Jack Graham - The Fullness of Grace
Okay, Christmas time is really here now. We’ve been saying it a few weeks, and we have been celebrating Christmas through the lens of grace, as we’ve taken a look at the story of the Bible, God’s forever-told story. The greatest story forever told is the story of Jesus. And we’ve been telling this in relationship to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ because Christmas is all about grace. And so today I’m speaking on "The Fullness of Grace".
Now, Christmas is usually associated with good feelings, good moods. We have good feelings about full cups of coffee and full mugs of hot chocolate and full stomachs of good food, and you know, fireplaces full of beautiful logs just reflecting the romantic, resplendent beauty of the hour. And Christmas trees filled with ornaments and lights and presents below. And Christmas often conjures up the idea of fullness, of overflowing, of blessing, of joy and all the rest. And yet some people are not full this Christmas, but rather running on empty. You go on a Christmas journey, you’re traveling somewhere and you find that your gas tank is on empty and there’s no gas tank in sight. And many people at this Christmas season are not full. In fact, they’re just counting the days until it’s over.
You know, to you maybe Christmas seems more like a long to-do list. I mean, just a trip to the mall will nearly destroy any Christmas spirit you have. For some reason Deb and I end up with things yet undone the Saturday before Christmas, and so, yes, like a lot of people yesterday, we went to the mall. Now just getting to the mall in the traffic, that is a difficult experience! And so by the time I got there I wasn’t in the best of spirits. And then to navigate the whole thing of the mall, I tweeted out yesterday, "Sanctification equals going to the mall on the Saturday before Christmas and not wanting to punch somebody"!
Now I mean, that’s the way I felt. But on a very serious note, some people are not full. They’re anxious about their finances. They’re grieving because of the loss of a loved one or they’re hurting from broken relationships, or even despairing of the years ahead. And even the Christmas songs about happy times and good times and merry times and best time of the year, the most wonderful time of the year, can create some loneliness and pain in people’s lives. And a lot of people are running on empty at Christmas. Mainly, perhaps, because they have the wrong expectation of what Christmas should produce. And the more and more secular our Christmas becomes, the less spiritual and worshipful our Christmas becomes, the less meaning our Christmas experience has.
And so what I want to talk to you about today is the "The Fullness of God’s Grace". And it’s found in the first chapter of the book of John. Because it is grace that makes the glorious impossible possible. And this message is that Jesus is the fullness of everything that we need. Did you know that? Jesus is the fullness of everything that you need. And if you’re running on empty, if your life seems incomplete or there’s maybe a big hole in your soul, I’m here to tell you that because Christ came that you can know the fullness His grace and His truth. So in the first chapter of John, beginning at verse 14, here’s what the Scripture says: 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 [that is John the Baptist] bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’") And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:14-16)
Have you noticed the extraordinary and superlative words that God uses to describe the Christian life? Not only do we have life, but Jesus promised to give us abundant life, life to the full, life running over. The Bible promises us peace. But not only peace, but peace that passes understanding, peace that you can’t describe or explain. The Bible tells us that in Christ we have joy, but not only joy, but [1 Peter 1:8] "joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory". You see, with Christ in the Christian life, it’s over and above. It is above and beyond. It is onward and upward. It is all this and more. And when it comes to grace, this grace is described in the Bible as abundant grace and astounding grace. And here is grace upon grace. In the word picture, it’s like an ocean. And when you stand by the ocean you see wave after wave coming in, just constantly moving.
This vast, beautiful ocean sometimes has buoyant and powerful and majestic waves; sometimes it moves quietly, gently on the shore. But there is wave after wave after wave. And this is the grace of God! That God’s grace overflowing. It’s always, always coming at us, that we can never get enough grace and we never get over grace and we never get beyond grace. It is grace upon grace upon grace upon grace upon grace! And in this grace we discover the fullness of life. Now there are paradoxes in this passage really, if you will. You know a paradox is when you lay down things that may seem to be opposite but they may actually be alike. And there are three paradoxes in this passage that I want to show you, that point to the fullness of God’s grace. One paradox is humanity and deity. In the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, we have both deity and humanity.
You have John 1 open; look back up to John 1:1. You know when John writes the story of the coming of Jesus into the world, he begins way before the birth. Matthew spoke of Jesus the King, Jesus as sovereign. And he gave us that family tree of Jesus, the genealogy. Mark is the Gospel of action—Jesus is the servant—and he just gets right into it. And there’s one after another, showing Jesus as the servant who rules, and the ruler who serves. Mark wanted to point out that Jesus came to be the servant. Luke, the physician, gives us the historical record and, therefore, he goes into detail about the promise of the virgin birth and the preparation for Christmas and the descriptions of what takes place when Jesus is born.
Such was the history of the Gospel of Luke. But John, who was the beloved disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, the one who, at the Last Supper, laid his head over on the chest of Jesus and heard the heart of God beating for the world, writes beyond the birth of Jesus, way beyond in eternity-past. And verse 1 says: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". When Jesus was born He did not become God; He is God! He was not a man who became God! That would be impossible! He is God who became Man. "In the beginning was the Word". This sounds very similar, of course, to Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth".
In the beginning God the Creator made everything, and that includes me and you. And so when John identifies the beginning with Jesus, the Word of God who was made flesh and dwelt among us, that means that Jesus is the Creator of all things, the Maker of all things, including you and me. Before time began in eternity past, God spoke through the Word and all creation took place. Just by His Word. And Jesus is the Christ of the cosmos. We’re told that Jesus is the Creator-God. He is the One, the Word who spoke and all things came into being. By Him, Jesus, according to the book of Colossians, all things hold together and all things are consisting together. Scientists call that gravity. You can’t explain gravity; you can only observe gravity. The fact is, the hand behind gravity is the hand of God that holds everything together.
So Jesus is the Creator and controller of all things! And Jesus made you! And if you don’t have a purpose in your life, if you don’t know what direction your life is going, you need to discover the plan and the purpose of God in your life and let the One who holds life together, who makes life and who made you, give you a purpose in your life. He is the Word of God! Now the Word, of course, is the expression of an idea. We use words to express our ideas. And so Jesus, the Word, is the revelation of God. He is expression of the idea of God. He is God who is revealed in a human being. Before, God was in a Book, the Bible. But now God is in a body, the Lord Jesus Christ. Before, He was in heaven but now He is on earth in the person of Christ. So you have both humanity and deity. First, His deity: He is the Creator; He is the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth; He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. And before the beginning and after the end, He is the Alpha and Omega!
Now that means that Jesus is the alphabet of God. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek language, and omega is the last letter. So it’s as though, in the book of Revelation when we’re told Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, that means He’s the "A" and the "Z". You think about everything you read on the Internet, and everything you find in a library, and it is made up of words, which are made up of letters. All knowledge is made up of words and letters. And so we read and we get a revelation. We read and we understand. And so when the Word tells us that He is the living Word of God, that means He’s the A to Z, the alphabet of God! All things are made by Him and for Him. In times past God spoke in prophets, but now in these final days, the writer of Hebrews tells us He’s spoken to us in Jesus Christ.
Finally and fully and forever, He has spoken to us in His Son, the Alpha and Omega, the alphabet of God. He is the altogether lovely; He is the Bread of heaven; He is the Christ; He is the Deliverer; He is the Everlasting Father; He is the Faithful and True One! He is God! He is the Holy One of Israel. He is the indescribable gift. He is Jesus. He is King of kings; He is Lord of lords; He is Messiah! He is the Alphabet of God. He is the New and the Living Way. He is the Omnipotent Savior; He is the Prince of Peace; He is the One who quickens the dead to life. He is the Redeemer; He is the Savior; He is the Truth; He is the unspeakable life; He is the victor; He is the Way; He is the excellent One; He is same yesterday, today and forever, and He is Zion’s hope; He is the alphabet of God! And God became a Man.
And so the glorious impossible is that humanity and deity are one in Jesus Christ. It’s impossible for man, but as the angel said to Mary, "With God all things are possible" (Luke 1:37). We see His divinity. "In him the fullness of Deity dwells bodily" (Col. 2:9), but we see His humanity in John 1. It says that "He was in the world" (v. 10). "He came to His own" (v. 11). "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (v. 14). He lived among us. That’s a powerful phrase. It means literally He pitched His tent among us. He tabernacled among us. This is a reference, an allusion if you will, to the tabernacle in the wilderness. When the children of Israel would establish this tabernacle and the Shekinah glory of God dwelt within the tabernacle, ultimately the temple was the holy place of God and the residence of God.
And now the glory of God has dwelt among us, has made its abode with us. I like the way The Message, a paraphrase of the Scripture by Eugene Peterson, puts it: Jesus "moved into our neighborhood" (v. 14, MSG) And so His humanity was not pseudo-humanity, but real humanity! He was thirsty; He was tired. Maybe you’ve seen paintings of Jesus the infant child and there’s a little halo around His head and He’s a little cherub-looking character, a little God-like character. Jesus was a normal baby, cooing and crying. He needed clean swaddling clothes every now and then. He was a child and then a Man who was tempted in all points as we are tempted, and yet without sin! He is God who is Man, who is tested and tempted and tried.
And if you think God doesn’t understand your problems, then read your Bible again! Because Jesus dwelt among us. He lived among us to share our hurt and our pain and our suffering, and ultimately to go to the cross, to die for our sin, and to rise again as God and Savior. So He is humanity and He is deity. Grace makes possible the glorious impossible. There is another paradox here in this passage that is stunning. I want to give you this from Isaiah 9:6: "To us a child is born, to us a Son is given". A child is born—that is His humanity. He’s an Infant. A Son is given—that is His deity. He is infinite.
So the infinite was laid in infancy. The infinite became finite. He left heaven; He departed heaven and descended down, down, down, down, down from heaven to earth, to humanity, and was laid in a cattle stall. He demonstrated God’s grace. He descended to give us God’s grace. He demonstrated it in His life and His love and His actions and in His cross. And now it is declared, this grace, because we believe He is both Savior and God as the Bible tells us. And that’s the fullness of His grace. "When the fullness of time had come (at the right moment), God sent forth His Son" (Gal. 4:4).
You see, He was sent by God, but He was made of the woman, made under the law to redeem them who were under the law. As the eternal God, Jesus was sent; as the Savior, He was born of a woman. Full deity and full humanity! Just camp in here a while, I want you to get it! He’s not half-God and half-man, not all God and no man, not all man and no God but the God-Man, 100 percent God and 100 percent Man! Deity and humanity. But there’s a second paradox that I want you to see and that is transcendence and presence, because verse 14 says, "We have seen His glory," that’s transcendence, "glory as of the only Son from the Father". Transcendence.
Now I know that’s a word you don’t probably commonly use in your conversation, but it’s a very important word. The whole core of Christianity is built on this doctrine. I know some of you have the idea that doctrine is dry and dusty, but doctrine is the teaching of the Bible. This is the core principle of the Christian faith, which is the incarnation of God in the person of Christ—that God came in flesh. And Christianity rises or falls, not in an ideal or an idea, but in an incarnation, in the coming of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a code, not a cause, not a creed, but Christ! To say you have transcendence is a doctrinal statement. That’s a big word, but it speaks of the transcendent.
Now I’m going to carry you up a little bit, alright? I’m going to take you up into the heavenlies a little bit. Transcendent means beyond the human. It means beyond the earth. Go with me into the heavenlies; go with me beyond time; go with me beyond the dimension; go with me beyond creation, and there is the transcendent glory of God! The glory of God speaks of the majesty of God, the holiness of God, the purity of God, and the greatness of God. It is that which separates God from humanity. This is glory. Do you want to know where God was? Somebody said, "Where was God before He created the heavens and the earth? Where was God before time began"? Do you want to know where God was before He created the heavens and the earth? He was in His eternal, infinite glory! It is so great, so transcendent that we’re told in the Old Testament that no one could see God’s glory and live.
When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, when he saw this transcendent, translucent glory of God, he said, "Woe is me," I’m a dead man because I have seen this holiness of God! And he cried out, "I’m a man of unclean lips in a generation of unclean lips" (Is. 6:5). When he saw the greatness of God, the purity of God, the holiness of God, he knew how separate he was from God. When the angels showed up in the shepherd’s field, they were just reflecting, like a mirror, the glory of God! They were singing and the heavens were lighting up and agreed, and it was shock and awe to those lowly shepherds who were terribly afraid. Old King James says, "they were sore afraid" (Luke 2:9 KJV). That means they were flat out scared because they were looking at just the edge of the glory of God. They were only looking at an angel of God who came from the glory of God.
Jesus is the glory of God, the transcendence of God who could never be reached by a human being, who has come down to man. We have beheld His glory. We have seen it. Grace has a face: Jesus. And this transcendence is now transformed to presence. Infinite is now intimate because of Jesus who came so that we could be connected with God. We could never in billion times in a billion years see God or know God apart from Jesus. It’s not from our efforts to get there, but in His love to get here that we know the glory of God. And it just blows my mind! It just staggers me to think that God loved you and me that much. That’s His grace. It was the same glory as the glory of the Father.
Now we have the intimacy of Christ. At times Jesus revealed His glory to His disciples. On the Mount of Transfiguration, that was a glory moment when the disciples saw the transcendent glory of Jesus. Or when He would walk on water, turn water to wine, or perform a miracle or minister His love, they would see glimpses of His glory. One day, when we get to heaven, we will see Him in all of His glory! When He comes to earth the second time. it will be in great glory! How grateful we are that we can know Him and have a personal relationship with Christ because the transcendent has become present in the person of Christ. But there’s a third paradox here. You have humanity and deity. You’d think that that would be totally apart, but in Christ, because of grace, they are one. And you have transcendence and presence. Third, there is infinity and infancy. You have heaven and earth in Jesus. But you see in grace and truth the power of God to save.
That’s why I pointed out that passage in verse 14. Look now at verse 17: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ". Now I want to camp right here for just a moment. Please give me your full attention because this is one of the most important truths that I can share with you. Jesus came in grace and truth. Now you need grace to make truth gracious and loving, and you need truth to make grace powerful and strong. Jesus was both gracious and loving and kind and gentle, but strong and truthful who said, "I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6).
Now a lot of people have a religion only of grace and it gets sappy and superficial. There’s no truth, it’s just grace in that you can do whatever you want to do and you can live however you want to live. God will give you grace. God doesn’t care. There’s just grace, grace, and more grace and all you need is grace. All you need is love and there’s no truth, but all grace. All grace without truth will deceive you. On the other hand, some people have a religion that’s all based on truth. It’s all about what they know, and they have their list.
The Pharisees were like this. They were the moral policemen of their culture. We still have their ilk today, people whose religion is all about the law. It’s all about their morality, and it’s all about their opinion regarding truth. It’s all truth, truth and truth! And there’s never any grace. Grace without truth will deceive you, but truth without grace will crush you! And that is why Jesus came with grace and truth. And when He went to the cross, mercy and justice met at the cross. You wouldn’t want to live in a world that was just grace without truth, without justice. We sang it earlier: "He rules the world in truth and grace". He came in the fullness of grace and in the fullness of truth.
Now I can’t think of a better illustration of that than what happened this week with Duck Dynasty. Now, maybe you’ve been living on another planet, but A&E has this television show, Duck Dynasty. They live down in West Monroe. Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the Robertson family and they’ve got the long beards and their ratings are off the charts and people love this show. Many, many, many people love this show. And they love the show not necessarily because it’s about ducks or duck calls or hunting or long beards, but really the reason that so many people love this show is it’s about family. It’s a loving, caring, play together and pray together family! And in a country and a world where there’s so much brokenness in family, people enjoy a reality show that sees the family through thick and thin, getting along through crazy stuff and all the rest. If you watch it, you know.
So Phil Robertson, the daddy of the family for some reason, his publicist—I would fire this publicist, by the way—got him an interview with GQ Magazine. Wrong format! I think it was a setup, to be honest with you. And Phil said some rather straight-forward things about morality and immorality and he said some crude things. He said it in a crude way, and I’m not endorsing the way it was said. But regarding what the Bible says about marriage and morality is right. I’m being careful here; we have children in the room. You know what I’m talking about. What he said, again, was on the edge, but he was paraphrasing the Bible and what the Bible says about morality. Sin is sin, no matter what you call it! Well, the liberal left and the establishment elite and a lot of people went crazy.
A&E has suspended Phil from the show. Now the sons, the daughters, the daughters-in-law, they’re probably going to walk out. We don’t know what’s going to happen. And this huge flap has taken off. And it’s all about really this whole subject of grace and truth, isn’t it? Because here’s the fact: there are people in the world that look at those of us who are Christians and who believe the Bible, and believe that the Bible teaches certain things about morality and behavior between people, and they think we are bigots and that we’re filled with hate and what we need is more tolerance. But what we see now is the people who are asking for tolerance are becoming intolerant. And they expect those of us who believe the Bible, those of us who believe homosexuality is a sin, for example (and all sin is sin! Call it by it’s first name), not only to be tolerant, but we are to be accepting.
And tolerance to them is endorsement and acceptance of someone else’s lifestyle when it dishonors God. Tolerance means something that it’s never meant before. It used to mean that I respect your views; I care about you, I love you, even though I don’t agree with what you’re doing. I respect you and I would never disrespect you if at all possible. Love is truth and truth is love. But now tolerance is the idea that if I’m tolerant toward you that means I’m going to endorse and accept what you do. And as Bible-believing Christians we can’t do that! So what we should ask the Holy Spirit to help us to do is to be like Jesus who gives grace and truth! As the Apostle Paul said in the Scripture, "We speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15)
Now, I mean I wouldn’t have said it like Phil said it. Phil should have had some more grace in what he said. But he is a loving man according to all reports, and a godly man. I don’t think he wasn’t disrespecting anyone; he was simply saying what he believed the Bible teaches, which is the right thing. And the last I looked, the first amendment still gives us freedom in speech in this country to express our views and to express our values. Now I know this isn’t the government, but when corporations and businesses begin to oust you because of your religious beliefs or stop you from speaking, that’s just a small step from the government. And it’s coming soon.
So grace, yes, the grace of the Lord Jesus, but truth. It’s not grace that deceives you, but grace that receives you. It’s truth, not that crushes you, but truth that instructs you. Grace and truth. For after all, listen to me, it’s the truth that makes grace so wonderful! If I didn’t know the truth about my sin, about my failure, about my shamefulness, then I could never know the grace of God that is greater than all my sin! It is the truth about me that makes grace greater than our sin! The marvelous, loving grace of God is built upon the cornerstone of truth in the Word of God. So Jesus came in humanity and deity, He came in transcendence and in presence, and grace comes through Jesus in grace and truth. Grace after grace after grace.
And I don’t know about you but I need a lot of it! I need a lot of grace. And it is this grace that teaches us how to live. As a church, I want us to be known as a church that speaks grace in truth. We come in the fullness of grace and truth. How does that look? Well, I thought of an example. Truth: we believe that abortion is wrong, that life is conceived in the womb, and that it is wrong to take innocent life. That is truth according to God’s Word. But grace says rather than just condemning people, let’s start a Prestonwood Pregnancy Center and let’s be there to share the love of God and the grace of God. And when even people fail and stumble and do the wrong thing, we’re going to love them and lead them to Jesus and help them to understand not only grace, but truth. That’s grace and truth.
Truth says that "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), but grace says, "The gift of God is eternal life" (Rom. 6:23). You know, truth says that we will not compromise the Word of God, but grace says we will go the ninth mile, the tenth mile, the hundredth mile to help you find that grace and love that is in Jesus Christ! On this issue of morality and marriage and homosexuality, there’s not a person hardly in this room that hasn’t been affected by this issue. You have children or you have brothers or sisters, or you have friends that now say they are gay or they are homosexual, and how are you to respond to that as a Christian, as a Christian dad, as a Christian brother or sister or friend? What are you supposed to do? Grace and truth.
And I said to you months ago that if you, as the parent or the child or the brother or the sister of someone in your family, are not the most loving person and Christian they know, that’s an epic fail because we come in grace and truth. Never accommodating or endorsing that which is wrong, but while standing on God’s Word, we do it with open hearts and we point people to a cross where "God demonstrated His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). That’s the glorious impossible. You say, "It’s impossible for me to be a Christian". It’s not because of the glorious impossible of Jesus when deity became humanity, when transcendence became presence and when grace became truth and truth became grace in Jesus Christ. This same passage, in closing, says in verses 11 and 12: "He came unto His own and His own received Him not, but to as many as received Him to them gave He the right to be called the children of God, even to those who believe on His name".