Christmas II | Jn. 1:17
Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ
By Rev. Germán Novelli Jr.
PART I: GRACE
Let me tell you the story of a man who died, and at the entrance of heaven he found Saint Peter standing at the door. After having a good time in line, his turn finally comes. So Peter explains to him:
“Ok, my son…let me tell you how this works. You start telling me the good things you did, and every good thing has a point value. If you reach the goal, a hundred points, I let you come into heaven for all eternity.”
The man knew that he was not a thief, nor a murderer, but instead he was a very religious person. So at that moment he felt it was going to be easy … a piece of cake.
“Perfect!”, the guy said. “I was married for 50 years to my only wife, and I never cheated on her … not even in my mind.”
“Wow!”, Peter said. “You started out very well. Not even with your mind? That’s pretty amazing. I will give you three points for that.”
“WHATTTTT? Three points?… in that case, let me continue… I also went to church every Sunday… I always gave my tithes and offerings… and sometimes I helped the pastor with some of his duties.”
“Great!” Peter was very pleased, but he said “that is worth only one point.”
“WHAT?” The poor guy was now anxious. “Just one point?”
Peter then said: “Well, you already have four points, but you are missing 96 … what else?”
“Mmmm …”. The man said “every month I did community service in my city… and I helped the poor, and supported several people in my family …”
“Very good!”, Peter said. “there, you have two more points.”
The man could not believe that the things he was so proud of (and so sure) were worth so little in heaven. He was desperate, seeing himself without any chance of going heaven, he finally said: “If I continue, the only way to make it happen will be through the grace of God.”
Then Peter said to him, “Now we are talking… Welcome home!”
When a person works eight hours a day and receives a fair payment for his time, that is what we call a salary. When one person competes with another and receives a trophy for his performance, that is a prize (an award). When a person receives recognition for his many years of service and high achievements, that is called an acknowledgment. But when a person is not able to earn a salary, or win a prize, and does not deserve recognition … but receives the love of God every day … right there we see a picture of the undeserved favor of God.
This is what we are trying to say when we talk about the grace of God.
GRACE! . . . Receiving something from God that we don’t deserve.
We are saved by this GRACE alone.
The Scripture says that grace (a word that only appears twice in the entire Gospel of John) and truth (the other key word today) came to us through Jesus Christ.
In fact, today’s Gospel says that (verse 17): The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John begins his gospel by speaking of God becoming a man. That is, Christ is not a person that God chose among the other people in the world to be a messiah and a savior. Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be God. The Son was there when the world was created… He is God (not a sub-God), and He is equal to the Father.
Then this God became a man … and I love it because John calls it “the Word” (Logos, in Greek) that became flesh … in some biblical versions the WORD is called the VERB that became flesh … and I like the word “VERB” even more, because a verb refers to action, active work, it is to do something.
John also says (verse 14): And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Jesus —my friends— has come into the world, to give you the salary you cannot earn, the prize you do not deserve, and the recognition of something that He himself did for you.
That is why our church is called GRACE. Because here we come to receive what we DO NOT deserve, but that GOD, who is so loving and full of mercy, has decided to give us, all by GRACE.
If we look at the Law that God gave Moses, there we see that we cannot do anything to save ourselves, that we are condemned to death because of our sins.
Saint Paul said to the Romans, chapter 7: “…and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” (v.10)
Of course! – you may say – having the Law is easy because you know what to do and what not to do. The problem is what always happens at the end… We do what we should not be doing, and we don’t do what we should be doing.
Doesn’t it happen to you? It happens to me all the time.
The Law was made to fulfill it perfectly because God is perfect and He demands perfection … then we fail … and we die.
Luther said: “When I look at myself, I don’t see how I can be saved. But when I look at Christ, I don’t see how I can be lost.”
Why? By grace… grace alone.
So you and I do not go through life doing good things in order to earn points to go heaven … you and I are doing good, living a good life of services, helping those in need, involved in the things of God and the church, giving offerings, time, and talents … not to earn heaven … but to tell God that we are grateful because without us having done anything, He – through Christ – has given us salvation, forgiveness for our sins, and eternal life. This is grace! This is God’s love for you that lasts forever, and not the love you say you have for God that lasts so little!
My brothers … let’s fill 2020 with good works … not to earn heaven … but because we live as men and women who in Christ, and through Christ, already earned heaven …
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5)
PART II: TRUTH
The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Not only did grace come through Christ, many more things also came of course. But in this text it says that THE TRUTH also came.
And Christ, believe it or not, is the only true, genuine, and pure thing that you will find in this world. We live and walk our pathways of life among so many lies… Saint Paul said: we walk through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. (1 Tim. 4:2)
I really enjoyed the Christmas season this year because there were many shows about Jesus on television. The other day we were watching some of them on National Geographic and History Channel. Very good and well done … but they had so many lies…
If you open your Facebook, you find what they call Fake News (things that are happening but are not) or things that are not truth at all… things like if you send a prayer to a thousand people God will bless you … that somebody’s woman told the brother of little James that she was doing this and that, or whatever… well … lies, lies, lies … we live in a world where people lie and disappoint us every day.
The world my dear friends … your life in this 2020 … and our hearts now and forever … are thirsty for the truth … that is why Jesus tells us: I am the way, THE TRUTH, and the life … (John 14: 6 )
The truth of God was manifested in the incarnation of Christ, his coming into the world, his work on the cross, and in the strength of his resurrection.
It is not that God became man only, which is a big thing … but that HE also lived among us, died for us, and rose again for us, so that we may have eternal life. This is the truth!
The world will try to tell you something else. The world will tell you that we need good works to be saved, but THE TRUTH is that we do good works because we are saved already….
The world will tell you that this thing of God and faith are old fashioned… but THE TRUTH is that Christ today is calling your heart and wants to walk by your side in a world full of lies and disappointments.
We live among many lies … but THE TRUTH is that God loves you, wants to walk by your side on 2020, and has a wonderful plan for your life.
He has forgiven you by GRACE, and today He gives you the TRUTH that makes you free. Amen