Grace & Truth

There have been many good articles, quotes and soul-searching that I have read, heard or seen over the past week in regard to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize homosexual marriage in the US. I have actually been encouraged and blessed to read and hear what many Christians have been articulating. However, I have also been disturbed and discouraged by what some professing Christians have been saying too.

As I have been thinking and reflecting on it all, I have come to this conclusion: there seems to be two extremes we can fall into in any given situation. In regard to relationships with others, I believe the trap (and struggle) is “truth” without “grace” or “grace” without “truth.” But Jesus came (and lived) full of both (John 1:14). This means as “Christ followers” we need to be filled with and walk in both to truly be like Jesus and thus show the world the true heart/character of God.

Take the current hot-button issue of homosexuality/gay marriage. There are those who simply “lambast” and are hostile towards homosexuals but declare they are simply “speaking truth.” But they are not pointing people to the hope, grace and forgiveness found in Jesus. They are simply “angry”  and “afraid” in regard to “what this world is coming to” and what is happening to their “Christian nation.” I believe their mindset and focus is misguided and unhelpful. As the pastor of a church (Pulpit Rock Church) we went to this past Sunday put it: “Laws do not change human hearts; only Jesus does.” Even if gay marriage had not been condoned by the Supreme Court and was outlawed, it doesn’t mean people would not still practice homosexuality. It might make some feel better about living in a culture where “Christian ideals” are the “law” but law does not change sinners. The greatest need is and always has been for the Gospel to be declared boldly that people might see their sin for what is and therefore receive the Good News of the grace and forgiveness of sin found in Jesus; experiencing the change of heart/nature that Jesus and Jesus alone has power to do. Gay marriage is not the real issue…salvation is the issue. And only Jesus can save!

Secondly, why are we so surprised and “panicky” regarding what this world is coming to? Does not Scripture and Jesus Himself, clearly articulate exactly what would happen in the last days? (Matthew 24 is just as one example). So while yes, this all should grieve us because it breaks God’s heart (Genesis 6:5-8)…(although we should ask ourselves…is it really the breaking of His heart that grieves us or just the “threat” it is to our way of life, “value’s” and comfort?)…should we not on the other hand be encouraged in the sense that this means Jesus’ return is all the more closer? Should this not in fact motivate and INCREASE our devotion, service and faithfulness to Him? (Matthew 25). Doesn’t light shine brightest in the darkest night? Shouldn’t we focus more not on what the world is coming to…but who has come into the world…and is coming again? Again, as a pastor quoted on Sunday, “The early church didn’t say, “Look what the world is coming to!” They said, “Look what has come into the world! -Carl F. H. Henry.

So that is one extreme that I see.

On the other hand there seems to be many who think that “showing grace” without “speaking truth” is all we need. In fact some professing Christians/churches are compromising faithfulness to Scripture and condoning (even celebrating) the recent Supreme Court’s decision (see Isaiah 5:20-21 and Romans 1:18-32 which warns of this). Some just speak of “love” and are misquoting like crazy verses about “not judging” which only showcases a shallowness of true scriptural understanding and depth. I could spend a whole article or message (which I have in the past) on Matthew 7:1-5 which is one of the most quoted and misused/misunderstood passages in the bible. However, I will try to be brief and make a few points rather than being exhaustive.

First of all to say we are never to “judge” anyone or anything is in fact a judgment. In fact most of those who tell others they shouldn’t judge are in fact judging those who judge! Everyone makes judgments everyday about everything. Secondly, when Jesus talked about the hypocrisy of trying to take a speck out of another persons eye when you have a plank in your own, he was NOT saying to ignore the speck in your brothers eyes. In fact He goes on to say: “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Notice the “and then.” Jesus was NOT saying not to address and deal with sin in each others lives…rather He was rebuking those who were pointing out the flaws of others but not dealing with sin in their own lives. He was actually saying “judge sin in your own life before you try to deal with sin in others lives.” In the very same chapter in fact (Matthew 7:15) he taught us to “watch out for false prophets.” He went on to tell us how to do that. But to obey that verse we have to exercise discernment and make judgments! The kind of judging scripture speaks against is that of “playing God” in the sense of being the ultimate judge of someone’s life. This does not mean we don’t judge behavior, actions, attitudes according to the Word of God…and call sin for what it is…sin. It doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth of what God has said in His Word!

There seems to be a false humility and new standard of godliness: being “non-judgmental.” But that is in fact NOT spiritual or godly at all. It’s actually a mark of spiritual immaturity. Paul in fact says in 1 Corinthians 2:15: “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.” The reason the “spiritual man” can make judgments about all things is because as the verse before and after articulate…he has the “Spirit of God” and “Mind of Christ” now living in Him.

To not call sin, sin actually cheapens God’s love, grace and forgiveness. It cheapens the severity and reality of our sin and Christ’s sacrifice for our sin on the cross. And secondly, how will people see their need for a Savior if they don’t first see that sin…is sin? How will they repent and believe unless we warn them from God’s word and allow the Spirit of God to convict them? Speaking the truth and warning people regarding sin is actually a means of showing grace…if done according to the word of God, out of the heart of God. God warns because He loves. And so if we are to be like Him (and obedient to Him) we must we communicate His heart and word. Consider the following passage I read the other day in Ezekiel chapter 3:16-21.

“After seven days the Lord gave me a message. He said, “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.

“If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.”

If you read carefully through Scripture you find Jesus both warning people and showing grace to people. In some cases, such as in John chapter 5, Jesus heals a man (shows grace) and then later warns him to stop sinning or “something worse may happen” to him. However, in other cases you find Him strongly warning and calling people to repentance. To those who were self-righteous and blind in regard to their sin, he rebuked. To those who saw their need for Him and looked to Him, he spoke grace and peace. We need to discern when and to whom we warn and call to repentance…and when and to whom we speak comfort and assure of God’s grace.

It’s not a matter of “grace” or “truth”…it’s a matter of grace and truth. Jesus was filled with and walked in both. And now…as representatives of His…we need to be filled with and walk in both as well. Let’s not water-down or compromise truth. But let’s also not fail to communicate the “amazing grace” found in Jesus.

Consider this last passage of Scripture below. As you read it, do you see both truth and grace in it? Do you see both warning and assurance? And is this not the balance we need…speaking the truth, yet holding out the true hope of the Gospel–that Jesus changes the hearts and lives of those who turn to Him in repentance and faith? This message will be needed more and more…and the exciting thing is…the reality of it may just be seen more and more as well!

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (NLT)

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