Riverside Community Church

From the blog

Grace and Truth

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By Stephen Pohlmann

8 August 2015

This is the first blog I have ever written. This means that if ‘successful’, it will be the least read of all my blogs; if ‘unsuccessful’, it will be the most read of all my blogs. Either way – a lot hangs in the balance: what will I write at this most important moment of history?! [Please sense the dripping drama.] However, of all the themes that have been bouncing around my head lately (at any one stage there may be thousands of them bouncing around my head like a herd of cats) there is one that seems to shout louder than the others. I have been returning to it often lately because I often think of how those who follow Jesus Christ can best live it out in every second of every day. After we’ve left a dinner party, a golf game or a meeting, what could be said of us that (hopefully) points towards Jesus?

Jesus was often at the centre of controversy when he walked the earth, and he has been at the centre of much controversy since. But at the same time Jesus is described as the ‘exact representation of the being of God’ (Heb 1:3). If I get confused about God, I look at Jesus. Why? Because he is the exact representation of the being of God. If I wonder what God thinks about a situation, I look at Jesus? Why? Because he is the exact representation of the being of God. This means that Jesus best and most clearly shows me what God is like, what God’s character is like, what God’s actions look like and what God’s heart is like … and infinitely more.

John was one of Jesus’ disciples. He is described as the ‘one who Jesus loved’ (John 20:2). He probably had a closer, more intimate understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was than anyone since. Additionally, after Jesus rose from the dead, John came face to face with the glorified Jesus. I guess you could say he is an authority on Jesus – an eye-witness authority used by God to give us some of the eye-witness testimony, revelation and teaching on Jesus. As an older man, reflecting on all he had witnessed and experienced, he describes Jesus’ coming into the world in the opening paragraph of what we know as the ‘Gospel According to John’. In reflecting on Jesus – who is the exact representation of the being of God – he finds two words that somehow encapsulate or best represent what Jesus coming into the world was like. These are the characteristics of Jesus that stuck out to John; these are the characteristics that seemed to best define what it was like to have the exact representation of the being of God walk around your hood, go fishing with you, go to weddings with you and astound you. The two words he used were GRACE and TRUTH. The way John said it was like this:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Can you see this? Two things that thundered out to John about every single action and word of Jesus was that they were saturated with truth AND saturated with grace.

But I’ve seen that within us there is a magnetism towards either an all-grace model or an all-truth model. The all-grace model says “Anything goes”. It says “All God wants us to do is love and accept”. It says “We cannot be judgmental and confrontational”. It challenges those who know the things of God but seem angry about it. It does its best to show the world that God is a God of love. It challenges religious structures and dogmatism. But the all-truth model says “Jesus is the way the TRUTH and the life’. It cannot withstand weak doctrine and falsehood. It challenges mediocrity and compromise.

But Jesus never gave us the option of being all-grace OR being all-truth. Andy Stanley puts it like this: “In Jesus we get as clear and as close a look as we will ever get of what grace and truth look like in an otherwise graceless world that has turned its back on truth. In Jesus there was no conflict between grace and truth”. Jesus came full of grace AND truth: displaying 100% grace while speaking 100% truth.

Those who couldn’t cope with Jesus were oddly enough the all-grace guys and the all-truth guys. After experiencing and witnessing bucket loads of grace in the miracle of Jesus feeding the five-thousand, Jesus had a couple of short and sharp truths to share which reduced his following from a large crowd to a barren group of nervous followers. On the other hand, I think of a moment were the all-truth crowd were baying for blood and had the entire book of truth to throw at a woman caught in sin. Jesus confounded them by confronting the truth of her situation with such heavenly proportions of grace and forgiveness that in shame, they all departed. Jesus, the one who is the exact representation of the being of God came full of grace AND truth – 100% grace with 100% truth.

I wish that could be said of me. I wish that somehow in interacting with my family, friends, my congregation or on social media that on reflection, people could say that there was bucket loads of truth AND bucket loads of grace. But I don’t always get it right. Stephen gets in the way – Stephen looms large and (embarrassingly) proud, disguising the fact that the one who is full of grace and truth is in me and wants to loom large and powerful. So … I dig into truth, I embrace the one who IS the Truth, I bury myself in the truth of the Word that he gave to me, that reveals him to me …. AND … I reflect on his grace to me, his large and magnificent grace in saving me, his often-subtle grace in shaping me, his grace in the tiniest detail of my every day, and I reflect on the grace he still wants to about to me, how infinite and beautiful it is.

Then … I pray. As I become saturated with grace and truth, may grace and truth increasingly define my words, my actions, my decisions and my interactions (even on social media).