Podcast: Grace and Truth… It’s Both or It’s Neither
Podcast: Grace and Truth… It’s Both or It’s Neither
Grace and Truth…It’s Both, or It’s Neither
Then the scribes and pharisees brought Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery–in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But, Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger as though He did not hear. So, when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And, again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then, those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest, even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
Grace and truth…It’s both, or it’s neither. Let’s pray:
Thank you, Lord, for the truth. As Your word says in John 17:17: Your word is truth. You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as we read in John 14:6. You not only spoke the truth, You speak the truth, You are the Truth. And you are a God of Grace as well. Lord, speak to our hearts. I pray every heart is open this morning to receive just exactly what You have in mind, personally, for each one. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Grace and truth.
As we read in John 1:17, it says: For the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:17, it says: Do not think that I’ve come to abolish the Law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
The truth. Whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. Grace. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. What is grace? What is truth? Truth without grace is not truth. Grace without truth is not grace. Grace and truth meet together in Jesus. What could that look like? What could that look like through our application, personally, in our own lives?
I’m reminded of a time many years ago when a young couple came to me. A sweet young couple, and they wanted to get married. And they wanted to have the wedding fairly soon and they brought their little boy with them. They’d been living together. Actually, I think they were living in her parents’ home. The little boy was so sweet. My heart was moved with compassion. I was asking the Lord, “Lord, how do I respond? This is a precious moment.” Obviously, the child had been conceived and born out of wedlock; but the child was precious. The child was good. The child was wonderful. The child had a destiny. The child was wanted by God, regardless of how the child got here. The child was here. And I’m so glad. Just a sweet little boy that moved my heart. And it didn’t take too long, as we met together, that I started to cry. My heart was moved with compassion. I listened and cared and shared what it would be like to go through premarital preparation with me. It would include the truth. It would include an invitation into God’s design. Even though they had violated God’s design up to that point, we were going to embrace from that point forward what God’s design could be for them. So, I agreed to marry them.
It was not in me to put any restrictions on the wedding. It was a big celebration. She wore a white gown. It was a celebration. It was a celebration of life, and part of what gave me freedom to approach it that way is that I was extending a bridge of grace–something they didn’t deserve, something I don’t deserve, something you don’t deserve–a bridge of grace, something they didn’t deserve, over which the truth could travel. And, subsequently, in the days ahead it did. I knew they were going to have enough challenges, anyway. Being married so young, having a child right from the beginning. They didn’t need me to impose more restrictions and weights upon them. I knew God wanted me to be there for them and offer a path according to His design.
It was a blessed time. That was definitely an example of grace and truth working in concert together. I didn’t compromise the truth. Of course, in coming to me, they probably knew what I was going to be saying, anyway. I’m sure I didn’t surprise them. But, I also led with grace. Extending a bridge of care and compassion, without compromise.
The scribes and pharisees were blinded by their religious pride about the truth. Notice in the first part of the passage that I read: Then the scribes and pharisees brought him a woman caught in adultery, and when they had set her in the midst, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman is caught in adultery, in the very act. Now, Moses, in his law, commands us that such should be stoned… and they were exactly right. That was the truth.
That was the truth, but God through Jesus–Jesus being the second Person of the Trinity–Jesus saw with eyes of truth and grace. Remember, it’s both, or it’s neither. And, at the conclusion of that encounter, He didn’t go soft on the truth, did He? He said, “Go–” Well, first of all, He said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Of course, He could see her heart. He could see a heart of repentance. He could see a heart that was reflecting the extravagant love. Isn’t it interesting: they didn’t recognize Who He was, but she did. And He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Because she had sinned. That was the truth.
Jesus had a lot to say to those who were religious. It’s amazing how He built bridges of care and compassion with those who weren’t religious–the sinner, if you will, like all of us. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. He had firm and stern and truth-filled words for the pharisees, the scribes and others. Isn’t it interesting what it says in John 5:39-40, how Jesus saw the religious and how their pride had produced blindness. Not only blindness for the situation with the woman caught in adultery, but a blindness regarding him: You study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. Their religious pride blinded them from seeing Who He was. Blinded them from seeing the Son of God in their midst. They were studying the scriptures, seeking, and here He was, the One Who had come to fulfill those very scriptures.
Application. Through whose eyes do you see the woman caught in adultery? How would you have responded to her? Through the eyes of the scribes and pharisees? Or through Jesus?
I think of another situation that Mindy and I were involved in many years ago. It was a couple who had again, not been living not according to God’s design: not married, living together. But, they came to us. I think it’s safe to say that they were not devout followers of Jesus at that point. But, we led with grace and we didn’t compromise the truth. We loved on them, we listened, we cared, we called them up higher. We addressed the issues of the heart and relationships where there was unforgiveness and things that needed to be resolved.
God was at work and things moved along very quickly, very wonderfully. They responded. They were very teachable. And I had an interesting experience with them that has been very rare in my ministry life as a pastor for the last 30 years. They may be among the few, few, few who I have invited to depart from living together– Because that’s not God’s design before marriage, for more than one reason. Even if they would say, “Well, we’re not having sexual intimacy with one another; this is a pragmatic thing, you know, a financial thing; whatever, whatever…” But, then I would gently and lovingly, with a smile on my face and love in my heart and not compromising the truth I would say, “Well, are you avoiding all appearance of evil? Are you making provision for the flesh, or are you making provision to do that which is outside God’s design? Are you visiting the scenes of temptation? Because living together under the same roof, male and female, even if your intentions are the best…we’re human. And by God’s design, that way, there is a human attraction. So, to do that, to live together outside of marriage with love in your heart and the intention to spend the rest of your life together is like you’re visiting the scenes of temptation. You’re making provision for the flesh, life outside of Jesus and His design. And you’re not avoiding all appearance of what the Bible would call ‘evil,’ or life outside of His design. So, on those three counts, even if you don’t touch each other, you’re guilty.” That is the truth. Well, they responded– They knew we loved them, they knew we cared, grace and truth was abounding. They might be the only one, or among the few, that were willing to move out from that living arrangement, not live together before marriage, and not have any more sexual intimacy until they were married. Amazing! And Jesus became the reason for that. The best reason. Jesus became the reason. They came to the Lord, they wanted to please Him, and I had the privilege of officiating at their wedding which was a wonderful celebration, by the way, in every way, shape, or form. No hint of shame anywhere, no reason for it anywhere. Free. Forgiven, forgiving and free.
And now, I’m happy to say, they’re gaining altitude all the time. They love the Lord, the Lord is blessing their lives abundantly. I love it. Grace and truth…It’s both, or it’s neither.
Another story. I’d like everybody to stand and let’s read this one together. It’ll be on the screen. Space didn’t permit in your notes. It’s a similar story. It’s about the sinful woman who showed up, uninvited, to Simon the Pharisee’s home. Simon the Pharisee was curious about Jesus and he invited Him to his home. And of course pharisees believed that the law was the way to salvation. Jesus, interestingly enough (though the pharisee didn’t recognize it at the time) is the Way and the sinful woman, of course, had gone astray. So, those are the cast of characters that we see in this particular account. Now, let’s read this together. Since it’s on the screen, we all will have the same version. So, starting with “Now,” all together:
Now, one of the pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him. So, he went to the pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the pharisee’s house, she bought an alabaster jar of perfume and as she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘if this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is, that she is a sinner.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you. Two men owed money to a certain money lender. One owed him 500 denari, and the other 50. Neither of them had money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said, then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house and you did not give me any water for my feet. But, she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman from the time I entered has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to, ‘Who is this that even forgives sins?’
Isn’t that interesting? He saw her heart, didn’t He? Or He wouldn’t have said what He said. She was a reflection of His love, among other things. Extravagant love toward Him in response to His extravagant love and grace and forgiveness extended to her. Probably couldn’t afford the perfume. Wasn’t concerned about Simon saying, “What are you doing here?!” She didn’t seem to be self conscious. Somebody could say, “Well, that took a lot of courage to go,” and I’m thinking, I wonder. I don’t necessarily think it was an issue of courage. I think she was so captivated by the love of the Saviour Who she recognized and Simon the Pharisee didn’t. She did, he didn’t. That she was reflecting His love, His grace, His forgiveness and Who He was. Amazing. How did the pharisee see this woman? Questioned whether Jesus was a prophet or not. If he was really a prophet He’d know this was a sinful woman, he’d tell her to get out of here, he wouldn’t let her touch him. How did the sinful woman see Jesus? How did Jesus see the pharisee and the sinful woman? What do you see?
Jesus had, and has, eyes of truth and grace. Seeing with eyes of destiny. It reminds me of what it says in Hebrews 12:2: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I don’t think that was the joy of emotion. Even though we know that Jesus came to do the will of the Father; they didn’t drag Him to the cross. He didn’t go kicking and screaming; He came to do the will of the Father. That same Jesus that knew Who He was, why He was here and where He was going. That same Jesus who didn’t cry, “Foul! Mock trial! This is a farce! This is unfair!” –Didn’t mention that at all because He knew Who He was, He knew why He was here, knew where He was going, submitted to His Father’s will, submitted to His Father’s mission. So, what is the joy? Who is the joy? I would propose to you today that the joy was not a what it was a who. It was you. It was me. We are the joy set before Him. We are the purchased ones. We are the ones that He came to purchase, that He came to die for, that He came to rescue because we needed rescuing.
The woman caught in adultery knew she needed rescuing; do you? The woman who was the sinful woman that showed up in Simon the Pharisee’s home needed rescuing; do you? You know, it’s not overly relevant if you don’t need to be forgiven.
Let’s imagine for a moment we’re on an airplane and I’m sitting next to someone and they happen to see what I’m reading and it gets their curiosity–reading my Bible, reading a devotional, reading some Biblical or spiritual material and it gets their curiosity and they ask about it and one thing leads to another and I tell a little bit of my story and then I ask them, “Well, how about your story,” and then I ask them, “Is there anything that you need to be forgiven?” And they may say something like, “Well, I’m sure there is, I mean, you know, nobody’s perfect. But, you know, I’m a pretty good person, I’m better than most. I haven’t killed anybody, I haven’t stolen, I haven’t been too bad, so, I don’t know, I suppose I need to be forgiven, but nothing really comes to mind. But, then if I went on to say–and I’m not saying it would be the wisest thing to say–but, if I went on to say, “Well, did you know? I’ve got some good news for you! Jesus came to die for all of your sins! To purchase your life! To give you a fresh start! To bring you in right relationship with Him. To bridge the gap! So you can live forever, you can go to Heaven and live forever, isn’t that good news!?” And that person may say, “You know, that’s really nice of Him. He didn’t really need to do that. But, that was sure nice of Him.” They aren’t necessarily going to be moved, are they? Depending on where their heart is at that time, depending on what’s going on in their life. If everything’s going well and they’ve got a lot of money in the bank and things are going well with business or whatever they do. They’re getting along with everybody, don’t have any problems, per se, they might say something like what I just said: That was nice of Him; He didn’t need to do that.
Well, that wasn’t the attitude of the woman caught in adultery. She knew. She knew she needed rescuing, she knew that there was a debt of sin that could have never been paid on her own. She knew she didn’t need more time. She didn’t need a self-improvement course. She needed grace. She needed something she did not deserve. Wow. Could it be? Could it be that the best way to understand grace is to understand the truth of how lost and sinful and needing rescuing we are. Could it be? Now, I realize that doesn’t sell real well in the world that we live in. Because the world we live in tends to think, well, we need to not talk about sin. We need to not talk about what you’ve done wrong. We need to not talk about those kind of things because you could get discouraged and you could get down on yourself and you could have a poor self image and we don’t want that, so we just won’t mention sin! The hope is when we do! There’s hope when we do, because it helps define the gap. It helps define the mess we’ve made. It helps define the emptiness. It helps define the void. It helps define the lostness. It helps define the need that only He…that only He can fill. That only He can fill.
Ah, I’ve thought a lot about the sinful woman in that scene. Wow. Such extravagant love expressed as a reflexion of His extravagant love. She didn’t need much coaching, did she? You know, in this present series, part of what we’re sharing with you are some ideas, and occasionally we’ll have someone come up and share what they’re doing and that’s wonderful. That’s great, that’s fine, that’s personal. And, hopefully, that will inspire and impart, or bring to mind, some divine ideas for us. But, I can’t help but think, at the same time that’s true and valuable and important, I can’t help but think that for the heart that has been rescued, the heart that has experienced grace, because of the truth that apart from Him we’re doomed, we’re damned, that we deserve hell, I can’t imagine that a heart that has been captivated by grace needs much coaching! Needs much inspiration [laughter] because, as it says in II Corinthians the fifth chapter: the love of God compels us. I love that word. Compelled. Are you compelled today? Or has your heart grown weary? Has your heart grown tired? Has it grown cold? Has it grown indifferent? Has it grown unmotivated? Are you settling for the status quo? Are you settling for Christian duty? Are you settling for just trying to live a good, disciplined life, doing more for God, getting involved here, there, wherever. Or are you compelled? Are you motivated? Are you captivated by the love of the Savior? Are you captivated by the love of the One Who rescued us from death?
This is not an overstatement. I’m not trying to impress you with false humility or anything like that. I stand before you with honesty and a clear conscience when I say what I’m going to say: I deserve to be burning in hell right now. I deserve hell. [laughter] But, I’m so thankful, I’m so grateful, I’m so captivated by grace. Something I don’t deserve, that Jesus has provided, has given to me. I’m not thinking about failing again. I know I will. I don’t want to, but, predictably I will fall short again. I don’t want to, though. I’m not settling for that. I know it’s possible not to sin with the Savior living within, Who’s Lord and Master and lived a sinless life here and His same life lives in us, to live sinlessly here. It is possible! But, predictably, I’ll fall short. And when I do, there’s an Advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ the Righteous Who will intercede for me, Who, His blood will continually cleanse me from all the unrighteousness. He is my only Hope. He is my only Hope. [congregation cheers]
So, it’s a great gift of grace to be convinced of that. And, if you’re not convinced, then I pray you will. Jesus had eyes to see the joy set before Him with eyes of destiny and the joy is you and me. That’s how I see people now, speaking for myself. I’m not oblivious to sin–mine or somebody else’s, past or present, but I see with grace and truth, with eyes of destiny. And that affects how I see, relate, and engage with those who are lawbreakers. Truth lawbreakers, if you will. How do you see them? How do you relate to them? How do you engage with them? Those who, observably, are truth lawbreakers. How do you relate to them? How do you engage with them? How do you see them?
Now, the most recent example I have to share with you is someone that I run into often in this particular place of business, which will remain nameless, and had some great conversations with this person and he often has shared with me how much he appreciates our spontaneous conversations because I come in for one purpose and I end up talking to him with God’s purposes in mind, I believe. And he has shared with me that he always feels so uplifted and encouraged, and recently–this is someone I have not had any history with before, until recently–he said, “Would you be willing to meet with my fiance and myself and go through premarital preparation?” I said, “Sure, I’d love to.” And then, at a later time, now he’s brought that up a couple of times, we haven’t started yet. And then, most recently, he said, “Well, we’re going to get married. We’ve set the date. Would you officiate?” I said, “Yes, I’d be honored!” He told me the date, I knew I’d be around. I’d be in town. So, I’d love to. It would be a privilege. And then he said, “Oh, there’s something else I need to tell you. My fiance is pregnant and she’s going to have a baby in February.” What would you have said? You don’t know, because you weren’t in that situation. May God give you grace. But, here’s what I said, without batting an eye, without the smile on my face evaporating, with love in my heart, with compassion in my heart, when he told me that she was pregnant; going to deliver in February, and when they get married in the fall, the baby will already be there, and he wants me to help them prepare for marriage, he wants me to officiate at their wedding, and when he told me this new bit of information, I said, “Great!” I said, “Then you’ll just have a double blessing to celebrate!” Who does that sound like? Does that sound like a pharisee?
Now, when I start meeting with them, I’m not going to compromise the truth. But, standing there in the place of business was not the appropriate place to say anything other than what I said. I wasn’t compromising, though. I meant it in my heart. Because the baby will be a man or woman of destiny. And I believe it’s a divine connection that the Lord has brought me together with this young man. And I believe it’s divine fever that He’s given me to have influence with him. So, right now, I’m relating to him with a bridge of grace. Now, he asked me about what I do, and when he does, I don’t compromise, tell him what we do when we go overseas or in the cities or wherever. I don’t hold back; I tell him what we do. Interestingly enough, he says, “Great, wonderful! That sounds exciting!” I’m extending a bridge of grace. Not absent of truth, but a bridge of grace that I’m building that the truth one day will be able to travel over. Because when we start meeting, I’m going to be inviting him into God’s design. I’m going to be inviting them both into God’s design. No shame, no blame. I’m not going to make it feel like, “Oh, you know, this baby being here, you know, that’s going to be a black mark, that’s going to be a stain.” Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus came not only to forgive us our sins, but to take the stain of sin away.
The stain. The stain. The stain. His word is: Shame off you; I’ve paid it all! That can be. That can be, and that’s what I long for in our environment here and everything that I’m a part of, as far as it depends on me. I want to cultivate in my participation, as far as it depends on me, any relationship, any church involvement–Fresh Start or whatever, whomever. I want to be about cultivating a relational environment where love and forgiveness abound and thrive. And the truth thrives, with grace and truth, and that shame cannot survive. Because, if it’s shame because of sin, that will be repented of and that will take care of it. But the shame of false sin won’t survive. It will be an environment of celebration. Because we’re different, aren’t we? We’re all different. And that’s okay; that’s wonderful. And there’s only One Who’s perfect. He’s the One. And we get to know each other, we get to do life together. And we have the opportunity of getting bumped by each other; bumped by, offended by, hurt by, or have unmet expectations with people inside the church and outside the church. That’s life, isn’t it? Opportunity to pass those tests, to live vertically in the land of the gap. Because there’s always a gap, because there’s only One like Him.
But think of how we can live. Think of how we can learn to love. I’m so glad; I’m so thankful that my heart has been broken again and again by those who– family members, for example, in the past, that have made choices that have broken my heart. But God has used that to give me His heart of love and compassion, of truth and grace, and He’s reminded me that he who has been forgiven much–and I have, and I’ve got revelation of the much–loves much. Loves much. That’s why I love you, I love Jesus, I’m a lover. I didn’t used to be a lover, just ask my wife. I used to be a “give to get,” at best. But now, I love to love and live to give. That’s a God thing! That’s not a Steve Peterson thing. I didn’t get that from my dad, nobody mentored me or modeled me into that; the Lover moved in. And He’s the God of grace and truth. Truth and grace, hope and forgiveness. And I’m living out of the background–though it’s in the far background and it’s far removed from me, it’s not who I am–of my sins, my failures, my much that has been forgiven. I can identify with the sinful woman. I can identify with the sinful woman who is captivated by His love, is captivated by His forgiveness, who is amazed at the grace. It’s incredible! How could it be? To save a wretch like me! If He can save me, He can save anybody. I really believe that. So, it’s from that heart that I say to the person who just informed me, “Well, my fiance is going to have a baby in February,” “Great. Sounds like a double blessing to me.”
What’s God up to in your life? How would you respond? Before you leave this building, I pray that you’ll talk to the Lord and share with one other person one grace and truth takeaway from this message today that you can apply in your life this week. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to live, forgiven and forgiving, a life of grace and truth, seeing people with eyes of destiny, seeing how wonderful they are in Him and how they could be in Him as He rescues them and they let Him rescue them and they come alive in Him. All for His glory. He deserves another worshipper. He deserves another worshipper. That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not just thinking of getting them out of the mess they’re in so they feel better and they do better. I’m all for that, but you know what really motivates me? This King that I’m captivated by deserves more worshippers. That’s why I want them to experience grace and truth. Let’s pray as the worship team comes. They’re going to lead us in a couple more songs and after that, feel free to come. As Dan mentioned earlier, and as I’ll mention now, for any reason that you want to come and repent of running your life, if that be the case, maybe today is the day. Or a bit of encouragement you need. Repent, turn from, get off the throne of your life. Give Him the keys to your life. Give Him what he deserves. He deserves to be worshipped, He deserves to be loved, He deserves to be obeyed. He is worthy. Maybe you need encouragement. Maybe you’re going through a tough time. We’ll have the ministry team come forward. After we’ve sung and worshipped through a couple more songs, ministry team, come. Others, come. Bless you, bless you, bless you.