Balance is important. If you don’t believe me, ask a tightrope dancer, a gymnast, or an ice skater. If balance is not achieved, each of these athletes will end up on the ground. And what about a hot air balloon. No, hot air ballooning doesn’t take the same kind of balance as an athlete, yet it requires the ability to balance the temperature inside the balloon. The driver of a balloon has only two ways to control the ballon: first, by adding hot air, thus increasing the altitude. Or by opening the vent, which releases air and causes the balloon to drop. To properly control the balloon, the driver must be balanced in his application of adding or releasing hot air. If he were to only add more and more hot air, he could end up at a dangerous altitude where the air is too thin to breath. If he releases too much hot air too quickly, he might experience a crash landing.
Similarly, we must remain balanced when sharing our faith in Christ. We should use the law of God to reveal to an individual his or her sin (as I wrote about last week), yet doing so with grace. Balance is important. Last week, as I spoke about using the law as a tool in evangelism, I did so with fear and trembling. Not because it’s wrong (I think this is what God calls us to do) but because it can be (and has been) misused when not balanced with grace. This has caused lots of PR problems for the church throughout various parts of history. Zealous to proclaim the glory of God, many a preacher has stood bringing forth the fire and brimstone of God, while neglecting the grace found in Christ. This is to our shame. When our Lord Jesus took upon human flesh and entered into His own creation, He came full of grace and truth (John 1:14,17)
Therefore, following the example of Christ, we are to be gracious and loving as we fervently call people to repentance and faith. Jesus went out of his way to spend time with those whom society saw as the worst of the worst. “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that [Jesus] was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Mark 2:16) Scoffing and mocking, the self-righteous, religious leaders of Jesus’ day missed the whole point of God’s law. Instead of being humbled by the holiness of God and His perfect standard of righteousness, they thought they could somehow live up to it. (Talk about self-delusion!) This in turn gave these “righteous” ones lots of ammunition to hurl at everyone they saw as sinners. Jesus amplifies this hypocrisy in His parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector who both go to the temple to pray. “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” Some prayer, huh? On the other hand, the tax collector prays, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Jesus ends the parable, “I tell you, [the tax collector] went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Again, the point is that those who have found mercy and grace in Christ should reflect that same mercy and grace out into the world. So the idea that any church would not welcome and love sinners of all stripes is complete foolishness. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that we embrace and encourage sin. No, the gospel brings about change in a person’s life as the Holy Spirit daily conforms us to the image of Christ. “Churches” who believe they are being loving and accepting by embracing certain sins that have become popular in the culture are actually the most dangerous. Why? Because they have given up the truth in exchange for a lie. (Romans 1:25) Remember what Jesus brought with Him? Grace and truth. This is where we are to remain balanced. We must share God’s law in order that we can see ourselves as we truly are, lost and in need of a savior. At the same time, we must do so remembering that we love people and desire that they too would come to experience the grace we have found in Christ. We are not to use the law as a hammer, as a means of making ourselves seem better than others. We are all sinners in need of grace.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) If you are honest with yourself, you will see yourself somewhere in that list, perhaps multiple times. However, when we come to Christ in repentance and faith we can continue reading that very passage with great joy! “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) This, dear reader, is grace and truth beautifully balanced in Christ.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ