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Ben Fleming: God is Grace and Truth, John 1:14-18

October 2, 2023

Audio Recording

Jesus reveals the glory of God as full of grace and truth. We offer both to the world around us, following Jesus’ example of compassion and redemption, while practicing empathy in our interactions with others.

Discovering God
Discovering God
Ben Fleming: God is Grace and Truth, John 1:14-18
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

What we need to understand before we jump all the way into grace and truth is we need to understand this idea of the glory of God. Now, in the Old Testament narrative, anytime you saw the glory of God, it was in reference to the Israelites usually being like, God is with us. We feel his presence, and that presence has come in the glory of God. And so if God visited, his glory would be what you felt. There was a cloud that led the Israelites through the desert. That was a cloud of glory. There was a visible storm on top of Mount Sinai, and that was the manifestation of God's glory. This is how you knew that God was close, was that you would experience his glory. It says in Exodus chapter 33, this is moses says, if it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so that I might understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. Moses, prays a prayer that's a lot like what we've been praying here at West Side. I want to know your ways so that I can understand you, God, as fully as possible.

And it says in verse 14, the Lord replied, I will personally go with you, Moses. I will give you rest and everything will be fine with you. And then Moses said, if you don't personally go with us, don't make us leave this place. Now, this is a timeless statement that the people of God should have toward God. If you're not in something, if you're not going somewhere, if you're not in those words, I don't want to take any part of it. Instead, I will simply stay where we believe God is. And then in verse 18, Moses follows it up with he says, please show me your glory. And then in verse 20, God says, you may not look directly at my face, for no one can see me and live. The Lord continued, look, stand near me on this rock and my glorious presence passes by. I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I pass by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind, but my face will not be seen. The face of God will not be seen.

Moses is not worthy to behold all of the glory of God. So well, what chance do we have then, if that's how we experience God's glory? How do we gaze upon God? How do we truly discover God if we can't see into this glory? Well, the disciple John makes a statement in his Gospel in chapter one of the Book of John in verse 14 that kind of changes the entire game when it comes to understanding the glory of God through the person of Jesus. Says in verse 14, the word became flesh and made its dwelling among us. Or the message translation says god moved into the neighborhood with us. Yeah, I love that. Not just a rumor, not just somebody that we've messaged online before or that we've heard about, but instead God moved right into our neighborhood, set up a tent, set up a residence with us.

Says we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father. And then John describes this glory and what is in it, and he says it's full of grace and truth.

Full of grace and truth. In verse 16, out of his fullness, we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God but the one and only Son who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father has made him known.

Now, grace, we want to talk about grace first, and really these two should not be separated, but I'll describe both of them and then put them together for you as best I can. The story of grace begins really early in the narrative of scripture. There's this word called hen sorry to the front row. I'm not going to do it again.

That means favor or graciousness. And the first person to receive this favor, as far as we know in the Bible is Noah. And then other people who markedly received the grace of God or the favor of God are Jacob and David and others.

So it enters into the whole story very, very early on and it helps us describe and understand the nature of God. But Jesus illustrates so clearly and concisely how grace operates as well as truth. Now, truth, it's tempting for us to think that these things need to balance each other out, right? Or they're in competition with each other. And if you have 50% grace and 50% truth, then you understand how God works. Or if you hold grace in this hand and truth in this other hand, then you'll be able to use both of them appropriately at the right times. But what the scripture says is that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Not full as if you add them together, but they are together. They are the embodiment together. And so what does truth do? Well, truth at its base level is a light into our world. It shows off and exposes what's really truly happening. And it does so at a depth that we don't always think about a lot of times we think about truth in this really shallow. The truth is that what you did is wrong or that what you did in this moment is right. But Jesus'truth goes beyond just an individual moment, a decision, whether it was right or wrong. And it takes into account all of your history, of your soul and of your body. It takes into account all history of Christianity and the rest of the world. It takes into account all of creation. This truth that Jesus brings. It goes beyond just our right or wrong in and of itself in front of us. Now, I'll give you, for instance, sometimes I've gotten into arguments with my family.

Anybody else? Two? Good. Well, I'm going to show you what it's like to get in a fight with your family, okay? But there are times we'll find ourselves in contention. I'll raise my voice, I'll get frustrated. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten angry over the fact that my son won't finish all of his dinner, which is usually like pizza or know, dad, I don't want to eat anymore. You gotta finish your meat lover's pizza. God, somebody tell me this, please. Look at Ben and go, you have to finish that pizza. Okay, fine.

I'll do.

Oh. We'll get in these arguments, and then there's been several times where especially with my son, because a lot of times we'll just kind of his energy, man, it crushes my soul some days.

And I'll be angry with him over something so silly or so trivial or so small, and my wife will come up and put her hand on my shoulder and go, he missed out on about 2 hours of sleep last night.

So you should relax a little bit because it's not just this thing that he's saying that is wrong. Even though it is wrong, there's depth to what he's feeling and experiencing right now. And so we've tried to develop the practice as a family. If we can stop and catch ourselves in the middle of a disagreement and go, wait, before we continue on with this fight, are you hungry?

Are you sleepy?

Because this is not going to go well for either of us if that condition already exists.

The truth isn't just what my son was saying was right or wrong. There was more to his behavior than what would meet the eye. And the same often happens in the disagreements I would have with my wife or maybe you would have with a coworker or a friend or somebody in your life. There's usually a lot more than meets the eye.

When we have difficulty, this truth exposes what doesn't always meet the eye.

Which is why if we ever find ourselves using truth as this really flippant way to convict the people around us, we have to stop and actually examine what is the truth that Jesus shows us. Again, not the balance between grace and truth is what we're looking for. It's not what we attempt that's old covenant type of thinking, but when we attempt to balance grace and truth, we actually get the worst of both sides. Grace is not a correction for too much truth, and truth is not a correction for too much grace.

Jesus is full of both to the top. All truth all grace, and he shows us what that looks like.

So I'll tell you a little story from my life, how I've experienced this even fairly recently, a little bit more recently than I'm proud of, actually.

I was in my truck one morning. I was going to meet Dave Daley, who's pastor on staff here, and we were going to talk through some work stuff, and we were meeting at Jackson's Corner for some breakfast. And I got to the intersection, the main intersection, which is cooley, and highway 97, which is closest to my house. I stop at that intersection every day, and I'm in my truck, and there was a lot going on, and I think there was some kind of build up in stress in me that had already grabbed me that morning. It's like 815, and my phone buzzes a few times. You guys know that sound of and you know one of the ones that's the text one, right, that's like and then there's the emails, like, and then there's the phone call, right? It's like they all stress me out to different levels, going, man, who's texting me? Who is emailing? Who would call me for the love?

And I took my phone and I threw it off the dashboard, and it bounced into the back of the truck. And you're saying, do you have anger issues? I have been walking through some level of anger issues my whole life, whether it was sports or whatever. I can hit this point where it gets pretty scary, actually. And I've continually had to walk through that and work through that. But this is how I'm starting my day.

And I get to breakfast with Dave, and we go through the line, and we order, and then we sit down, and Dave asks the worst question, how are you doing?

And I'm angry. And I go, I'm fine.

And he says something like, I don't know that that's true.

I say, well, if I'm honest and I go deep with this, I would tell you that I got some feedback from somebody that I really respect that's been kind of a mentor or a leader in my life. That wasn't perfect. It wasn't ideal.

They discounted this thing that I was really proud of, and I'm kind of frustrated.

And I told him I threw my phone off the dash or whatever, and he was like, you've gotten bad feedback before. It's a shock. I know you've gotten a lot of bad feedback.

You handle it pretty well. So I don't know if bad feedback is what's bothering you.

There's probably something deeper in there.

And I'm like, well, I guess I care about this person's opinion more than somebody else, and I want to be proud of what I'm doing. And they weren't proud of me, and that makes me a little bit angry. And Dave was like, that's good. That's progress. The truth is, probably there's something underneath all of you know, by this time I'm going, Can I just have my scramble?

And we keep talking. And eventually, after probably three more layers, I go, I just feel like he doesn't want me.

And I feel like I don't belong.

And I hate that feeling.

And it was like, that's it.

We've reached the bottom level where I've understood now that I've given a piece of myself to someone that is imperfect in comparison to Jesus. And that if my belonging requires my connection to them and affirmation from them, then I will find my feeling of belonging to be very inconsistent according to their feelings.

And what I'm trying to illustrate here is that you could look at Ben in the truck at the intersection of highway 97 and Cooley Road, and you could say, Dude, relax.

Throwing your phone is just going to cause you the need to get a new one.

You're going to lose money. You're actually going to want to use that later on.

And you could say, what you're doing, and you would be right is wrong.

That's stupid behavior.

But the truth of the matter was that there was something else that needed to be exposed that's five, six layers deep in my soul.

And that is the truth that Jesus wants to bring out.

And so if we have this shallow idea of truth, and we'll even say this sometimes when we're, like, church stopping and stuff, right? Are you a grace church? Are you a truth church? Because the world needs more truth.

And what they really mean is, I want a fiery, angry preacher. Hello. I can do that.

And I want you to lay down the law and tell people what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong.

And this is exactly what the Pharisees and the religious people of the time, once they heard about Jesus and that he was an influence, they're looking to Jesus and they're being like, you need to tell these people what's going on. You need to tell them how wrong they are. You need to tell them that they're going to hell.

And Jesus always pushes back, and he resists this.

Is it because he didn't believe in truth? Is it because he was like, look, nobody's ever doing anything wrong. That wasn't it.

Jesus would address in truth the sin that happens in the world and that happens in our lives, but he wouldn't just stop it, saying, you're wrong. You need to stop it. He would understand that there's a history, that there's a trauma, that there's a depth, that there's a desire in each of our souls that's looking for something. And then when we're pressurized, a lot of times, we'll make bad decisions, we'll perform in bad behavior. The truth of Jesus wants to expose all the good and the bad and at an incredible depth. And I'll show it to you in this story in John, chapter eight.

This is where Jesus is a disruptor and truth and grace are so well connected. Says in John, chapter eight, jesus returned to the Mount of Olives. But early the next day, he was back again at the temple, and a crowd soon gathered, and he sat down, and he taught them. But as he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd and teach her. They said to Jesus, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says, a stoner. What do you say? They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. Now, I'm going to stop right there real quick. I want to acknowledge a couple things. First of all, you see Jesus's pacing in this story.

Not pacing like he's walking back and forth, but his slow pace.

Now, the people are right. Someone caught in the act of adultery, they, according to the law, should be stoned. They are not wrong.

But Jesus'reaction is not fast. He stops and I would imagine drives people absolutely nuts. Jesus, we need an answer on this. Should we stone her? And he stops, and he begins to doodle on the ground.

Hurry up.

We've got questions. We need answers. We've heard you're. The guy with the answer. Come on.

Now, this happens all the time to you, whether you know it or not. There are people that want you to make really snap judgments about people in this world that you don't understand, that you can't empathize with. And the world wants you to come to this point and say, you need to make a decision about this person. Are they good? Are they bad? Are they somebody that you want around? Are they pure evil? It's politicians. It's people in your neighborhood. It's people that work for the city, people that are coworkers. You got to make a decision about these folks. And I believe that if we took on Jesus'pace, that would be step one to a really healthy understanding of grace and truth.

Let's slow down and let's breathe a little bit. Even though somebody would prod us forward, says they kept demanding an answer.

So he stood up again and he said, all right, that's fine. You can stone her, but let the one who's never sinned go ahead and throw the first one.

And then he stooped down again.

He wrote in the dust.

And when the accusers stooped down excuse me. Stooped down again, wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, who knew better than the youngest the level of their shortcomings and sins, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. And Jesus stood up again, and he said to her, Where are your accusers?

Didn't even one of them condemn you.

No, Lord, she said. And Jesus said, Neither do I. Now go and sin no more.

Now, there's so much in here.

But again, the first thing is this jesus's truth that he presents to this crowd goes beyond just this surface level situation and the law that they present to him. Again, they are right. This woman can be stoned according to the law.

But Jesus's pace allows him this level of truth that now encompasses the entire situation and context. He slows down. And I believe if I'm in that crowd, maybe I'm not. Maybe I don't think this way. But from my perspective, reading the Scripture, there's more to this story already. It says they pull this woman naked into the middle of this crowd and says we should stone her. And I'm going, where's the guy at?

Where is he? Is he naked in around the corner? Did you clothe him? Is he in the crowd right now holding a rock himself?

Where's the dude?

So already your guys'idea of how much you love the law, it's already completely gone away. You don't care that much about the law. You care about this situation because you've missed an opportunity to bring everybody who should be convicted of sin in this case into the same scenario.

Sometimes I think we think we care about the law, but really we care about being right in our specific situation and we want to be found holding rocks, not naked in a crowd where's the guy? But then also Jesus is trying to help them understand that there's something more than just this one simple situation. There's something in how you guys have created this culture where you're so eager to go out and to find a woman in this condition and to stone her. What drives you for that to be your primary desire? What drives you to be the ultimate convictor? What drives you to kill someone in the middle of the street? Why is this so on your heart?

And I believe a lot of it is this sometimes in order to find our own validation and to remind ourselves that we're on the right side or we've discovered the right truth, we need to go out of our way to make sure that we discover people that would be on the wrong side.

See, I'm clearly right because I look like this and I'm clothed like this and I talk like this. But they are wrong because they look like this and they find themselves naked in the street in the middle of a crowd. Jesus takes it the truth beyond their simple law in this one moment.

And Jesus does this several times over the course of Scripture as part of the Sermon on the Mount, the most famous sermon of them all. Jesus talks about how it's blessed that those who are poor in spirit. But really, he goes on and then he says, now let's talk about your laws. You guys have heard that if you commit adultery that that is the worst and you should be killed. But I'm going to tell you that even when you look at a woman with lust in your eyes, you've already committed adultery with her heart, with her in your heart.

And you've heard it say that to murder your brother is a bad deal. But when you even talk about them poorly, that's just as bad as murder. And these people who are already obsessed with trying to accomplish this law as best they can, to cross every T and dot every I, they're hearing this and they're going, this guy is making it worse.

We're already miserable, we're already guilty and shameful. And now he's raised the bar. It's impossible to do this.

And so what Jesus does in the circle with all the people holding the stones and what Jesus does at the Sermon on the Mount, he brings everybody to this point to say, look, I know you think you're perfect and you think you're right and you've accomplished everything. But let me raise the bar so high to illustrate the fact that all have fallen so desperately short of what? Of the glory of God.

And that just as it did for the old men in the circle around the naked woman who had committed adultery, that should create a truth that enters into our heart, that expresses itself in empathy for people that we don't know and we don't understand.

So there's this specific moment again in John, chapter eight. Sorry for bouncing back and forth a little bit at the end where Jesus I think Jesus is a little theatrical in the best way.

There's this scene and all these guys are all holding stones and Jesus says one phrase and they drop the stones and they slowly walk away. And when it's quiet and Jesus is still down on the ground, he looks up and huh, where are your accusers?

Where did they says they're gone?

And what's Jesus'follow up? I don't condemn you either.

And he says, go and sin no more. What you're doing is hurting you.

You can't live this way.

Don't dehumanize yourself by pursuing this relationship and through the way of adultery. There's a better way.

There's a better way to live. And I think Jesus would look at all of us today who all have our own form of insecurities and addictions, right?

I mean, even the word addiction, I think about all the ways that we criminalize addiction and we think of those are addicts. And then I think of the times in myself where I'm like, man, I'm addicted to affirmation. And if you've ever been a person that's been addicted to affirmation that will control your life, you're not going to get thrown in prison for it, but you're going to end up leading this really difficult life where you're so reliant, a lot like I have. You're so reliant on the feedback, the positive feedback of other people for your mood and for your spirit. It will crush you and eat you alive.

I believe that God would look at us in all of our addictions and all of our sin, in all of our ways, and he would say, there's a better way to live.

Go and sin no more. The truth is that you've fallen short of the glory of God.

But the truth is also that in the middle of this big gaping hole that you've used to shovel out and created this massive empty area, the truth is that grace is the one that fills that hole that you've created in the first place.

So go and sin no more.

I don't condemn you.

Now. This is how the Church West Side you should function when it comes to truth.

First of all, we need to see that there's a bigger depth to truth. There's not one behavior or one wrong thing in one moment that we simply condemn and we kill people over. We try to examine what in the environment or what in the history or what in the experience of this person or myself has created this one moment. There's a depth to truth. And then we need to understand that in our use of truth, the idea is not that we become the judge or the accuser.

It's that we offer grace in truth, just as Jesus did this day.

Jesus didn't pay for this sin with fond feelings, doodles on the ground and little notes of heartfelt compassion.

John, the disciple who wrote these words about seeing the glory of God, saw that this all cost Jesus his very life, that it was Jesus'sacrificial display of love that paved the way for John's sin himself to be erased.

For John, undisplayed love was not love at all. And he says this much. This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Dear children, let us not love with words or with speech, but with actions and in truth.

So our mission as a church, as we close this time, as we discover God coming out of this and understanding more about Him, even though so much is still the great mystery. The ongoing mission that we get to participate in is the era of salvation and redemption. The truth is that there is great difficulty for all of those of us who walk the earth. The mission of the Christian is to show the world in that difficulty, salvation and redemption.

So what I want to encourage you to do this week change your pace, especially when you look at the actions of someone else. But I would say also when you look at the actions of yourself, let us not fly off the handle and throw iPhones into dashboards.

Let us take on the pace of Jesus, slow things down and attempt to discover this deeper truth about the behavior that we see or that we perform.

You find yourself to be an angry person. There's a deep reason for that.

You find yourself to be an addict. There's a deep reason for that. You find yourself to be insecure and wondering a lot like me. Why can't I belong? Why aren't I wanted? There's a deeper reason for that. Part of loving God is understanding that he wants to address those deep needs.

So slow your pace down to understand the deeper truth, offer up grace in situations where maybe others wouldn't, or maybe you never have. Forgive a debt and respond to an insult with gentleness.