The word “grace” has significant meaning for our relationship with God, ourselves and one another. Grace is God’s love offered. As a gift is freely given, so grace must be received to be appreciated. God offers us something beyond ourselves, yet within our reach. The power of this gift called grace, grows when we truly understand how it works in connection with faith and trust.
Grace is a Person:
God so loved the world that He gave us the gift of His only Son (Jn 3:16-17). Jesus is the gift of grace to all mankind. He is the way, the truth, and the life of God, given as the full representative of grace. Through Jesus, God comes to us and reveals Himself to us, because we cannot by ourselves find God. Jesus as our advocate with the Father comes to help us know Him and believe in Him as He really is. We cannot do this by our human limitation, because we get so blinded by carnal perception. We need God’s grace.
Religion can be negative to our perception, as it creates a way of seeing through boxes of morality, judgment and expectations. In fact, so many people are bound to religion that Christianity is often defined more by what it rejects than what it believes.
If we are sinful (and we all are), we may not want to come to God, thinking that God is unapproachable and will punish us for our sins. We may get the idea that we must be “good enough” to be acceptable to God. But this is where grace becomes so significant. Its the gift of God!
All sinners experience guilt, brokenness and emotional pain. But faith is our humble belief in God’s mercy. Mercy is simply God not giving us what we deserve so that grace can become visible. When we understand mercy, we naturally turn toward the one showing us that mercy. This turning is an act of humility, because we recognize the favor (grace) being shown us is undeserved and it causes us to feel like a burden is lifted from our shoulders. There are all kinds of burdens that mercy lifts when someone favors us.
Clarifying Our Focus:
It is important that we reject sinful behavior, but never reject ourselves or the person we see sinning. Unfortunately, in real life, many of us have the tendency to blend the two into one: we often associate the behavior with the person. In this way, we become condemning and judgmental, hypocritical and proud.
This is where God’s grace becomes visible. Jesus is not a policeman, but an advocate. An advocate is somebody who pleads the case for mercy and stands on behalf of the guilty before the accuser or the judge.
Restoration and Hope:
In the parable of the prodigal son, the father is not judgemental and condemning, but a restorer of broken relationship. Jesus tells us, he throws his arms around the returning son and kisses him, while his servant is commanded to prepare the house for a party.
Consistent with Grace:
Jesus would have us see God as the waiting Father, who runs to embrace the son at the first sign of his turning toward home. “This son was lost, but now has come home! Bring out the robe, the ring and the sandals, for my son was dead and is alive again. Prepare the fatted calf… tonight we feast!” (Lk 15:20-24)
Walking in Real Grace:
The other son is caught up in the epic battle with religious seeing and self-righteous attitudes. Jesus does not approve of that moralistic attitude, because it is hypocritical. In offering grace to others, Jesus wants us to embrace people at the first sign of turning toward home. Its not that we condone what they have done as much as we embrace who they really are. He wants us to know that grace is God’s unconditional love revealed at the first sign of humility. The Apostle Peter said “…be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 4:5).
Our highest prize is to be found living for Jesus. God is offering us the invitation to walk in spiritual prosperity and release His love to the world around us. Our enemies are God’s enemies, our difficulties are God’s difficulties and yet, our victory is God’s testimony. We are beginning to understand that we have full access to everything for which Jesus died. Its not about the bigger, better or more popular life, its about gaining Christ. He has captured our hearts, by loving us in the midst of discovery!
“We cannot, but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)
Often the disciplines of our Christian faith can lead us to believe that our life is more about dying to self than living for Christ. Yet, we are exchanging the ashes of a misguided life for the beauty of abiding in His Presence. Though darkness lasts for the night, fresh joy gets released in the morning. The Lord, Himself becomes our Everlasting Light and shapes the way we see our world. It truly is Christ in us that is the hope of Glory (Col 1:27).
Glory goes unseen by many, because human desires of the flesh are a veil that the devil uses to hide what is available to us (2 Cor 4:4-6). The inward, spiritual man is so much more wonderful than the outer, natural man of flesh and blood. Its the Holy Spirit’s influence that begins to delight our heart and remove the veil of flesh, so that blessing, purpose and fruitfulness can emerge as our treasure (2 Cor 3:16-18). And treasure it, we will… just try to still our voice, shift our vision or hold us back! We have understood the call to go forth in power and it is now inside us, to endure all things with bold perseverance (Heb 10:35-39).
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! (Rom 8:31-37)
There is a lot of confusion among people today, about the true essence of Christianity. Is Christianity a set of biblical teachings we are to follow? Is it just another world religion, that calls upon a god that cannot be known? Is it a philosophical view of the world that engages the weak and simple minded? Could it be more than just a set of beliefs, rituals and doctrines designed to get us into heaven someday after we die? Just what is the Christian faith and what key thoughts are at the core of a biblical worldview?
At the core of Christianity is a relationship.
Jesus said, ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39)
Jesus was saying; Christianity is about who you are and how you relate to God… its about love!
According to the Bible, living in relationship with God defines all other relationships. Our most significant Christian Truth is that God designed us from the beginning for relationship with Him. We were created in His image and for His purpose. We have been made to become carriers of both His love and His promise, as His dear children.
Therefore, it is crucial that we know how God intends for us to see Him… as a loving Father.
Loving Him is where it all begins for the Christian. At the core of this relationship is the awareness that He first has loved us and revealed that love in tangible ways. Like a hug feels warm and embracing to the person receiving it; so also there are things God has revealed to us that we can see and receive as signs of His love for us.
God wants us to see and feel His love for us (Jn 14:21).
The most important sign is that God sent His only Son into the Earth to die upon a cross, in order to forgive us of all of our sin. His desire was to remove any barrier to the clear revelation that God, as a Father loves and delights in humanity. There would be no question of His heart toward us, if man could just see the gift offered freely and receive it with joyful appreciation.
God did not send Jesus to condemn us! (Jn 3:17)
His love is not revealed to us in this way to condemn or punish, but to communicate a willingness to receive us as sons and daughters no matter how far away from ”home” we have strayed (Lk 15:21-24)(Jn 1:12). God’s embrace is given with a promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5); that He wants to give us life abundant and restore what has been stolen by brokenness and confusion. He stays with us and walks it out within our hearts through the person of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).
Beholding love, stirs us to love (1 Jn 3:1).
These are the amazing truths that enable us to respond to God as a Father and live with Him as sons and daughters. They compel us to embrace His heart and love Him back, in responsive relationship. Christianity is a life worth living, because at its core.. is love.
“This man (Apollos) had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:25-26)
This story is a powerful example of how Christain Truth must go beyond just getting the facts correct. The dedication of Apollos was wonderful and needed in Ephesus, yet for some reason it was ineffective at transforming the culture and calling the region into the Kingdom of God. He was eloquent in speech, fervent in delivery and fully committed to the information he had. But, there was something missing in his ministry, between what he knew and what he needed to know by experience. The text says Aquila and Priscilla explained some things to him that enabled him to become more accurate.
What He Knew:
Apollos’ ministry consisted exclusively from experiences received from a season in John the Baptist’s ministry. That is, he was preaching the Kingdom of Heaven and practicing water baptism for the same reason John had taught and preached it. Remember, John did baptize in the wilderness and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mk 1:4). It would seem very possible that anyone who had experienced such a powerful ministry would find it of value and want to pass it on as God’s message to the world.
What He Did Not Know:
Now, what was it Apollos did not know? Keep in mind that Aquila and Priscilla had served with the Apostle Paul and had learned some amazing things from experiencing the mantle of grace that rested upon Paul. They had a congregation of saints that met in their house and Paul had frequented that ministry often releasing his revelation and exposing the true nature of effective ministry. They had some marvelous opportunities to experience both the teaching of Truth and fellowship in the Holy Spirit. The Book of Acts tells of how Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:9), spoke the Word of God with boldness and did ministry with powerful miraculous signs followed him everywhere he preached (Acts 14:3)(Acts 19:11).
The Substance Within:
The Apostle Paul carried an enormous anointing within his ministry and this is the substance that makes accurate Truth carry accurate manifestation. An effective Christian life is full of Truth and full of power. The ministry of the Holy Spirit releases us into effectiveness, because we are equipped with power from on High to live as God’s Children, clothed in the Father’s Glory and manifesting His power right where we live. We can walk as people of Truth only as we have the energy of Heaven flowing through us to allow the Truth to make an impact.
Power Flowing From Heaven:
The key to making accurate Truths more effective is the authority of the Holy Spirit who stands behind it. We must be thankful for God’s servants who are gifted and zealous in their ministries; but zeal and knowledge can be a dangerous thing if not accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit. It has done great harm to the Church through the centuries to see a pattern of religious fervency carry no power to transform the culture (2 Tim 3:1-5). We must have a more accurate teaching of the Truth.
The Presence of the Holy Spirit:
Many today are still laboring under the Kingdom ministry of John the Baptist and have no clue of the more accurate ministry given by Jesus and expressed by the Apostle Paul (Acts 19:2). It was not a new message, but a more accurate message, accompanied by the Presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13-15).
There is something wonderful and compelling in this invitation by Jesus. His encounter with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well carries with it one profound timeless truth – the gift of God is “living water”.
I have found myself imagining this story; as so many, searching and thirsting from one broken source of hope to another, only to find that ignorance is not bliss. This woman’s ignorance of truth left her in bondage and prevented her from finding her way. She was more aware of her religious values than her moral conduct… in other words she was lost.
Her story is being repeated a billion times over in our world today. Tragic and unnecessary… thirsty people. Yet the ultimate challenge for the Church today, is to instill a vision of a Kingdom Culture that is deep and lasting. You and I are called to be a life giving stream from the well of living water.
Hear that Again: “A life giving stream from the well of living water.”
Let’s understand that meeting at Jacob’s Well is no guarantee that you and I can deliver the same message that Jesus gave her. We can talk a good talk and even shout and dance with the best of intentions, but to deliver and impart to others requires an anointing from the Holy Spirit. We need a touch from God.
Let the Rivers Flow:
There is Good News, however - if we are drinking of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13) and overflowing with the life that Jesus promised, then out of our bellies will flow rivers of living water (Jn. 7:37-39). So jump in and go deep… let the rivers flow!