And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (I John 1:16,17).
The goal of every Christian should be to be more like Jesus Christ, our example and hero. In fact, the Word of God tells us that we are to "grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18). The Greek word for grow, auxano, means increase. Here are some ways we can grow in Grace.
I. Chose to grow in grace.
If the Word commands that we grow in grace then, it must be a choice since God never tells us to do something in His Word that would be impossible for us to accomplish. This means we are to make conscious decisions that will cause us to increase in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
If I take a coin and roll it along the floor, as long as it moves forward it stays upright, but when it stops, it falls. The same is true of the believer. Those who keep moving forward in their walk with God stay upright, but those who stop, fall. There is no such gear as neutral in the believer's life. A person who stops moving forward is going in reverse. Those who have stopped growing in Christ have already backslidden. We should be moving forward in every aspect of Christian growth. We should be increasing our prayer time, increasing our worship of the Lord, increasing our church attendance, increasing our giving, and increasing our service to Him. As the apostle Paul said, in Phillippians chapter 3, "pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God."
I am writing you today as the apostle Paul did almost 2000 years ago, to encourage you to
"continue in the grace of God" If it is possible to continue in the grace of God we should strive not to fall short of it. After all, it is possible to fall short of the grace of God (Heb. 12:15).
Our Christian walk began by grace, it continues by grace, and it will be consummated by grace. We didn't open our own eyes to who Jesus Christ really is. By grace we are saved. (Eph 2:8,9) By grace we stand (Ro. 5:2) By grace we are sanctified. (Acts 20:32).
Don't you just love His Grace. He is so very good to us. His grace saves us and then helps us every step of the way to be all we are called to be in Him. Nothing is more amazing than the grace of God.
Jesus is the embodiment of God's Grace to mankind. If you ever doubt God's grace, think of Jesus and your faith in His grace will be restored. Whenever we need help all we have to do is run boldly to His throne of Grace. (Heb. 4:16). This means we have to repent and sincerely cry out to God for help and we will obtain mercy and find help in time of need.
Make a quality decision to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ today.
II. Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. This holiday season, let us remember that Jesus Christ, the embodiment of grace appeared to all men. And He taught us how to live and love. Titus 2:11 proclaims.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14.
We can't possibly manifest what we do not know. Revelation knowledge brings a grace transformation. When the Lord opens our eyes to new possibilities he also, brings forth the power for change. He doesn't dangle a carrot in front of us and make sport with our lives. He is a good God and His Goodness brings forth change. "The goodness of God leads you to repentance." Revelation of God's love and goodness brought us to a desire to repent and receive Christ. Revelation of God's goodness to want to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, opened us up to the possibility and faith receptivity of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
If a boy is raised in the Jungle all of his life and someone asks him if he would like a snow cone. He wouldn't know what they were talking about. He could have no desire for one until he heard about it. The same is true of us regarding the things of God. When we find a promise in the Word of God, and we realize that it is for us. Our desire is quickened, and our faith level rises. Soon we are praying, believing, and asking God for it.
The Bible says, "My people perish for lack of knowledge." If there is a natural remedy for diabetes but we don't know about it, it does us no good." The same is true for the people of God. Ignorance of the Word is killing them spiritually. They have the potential to be healed, but they must know about it. They have the potential to enter into the Lord's rest, but if they have never read Hebrews chapter 3 and 4 and don’t know how to enter it the Word does them no good.
Pray for revelation knowledge of Jesus. Pray for greater revelation of His Grace. Study His Word of grace and you'll grow in His grace.
III. Humble Yourself.
Thank God we live in the dispensation of grace. What a privilege. Every year of this dispensation is a blessing from heaven. 2011 will be another chance to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
James 4:6 says, But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
When Benjamin Franklin was a young man he was visiting an elder mentor who had invited him into his home. Upon entering his parlor, the wise old man visited with Benjamin for a while. After their visit, the elderly gentleman showed Benjamin out of his home by a different route than he had entered. This alternate passage involved going down a narrow hallway with an unusually low beam running across it. As Benjamin approached the beam, his mentor said, just before Benjamin hit his head, "stoop, stoop". He then used the situation to teach Benjamin that to avoid many "headaches" in life the key is to "stoop."
With God himself resisting the proud we haven't a chance of success or victory in life by walking in pride. In order to truly succeed in live we need God's grace. In order to obtain that grace we must "stoop."
In other words, to grow in grace we must humble ourselves. Most of people think of themselves as humble if they are saved and occasionally repent of some obvious sin. But we need to ask ourselves if we are really walking in humility. Here are some questions that should help us discover our level of humility.
1. Am I praying about every situation and circumstance or am I relying on my own ability?
2. Am I quick to repent of everything the Bible says is a sin?
3. Do I think my ideas, opinions, and thoughts are superior to others?
4. Do I think that I am always right?
5. Am I quick to apologize when I realize I have made a mistake?
6. Do I rely totally on God in every situation.
7. Am I really submitted to the full counsel of the Word of God or are there areas of the Word I'm refusing to obey?
8. Am I judgmental, faultfinding, or critical?
9. Do I seek God's will or my will?
May we all be humble before the Lord and seek His will in every situation. Let's make 2011 a little taste of heaven, by growing in the Grace of our Lord.
IV. Increase in Faith.
Some people wonder why I preach on faith so much. The reason is that faith is the way we access all the other blessings of the covenant. Faith accesses grace. Ephesians 2:8,9 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Romans 5:2 says, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
We all know we've been saved by grace. We know that it is only grace that enables us to live the life of victory after we are saved. Therefore one of our daily prayers should be for more grace. God has an infinite supply of grace and is willing to give more grace to those who ask in faith. James 4:6 says, "He gives more grace…" So then we are without excuse when it comes to obeying the Word of God. When we stand before the Lord He will allow no excuses.
Faith doesn't depend on feelings. Faith depends on the Word of God. Don't let feelings undermine your faith. Speak the Word of Faith and overcome feelings. My car has an alarm that goes off when you fail to fasten the seatbelt and travel faster than 15 miles per hour. One day, I got annoyed at the alarm so I decided to find out what would happen if I just ignored it. It was going beep beep beep. For a couple of minutes the Longer I ignored the faster it beeped. Then it finally stopped beeping. That's the way we let faith override feelings. If we continue to move forward in faith instead of listening to our feelings eventually the feelings will shut up and even change.
Since faith is the way we access grace, and grace is essential to live in victory, we must not allow feelings to override our faith. For if it does it will keep us from the power (grace) we need for victory.
We might not think we are walking in great faith at times, especially after we have been walking with the Lord a long time. But the grace of God on your life is proof of an ever growing faith that has developed over the years. Younger Christians sometimes seem to be more exuberant and on fire, but genuine Saints who love the Lord are walking by more faith than they often realize. They might not put on the outward show often seen in the new convert, but beneath the surface there is a faith that has been tired by fire. It is a faith that is much stronger than might be evident to the casual observer. Nevertheless it is there and will become evident when needed. For instance, when I build a fire in the morning the first fire, started from the kindling, seems to be burning faster and blazing brighter than the latter bed of hot coals that develops after a couple of larger logs have burned for a while. The small blue flames that flicker from those coals are many degrees hotter than their larger more flamboyant yellow predecessors. So it is with believers. It's what's burning deep within the heart that is important. It is a faithful heart that endures the test of time and numerous trials that has the hottest most reliable faith within. When you meet a believer like this you can see the grace radiating from their countenance. You know you have met a person who walks with God. This is the person who has grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43). Make it a life goal to grow in grace. You might mess up along the way, but if you'll "fess up" and repent, God will give you more grace. No matter what you're going through if you'll trust in God's grace and stay in faith, you'll get the victory. Don't let condemnation, guilt, shame, or any other feelings keep you from running boldly to the throne of grace to find help in time of need. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).
There are no quotas on how many times you can go to the throne of grace. The throne of grace was opened up for eternity. Keep going until you get the victory.
Grace is God's unmerited favor, His divine enablement and His effective work on the heart. It is seen in the manifestation of Christian love toward others. To the degree we have grown in the Lord's grace we manifest His love in our graciousness toward others. Here's another way to grow in grace:
V. Sow grace that you might reap grace.
When we sow grace by being gracious toward others, we reap grace not only from others but from God Himself. God is always able make all grace abound toward us (II Cor. 9:8), not only in the area of finance but in every area of our lives.
When we are rude, disrespectful, harsh, critical, demanding, and rebellious we are not sowing grace. We're sowing to the flesh and we will of the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). On the contrary, if we sow kindness, patience, compassion, and understanding, we will reap the same. In almost 25 years of pastoring, I have observed the blessing on the lives of those who sow grace and the lack of blessing on those who do not.
Years ago, in another place, I preached on the virtues of Christian modesty. We lived in a very warm climate so, needless to say, many people thought it appropriate to wear very short shorts, mini skirts, and brief tops. I knew we needed to teach on this, and believe me, because it was a touchy issue, I used plenty of tact and scripture. One of the scriptures I used was:
"in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (I Tim 2:9,10)."
One couple, (who had been saved a long time and in our church for about 4 years), had a teen daughter who wore some of the shortest skirts, took exception with my message. They really came against me. They said I was preaching legalism. They didn't see any thing wrong with the way their daughter dressed. After all, they said, "she was a teenager and the other kids at school were dressing like that."
Now keep in mind that we make allowances for someone who comes in off the street or even young Christians. We don't just immediately try to correct them on immodest dress. We love them and get them saved, and teach them and encourage them to change in the appropriate way. In other words, "We catch our fish, before we try to clean them." That is not to say, if someone is just plain indecent we don't correct it either. We seek the balance of God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit in these matters. This is showing the grace of God.
Unfortunately, it wasn't long until their unmarried daughter was out of control, doing her own thing at age 17. Within a few months she was pregnant. They sat in my office crying. Their refusal to heed the Word, had serious consequences. We of course extended God's grace to them and loved them through this situation. We didn't say, "I told you so." We just loved them and helped them move forward with the Lord. We showed them grace, after all God has shown us grace. Had they shown me grace, and received the Word of Grace, that I preached, they might have avoided this tragedy, however they sowed rebellion toward the Word and the messenger and reaped the same from their child. I have often observed that rebellious parents have rebellious children. However the grace of God can break this pattern. My parents sowed their share of rebellion and I was one of their rebellious prodigy, until the Lord saved me, showed me the very serious nature of rebellion. Thank God for His grace.
We need to be always looking for ways to be a minister of grace. Instead of holding on to things we can forgive. Instead of getting even we can let it go. Instead of alienating we can reach out. Instead of being critical we can praise the good we see.
Instead of being judgmental we can try being understanding. There were a few times when I was judgmental because I didn't know all the facts. Before jumping to conclusions we need to know all the facts. For instance, I judged a person as carnal because they slept through a sermon that I knew was by God's grace, anointed and powerful. Many had even commented about what a great message it was. Later, I found out that the person falling asleep was on prescription medication that made them sleepy. They were doing their best to stay awake, but the medication was working against them. I had wrongly judged them. When I found out I had to repent. Of course I had not said anything to anyone but my wife about it so, I repented to the Lord and to her.
Another way of being gracious is to overlook a fault or mistake. It's easy to notice mistakes. It's the human thing to do. But grace will overlook if it is an unimportant matter. If we are gracious we will point out the mistake in a nice way and we will offer our services to help make things better if we can. We should strive for excellence, but we must be cautious in or quest for excellence that we don't become a nit-picky perfectionist. Over 15 years ago, we had a woman go ballistic because there were crumbs on the nursery floor. She said she was never coming back. Instead of getting the vacuum cleaner and cleaning them up she became part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It's easy to sit back and criticize. It's another thing for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
In order to grow in God's grace, we have to sow grace by showing grace.
VI. Develop Grace Thinking.
Grace thinking is a whole new way of thinking. It is looking at ourselves and others based on what the Word says about us rather than the negative, critical, condemning way we used to see ourselves before we were saved. Grace thinking is seeing ourselves as God sees us and knowing that it is His plan to do us good. Grace thinking is always keeping in mind that we have no right to criticize or condemn others since we have plenty to work on ourselves. Grace thinking causes us to practice the admonishment of the Word that says, "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye (Col. 3:13)."
Here are some ways to develop grace thinking:
1. Trust God no matter what.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future ( Jer. 29:11 NIV).
A man named T.H. White recalls that when he was a child his father made a wooden castle for him. He even fixed real pistol barrels beneath its battlements to fire a salute to him on his birthday with blanks, of course. T.H. White's dad made him sit in front of the castle the first night the castle was finished, on his birthday, to receive the salute. Believing his father was going to shoot him he cried and cried.
How many times have people judged the trials and tests of life as though God was going to shoot them when all the while he was taking them through situations in order to grow them and bless them in the end.
In Deuteronomy 8:16, the Lord says, who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end--
Even chastening is to do us good in the end. In order to develop grace thinking we must trust God totally. Job said, Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15).
We must believe God is for us not against us.
2. Stand in Grace
The Word of God says that it is by grace we stand.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
The word for stand above is histemi and means to abide, continue, covenant, establish, and hold up. If we are standing in grace then grace is what we're relying on. Standing in grace means that the foundation of our faith is based on the Lord's grace which comes to us through His finished work on Calvary . It means that we are not trusting in our own works to sustain us.
We must continually walk with Him and rely on Him and become Covenant people who abide in His grace. We can't move in our own strength, nor can we judge others with our natural mind.
If we are really standing in grace, we'll extend grace to others as well as ourselves. We will get rid of a faultfinding spirit and develop the spirit of an intercessor. Often faultfinding Christians want God's grace regarding their faults and shortcomings and God's judgment regarding others. They look at things in the natural and make value judgments based on what they see in the natural (I Sam. 16:7). Of course they are deceived into thinking their natural man judgments are "discernment." It doesn't take a spiritual giant to notice problems, and faults. Even the world is good at noticing what is wrong with the Church. However it takes a truly spiritual person to overlook, refuse to take offense, and pray for God's work in others lives.
The faultfinding Christian who has stopped standing in grace and is walking in spirit of the accuser of the brethren, is quick to cut themselves and their natural family lots of slack, but they lower the boom on their brothers and sisters in Christ. They are quick to point out the spec in their brothers or sisters eye while having a beam in their own. They judge carnally rather than spiritually. Usually they change churches every couple of years, because they just can't find that "perfect" Church. The new Church always looks wonderful, for a while, until they begin to get familiar with its members and faults are discovered there as well. If they were truly walking in grace they would determine to view others in Christ as the Apostle Paul did, " Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more (II Cor. 5:16)." We are deceived if we think we are "spiritual" and then analyze, criticize and judge others after the flesh, rather than discerning their spirit and seeking to understand their heart.
False accusations are often leveled against men of God by the faultfinding spirits. After all, if they can discredit the messenger they can reject the message. This faultfinding "graceless" spirit attacks relationships at all levels. Rather than praying for people, the graceless person gets in the flesh and attacks. Paul was assaulted by this graceless faultfinding Spirit. So was Jesus. In fact, it took false accusations to finally convict our Lord and crucify him.
This is why the Apostle Paul said, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God (I Cor. 4:3-5)."
Grace thinking on the other hand, prays for others, seeks to understand their struggles and continues in awareness that we all fall short without God's Grace. We are as I have often preached, a work in progress. Those who are truly standing in grace, cut people slack and continue to work with them, refusing to break covenant with them. Those who truly walk in grace stand with their covenant brothers and sisters through the thick and thin of life.
3. Expect God's favor and blessings.
We need to start thinking of ourselves as Children of God. That means we're special. We are children of grace. We have special favor. As one verse of Scripture says, " For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield ( Ps. 5:12)." We should believe God to give us exceptional favor. We should believe God for the best. When we refinanced our home a little over a year ago the attorney who did the closing was amazed. He said, "I've been doing about 10-15 of these closings a week and I need to ask you something. How did you get a 4.5%? Now during that season, this was the very best rate you could get. I told the attorney, "We prayed and God led us to get our loan application turned in at just the right time and we were able to lock in this rate. We know it was the Lord leading us." He said, "What church do you go to, again?" We told him. Because we have God's favor, and because we have submitted to His leading, then we are a great testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. Expect, good parking lots, bargains, opportunities, and help where ever you go. Look at life as an opportunity to show just how good our God really is.
VII. Come Boldly to the Throne of Grace.
Grace is more than just unmerited favor. It is the sustaining power to live victoriously for the Lord. It is the continual working of the Holy Spirit on the heart as we walk in communion and right relationship with Him. In order to have the right kind of relationship with the Lord that brings forth freedom and growth we must develop a scriptural concept of God.
A wrong concept of God can keep people from the help they so desperately need. When people believe God is out to get them; when people have this tainted perspective of the Lord the last thing they want to do is to get close to God. They feel like a drug dealer with a pocket full of cocaine going up to a DEA agent to ask for help. However God should not be viewed like a heavenly policeman. He's more like a heavenly pastor. Pastors are supposed to keep any confession or admission confidential. They are supposed to give you guidance to help you out of a mess, not make your situation worse. God is your heavenly helper. He's the one you can run to when you have a need. This is why the Word of God says, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). Notice the Word of God refers to God's throne as a throne of grace.
The Greek word for help in the verse above means "aid, especially a rope or chain for frapping a vessel" (according to Strong's dictionary). This language is rooted in a practice of ancient mariners. When a ship was beginning to break or crack under the pressure of a storm causing it to beat against a reef. They would gird ropes or chains around the ship to make it stronger.
When you are being beat up by the storms of life you need to be girded about with the truth of God's Word. You need to be comforted and held in the loving arms of Jesus. You need to be shored up so that you can hold up until the storm is over. God's grace fraps us. It shore's us up. It holds us together when it feels like everything is falling apart. When you need help turn to God. Go to His throne of grace. Believe in His grace and He will empower you.
The pathway to receiving that grace from God's throne is to walk in humility. But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Some people think that the old worldly adage of "Once you think you have humility you just lost it" is true. However, according to the Word of God, humility is a choice and an attitude that is attainable. The Word of God specifically tells us, "humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God (I Pet 5: 6)." Whenever God tells us to do something then it is a choice. Therefore humility is a choice. It's an attitude of heart. It is something we attain to by having a submissive attitude dependent on God.
Some believers don't receive much from the throne of Grace because they are walking in pride and arrogance. Their prayers are hindered because they are not really submitted to the mighty hand of God. They are not really submitted to a pastor (sometimes they pretend to). They don't really join a local church and walk in covenant because they really want to do their own thing and have God bless that. They see themselves as spiritually superior to the pastor and even other believers in whatever church they do choose to attend. Usually they don't join. They don't really ever enter into a covenant relationship with other believers because they are unwilling to really commit to and submit to the vision of God for the house. Prideful people are so busy nit picking everything a pastor says, they become unable to receive anything given to him by the Lord for them. These arrogant believers never really grow in God because "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble" and it requires grace to grow. They abort their destiny and curse their own blessings. The only way for them to change this is to repent before God, go back where God called them, and submit themselves to the pastor and church eldership, and get back on track with their destiny.
Believers who walk in grace through humility understand and cooperate with God's order and His ways. They are more than willing to admit when they are wrong and apologize when they have offended. Believers who are walking in pride and arrogance never think they ever do anything wrong. In their minds, their opinions are always right and their ideas are always superior to others. They have a hard time ever getting along with anyone in the body of Christ because their pride genders conflict every where they go.
Let us daily take a humble posture submitting ourselves to the Lord, and His ways; acknowledging our need for His direction and help in every situation of life. Grace flows into the humble person's life. By humility and the fear of the Lord Are riches and honor and life.
Dr. Darrell Ellis
Anointed Word International Fellowship