Many of us made it to church this past Sunday by driving through a dense fog. Sometimes navigating life within the church can feel the same way. We can have a sense of who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do, but how to be and do those things can be exceptionally foggy. Even the phrases that we use to describe our being and doing can be foggy, yes, even phrases such as "rely on grace" like we used in our Big Idea this past week.
If we aren't careful, we will do what feels natural to us, thinking that we are doing exactly what God wants. We will do what seems right in our own mind and what feels good to our own flesh. The results will be something that looks like God's design on the surface, but lacks the power to sustain.
If we are going to live out God's design for the church, we have to clear the fog on what it means to "rely on grace." Here are a few thoughts about what we should mean when we say a phrase like that:
BELIEVE that God is gracious. Many people really struggle to believe that God would show them mercy to cover their sin, especially when their sin persists despite attempts to destroy it. They see God as reluctant to show grace. But Ephesians 2:7 is clear that God gives us grace so that he can show us far more grace, both in this age and in the one to come.
PRAY like God is gracious. Prayer is the language of reliance. In prayer we exalt God and humble ourselves. We confess our sins and our need for his ongoing presence in our lives. In prayer, we actually express our relationship with the living and gracious God. Prayer is our continual channel through which God gives his grace throughout the day.
READ God's word like God is gracious. God is not hiding his will for our lives so that we would have to anxiously search for it. Through his word, he has clearly called us to live in a certain way in the various roles and responsibilities in which we find ourselves. However, he also does not demand that we live up to his standard of holiness without empowering us for the task. Read God's word by looking first for what is true of God and his work, and then see how that connects to what is true of us and what we must do. (Hint: in Ephesians, chapters 1-3 contain a lot of doctrinal truths about God that sustain the more practical commands in chapters 4-6. Look for how they tie together through repeated words and phrases).
REMEMBER the Spirit of the God who is gracious. God does not pour out his grace on you from afar. He has indwelled you with the Holy Spirit, who is one with God and embodies every attribute of God, including his grace. If you are united to Christ through faith, then the Spirit is actively with you, guiding you through life, and leading you into all truth. It's easy to forget a person who is Spirit, but he is with you and for you just the same.
RELATE to the church of the God who is gracious. Remember, the church is the body of Christ. The church is charged to convey the character of Christ in word and deed. As the church we get to embody the grace of God that neither overlooks sin nor defines us by sin. We get to embody the freeing grace of God that leaves space for confession and repentance through forgiveness and forbearance (see Eph. 4:30-32). We get to remind people of the gospel that we received, in which we stand, and by which we are being saved. Find a group of people who will embody this type of grace toward you.
Does that clear up some of the fog for you about how to rely on God's grace? If so, how will you relate to our gracious God this week? The circumstances may still be cloudy, but I pray his grace is fully visible.