“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.” Galatians 6:18
Paul’s prayer for “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” was his final word for the Galatian church. He closed his letter with, “Amen.” The contemporary church could use a heavy dose of Paul’s prayer and a full measure God’s grace. Can I get an, “Amen?”
Unfortunately those who talk the most about grace walk in it so little. When they encounter those who use their vocabulary of grace, but do not share their definition of it, there is very little grace expressed. Framing the debate gets lost in shaming their opponent. Shedding more heat than light never produces sweet fruit, but it does leave a bitter after-taste.
Today the blogosphere and too many pulpits are platforms for the public ranting and ripping of relationship over the ways and means to receive God’s grace. Those hungering and thirsting after righteousness are often invited to a debate, not to a banquet. When the knives come out, and the educated opinions slice and dice the definition of grace into gauze-like fabric, it barely resembles the blanket of love God throws over those exposed by His holiness.
Sin strips people of dignity by shaming them with their own nakedness. The enemy is never satisfied, by doing this privately, and makes sure the shame is as public as possible. Sin humiliates the sinner. Grace covers sin. God hates sin, but He loves sinners. His grace is greater than sin, and He loves people too much to leave them trapped in sin. Grace wins over sin. This only happens…EVERY TIME.
God’s grace covers a multitude of sin, one person at a time. When Paul prayed for “The Grace of The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” he did so as the chief of sinners, not as a self-appointed fruit inspector. Big difference.
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” 1 Timothy 2: 15
“The Grace of The Lord Jesus Christ” is not a cosmic cover-up. It is not a fine print escape clause that allows a sinner caught off-course to continue heading toward a point of no return. Grace began in the heart of God, but it is best revealed by a personal turnaround in the life of a grace-filled believer. Paul shared this personal testimony.
“I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet, I was shown mercy…and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:13b-14
“ARE WE THERE YET?” This one phrase may be the most innocent and annoying question ever uttered by a child. Every parent on an endless road trip has heard it. Every child has said it, over and over and over and over and over, but I digress.
Paul’s personal turnaround began at a point of grace, but he continued to walk in the “grace of the Lord Jesus.” He did not outrace or reject His pace, while racing toward a cliff in a spirit of uncorrected rebellion. Paul was shamed by his sin, but didn’t remain in his shame. He was renamed by The Risen Lord, but he was tamed by His grace. He was not less Paul, but “The Grace of our Lord was more than abundant.”
When Jesus invests His grace in the life of a believer, it is a coin marked by two sides of equal value, faith and love. A child’s simple prayer plants the grace of Jesus into a heart of faith, but only consistent companionship with Jesus matures grace into a personal fruit bearing of His love. This love is not a man-made imitation, but The Fruit of The Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
In 1972, recently graduated from Baylor University, my Dad and I took the long road trip from Waco, Texas to Long Island, New York. I had been a Christian since the age of six, but The Fruit of The Spirit remained scarce in my life due to one crop failure after another. When my Dad heard me out, he said, “You need to be filled with The Spirit.” I responded, “I tried that once, and it didn’t work. If the Holy Spirit is that weak, who needs Him.” He said quietly, “I hope you and Jesus become friends one day.” From the Shenandoah Valley to the Long Island Expressway, not much was said. Talking rarely improves walking. It only postpones it. The choice was mine.
Abundant grace is not discovered by talking about Jesus, but by walking with Him in faith and love. Over the past 42 years, the definition of the grace as God’s undeserved, unmerited favor has been inspiring. The simple expression of G.R.A.C.E. – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense has been informing, but consistent companionship with Jesus has been transforming.
Stunted or interrupted fruit bearing are not a result of a lack of information, but the lack of transformation. The Spirit of Christ conforms believers to Jesus, and produces His character in them.
Believers who ask Jesus into their heart must keep praying or they begin straying. Grace is planted by a prayer, but the fruit of grace is nurtured by praying. Praying people are not perfect people. They are only connected people. Prayerless people are separated from The Vine, and they lose their connection with The Source of life-giving power for The Fruit of The Spirit.
Prayer keeps the power of The Presence of Jesus flowing into the life of a believer. Prayer is the connection with His life-giving root. When it is interrupted, it must be restored for consistent companions of Jesus to have any hope of bearing His fruit.
Prayer restores a walk with Jesus with the breath that is in a believer’s lungs. Prayerless people are prideful people who settle for their own imitation fruit. The world isn’t buying what they produce. Neither is Jesus. Grace filled believers bear The Fruit of The Spirit in their spirit.
Prayer races to grace, but persistent praying turns The Race to Jesus into The Walk with Jesus. The proof of The Walk is in The Fruit of The Spirit. Settle for nothing but the best, the character of Jesus. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!