For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Grace and truth (2)
The demolition and rebuilding work of the Holy Spirit in the children of God.
Reading: John 1:14, 16-17.
The Lord Jesus expressed grace and truth in a very balanced way. In every encounter he had with people, he manifested these two traits of his wonderful person. Sometimes he showed grace first, sometimes truth; but they were always present. We have also seen that grace forgives us, raises us up, while the truth knocks us down and breaks us.
When Jesus appears
In John 1, from verse 35 onwards, we John the Baptist who, when he saw Jesus, said: "Behold the Lamb of God." And the two disciples who were with him followed Jesus. John the Baptist was the great prophet; everyone was running out to hear him. But on the day that the Lord Jesus was manifested, John began to lose his disciples, because they were to follow Jesus. That means that He is the truth. John’s true stature was only evident when Jesus appeared.
In chapter 2, it says that the Lord went to a wedding in Cana, and in the middle of the feast the wine ran out. Then He turned the water into wine, and this wine was better than the former. What really happened there? Simply, that the truth was manifested; and everything that is not true was evident. When Jesus comes, our whole party ends, the wine is finished, because the true wine is going to be introduced.
Wine represents joy. Before Jesus appears, our joy seems complete, but when He appears our wine runs out. And we need Him to turn water into wine. Jesus manifested the unreality of the old wine, and He introduces the true wine, because Jesus is the truth.
John chapter 2 says that the Lord went to the temple in Jerusalem. This marvel that Herod had built made the disciples exclaim: "What stones and what buildings!" But Jesus, taking a scourge of cords, cast all the people out of the temple, scattered the money changers' coins, overturned the tables, and said, "Take these things away from here, and do not make my Father's house a market place!".
For the Jews the temple was a sacred place; but when the Lord Jesus came, the unreality of the temple became evident. Before Jesus appears, everything seems splendid to us. But when He reveals Himself, all things are placed in their rightful position and stature. Because He is the truth.
Before the Lord begins to reveal Himself to us as the truth, we have wrong opinions about so many things, especially about ourselves. Before, it seemed that we had some degree of humility; we had learned that humility is a virtue, and we tried to exercise it. We came to think that we were humble. But when the Lord appeared, our humility, which was in reality a disguised pride, fell apart. And it happened the same way with many other things, because we live in a world that is under the power of the deceiver. Things seem real, but they are illusory.
In Jesus' time there were so many things that were ‘appearances’. The Jews claimed to be children of Abraham, and the Lord told them that they were actually children of the devil (John 8: 41-44). They thought that in the Scriptures there was eternal life, but the Lord says: "For you think that in them you have eternal life and you do not come to me that ye might have life" (John 5: 39-40). How wrong they were!
Many of our failures are because we thought we had certain things, and we lived in self-deception. We were born amid appearances and hypocrisies. But the Lord is leading His church by the way of grace and truth, so that we may pass from grace to truth.
In the book of Revelation we do not find grace, but we do find truth, reality. Because grace is a means to bring us to the reality of things; to get us out of our lowly position and elevate us, so that everything in us, by means of grace, may be real. That all justice, all love, all peace, all goodness, all meekness, all humility, be real.
Why do we need grace? Because we are defective. But, there will come a day when we will no longer be defective, then we will not need grace. We will become a reality of God in Christ. The Lord is leading us there. And when He comes, He will have an authentic church.
It is interesting that at the end of chapter 2, John says, "But Jesus did not trust them, because he knew all things, and needed not that any should testify of man : for he knew what was in man"(verses 24-25). He did not trust man. And indeed it was the truth that he manifested in the Gospel of John that revealed what was in the hearts of men.
"Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against ... that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk . 2: 34-35). The Lord appeared to bring light to bear on all appearance. When He appeared, the darkness became evident, because He is the light.
The other Comforter
The night before he was handed over in the intimate conversation that Jesus had with his disciples, at one point He says, "I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth." Here two expressions are joined together to refer to the Holy Spirit: "the other Comforter" and "the Spirit of truth." This double mention appears three times, in chapter 14, chapter 15 and chapter 16. And they always appear together, the Comforter and the Spirit of truth.
We can see here the same relation that exists in the First Comforter: "grace" and "truth." The second Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, consoles, welcomes, which is equivalent to grace, and also as Spirit of truth, leads to truth. In the earthly ministry of the Lord, the men who touched Him found grace and truth. Then, when he left, the Spirit that was sent in his place fulfils exactly the same ministry: he shows grace and truth. The role played by the Lord Jesus in his earthly ministry, today is fulfilled with us by the Holy Spirit.
We have prejudices against the Holy Spirit, because of the distortion in the history of the church, especially in the twentieth century. And sometimes we even fear Him. Some say, "Please do not tell us about the Holy Spirit. Do not touch upon the theme of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Because we do not want to be filled with scandals, disorder, strange manifestations that have no meaning.” Because of this woeful distortion, we are losing the precious and irreplaceable ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In John we see that the main task of the Holy Spirit is to comfort us and reveal the whole truth to us. Firstly, the truth about God, about Christ, then about all other things and also the truth about us. Without the Spirit there is no reality at all, for He is the Spirit of truth. No one can be born again, nor can he have the character of Christ if it is not by the Holy Spirit. "From His fullness we all partake"; the Spirit takes from the fullness of Christ and imparts it to us.
How is humility forged in a Christian? Is it forged by reading about it or understanding the concept? No, surely the Holy Spirit will lead us on a path of stumbling and affliction, so that the humility of Christ may be communicated to us. The Lord Jesus "through what He suffered learned obedience."
No spiritual reality is generated in us unless it is through the Spirit and through tribulations. That is painful, but the fruit is genuine. It's real, it's true. Man's humility is not at all trustworthy, even if it looks beautiful. There are atheists who are humble and kind, who are philanthropists. But it’s all straw! The only real humility is Christ in us, by the Holy Spirit.
We get so many unpleasant surprises about ourselves, and about other Christians. "It seemed that the brother was more mature, but look what he did!" Oh, it seemed! Was it reality? It was not reality; it was an appearance. "it seems to you…" said the Lord (John 5:39). "It seems to me".
The Lord does not want us to be deceived, full of opinions. It is so painful when we see that something that looks real is not real. When will our eyes be opened to all the falsehoods we have? Will it be when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, or when we are on our deathbed, and we have to say to those at our side: 'I have much to repent of. In fact, you have believed in someone who never was '?
What would it be like if you get to the end of the race, and the Lord with His own eyes destroys your works, and what’s more, that you, as the Scripture says, be "saved as through fire"? For the judgment seat of Christ will not only be a judgment on our works, but also on ourselves. When we get there, how will we present ourselves?
Someone has said that in the Bible there are only two occasions when we see the finger of God writing. And on these two occasions, the men were weighed on a scale. The first time it happened to King Belshazzar (Daniel chapter 5), when he saw some fingers writing on the wall, which Daniel interpreted for him: "You have been weighed in the balance, and you have been found wanting." That same day Belshazzar died. He died and his measure was not completed. The other time was when the Lord wrote on the ground, while the Jews brought to Him the woman caught in adultery (John 8). That time also His finger weighed the men, and again it found them lacking.
There is a balance that is waiting for us, for you and for me. At that moment the only thing that will fill the measure is going to be what God has produced in us through His Spirit. Because He is the only Spirit of truth, the Spirit of reality.
Love and truth
John was the last of the apostles to leave this earth. His writings are also the last of the Scriptures. It has been truly said that John is the apostle of restoration, just as Peter is the initiator and Paul is the edifier. John is the apostle for the end times, that is, our times. So the texts of John have a special relevance for us.
If we look at John's writings in a general way, we see how this matter of grace and truth unfolds - for the Scriptures develop all of these truths in a gradual manner until arriving at a perfect ending. This matter of grace and truth must be seen not only in the gospel, but in all his writings. If we look at it in this way, we are going to have a tremendous surprise. We will see that the truth is emphasized, and that grace is changed into love. It is now "love and truth."
There is no longer so much a heaven-earth relationship - which is what grace implies - but a horizontal relationship - love. In the relationship between men we cannot speak of grace, because grace goes from one that is superior to another inferior, but between us it is horizontal: grace transformed into love. Therefore love proves whether there was grace before or not, because if you received grace, that grace received becomes love. Then there is love and truth. And the truth is very strongly emphasised in the three epistles of John.
1 John 1: 6: "If we say we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." Here we are talking about the practice of truth. It is not just a matter of being confronted with our reality, but whether or not we are practicing the truth. Whether or not we are possessing a certain reality of God in Christ.
Verse 1: 8: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Verse 2: 4: "He that says, I know him, and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Verse 2:21, "I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth." It is as if he said: "Because you know the truth, you need to practice it." It is one thing to know and another to walk in the truth. Here the emphasis is not to know the truth, but "because you know the truth, walk in it."
Verses 3: 18-19: "My little children, let us not love with words or tongue, but in deed and in truth. And in this we know that we are of the truth. " Not only knowing the truth: we are of the truth. That is, the truth holds us, we belong to the truth. We are people of realities, not of mere knowledge.
Let us now turn to the Second and Third Epistles of John. 2nd John 4 says: "I rejoiced greatly that I found your children walking in the truth." Walking in the truth is the practice of the truth.
And in the third letter of John is the culmination: "For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is that you walk in the truth" (v. 3). This word is wonderful. "Your truth ... the truth." That is to say: "your truth is the truth." "Your reality is equivalent to Reality." This is wonderful! This brother, named Gaius, reached the goal; everything in him was reality.
There is a second example. Because these things must have at least two witnesses. The other is Demetrius. Verse 12. " Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true." Blessed are Gaius and Demetrius! Will something like this happen to us? Will we reach that goal?
The book of Revelation makes us tremble when we read the epistles to the churches, because each one begins with this sentence: "I know your deeds." It's like saying, "I know your reality." I know how much of what you speak is true. How much of what you think, you say or believe, how many things that that seem so to you are in fact reality. The Lord grant us the grace given to Gaius and Demetrius that their truth is truth, and that the truth bears witness to us.
Give freedom to the Spirit
Let us not fear the Holy Spirit; on the contrary, let us seek Him. Let us give him freedom in our hearts. The Holy Spirit will never hurt you, He will never run you over; He will never violate your personality, He will never nullify or shock you. The Holy Spirit is the other Comforter, and He is the Spirit of truth. Our only hope of being genuine, of being real, authentic and full, complete, upright in Christ is through the Holy Spirit. So let us open our hearts without fear.
The Holy Spirit can be offended, can be quenched, can be grieved or resisted. He is like a very sensitive dove; it is sufficient for you to sin, to ignore Him; then He withdraws. He does not take the initiative if you do not give it to him. He is so delicate, but at the same time so powerful.
As we say these things, the Holy Spirit is knocking on the door of your heart, to say: Can I intervene? Can I guide you? Can I fill you? Do you want me to show myself to you, and comfort you? Do you want me to guide you into the whole truth?
The Lord said to Jerusalem, "How many times have I desired to ….. and you were unwilling!" (Matthew 23:37). Maybe the Holy Spirit is telling us the same thing: How many times I have wanted to, but you did not want to! So, let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us reality of Christ, so as not to be a stumbling stone to the little ones and not to be a source of pain in the church. We need Christ's reality!
Synthesis of a message given in Barbosa, Colombia, in July 2007.