Craig Groeschel - When Christians Get It Wrong
If Jesus came full of grace and truth, we, as his followers, should be full of grace and of truth. Unfortunately, we don't always get it right. And today I pray that God's Word would bring correction and encouragement to us. The title of today's message is When Christians Get It Wrong.
So, Father, we pray that you would help us get it right. That we would reflect the grace and the truth of the one who came to save us and set us free. That in a very divided world, God, may we be a uniting force. And as the world grows darker and darker, God, help the light of your Church shine brighter and brighter. We pray this in the name of the one who gave it all for us, Jesus, our Lord, our Savior. And all God's people said. Amen, amen.
Why don't you air five somebody next to you and say, we're gonna get it right. We're gonna get it right. We're gonna get it right. Type that in the chat if you're watching online. Hello, YouTube, church online, type that in the chat. For years, our country's been known as a Christian nation, right? God bless the USA and such, but unfortunately today, for a growing number of Americans they would not say we're a Christian nation. There's a large percentage of people that would actually identify as what people call post-Christian.
Now, to bring context to what post-Christian is, this isn't necessarily the same as being agnostic or being an atheist. A post-Christian is someone who has had some connection with Christianity. In other words, they might've been baptized in the church, they might've been confirmed in the church, they might've gone to a Christian school, they might go to church at Christmas and Easter or whatever. A post-Christian is someone who has had some exposure to Christianity, but they've chosen to reject it. It's not that they don't know, the problem is they know about Jesus and they don't care. It's post-Christian.
In fact, who's ready for a little good news? Anybody wants some good news? We are honored to meet as a church in 36 different locations in 11 different states, and 13 years ago, we launched a campus in Albany, New York. Now, 13 years ago, Albany, New York was the number one most post-Christian city in the nation. I love to be number one, but I don't wanna be number one when it comes to being post-Christian. The good news is because of the faithfulness and effectiveness of a core group of 80 people 13 years ago has now grown to thousands and seen thousands of thousands come to faith in Christ. And we certainly cannot take credit for all of it.
But the good news is, 13 years later, Albany is not the number one most post-Christian city, not number two, not number three, not number four, they're now number six. How's that for a little bit of good news. And we believe by faith that one day they'll drop off the top 20, because wherever the light goes, lives are completely changed by Jesus. For a long time, we were considered a Christian nation. Now, unfortunately, faith in Christ has moved from often what those would consider the center to more of the fringes. And it's shifted from being something that many people see as a positive to something that's even considered to be a threat by some people.
In fact, just the term, Christian, doesn't necessarily mean to a lot of people what it meant to a lot of people years ago. And if you're what's called an evangelical Christian that's often interpreted to mean someone who's hateful, bigoted, judgmental, and a full-blown hypocrite, maybe someone who's very, very dangerous. The question that I want to raise today is this. How do we faithfully represent Jesus in a post-Christian culture? If we're followers of Christ, how do we represent Him in a way that honors God and dignifies people in a culture that's becoming more hostile toward Christ?
I think you would agree we're in a very politically divided time, and a divided world needs a united church. I've said it before, and I'll say it again that it doesn't matter who is in office, our mission as Christ followers never ever changes. And what is our mission? If we look at John 1:14, I would say our mission is this, we're called to live in love with grace and truth. Would you say that with me? What are we going to do? We're called to live in love with grace and truth. We're called to live and love with grace and truth. In fact, John 1:14, look at it again, says this. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We've seen the glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of," what? Say it aloud with me. He came "full of grace and truth". Full of grace and truth. He was full of grace and truth. He was full.
How many of you know somebody who's full of something? Don't even tell me what they're full of, okay. When Jesus came, he was full. In fact, I liked the word in the Greek, this translated as full is the word, pleres, and it means to fill to the brim, it means abounding in, it means thoroughly full. If you've ever seen a glass of something, a glass of water filled completely to the top, if you just jiggle the glass, it overflows it's so full. If you get anywhere close to Jesus, or the people of Jesus, we should be so full, pleres, of grace and truth that you can't even touch us without overflowing with this grace and this truth.
Why does it matter he came full of grace and truth? Why does it matter? It matters because grace saves, somebody say grace saves. Grace saves. And truth frees. Somebody say truth frees. Truth frees. What is grace do? All of our churches. Grace saves, and what does truth do? Truth frees. Type that in the chat, wherever you're watching, grace saves and truth frees. Grace saves. If Jesus came full of grace and full of truth, then we, as followers of Jesus, should be full of grace and full of truth. The problem is we often haven't gotten it right. I know I haven't.
In fact, if you ever find yourself saying, I don't like some Christians, I'm with you. Half of them drive me crazy too. And the reason is because we often live in one of the extremes. We live on the extreme side of truth or we lean on the extreme side of grace. Jesus didn't come with just one, he came with both. And take truth. Some of you, truth is great, truth sets you free, truth is powerful, but some Christians, if they're all truth, have you noticed how they can kind of become mean and out of touch and judgmental? If they're all truth, they're kinda like, truth, brother, you've gotta have the truth, and they're not living the truth, and they're not dressing right, and they're not behaving right. They gotta have their truth.
And the Bible says it or they're not believing, and that settles it. And if you're dressing funny and smoking the funny weed and doing the funny thing, you're going to hell where the worm never dies. And there's weeping and gnashing of teeth. How many of you know somebody like that? You ever seen somebody like that? Don't point at them. Don't point at them. It's just truth without grace. The other side, though, is grace. It's like, hey, doesn't matter what you do. Hey, God loves everybody, bro. I mean, we're all sinners, right? Who are you to judge me? I mean, you do you, boo boo. It's all grace, but no truth. And these two extremes create two extremely big problems.
And I wanna talk to you for a moment about these problems, because this is how we as Christians often don't get it right. The first problem is this. And that is truth without grace leads to rebellion. If we're just truth, truth, truth, truth, truth, with no empathy and no understanding and no love and no grace, people reject that and rebel hard against it. If you wanna see Christians get it wrong, if you've ever seen a really religious legalistic home, what are you almost always see from the children? You see rebellion. You wanna almost guarantee rebellious children, you lead your family with rules and religion without relationship. It's truth without grace, it leads to rebellion, and that's one extreme problem.
The other problem is when you see grace without truth, what does that do? Grace without truth leads to relativism. What is relativism? Grace, you can do whatever you want without any kind of standards, truth. It leads to relativism, which is the belief that there is really no such thing as absolute truth. If there's no such thing as absolute truth then there's my truth and your truth. And so therefore, since there's no truth, you can't tell me and God can't tell me how to live, because there's no such thing as truth.
So grace without truth leads me to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter what you do as long as you're happy. It doesn't really matter what you believe as long as you're sincere. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you don't hurt anybody, because grace without truth, there's love and acceptance without any type of definitive standard. So how do we respond today? Unfortunately, what's really common is what I would call this philosophy. And I call it, get you a little Jesus. Get you a little Jesus. Just a little. Small doses of Jesus, enough to make you feel better about yourself.
Watch your little Instagram clip of your favorite preacher, a minute and 14 seconds. And if it's really good, give it a little tap tap. A little heart. You might even give a little Amen, praise hands, whatever you wanna do. Just a little bit. Read the verse of the day on the YouVersion Bible app. Just don't lose your streak. Get you a little verse, not a lot, not so much that it encourages you, equips you, convict you, transforms you. Not so that the Word renews your mind and transformed your life, just enough to make you feel better about yourself. Just a little verse of the day. A verse a day keeps the devil away. Hey now. Come on. Come to church every now and then if there's nothing else going on, don't serve, don't be involved, don't be generous, don't give, just kind of come and watch if there's not something better going on and you're not afraid of it, whatever. Just come if you can. Just get you a little Jesus.
Get enough of Jesus to make you feel better about yourself, but not enough to make you different. Yeah. Let's go. When Jesus came, he came with grace and truth, full of grace and truth. Therefore we, as followers of Christ, are called to live in love with grace and truth. What does grace do? Grace saves and truth frees. Grace saves and truth frees. What is grace? What exactly is grace? Grace comes from the root Greek word, charis, and charis is the undeserved kindness, favor, and the goodwill of God. It's the lovingkindness. It's the kindness of God, Scripture says, that leads to repentance. It's not truth that leads to repentance, it's the kindness and the grace of God. And here's the key, it's undeserved. It's unmerited.
There is nothing you can do to earn it. The moment you think you deserve grace, it's not grace anymore. Grace saves. In fact, Scripture says it clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it's by grace". Somebody say by grace. By grace. "For it's by grace that you have been," what? Say it aloud. "For it's by grace that you have been saved," because grace saves. "It's by grace that you've been saved, through faith," and it's not about you. It's never been about you. It's not from yourselves. It is the gift of God's grace. It's "not by works, so no one can ever boast". And here's what's so interesting to me. Jesus came full of grace and truth. Which one is listed first? Grace is listed first.
Now I can't prove this, but I believe there are not a whole lot of coincidences in the Bible. I'm guessing that perhaps grace came first because as followers of Jesus we lead with grace and then we proclaim truth. Let me illustrate it this way. Let's just take a row of people at church. If you're at a physical location, why don't you just look down your row for fun? Just look down your row. Look down there and wave at people. Smile at them, don't look judgmentally. That's a different place. Look down here and smile. And ask yourself on your row, who do you think needs grace? Who do you think needs grace?
Let me go through some just suggested scenarios of who might be sitting in a seat today. Those of you at home, if you're on your couch, just look at the person sitting next to you on the couch, or think about the people you work with and ask, who needs grace? And let me just go through a scenario, some different people, and ask yourself, do they need grace? Let's start with a wife and a mom, who is a great mom, a fantastic wife, and she's got a friend that she loves and hates. Maybe you have friends like this. She's jealous of her friend, and so she's really nice to her friend's face, but she often gossips behind her back.
Do you think this woman needs any grace for her sin? Her husband, he's a great guy. He's really, really good at business. He's so good at business, one of the reasons he's good is 'cause he kinda likes money a lot. You might say, unfortunately, even though he's successful in business, he's really not successful in generosity. The guy's probably greedy. Next to him is an older lady who leads a small group, very godly lady, but she's still mad at her mom, and she can't forgive. Her mom was overbearing and controlling, and in some ways emotionally abusive, and she just can't let it go.
I wonder if she needs grace. Next to her is the college party animal. Anywhere there's beer, he's there. Anywhere there's music, he's thumping it out. Anywhere there's girls, he's going after them. And he's doing things that he's embarrassed by and hurting people, but he doesn't care, because it's all about him. And then on the very end, there's a really religious guy who honestly, he's not doing any of that stupid stuff. He's way beyond that. He's been walking with Jesus for a long time and he's really pretty holy, except he's looking down the row judgmentally at all these other losers. He doesn't like that she voted in a different way and he doesn't like their behavior, and he can't even figure out why they're getting served when they're living that way.
Ask yourself, who needs grace? Look down your row for a moment and ask yourself, which one of the people sitting next to you need grace? Ask yourself about you right now. Do you need grace? See, sometimes inadvertently the church gets it wrong. And without meaning to, what we end up doing is saying, you have to behave first, truth, truth, truth, truth, truth. This is a lot like the church that I grew up in, it was really funny if you look at it? There were all these implied rules. Nobody said it, but by golly, you couldn't smoke on the inside of the church. You could smoke, but you had to go outside in the back so nobody could see you. And that's where all the leaders went to smoke in the back, okay? It was like an implied rule. And you had to dress a certain way. You couldn't look bad, and you had to look like you liked being there, even though it was the most boring thing ever.
And here was the implied rules. If you behave and believe, then you can belong, and you can belong as long as you behave. But if you stop behaving we'll gossip about you and call it prayer. Oh, you don't even know, sounds like I'm talking to you. Or if you don't believe the way we do, you gotta go to another church and you no longer belong here. So you can belong if you believe and if you behave, but this isn't the gospel Jesus doesn't say, change your life and become perfect and then follow me. He says, come to me as you are and I will reform, change, and give you life. And that's why sometimes we get it wrong and need to adjust our thinking that we're gonna lead with grace, and what we want our church to be is a place where people can belong, even before they believe. A safe place for people to belong, even before they behave, because it's grace that saves.
Now, I know what some of your thinking, this is so dangerous. Then people can do anything. You're telling us we have no standards. No, Paul actually addressed this question and challenge in Romans 6:1, he asked the question, he said, "What shall we say, then? Shall we just go on sinning," and doing whatever the heck we want "so God's grace may abound"? He said, no, here's the truth. Grace, truth. "Shall we go on sinning? By no means," he said. "We are those who've died to sin. How can we live in it any longer"? We lead with grace and we proclaim truth. The challenge with truth to a post-Christian generation is post-Christians are often skeptical about truth. They would tell you that anyone who claims to know truth is arrogant at best and maybe even dangerous at worst.
Here's what we have to understand, that truth isn't restrictive. It's not repressive, it's not oppressive. Truth is freeing, it's liberating, it is absolutely and completely life-giving. If you go all the way back to the book of Genesis in the garden of Eden, God looked at Adam and even said, "Good, I did good. Go be fruitful and multiply". That's a great assignment from a loving God. He said, "You could enjoy anything in the garden, just stay away from this one tree, because if you eat that, your eyes are gonna be open, you're gonna lose your innocence, you're gonna have a spiritual death". In other words, his rule wasn't a limit their fun, it was to protect them and to set them free. Stay away from danger, enjoy my creation. His rules were loving and freeing and liberating and life-changing. Truth isn't just rules. Truth isn't just regulations and morals. Truth is a person. Truth is not just a what, truth is a who. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Truth is a person. And "you know the truth," John 8:32 says, "and the truth will set you free". Grace saves and truth frees. Grace saves and truth frees.
So if you think about the people on your aisle, or in your home, or that you work with, or that vote the wrong way, which ones need grace and which ones need truth? The critical, jealous woman, you are so loved and so welcome here, and you belong, grace, but the truth is, envy rots your bones. And there is a way of healing and freedom, and it's called love and blessing others and considering others better than yourself. You're welcome, but the truth is through Jesus, you can overcome. And her greedy husband, hey, you are loved and you are valued and you are called by God. But the truth is, the love of money is the root of all evil. There's a better way. It's way more blessed to give than it is to receive. And the unforgiving one, you're so gifted. The way you lead your small group makes such a difference.
The Holy Spirit's working through you. Grace, you're loved, you're loved, you're loved, but the truth is, unforgiveness is a significant problem and that you are called to forgive others as Jesus has forgiven you. And if you don't forgive, that can be one of the greatest hindrances to your intimacy with God and freedom in relationships with others. Grace and truth. This guy, he's the hardest one for me to like. Can I say that? He's the judgmental one, but he is so loved and welcomed here, because I'm a mess and he's a mess and we're just a different kind of mess. He's loved, you're loved, you're welcome here. And the truth is, sir, that pride often comes before a fall. And the truth is, if you exalt yourself, you're gonna be a humbled.
But if you humble yourself, you're gonna be exalted. Grace saves and truth frees. Grace saves and truth frees. And some of you're saying, you skipped a chair. I didn't skip a chair. Come on, now. This was mine. This one's mine. I was that guy so full of myself. Full of sin, hurt so many people. So full of anger, and it wasn't truth that saved me. It grace that saved me. So I grew up going to church, not being able to live up to the truth. I just couldn't do it all. The harder I tried to be good the more I just wasn't good. And it was when someone from the organization known as the Gideons gave me a free green New Testament Bible and I read all the way to Ephesians chapter two. And what I read was, "For it's by grace that you're saved. Not of yourself, it's the gift of God, so no one can boast". And grace saved me. Amen. And truth set me free.
There's a better way. If you lose your life in me you'll find me. Humble yourself before me. Grace saved me and truth set me free. Say, well, good, Pastor, that happened to you 30-something years ago. Hey, listen, sitting right in this seat I still need grace and I still need truth. I still need grace. I need so much grace, I just like sitting here, can I just be honest with you guys for a second? It's been one heck of a year. How many are like, woo, right? Leading this church has been more complicated than I can describe. Here's what I say, I promise you, next time we experience a different global pandemic and social unrest and racial injustice and political division in an election year, I'm gonna be so ready. I'm gonna have a plan then. I'm gonna be so ready for it. But this year's been complicated.
And there's so many times where I've second guessed my spiritual leadership, how do I do this? And the grace of God and his love just sustains me, and his truth has spoken to me over and over and over again, do not be anxious about anything, Craig, but in everything, make your prayers, your requests, your petitions known to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts, your mind, your soul in Christ Jesus. Grace and truth. The truth, God has not giving you a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. The truth, trust in the Lord with all your heart, Craig, lean not on your own understanding. Just cling to me in all your ways, acknowledge the goodness of God and he will make your paths straight.
I'm so thankful that Jesus came full of overflowing grace and of truth. Who is Jesus? He is the Word made flesh, full of grace and full of truth. The truth, the chain-breaking, sin-shattering, intimacy-building, life-giving truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ. And his grace is so undeserved it's scandalous. When he would comfort sinners and love the outcasts and touch the lepers and befriend prostitutes. I'm so thankful for his grace and his truth.
You see, a post-Christian generation isn't rejecting Jesus. They're rejecting a distorted view of who Jesus is from a church that hasn't always gotten it right. You're welcome here with anything, whatever you're facing, questions, your hurt, your baggage, your sin, your addictions, you're welcome here. But you're also gonna hear the truth, and his name is Jesus and he sets free and he changes us. And if you see Jesus as he really is, I think you will want to follow him, because he is the Word made flesh. We've seen his glory and he's full of grace, the undeserved favor, goodwill, and kindness of God, and the uncompromised truth that sets people free.
So, Father, today we ask that by the power of your Holy Spirit you'd help us get it right, to reflect the love of the one who gave it all for us.
As you're praying, wherever you are, watching online, at a physical location, or even years from now streaming a message, and a you recognize, yes, you love Jesus, you wanna honor him, but you haven't always gotten it right, and you wanna look for opportunities to reflect his goodness, your light, your hope, your good news, walking on two feet. God, help me, help us be full of grace and truth. If that's your prayer and you're willing to pray that today, would you just lift up your hands right now? You can type it in the chat, I'm praying that prayer today, I'm praying that prayer.
Father, we just pray that you would give us eyes to see people as you see them and a heart to love them as you love them. Welcoming people, showing your grace just in the same way that Jesus hung out with those that religion rejected. Give us that grace, God. And then by the power of the Spirit, may your truth, not just our opinions, God, but your truth set people free. At the right time and in the right ways, God, help us to show your truth Even more so, God, help us to be open to your truth. Whatever you want to show us today, God, show us. We receive it by grace. God help us to live out your truth. As a church, God, in a world that has a lot of reasons to not like Christians, God, may we show them who you really are, because we know who you really are is the best news this world has ever seen. Help us love. Help us live with grace and with truth.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches there are some of you like if we just sat down like this just across from each other and I asked you, where do you stand with God? You might say, I don't know. You might be a little bit like I was growing up, like maybe you maybe have some church in the background, but you're really not engaged in following Jesus. You know about him, but you don't really care or it's not really mattering in your life. Or maybe you're not like a church person at all, but there's something about this Jesus, you hear about this drawing you, let me just tell you what that is.
It's really a couple of things. That's the Spirit of God, meaning you're not here by accident, you're not watching by accident. There's a God who loves you and knows this message is for you. That's one reason. Another reason is this, that the lovingkindness of God draws us. There's just something about it. A God who is so holy and yet loves us even though we're not holy. It's the grace of Go that's drawing you. What do you do? You come to a place where you just recognize, I'm not walking with him, I don't know him, I'm not his follower. What I'm not inviting you to do today is join a church. I'm not even inviting you to behave. What I'm inviting you to do is just follow Jesus. Just walk away from whatever's held you back and say, Jesus, I wanna live like that. I wanna be your disciple.
Who is Jesus? He is the sinless Son of God. He was born of a virgin. He didn't inherit the sin nature of a earthly sinful dad. He had the heavenly nature of a heavenly Father. He was perfect in every way. And the truth of God, his justice was satisfied when the innocent Lamb of God gave his life on a cross and his grace was lavishly displayed as Jesus died in our place, so that whoever, and this includes you, who calls on him, you would be saved. Listen to me, saved, not by your own religious works, but by grace, by the goodness of God, you'd be saved by grace, and then guess what? There's a truth, and his name is Jesus, and he sets you free. He transforms your life.
So today, if you're watching online, or at all of our churches those who say, yes, I wanna follow him, I wanna give my life to him, I'm gonna turn away from my sins and surrender to Jesus. When you do that, he'll forgive every sin you've ever committed. You're gonna be brand new. You're not better, you're different, you're changed, you're new. The old is gone and the new is come.
All of our churches, watching online, those who say, I wanna turn from my old life and I wanna follow Jesus, that's your prayer right now, lift up your hands high all over the place and say, yes, Jesus, I surrender to you. As we have hands going up at churches across the nation, those of you online, just type in the chat, I'm giving my life to Jesus. Just type that in there right now. And we're gonna pray the most intimate and important prayer you've ever prayed. Just pray this aloud wherever you are.
Pray, heavenly Father, I surrender my whole life completely to you. Jesus save me by your grace and free me with your truth. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus' name I pray.