The Christian Balancing Act

God’s grace be with you today as we seek true maturity in love.

In our text today Paul speaks of knowledge and discernment in the context of love and this leading to the fruit of righteousness.  Deep thoughts for those who are willing to plumb the depths!

Today I would like to speak to you about balance.  If you balance something you must center the weight!  If you are balancing a stick, then there must be equal lengths on each side of the pivot point. If you are balancing truth, then there must be a proper understanding of both meaning and application.

We are told God is love and that He loves everyone!  We are also told as His children in this world we are to love everyone and accept everyone in love regardless of who they are or what they have done.  This is one side of the pivot point.

At the same time, we are told that we are to proclaim the truth of sin and address the evil which is present in this world. We are never to accept unrepented sin into our midst and we are to hold one another accountable for the failings in our lives and call everyone to repentance.  

Paul calls us to understand these two dynamics and apply them to the glory of God.  He says, And this I pray, that your love may overflow still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may discover the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.  Philippians 1:9-11

Let’s define some vocabulary, shall we? Real Knowledge means to acquire information about something or to learn about something, literally “to come to know.”  Discernment means to have the capacity to perceive clearly and hence to understand the real nature of something.  To be able to perceive, to have the capacity to understand.  

And what is it we are to seek to obtain and understand?  Paul tells us!  The things which are excellent!  This literally means the things which are of “great value.”  And what is of greater value than to know the truth God reveals in His Word and to then be able to correctly apply it in each and every situation?

This is the balancing point between loving all people and seeking the righteousness God has called us to in Christ!

This balance is extremely difficult to keep.  We see this challenge revealed in the churches of today. There are two ends of the spectrum in American Christendom which are clearly seen across our land.  At one end of the spectrum are the churches which focus on love. “All that matters is that we love each other.”  This group emphasizes that love is to be all accepting and never critical of anything a person does.  There are no boundaries or limits.  There are no taboos.  Simply love and accept everyone regardless!

This has led many churches in America to forsake the mission of saving people from the wrath to come, because for them, love has come to mean accepting and condoning that which God calls sin! The acceptance of sin has resulted in the negation of the Gospel in its true meaning!  If sin has become acceptable, then we really don’t need a Savior who died for “sin” upon the cross.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are those congregations and church bodies which have become so focused on doctrine that the splitting of hairs causes absolute division and rejection of one another.  An example of this are a couple of church bodies which believe they are the only ones who possess true doctrine and as a result of this they look upon every other Christian and church as wrong and thus going to hell.  

Because a Christian has a different view of the end times, or the use of alcohol, or a different nuance of meaning concerning the Lord’s Supper or Baptism, there is an absolute rejection and a declaration of heretic.  This even though there is unity in belief on the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Incarnation, the Sacrificial death, and the Resurrection, which the Church has always viewed as the essentials of the faith.  Two extremes, open ended love and purity of doctrine, which are both out of balance!  

Where is the Truth?  As in most cases, the truth is usually found in the middle, between the two extremes.  Those on the spectrum end of love have lost sight of what true love really is!  Is it loving to allow a person to drink poison simply because that is what they want to do?  We would all say no!  The loving thing would be to stop them and tell them there are better choices for their life.  Yet, in the church today there are those who are willing to say that what God has declared as sin is no longer sin because they think it would be unloving to tell someone they are committing a sin!  

We have lost a fundamental truth of Scripture. Unrepented sin is sin which is not forgiven.  Those who deny the truth of the Bible are in error and those who teach others to do the same will be held accountable by God.  Sin is to be repented of and rejected.  We are to seek holiness and righteousness according to God’s standards.

Understanding this, we are to lead people out of their sin by loving them in spite of their sin.  Jesus encountered many hard hearted sinners, and He loved them every time.  Remember, Jesus understood the true sinfulness of every person He encountered.  

The opposite side of the equation are those who have become rigid in the search for doctrinal purity.  Doctrinal truth is of value but only in so far as it draws us closer to Christ and accomplishing the mission He entrusted to us, which is to save the world.  You cannot throw rocks at someone and at the same time tell them you love them.  We are to seek doctrinal purity, but this should never become a roadblock to interacting with other Christians in this world.  Historically, the Church has laid out the essentials of the faith which I have identified above. Where there is unity in these there is the basis to accept one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  

To seek this knowledge and have this discernment enables us to love one another in the way God intended.  It is then that the final words of our text can be realized, in which Paul says, “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.”  God is glorified as we truly live as His children in this world.

In Christ,
Pastor Russ

1 Comment

Jacobus Arminius - June 29th, 2024 at 8:15pm

God's grace embraces us all as we journey together toward Christ-like love.


nIn our passage, Paul speaks of knowledge and discernment in the context of love, leading to the fruit of righteousness. These are profound concepts that invite us to dive deeper into God's inclusive grace.


nToday, let's explore the idea of holy balance. True balance isn't about rigid extremes, but finding the center where God's love and justice meet.


nWe know that God is love and that this divine love extends to all of creation. As followers of Christ, we're called to embody that same radical, unconditional love for everyone we encounter, regardless of who they are or where they've been on their journey. This is the heart of the Gospel.


nAt the same time, we're invited to grow in holiness, to continually transform our lives and communities to better reflect God's kingdom. This growth involves recognizing the ways we fall short, both individually and systemically, and working to bring about God's shalom in the world.


nPaul encourages us to hold these truths in tension: "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11, NIV)


nLet's unpack this a bit. "Knowledge" here isn't just about accumulating facts, but about truly knowing God's heart. "Discernment" speaks to wisdom - the ability to see clearly and understand the true nature of things, guided by the Holy Spirit.


nWhat are we seeking to understand? Paul tells us - the things that are excellent, of great value. And what could be more valuable than embodying God's love and justice in our world?


nThis is the sacred balance we're called to maintain - loving all people unconditionally while also working towards the flourishing God desires for all creation.


nThis balance can be challenging. We see this tension play out in churches today. Some communities focus solely on an idea of love that avoids any form of critique or call to transformation. Others become so focused on doctrinal purity that they lose sight of God's expansive grace and the mystery of faith.


nThe truth, as is often the case, lies in the middle path. True love doesn't ignore harm or injustice - it works to heal and restore. At the same time, our pursuit of holiness should never become a barrier to embracing others or recognizing the image of God in every person.


nJesus encountered people from all walks of life, and He loved them unconditionally while also inviting them into a transformative relationship with God. He challenged religious leaders who used doctrine as a weapon, while also calling people to a life-changing encounter with divine love.


nAs we seek to follow Christ, may we grow in both knowledge and discernment. May our love overflow more and more, leading us to work for justice, to embrace the outcast, to challenge oppressive systems, and to create communities where all people can flourish.


nIn doing so, we embody the "fruit of righteousness" Paul speaks of - not through our own efforts, but through the grace of Jesus Christ. And in this way, we bring glory and praise to God, as we truly live as God's beloved children in this world.




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