reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 16 : May the Truth be declared & demonstrated in the tone & skin of grace.

image

I heard it again today from a preacher friend. “Our country is far from God, and the church needs to rise up and declare the truth!” There was a chorus of “AMENs!!!” – except from me. I actually cringe when I hear this admonition, especially in the context of a bunch of baptist preachers (which I am also, by the way).

What do we really mean when we say statements like that one? What will “rising up” accomplish? What does “rising up” really look like? And how are we defining “truth?”

The Gospel of John may help clarify this for those who consider themselves “churched,” if we will have ears to hear.

John seemed to connect the word “truth” with the word “law.” Whether he thought of them as synonymous is unclear, but what is clear is that he saw them in relationship to one another. Why am I so sure of this? Because of John’s introduction.

In John 1:14-18, John seems to contrast the way “law” was delivered by Moses with the way “truth” was delivered by Jesus. Check it out:

The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’ ”) Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father’s side — He has revealed Him. 
(John 1:14-18 HCSB)

John wrote that they had observed the glory of the Father in the grace AND truth of the Son. He went on to declare that we have all received an abundance of grace – “grace after grace,” pointing to the way Moses delivered law in comparison to the way Jesus delivered truth. Verse 18 helps us understand what John is doing here. John asserted that “no one has ever seen God.” But Jesus “has revealed Him.”

Whereas Moses delivered rules that commanded lovely and gracious living, Jesus delivered the Truth that revealed the love and grace of the Life-Giver. The Law more than anything else exposed our unlovely, greedy living. In contrast, “grace and truth” exposed how loving and gracious God is.

John would go on later in his Gospel to quote Jesus as teaching, “I am the…Truth” (John 14:6). What the Law could not declare and demonstrate, Jesus did. He brought light into the world (John 1:1-13) that exposed our selfishness and insecurity along with our propensity to hide in the darkness of our shame. However, at the same time, He shed light on the Truth, Himself being the Truth, that God was forgiveness us from our selfishness, securing us with His grace, and inviting us out of the darkness of our shame into the freedom of His name. “Jesus.” “Yeshua.” “Yahweh saves.”

Grace after grace.

Whereas the Law highlighted our condemnation, Truth AND Grace brought the life-giving light of our salvation up close and personal. Jesus revealed what God had been communicating all along by declaring and demonstrating Truth in the tone and skin of grace.

Do we as His followers do the same?

Maybe we need to heed the command of Jesus from John 13 when He washed His followers feet. He told them to go and do what He had done. To declare that He is truth while going close enough to serve. To demonstrate that He is Truth while relating graciously.

Maybe instead of “rising up and declaring the truth,” we need to get on our knees and declare it.

Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 
(Romans 2:4 HCSB)

May we never forget how God extended His kindness to all of us, even those of us who consider ourselves “churched.”

GRATEFUL, may we go and do the same. 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 16 : May the Truth be declared & demonstrated in the tone & skin of grace.

  1. pastorjimblogs April 21, 2015 / 1:55 am

    I love what the bible says about Jesus in John 1:14, that he was “full of grace and truth.” Jesus embodied both of these, and his people follow in his steps (albeit not perfectly!). Christians are a “Both/And” people. We are people of truth and a people of grace. Any attempt to have one without the other, or even to emphasize one at the expense of the other, simply does not work.

    If my primary concern is truth only, but there is no grace, then I run the risk of becoming a messenger like Jonah. I become a person of whom it is fair to ask “Do you actually care about the people with whom you share this truth?”

    If my primary concern is grace only, but there is no truth, then I run the risk of becoming the unfaithful watchman seen in Ezekiel 33. That watchman saw the sword coming on the people, but did not blow the trumpet to warn them. He knew the truth, but he did not tell it.

    The gospel does not separate truth and grace, but rather the gospel is the complete blending of truth and grace. The wonder of the gospel is that it reveals the terrible truth about ourselves and our sin, and at the same time points to the marvelous mercy and grace of God. This is why the bible calls it “Good news.”

    Though I quoted Tim Keller in my previous comment, I can’t help but share another quote from him. In his book “The meaning of marriage,” Keller writes this about the importance of grace and truth…“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”

    The more I understand the greatness of God’s grace toward me, the more compelled I am to talk about the truth of that grace. Not with a desire to simply pummel people with truth and walk away, but rather with the hope that people will see their need for rescue and cling to the only one who can rescue them. Jesus!

    So yes, let’s declare truth AND grace! On our knees. In our pulpits. At our dinner tables. In our neighborhoods. Let’s declare the good news of Jesus, with our hearts filled with love because we have been loved much (Luke 7:47).

    Thanks again, Jason, for letting me in on the fun!

    Like

  2. Derek Worthington April 21, 2015 / 9:12 am

    I really love the way Eugene Peterson colors John 1:14 when he writes,

    “The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood” (MSG).

    Truth, as has already been stated, is a person. And Truth always declares itself by moving into the neighborhood. Proclamation is inextricably linked to incarnation. The Word becomes flesh and blood. In Jesus, the eternal Creator – the logos – is clothed in humanity. The Apostle Paul writes that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col 1:19 NIV). Before God gets on to the business of proclamation his first move is toward incarnation.

    This is not only true of Jesus but it is true of all who follow him. By taking the bread and the wine into our bodies we are reminded of the reality: Christ in me (Gal 2:20 NIV). I would argue that what the world needs from God’s people today is not more proclamation but more incarnation. If we want the Truth to be said, we would do well to return to the basic understanding that the Truth must first be seen. Proclamation? Yes! But not without incarnation.

    Maybe instead of rising up, the thing that would be most helpful today would be the church coming down and moving back into the neighborhood. Like Jesus. Incarnating not only precedes proclaiming but is essential to it. We simply cannot practice proclamation without conscious incarnation.

    A couple of suggestions:

    1. Reclaim the neighborhood as the context for mission

    Begin by asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Look at the place you live and work and play through a fourfold lens of narrative, rituals, institutions and ethics. What story is the neighborhood or city calling us to embody? What practices shape the identity and sense of mission in life? What are the primary institutions shaping the place I live and how are they shaping the identity and destiny of my neighbors? How does our city or neighborhood define success? JR Woodward’s “Exegeting a Neighborhood within the City” is helpful here.

    2. Develop a prayer strategy for your neighborhood

    Prayer walking is a simple but powerful way to engage your neighborhood or city. Dedicate some time each week to walk through your city while praying intentionally. Ask God to reveal where he is working and what he is doing. Pray over issues of injustice and people who are being overlooked, abused and abandoned. Pray for city leaders, educators and civil servants. Pray for churches. Pray that the kingdom would come in your city “as it is in heaven”. Look for opportunities to pray for strangers. You might be surprised by the Holy Spirit in those moments.

    Truth is a person. And that Truth has taken up residence among us. May God reveal his Truth in us (incarnation) and through us (proclamation) as we seek to live in the pattern of Jesus’ life; empowered by the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.

    Like

    • jasoncdukes April 21, 2015 / 10:22 am

      Very wise and practical insights, Derek, to help us as we reFUNCTION.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s