Grace + Truth = Love
Text: John 8:1-11
Bottom Line: Most of us lean towards grace OR truth. Jesus was full of grace AND truth.
Text in red indicates that it is a slide.
The illustration for this series requires a large rubber band.
Good Morning Real Life! Last week we kicked off a series called Tension. If you missed last week I would encourage you to hop online or go grab the podcast and listen to last weeks message.
I’m really excited for this series because I think this Tension between grace and truth is a really important reminder for us all. Because this isn’t something we naturally drift towards. We’ve got to be intentional about setting the course to get to the right tension.
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to live in this tension. There’s no place in my life that I lack this tension more then when I am driving in my car. The second I get in my car grace goes right out the window, my wife can attest to that… Anyone relate? I know the rules and the customs of the road and if you aren’t following them I got NO grace for you. I lack that tension in the car.
But every now and then I will make a mistake while driving, rare, but it happens. I’ll cut someone off, pull out in front of a car I didn’t see, or not pay attention to my speed. I make a mistake and someone honks at me and flips me off. And then a strange thing happens. For the rest of my drive when I see someone do something wrong I don’t get mad. I don’t honk. I don’t get up on their bumper. I let it go. It’s in those moments I realize the importance of living in that tension of Grace and Truth because I see how out of whack I am.
In John 1:14 it says Jesus came full of grace and truth. But problem is in our lives most of us lean towards grace OR truth. (Show Rubber Band) Here’s the reality, we need this tension. Because truth without grace breeds self-righteousness and legalism. Grace without truth breeds deception and moral compromise. The best expression of love is found in the tension between grace and truth. And that’s why we are doing this series… Because we want to know how to live in the tension between grace and truth.
The truth is we are really bad at this tension. We aren’t very good at living in this tension. Sometimes we don’t offer grace to people in our lives that need it. And sometimes we don’t tell people the truth of their actions. But we aren’t alone, we aren’t the first ones to struggle with this tension.
Throughout the Bible people have struggled with this tension. Maybe the one we can relate to most is the first century Church of Corinth. They struggled with this tension as we do. And if you were to read 1st and 2nd Corinthians it would probably look a whole lot like a mirror. They struggled with very similar issues that we are facing today. Questions about church leadership, sexual immorality, and how to live in a culture but not be influenced by the culture were just some of the issues they were facing.
They leaned towards grace and but often ignored the truth. They just kept playing the Jesus card. Jesus loves me, I’m saved by grace… Which is true… But then they go on to say, therefore I can do anything I want. Does that sound familiar?
I can get drunk on Friday night because I’m saved by grace. I can sleep with whoever I want because I’m saved by grace. I can blow up my family. I can cheat that person out of their money. I’m saved by grace. I got a get out of hell free card. I can do what I want, when I want, to who I want. And who are you to judge me? I’m saved by grace.
The church in Corinth lost their tension. They were full of grace, (Show Rubber Band) but not of truth. The Church is called to be full of grace and truth. We must live in the tension between. Otherwise we will end up in an unhealthy spot.
Jesus came full of grace and truth… But we often pick grace or truth.
Here’s what this looks like..
(Show Rubber Band) On one extreme you have grace… A lot of Christians believe it doesn’t matter what the Bible says. It doesn’t matter what a person does or doesn’t do. It doesn’t matter how a person chooses to live their life. Because at the end of the day there’s grace. A lot of people believe that God is so loving, so forgiving, that truth doesn’t matter anymore. Or at least matter enough for me to change the way I’m living. Here’s what a lot of people say… I don’t care what the Bible says. I don’t care what God says is better. I’m going to do what I want and hope in the end grace lets me get away with it. It’s all grace, no truth. No tension.
(Show Rubber Band) Here’s the flip side… A lot of people look at what Jesus said is truth and focus only on that. Here’s what the Bible says about truth, here’s what God says is the best way. So many people take this truths and load them up. And then fire them at unsuspecting people. They condemn other people based of a truth they found in the Bible. They use truth to tear others down. But in that process they often get torn down themselves. A lot of people believe that if you don’t live by that truth, God will see through your little charade and see that your a fake and you won’t get any grace because you were never a Christian to began with. Every time you make a mistake, every time you sin, every night when you lay your head down you wonder if your saved. I messed up last night, maybe my salvation is in question. Maybe I don’t have any grace because I was never saved in the first place. It’s all truth, no grace. No Tension.
Fortunately Jesus doesn’t teach either of those extremes. The Church the Jesus came to establish isn’t found in either of these extremes… It’s in the middle. (Show Rubber Band) It’s not either or, it’s both. It’s grace and truth. The Church needs that tension. If the tension is missing the church is lacking.
We are going to look at a story of Jesus today and I think this story best illustrates how Jesus was full of Grace and Truth. Turn your Bibles over to John 8: Go ahead and turn over to John 8, let me set the scene a little bit… Jesus is teaching a group of people at the temple when all of a sudden a women is brought before him. This women was caught in the act of adultery, not accused, caught in the act… This is a set up, a trap. They probably followed this couple around, saw them eat, get drinks, and when they went back to the hotel room they waited a few minutes then busted down the door. They threw the sheets off and grabbed her and drug her out of bed… and left him… Not fair. And brought her before Jesus.
These guys bring this women before Jesus, which is probably the worst day of her life. She’s standing before Jesus, probably wrapped in only a sheet… And then they start quoting scripture to Jesus. Which is never a good idea… Jesus did you know the Bible says this… Yeah I wrote it… So they are quoting this scripture and telling Jesus this women was caught in the act of adultery. And they are reminding Jesus that what this women did is a sin. Not only a sin, it was a crime and one punishable by death. Leviticus 16, anyone caught in adultery can be stoned to death.
That’s the truth. The women broke God’s rules for sexual purity. This women was caught breaking a law, she’s blown up her marriage and probably blown up some other marriage in the process. She’s in the wrong. Here’s Biblical truth. The wage of sin is death. That’s in the Bible, Romans 6, you cannot argue that. The wage of all sin is death. Not just this sin, but all sin. So these guys say Jesus what should we do with her? They are trying to trap him, but Jesus knows what they are trying to do.
Check out this interaction…
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. John 8:2-6
Jesus doesn’t even justify their answer yet, instead he just starts writing in the sand…The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote in the dirt because that’s not the point. I have some theories. But the more important piece is what he says next.
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. John 8:7-8
That’s what he said, but it’s really really important that we know what Jesus did not say. Because a lot of us impose things on what Jesus said that we think should be in the Bible. Here’s what he did not say… He didn’t look back at the crowd and say come on it’s not really a big deal. Maybe back in old fashion Moses’ day but not in our modern 1st century times. We’re cool, come on guys it’s not a big deal. So don’t worry about it. With all the other problems in the world right now do you really think this is a big deal? I mean people are getting nailed to crosses everyday is it really a big deal who this girl sleeps with? This isn’t a big deal, go home… That’s all grace and no truth and Jesus didn’t say that.
Here’s an other thing he didn’t say… Give her a break. give her a break. It’s not really her fault. You don’t know her story like I do. You see she’s in a bad marriage with a guy she shouldn’t have married in the first place. Her husband doesn’t treat her very well and she still has some daddy issues she’s dealing with. So she fell in love with this guy that she met at the watering hole last night. For once she felt good about herself and he makes her happy and he promised her all these things and she believed it. So it’s really not all her fault.
He didn’t say that… He didn’t say come we all make mistakes. She’s only 19. It was prom, it was college, we all remember those days. He didn’t say that. Maybe you wish he did, but he didn’t…
Jesus also didn’t say you’re right. She was caught in a sin and the wages of that sin is death… So let’s do it. If you are looking for someone to cast the first stone, I’m in. I’ll blow the whistle and we will on go after her. Let’s give her what she deserves. Which is true, there’s bible verses to back it up. But that’s not what he said. That’s all truth and no grace and Jesus didn’t say that.
What he said was… If there is someone else in this religious crowd who hasn’t committed a sin. Maybe not this sin, but a sin that the Bible tells us not to do. If someone like that exists in this crowd, go ahead, by all means, throw the first stone.
But watch what happens…
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. John 8:9
Why did they go home? They were right. They had truth on their side, they had a Bible verse to back it up. Why didn’t they just point to the verse and step into the role of jury, judge, prosecutor, and executioner. What stopped them? The answer is truth..
That same truth that brought them to that place where they thought they had the right to attack what others have done wrong in their lives also stopped them dead in their tracks. When Jesus acknowledged that what they said is true. He also acknowledge an other bigger truth. That truth is, if those are the rules you want to play by, we can play by those rules. But are you sure you want to do that?
We can use truth as a weapon to destroy other people. We can use truth to destroy her, but when we are done with her. Your next. That’s truth. Everyone gets what they deserve. Anybody want to play by those rules? The whole crowd gets what they deserve. Nope, I’m out, and the whole crowd dropped their stones and went home. They wanted to condemn her with truth, but once they realized that that truth didn’t just condemn her it also condemned them they were out.
Let’s be honest, you and I do this all the time in our lives… I’ll use myself as an example… I can be the biggest hypocrite. When I see someone else make a mistake I am SO quick to throw truth at them. But when I’m the one that makes a mistake I want people to offer me grace. Just like when I’m in the car… I judge with truth, but when I am being judged I want to be judged with grace.
Be honest, that’s you too isn’t it?
When I’m confronted with the truth that although they might be wrong, but I’m guilty too. I put down my stones and walk away. I don’t want to play by those rules. Because if they are guilty, I’m guilty too.
Listen, That truth that you are using to condemn that person in your family, or your workplace, or in that guy in the store.. That truth will also condemn you. If you want to bring truth into the picture then everyone gets what they deserve. When we use truth as a weapon, when we pick up stones to condemn, the ultimately ricochet back and hit us.
Many of us stop reading the story here… The take away is nobody is perfect so don’t throw stones. We all make mistakes so don’t judge me. But Jesus isn’t done. He’s not done yet. We can’t ignore what Jesus says next.
The crowd is now gone and it’s just Jesus and the woman standing there and this is what Jesus says…
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11
This is important, this is part of the story that often gets left out. Jesus said neither do I condemn you, the one person in the crowd that is qualified to condemn her didn’t. And listen, He could have. He could have picked up that stone and done it. He could have, but he didn’t. That’s called grace.
Grace is getting what you need, and not what you deserve.
Here’s what Jesus is saying… I could condemn you. But instead I’m going to give you something better. I’m going to give you what you NEED, not what you DESERVE.
But again the conversation isn’t over yet. Because Jesus is loving, because Jesus wants what’s best for her, he can’t leave it there. So he says “Go and sin no more”. In other words, from now on you can’t do this anymore. You can’t live your life like this anymore. What was she doing? She was living her life apart from what God says was best for her. She was sinning.
Jesus is telling her I could condemn you, but I won’t. Because I want something better for you. But you’ve got to stop, you’ve got to stop living your life that way. Because it’s not the best I have for you.
Jesus offered this women grace. And he offers us grace today too. Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 12 that no matter what we’ve done, no matter how bad our sin is that God’s grace is big enough to cover it. Jesus’ grace covers you. But grace is not permission to keep on sinning.
Listen some of us in this room that are doing something we know we shouldn’t be and we’ve been doing it for a long time. We’ve let this sin live in our lives. Jesus doesn’t want to condemn you, he’s not going to use truth to throw stones at you. If you were to lean into Jesus here’s what I think he’d say to you… I’m going to give you what you NEED, not what you DESERVE. Because I want something better for you. But you’ve got to stop, you’ve got to stop living your life that way. Because it’s not the best I have for you.
So let me ask you… Are you accepting God’s grace in your life to cover your mistakes? Or are you trying to fix them yourself? Are you listening to God’s truth in your life? Or are you using grace to get away with sin? How about this… When you encounter someone that is caught up in something wrong, how do you interact with them? Do you offer them grace and truth? Or do you land on grace or truth?
Here’s what this looks like in my life… My wife and I often approach issues from the two extremes. I approach with truth and she approaches with grace. Here’s how it plays out. When my wife screws up, when she makes a mistake, which isn’t often but it does happen. My first reaction is to point out all the reasons she was wrong. Point out the intricacies of her mistakes and what she should have done instead. Most of the time I’m right, I got truth on my side. She is in the wrong and I am right. I got the truth and I can pronounce judgement on her because I’m right.
My wife on the other hand approaches things very differently. When I make a mistake, which almost NEVER happens… Her first reaction is to brush it off. To say it doesn’t matter, it’s no big deal. I forgive you, don’t worry about it. Which might sound nice, but our job as Christians is not to make each other happy it’s to make each look more like Jesus. I need that grace she gives me, but I also need truth so I don’t make the same mistake again… And trust me, I will…
The best expression of love is found in the tension between grace and truth. If I never offer my wife grace, I’m just a jerk. If my wife never offers me truth she will never help me grow. We need grace and truth. We need to follow what Jesus modeled. If you look back at this interaction you notice Jesus first offered the woman grace and then told her the truth. In that order. That’s a good model for us to follow. Offer people grace, and then tell them to truth. Not in a condemning way. But in a I want what is best for you.
When someone in your life group is caught in sin you need to pour grace into their lives, but don’t forget to tell them the truth. When your kids disobey for the thousandth time, they need to know the truth, but they also desperately need your grace before they can hear that truth. When you find out your co-worker is talking behind your back, you’ve got to approach them full of grace, but also tell them the truth.
Let’s offer people grace when they screw up. Then let’s tell people the truth, not to condemn, but out of love because we want the best for them.
We cannot shy away from truth and we cannot be stingy with our grace. We must be full of grace AND truth.
Jesus in this story perfectly displays that he is full of grace and truth. And here’s the application for us today… We need to be too. We’ve got to be full of grace AND truth.
So what’s that mean? It means this… Because I love you, I must to tell you the truth. If you love someone you have to tell them the truth. If you believe that God’s way is the best way for our lives then we need to tell others the truth. But what most of us say is because I love you, I’m just going to let you do what you want… That’s not love.
But that’s not all… Because I love you, I must offer you grace. Because God loved us he sent us Jesus so that we could have grace. Jesus came so that we could be saved from the untruth that is in our life. Because I love you I must offer you grace too. That has to be the mindset of Christians, Because I love you, I must offer you grace and truth.
When asked what the greatest commandment is Jesus said love God, love others. All Christians are called to love God with all there heart. And out of the overflow of that love for God we love all people with the love he first had for us. The best expression of love is found in the tension between grace and truth.
Love The Church
This love starts inside these walls. We need to be telling each other the truth and offering grace to each other. But here’s what normally happens instead… We either tell the truth or offer grace.
Maybe you struggle to tell someone the truth when you see sin in their life. Maybe you are the opposite. Maybe you have no problem pointing to the truth, but you don’t do the grace part. We need both.When we see sin in a Christians life we must call it out. We’ve got to say you know what, what you are doing is not okay and here’s why. It’s not God’s best for you. But Jesus is offering you grace so that you can get past this, I’m not here to condemn I’m here to help.
It’s saying I’m not going to throw stones, I’m not going to judge, I’m not going to condemn. I’m going to give you grace and then tell you the truth, because I love you.
There’s this belief floating around in culture today that if you disagree with someone you don’t love them. That’s simply not true. You don’t have to agree with someone on every issue to love them. In fact you can point out something that is a sin in people’s life and do it out of love. Not telling someone they are wrong is not love and respect, it’s the opposite of that.
That’s what Jesus is calling us to do. To love each other full of grace and truth.
It starts inside these walls, but it doesn’t end here.
Love The World
We’ve got to take this expression outside these walls. Our co-workers, our friends, our neighbors, the homeless on the corner, the kids in our schools, the stranger at the store, and people all around the world need to know this love. They need to know the truth and they need to be offered grace.
That’s our mission. In John 3:16 we are told the God LOVED the world so much that he sent his son. Why? So that we may know the truth and so that we could have grace. Before Jesus ascended into heaven he told us to go into all the world and tell others what he told us.
That is why we have decided in the fall to go to El Salvador. We want to bring God’s love in a very tangible way to a place that desperately needs Jesus. Why El Salvador? Well we’re already involved there. As a Church we’ve been giving there for years. As a congregation we support over 100 kids from there. We are already bring God’s love there.
On September 30th of this year we are physically going there. Meeting the people we are helping, love on the kids there, see the area they live, visit there homes, have a FUN DAY with the kids, hold a VBS for 400-500 kids, see the local Church, and do some service projects. Listen I cannot think of a better opportunity for you to grow in your walk with God and take God’s love to the other side of the world.
I promise you, if you go on this trip you will have a life changing experience, grow in your faith, and see God move in tangible ways.
If you are one of the people that supports a child this opportunity is one you cannot pass up, you will get to meet your child, their family, and have a day to just have fun with them.
Here’s my ask, before you write this off and say nah, not for me. Go home pray about it. Ask God if this is something he wants you to do. I promise you if you go on this trip your faith will be changed and you will be revitalized. If you are interested in this trip come find me, give me call, shoot me an email. I would love to chat with you about this trip. If you are interested there is an Info Packet/Application at the Info Center or by the door as you walk out.
(Show Rubber Band) Jesus came full of grace and truth. Jesus points us to the truth, here’s the best way for your life anything short of that a sin. And Jesus offers us grace in our mistakes, not a get out of hell card, but a way back into right relationship with him.
Many of us in this room lean too much towards truth. We use our truth to condemn people, often including ourselves. Even though we are right, we got a Bible verse to back it up, that’s not love. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t leave you to the consequences of your sin?
Many of us in this room focus lean too far towards grace. We excuse our actions and other peoples actions. It’s not a big deal, Jesus will forgive you, I can do what I want who are you to judge. Aren’t you glad that Jesus wants what is best for you? That’s why he points us toward truth. That’s why he tells us to go and sin no more. Not because he’s a killjoy, but because he wants what is best for us.
We are going to take communion in a few minutes. As you take the bread and juice and reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for you. Spend a few minute thanking God for the grace he poured out for you. We all deserved condemnation. But rather then giving us what we deserve, he gave us what we desperately need. Jesus. After you thank God for the grace he gives us. Ask him what truth he wants to reveal to you.