Grace in Action

So, if you watched/heard/read last weekend’s sermon, you might ask, HEY BILL, HOW DOES THIS WORK OUT IN REAL LIFE?

Great question… let’s dive in.

I’m suggesting that we replace the phrase GOOD WORKS with the phrase GOD WORKS THRU ME. What comes to mind when most Christians think “good works” is NOT what God intended. It is not a burden on your back. It is not the production of your own power.

It is, rather, the work of God through you.

But how does this happen? And what does it feel like?  St Paul nails its (as always):

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:28, 29, NKJV).

Let’s break it down:

  • Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom… To this end I also labor, striving… Who is doing the action of the verbs? Paul and his friends (“we”). He preaches, he warns, he teaches, he labors, he strives.  This is Paul’s work. He puts forth effort. He breaks a sweat. He goes home and collapses in the Lazyboy at the end of a hard day’s ministry.

    And so it will be for us. Again, do not accuse me of advocating passivity. I don’t. The Way of Christ is mightily active, and full of struggle. We must, however, frame both the activity and the struggle as Paul, following Jesus, did.  He worked, and so should you, and so should I. We strive for holiness. We seek to do good in the world. We seek to love as we have been loved.

    But how, in that pursuit, can we avoid the trap of legalism? How can we avoid the duty-based life that has been the church’s death of a thousand cuts for two thousand years?

  • …striving according to His working which works in me mightily… There’s the secret. Paul never viewed his herculean efforts in isolation from the monumental work of God. Paul broke the sweat, but it was God’s working working in him mightily. Paul got tired, but it was God who actually did the work. Paul needed a nap, but the credit for the effort went to God, not Paul.

    Perhaps this paradox led Paul to call “Christ in You” the MYSTERY of our faith (v. 27). Christ is working through him, but he still gets tired.  What’s that about? Let me try to pull this all together.

1. There is no official feeling of the power of God. You can feel tired, mad, sad, energized, scared, invincible, weak, or small.  Doesn’t matter. GOD WORKS THROUGH YOU no matter how you feel.

2. The fact that God works through you doesn’t exempt you from feeling tired. It’s not a sign that you’re  bad Christian if you feel worn out at the end of the day. It’s normal. You are a frail vessel filled with the excellency of God.

3. We’re supposed to turn from Self-effort to Christ-effort. From what I produce to what God produces. This is a frame of mind and faith above all else. It is viewing your best efforts the way Paul viewed his: NOT I, BUT CHRIST (Gal 2:20).

4. Grace means that God does the work… that is what I believe. That is where I stand. That is what I remind myself of. That is what I say to any person who asks.  God does the work. God gets the credit. I’m a vessel. I’m a channel. I’m a mouth. I’m arms, legs, feet, hands, and wallet. It is God’s work through me…. and the second I doubt it, the second I forget it, I land myself in the stiff working boots of the prodigal son’s elder brother.

5. The surest signs I’m counting on my own power instead of God’s power: inflation (arrogance), deflation (self-contempt), boasting (taking credit, playing “mine’s better” or “mine’s worse), whining (as if God’s grace isn’t sufficient), and quitting (as if God’s grace isn’t sufficient). In short, when faith evaporates, the channel of grace fizzles.

I want to do good works, but I want them to be God’s work thru me.

You?

that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5, NKJV).

Here’s a previous post on this topic: https://maxgrace.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/gods-power-for-gods-people/

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5 thoughts on “Grace in Action

  1. Growing up in legalism, I was always worried about doing the right (or wrong) thing. As you mentioned in last Sunday’s sermon, the function of church was to tell me how to behave.

    I learn a lot about the nature of God through my relationship with my son. I love him more than anything, and nothing in the world is more important to me than our relationship. I don’t focus on telling him what is right or wrong. I don’t have a list of rules for him. Never have. Instead, I just love him. We talk, and when we do, I focus my attention on him and listen just as much as I talk.

    Now, I’m not saying his perfect by any means, but the result of our loving relationship is this: he doesn’t miss that lack of a list of rules. It’s as if love makes up for it. He’s just a really good kid.

    Which is why I don’t bombard him with the Bible’s rules either. Instead I talk to him about God’s love and grace. I think that will always be every bit as effective as it is in our personal relationship. The more you love someone, the more you naturally please them without even thinking about it.

    I don’t think I explained this very well… maybe I’ll look for the right words later.

  2. Great message Bill. I am so thankful for grace.

    What I’ve been meditating on lately is the relationship between grace and mercy. In your sermon, you said that there is no opposite to grace but I wonder, would it be mercy?

    From what I understand, grace is what God gives that we don’t deserve. Mercy is what he *doesn’t* give that we DO deserve (judgment). I would love to hear you speak on the relationship of the two and more importantly, how we walk out the mercy piece…or do we? How do we view it in our everyday lives?

    Thank you for your weekly preparation and thorough teaching.

  3. Good message, Bill…

    You are developing the concept in Romans, which indicates that the more the sin, the more grace abounds unto righteousness. (The MISAPPREHENSION of this grace principle was, “Let us do evil that good may come!” Rom 3:8… or, “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Rom 6:1… or, “Shall we sin because we are not under Law but under grace?” Rom 6:15) In other words, the worse the sinner — who comes to Christ — the more grace abounds unto righteousness. It’s almost as if sins are replaced (in redemption) by an equal amount of righteousness through grace, so that the worst of sinners becomes the greatest of saints in the eyes of God. To wit, “Jesus was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” Rom 4:25. The idea here is that we receive righteousness because of like exchange of our trangressions with Christ on the cross.

    The outcome, of course, is that we should no longer be slaves of sin, but slaves of righteousness… and this is where we have the rub of Christian growth, and the continued reliance (or lack thereof) upon God’s grace for life and living.

    Grace,
    Joseph

  4. Thanks so much Bill!!! I keep praying that more and more of this message really sinks in….Thanks for offering a beautiful and gracious counter to this world’s message.

  5. Hi Bill,

    I really appreciate you pointing out that whining or being tempted to quit are symptoms of disbelief that God’s grace is sufficient! I grew up thinking that suicide was the answer to life. I trusted God’s grace to save me for eternity but not for the here and now. Doh! God’s grace IS sufficient. I know this to be true; I’ve seen it many times now. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Jo

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