Before we found out that chocolate was good for you, it was just a sin we lived with because we liked it so much. So when studies came out saying it provided real health benefits, it gave us every excuse to indulge in this tasty treat. But consider this. How many of you read the fine print? Most chocolate you buy in the store ISN’T good for you. It’s highly processed, contains way more milk and sugar that you don’t need, and doesn’t contain the nutrients that make it good for you in the first place. If you’re going to have chocolate at all it should be at least 70% cocoa, taken in moderate amounts, and still contain flavonoids which often get stripped away in the process of making your favorite chocolates. It’s the flavonoid epicatechin that is the active ingredient doing all the hard work to help your body. Without it, it’s just a sugar pump your body doesn’t need. Remember when wine was good for you? First it was bad, then it was good, and now it’s bad again. You know why? Because they found out that in all of these studies that said drinking in moderation was good for you, they never studied the people behind the study. Turns out there was a reason moderate drinkers showed positive health results – reasons that had nothing to do with having a glass of wine each day. Scientists unwittingly fell victim to selection bias which tainted the results. The new results are in and it says that the safest amount of alcohol is zero drinks per day. Most of you probably hadn’t heard about this new study until today. It doesn’t grab your attention like the one that says having a glass of wine a day is good for you. Now that’s a headline! The truth is often buried behind a stack of half-truths and untruths. We don’t take the time often to dig out the truth. Because what we are really after is validity rather than verity. We are looking for validity instead of verity. The truth may be out there, but we aren’t all that interested in finding it.
The same is true with our faith.
We are interested in finding out whatever it is that supports our view of faith, but aren’t all that interested in finding out information that may challenge it. If you believe in predestination, you aren’t all that concerned about passages where God tells us we have the freedom to choose (Joshua 24:15). If you believe women don’t belong in the pulpit, you aren’t interested to hear about Paul supporting women who taught Scripture to men (Acts 18:26). If you believe that every word in the Bible is the literal word of God, you don’t want to hear about two different creation stories or two accounts of the flood even though they are right there in the first book of the Bible. Because these things challenge your system of beliefs. That’s even true for people who don’t believe in God. If you’ve made up your mind God doesn’t exist, no amount of evidence is going to convince you otherwise. You might say you have a bunch of reasons why you don’t believe, but I have to challenge you to ask yourself, “Is my objection to God really about God’s existence or my resistance?” Is my objection to God about His existence or my resistance?
How open are you to the truth?
Are you more interested in being right or finding out what’s real? Because if you only care about being right, all you’ll see in front of you are the things that confirm your own beliefs, but you’ll forever live in a world of your own making and we’ve seen what that can do. Denying the reality of the coronavirus, claiming an election was fixed without any evidence, even something as simple as believing you had the biggest crowd on Inauguration Day despite how obvious it was you didn’t. When we give up on the search for truth, we give up on one another. We make assumptions based on lies and so our conclusions miss their mark. The truth is important if for no other reason than it pushes our boundaries of knowledge and expands our world. It’s one of the reasons travel makes us better people. It expands our worldview and challenges our preconceptions. If not for the search for truth, doctors would still be doing lobotomies to free us from evil spirits and bloodletting to balance out our humours. I’m still amazed people believe the Earth is flat. NBA player Kyrie Irving went on a podcast and told the world he believed the Earth was flat. He said, “They lie to us.” There’s always a “they” but no one knows who “they” are or why “they” would benefit from spreading these falsehoods, but that’s the kind of world we create when we stop searching for the truth and instead feed our own view of the world. What’s more shocking and disturbing are the number of people who deny the Holocaust ever happened. After a survey of 53,000 people in 100 countries, the Anti-Defamation League found that over half of the world’s population had never even heard of the Holocaust. And of those who had, nearly a third (or about 1 BILLION people) believe it never happened. One billion people living in denial of reality. That’s how history ends up repeating itself.
What is it in us that leads us to deny the truth?
How is it that we remain willfully ignorant of the facts no matter how obvious they are? And this is a question for all of us. It would be hypocritical to look around and think, “Well, I hope all of them are reading,” because I am sure there is something in your life that you are denying right now. Whether it’s the way you are living, the way you are caring for your body, the way you are practicing your faith, there is probably something you are living in denial about, and if you say, “That’s not true” there’s perfect evidence right there. Now, whether you believe in the Bible or God or any of it, you’ll find that this problem of truth denial can be found all throughout history. Even Jesus had to deal with this particular problem.
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
Pride. That’s what gets in the way of the truth.
Pride. It is the poison that gets in the way of healing, of good relationships, of reconciliation, and the truth. Pride. Did you hear how the other Jews answered Jesus? He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But instead of absorbing those words, instead of thinking about what Jesus had to say, they responded. “We’ve never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Pride made them blind to the fact they were slaves to their own sin. You’ve probably heard kids say, “You’re not the boss of me!” Well, this is the adult version of that very same sentiment. “We’ve never been slaves of anyone! You’re not the boss of me! You can’t tell me that I need to be set free.” Andy Stanley brought this up in one of his podcasts. How many times have you been in the middle of an argument and it dawns on you the other person is right. And even though you know they are right, you keep on fighting anyway. Because it’s no longer about two people or two sides trying to get to the truth, now it’s all about winning. It’s all about being able to say that you’re right. That’s pride. We think pride makes us strong. We think pride is an admirable trait. But we would be wrong. Strength lies in humility.
There’s a reason people use the expression “puffed up with pride.”
Pride inflates our ego to the point where we devalue others. Pride swallows up the room and pushes out space for new ideas and new learning. Pride forces us to continue down a path even when it’s clear it’s the wrong path. Humility on the other hand keeps us grounded. Humility opens us up to new ideas and new ways of thinking. And it takes a great deal more strength of character to be humble than to be filled with pride. Pride is for the weak, not the other way around. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that pride was the great sin, the one from which all others stem. He describes pride as “spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” There was a study done on the quality of humility as a competitive advantage in the workplace and the researchers came to the conclusion, “Humility is frequently associated with shyness, lack of ambition, passivity, or lack of confidence. We argue quite the opposite—that humility offers strategic value for firms by furnishing organizational members with a realistic perspective of themselves, the firm, and the environment. In fact, we propose that humility is a critical strength for leaders and organizations possessing it, and a dangerous weakness for those lacking it.” Another study showed that humble people make the best leaders. And even the FBI believes that humility is essential for success. In an article on leadership they wrote, “Humility often can be overlooked or, even, viewed as weakness. It is not. It is vital. Allowing yourself to be humble and to express your humility openly allows for others to grow. There is nothing more powerful than that.”
Commit yourselves to the pursuit of truth instead of your own righteousness.
For it was Jesus himself who told us the truth would set us free. This week, challenge yourself to keep an open mind. Try a new food. Try a different detergent when washing your clothes or a different shampoo for your hair. We often get into routines without ever challenging if there might be better ways of doing things. Don’t blindly pick something, but actually think about it, ask for opinions, look something up. Open up your horizons to a world of possibilities (please keep in mind I am NOT telling you to do something dangerous or illegal – certainly you don’t have to go that far to do something different). If you’re on the fence about faith, I want to dare you to open your mind to the possibility there is a God. That he actually loves you. That he really did send his Son to Earth to die for you. And that he wants a relationship with you even if you don’t want one with him. If you have honest objections to faith, that’s totally reasonable and also healthy for any strong journey towards the truth. But be open to a world where God exists and has been searching for you for your entire life. Open that door a crack and watch the love that will pour in. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20040601/dark-chocolate-day-keeps-doctor-away#1 The study done by Engler through the UCSF School of Nursing used 1.6 oz. per day of Dove Dark Chocolate.
 From Andy Stanley’s sermon “Who Needs God? I do” https://whoneedsgod.com/message-gallery/2016/10/4/who-needs-god-part-6
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 125.