The summer is drawing to a close and students from around the world are gearing up to return to their studies. We are prayerfully moving into the new school year with anticipation. Our office here in Ramona has been busy preparing for the changes and challenges that are sure to come. We ask for your continued support as we endeavor to take “the whole word to the whole world.”
To follow we have several articles by yours truly and our good friend, Dr. Malcolm Webber. Then we have some important information from Vision Publishing . First ….
The Importance of Grace and Truth
By Dr. Stan DeKoven
Benjamin lied. He lied as a habit; often lying when he didn’t need to. In many ways, this was understandable, considering his early life of abandonment by parents,and his rejection by peers. He had bounced around from foster home to foster home, leaving him feel less than loved and wanted.
In his late teens, Benjamin had a true encounter with Christ. He was, in his own words, “radically saved.” Soon after he joined a church and enjoyed initial forgiveness but still had trouble grasping the full concept of grace – let alone truth.
As he grew in the Lord, Ben settled into the church. As is common for most believers, the issues of life, rooted in false beliefs, born from his early abuse and neglect, emerged. His propensity to lie when convenient and inconvenient resurfaced. He knew truth and The Truth, but struggled to walk in it, frequently suffering the consequences of the choices he made. But in time truth won, as an atmosphere of grace in his church allowed the former liar to enjoy the freedom of becoming a truth seeker and liver; with the help of loving friends who confronted him with truth in grace.
It is this atmosphere of grace, where truth seeking and living out the truth is needed today. Believers need time to work through life’s problems, and the church is the perfect place, designed by God, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and grace and truth.
Grace and Truth: The Twin Towers of the Father’s Heart
Terrorists destroyed many lives on September 11 of 2001. As the twin towers in New York tumbled down, the terrorists were guilty of taking the lives of many innocent victims. They also robbed us of important symbols of American prosperity, power, and influence. This was indeed a crushing blow to the people of this great nation, and it left many feeling vulnerable and afraid.
Yet the terrorists were unsuccessful in destroying this nation’s identity. The towers that represented success, power, and prosperity may be gone, but this nation’s identity remains intact. It is still based upon a fundamental truth that continues today, for we are still “One Nation under God.”
Ultimately, as much as we love this nation, our primary allegiance must still remain to our creator who is Jesus Christ. We have no king but King Jesus, and all of our national allegiance must be subordinate to the Kingdom of God.
There is no terrorist attack big enough to destroy our identity in Him. Our salvation and our destiny, both as individuals and as a body, remain, regardless of what tomorrow holds. Even if this great country ceased to exist, our identity would still remain as believers in Him.
As we pause each year to pay tribute to the lives that were lost in this horrendous attack, let us not be so quick to forget the towers that remain. They are the twin towers of our Father’s heart, that is, grace and truth.
Jesus, who is full of grace and truth, revealed to us the very nature and character of God our Father. He did this by the words that He spoke and the deeds that He did. These two characteristics, grace and truth, are to be seen in the church, in our homes, in our work places and in our personal lives.
Think about it. Grace, the unmerited, but extremely costly grace of God is exactly what the world is searching for, although unwittingly at times. They do not need our judgment or our criticism, but our genuine love and acceptance. After all, they were created in the image of God. They also need the truth, the truth that salvation is found in Jesus Christ.
For most of my life I have tried to find the balance, if there is such a thing, between grace and truth. Please note I did not mean grace and law, but that is often the way believers see things. In fact, grace and truth stand side by side with one another, not in contrast or competition. Grace is one of the most marvelous words known to man. Truth is not just another word, nor is it another religious concept. Truth is the embodiment of the thoughts and intents of God, for Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Grace and truth, in essence, are partners; working together to assist us as people to be everything God has already declared we are his children and his sons.
One question often asked by new, some immature, and some coming out of religion believers is “can I sin as much as I want, knowing that all I have to do is confess, and God forgives”? Well, the answer to that is yes and no…but more on that as we continue.
God does not change in His intentions or purposes, nor does His word. God’s truth is the sum total of all that He is and all that He shall ever be forever and ever. Who could hope to define God? Words are insufficient to accomplish such a task; however we do know one word that attempts to enlighten us to His nature, for the word says that He is love. So what is love and how does love express the nature of God? Well, as we will explore, it is related to grace and truth.
If God is indeed the maker of Heaven and Earth (and we know that He is) then how does God’s truth pave the way to living life fully, now and forever? Of course, the bible simply affirms that Jesus is the truth, but how do we relate to truth, recognizing that as humans we are almost constantly in violation of some aspect of truth, often suffering the consequences for not obeying the truth. In many ways, truth is, in that it is contained in all that Jesus Christ is…was…and is to come…the Almighty.
Without His grace we would die separated eternally from God. While truth always affirms the authority and sovereignty of God, we know that God is infinitely merciful, and for those that know Him, he clothes us with His grace; what the bible calls a priestly garment of righteousness. It makes us acceptable before God, who has standards that we can only meet through His grace. When we repent of our sin, come into a correct relationship with the Lord, because of the wonderful grace of God provided through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we receive life. Therefore we can stand before a Holy God, facing the Truth without condemnation or shame because of the garment that makes us acceptable and holy before Him. All of this is a work of Grace.
So we see that God’s grace, mercy, and truth knows no limits nor does His love. God is a limitless God that defies explanation or definition. He simply is. As He so aptly stated in regards to Moses question, He is simply the “I AM.”
14 “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM;” and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:14 (NASB)
He is who He is, He will be who He will be, and He has chosen to pour out His grace and truth on all mankind in and through His son Jesus Christ.
The goal of grace and truth was for a disciple of Christ to grow in:
Love (Agape), which meant both a change in affection and orientation, from self to God and His purposes, and also from selfish ambition to compassion, or love that is acted upon.
Perception or Thinking. Along with a change in the heart of a person, there should also be a change of thinking, which is what Paul calls a good conscience. This comes from a purified heart, one cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and by the washing of the water of the word. A good conscience is essentially a God consciousness, having the mind of Christ. This develops as we repent (change our thinking from the world to Christ and His word) and believe what the word of God says to us in our daily walk with Him.
Behavior or Lifestyle. Finally, there should be an outworking of faith, which is a change of behavior. Paul calls this a sincere faith. Another way of stating this is that a believer exposed to the word of God, over time, should change from the inside out. His heart first, then his thought process, and then behavior.
Much of church history has focused on external change which is important, but should be the result of inward change, not in place of it.
Being Who You Already Are
Another way of discussing the results of Grace and Truth applied to our lives can be seen in Paul’s writings to the church in Colossi.
Col 2:9-15. It reads:
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead; And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities He made public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” (Notice the author’s emphasis.)
Please note the tense of Paul’s writing. It is past tense, the significance of which is enormous for the believer. Because of all Christ has done for us, having our sin nailed to the cross on our behalf, we now can live full and gloriously free from the guilt and shame of the past. We can walk in victory through the empowerment of the Spirit in us. This truth is difficult for many believers to grasp.
If fully comprehended, this reality leads us to being who we already are; free, cleansed, forgiven, loved, and graced! All of these benefits are given to us. It then flows from a shared life, for we must remember we share this together, not just individually. It helps to remember Christ is in us, and He is the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
Because He lives in us by grace, as we walk in truth, we can live a balanced life, (Luke 2:52). This balanced life was essential for our Lord Jesus, who grew in wisdom and knowledge and in favor (grace) with God and man. As He grew, so can we naturally grow, by His grace lived out in truth. For He has called each of us to live fully with a…
Kingdom Perspective (Rom 14:17), where our focus is always on living right (we have been made righteous, and now must live right as He gives us strength), walking in peace (Christ is our peace, and we can live at peace in the midst of any storm) while filled with the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. In other words, we can grow in:
Freedom and Maturity, going beyond childhood and adolescence to maturity or fatherhood is truly possible. As John Grubb stated in his teachings in Japan, “Fatherhood has forgotten his own growth, is free from his own concerns, and is occupied in service to others. God doesn’t live for Himself. God is the everlasting servant of His own creation in infinite grace, and in an endless stream for self-giving. In His infinite grace He is concerned about us. And so, to know Him, that is from the beginning, is to have His exact character, and to have that by nature (our new nature in Christ).” (For more on this, see 1 John 2:12-14 and my book, Journey to Wholeness).
In Christ, we are (now) new creations, the old things have (past tense) passed away, behold all things (in Christ and in us) are new (2 Cor. 5:17). The goal in the Christian life, and the difficulty for most of us, is walking out what we have already received in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With God’s grace, and as we walk in truth, all things are possible – if we believe.
Grace and truth represent the fullness of who God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is. As the One representing the Father in the earth, Jesus manifested both grace, that is, God’s love and favor for all mankind, offering salvation to the whole world, and also the fullness of truth – The Truth. Without both components of grace and truth operating in our lives we are liable to become unbalanced, unstable and less effective in the Kingdom of God.
Of course, God is ultimately interested in our success in all aspects of life, especially our spiritual life. It is truly by grace that we are saved, and by grace that we live. It is in truth that we walk to please the Lord in all that we do. In every way, we choose to live a life of truth so we can enjoy the benefits of grace received…and avoid the consequences of sin.
So, back to the question. Can we continue to sin without consequences? Heavens no! From my view, the consequences are not eternal, but strongly affect our ability to fulfill our purpose in the Kingdom of God. So can we sin, so grace might abound? Again, heavens no! But again, who would want to. By nature, that is, new nature in Christ, as a new creation, we desire naturally to be like our Father, by the blood of Jesus, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, sons. So, let grace and truth fill your hearts and minds…and enjoy the full blessings of life in Christ.