The concept of toxic truth seems like a contradiction in terms. It doesn’t seem possible that truth could be toxic; after all, the truth will set you free! Or will it? Truth isn’t always true. And every believer can attest to the fact that not every truth will set you free. Some truth will, in fact, put you in bondage. Some truth will destroy you. Some truth will alienate you from a greater truth that could transform your life! As John Osteen used to say, “Religion is like a vaccination, it has just enough of the real thing so you can’t catch it.” The most destructive truth in the world is that which makes you immune to the ultimate truth!
The truth that will set you free is the truth that is applicable in your situation. For the New Covenant believer that truth is the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead, we are in Him, and all He has is ours because we are in Him. To add to or take away from that, even though there is some degree of truth that remains, is to remove truth from context and turn that which was designed to set us free into a corrupt toxin that poisons and destroys. Truth that is taken out of context or misapplied is no longer true. Many times it’s the belief in a truth taken out of context that actually becomes our destruction! In fact, truth misused is the most subtle and dangerous of all enemies.
The Apostle Paul stood against his most despised enemies, the Judaizers, with a fury that seemed more poignant than his fight against the devil himself! Maybe it was because what they did was more deadly! The Judaizers were a group who acknowledged Jesus’ death and, on some level, recognized Him as Savior, but they insisted that you must obey the law to be righteous. Even though Jesus qualified you for Heaven, you stayed qualified for Heaven and became qualified for the promises through obedience to the law! In other words, Jesus saves you, the law makes you righteous!
In order to maintain balance they mixed some law and some truth, some Old Covenant and some New Covenant. They believed, after all, that the unconditional love of God was not enough to keep people out of sin; in fact, like the legalists of our day, in total contradiction to the Word of God, they believed the message of unconditional love was a weak compromising message that led people to a compromised life. And they believed the message of faith righteousness would cause people to live irresponsible, ungodly lives. In fact, when you look at the message of the Judaizer you see little difference between their message and the mainline message of the 21st century church!
When explaining the issue of faith righteousness to the church at Rome Paul called it the stumbling stone of the Gospel. In other words, FAITH RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE ONE THING WITH WHICH EVERYONE STRUGGLES AND STUMBLES! When explaining Israel’s total failure to apprehend righteousness he said: They did not seek it (righteousness) by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. (Rom. 9:32) It is this same skewed logic that causes the church to stumble today! The church does not believe in a righteousness that is from faith to faith. (Rom. 1:17) No! It believes in a righteousness that starts by faith and is finished by works!
Our stumbling is a mixing of the covenants where we take the better promises of the New Covenant and mix them with the unattainable stipulations of the Old Covenant. We have good promises that motivate us, but the same old, unworkable system of performance that even the Jews could not attain.
This mixed covenant causes us to expect more and attain to less than any message the world has ever heard! It spawns the most devastating disappointment and, as the Scripture says, hope deferred makes the heart sick! The church is heart-sick on great promises and bad doctrine. It makes you hope for the best and then jerks the rug out from under your feet just when it seems the end is in sight!
To address this horrendous doctrine with the fervor of the New Testament is politically incorrect in the current church world. We will attack the New Ager or other believers who hold some slight variation of belief from ours. We will chastise those with moral failure. We will tolerate little in departure from our understanding of the faith. But we will embrace and laud the legalist as a righteous, virtuous person, not realizing that they embrace the most despicable, disempowering deception that ever seeped into the church.
The name of Jesus is on our lips, but through the mixing of the Covenants the law is in our hearts! We pray in His name, and then check our list to see if we are qualified by the commandments. We worship, sing, and speak in tongues to be edified, only to be torn down by the very law that He nailed to the cross. We bind the devil as our enemy, and then do his work by using the very tool he used to condemn us! We call ourselves righteous by the blood only to check the law to see if Jesus was really enough!
Jesus settled the issue of the law for us. One (and only one) person has ever kept all the righteous requirements of the law: Jesus, who lived as a man full of the Holy Spirit and is raised up as the Lord of Glory! As such, He is the only person with whom God could make a covenant. Because He died the covenant is forever sealed and unchangeable. Because He has risen from the dead He forever mediates the covenant set in place by His death! If anyone could keep the law Jesus would not have come, suffered, and died! We couldn’t, He did; we’re in Him – end of story for those who hope only in this New Covenant, sealed in His blood!
By mixing the covenants we take truth from the Old Covenant that is no longer in force, no longer valid. We have no right to invoke God on the basis of the Old Covenant; to do so is a complete rejection of the finished wok of Jesus. We then look to the truth of the New Covenant with all of its promises, failing to recognize that mixing the two is a violation of them both; thereby, we negate the only means whereby we have the right to approach God. Under the Old Covenant looking to Jesus would have been idolatry. Under the New Covenant looking to the law is to count the blood of Jesus as nothing and to trample it under foot!
In Lev. 19:19 God gave us instructions that would ultimately apply to this very issue: You shall not let your livestock breed with another kind. You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you. These truths in the Old Testament had their ultimate reality in the New Covenant. This was not a call to segregation of people but an absolute purity of faith!
The cry of the twenty-first century legalist is, “Balance! We must be balanced!” As reasonable as that sounds, a little law does not balance grace and faith righteousness; it pollutes it! As Paul warned the Galatia believers who started out in faith and ended in law: A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Gal. 5:9) It only takes a little law to neutralize grace completely! While we are being told to live by faith, mixing the two covenants voids faith. Faith is based on promise. Law is based on debt. Expecting payment for a debt isn’t faith; it’s legalism. Expecting God to reward me for my behavior is payment of debt. Expecting God to reward me based on the promise of what we have in Jesus is a work of true faith!
It’s time to do house cleaning. We face times like the world has never seen. If our faith has not given us victory as we have sought to face normal life, how do we expect to stand through troubled times? Clean out every aspect of your belief system that is rooted in works. Don’t allow one aspect of the Old Covenant to stand in your heart. This is what Abraham was modeling when he sent Hagar away. God said, Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Gal. 4:30-31) Abraham not only had the painful job of casting out the bondwoman, (which represented the law) but he had to cast out the son, everything the law had given birth to in his life! Let us be as the old hymn said, “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness!”
(This article is based on the revolutionary six-part series entitled, Toxic Truth: Mixing the Covenants.)