Do you ever have those Sunday mornings in church when it feels as if the preacher is speaking directly to you? Those moments when you just look up and smile because this was exactly the message you needed to hear today? Yesterday was one of those days for me. It had been a rough morning. I had legitimate frustrations with some of my nearest and dearest. Frustrations that I allowed to affect my mood much more than I should have.
As I stood in church yesterday, songs of praise all around me, my heart was troubled. I was deeply disappointed with the actions of my loved ones. I wanted to let it go and worship God like He deserved, but it was difficult.
You see, I struggle with perfectionism. I set impossibly high standards for myself and for others and then I get much too disappointed when reality sets in and the performance doesn't match my expectations. It can be difficult for me to extend grace; and even more difficult for me to apply grace to myself.
Suddenly, as I looked around me at all the people who were gathered together to seek God, something shifted inside. The Holy Spirit illuminated truth in my heart. The truth He spoke was this : we are all broken. Broken people in desperate need of Jesus, and in desperate need of God's grace. We all crave the redemption and restoration that only our Creator can bring. Whether we realize it or not.
How could I expect perfect behavior from someone else when I was so far from perfect myself? Though I may be further along in my journey with God and, as a result, more spiritually mature, we all start in the same place. The place of absolute desperation and reliance on God's grace and power to save us and transform us into the image of Christ.
And of course, as God often does, that was the exact message preached following praise and worship. We were asked to recall who we were and where we were in life when God called us. This was a reminder to myself that I brought nothing to the table but a messed up life when I came to Jesus. It was God and God alone who saved me, changed me, and continues by His Spirit to conform me to His standards. I need His grace just as much as the next person. We all fall short.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Just as important as God's grace is God's truth. Grace and truth are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. Though believers should embody both, we tend to gravitate towards either grace or truth.
Grace people are typically pleasant and tolerant. They have the "loving people" thing mastered. They don't like to ruffle feathers or challenge others. The danger with this extreme is the over emphasis on God's love and forgiveness and minimization of the need for holy living and turning from sin.
Truth people are the opposite. They are full of convictions and are known to speak out against evil. They want to change others for God's glory, yet they have a hard time giving others room to grow and make mistakes. They focus so much on upholding God's Word and His standards that they can tend to leave out the love part which can make people feel condemned.
I confess my tendency to lean more towards being a truth person.Something about the way I"m wired pushes me in this direction. Yesterday's message spoke deeply to my heart. Not only does God want me to accept His unearned, undeserved grace, but He asks me to extend that same grace to others, even when (and especially when) they don't deserve it.
Jesus was the perfect balance of grace and truth. He spoke firmly on sin but loved the sinner. He conveyed the dangers of hell, but also showed the way to forgiveness and to eternal life in heaven. He welcomed all as He ate with the tax collectors ans sinners, but He implored them to take the narrow road and follow Him. He set standards and called people to obedience. Yet, He loved, He healed, and He forgave.
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. John 1:14
One of the most beautiful pictures of the grace and truth that Jesus personified is found in the story of the woman at the well. This woman had a bad reputation around town as she had been through five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband. She carried so much shame with her that she visited the community well in the heat of the day, hoping to avoid any interaction with humanity.
In God's always perfect timing, Jesus "happened" to be at the well at the exact time as this sinful woman. Jesus spoke truth by confronting the woman's sin of sexual immorality, yet He also extended grace as He offered her forgiveness and eternal life. He gave the woman the exact remedy she needed for her starving soul, a relationship with Him.
Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, full of grace and truth. Jesus' followers must seek to live the same kind of life He lived. We must mirror truth and grace. We have a responsibility to speak the truth, but we also have a responsibility to speak the truth in love. Sometimes we get so caught up in truth we forget the love part. And vice versa.
So the great take-away I received yesterday was this : continue to be a truth person but don't forget to be a grace person too. Remember where i came from. Recall the grace that I had received in the past and still receive to this day when I mess up. And purposefully and obediently extend that grace to those around me. Give God time to work in their hearts as He continues to work in mine.
And above all, thank the Lord daily for His amazing grace... a grace that saves, empowers, and transforms. If He can change me, He can truly change anyone.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch; like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!
The Lord hath promised good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.