this delicate dance between grace and love

Over the past week I've had a lot of tough conversations, and read a few things that have profoundly disturbed me, and it's gotten me thinking about this delicate dance between grace and love.

"...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23-24) This is the truth and the gospel - we have all completely screwed up on any number of levels, and worse: we, without Christ, are "by nature objects of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3) - but there is grace and redemption and forgiveness and reconciliation because of Christ's death and resurrection, and this is good news!!

But sometimes I fear that in the name of love we do not speak the truth as clearly as we ought. That in the name of compassion we adopt this "I'm okay and you're okay" philosophy that looks and sounds so nice and kind, but is actually full of hell, because it's a lie. We are not okay, and we have never been okay - it is why Christ came and died for us. There was a price paid for our freedom! And to deny that we have needed that ransom is to deny love...

Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

He gets it, this God of ours, that temptation to sin comes at us in a zillion different ways, because not only does He see it, but He's been there, on the receiving end. He didn't give in to it, but He knows what it feels like be in those situations, and He knows how to help us in our time of need. We can come to Him in confidence, knowing that we will find mercy and grace. Romans 8:26: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." His heart is filled with compassion for us, and He receives us as we are.

But He does not leave us that way.

The Bible tells us, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2) This is a process that takes cooperation between the Spirit at work in us (sanctifying us and making us more like Jesus) and we ourselves (choosing to allow Him to do it). It is not always easy, this becoming holy - it requires us to die to ourselves, and we do not always want to do that - and sometimes we want to but we don't want to but we do want to...

I love the way Peterson paraphrases this in the Message: "It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different." (Romans 7:21-25)

And that's the thing - He acted to set things right. Because there were things that needed to be set right. And there are things that still do...

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. - 1 John 4:7-9

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is love - and love rejoices in the truth.

I did a word search on Bible Gateway, looking for that verse about speaking the truth in love, and it turned up a number of verses that taken together make it very clear that there is a deep correlation between truth and love. Not surprising, as the Word tells us both that God is love and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life... (John 14:6)

Love will always tell you the truth. Paul tells us that "...speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:15)

I want that. I want Truth-speakers in my life who will tell me when I am getting it wrong, so that in all things I will grow up into Christ. And I want to be a Truth-speaker - not because of some self-righteous "I'm right and you're wrong" mentality - but because I love people and because I want to spend eternity with everyone.

The goal is godliness... the heart is love... and love does not lie to you and tell you that something wrong is okay when it isn't. It does not tell you, as you are walking into sin, that it's fine that you're doing it, because that's just where you are right now, and that everything's going to work out, and not to worry about it. It does not tell you that just because your situation is atrocious, that just because something horrible has happened to you, that you are justified in responding to it in an ungodly manner. Love turns and looks straight at that which would destroy it and continues to be love. ("Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing.")

God is love. He is also the source of life. And love values life - always.

About a week ago we started talking about "the abortion issue" at Torch, as we began praying for the upcoming election, and for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. It has been a week of hard conversations and fervent prayer, and I have debated saying anything at all... but I cannot be silent. More than 50 million babies have been robbed of their destinies in this nation alone, and it is time for the bloodshed to stop. It is time for the Church to repent of her indifference and to do something about it. Our God can move mountains. He can heal our land.

He can also heal people.

There is grace. There is always, always, always grace. But "what shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2)

I had the incredible privilege of watching /participating in (via the Internet) a prayer meeting in San Diego, CA last night, led by Lou Engle. At one point in the night, we prayed a prayer together that many involved with Bound4Life have been praying already for months:

"Jesus, I plead Your Blood over my sins and the sins of my nation. God, end abortion, and send revival to America."

It is a simple prayer, and it is heartfelt. And I am so humbled to be allowed into God's throne room, to repent on behalf of my nation, and to plead for the mercy He so freely gives.

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