Virtual Reality | Day 15
Christian leaders have entered a new settled state and become more like the Christ they know, love, and serve (2 Tim. 3:2-5)
We’re working through the second quadrant: being. We’re exploring what it means to grow in Christ-like character. Yesterday, we looked at what it takes to grow in strength. Today, we continue with the what it looks like to grow in grace.
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1
Character Component #2: Grace (2:1-2)
“Grace” is so much more than the gift of undeserved, unmerited love, it is a divine enabling.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Corinthians 15:10
What was it that enabled Paul to say, “I am what I am”? Grace. “I am”, says Paul, “what I am by the grace of God!” Elsewhere, Paul says:
But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. Ephesians 4:7
The importance of these verses in Ephesians 4:4-7 is their uniqueness. In the verses from which the citation is taken, Paul talks about oneness, all the things we share in common. We have one Father; one Lord; one Spirit; one hope; one faith; one baptism. Then Paul says, “But” This is meant to make us sit up and take notice of what comes next. “But” shows that there is a contrast coming that we need to see. Paul continues, “But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Some translations replace the word apportioned with measured.
In other words, the Lord chose each one of us from within the oneness of verses 4-6. God looked at the oneness of His church and He chose you and he gave a measure of His grace to you. This means that whatever it is that the Lord has created you to be, whatever it is that God has called you to do, He has given to you His grace, His power that makes it possible for you to do his will.
If you were to take a concordance and look up grace, you would see that there is a link between receiving grace and the strengthening power of God. In many situations in the Bible the word grace occurs where either with the word power is used or the reality of God’s power was clearly seen.
Here are two examples:
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33
The Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. Acts 11:21-23
The Lord’s hand describes what God was doing. Barnabas did not see a literal hand but God’s hand, His power moving upon lost people. Luke says that this moving of God’s hand is evidence of His grace—His activity. There are other verses which show that where grace is, so is the power of God (e.g. Acts 14:3).
Since God gives us grace-power to do his will then the opposite must also be true. God will withhold grace-power to allow us to fail in what we are doing that He does not want us to do. God is not going to empower us to sin, for example.
When we look at the New Testament closely, we see that the moment we were saved by grace we received grace-strength for two specific things.
1. Strength to Overcome Sin
Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness. Romans 5:20-21
Many people understand this verse to mean that every time you sin, God’s grace is big enough to cover it. That’s true, but there is a deeper meaning. Through Jesus’ death on the cross the power of sin that once ruled in us (Romans 5:17ff) was destroyed ensuring that those of us who have a relationship with God are no longer subject to sin’s demands. We have power to overcome.
I heard a story that illustrates this. In heaven there was once a great debate as to who was the greatest example of God’s grace. All hearts were open, and all secrets were told as the saved sought to pay tribute to the grace of God. One after another related the sin out of which Christ had delivered them. The choice seemed to be settling down upon one man who apparently had committed every imaginable sin. And then he shared how on his deathbed Christ came and saved him, as he had saved the thief on the cross. Just before the vote was taken another of the saved stepped forward and asked to tell his story. It was this: He had come to know and love Christ as a child and had followed him all the days of his life, and by God’s grace he had been kept from the sins and transgressions of which the others had spoken. Then the vote was taken: and it was not the drunkard, the thief, the adulterer, the liar, the murderer, or the blasphemer, but the man who had followed Christ all his days and had been kept by his grace who was selected as the greatest example of the grace of God.
This is exactly the point Paul is making in Romans 5:20-21. Paul says that Satan can’t win when the Christian understands grace. Paul says that grace gives us the power to say, “No!” to sin.
In Titus 2:11-14, Paul says that we are taught by grace to say, “No.” We know from John 14:26 that the “Spirit will teach us all things.” In these verses of Titus, grace meets the doctrine of the Spirit. As the spirit works in us, so does grace (see also Galatians 5:18 and Romans 6:14).
I heard one preacher once say, “Every sin you commit is done not by submitting to a power that is stronger than you, but it is submission to a power that is weaker than you.”
I don’t know who said that, but it’s so true. Where sin increases, grace increases all the more.
2. Strength to Endure Hardship
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
On 3 different occasions Paul pleads, “God take this away from me!” For the first two occasions Paul still has to deal with his thorn. He lives with its pain, is crushed by its pressures and somehow finds the strength to endure. Then on the third occasion the Lord opens Paul’s eyes to the truth of grace. Then Paul understands God had given him all that he needs to endure. How much grace has Paul been given? Enough to empower him to do what God has called him to do. Nothing need stop him being and doing what he was created for.
To grow in character we are to grow in our knowledge of God’s grace.
All over the world the gospel is bearing fruit and growing just as it has been among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. Colossians 1:6
Paul says that all over the world the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing. In other words, every Christian should be a fruit bearing and growing Christian. Do you want to know how you can bear fruit and grow? Do you want to know how you can live as God has created you to live? Do you want to do what God has called you to do? If so, then KNOW the truth about grace! Grow to KNOW how grace relates to every doctrine. Grace is not simply a characteristic of God. God is grace (see Eph. 1:3ff. especially verses 6-7). Once we know grace in all its truth we can show that grace to others (verse 2).
Food for Thought:
1. In what area of God’s grace do you need most need to grow?