Grace is a Process...With ProgressTuesday, June 08, 2010
As we launch into a new (and much-needed) series on grace in our local church, one of the most fundamental truths that will make or break the implementation of grace is understanding that grace is a process...with progress.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses three analogies with the local church to help them understand how they...and every local church...functions.
The first two of these analogies occurs in1 Corinthians 3:9. Here's what Paul writes: "For we are both God's workers. And you are God's field. You are God's building" (NLT). The point in the context Paul is making is simple. Whether it was Apollos or Paul, both are simply workers, planting and watering among the same field of God's people...working and building on the same building of living stones, the church.
The third analogy occurs in 1 Corinthians 12:12 and 27. In that verse Paul writes, "The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ...All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it." (NLT). The context here is, of course, spiritual gifts. And Paul is explaining how each saint in the church has a spiritual gift. The Spirit's design in all of this is for all the saints to use their spiritual gifts through loving one another, which will have the effect of making them act as one body...rather than just a collection of various body parts.
Now, while the contexts of these passages does not make this explicit point, there is one kernel of truth inherent in each of these analogies which helps us see a bigger picture which the Spirit surely implies. And here's the point: the church of Jesus Christ is built and grown in process, and that process is all about progress.
A field grows...over time...until it matures...and is ready to be harvested.
A building is built...over time...until it's completed...and ready to be occupied.
A body grows...over time...until it reaches adulthood...and is ready to take on life.
And all of this is only made possible by the grace of God, which Paul prays over the Corinthian church, as well as every other church to whom he writes.
Grace is God's love poured out on us because of what Jesus has done for us. God is always pouring out that grace on us. God never changes. So there will never be a time when God is not pouring out grace on His precious saints.
Grace is the water and fertilizer which grows the plants in the field to full maturity.
Grace is the cement and labor that builds us together into a completed structure.
Grace is the vitamins and minerals that grows the body into adulthood.
Since God's grace will always be pouring out upon us, we will always be growing...we will always be in the building process...and we will always be in the maturing process.
This means things will always be getting better!!! They HAVE to get better...or else God's grace is not really being poured out on us. Or else God is not God. Or else God is not good.
The one thing about process is that it can be maddening when there's no progress. But since GOD is the one pouring out grace, there will ALWAYS be progress. There cannot NOT be progress. Or else God is not God. Or else God is not love.
YOU will always be in process.
YOU will always be in progress.
YOU will always be in grace.
So be patient with yourself.
Be patient with one another.
STOP imposing standards or rules of grace upon one another such that you actually become separated from one another if those standards or rules are not followed...right then...in your time frame...in your world.
Since this is GOD who's doing all the work here, we are all on HIS time frame...we're all in HIS world.
So stop putting your own time frame on yourself, also. Live in God's grace each day. Simply make it your one aim to receive the love He has for you. THIS will change you. THIS is what speeds up the process. THIS is what produces progress. It is God's LOVE that compels you...nothing else. Not your efforts...not your resolve...not your resolutions...not your plans...or your strategies. It's just God's love.
So receive it. Expect it to take a lifetime, since it's a process. And definitely expect progress, since it's a process.
God loves you more than you can ever imagine. You WILL grow. You WILL grow UP in Jesus. You WILL succeed. You ARE a super-conqueror. You WILL win. You WILL persevere.
Praise God for grace!!!