Monday, September 03, 2007

Grace works

As a follow up to two of my recent posts, "Microwave Christianity" and "80/20? 50/50?" I just wanted to give some real life examples of what I'm talking about. Essentially, I'm pointing out some very specific things I've either seen and observed from a distance or that I've actually been a part of that have shown me how an ongoing, steady focus on God's grace and our identity in Christ leads to genuine maturity in Christ and an active, fruitful Christian life.

Life Christian Center This small community of believers (no longer meeting together) here in Waterloo was a haven for me and my wife from 1996 to 1999. The church had formerly been a Word of Faith church, but the pastor (Mark) had transitioned into pure grace teaching by the time we joined this body in 1996. Mark found grace all over the Bible and taught an hour's worth of it each and every Sunday, and more on Wednesday evenings. We had come from a pentecostal church that had a very heavy emphasis on "doing" and "living right." We'd been actively involved in a lot of doing. And quite frankly, we were burned out. For me, Life Christian Center was a place where I found rest and refreshment. I'm not talking so much about rest from "doing" (although that was a factor in helping me to start unlearning some of the religious junk I'd been taught), but rest from a performance-based mentality of Christianity. I was able to sit back and let a lot of the religious junk fall off, and I believe this is where I actually started to really get to know Jesus Christ, the Person, and where I finally started to learn what "abiding" really is. Nobody had to tell me what to "do." I was continuously refreshed in who I am in Christ. When this is the foundation, nobody can STOP you from growing in the outward actions that flow from being established in your identity in Christ.

Grace Walk Ministries This has been by far the most influential ministry in my life and I won't be able to adequately describe it all here. If you've never read the book "Grace Walk" by Steve McVey, I highly recommend it (available at As the name implies, Grace 'Walk' is not simply about knowing the truth about God's love and grace, but walking it out as Jesus abides in and through us by the Holy Spirit. Grace Walk (not just the book, but the ministry as a whole) has helped me in a huge way to understand that Christ isn't just "in" my life, but that He is my life. I'm not trying to "put God first" in my life, but rather I'm living daily from the truth that I died and the life I now live is a life in which He has joined Himself with me. So much fruit has come out of this ministry that I can only conclude that the ongoing teaching of the foundational truths of God's love and grace has a profound effect on God's people, resulting in genuine love for God and for people that can't help but flow from the inside out.

The Grace Project If I'm correct, this ministry began as a simple gathering of believers in London, England, 7 or 8 years ago, and they now have a presence in more than one part of London, including a training school. There's so much I could say here, but my main point is fruit. The Grace Project has focused on teaching the foundational truths of God's love and grace, and as a result the people are "coming of age," so to speak. And here's the thing. It's not that they're taught "principles for Christian living" week after week. Rather, they've been built up steadily in who they are in Christ, and as a result they have genuine works to show that they are fruitful disciples of Christ. It's not that principles aren't taught (such as the "one-anothering" principles, etc), but from all that I've read and heard, it's a steady "diet" of grace and identity teaching that is causing growth and leading to maturity and fullness in Christ. One of my all time favorite quotes from Paul-Anderson Walsh (head of The Grace Project) goes something like this: "We (pastors and teachers) tell them who they are and the Holy Spirit will tell them what to do." And they know that they know that they know that maturity doesn't happen overnight. I love the "slow cook" principle that was brought up by the guys in the Microwave Christianity discussion that I wrote about.

Grace Loves What happens when the love and grace of God is the foundation of your life? You can do nothing but desire to share it with others in the form of teaching and in the form of action. When Christ is your life, and not just "in" your life, there's no way you can just sit still. The (super)natural outflow of the foundational teachings of Grace Walk and The Grace Project has led to the two ministries joining together to form the initiative called "Grace Loves." It's still in an early phase, but as I understand there is a lot of "behind the scenes" work going on. In short, Steve McVey was deeply moved by the AIDS crisis when he saw its horrors first hand in Swaziland and he wants to do something to help. Paul-Anderson Walsh has a focus on helping people in Brazil.

Here's words from Steve's own blog:

"Do you know how hollow words can sound when you're telling 350 children that they have a Father who loves them and then walk away and do nothing knowing that they don't even have food and shelter? I can't do it. I won't do it. I'm going to share and show God's love to some kids I've met who have no home. . . and to some Christians whose families have swollen to 12-15 people because they have taken in children whose parents have died from AIDS . . . and to people like the man I prayed with, who is dying from AIDS and who could be made comfortable as he dies -- for mere pennies." (From Steve's blog, "A Brief Word About Future Plans," July 14). He also wrote about this here and here.

There's so much more to write about, but I'll save it since this has gone much longer than I originally thought it would. At one time, this was all "theory" to me, but as I've grown in grace and as I've observed others growing in grace, I've become more and more convinced that grace "works." It works quite well. :)

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