Grace and truth: Jesus personifies these two essential qualities of the Christian life and shows us how to life them out in balance. This article by Dr. Donna Hart, PhD, appeared first here at her website and is used with her permission.
We often hear that the Christian life is all about becoming like Jesus. But what does it look like to do that in everyday life?
We could start making a list of all we learn from Scripture about what it means to be like Jesus. And it’s likely that in the process, the list would become so daunting we would not be able to wrap our minds around it.
What if we could get the practice of the character of Christ down to two essential ingredients?
John 1:1 and 1:14 give us a window into what those ingredients are:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14, NIV
Jesus is full of grace and truth.
That little baby born in Bethlehem was the One who created the universe. He came to dwell among us on earth. The glory of God is no longer in a temple made of wood and stone, but in Christ. We only have to look to Jesus to know what God is like.
In the same way, the world should only have to look at us as Christians to know what Jesus is like. People will draw conclusions about what Jesus is like from what they see in us.
If we fail to be gracious or if we fail to speak the truth, we fail to be like Jesus.
What Is Grace?
Let us first talk about grace: grace does not ignore our sin but magnifies it. In essence, the more we realize just how sinful we are, the more we see our need for God’s grace. Our holy God has a standard; in our sinful state we cannot meet that standard. We need the substitutionary atonement of a Savior to meet that standard for us.
Grace is what the truth of our sin deserves. As we see ourselves for who we really are and know that our salvation cannot be earned, then we start to see God for who He really is, and there is only one sane response: worship.
What Is Truth?
Second, truth is not just defined as the facts of God’s Word. It is not something we must make ourselves do. Truth changes us; it challenges us; it convicts us. It helps us to know all the false things that are woven into our nature that cause us to sin. Jesus said,
I am the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6, NIV
He is the source of truth; He shows us the truth; He models the truth.
The Grace-Truth Conundrum
We can often struggle to balance grace and truth together as if they might be contrary to each other. But Jesus functions in grace and truth simultaneously and perfectly.
We may think that all we have to do is study Scripture and we will become more like Christ, which is true. But some Christians love studying the Word of truth and in the process inadvertently become quick to judge and even slower to forgive. They are strong in truth and weak on grace.
There are other Christians who are so grace-focused and lean heavily into freedom and forgiveness. They will see too much Bible study and moral standards as legalism. They are heavy on grace and lack truth.
If we have truth without grace the result is often self-righteous legalism that pushes people away from Christ. If we have grace without truth moral indifference flourishes, causing people to think that they don’t need Christ.
Jesus Shows the Perfect Balance
When people encountered Jesus they got a sense that He loved them, even when He told them things that were difficult to hear. He was full of grace and truth. Living a godly life focuses on what we need to embrace and not on what we need to avoid. We must be careful to not be focused on do’s and don’t’s and miss Jesus. Changed behavior that is not empowered by God’s heart-changing grace is simply self-righteousness. When we understand truth correctly, it acts as a corrective guardian to protect us.
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17, NIV
Truth is not a set of facts, it is not something that we do—truth acts upon us. Truth changes us. God writes His truth on our hearts (Romans 2:15). We need to be walking in the truth, to love truth, and to believe truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Jesus didn’t say He would show us the truth, tell us the truth, or model the truth; Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). He personifies the truth.
There is only one thing we must do before we enjoy God’s grace: we must be broken and know we are broken. We can think we have failed God so many times that He will no longer forgive or receive us. We don’t believe we are worthy of God’s grace, and we’re right!
Grace means that Jesus paid our debt there is nothing left for us to do but accept His grace. Do you know that you are broken? Are you ready to receive His grace and walk within the protective guardrails of His truth?