Sunday, November 02, 2008

Grace is not just a subject

On our latest Growing and Grace program (Grace - The Foundation and Essence of Life in Christ), my friend Mike and I talk about how grace is not merely one subject of many in the Christian life, but is the foundation and essence of every aspect of our life in Christ. Along with our program, I thought I'd post an article that I wrote about 2 1/2 years ago for a church publication, since I think it goes along well with our discussion. I originally posted the article on this blog, on which you'll find all 20 article that I wrote over a period of 2 years.


The Sufficiency of Grace
Can you believe it? I actually used to think God’s grace was a part of the Christian life! I thought of it as one of those many topics in the Christian life like obedience, good works, wisdom, devotion, ministry, forgiveness, holiness, giving, discipleship, and so on and so forth. Grace, to me, was a subject worth visiting now and then, especially when I’d messed up pretty bad. But I no longer think of grace as a “part” of the Christian life.

Rather than one topic of many, I believe grace is the ESSENCE of the whole Christian life! Do we really think we’re adequate to live any moment of our life in Christ apart from grace? I love reminding others (and being reminded myself) that we’re saved and “justified freely” by His grace. I have no problem sitting and soaking in that good news for hours on end! But what if the application of grace went even farther than forgiveness and knowing we’ll go to heaven? In the past I’ve been thankful for God’s grace, but it was basically kept “on the shelf” until I thought I needed it (when I sinned). The Bible does more than simply hint at a complete necessity for grace in the 24/7 living of the Christian life.

For example, when it comes to spiritual gifts Paul tells us that we’re each gifted differently “according to the grace given us.” In speaking of his own spiritual growth and ministry Paul writes, “by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain, but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” Elsewhere he testifies, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.”

Was Paul saying, “I put forth my best effort and grace covered the rest?” To me it seems more like, “Every single thing I did was solely the result of grace working in me.” “This is our boast,” he affirms, “our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace.” Paul’s boast in his accomplishments wasn’t really a boast in his accomplishments! It was a testimony to the power of grace. His devotion to his call, his understanding of the gospel, his abundant labor in the Lord, his servanthood, his persistence, his humility, his… you name it, wasn’t sustained for a moment by his own strength, striving or abilities.

Rather than a “strong Christian,” I see Paul reckoning himself as a weak person with complete dependence upon grace. Can you relate? I can! Paul even went so far as to say “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” The more we yield to grace, the more Paul’s additional testimony and confession of “when I am weak, then I am strong” makes sense! Words like these demonstrate the 180 degree turnaround from his former trust in his fleshly strengths that he recalls (and deems as DUNG!) in Philippians 3. Trying to stir up the flesh in order to make a good outward showing was off limits to Paul. All arrows point inwardly to the Spirit of God who dwells in us and to His grace that powerfully works in us. Paul’s exhortations for the body of Christ are infused with phrases like “according to the Spirit,” “by the power of the Spirit,” “through Christ,” “Christ in you” and countless mentions of grace. What else, besides yielding to grace, can enable us with power for Christian living!

I’ve sometimes been known as the “grace” guy. There goes Joel with that grace stuff again! I guess I just can’t see how the Christian life can bear any fruit apart from full submission to the grace of God. To do Kingdom work, I believe we must all be “grace” people! By His grace, God embellishes us with His own beauty. His life is inextricably woven into ours. His grace is the source of our life, our being and ultimately our actions. This is something we can rest in. As we take the focus off ourselves and turn to trusting in His grace we can be assured that rather than passivity our lives will be fully animated by Him – in His way and in His timing! The Lord Himself described the fullness of the power of His grace: “Sufficient.”

(Verses quoted: Rom 3:24, Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 15:10, Eph 3:7, 2 Cor 1:12, 2 Cor 12:9-10)

10 comments:

  1. "Amazing Grace, Oh how sweet the sound
    Of Loves Greatest Mystery
    To share in His Death, In His Life to be found
    God living His Life through me"

    ~rjw

    Good one, Joel! :)

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  2. Joel,
    Excellent! Amen! the Spirit of Christ is so amazingly beautiful and strong if we know and Trust in His work in us. I am continually desiring to do this more and more in my life. Indeed, I'm glad you are know for your Grace blogs, my friend! For, you are speaking not about a subject, but about THE Person!! Christ Jesus...God Himself...the Holy Spirit...now in us!

    Great post!

    Blessings,
    ~Amy :)
    http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

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  3. Amazing stuff, RJW!

    Amy,

    Yes, me too. I'm continually desiring to walk more and more in trusting in His work in me and in His Body as a whole. It's all about a Person - THE Person, as you say! :)

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  4. Great Post Joel,
    I cannot hear enough of this kind of thing. I certainly will be checking out the other articles you gave a link to. I am trying to learn how to rest in His grace, I wish it were something I could set my mind to and give it a go to do. Some how I am going to just have to learn to rest in it, and not find something to "do" to show that I am doing it. I know it sounds senseless but I don't know how else to say it. It's posts like this one however that gets me closer to the ring I am reaching for.

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  5. "I cannot hear enough of this kind of thing."

    Ron, one of the things my friend Mike and I have often repeated on our program is that we need to be constantly reminded, over and over again of all these great truths of the grace of God. It get into our heads and into our hearts bit by bit, and it really is a lifelong journey of growing in it and appropriating it.

    That's one reason why I'm so thankful for the various people online who are also along on this journey. I find great encouragement in the thing people write. Like you, I can't hear enough of it!

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  6. Gary was having a problem posting a comment here, so he emailed the comment to me and mentioned that I could post it here. For some reason it appears as if the embedded comment form is not working, but the full page form is, so I'm changing it temporarily.

    Gary's comment:

    Great post Joel! Like the others, I can't hear enough about God's grace. I only had one thing to add...in John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the Truth." In John 1:14, it says that Jesus was "full of grace and truth." I can't help but to equate "I am the Truth" to "full of truth." So Jesus doesn't just give grace, He is Grace. He is grace personified. It kind of gives fresh meanings to other verses like John 1:16,

    From the fullness of his grace Jesus we have all received one blessing after another.

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  7. Woohoo, I can post now...

    I had meant John 1:16 in the last post to look like this:

    From Jesus we have all received one blessing after another.

    Ohh, well...you probably had it figured out anyway :)

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  8. Ah... Gary, I didn't catch it. Oops! I copied and pasted it here, and it had some HTML tags that didn't work when I went to publish the comment. So, without looking at the actual words, I changed the formatting to 'italics' and then published it. Again, my bad!

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  9. " Grace guy" ......... tee hee.

    Who'd a thunk it....

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  10. Leonard,

    Yeah, I don't know how people ever got that idea about me!

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