If you were to ask me what was under the hood of my car, my response would be, “the engine.” We could lift the hood of my car and factually agree that there is indeed an engine. But if you were to ask follow-up questions such as, “how does an engine work?” I would have trouble giving you an answer because the truth is I understand that my car is powered by an engine while simultaneously not understanding much about how it works.
Something similar happens in the minds of most Christians when you say the word grace.
I mean that we all feel comfortable using this word in the same way we feel comfortable claiming that there is an engine under the hood of our car. But when you begin to ask questions like, “how do you access grace?” or “in what ways does grace impact your day-to-day walk with Jesus?” We all of a sudden find ourselves realizing we know less about this word than we initially thought.
What is Grace?
Grace is unmerited favor from God upon sinners. It is the compassionate response of the superior, God, to the inferior, us. Without grace, there are no Christians because it is only by grace that we are saved. Grace is also the only way we continue to grow in our faith and become more like Jesus.
It is impossible to overstate the necessity of grace in the Christian life. It is, hands down, 100%, no questions asked, the single most important word for anyone who follows Jesus. Romans 5:2 puts it this way,
Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
To “stand” in grace means that we are surrounded. We can take no pathways as a follower of Jesus that isn’t initiated, carried along, and finished by grace.
Is Grace only significant for Salvation?
This is a common misunderstanding of grace for young followers of Jesus. For them, grace becomes limited to the moment they believe in Jesus for the first time. They realize their need for grace to save them from the punishment of their sin but fail to realize that grace is the only hope for living a life of following Jesus. Look at how the Apostle Paul speaks of grace.
1 Corinthians 15:10 – 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.
You see a life consumed by grace in this passage; grace is what makes Paul who he is. He says, “But by the grace of God I AM WHAT I AM…”
How did you get to where you are right now? I bet you can come up with a lot of different answers to this question. That answer would be filled with stories of human effort and self-determination for most of us, but not for Paul. Paul is who he is because of one thing, grace.
How did Grace impact the life of Paul?
What was different about Paul because of grace? It is evident from his NT letters that grace saturated every area of his life. Here are some examples.
- Grace fueled Pauls Obedience to Jesus (Romans 1:5)
- Grace Justified Paul before God (Romans 3:24)
- Grace freed Paul from the burden of the law (Romans 6:14-15)
- Grace was the means by which Paul was chosen (Romans 11:5)
- Grace gave Paul the confidence to speak boldy to other Christians (Romans 12:3; 15:15)
- Grace is means by which Paul recieved his spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6)
- Grace gave Paul the ability to do ministry (1 Cor 3:10)
- Grace gave Paul identity and allowed him to work hard (1 Cor 15:10)
- Grace simplified Pauls ministry approach (2 Cor 1:12)*
- Grace increased Pauls thankfulness (2 Cor 4:15)
- Grace made Paul spiritually rich (2 Cor 8:9)
- Grace is what Paul ministered to others (2 Cor 8:19)
- Grace was how Paul abounded in every good work (2 Cor 9:8)
- Grace gave Paul power in his weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9)
- Paul was called to Jesus by grace (Gal 1:15)
- Grace qualified Paul to do ministry with the other apostles (Gal 2:9)
- The absence of Grace was enough for Paul to claim some had been severed from Christ (Gal 5:4)
- Paul looked ahead to the fullness of God’s grace in Heaven (Ephesians 2:7)
- Grace was the thing Paul stewarded to others (Eph 3:2)
- Paul was made a minister of the gospel through God’s grace (Eph 3:7)
- The power to preach the gospel came from Grace (Eph 3:8)
- Grace is what Paul wanted to insert in others lives with his words (Eph 4:29)
- Grace connected Paul to other believers while he was in prison (Philippians 1:7)
- Grace is from the Lord overflowed to Paul with faith and love from Jesus (1 Tim 1:14)
Grace was everything to Paul! It consumed his whole life, but it was also what he hoped would consume others. Every single letter Paul wrote has the phrase “Grace to you…” in the introductory sentences.
“Grace to you…” Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon.
It was of first importance to every letter Paul wrote to those in his ministry. He wanted grace to go to them! Why? Because as we read in all of the examples, grace was the twin-turbo engine that powered every spiritual thing in Paul’s life.
Listen closely. You can not follow Jesus outside of the grace he supplies to follow him. You can try, but you will only experience burn out and frustration.
If Grace is this important, how do we access it?
How do you get this grace? Where do you find it? Is it something that happens or something we seek out? Do we have to work for it, pray for it, or wait for it to “fall on us?”
The long answer.
We access this Grace of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as we employ the spiritual disciplines modeled and commanded by the pages of Scripture.
That shorter answer.
We can access the power of Grace through the spiritual disciplines! Things such as prayer, Bible reading, fasting, scripture memory, generosity, service, solitude, silence, celebration, and more.
How does Grace connect to the spiritual disciplines?
What purpose do things like reading the Bible, prayer, fasting, scripture memorization, and fasting have in your life? I assume you have tried some or all of these disciplines at some point.
For some, these activities are just what Christians are supposed to do. Maybe someone told you this is how you become a “good Christian.”
Others see these things as healthy habits that will make them better people.
Still, others are searching for some mystical experience that might take place as they seek God through the spiritual disciplines.
Let’s not forget those who pursue knowledge in an academic sense; those who feel insecure that they know so little of God that they open their Bible in the same ways they open their school books.
Do you relate to any of these? There is danger in the subtlety of these pursuits. They are noble and typically praised by many. But sadly, they miss the spirit of the disciplines and keep you from accessing the power of grace that you so desperately need to follow and imitate Jesus.
Here is how the disciplines are supposed to work
The purpose of the spiritual disciplines.
Each of the spiritual disciplines opens the opportunity for the grace of God to work in your life. Here are a few examples.
- Reading/Studying/Meditating/Memorizing the Bible is an apparent discipline that God commands us to pursue. As we open our Bible and engage in any of these disciplines, God’s grace becomes available to us. It may be that He convicts us of sin or encourages us to be obedient in an area we have never considered, but without opening the Bible, we will not have that opportunity. We must open the scriptures for this to be possible.
- Prayer is a spiritual discipline. As we communicate with God, we experience grace. This grace brings us peace from the worries of the world, it brings comfort and healing as we confess sin, and it brings hope as we trust God will do more than we can imagine (Eph 3:20). These are all a product of God’s grace in your life. You only experience them as you pray.
- Fasting is purposely removing food from your life for a spiritual purpose. As we fast, we become desperate for God in a new way. We come face to face with our dependency on food and replace that with dependence on God. We feel the constant hunger pains and tell God this pain is nothing compared to the pain of not experiencing whatever we need God to do. We tap into the grace of God in a new way when we participate in this discipline.
And we could go on and on with the different disciplines. We could discuss disciples such as study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission, solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. I do not share these to overwhelm you but to open your eyes to the potential of God’s grace that could be working your life. You must learn more about these disciplines and practice them to experience the abundant life God has for you as you follow Jesus.
- How have you viewed the spiritual disciplines wrongly in the past?
- Have you ever consider grace as a power that can work through you? How does thinking of it this way impact your relationship with God?
- Which of the spiritual disciplines are you most familiar with? Which are you not?
- What is one new spiritual discipline you want to learn about and apply to your life?