Grace AND Truth

I am reading through the Gospel of John and I came across the story of the woman at the well and I can’t help but see a connection between the way Jesus interacted with her and the way she then interacted with the people in the village.

Had Jesus been hard on her for her past she would not have been so willing to go and tell everyone about the “man who told me everything I have done.” Don’t get me wrong Jesus did not sugar coat it for this woman but even after that she was happy and went and told everyone. The reason, I can only assume, was that Jesus spoke the truth in love. Remember that Jesus is full of grace and truth. Don’t miss that He is full of grace AND truth.

I know a lot of people who are full of it but no one, not even myself, who is full of grace AND truth. Some people are big on grace but no so much on truth. Others are big on truth but not so much on grace. Jesus has this amazing way of being truthful, direct, and honest with us while being graceful and dealing gently with us wayward sons and daughters.

Had Jesus just been truth she might not have gone and told everyone about Him. Had Jesus only been graceful she might have just sat around thinking about it. But because Jesus is both she went and told everyone.

I suppose the question remaining is “Are we close enough to Jesus to be like Him and give people grace AND truth?”

Just a thought,

Mike

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Combating the Empty Self

I do not think we should be surprised with the rise of the empty-self in society or the church. The empty self is what we have reinforced in people through slogans that act more as mantras such as “if it feels good do it” and my favorite “do what makes you happy.” We have pushed the ideas that individual happiness and instant gratification are the goals and anything outside of those immediate results are unnecessary. Instead of taking time to develop thought we have created methods and ways to reward instant and short term gratification.

Some examples of how society has produced the empty self can be seen in advertising that reinforces personal pleasure, pushing the idea of passiveness such as get rich quick schemes or instant weightless, and the rise in infantilism which can be seen all over the internet in YouTube videos and the like. Systems have been created where you are allowed a hundred and forty characters to express thoughts and ideas which leads to largely only sharing cat videos and items of little to no consequence. Internet advertisements for products and information are specifically designed just for you and exposure to foreign concepts are lost in the process. The empty self is not only pushed on people but rewarded by stardom and “shout outs” by those who have attained what the culture deems success.

The church is not immune to the effects of the empty self. Christian bookstores are filled with titles such as Your Best You, 7 Steps to Happiness, 5 Keys to Prosperity, or God is for You. Praise and worship services are designed to illicit emotion and produce a good feeling instead of imparting truth and change. Members leave one church when the good feelings wear off and start their search for a new “church home.” We now change churches like we do phone plans when someone offers us a better deal. Pastors and church leaders who are forced to combat this rising challenge start with good and sincere hearts trying to find ways to reach people who have little motivation to grow then find themselves discouraged and giving shallow sermons to feed the lethargic masses. Burnout occurs in the faithful and they find themselves becoming the very thing that caused the burnout: they become the empty.

How can the church minister to the empty self? If Jesus called the church to go out and make disciples, then how does the church accomplish this goal when the people they are called to minister to seem to have no desire to be challenged? The first step must be to make sure that we are people who are prepared and ready to rise to this challenge. We do a disservice when we give out incorrect explanations or arguments that have not been thought-out.[1] We must first be a people who think and value the life of the mind.

I do not think it should be assumed that a person who might be classified as an empty self does not have a desire to know the truth because everyone inherently has a desire to know the truth. They already have a truth or a worldview that orders their life. Whether it be that personal pleasure is prime, relaxation is best, deep thought is unnecessary, or what have you they have something they hold on to as truth. What we must do is help them analyze their truth to see if it actually holds water. If a person holds to the idea that personal pleasure is best it does no good to tell them they are wrong instead we must dig deep to find out why they hold to this idea in the first place. We must help them examine their own beliefs and get to the truth. As we do this we expose them to virtues like vigilance and fortitude so they not only see their system is wrong but that there is a better way.[2] We are then humbling leading people to the truth which they have discovered for themselves and as Blaise Pascal said: “we are generally more effectually persuaded by reasons we have ourselves discovered.”

Once a person has become aware of the truth and the value of the life of the mind we must then dig in deep to do the hard work of teaching and modeling virtues now that they have been introduced. To do this again we must first possess and live them. It is not enough for the truth to be an idea that we like but a way of life. In doing so we build ourselves up for service to Christ and model a virtuous life for those we are ministering to because most people when attempting to understand a new belief or idea will mimic before they understand why. Instruction is of great importance but it must also be accompanied by demonstration.

Most people including me do not understand how to think logically. Some may be naturally better at it than others and we may have an idea of how to think logically but we do not as a general rule study what logical thought is. However, because of the high rate of fallacies that occur during the course of arguments and public discussion regarding religion, we must study what it means to think logically. We must expose ourselves to ideas that are different than ours so we can see the issue from many possible angles. In doing so we not only become better servants of Christ but better aids to those who need to know Him. Christianity had to defend itself from its very conception it is time for the church to bring back not only the power of the Gospel but the truth of God.

[1] J.P. Moreland, Love God with all your mind 2nd ed, (NaviPress, 2012), 123

[2] Moreland, 125

 

Just a thought,

Mike

The attitude of Christ.

I was thinking about the attitude of Christ in John 8:11. Specifically I was thinking about how He loved the woman caught in the act of adultery and how He loved those about to stone her. Because I believe He was showing love to both the woman and the group wanting to take her life. So lets start with the group about to stone her.

They (the Scribes and Pharisees) brought the woman to Jesus as He was teaching and said “This woman was caught in the act of adultery and the Law of Moses says we kill her.” What Jesus did not do was argue, point out that they forgot to bring the man as well, tell them their right or anything else. Instead He wrote on the ground. Now what did He write? I honestly have no idea but I like to think He was writing down the sins of those around Him. Not with names just sins and those around Him knew which ones were theirs but that is just a thought. Then He told them to cast the stones, but the first person without sin should throw the first one. Then He went back to writing in the sand. They dropped their stones and left.

So how is this Jesus showing love? Because it made them realize their own sin. It makes sense the oldest dropped their stones first because age brings wisdom and you are aware of your own sinfulness. You know your shortcomings all too well. By not condemning them of their sins He shows mercy which is love.

Now the woman. It is easy to see how Jesus showed the woman love because the Law did say to stone her. She was guilty of adultery and adultery was punishable by death. So Jesus showed her love by stopping the crowd from killing her. That is pretty loving if you ask me. But the fact that He says “I do not condemn you either” is major and has some major theological implications but let’s not get sidetracked. Jesus showed love to both her and the crowd in the same way He could have condemned them both. The woman for her adultery and the crowd for their various sins.

Jesus shows love that is clear in the Bible. Jesus says “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:17. Jesus was not looking to condemn anyone Jesus was looking to love people and set them free. He goes on to say that in 8:32 “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free (hence the website and tattoo). So again to be clear Jesus loved people right where they were at no strings attached. Just pure love.

Now some people want me to stop right there. Jesus loved and did not condemn stop now before you offend someone. But I cannot stop there because the story does not stop there. Jesus goes on to tell the woman “go and sin no more.” Well if Jesus was loving her He still is. Jesus loved her enough to save her life and then tell her to stop sinning. It is not good for you or your relationship with Him. Jesus loves you enough to want you to not sin. That is love.

So where are you at today? Maybe you are the woman maybe you are the crowd. I don’t know but I do know Jesus loves you. I live my whole life from that basic idea. It is not a bumper sticker or phrase for me but it is everything. I live my life as someone who has committed sins that would make your head spin but Jesus still loved me. He loved me enough to spare my life and to tell me to go and sin no more.

Just a thought,

Mike

The truth comes out in the end

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I was reading through Genesis 13 this morning and I was thinking about the phrase “the truth always comes out in the end.” Some people say Abraham did not lie he just withheld information. To which I say that tells me a lot about you.

A lie is a lie regardless of the severity or impact. I have issues with lying because I was very good at it. I used to lie about anything and everything. I would lie just to see if I could get someone to believe the story. I am pretty talented storyteller (at least I think so) and can craft a story with enough truth to make it believable. The trick is not to make some insanely crazy story but something that is almost unbelievable. Just a little more than reality. It is like an action movie where the hero jumps just a little further than one actually could. It needs enough truth to be bought.

The problem is a lie is a lie, and lies lead to other problems. When we lie or withhold vital information there are consequences, and they usually create a larger problem. But the other issue with lying is it creates an idea in us that we can take it a little further. It is the snowball that creates an avalanche. I am not implying that every lie leads to a catastrophe but why risk it. Abraham started with a lie about his wife and later sleeps with her servant and I think two events are connected. Abraham liked to stretch it out a little.

There is a way out though. If you have a lie or half truth you have been keeping just get it out before anyone finds out. Be the one to out the truth and then no one holds power over you. Jesus said the “truth will set you free” and while He was talking about knowing you are a slave to sin the principle remains. When truth is let out into the open you become free and the weight is lifted.

Just a thought,

Mike

Grace & Truth

John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  

The suffix ian means belonging to, coming from, resembling, adhering to or following, and expert in.  It can be used to form a noun or an adjective.  Add that to the word Christ and you get Christian, someone who belongs to the Christ, coming from the Christ, resembling the Christ, or adheres to the Christ.

That means like John 1:17 I should have Grace and Truth coming from me. If it comes from Jesus it should also come from me because I have Christ in me, and I am suppose to resemble Him.  If you travel abroad you will hear people talk about the American attitude.  We are loud, and proud, and have a sense of entitlement.  Before you can do anything people expect that from you.  It should be the same way with different traits of Jesus.  Do people, when they find out I am a Christian expect to have Grace and Truth come from me, and regardless of that answer do I show Grace and Truth?

To be honest yes…..sometimes.  Sometimes I am a little more Truth, and sometimes I am a little more Grace (not always in the proper ratio).  Both are great and very important but there is something about the proper mixture of Grace and Truth that makes it fantastic.  It is not baking a cake where you always use equal parts of each and you can do it without thinking.  Having Grace and Truth flow from you means thinking in each situation.  Sometimes you need a lot of Truth and enough Grace to show the love of God, but sometimes you need only a little Truth to confirm something and so much Grace that people are overwhelmed by God’s great love.

I want to be known for having Grace and Truth.  If someone says “Hey do you know Mike?” I want them to think “Grace and Truth.”  I figure if I have Christ living in me, and I am in Christ, and I have the mind of Christ,  then I should be able to do this.  I want to do this.  

Just a thought,

Mike