Grace & Truth
If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phone, go ahead and turn to Mark 9 beginning with v. 38. If you’re new with us, we’re right in the middle of a series called “[Re]Discovering Jesus” where we’re learning, or perhaps relearning, about who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. I meet with some men every week who live in the world of politics, business and law. Sounds like the start of a good joke, right? “A politician, a businessman, a lawyer, and a preacher were on a plane going down with only one parachute…” (or something like that). The men in this group said, “You can talk about religion in our world, but if you mention the name of Jesus, people quickly change the subject.” Some people get uncomfortable when you start talking about Jesus, because it takes the discussion out of the realm of ideas and puts it in the realm of persons. You have to deal with a Person—who is Jesus, really, and why did He come? Did this Person—Jesus—come to condemn the world or to save the world? Did He come bringing grace or truth?
You see, unfortunately many people make Grace and Truth polar opposites, as though they are antithetical. “You’re either a person of grace or you’re a person of truth.” But what we’re going to see today is that Jesus was the full embodiment of both! The way the Apostle John put it is that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH” (John 1:14).
And that’s what we find in Mark 9. We find this incredible balance between truth and grace which calls us to live this out in our lives today. That’s what our goal is today: Goal: To learn how to find the right balance between grace and truth AND LIVE THAT OUT through our lives, in our marriages, with our children, and where we work and go to school. So, let’s take a look at it. If you would, let’s stand together to show honor to God’s Word as I read for us beginning in v. 38 and going to the end of the chapter.
You may be seated. The last part of verse 50, Jesus says, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” So here’s the balance once again. Salt—which is to preserve and add flavor. But it can also sting and kill if you have too much. So we are to have salt in ourselves, and we are to be at peace with one another. We’re to be a little salty, and we’re to be peaceful. Too many Christians are real heavy on the salt and lite on the peace. And other Christians are real heavy on the peace, but lite on the salt.
I wonder if the Apostle Paul had in mind the words of Jesus when he wrote the church in Colossae, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Always be gracious, seasoned with salt and NOT always salty, seasoned with grace.
We live in a precarious time where we have to find this balance between salt and peace, between truth and grace, because our culture--reflective of our media, entertainment industry, education system, businesses, and government—either sees the Church (capital “C”) as being too salty, judgmental, anti-this and anti-that, OR as being completely irrelevant and wishy-washy. More and more people in our culture are ok with Christianity … as long as it stays in its buildings on Sunday mornings and doesn’t enter the public arena. People where you live and work don’t care if you’re a Christian as long as you keep it too yourself. They like the “be at peace with one another” part, but they don’t want ANY salt whatsoever!
Now, what are we supposed to do about that? How can we find the right balance to live out our faith and make a difference in the world? Our mission as a church is to equip you, to help you learn how to Love God. Follow Jesus. Serve your world. But if you’re going to serve your world—your neighbors, your place of work, your school, that means your faith is not going to be some “privatized religious experience” that’s just about you and Jesus off in a corner somewhere. A PERSONAL faith in Jesus doesn’t mean it’s a PRIVATE faith. So, back in Mark 9, here’s what Jesus shows us about HOW TO FIND LIFE’S BALANCE AND LIVE OUT OUR FAITH IN THE REAL WORLD:
1. Stop judging and start collaborating (Mark 9:38-41)
Picture what’s going on in vv. 38-41. Jesus had His band of followers, and John, who was one of the hot-headed “sons of thunder” (3:17) and who later became the apostle of love, said, “We saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he’s not even one of us!” (v. 38). Do you see how quickly an “us vs. them” mentality developed? I mean this is a first generation follower of Jesus—and he already wants to circle the wagons! “This is our group. We have the truth copyrighted, and everybody else outside of this group is wrong.” Even if they’re serving in Jesus’ name?? So, what did Jesus say? Jesus said, “Don’t stop him, because the one who is not against us is for us” (v. 40).
Folks, this is how entire denominations have gotten started. One person disagrees with another person—and it’s usually over non-essential matters—and that person rallies others who agree with him, and the next thing you know they’re circling the wagons, and they move into protection mode where they’re going to worship their way and have their programs and their Sunday services and keep out the big, bad ugly world. And then, rather than penetrate our culture and change the world, we’ve gotten into our own little tribes where we protect our turf. This is exactly where Satan wants us.
We have GOT to work together if we’re going to have an impact in our city, nation, and world for the cause of Christ. If someone is casting out a demon in the name of Jesus (like we see here in v. 38), I don’t have to agree with every point of his theology in order to have a common mission to impact our city for the cause of Christ.
This is why we’ve chosen to partner with Northview, Trader’s Point, and Connection Point as anchor churches for City Mosaic. In fact, Northview Community Church planted a church on the northeast side that just wasn’t making it, so they turned it over to City Mosaic to relaunch with new leadership and a multi-ethnic team. Now, catch this, through City Mosaic we are partnering together to replant a church and a community ministry hub. This isn’t about being Baptist, or Assembly of God, or Christian Church or Presbyterian—this is about us saying, “If we’re going to reach this city for Christ, we need to work together, because whoever is not against Jesus is for Him, so let’s get moving!”
If we’re going to find the right balance between salt and peace, truth and grace, we need to stop judging and start collaborating.
So, what does this look like for you? You may be sitting here today and saying, “That’s all fine. E91, you go do that.” No, no. WE go do that. YOU are E91. This is why we pool resources together through tithes and offerings. This is why we equip and mobilize. This is why we challenge you to participate in Momentum—our church-wide initiative we’re launching in Jan. We all have a seat on the bus and a role to play!
And that’s what leads to the second part of this passage back in Mark 9. The first part in the balance between grace and truth and living that out is to stop judging and start collaborating. But then in vv. 42-50 Jesus shifts gears from “us”—“the one who is not against US is for US”—to “you”—how are YOU going to live YOUR life?
2. Make a personal commitment (Mark 9:42-50)
You see, it’s one thing to say, “OK, I’m good with City Mosaic. I’m fine with us as a church pooling resources with other churches.” “If you’re not against us, you’re for us.” But if that’s not hitting you at a personal level, then something’s wrong. Notice the two key areas of personal commitment to which Jesus calls us: the first is with CHILDREN (v. 42), and the second is with HOLINESS (vv. 43-48).
What are you doing personally in your commitment to children? (verse 42)
Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (v. 42). In other words, don’t mess with the children, or it will not bode well for you, my friend! Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus talks about personal commitment, He would start with how we treat children??
Now, I know most, if not all, of us would say, “Well, I’m not causing any children to sin!” But you know, sin is not only commission but omission. Maybe you’re not encouraging children like Jake to engage in sin, but are you encouraging children like Jake to engage in Christ? When you see a child like this in the hallway, do you see him or her as a nuisance? Or are you totally oblivious that he’s there? Or do you stop and speak to her? You may not be encouraging sin, but are you encouraging spiritual growth? This isn’t about you volunteering to serve in Kids World—although we would love for you (for some of you) to do that. This is about a culture of caring for little ones for “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”! What are you doing personally in your commitment to children? And…
What are you doing personally in your commitment to live a holy life? (verses 43-48)
I love how Jesus brings all of this down from the clouds of theological debate into the practical realm of how we live our lives. Jesus says that if your hand (v. 43) or your foot (v. 45) or your eye (v. 47) causes you to sin, cut it off or tear it out, because it’s better to enter life crippled or with one eye than to go to hell as a physically whole person.
Yes, Jesus believed in hell. The word translated “hell” in these verses is Hell: Gehenna which literally was a smoldering rubbish-dump outside of Jerusalem, but it became symbolic of eternal separation from God. Don’t miss this, the loving Son of God spoke to people about hell, because He loved them! He’s not literally commanding self-mutilation, but he’s using this intense, graphic imagery to highlight how vitally important it is that we do not cause children to stumble, and we live our lives in humble surrender and obedience to Jesus Christ.
Don’t lose your saltiness (v. 50). “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another,” Jesus said.
The most gracious thing you can do for someone is to be truthful with them. And the most truthful thing you can say to them is that they can receive God’s grace which will transform them to live joyful lives of obedience and surrender.
We need to stop judging and start collaborating—and not just on a corporate level, but on a personal level in how you live your life in your commitment to children—to the next generation—and to personal holiness.
How many times have we seen churches that don’t care about children and don’t teach about living in obedience to Jesus fail to make any impact in their community? O, I pray that you and I will see the call of Jesus on our lives today to live in obedient surrender to Him. And in so doing, we will have salt in ourselves, and be at peace with others.
I saw this prayer from St. Patrick that was sent out a few weeks ago by one of our ministry leaders. St. Patrick prayed, “Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me” (St. Patrick). When people think of you, do they think of Christ? When they see you do they see Christ? When they hear you, do they hear Christ? This isn’t about you being some spiritual giant; it’s about you and me and all of us giving the reigns of our lives over to Jesus who is full of grace and truth. When we do that, not only do we experience His grace to forgive us and His truth to prod us, we become vessels of that grace and truth to others and the strength to live out our personal faith in the public arena of where we live and work. Do you have that personal faith? Are you living in His grace and truth? What is it that Jesus is calling you to do about this today? Let’s pray.