I have been reading James Bryan Smith’s book, “Hidden in Christ.” He calls attention to II Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Smith says the following about grace. “I used to think that only sinners needed grace, but now I see that sinners need very little grace, because they are not acting in Jesus’ name. The great saints consumed an enormous amount of grace.” He quotes Dallas Willard as often saying, “Saints burn grace like 747’s burn jet fuel.”
This has been a liberating thought for me. I desire my life in Christ to be fueled by grace, rather then by my initiative and effort. Grace is “God’s loving favor towards me a beloved sinner.” When I was younger, less mature, full of self confidence in my ability to life the Christian life, I lived less by grace and more by my spiritual self improvement efforts.
I concur with Paul, “What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do, we respond to what God does” (Rom 3:27 – Message). I was caught up in “sin management” and “performance orientation.” It was more of what I could do to improve my spiritual image and religious performance. I would do the work and then expect God to reward me. I spent more time monitoring my spiritual growth rather then learning to simply be.
Now I am desperate for grace. I freely admit my inability to measure up. I need help each and every moment of the day to live for Jesus. “But sin didn’t, and doesn’t have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life – a life that goes on and on and on, world without end” (Rom 5:20-21 – Message). I choose a spiritual life fueled by grace over spiritual death manufactured by my good intentions
Gregory the Great words are good for me to remember. “Lord, let me “deny myself” by beginning to be what I am not, and cease to be what I have been.” I need to constantly be on guard for spiritual pride, forgetting my constant dependence on grace. James Houston give this warning regarding pride. “Pride settles in when we lose knowledge of self and God’s grace.”
I am a work in progress. I need to be ever vigilant regarding spiritual pride. There is no room for boasting. When I’m stuck on self, I running on my own fuel not the abundance of grace. We read in James, “But he give us more grace. That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Oh Lord, help me to be an ordinary Christian in spite of myself.
The more I die to my old self, the greater need I have for God’s favor. I simply can’t enhance my new life in Christ. It has to be all Jesus. I want to be fueled by grace. Jesus lets me know, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness” ( II Cor 12:8). Al, keep your heart and spiritual eyes constantly on Jesus, so that you can be fueled by grace and not by human achievement.