Knox Church’s new motto: “Truthful teaching, graceful living”

Since developing the vision for Knox Church a couple of years back, we have been wrestling with how to adequately convey it to church members and the surrounding community. A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a Christian podcast where a theologian was saying how the marks of a good church is not only solid biblical teaching but also the lives of grace that its members live.

Right then, this motto appeared and clicked in my head: “Truthful teaching, graceful living.” It’s what we’ve been attempting to convey with our vision — that our primary mission of the church is to teach the Bible rightly and live changed lives of grace for the glory of our King.

Not only is this slogan (in my opinion) slightly catchy, but it conveys how both of these elements are essential to a healthy church. You cannot ONLY have good doctrine preached or ONLY people living as God intends, but you need BOTH as they flow back and forth. The truthful teaching promotes graceful living, and graceful living leads us to desire even more truthful teaching.

Our lives in Christ are defined by the teaching and grace that we experience. 1 Timothy 4:13 says, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” We absolutely need to have Scripture proclaimed, explained, and applied to our lives. And 2 Timothy 2:22 talks about graceful living both individually and in a church setting: “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

The Reverend Ray Ortlund has a great message about this very subject that I encourage you to listen to. Here’s the description of that podcast: “Ray Ortlund speaks with Mike about the distinction between educational Bible teaching and heart stirring, encouraging true preaching. He believes that the goal of preaching is new life, liberation and freedom, not bondage, heaviness and law. And as the wonderful gospel of Jesus is placarded in a church, a culture of safety, warmth and welcome is created.”

This is especially relevant as we prepare to study the book of Galatians and see what a church is like that is not adhering to biblical truth or graceful living. Spoiler: It’s stressful, excluding, and sinful!

Truthful teaching, graceful living. These four words sum up so wonderfully the purpose God has for his church — and for us here at Knox.

Why does God love me?

It’s not uncommon for every Christian to experience a sobering moment when they look at the depth and breadth of their sin and ask that age-old question, “Why would God love such as I? Certainly there are other, better people to love! Why would God look at someone as broken, as rebellious, as flawed as me and say, ‘I’m going to love that person’?”

In a way, coming to the point in your life where you do ask that question is a mark of a maturing faith. Seriously! In our sin, we would never ask that. We would either assume that we don’t need God’s love at all or figure that we somehow deserve it. When we grow in Christ and pour through his Word, our eyes are opened to the truth: We have fallen far, far short of God’s standards and deserve only wrath and eternal damnation. We contain no merit nor offer any virtuous acts that can make us worthy of love — nevermind redemption and salvation.

That’s why the more you study sin, the more God’s love bowls you over. It’s why you start to ask, “Why me? Why would God love me if this is my state?” And then you read John, who says, “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” And we flip over to Romans where it tells us, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That God loved the unlovable — the undeserving — is not in question. He did. But why?

The simple and truthful answer to that is that it is in God’s nature to love. He is a loving God, through and through (1 John 4:16). It doesn’t mean he isn’t a lot of other things as well — justice, mercy, compassion, truth, glory, holiness — but that this is one of the most manifestly obvious facets of God’s attributes. He loves because he is love.

When we wonder why God would create a creature who would rebel and grieve him so deeply, I suppose we could ask parents that as well. All of our kids rebel. All will grieve us. Yet we trust that the love that we will have for them and the love given in return will be greater still. God redeems us in love so that we may love him forever, and that is worth it to him.

Why did God choose you to love? Because it pleased him to do so. Revel in the mystery of it, delight in the joy of it, and respond to him with all of the love that you possess.

How often is God’s self-description quoted in the Bible?

This past Sunday, I noted that one of the most important passages in the Old Testament is God’s description of himself in Exodus 34:6-7, which reads,

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

This sermon God gives about himself, about his character, has profound ripples throughout the rest of the Bible. I mentioned in the sermon that this was one of the most-quoted passages in the Bible, and so I thought it might be interesting to list all of the other mentions of it:

  1. Psalm 86:15 — “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
  2. Joel 2:13 — “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
  3. Psalm 103:8-13 — “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
  4. Psalm 145:8 — “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
  5. Nehemiah 9:17 — “They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.”
  6. Jonah 4:2 — “And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.'”
  7. Numbers 14:17-19 — “And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.””
  8. Psalm 86:5 — “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”
  9. 2 Chronicles 30:9 — “For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”
  10. Micah 7:18 — “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”
  11. Ephesians 1:7-8 — “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight”
  12. Deuteronomy 5:10 — “Showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
  13. Romans 2:4 — “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
  14. Psalm 116:5 — “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.”
  15. Psalm 111:4 — “He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful.”
  16. Psalm 112:4 — “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.”
  17. Jeremiah 32:18 — “You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts”

When the Bible mentions something over and over and over again, it wants us to really focus on it, understand it, internalize it, and meditate on it. This passage certainly calls for such attention!

Knox VBS sees Jesus shining as the light of the world!

This week, Knox Church opened its doors to the community for another great Vacation Bible School. This year’s theme was Jesus as the “light of the world,” which took kids on a journey through the life, miracles, and sayings of our Savior. We started with Jesus’ birth, talked about how he never sinned, looked at his calling of the disciples, and even went with him as he calmed a storm on a raging lake!

Every day this week, kids ages 3 through 11 got to hang out with their friends (and make a few new ones!) as they went to different activity stations. There was art and crafts, snacks, gym, music, and story time to keep them busy. The youngest kids had their own set of activities such as coloring, blowing bubbles, and enjoying a bouncy house.

Knox Church’s volunteer team brought the gospel to the children through their love, patient leadership, and caring attention. We had a lot of opportunities this week for adults and older teens to “share their spiritual gifts” with the kids, whether it be baking in the kitchen, strumming tunes on guitars, or running around like a madman in the gym.

The crafts, games, and even the snacks that the kids enjoyed this week helped to reinforce the story of the day, whether it be eating Christmas cookies (for Jesus’ birth!), tie dying shirts with symbolic colors, or rounding up balloon “sheep” in the gym.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation,” Psalm 27:1 says. “So why should I be afraid?”

This is the message that Knox brought to the kids this week — our great God gives us every reason to feel secure and loved as we follow him.

The heavens declare

The more that science and technology progresses to allow us to look at bigger, further away, smaller, and different spectrum things, the more that Scripture is proven true. The universe as we know it is proving, day by day, to be more beautiful, more glorious, more creative, and more majestic than we ever thought.

Recently, a new space telescope called the James Webb Telescope, went online and started sending back some of the most brilliant and distant images from the universe that we’ve ever seen. This past week, NASA released the above image of the “cosmic cliffs” — a nebula where stars are being formed. Previous to that, the telescope provided a sliver of a “deep field image,” which showed just a sliver of the sky containing hundreds of galaxies so far away that our imaginations couldn’t process it.

Day by day, God proves his word true: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” says Romans 1:20. We cannot see God, but we can see the work of his hands in nature, from galaxies to atomic structures.

And when we see images like these from the James Webb Space Telescope, we are reminded of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.