image by Red Rocks Baptist Church
This last Sunday, we celebrated a baby’s birth. Jesus. But his life transcends being a babe in a crib, and for followers of Jesus, or those intrigued with him, knowing his nature will drive how we follow. John’s story of Jesus’ life doesn’t detail the events of his birth, but summarizes them, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us (his birth). We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (his identity) (John 1:14).
We love the baby, who has a touching story. That’s Christmas, and it’s true. We also love that first aspect of his nature—grace. Forgiveness, healing, restoration, and hope that our pasts won’t be held against us. That also is true.
Yet we sometimes struggle with another truth, that Jesus is truth. We love the baby, we love the grace. But we can resist the concept of Jesus being truth, and speaking it, and requiring it. That puts demands on us. Decades back, many churches featured “hell fire and brimstone” messages, that we as sinners were heading to hell unless we changed our direction. Not always much grace. However, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction to focus on grace and ignore truth.
Let me paraphrase a quote I saw on Facebook, not too long ago, that shows the dangers of grabbing just one of these, “A grace church says sinners are welcome here and you don’t have to change a thing. A truth church says sinners are not welcome here unless you first do something to change and clean yourself up. Jesus says sinners are welcome here and I will change your heart to love the things I love.”
Grace and truth in tension, but why do we need to include truth? First, Jesus called himself that, and gave its consequence, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Audacious, isn’t it? But it’s either true or a lie, and if the latter, then Jesus is a liar. If the former, then Jesus is the only Savior and Lord.
One more key truth, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT). For followers of Jesus, both the source of our core values and the methods to grow spiritually need to be based on the Bible.
Grace. Truth. Both true. Both needed. Both life-changing.
Kick Starting the Application
Where on the continuum of grace and truth do you stand? Why? Do you believe some truth is absolute for all people? Why? If you accept the concept of absolute truth, how do you determine what is absolute and what validly can be a matter of opinion? Where do these last two passages fit into your life?