We are so blessed to be living under the New Covenant. No longer do we approach God with the blood of goats and bulls. No longer do we have a weak representative who goes to God on our behalf. No longer do we only have access into His presence once a year (See Hebrews 7:27-28, 8:7-13, 10:19-22). Because of the blood of the New Covenant, we all are made priests unto God, accessing His presence day and night with confidence, no longer bound by laws written on stone, but by the law of the Spirit written on our very nature (Romans 6-8). What a day to be alive!
There is such grace under this New Covenant that the new testament writers warned us about the license some would say they found in it. Many were boasting in the early apostle's day that they could sin freely because God's grace had covered them. This is why Paul penned such truths as, "Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? Certainly not!...How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom. 6:15, 2) and "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared...teaching us [to] deny ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Titus 2:11-12). This is why Jude warned that "certain men have crept in [the church] unnoticed...ungoldly men, who turn the grace of God into lewdness" (Jude 1:4). God's grace is so large that it can almost seem like permission to live however we want! The scriptures clearly teach us otherwise but this was the problem that crept into the church by the 1st century!
The same problem exists today only in greater measure. There is such freedom in the body of Christ today! Such necessary, beautiful freedom! God has awakened hearts to the power of His love and the glory of being sons and daughters of the Most High who are fully forgiven, cleansed, and empowered to do the works that Jesus did. We are truly awakening to His love. We desire that everyone know this love, and rightly so! Jesus himself told us that the world would know we are his followers by the love that we show to one another (John 13:35). But Jesus always tied love for Him back to this one word: obedience. Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word" and "he who does not love me does not keep my words." (John 14:23-24). Jesus said, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me and he who loves me will be loved by my Father" (John 14:21). Jesus said, "If you keep my commandments, you abide in my love" (John 15:10). Jesus said,"You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:14). Do you see what Jesus said? Love without obedience isn't love at all. Grace without freedom from sin isn't really grace.
In a culture where we are so afraid to offend, grace and love are often preached without repentance. And sometimes when repentance is preached, it is not a clear, defining message of leaving the lifestyle of sin behind. The issue we are dealing with is that in today's culture, we have a hard time marrying grace and truth. Grace says, "Jesus loves you right where you are!" but truth says, "Jesus loves you and you must leave your life of sin to love Him in return." Grace says, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17)." But truth says, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who dos not believe is condemned already (John 3:18)." We have a very hard time understanding that grace always calls us into truth and that the truth...can sometimes be hard to face.
Part of the problem is that for years, the church preached truth without grace. We exposed sin and railed against it without balancing the message by presenting the profoundly expansive grace of God. Because the church had been quick to condemn those who sin both within and outside the church, we have now swung the pendulum the other way as an over reaction to our former arrogance. It's human nature that whenever we discover a new truth, we replace what we practiced before with our current revelation. Just look at all the new diet trends/research that cancel out previous diet trends/research! But within the Kingdom, it usually doesn't work this way. Most often in the Kingdom, truth is in layers. One truth makes way for another...not replaces another. For instance, Jesus revealed in the Sermon on the Mount that the New Covenant truth was a deeper revelation of the same Old Testament truth: murder is wrong in the Old Testament, but peel back that truth in the New, and find that anger is the root of that wrong. He wasn't saying murder is okay in the New Covenant, but that the GREATER truth is revealed in it. Today, as we are awaking to greater grace and life in the Spirit, our first inclination is to throw out the message of holiness, which was often taught in our former days in legalistic ritual. However, God is wanting to awaken us to what Grace really is: the empowering presence of God to actually live holy.
John 1:17 tells us that Jesus gave us both grace and truth. It is he who taught us to look the sinner in the eye and, in grace say, "Neither do I accuse you," but in truth say, "but go and sin no more" (John 8:1-11). It is he who said in grace, "These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace in the world" (John 16:33). But it is also he who said in truth, "Do you suppose that I came to give peace to the earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division" (Luke 12:51). I am so grateful that God is awakening his bride to the magnificent love we have in Christ, but we must not cram Christ into our neat, little, cultural box of what grace and love is suppose to be. For it is the same merciful, saving Christ who gave us grace, whose burning heart of love also told the church IN THE NEW COVENANT, "...this I have against you" (Revelation 2:4, 14, 20). This truth, too, is a message of grace because even though Jesus found sin in the church, he clearly warned us before it was too late. He graciously revealed the true state of the church in order that we might repent and remain right with God. What a grace!
Church, as long as we are awakening to truth, let us awaken to the whole truth! The same gentle Jesus who presented himself as a Shepherd is the same Jesus who took time to make a whip and turn tables in the temple. The same gentle Jesus who willingly touched the leper is the same Jesus who said he gave the church in Thyatira time to repent, but that great tribulation would come on them because they refused. We must awaken to grace AND truth! We must awaken to the Lamb AND the Lion! The Savior AND the Judge! We must wrestle with these revelations in our personal lives and in our corporate gatherings in order that we can rightly present the grace-filled gospel of Christ. This is a call to the body of Christ to stop the swinging pendulum of the gospel from a back and forth journey to grace verses truth. This is the call to be like Christ who gave us BOTH in equal proportions. This is the call to throw away the pendulum completely like HE did, and to simply live out grace and truth before a lost a dying world.