Tag Archives: John 1

The Feast of Tabernacles

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

This post in this series-within-a-series is over the last major festival in the Jewish religious year – The Feast of Tabernacles. As we discuss in the first post, the Feast of Tabernacles was actually made up of 3 sub-feasts spread out over many days. These include:

The Feast of Trumpets (see Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6)

The Feast of Trumpets was actually just one day, the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish religious calendar. It was a special Sabbath, where the Israelites were not allowed to do any work. They would come together in a “sacred assembly”, where a special burnt offering would be made, and trumpets would be sounded as a call to prepare for the upcoming Day of Atonement.  For those who might have heard of it before, this is the day known as Rosh Hashanah.

In Scripture, the sounding of trumpets represented the voice of prophets, calling out the Word of the Lord. In the case of the Feast of Trumpets, the trumpet blasts were used to call Israel to awaken, to repent, and to prepare for the Day of Atonement. In fact, the 10 days between this day and the Day of Atonement were often called “the ten days of awe,” and were intended for the Israelites to spend time in self-inspection and repentance.

The Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 23:26-32; Leviticus 16)

On the tenth day of the month the Israelites held their most holy day of the year – the Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur). It was also a special Sabbath, and the Israelites were not allowed to work, but beyond that, they were also required to fast (“deny themselves”). On this day, special burnt offerings were made for the people, and even more intense rituals were carried out. For instance, part of the ceremony involved 2 goats. The priest would cast lots for the goats, and one goat would be sacrificed, while the other would be released into the wilderness. Prior to it’s release, the High Priest would lay his hands on the second goat – called the scapegoat, or Azezel (meaning “an entire removal”) – effectively transferring the sin of the nation of Israel to it. When the goat was released, it symbolized the total removal of sin from the nation. After this part of the ceremony, the High Priest would continue by cleansing the sanctuary by the sprinkling of blood, and would enter the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle (or later, the Temple). This was the only day of the year that anyone was allowed to enter this inner part, as God promised that any other time of the year, the person would die.

The Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:33-44; Deuteronomy 16:13-17; Numbers 29:12-35)

During this time of year, the nation of Israel would begin it’s fruit harvest, reaping grapes and olives (except on the regular and special sabbath days). On the 15th day of the month, the actual Feast of Tabernacles would begin, as a celebration of the “gathering of the produce of [their] threshing floor and winepress.” The festival lasted 7 days, with the first day being a special Sabbath. No work was performed that day, and a “sacred assembly” came together make burnt offerings and to present the “choice fruit” before the Lord. For 7 days, the whole nation would live in booths (small tabernacles or tents), which is why the feast is also sometimes called the Feast of Booths.  On the last day, the day after the 7 day festival, another special Sabbath was held and no work was to be done.

New Testament Application

The Feast of Trumpets served as a heralding of the judgment of God. One source I read said,

The massive blowing of the shofar (trumpet) on the first day of the seventh month was understood by the Jews as the beginning of their trial before the heavenly court where books would be opened and the destiny of each individual would be decided. The trial lasted ten days until the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) when God would dispose of their sins in a permanent way.

In this perspective, it’s not hard to see the parallel between the trumpets sounding here and the trumpets mentioned in the book of Revelation 8. Here, in the last days, trumpets also sound as a heralding of the judgments of God. The final judgment is described in Revelation 11:18:

The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Interestingly, just like during this Feast, where the Day of Atonement followed the judgment of God, similar events are described in the end times. Right after describing the final trumpet judgment in Revelation 11, it says “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”  Just as the Israelites had their sin removed on the Day of Atonement (the day the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place in the presence of the ark of the conventant), we too have had our sins removed by the sacrifice of Christ.

Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles commemorated for the nation of Israel how they lived in booths (tents) in the wilderness, and how God dwelt with them in the Tabernacle of Moses. It also reminds us of how God dwells with us through Jesus (“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:14), and through the Holy Spirit within us.  Also, just as the Feast of Tabernacles was to be a time of joy, so shall we be joyful in the New Heaven, after the judgments and atonement has been realized at the end of the age.

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The Tabernacle of Moses

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

I started a new course from Online Bible College this week, titled Types and Shadows. The lessons in this course discuss things from the Old Testament that model New Testament truths. An example would be Adam as a personal type of Christ – both act as representative figures, in that their actions have repercussions for all of humanity. Therefore a type is a model or some form of a foreshadowing element that points toward Jesus and the New Testament. Today’s lesson discussed the Tabernacle of Moses as a type of Christ and as a type of the Church.

What is the Tabernacle?

The tabernacle of Moses was the first tabernacle prescribed by God for the Israelites to build. In the King James Version, you actually see it called the “tabernacle”, while in the New International Version, it’s often translated “tent” (see Exodus 29:42). The Hebrew word translated “tabernacle” or “tent” here is ohel, which literally means “dwelling” or “dwelling place.” The purpose of the tabernacle, then, was inherent in it’s name – it was to be where God dwelt among His people. This is made evident in Exodus 25:8, where God tells Moses “…have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

This idea of God dwelling among his creation is not something that He talked about only with the tabernacle. In fact, in all of Scripture, we see that this was God’s desire from the beginning and is His desire in the end.  In Leviticus 26:11-12, in speaking of the tabernacle, God said “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”  Interestingly, the Bible talks of God walking among his creation in Genesis 3, where it says “…the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (v. 8). And in Revelation 21, where it is describing the eternal setting in which God’s people will live forever, the Apostle John hears a loud voice say “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (v. 3). No doubt, dwelling with His creation is God’s goal, and the tabernacle was how He chose to do so as he formed the nation of Israel in the desert after they left Egypt.

The Structure of the Tabernacle

The tabernacle had an absolute structure, and God was very explicit with Moses about every little detail. He told Moses, “make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:9, emphasis added). The reason for this was that the tabernacle was, as my lesson put it, “a mirror reflection of a heavenly reality.”  Hebrews 8:4-5 explains: “…there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’ ”  (emphasis added). Whether the throne room of God looks exactly like what the tabernacle was commanded to look like, I can’t say. Physical realities and spiritual realities don’t always line up the way our finite minds might think. But we know that, in some way, every structural detail of the tabernacle models a spiritual reality in heaven.

These structural details include 3 main compartments and several fixtures spread throughout. This diagram comes from my lesson:

As you can see, the Outer Court contained the Brazen Altar and the Laver.  Inside of the outer court were two more areas, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (often called the Holy of Holies). These areas were curtained off so that those in the outer court could not enter or see in. The Holy Place contains 3 fixtures: the table of shewbread (also called the bread of presence), the lampstand, and the altar of incense. Between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was another curtain, or veil. The Most Holy Place contained the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Law on the stone tables, a golden pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded. Each fixture in the tabernacle had specific functions, and many of those functions have New Testament illustrations that correspond to them (but would not necessarily be considered a Biblical type, since a New Testament reference doesn’t exist).

  • Brazen Altar – the altar of sacrifice, where the Israelites offered sacrifices for atonement; illustrates Christ’s death on the cross, a sacrifice made once for all
  • Laver – a basin of water where the priests washed themselves before entering the Holy Place; illustrates New Testament baptism and, perhaps, the “washing with water through the word” (see Ephesians 5:26)
  • Table of Shewbread – the bread of presence was 12 loaves of continually replenished bread in the Holy Place, eaten only by the priests; illustrates the Word of God coming continually and daily into our lives
  • Lampstand – the menorah, a seven-branched lampstand, provided light in the enclosed Holy Place; illustrates that the people of God are to be the light of the world, and that the Holy Spirit is to fuel us as oil fuels the lampstand
  • Altar of Incense – table placed right in front of the veil into the Most Holy Place, where incense was burned before the Lord; illustrates prayers to God (see Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8, Revelation 8:3-4)
  • Ark of the Covenant – the small box in the Most Holy Place, covered by a lid with cherubim (guardian angels) statues on top; illustrates the presence of God with His people – truly dwelling among them

New Testament Fulfillment

As with all Old Testament types, the tabernacle and all of the fixtures within are fulfilled in Jesus.  Jesus himself likened his body to the Temple (a later, permanent form of the tabernacle – see John 2:19-22).  John 1:14, in speaking of Christ, says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus, therefore, was God dwelling among His people once again. Jesus’ purpose was to reconcile God and man, so that God could once again and for all time dwell with His creation. On top of Christ fulfilling this type, we as the Church, the Body of Christ, also fulfill the type of the tabernacle. In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul writes

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

My lesson summed this up by saying “As the Body of Christ, we are a spiritual Tabernacle that houses the presence of God, revealing his glory to the world.”

See the NEXT post in this series –>

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Truth: The Answer to Who Jesus Is…

My last post – last Tuesday – asked a series of questions about who Jesus really is. I asked anyone who read the post to comment by answering those questions, and although no one commented, I am still going to finish up the week by answering those questions based on my own personal knowledge and experience, but more importantly, the truths about Jesus portrayed in the Bible and outlined in my study throughout the week. Forgive the length of today’s post – it’s really a summary of a whole week’s worth of posts rolled up into one.

The first point to make is that the first question – who is Jesus to you, personally? – is not really an important question. Don’t get me wrong – it is important for your own salvation, because if your answer to question #1 and question #2 (who is the Jesus in the Bible?) are completely different and irreconcilable, then you don’t know the Jesus of the Bible and therefore are not saved. I know that is a seemingly harsh statement to make, but Jesus didn’t leave any wiggle room in this area. He stated it plainly:

6Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6).

And Peter made the same point clear in his speech, recorded in Acts 4:10-12:

10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. 12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

So in the end, the answer the first question is only important in light of the second question.

The best place to start in answering these questions is to answer the final question – How can we know who Jesus really is?  And the best answer for this is that the Bible says so. Now, if someone doesn’t believe the Bible to be a reliable book, then they aren’t in a place to know who Jesus really is, because the Bible is the only source from which we can learn anything factual about Jesus. But as we have discussed in the previous week’s posts, the Bible is, as Voddie Baucham puts it, ” a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writing are divine rather than human in origin.” So we can fully rely on what is written in the Bible and know that it trumps any other book or any experience we may have. Therefore, what it says about Jesus is true. The Bible is how we can get to know Jesus.

The next question to answer is who the Jesus of the Bible really is. This week’s studies outlined what is surely a very long answer, and I will condense it even further here:

  1. Jesus is God. This means that He is eternal and that he shares the Father’s nature and essence. John 1:1-2 says “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.”  Although it’s hard to understand, Jesus is both God and with God, and therefore shares the characteristics of God and has been around since before time began (which answers question #3). The best explanation I have ever seen of this was in Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis:

    What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God…In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube.

    Jesus, therefore, being begotten by God the Father, and not created by Him, is all God. God can be more than one person and still be one being. Again, this is hard to understand, but it’s important to know that Jesus is all God.

  2. Jesus is a man. Although Jesus is all God, he is also all man. Philippians 2:5-8 says:

    5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

    Jesus’ life was the purest example of humility. He laid aside His strength and abilities, choosing to to take on the form of a man, a weak human body, and to serve those around Him in the process, no less!

  3. Jesus is Lord. Because He humbled Himself, God the Father exalted Him as Lord over everything:

    9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

  4. Jesus created all things. The eternal nature of Jesus, as discussed in point #1 above, implies that He was around during the creation of everything. But Colossians 1:15-17 states plainly that Jesus was the creator:

    15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

  5. Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Probably the most controversial aspect of Jesus is the fact that He is the exclusive way to God the Father, and therefore to Heaven. Exclusive means that every other way is excluded. No other religion, no amount of good works, no other method will allow you access to the Father. Only Jesus can do that. As I said above, He left no wiggle room in this area. People throughout the world, and especially in America, live their lives assuming that Heaven is the default destination. But Voddie Baucham makes in illustration in today’s lesson that I think makes the point the best:

    Image a bride dressed in a long, flowing, white wedding gown. She stands in front of a beautiful new house waiting to be carried across the threshold. Her eyes are filled with the joy, anticipation, and excitement of a newlywed. As the man of her dreams approaches, she closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, extends her arms, and…   Before we finish the story, let’s add a twist. The woman has never met the man approaching her. She merely saw the house being built and decided it was the place she wanted to spend the rest of her life. On its completion she learned of the anticipated move-in date and showed up in a wedding gown expecting to be embraced, swept off her feet, and married…  This scenario might seem outrageous, but it is exactly what people do when they expect to spend eternity with Jesus without having given their lives to Him beforehand. An unbeliever’s expectation to spend life without Jesus and eternity with Him is like expecting the previous story to have a happy ending; it’s not going to happen!

This week’s study on the Search for the Real Jesus was very rewarding for me, and hopefully if you come across these posts, you will get something from them, too. Knowing Jesus is the most important aspect of our lives – no one else has the power to erase our pasts, empower us for the present, and give us a hope for the future. Only in Jesus do we find what we were truly made for, so knowing who He truly is one of the most crucial things we can learn.

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Grace and Truth: A Perfect Balance…

During the first week of this study, we talked about how Jesus was great at showing grace and proclaiming truth at the same time. He was able to perfectly balance these two seemingly contradictory concepts. We looked at John 1:14, which says “The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (emphasis added). Directly after proclaiming that Jesus was “full of grace and truth,” the Apostle John then writes about 2 very different stories in John 2. The first one is this:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now. This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:1-11)

This story is a great illustration of the grace that Jesus expressed out of nothing more than thoughtfulness and kindness. He obviously didn’t do it to bring attention to Himself or even to bring Himself or the Father glory. It says that no one but the servants, his disciples, and his mother, knew that he had performed the miracle. If he were wanting to display the truth of His all-powerful nature, He would have done it before all the guests. Something else I find interesting is that Mary, Jesus’ mother, obviously already knew that Jesus had the power to do this miracle, and she obviously already knew that He was going to do it, regardless of His objections, since even after He objected she still directed the servants to do what He said. This tells me that she knew this gracious side of Jesus very well already. Few people know someone better than their own mother – she knew Jesus was full of grace before He even had much of a public ministry.

Right after this story is finished, John then tells another story with a very different twist:

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:12-22)

Here, in the very next passage, in the same chapter of the book of John, it tells a story of a very different Jesus. He is no longer acting graciously – now He’s making whips, turning over tables, and yelling for the money changers to leave the temple area. If someone had seen both of these scenes, the wedding miracle at Cana, and this scene at the temple in Jerusalem, they might think Jesus had multiple personality disorder. But this isn’t the case. Jesus’ character included grace, but it also included a passion for the truth that is God’s Word. Scripture said that He would be consumed with zeal for the house of God, and this truth was expressed through this cleansing act of chasing the money changers out of the temple area. This was nothing more than another expression of the character of Christ, who was full of both grace and truth.

Balancing grace and truth is hard. Whenever I successfully show grace to someone, I often neglect the truth of God’s Word and am either too lenient on their actions or too concerned with hurting their feelings. Whenever I successfully express the truth to people, I often come across as judgmental or uncaring. But until I am able to successfully balance these two characteristics, I will not be a good representation of Christ in this world who needs to see Him so badly. So, pray for me to get better, and think about how you are doing at showing grace and expressing truth in every situation.

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Grace and Truth: Jesus – A Lamb or a Lion?

We’ll finish this week’s study of The Grace and Truth Paradox by looking at Jesus once again. As we’ve mentioned multiple days this week, Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), a perfect balance between these two foundational concepts of the Christian faith. If we were to ask what characteristics of Jesus we needed to most emulate, these two traits would sum it all up.

Often, people add to or take away from who Jesus really was. Take the following bumper stickers that you can actually buy online:

This sticker demands that Jesus was a conservative – I assume it’s suggesting that Jesus’ political views would lean toward the right, that He would choose to “believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense” (see here). On the other hand, check out this one:

This one suggests that living like Jesus would annoy conservatives, which I assume means that Jesus was liberal, or that He would choose to “believe in governmental action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all, and that it is the duty of the State to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.”  I would laugh at either of these arguments – I don’t think anything in Jesus’ message talked about the role of government or national defense. These stickers are evidence that people try and fit Jesus into their own little box, making Him out to be what they want Him to be, rather than who He truly was.

Randy Alcorn uses parts from two of C.S. Lewis’s stories from the Chronicles of Narnia series – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – to illustrate the these two complementary sides of Christ. In a scene from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, one character, Susan, asks Mr. and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan the Lion: “Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” To which they reply “That you will, Dearie, and no mistake. If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just plain silly.” Lucy then says “Then he isn’t safe?” And the Beavers reply with “Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.” Most people agree that C.S. Lewis fully intended for Aslan to be a mythical representation of Christ, and this description of Aslan is a good fit for Christ as well – He is good, but as Alcorn says, “until we understand that He’s not safe, until we come to grips with the truth of His uncompromising holiness, we will never begin to grasp His grace.”

Alcorn goes on to point out that most people expected Jesus, the Messiah, to show up as a powerful lion. Overlooking many scriptures, they created an image of who Christ would be, but their image was incomplete. Isaiah 53:7 prophesied that Jesus would come like a lamb:

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

Jesus came as a lamb, gentle and full of grace, never opening His mouth when they came to slaughter Him. Although this may have caused the Jewish people to see Jesus as weak, Revelation 17:14 makes clear that the Lamb is not weak – “[The ten kings under the power and authority of the Beast] will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings…”

Alcorn also points out that at the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the children come across a small lamb who, as they speak, turns into Aslan himself, a huge golden lion. Sometimes Jesus appears like a lamb, and sometimes He appears like a lion, but in actuality He is always both. He is powerful, mighty, and should be feared because of His holiness and justice. But He is gentle and full of grace, willing to forgive those who turn to Him and seek His mercy. Jesus is both the lion of truth and the lamb of grace.

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Grace and Truth: Spiritual Symmetry…

We’ve spent the last 3 days looking at sharing truth and showing grace, and how they seem so contradictory, when in fact they are actually quite complimentary. This paradox of needing to both share the uncompromising truths from God’s Word, as well as show God’s grace to everyone, can be a little difficult to grasp. But it’s important that we do so, since the one who we claim to follow, Jesus, was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Today’s study talked about the true symmetry found in sharing truth and showing grace, comparing it to the two strands of a DNA segment – each separate strand running in opposite directions, yet complementing each other to provide perfect spiritual balance and stability. As an illustration of sharing truth, the author of the study (Randy Alcorn) told the following story. I don’t usually like to copy this much straight out of my studies, but this story was too good to pass up.

A few years ago the church I used to pastor and still attend was picketed by 30 protesters. Why?  Some of our members go to abortion clinics and offer alternatives, sharing the gospel when they can. Sometimes they hold up signs saying, Consider Adoption, Let Your Baby Live, and We’ll Help Financially.

Three proabortion groups decided to join forces and give our church a taste of our own medicine. On a rainy Sunday morning our church parking lot was invaded by Radical Women for Choice, Rock for Choice, and the Lesbian Avengers. Having heard they were coming, we set out donuts and coffee. I spent 1½ hours with a protester named Charles, who held a sign saying, Keep Abortion Legal.

We talked a little about abortion and a lot about Christ. I explained the gospel. He gave me his address. Later I sent him some Christian literature.

I liked Charles. But when you believe as I do that abortion is killing children, it’s a bit awkward serving coffee and holding an umbrella for someone waving a proabortion sign. If you don’t understand, imagine doing that for someone holding a sign declaring, Legalize Rape or Kill Minorities. Yet because of the opportunity to share Christ’s grace, it seemed right.

It’s not just truth that puts us in awkward situations. So does grace. On the morning we were picketed, some street preachers showed up to take on the abortion activists with signs threatening hell and damnation. Their message contained truth, but their approach lacked grace. One of the the street preachers barged between my daughter and me and a few Lesbian Avengers just as we finally had an opportunity to talk with them. The door of witnessing was slammed in our face – by Christian brothers.

We tried to reason with the street preachers. After all, this was our church, and we didn’t want them screaming at our “guests,” even if they were screaming truth. Most cooperated, but a few decided we were compromising truth and it was an abomination for us to offer donuts to people who needed to be rebuked.

The following Sunday, two street preachers picketed our church, scolding us for our “pathetic” attempts at donut-and-coffee evangelism.

After 21 years without being picketed, our church was picketed two weeks in a row – first by radically liberal nonbelievers for speaking truth and second by radically conservative believers for showing grace.

That’s a great illustration of how hard it is to balance truth and grace. Usually by doing so, you’re going to be hated by somebody, but remember that Jesus said “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18). And when we lose the approval of those who side on truth, or we lose the approval of those who side on grace, remember that our approval should come from the one who was “full of grace and truth,” Jesus, our Lord.

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Grace and Truth: Becoming More Like Jesus…

The one thing I have seen taught in church probably more than anything else is that we should be more like Christ. The word Christian itself is derived from the Greek word christianos, meaning “follower of Christ.” When this term is used to describe a person, in its original meaning, it would be almost like an apprentice, or someone who followed and learned from a master-worker the way of doing something. In our case, the master-worker is Jesus, and we are his followers who have the sole directive to become like Him, continuing on in His work by doing what He did and living how he lived. As in any apprenticeship, our entire lives should reflect what we are learning, and the rest of our lives will be spent being perfected in our work.

Today’s Grace and Truth Paradox study pointed out that the early church was extremely successful at drawing people in because they were so very much like Jesus. We could spend all day listing the positive personal character traits of Jesus – patience, kindness, wisdom, obedience, mercy, and honesty only being a tip of the iceberg. But the apostle John was able to sum up every characteristic of Jesus into two words – Grace and Truth. John 1:14, when speaking of Jesus, said “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (emphasis added). And verse 17 continues by saying “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The traits that Jesus exemplified were Grace and Truth. The traits the early church modeled from Christ were Grace and Truth. And the traits we should model if we are to be more like Jesus are Grace and Truth.

What does this look like in our lives? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you better at overlooking others faults or point out their flaws?
  • Do you stand up for what is right or worry more about what people think?
  • Are you full of pride or filled with humility?
  • Do you look out for the needs of others or do you only think of yourself?
  • Are you a demanding person, or do you treat others with gentleness?
  • Do you stand unwavering for what you know is true, or are you willing to compromise in these situations?

If you’re anything like me, these questions hit a little too close to home. We know we have things in our lives that are not very Christ-like, and most of us want to change that. That’s a good thing. I hope and pray that we keep it up, that we keep on fighting our human nature to stay as we are, and that we keep on changing for the better. And I hope and pray that the world sees that we’re different, and that in that difference, they see Jesus and come to know Him. I pray that we grow in our ability to show grace and speak truth, just as Jesus did.

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Filed under Bible Study, Grace and Truth