Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: REDUCE (11/05/15)
TITLE: The Character of God
By Dave Walker
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The Son of Thunder was now The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved. He was about to write a book telling the world about the One who loved them, too and through faith in Him, could save them. Vivid images of Jesus' deeds and sayings tumbled into his consciousness.
Where to start, Lord? All the books in the world couldn't contain all there is about You.
"Start at the beginning."
Slowly, he wrote.
"In the beginning was the Word," He sensed God's Spirit. "And the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
John's profile of Jesus is unlike the other gospels. He uses mysterious spiritual language, giving no worldly genealogy, yet fitting Jesus perfectly. The Word, present before time; with God, yet also God; the Light; Creator of all things; a Man.
But John knew even this description was inadequate. In a worldly parallel, as I listen to the curriculum vitae of the presidential candidates, one question persists. But what sort of person is he?
Before his narrative began, John needed a character description. He searched for the words. How to describe You, Lord? In a few words, what's the very bedrock of Your character?
His answer's in Chapter 1:14: "We have seen His glory, ....... who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Of all Jesus' attributes, John reduced them to these two: grace and truth.
Jesus brought us Truth. His teachings transform the world wherever they're embraced. The church is diligent in propagating His truths, facing increasing opposition from a secular world. We speak against gay marriages, killing unborn babies and the terminally ill or severely disabled, legalised prostitution and a host of issues arising when, in a vivid replay of the Book of Judges, everyone does what's right in his own eyes.
But what about Jesus' other attribute? Jesus touched a leper shunned by society, lunched with a reviled tax collector, called an unclean woman who'd dared to touch Him, "daughter". He breathed forgiveness over an adulteress and even washed the feet of a traitor. He attracted sinners, meeting them on their own turf. No wonder they flocked to Him. They'd never experienced such grace.
Is the church doing as well on grace as we are on truth? Would Jesus shout vitriolic words of hatred and judgement to those on a gay march or at abortion clinics? "God hates you. You deserve to burn in hell"? or "Baby killer! I hope you die like the babies you're tearing apart!"?
Philip Yancey's book "What's so Amazing About Grace" describes a social worker who met a broken woman who'd sold her small child into prostitution. When the social worker, desperate to help, suggested going to a church, her response was "Why do that? I feel bad enough about myself as it is!" Sinners are not flocking to the church.
Grace is a buzzword these days, usually in the context of how ready God is to forgive us our sin, and debates rage about what is coined 'hyper grace'. Yet perhaps the real debate should be on how His grace affects our relationship with others. If God treats us with truly amazing grace, should we not express that side of His nature to the sinners who cross our path? We love because He first loved us. Shouldn't we extend grace because He first extends grace to us?
What opened up your heart to Jesus? Was it truth or the grace of forgiveness with no strings attached? For me, it was His grace that gave me the courage to receive His truth.
Jesus warned of persecution, but let us be ridiculed and reviled for the same reason that Jesus was. He infuriated the self righteous by befriending the sinner. He threatened the rulers by His popularity causing them to say "If we let Him go on like this everyone will believe in Him." (John 12:48)
Jesus was outspoken about sin, but was as outspoken, in deed, about His love and acceptance of the sinner, finally stretching out bleeding, pierced hands inviting them into His Kingdom.
Oh that the unchurched, when asked to reduce the characteristics of the church to its bedrock qualities would say, "For all their faults, I must admit, they are full of grace and truth."
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