Grace, Truth and Audacious Dreams

Beth Moore’s new book “Audacious” was inspired by two questions:

1) What is your dream?
2) What is your vision for the future?

Those two questions lead me to a statement by Pastor Tim Keller which I’ve heard quoted over and over again:

“The gospel is this:  We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” 

I completely agree with that statement, but at the same time, I feel very condemned by the first half of it.  Yes, I know that I am sinful and flawed.  I get that.  And I get stuck in it.  But when I read the book “The Cure” this past April, I was overwhelmed by the amazing grace and love of God.  I felt like I might actually be able to live in the second half of Tim Keller’s statement that I am “more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ” than I ever dared hope.

But some will read that “The Cure” is about God’s grace and immediately the flags go up.  You can’t teach people to live in grace!  Won’t they:

  1. Have permission to sin?
  2. Stop praying, serving, giving and reading the Bible?
  3. Get lazy and stop striving for excellence?
  4. Treat God like their “buddy” instead of the Holy Creator of Everything?
  5. Lose their drive to “be all they can be”?

However, the “grace police” need not be concerned.  God’s grace is not a “get out of jail free” card because living in grace is not complete without also living in truth.

Chris Zarbaugh did a beautiful job explaining how Grace and Truth work together in our “Christian Redefined” series back on March 8, 2015 in a message called “The One Two Punch” (unfortunately, there is no video for this message, but the audio is posted).  Here’s the picture and explanation you’re missing without the video:

High Grace + Low Truth = Enabled

Low Grace + Low Truth = Unloved

Low Grace + High Truth = Judged

High Grace + High Truth = Loved

Grace + Truth = Enabled, Unloved, Judged or Loved
Grace + Truth = Enabled, Unloved, Judged or Loved

Chris quoted John 1:14:  “The Word (Jesus) 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.”  And Chris was very specific that “full of grace and truth” doesn’t mean that Jesus balanced grace and truth, but that He was the full measure of grace and truth.  So, what does that mean?  Here’s how Chris put it:

Grace says “you’re forgiven”.  Truth says “you’re accountable”.

Grace says “it’s gonna be alright”.  Truth says “you’ve got a lot of work to do”.

Grace says “I love you just as you are”.  Truth says “please change”.

I’ve always heard, “God loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.”  But that always sounded like a back-handed compliment to me, until I read “The Problem of Pain” by CS Lewis.  Here’s how he put it in the chapter called “Divine Goodness”:

“We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest “well pleased”. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities — no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt, or a dog, once having learned to love man, could wish that man were such as to tolerate in his house the snapping, verminous, polluting creature of the wild pack. What we would here and now call our “happiness” is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.”

Living in the full measure of God’s grace and truth allows us to mature into who God sees we can become.  For God to say that we’re fine as we are and that we can stay that way would not be loving.  That would be enabling.  Yes, God loves us immeasurably.  He could not possibly love us more.  But in loving us, He sees our potential.  He sees the beauty that is in store.  And He longs to see us blossom into that beauty.

“Consider the caterpillar.  If we brought a caterpillar to a biologist and asked him to analyze it and describe its DNA, he would tell us, “I know this looks like a caterpillar to you.  But scientifically, according to every test, including DNA, this is fully and completely a butterfly…. The caterpillar matures into what is already true about it.”  –“The Cure” Chapter Three

As human beings loved by God, we, like caterpillars, also have the potential to mature into what is already true about us.  Living in a continual state of false guilt, thinking we “gotta do more, gotta be more” (remember “Dead Poets Society“?) is paralyzing.  I know I can’t do it, so feel like my only option is to give up.  Living in a continual state of God’s Grace, knowing that He loves me and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that He’s not waiting for me to get it right and be perfect, frees me to be who He created me to be.  That’s the Truth part.  Taking personal responsibility for the gifts He has given me.  Being a steward of this body, mind and soul that He’s allowed me to borrow for a little while.

So, what about those two questions that inspired Beth Moore?

1) What is your dream?
2) What is your vision for the future?

So many non-Christians feel that their lives are “just dandy” without Jesus, not realizing that they’re living outside of their full potential.  And so many Christ-followers, paralyzed in our fear that we don’t deserve Jesus, don’t realize that we’re also living outside of our full potential.  So no one acts.  Passivity reigns.  The result?  Look around.  Too many people live ineffective lives and the world goes to hell in a hand-basket.  That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

My dream and my vision for the future is two-fold:

1) That those who don’t yet know Christ could fully grasp and act upon the first part of Tim Keller’s quote: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe. Truth: we need Jesus.  

2) That those who do know Christ could fully grasp and act upon the second part of Tim Keller’s quote: we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.  Grace: Jesus needs us.  

If every person in the world lived in the full measure of the Grace and Truth of Jesus, what could this world become?

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