A Framework of Grace (7)
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2.19-22
Fuel, engine, fire
An internal combustion engine is an impressive piece of equipment, with lots of moving parts, and capable of a good bit of work. But it’s only a useless shell until two things are added to it: fuel and fire.
The American landscape is dotted with churches, spiritual engines comprised of many moving parts, and fraught with potential for Kingdom progress. I recall looking out over the city of Baltimore one afternoon, from the cafeteria on the top floor of a downtown hospital, counting the spires. Because the hospital was near the inner harbor, I could see almost the whole city, and I must have counted forty steeples within just a couple of miles of where I stood. And who knows how many churches without steeples were in that mix somewhere?
But I wondered whether many, if not most, of those churches had become mere shells – spiritual engines lacking the fuel of God’s Spirit and the fire of grace. At least, the evidence of the city of Baltimore was that the churches there were not having much of an impact for the grace of God. Of course, there were isolated pockets where communities of believers gathered regularly for worship and looked out for one another. But the glowing presence of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy was not much in evidence.
Without the Spirit and grace of God, churches cannot fulfill their calling as Kingdom signs and outposts. And where churches fail in this calling, the Kingdom stalls, the covenant languishes, and churches become ingrown, complacent, and ineffectual.
In His covenant, Kingdom, and Church, God has provided a framework of grace designed to run on grace and to run for grace in the world. But the spark of grace and the power of the Spirit will only enable the church to do the work of grace God intends as the churches commit to the Lord’s grace agenda for the world.
Jesus summarized that agenda succinctly: make disciples (Matt. 28.18-20). Church members – who are members of the Body of Christ, citizens in the Kingdom of God, and partakers of Christ and the covenant – share a common calling to grow as disciples, and to encourage, equip, and assist others in following Jesus. This means they must know Jesus intimately, so that they love and obey Him, and take His grace agenda into every area of their lives, every day.
But for this to be the case, church members must be equipped with the mindset, heartset, priorities, and skills for serving others in works of ministry, just like Jesus did (Eph. 4.11, 12; Jn. 20.21). Making disciples is an “as-you-are-going” calling. Wherever we are, whomever we’re with, and whatever we’re doing, the order of the day is to make disciples, to make the most of every opportunity and all the time God gives us for building others up in Christ and bearing witness to Him by our lives and words. Each of us has a Personal Mission Field where the Lord sends us, as agents of grace, to bring near the reality of His gracious Kingdom. By encouraging and equipping our fellow believers, and bearing witness to Christ by our lives and words, we take up the calling to make disciples as the defining motif of our lives.
In short, we must become disciples,and be thoroughly equipped by God’s Word for every good work (2 Tim. 3.15-17), so that we can make disciples in all the as-you-are-goings of our lives.
We do not receive grace from God merely to soak up good feelings about Him. God fires up His grace and Spirit within us, and within the local church, to energize us for the work of making disciples. True disciples – committed followers of Jesus Christ – glorify God by their witness to Christ, their good works of love, and their devotion to bringing the knowledge of God into every aspect of their lives (Eph. 5.15-17; Hab. 2.14).
This is the grace agenda God has written for His Church, for advancing His Kingdom and realizing all the promises of His covenant. Unless this is our agenda, we will fall short of the grace and glory of God, and our churches will become empty shells, lacking true spiritual energy for bringing glory to God.
Grace to help
We need the grace of God to be disciples. Let’s face it: We are not naturally inclined to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and bear consistent witness to the Lord. Our love for Jesus does not stir us to such efforts with any degree of regularity. We believe in Jesus, but we do not know Him, adore Him, and seek to obey Him like the first believers did. But if we will admitthis, and repent of our self-centered ways, we can find grace to help in our time of need, so that we can grow in grace and love for Jesus increasingly, day by day.
We need the grace of God to make disciples. We are not natural-born encouragers, much less natural-born witnesses for Jesus. We find it difficult to talk with our Christian friends about the Lord – how beautiful and strong He is, what He is teaching us and doing in us, and how our hearts are stirred with love for Him. And we hold back from encouraging our fellow believers to press on in their discipleship because we don’t want to seem like meddlers. We’re not much better at talking with unbelievers about Jesus, either. Jesus sought the lost to save them (Lk. 19.11). We seek to avoid talking to lost people about Jesus, either because we’ve decided they aren’t interested, or we fear that our efforts may fall short.
That is, we don’t see ourselves as having the fuel and fire we need to fulfill our calling to make disciples. Like so many of our churches, we are empty shells, Christians in name only, with nothing of grace or power for the world.
But take heart: The grace of God is abounding on every hand. There is grace, grace abundant and transforming, available to help us in our time of need. But we must make up our minds that, if we would be agents of grace to the world, we must shelter in the framework of grace God has provided – His covenant, Kingdom, and Church – and take up the agenda He has appointed – making disciples.
If we will, God will meet us at the point of our need, and the spark of grace will fire the work of His Spirit to use us as vessels of grace, power, and good works in our Personal Mission Field.
1. Have you identified your Personal Mission Field? Watch this brief video. Then download the worksheet and map out the grace terrain to which God sends you every day.
2. How do the Spirit and grace of God work to energize us for good works?
3. What does making disciples require of you with the Christians in your life? With the unbelievers?
The Fall Term at The Ailbe Seminary is now open for registration. Men, visit our website and watch this brief video, then choose one of three available courses to study from September to December. All courses are free of charge, and we’ll provide a Reader to work with you through your studies.
This study is Part 2 of a series entitled “Grace for Your Time of Need.” You can download the seven lessons in this study by clicking here.
Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
A Grace Agenda
- T.M. Moore
- September 18, 2019
God's grace is for God's agenda. Period.
A Framework of Grace (7)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.