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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1262

June 19, 2016 John 1:1-18

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“Full of Grace and Truth”

 

  • Grace and Truth in Scripture

 

I began to think about this sermon a few weeks ago when I read a quote from Randy Alcorn in his book The Grace and Truth Paradox. “Truth without grace breads self-righteousness and crushing legalism. Grace without truth breeds deception and moral compromise.” As I read that statement, I could not help but think about many of the issues facing us in our time. There are so many situations that deny truth and people who despise truth. On the other side there are some who believe they stand on truth but they have no room for grace. The reality may be that true grace and truth cannot be really truth and grace without one another.

We might have been on one side or the other of grace without truth or truth without grace. It comes easy to us when we might think we are always right or if we think we should show grace without a shred of truth. If we do either of these, we need to confess and seek to grow closer to the biblical truth of living in the fullness of grace and truth.

 

What I want to show you this morning to start is how grace and truth are revealed to us in the Bible. Some people view the two testaments with a distorted view much like they way they might understand grace and truth without one another. Some the Old Testament (OT) as the wrathful part of the Bible, the part dominated by law (truth). They only see God as a God of wrath because God shows that anger when the law is broken. The New Testament (NT) is viewed as the testament of grace or love expressed in the God of love in Jesus Christ. That is a very narrow and dangerous view of the Bible. 1. It just ain’t so! 2. It sets God up as ever changing rather than ever true, constant, and always the same yesterday, today, and forever. 3. In one sense it sets Jesus against the Father as if Jesus had to come correct the wrongs of the OT. 4. It promotes supersessionism which believes that the NT covenant supersedes the OT covenant and follows therefore that we really only need to take into account the NT, and some critics of the Bible would even boil that down to only what Jesus said.

I chose to read Exodus this morning to show grace and truth in the OT In Exodus 34:6 we read about God, The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” I bring this text forward because steadfast love and faithfulness are equivalent in the OT to grace and truth in the NT.

 

 

  • What is Grace?

 

Grace is every expression of God's steadfast love that we do not deserve. It is giving us the law. It is sending prophets. It is getting angry with us when we mess up. It is sending his only Son. It is raising him from the dead so that we might live. It is everything God has done and promises to do. God's grace enables us to know the truth, to know Jesus, and empowers us to submit ourselves to the truth. In grace and truth our lives are reshaped into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

 

 

  • What/Who is Truth?

 

Truth is Jesus himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The truth is Jesus Christ. The truth is every word that comes from the mouth of God. Truth is that which changes us. It is not just knowing scripture or knowing about Jesus Christ, but it is letting that knowledge grow in us in such a way that it regenerates our being, making us more like Jesus. Truth is not knowing facts and figures, it is in knowing the living Christ. It is in a personal relationship of faith and love. This is what we have to realize. This is also what we have to help the world realize.

Every time I hear the word realize I remember a statement from someone who once said that we must come to realize that we are realized. What he was saying is that we are known by God. God realizes us. The Truth who created us and redeemed us also knows us and loves us and relates to us by truth and grace. That may sound overly philosophical, but there is something deeply comforting in realizing that we are realized.

One of the amazing things God has done is to write truth on our hearts. Romans 2:14-15 - “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts,” This is the word of truth that does not change. It is not influenced by cultural whims or politically correct nonsense, for it is God's unchanging word – dependable, constant, and infallible.

 

  • The One Full of Grace and Truth

 

The gospel of John says Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” The “fullness of God” – fullness of grace and the fullness of truth…Jesus reveals the relational character of God. God is full of loyalty and reliability, full of favor and consistency, full of love, full of mercy, full of grace and truth. I imagine the people who received Jesus could see it in his face. He reflected the grace of God and lived the truth of God. He led a grace-filled life. Walter Brueggemann once said in a lecture that

“many of us are trying to lead the good life but what would happen if we thought about living a graceful life, a grace-filled life, a life graceful as in a dancer is graceful and what does grace-full humanness look like.”

 

What does the grace of God look like in a human being? It looks like Jesus!

We study and learn what kind of life Jesus led in order to know what kind of life we shall lead. That is one of our goals as Christians – to be full of grace and truth. What we find is that God gives us grace. God gives us truth. God gives light. God speaks. God saves. God revives. God is the source of our life (Col. 3:3-4). In the reformed faith we understand that all of life is “gifted” to us. There is nothing we do to obtain what God has given: “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8). Paul goes on to say that we are created for good works so there are things we are to do, but those things do not earn us salvation or life eternal, they instead are the way of life in salvation and in eternity.

Jesus is always acting in grace and truth. Even if we think Jesus is doing only one or the other, they are both present. When he teaches truth, for instance, in the Sermon on the Mount, he is acting with grace. When he is protecting the woman caught in adultery by displaying extraordinary grace, he is also proclaiming truth.

 

  • The Ministry of Grace and Truth

We need to proclaim the truth, God’s word, and the Truth, Jesus Christ. Yet, we must also balance that truth with grace. One of the sins of the church has been failing to to one without the other no matter which one is neglected. Some church folks have sought to blast people away with their own version of self-righteous truth and other parts of the church ignore the truth completely for the sake of “social justice” or other misguided movements.

 

It was said of the early church that they proclaimed the truth because they were also filled with grace. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). The church needs nothing more than to tell the truth, proclaim the truth, the gospel and all that the Bible teaches us as truth. And the church needs to display the grace God has given.

 


 

The world is starving for grace and truth because the world is starving for Jesus Christ. The very same world that is rejecting grace and truth also needs grace and truth the most. Jesus entered the starving world and gave both truth and grace. If people want to answer the question of what would Jesus do, the answer is that he would show grace and truth because that is what he always did.

 

Some parts of the church offend everyone because they want to beat people up with the truth at the expense of grace (Westboro) while other parts of the church offend no one because a cheap grace that has compromised the truth (PCUSA). Both extremes diminish the fullness of Christ and therefore do a disservice to Him and his Church. But we have to be careful that we as individuals and as an individual church and as a denomination do not err on either side forgetting grace or truth in our presentation of the gospel.

 

Take a look with me at Psalm 85:10, “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Think back to Exodus 34 and these word pairs in Psalm 85, synonymous to grace and peace. When steadfast love and faithfulness meet, when grace and truth meet, they meet in John 1, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (14). We too are to embrace and embody grace and truth, love and faith, righteousness and peace in such a way that the world can see it in us, written on our hearts. It will not be an easy message to tell the world, especially in our society where truth has been so deeply distorted. It may cost us, but that is exactly what Jesus told the disciples and has told us. There is a cost to following Jesus Christ. And today, that cost is growing because the nation and the world are moving further from the truth in their false teachings of tolerance, justice, equality, and much of it has come under the doctrines of secular sexuality and progressive thought.

 

Let us make preparation by soaking our lives in grace and truth, that is, in the One who is fully grace and truth. Only by His power and goodness will we see the fulfillment of God's purposes. Amen.