We Walk the Line

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Not to be cute or trendy, this question is posed to help us better grasp the privileges and responsibilities of knowing and following the world’s one true Lord and Savior. The answer to the question will come shortly.

Because Jesus is a wonderful Savior, we enjoy the very best blessings and promises by trusting Him. These blessings and promises represent God’s grace — His unearned favor realized in some measure now and reserved without measure for us in heavenly glory to be revealed in due time, all at Christ’s expense.

Because Jesus is a mighty Lord, we are called to the highest standards of faith, love, and life — obeying and following Him in sacrificial service to God and others. These standards represent God’s truth in Christ. His Word and Spirit empower us to become what we would never be without Him.

God’s Word made flesh was full of these two marvelous attributes, according to John 1:14: God’s grace and God’s truth. So that we don’t miss this thought, verse 17 repeats it: “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus’ grace and truth aren’t confined to John’s Gospel, however. Great words of gospel grace appear in red letters in all four Gospels, and red-letter words of timeless truth accompany them there, as the chart on the next page confirms.


Wonderful and difficult

All four Gospels mix wonderful words of who Christ’s disciples are by grace with difficult words of what Christ’s disciples do in truth, like this:

  • In Matthew, we are the poor in spirit who receive the kingdom. We do the will of our Father in feeding, clothing, visiting, and taking the gospel to the least of these.
  • In Mark, we are the many for whom Jesus gave His life as a ransom for sin. We do deny ourselves, take up our cross, and give up our own life to follow Christ.
  • In Luke, we are those who express saving faith through humble confession of sin. We do give up all we have so that we might follow Jesus.
  • In John, we are those who truly believe and find life in Him. We do continue in His Word and keep His commandments.


Christ and Cash

So, what does Johnny Cash have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Johnny’s life was a mess — until someone made the difference for him. Johnny’s someone first loved him, accepted him, forgave him, motivated and inspired him so fully that his life was raised to a whole new level of dignity and respect for God, for others, and even for himself. Everything about Johnny changed when he met her.

It was then that Johnny could write and sing about June Carter Cash: I’ll be true. I won’t turn to the right or to the left. I’m going straight on with you and you alone, as long as we both live. “Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

This, I think, is a fair comparison to being one of Christ’s disciples. Because of Jesus’ love for us, we are learning to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength — and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Because He promises us the kingdom, we will do what the Father says in His Word and gives us to do through His Spirit. Our light will shine before men as we feed, clothe, care, give, and go — to the least of Jesus’ brethren.

Because Christ gave His life as a ransom, we will deny ourselves, take up our cross, and gladly lose our lives to follow Him and lift Him up — around the corner and around the world.

Because Christ has forgiven us and declared us as righteous as if we’d never sinned, we will surrender all to follow Him.

Because Christ has given us life abundant and eternal, we will continue in His Word. Because He loves us and we love Him, we will keep His commandments.

Jesus, because we are Yours and You are ours, we walk the line of grace and truth.


According to . . .


Jesus’ grace: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). Christ promises God’s kingdom to those who confess their sins and their need of a Savior, and who repent: That’s grace!

Jesus’ truth: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (7:21). Those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and show mercy to the lowest will inherit the kingdom (25:34-40).


Jesus’ grace: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (10:45). Christ’s mission on earth had the primary purpose of serving, giving, and paying a sin price we could never pay.

Jesus’ truth: Following Him can cost us everything. “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (8:34, 35).


Jesus’ grace: One man in church lifted himself to look down on others, while the second confessed his sin humbly — and went home justified rather than the other. “For
. . . he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (18:9-14).

Jesus’ truth: “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (14:33). This give-it-all-you-got principle is not just for a few elite disciples but for all (see also Matthew 13:44-46; Luke 18:22).


Jesus’ grace: “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment
. . .” (5:24).

Jesus’ truth: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. . . . If you love Me, keep My commandments” (8:31; 14:15).BA

Calvin Burrell
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Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.