Synopsis: How do we bridge the gap between the love of a holy God and the repulsiveness of the sinner’s sin? Grace and truth, that is how. That’s what Jesus perfectly and continually modeled. What we find is that Jesus, as Walter Trobisch said, “accepts us as we are but when he accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” There it is: grace and truth. Jesus brings our sin to the surface, and when we acknowledge it by full confession and humble repentance, he graciously and forever forgives it. Only grace and truth can do that for sinners. Perhaps that’s why prostitutes, publicans, and other sinners like you and me responded to Jesus so readily. At some level, they recognized their sin. That was why truth wrapped in grace was so appealing in Jesus’ day…and still is today!
Moments With God // John 1:14
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.
Not too long after my wife and I had moved into a home we had just purchased, our next-door neighbor’s live-in girlfriend asked me, “what do you do?” I told her that I was a pastor. So she said, “Oh, I’m looking for a church…one that doesn’t get all weird and condemning about sin. What about yours?”
I said, “My church—hey, we accept everybody just the way they are—unless you’re shacking up with someone!”
No—I didn’t say that! But it was an awkward moment for me as I scrambled for a way to minimize the offense of the gospel to a person who was far from God and build a bridge that might lead us at some point into a spiritual conversation. I didn’t need to offer condemnation by my words, in the tone of my voice, or with my body language. I didn’t need to convince her of her sins, she was already dealing with that herself. Besides, it is not my job—it is the work of the Holy Spirit to do that. (John 16:8).
Jesus wouldn’t have done that either. Remember, in this very same book, right after the most famous verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16, Jesus goes on to say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”(John 3:17)
But let’s keep in mind that neither did Jesus come, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, to tell the world that everything was quite alright! Obviously, the world needed a savior—that’s why Jesus came. People need a savior because sin holds people captive. To keep the bad news about sin and the good news about a Savior from them would be the most hateful thing we could ever do.
So how do we bridge that gap between a loving God and the repulsiveness of the sinner’s sin? Grace and truth, that is how. That is what Jesus perfectly modeled. Take, for instance, his interaction with the adulterous woman in John 8. Picture the scene: This sinful woman is standing in the center of a circle, surrounded by self-righteous religious leaders who want her stoned. Imagine her humiliation, caught in the very act of adultery—a private act now a very public sin. Nothing can hide her shame—and make no mistake, sexual sin is shameful, degrading to the people involved, destructive to the innocent family members it affects, and it is odious to a holy God.
This woman is standing before Jesus, exposed, humiliated, tears dripping to the sand. She has been used by men all of her life, and now she will pay for it with her life. She sees the stones; she knows her guilt. Now, all eyes are on Jesus—what will he do?
After some time, Jesus speaks and says to those who want her executed, “Ok, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” And with that bombshell, one by one, from oldest to youngest, they walked away, leaving only Jesus and this sinful woman face-to-face. What now? Would Jesus give her a good moral tongue lashing? No, he just gently asks, “Where are your accusers? Has no one judged you guilty?”
She replied, “No one, Sir.”
At that, Jesus offered these grace-truth words that would utterly right this sinner’s upside-down life: “Then I don’t either. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Behind this amazing display of grace and truth, as Walter Trobisch said, what we find is that Jesus “accepts us as we are but when he accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” Jesus brings our sin to the surface, and when we acknowledge it by confession and repentance, he totally, graciously, and forever forgives it. The adulteress went away forgiven, with a new clean heart and a brand new chance at life. Only grace and truth can do that for sinners.
Perhaps that is why prostitutes, publicans, and other sinners responded to Jesus so readily. At some level, they recognized their sin. That was why forgiveness was so appealing to them…and still is!
What does the world need more than anything right now? What does your sinful next door neighbor so desperately need? The same thing you need: A whole lot of truth and a big dose of grace!