The Grace & Truth Paradox — Randy Alcorn

The Grace & Truth Paradox
This mar­velous lit­tle book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphor­ic hands just at the right time when I and my room­mate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the top­ic asked for was “How to debate with love.”

Below are quotes that I found espe­cial­ly mean­ing­ful. (More to fol­low as I con­tin­ue my explo­ration.)

What Gives Us Away?

A friend sat down in a small Lon­don restau­rant and picked up a menu.

What will it be?” the wait­er asked.

Study­ing the puz­zling selec­tions, my friend said, “Uhh…”

The wait­er smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”

He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already giv­en him­self away.

In the first cen­tu­ry, Christ’s fol­low­ers were also rec­og­nized imme­di­ate­ly. What gave them away?

It wasn’t their build­ings. They had none.

It wasn’t their pro­grams. They had none.

It wasn’t their polit­i­cal pow­er. They had none.

It wasn’t their slick pub­li­ca­tions, TV net­works, bumper­stick­ers, or celebri­ties. They had none. What was it?

With great pow­er the apos­tles con­tin­ued to tes­ti­fy to the res­ur­rec­tion of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33

They tes­ti­fied to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the mes­sage they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.

The world around them had nev­er seen any­thing like it. It still hasn’t.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Para­dox, Ch 1

“We should nev­er approach truth except in a spir­it of grace, or grace except in the spir­it of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 per­cent grace, 50 per­cent truth, but 100 per­cent grace and 100 per­cent truth.

Truth-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love study­ing Scrip­ture and the­ol­o­gy. But some­times they’re quick to judge and slow to for­give. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.

Grace-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love for­give­ness and free­dom. But some­times they neglect Bible study and see moral stan­dards as “legal­ism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Count­less mis­takes in mar­riage, par­ent­ing, min­istry, and oth­er rela­tion­ships are fail­ures to bal­ance grace and truth. Some­times we neglect both. Often we choose one over the oth­er.”

“A para­dox is an appar­ent con­tra­dic­tion. Grace and truth aren’t real­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are per­ma­nent­ly switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”

“Some church ser­vices are per­me­at­ed with Chris­t­ian clichés that mys­ti­fy unbe­liev­ers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Grace com­pels us to put the cook­ies on the low­er shelf where the unini­ti­at­ed can reach them. Jesus warm­ly wel­comed the non­re­li­gious and spoke words they under­stood. So should we.

Oth­er church­es try to make sin­ners feel com­fort­able. How? They nev­er talk about sin. Nev­er offend any­one. They replace truth with tol­er­ance, low­er­ing the bar so every­one can jump over it and we can all feel good about our­selves.

But Jesus said, ’ ‘No ser­vant is greater than his mas­ter.’ If they per­se­cut­ed me, they will per­se­cute you also’ (John 15:20).

Something’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers hate us.

Something’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers like us.

If we accu­rate­ly demon­strate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and oth­er will be offend­ed by us—just as they were by Jesus.

When we offend every­body, it’s because we’ve tak­en on the truth man­tle with­out the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 2.

“Grace nev­er ignores the awful truth of our deprav­i­ty. In fact, it empha­sizes it. The worse we real­ize we are, the greater we real­ize God’s grace is.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 3.

“God has writ­ten His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of con­science come from rec­og­niz­ing that truth has been vio­lat­ed. When peo­ple hear truth spo­ken gra­cious­ly, many are drawn to it because of the moral vac­u­um they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

This next one is very sim­i­lar to Ray Comfort’s anal­o­gy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as sal­va­tion from the trans­gres­sions of the law, but as “Life Enhance­ment”. Peo­ple are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promis­es that their dif­fi­cul­ties in life will be resolved (using a para­chute as metaphor for Christ), but with­out any true under­stand­ing of the jump out of the air­plane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncom­fort­able and bulky and gives no ben­e­fit and so they tear it off, are angry at the para­chute (and the stew­ardess who gave it to them), and resolves nev­er to be fooled by that non­sense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the out­set that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wear­ing the para­chute. Then when the dif­fi­cul­ties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stew­ardess who trips and spills boil­ing hot cof­fee on him, he doesn’t cast off the para­chute and say “You stu­pid para­chute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look For­ward to the jump to come.

If a teacher is guilty of preach­ing life enhance­ment instead of the truth, then there is noth­ing at all redemp­tive in his min­istry. Indeed, it is less than redemp­tive. It is damn­ing.

The oppo­site is near­ly as bad. That is, preach­ing truth in absence of all grace. Ray Com­fort clar­i­fies, “I’m not talk­ing about Hell­fire Preach­ing. Hell­fire Preach­ing will pro­duce Fear-Filled con­verts. Using God’s law will pro­duce Tear-Filled con­verts.”

The world’s low stan­dards, its dis­re­gard for truth, are not grace. The illu­so­ry free­dom, how­ev­er, -feels- like grace to some­one who’s been pound­ed by grace­less truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, peo­ple who grow up in joy­less reli­gion learn that there’s no hope of liv­ing up to such daunt­ing stan­dards. “Why even try? It’s -impos­si­ble!-.”

But prop­er­ly under­stood, bib­li­cal truths are guardrails that pro­tect us from plung­ing off the cliff. A smart trav­el­er doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dent­ed my fend­er!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demol­ished autos below, and is -grate­ful- for guardrails.

The guardrails of truth are there not to pun­ish, but to pro­tect us.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

God­ly liv­ing cen­ters not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Any­time we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.

—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4

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