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The Call to Mission

Where Grace and Truth Meet

 

Regardless of which ditch we have a tendency to fall in, regardless if we are more like Child 1 or Child 2, God in His love pursues us and sanctifies us with His grace and His truth as He works through us to build His kingdom and fulfill His mission. 

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” He is “the path of life” David speaks of in Psalm 16:11 and “the path of righteousness” from Proverbs. So, it’s no surprise that roads and highways often function as metaphors for the life of following of Jesus. 

While we know that God keeps us on that road if we have received eternal life in Jesus, we also know that we have a tendency to trip and fall over some of the good things—like grace and truth—along the way. We roll into one of the ditches alongside the road. And based on our natural dispositions, we can probably see a trend to which ditch we fall in—the ditch of grace-without-truth or the ditch of truth-without-grace.

I get to witness these tendencies daily in my own house. Child 1 is all about grace. She wants everybody to love everybody else and is easily offended if someone says something offensive about someone else. Child 2 is all about truth. He wants people to know what’s right and has no qualms about letting others know when they’ve done wrong. But both have trouble seeing their own hypocrisy. Child 1 wants Child 2 to love others but sees nothing wrong when she acts unloving toward Child 2. Loving the abstract stranger is easier for her than loving her physically-present sibling. Child 2 wants Child 1 to know the truth but neglects to see how his harshness is in opposition to the truth of God’s love. Telling somebody else the truth is easier for him than living it. 

Honestly, it’s like a microcosm of our cultural moment. They seem to be on opposing sides of every divide, and as their mom, I wonder how these two humans, neither old enough to drive, have landed where they’ve landed when we have tried to stress that the way of Jesus is not either-or, us-and-them, this-or-that. The way of Jesus is grace AND truth.

These tendencies overflow into how we approach the mission of God to go and make disciples. We can try to love people into the kingdom through acceptance, listening, and need-meeting, though they won’t experience the true love of God without the truth of the gospel. Or, we can try to reason (or maybe Bible-beat) them into the kingdom with winsome arguments and solid theology, though they probably won’t be convinced by those concepts if they aren’t being lived out. We forget that love holds grace and truth together. They aren’t two oppositional forces. Grace can’t be grace without truth, and truth can’t be truth without grace. Instead, together they reflect the whole character of God. 

And, Jesus, who “became flesh and dwelt among us,” the one “full of grace and truth,” came to bring grace and truth to us (John 1:14, 17). He is gracious to sinners, welcoming them to the table (Matthew 9:10), and He speaks the truth to sinners, admonishing them to repent or perish (Luke 13:5). Both His grace and His truth reflect His love for the world, to give eternal life, to save and not condemn (John 3:16-17).   

And God in His wisdom uses mission to show us our need for both grace and truth and to point us back to Jesus who is the unchanging, perfect path to life and righteousness. 

Loving Your Neighbor

When we are on mission, we may have a choice about the neighborhood, school, or affinity group we serve, but we don’t typically get to choose the particular people we will encounter, which means we actually have to learn to love our neighbors—and enemies. We have to love the rowdy kid who treats furniture like a trampoline park. The old person who repeats herself. The arrogant businessman who likes to toot his own horn. The nervous mother who hovers like a busy-winged hummingbird. The awkward person without any social skills. The drug dealer down the street. And sometimes a high school ex. 

To love these people, we have to trust the grace of God to empower us to do what we cannot do in our own strength and believe the truth that these people are image-bearers of God, loved by Him, and worthy of our time and attention.

Seeing Your Sin

Mission is convicting. At first we are tempted to think we are bringing the peace and presence of God, only to find we are bringing all that is antithetical to the fruit of the Spirit. We’re angry because we want a night off or because someone else didn’t do as much as we did. We’re anxious because it’s noisy and our kids are acting like hellions. We’re impatient with our leaders because things aren’t going like we think they should—and they didn’t seem to listen when we told them what we thought they should do. 

Mission shines a bright light on our flesh.  

Yet, God uses mission to remind us of the truth that we are going to have to take the logs out of our eyes before we can tend to the specks in somebody else’s. And it’s by His grace that He makes us aware of these logs so that He can make us, His disciples, more like Him, our Teacher. He graciously sanctifies us by the truth.

Loving and Trusting God

We know mission isn’t just something we do. It is who we are as the sent people of God; it’s a part of our new identity in Jesus.  Yet, we are frustrated we can’t get past the pleasantries of sports and the weather when we know talking about Jesus is supposed to be natural. We struggle with faithlessness because nothing we deem good and holy seems to happen. We wonder if every seed is getting pecked up by a bird, hitting dry, rocky ground, or falling into a bunch of thorns. We may even wonder if we are scattering sand instead of seeds. We begin to doubt. Discouragement and despair become our bedfellows.

But again, God takes these disappointments and defeats and grows our faith. Through them, He teaches us about His love as He reminds of the following truths (all of which can be found in Matthew): His kingdom is like a mustard seed that will become a great tree, providing rest to His creatures; His kingdom will come and His will will be done; the righteous will be saved from the fire and shine like suns in their Father’s kingdom; the kingdom belongs to those who are like little children—needy and dependent; and by His grace, He will bring the sick, tax collectors, and prostitutes into His kingdom. 

Ultimately, it is by His grace and not our works that these things are accomplished…and any good works we do are also accomplished through the grace He showered on us before the foundation of the world. This is the truth. 

Regardless of which ditch we have a tendency to fall in, regardless if we are more like Child 1 or Child 2, God in His love pursues us and sanctifies us with His grace and His truth as He works through us to build His kingdom and fulfill His mission. 


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Cassie Langford

Author Cassie Langford

Cassie Langford is growing as a disciple and disciple-maker as she serves alongside her husband Rusty as a part of Matthew’s Table Church in Cleveland, TN, and one of her greatest delights is beholding Jesus in the factual and fictional stories she reads, hears, and tells.

More posts by Cassie Langford

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