Growing in His Grace

Feeling unworthy comes easily to humans. It keeps us from peace and fruitful service. It can affect how we see our "lot in life." We may think we are not where we should be because we are unworthy, unable and there is no point in trying. Feelings of unworthiness can affect us as a group, as the body of Christ. They can keep us from reaching out.

God's Servants Need Grace

When you think about it, this is not new. Some of God's greatest servants expressed feelings of unworthiness: Moses, Peter, Paul.

When God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses replied, "Who am I," "I have never been eloquent," "O Lord, please send someone else to do it" (Exodus 3:11; 4:10, 13).

Paul said he was the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), "not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9). Seeing Jesus give the miraculous catch of fish, Peter said, "Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8).

Despite their confessions of unworthiness, God used them in mighty ways. They became examples how far we can go with God's help. What made the difference?

Experiencing His Grace

Many things helped them overcome: seeing God's power at work, knowing God wouldn't give up on them, the comfort of His Holy Spirit, the encouragement of believers, and certainly experiencing God's grace, His favour to them despite their pasts.

Peter knew God's grace first hand. Seeing Jesus die on the cross after denying Him must have put Peter at the lowest point of his life. But Jesus arose from the dead and welcomed Peter back to the fold. He fed him, taught him and sent him to spread the good news. Peter became a powerful messenger. After his Pentecost sermon, thousands were baptized. He had experienced the good news. He was growing in grace.

Years later Peter wrote two powerful and beautiful letters. He told us to "...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

Knowing God and Standing in His Grace

Growing in grace means many things. It helps us know God better (growing in knowledge). Moses, Peter and Paul surely knew much about God, but after their experiences of His grace through deliverance, restoration and conversion, they knew and loved Him so much more.

We stand firmly before God in His grace (1 Peter 5:12). "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:1-2). Grace is where we stand in our relationship with God.

Justified by grace, we must "continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43), lest we fall from it. We never get to the point where we do not need His grace. We make progress, not because of our merits, but because of His grace. Yes, we work and strive upwards, but we are rooted in His grace like a plant which gets its footing and food from the soil below.

Growing in grace means a better relationship with God and also with others. Peter's command to grow in grace is to the plural "you" of the church. As God shows His favour to all of us together, we show favour to one another. We grow in grace together.

Grace Works In and Through Us

Growing in grace means growing in character, even in difficulty. From the throne of grace He gives us "grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). It helps us maintain integrity and personal peace (2 Peter 3:14-18). Grace strengthen us (2 Timothy 2:1; Hebrews 13:9). God "gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). We become gracious like God.

Grace shows in our deeds: "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10). God gives each of us grace (Ephesians 4:7). It works through us. Others can see it.

Growing in grace affects our inner thought life and our words: "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person" (Colossians 4:6). Incredibly, others should receive grace as they listen to us! (Ephesians 4:29; see also Proverbs 25:11).

Grace helps us reach out with the good news. After Paul said he was not worthy to be an apostle, he said, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I laboured even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10). God's grace transformed Paul and worked through him "to bring about the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5; Ephesians 3:8).

Growing in grace keeps us looking forward to the great day when Christ will come again: "fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13).

The Cost of His Favour

God's grace is not cheap, it cost Jesus' body and blood. Though we sometimes feel worthless, God values us. Jesus paid the price because He is "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). He gives us "grace upon grace" (John 1:16).

It is grace in context of faith, works, obedience, love, joy, knowledge, holiness, baptism. Grace does not nullify God's commands. It enables us to fulfil them.

Certainly grace has long been abused. The Romans saw it as a cover for sin. Some turned "the grace of our God into licentiousness" (Jude 4). Some "insulted the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:29). Grace is still abused today. Despite this, God is still gracious and still requires us to grow in grace. The Bible ends with the hope that, "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen" (Revelation 22:21).

Our Gracious God

What a marvellous God we have. He showed Moses what He is like, "Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth'" (Exodus 34:6). He showed Paul on the Damascus road. He showed Peter. He is showing us, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11). What a wonderful place to grow...standing in the grace of God.

Paul Birston

June 2001©

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