admit that we really don’t know how to deal with the major problems that now confront most of the big industrialized nations.” The situation in the less developed nations is even worse. In one such country, reports Time magazine, there “live more than 2 million children who have been abandoned by their destitute parents and another 14 million who live in such poverty that abandonment almost seems preferable.” In another part of the world, the Philippine Daily Express stated: “Close to half a billion [500 million] Asians are estimated to be in the category of the ‘absolutely poor’ and their number is projected to increase further.”
8. To what degree has democracy brought personal safety to citizens?
8 During World War I it was said that the war was being fought to “make the world safe for democracy.” Today, few countries are democracies. Even where it is said to prevail, how safe are the citizens? In the United States one out of every three families is victimized by some sort of crime. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger declared: “We are approaching the status of an impotent society—a society whose capability of maintaining elementary security on the streets, in schools, and in the homes of our people is in doubt.” He added: “For the last 10 years, many of our national leaders and those of other countries have spoken of international terrorism. But our rate of routine, day-to-day terrorism in almost any large city of the United States exceeds the casualties of all the reported ‘international terrorists’ in any given year.”—Compare Ecclesiastes 8:11.
9. In this century, what happened to the predictions that war would end?
9 World War I also was described as “the war to end the wars.” The Encyclopedia Americana notes: “During the war politicians and publicists spoke of the great days to come, when there would be no more wars, no more armaments, no more clashes between nations.” But the truth proved to be just the opposite. A South African publication, The Natal Mercury, said recently: “President Woodrow Wilson described World War I as ‘the war to end the wars.’ His prediction would have been far more accurate if it had [been called] ‘the war to end peace.’” The article added: “Since 1914 the world has probably seen more violence and turmoil than ever since history came to be recorded.” World military spending now is well over $500 billion annually. Today the nations have enough nuclear weapons to wipe out more than a million large cities, far more cities than exist.
10. What is the truth regarding any progress made in various fields of human endeavor?
10 No, the truth is that whatever progress has been made in various fields, it has not set mankind free from exploitation, suffering, poverty, crime, war, fear, sickness and death. Thus, the claims, promises and opinions of this world’s leaders have not been based on the truth, as the evidence of centuries of time clearly shows. It is just as the Bible says at 2 Peter 2:19: “While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption.”
Testing Religious “Truth”
11. What test can be applied to claims of religious truth?
11 Not only do we need freedom from the distressing conditions so common today but we need to be free from the mental bondage that comes from false religious teachings. Yet the religions of Christendom and of the rest of this world contend that their beliefs constitute truth. That is easy to claim, but what do the facts show? Remember, God’s Word states: “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) Further, Jesus declared: “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them.” Yes, systems of religion can be recognized as true or false not just by what they claim but by what they produce. Of the false, Jesus warned: “Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire.”—Matthew 7:15-20.
12. What does the condition of this world’s religions reveal?
12 If a religion represents the truth, surely the very least fruitage it should bear is that of being a uniting force for those who follow it. Jesus said that those who had the truth should “all be one.” (John 17:21) God’s Word also says: “You should all speak in agreement.” “There should not be divisions among you.” “Be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) This must be the case for those who truly represent God, for “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33) Yet the religions of this world are divided into thousands of sects and cults, with conflicting teachings and practices carried on not only between different religions but often within the same religion. Such confusion and error could not originate with God. Leaders’ Vision, a church magazine in Australia, admitted: ‘To live in a state of disunity is to exist in a state of biblical sin. We constitute a visible denial of the work of the Holy Spirit.’
13. (a) In what has the disunity of false religion resulted? (b) Where, then, does such false religion originate?
13 Further proof that such religions cannot represent the truth, and that they cannot be from God, comes in what results from their disunity. If a religion teaches the truth, it is certainly elementary that its members should at least not kill one another. Otherwise, what kind of truth, what kind of brotherhood would that be? Yet history shows that people of the same religions of this world have regularly slaughtered one another in time of war, by the millions, just because they lived in different countries. At times, people of the same religion slaughter one another inside the same country, in civil uprisings or revolutions. The Bible says, at 1 John 3:10-12, that it is “the children of the Devil” who slaughter their ‘brothers.’ (Compare Genesis 4:8.) The children of God do not do so, but, instead, they have unbreakable love for one another. Jesus plainly said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:35.
14. Applying Jesus’ rule of “by their fruits,” what is the truth about worldly religion?
14 Thus, by their bad fruitage, their disunity, their warring, as well as the rampant immorality and hypocrisy so prevalent in this world’s religions, they stand exposed as not representing the truth—not representing God. They are indeed bad trees, producing rotten crops, ready to get “cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Trusting the God of Truth
15. In whom should we put our full trust, and why?
15 The inability of humans to bring true freedom in the important things of life emphasizes what is said in the Bible at Jeremiah 10:23: “To earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” No, God did not create man with the ability or prerogative to be independent of His direction and be successful. This is one reason why God has allowed so many thousands of years of human rule independent from him, to demonstrate once and for all time that such rule cannot bring true freedom and happiness. Hence, Psalm 146:3 wisely counsels: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” Then whom can we trust? The Bible answers: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
16. What confidence can we have in Jehovah?
16 Why can we put such complete confidence in Jehovah? Because, as Psalm 31:5 says, ‘Jehovah is the God of truth.’ If we really want the truth about all the important issues of life and the answers to questions that perplex even world leaders, God has them. Since “it is impossible for God to lie,” what he says is what will be. “Jehovah of armies has sworn, saying: ‘Surely just as I have figured, so it must occur; and just as I have counseled, that is what will come true.’”—Hebrews 6:18; Isaiah 14:24.
17. How has Jehovah provided a source of truth for sincere truth lovers?
17 God would certainly make his truths known to sincere truth seekers, for, at John 8:32, Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In prayer to God he also said: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Where is God’s “word,” his truth, set forth? The apostle Paul answers: “All Scripture is inspired of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16) The almighty Creator of the universe thus claims to have authored the Bible. By means of his powerful active force, or holy spirit, he moved faithful men to write down his thoughts. So when we read the Scriptures, it is as though God is speaking to us.—1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
18. Why is it unreasonable to think that God did not author the Bible?
18 Some claim that God did not author the Bible. Yet humans can author books, and God created humans. Should the far superior Creator of humans be unable to do what vastly inferior humans can do? Scientists, by means of electronic equipment, send instructions to satellites in space, directing them in their course. A radio announcer speaks into a microphone, and his message is heard thousands of miles away. Even from the moon, television pictures of events have been transmitted into our home. But Jehovah made the ear, the eye, electricity and sound. Could he not, by means of his “dynamic energy” project his thoughts to his faithful servants on earth? Surely, the Creator of this magnificent universe could create a book!—Isaiah 40:26.
19. Why did God author the Bible with some of it hard to understand?
19 ‘But,’ others say, ‘the Bible is hard to understand.’ Yes, some of it is. (2 Peter 3:16) Why did God author the Bible that way? Because then he is the One who determines who gets the truth. The apostle Paul said of God’s truths: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) Paul also stated about God’s wisdom and sacred secret: “It is to us God has revealed them through his spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) God thus reserves the right to reveal his truths only to those who really want them and who are willing to live by them and serve him faithfully: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants.”—Amos 3:7; Daniel 2:28, 47.
20. Where is the truth that can set us free?
20 Yes, there is a God of truth. His truths are found in his inspired Word, the Holy Bible. He reveals the understanding of the sacred Scriptures to his humble, unified servants. Now, then, what vital truths contained in his Word does God reveal to truth seekers, especially in our time? The next article will examine some of them.
Do you recall these points?
□ What freedom does mankind really need?
□ How have the hopes of this world proved disappointing? Why?
□ How can we distinguish true religion from false?
□ What reasons are there for fully trusting in Jehovah?
□ To whom does Jehovah reveal his truths?
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Mankind desperately needs to be freed from many distressing conditions
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Jesus warned regarding false religion: “Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire”