Sunday, February 23, 2014

Luke 9: Disccipleship = Grace + Truth


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Luke 9:23-27 And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.  But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." 

Luke 9:57-62 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."  To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."  Yet another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."


Recent debates on Facebook over Pastor Lawrence Khong's strong stand on homosexuality has revealed a deep division among Christians into two camps--the "grace" camp and the "truth" camp. The grace camp disagreed with Pastor Khong's strong "stupid or stubborn" retort against those who rejected his arguments on homosexuality. This camp insisted that such strong language was unbecoming of a pastor who preaches God's love. However, the "truth" camp stood by Pastor Khong's strong retort, arguing that we need to speak the truth in love--even Jesus did that to the Pharisees who rejected his teaching and were abusive towards him.

While both sides think that they have got Jesus in their camps, I think Jesus is in neither camps: "And 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). Jesus is not in the grace-without-truth camp nor is he in the truth-without-grace camp. Instead, He is found in the third camp: grace-and-truth camp.

What has this to do with our texts today? I believe we would have this two opposing camps if Christians in either camp take Jesus' teaching on discipleship more seriously. For Jesus' discipleship teaching contains both grace and truth.

In today's texts, we see that Jesus' offer of life begins with the confession of faith that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. When He asked his disciples whom they thought he was, Peter answered: "Christ of God" (v.20). Matthew 16:16-17 gives Peter's more complete answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus affirmed Peter's faith by giving him the keys of the kingdom: "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"  (Matt 16:18-19). Peter's confession of faith guaranteed his place in the Kingdom. He was thus saved "by grace through faith". This is the grace part of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

But Jesus didn't stop there. A few verses down, He went on to explain the implication of this faith: "If anyone would come after me [believers], let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." Faith begins with confession of Christ as Son of God but faith is sustained and nourished by obedience to Christ's words: "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words [teaching], of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (v.26).

In other words, Jesus was not only full of grace, but He is also full of truth (teaching). If we are to be His followers, we have to also take His teaching seriously. We enter the Kingdom through the confession of faith but once we have the keys to enter, we keep our faith in Christ by denying self, taking up our cross daily and following Him. This is the truth part of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus puts the importance of truth in the Gospel this way: "teaching them to observe/obey all that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:19).

If we are true believers we cannot just emphasize grace (something God has done for us in Christ) but also truth (something we need to do to keep our faith alive in Christ). I think there is some confusion among Christians in the grace camp when they confuse Law with grace and truth. John does not contrast Moses' Law with Grace alone but with Grace and Truth: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

So Christians belong to the "grace and truth" camp of discipleship. Christians are on the side of grace and truth (Christ's Law) in opposition to to Moses' Law. The way to reconcile grace and truth is to return to Jesus' discipleship as found in the Gospels.

Father, thank You that You have called us not only to believe in Christ as Son of God but to obey His teaching. Amen.

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