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According to the Barna Research Group, "only 9% of born again teens
believe in moral absolutes and just 4% of the non-born again teens believe
that there are moral absolutes."
I don't know what you want to do with that information, but please don't
use it to be critical of this generation. They've grown up in an environment
that is hostile toward Christianity, and yet every year they say to their
Christian friends, I'll see you at the pole to pray for our school and
our nation. They've turned down the offers from their school administrators
to take a condom and give into their base desires and instead replied back
to them, "no thank-you, we know that true love waits." As we sing the words
of their poets in our worship services I cry out to the Lord with them
that "God will let them be the generation that seeks the faith of the God
of Jacob." They cry out for "clean hands" and "pure hearts," and I join
them in praying for it for them and for us.
So I'm left asking, why do only 9% of the Christians of this generation
believe in moral absolutes? Part of the reason is their parents and grandparents,
by a 3-1 margin, they don't believe in absolute truth either. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Another contributor could be a reaction against those who claim to be
the exclusive holders of the absolute truth. In his speech accepting the
2001 Nobel Peace Prize, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said,
"The idea that there is one people in possession of the truth, one answer
to the world's ills or one solution to humanity's needs has done untold
harm throughout history." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
I want to underscore his words, "one people in possession of the truth."
"This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had
been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand.  And the Lord
asked me, 'What do you see, Amos?'
'A plumb line,' I replied.
Then the Lord said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people
Israel; I will spare them no longer." (Amos 7:7-8 NIV)
I don't claim to be an expert on making things "square, level and plumb."
Usually when I cut a board, I measure it for length on two places on the
board, visualize a line between the two dots and saw the board. I'm usually
in too big a hurry to get out a square and mark the board before I cut.
My idea of leveling something is standing back three or four feet from
what I'm working on, see if it looks level-if it does, I proceed, if it
doesn't-I usually proceed anyway. Hey, nobody ever called me a craftsman.
I don't know much about making sure something is plumb, except that
it is important to people that know something about that sort of thing.
As I understand it, "plumb" is making sure that a vertical plane is true
in the same way "level" is making sure a horizontal plane is true.
A few years ago, we made the decision to remodel our educational space
into a multi-purpose room with portable partitions. It was easy enough
to decide to move a few walls, but it was harder to do the work because
several of the walls were load bearing walls. As we were demolishing the
walls, we put up temporary walls to hold the load so we could clear out
the old walls and put in a column to bear the load. We left a major footing
in place and dug a gigantic hole beneath and around it to hold the concrete
we'd later pump into it to form the peer. But before we poured the concrete,
Dennis and Levi located where the center of the column should be on the
overhead beams and drove a nail into the spot, then hung a plumb line from
that spot to locate where the center of the column would be on the floor.
There was some of the work that our skilled craftsmen let guys like me
participate in, but when it came to making sure the support column was
plumb, they did it themselves. I was amazed at how tedious they were at
marking the spot and how long they took to make sure they got it right.
They didn't eyeball it or guess at it, they used the right tools and followed
the correct procedures to insure the column was plumb.
The thing I want to underscore about our remodeling experience is that
the real craftsmen were the ones that operated the plumb line-it was in
the hands of someone who knew what they were doing.
In our text, notice who is holding the plumb line. Verse 8 says, "Then
the Lord said, Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel;"
I believe there is a direct parallel between the function of the plumb
line that God is holding and absolute truth. Christians are not the holders
of absolute truth, they just have a relationship to the one that does.
Yes, I believe there is absolute truth-a plumb line if you will-but
I also believe it is in God's hands, not ours. God sets the standards.
He judges according to the standards. We interpret the standards, attempt
to live by the standards and fall short of the standards, but the standards
are His, not ours.
My analysis of the data gathered by the Barna Research Group is the
numbers of teens and adults who believe in absolute truth is plummeting
because of the behavior of those who claim to possess absolute truth. The
people Nobel Laureate, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke
about. People aren't rejecting God as much as they are rejecting Christians
who act like they are exclusive holders of truth. The perception is that
Christians are mean-spirited, narrow-minded bigots. Think about the way
Christians are portrayed on television or in the movies. I'm not saying
society is right, I'm just pointing out what they are saying.
The Barna Research Group asked a sampling of non Christians to give
their impressions of 11 different groups including evangelical Christians,
"the image of 'evangelicals' rated tenth out of eleven groups evaluated.
The only group we beat out was prostitutes."
I'll give you a minute to let that sink in. "The only group we beat
out was prostitutes."
Not only can we confuse who is holding the plumb line, but we can miss
the whole point of what truth is. Truth is not an idea or a statement;
truth is a person. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (John 14:6 NASB)
He didn't say He taught the truth or that He knew the truth-He said,
He is the truth. People don't need to know what we know as much as they
need to know who we know. My observation is that there is a huge difference
between trying to convince people to believe a truth and introducing them
to truth. If the world misses knowing what we believe, they've missed something.
To tell you the truth, I don't think I could have made it this far in life
without my faith. But knowing what we believe isn't nearly as important
than knowing who we believe in, because if they missing knowing who we
believe-they've missed everything.
I passionately believe that absolute truth exists-I cannot endorse moral
relativism, but as passionately as I believe in absolute truth, I also
believe that it is held in the hand of God, not mine and I believe that
real truth isn't an idea-it is a person. Jesus is our ultimate standard.
And instead of shaking my head in despair at people who disagree with
my views, I'm learning that the most important thing I can do is introduce
them to Jesus Christ, who will change their life and save their soul. In
a world of moral relativism, there exists a vaccum for truth that we can
fill if we'll only proclaim the gospel and let the Spirit of God draw the
people to Himself through our words.
Before we leave this text, there is something I need to point out. The
plumb line that God is holding in his hands in this text was going to be
used to judge His people, not those outside the covenant. I'm reminded
of Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount when he said, "Do not judge
lest you be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and
by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2
God is judging us; perhaps we should get our own house in order before
we start passing judgement on others. The truth is, when our own house
is in order, we won't pass judgement on others-we'll be too busy introducing
them to Jesus to have the time or energy to speaking to them with a condescending,