(Photo: Dan Delzell)
When God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in a garden which had boundaries. They were told to respect those boundaries and obey the truth. They chose to cross God's boundary line. The rest is history.
The apostle John wrote, "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) Notice that the contrast is not between grace and truth. It is between the Law of the Old Testament and the Gospel of the New Testament. Grace and truth came to us secured tightly together in Jesus Christ and never to be separated. This is a critically important fact for a Christian to grasp.
Moses was given boundaries by God to pass along to the people. Like Adam and Eve, the Israelites at times crossed God's boundary lines in disrespect and disobedience. Jesus did not come to remove the boundary lines, but to go to the cross and pay for our sins of disobedience to God.
The grace and truth which Jesus brought are the best of friends. In fact, neither of them go anywhere without the other. Wherever you have the grace of God, you will also have the truth of God. And vice versa. It is actually impossible to ever have only one of them. It would be like saying, "Some of my coins have only heads, while others have only tails." It doesn't work that way with nickels, or with grace and truth.
God's boundary lines have never been abolished or removed. The only way to see these boundaries is to go to the Word of God. Without the Scriptures, all we would have to go on is what we feel is right and wrong. Our feelings can deceive us, as Adam and Eve discovered.
Grace and truth save the souls of believers and also teach us about God's will for our lives. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:11,12)
Did you catch that? It is grace, and not just truth, which teaches us to say "no" to those things which are on the wrong side of God's boundary lines. One cannot truthfully claim to have God's grace through faith in Christ, while at the same time promoting or pursuing things which God calls sinful. Without repentance, a person cannot be saved.
It is not in line with the truth to say that certain types of sinful behavior are no longer sinful. If someone began teaching, for example, that gossip is no longer sinful….or that holding a grudge is no longer sinful….these teachings would not be in line with grace and truth. This is because grace and truth are always accompanied by God's boundaries.
In a similar way, a person cannot claim to know God if he is rejecting Jesus. Our Lord taught that you do not know the Father if you do not know the Son. (John 8:19) Faith in Jesus is the path to salvation. That is another specific boundary line. On one side of the line is grace, truth, and acceptance. On the other side of the line is darkness, condemnation, and wrath. The line is present whether a person sees it or not. Which side are you on?
Man doesn't tend to do well with boundary lines because he feels that boundaries limit him and his behavior. It is understandable for man to feel this way. But it doesn't change the truth, or the reality of God's grace. God never intended for man to be his own god and to establish whatever boundaries he thinks are appropriate.
It is an interesting observation that those today who seek to move God's boundary lines on moral issues are often the same ones trying to move the boundary line of the cross. They feel there must be alternative ways to live that are OK with God, and other beliefs which lead to heaven. These lost travelers are drifting at sea in a storm of their own making. If there are storm clouds developing in your spiritual life today, hurry back to the cross and to the Word of God....and then stay put.
Is there a particular boundary line in God's Word which does not sit well with you? The natural response is to try to move the boundary. It's similar to when a little child tries to open the medicine bottle to reach some of that "candy." The decision to ignore the boundary can be deadly. By forsaking God's wonderful boundaries, man turns his back on both truth and grace.
Grace and truth can be represented by two pitchers of water which get poured into one container. It is true that they get mixed together in the life of every believer. It is also true that if you poke a hole in the container by removing one or more of God's boundaries, you begin to lose the water of grace and truth.
It would be impossible to drain out only the "truth water" from the container, but not the "grace water." When Christ came as our Savior, they were mingled together forever. You get both, or neither. You flow in both, or neither. You live in both, or neither. It is a fallacy of the modern age to think that man can continue to experience God's grace in his life, while at the same time trying to move the biblical boundary lines.
Don't imitate those who seek to move the lines. Some try to broaden the road to heaven. Others try to shrink God's list of sins. Jesus is still the only way to heaven, and sin is still just as offensive to God as always. Don't be swayed by a philosophy which invites man to establish his personal boundaries according to what is right in his own eyes. Man's boundary lines tend to be all over the board. God's boundaries are clearly spelled out in the Scriptures.
Man has lots of experience at trying to move God's boundaries. This tendency goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. But it's never worth it. You never win when you pursue and condone sin. It is contrary and counterproductive to Christian discipleship, and it always ends up being an incredibly draining experience. When grace and truth get drained out, all you are left with is a container of empty religion.
Are grace and truth leaking out of your life today, or are you promoting those boundary lines which God established at the cross and in His Word? Faithful discipleship calls for believers to promote the cross and the other markers with much love, compassion, and persistence. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. If in our efforts to be "loving" we sacrifice either grace or truth, we lose both of them as they leak out of us like water from a holey container.
So as we seek to present the message of God's grace and truth, we must always ask ourselves: Is the content of my message holy, or holey? It can't be both, and therein lies the real tension.
Let's face it. Things will get messy, especially in America today, when you faithfully teach how "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) But always remember this essential aspect of Christianity....if you relinquish either grace or truth, you end up sacrificing both of them. It's just that simple.