The best lies always use a bit of the truth. One of the weaknesses of giving ourselves seriously to spiritual formation is that after we understand the importance responding to God’s grace, it’s easy to get idea that God has done everything he’s going to do. The rest is up to me, we think. I must meditate, pray, serve, study, contemplate, isolate, and even celebrate on my own. Jesus showed me how it’s done, died on the cross, paid the price, and now it’s up to me to respond.
There’s a measure of truth to such thinking, but that’s where the lie takes hold. Truth is, the Father is willing to do still more on our behalf. God's grace is the disciple’s fuel for life.
James 4:6 reminds us: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” More grace. Greater grace. All the more grace. James was speaking from experience, not theory. I think he discovered the multi-layered grace of God as he learned to humble himself again and again. When we humble ourselves we position ourselves for greater grace.
One sure indicator of a religiously closed mind is the firm conviction that we have this Jesus thing figured out. We can handle it. The religiously-closed mind is only interested in exporting its brand of spirituality, but it’s impossible to drink in God’s grace if we do nothing but tell others how to live. Self-discipline has great power, but it comes at the risk of locating the source of that power in ourselves instead of the grace of God. If will-power alone brings spiritual growth, we have no need for his daily presence. The distinguishing mark between grace-empowerment and fleshly self discipline is that self-discipline says to others, “If I do it, why can’t you?”
The grace-empowered disciple realizes the daily need for his presence. With that presence amazing things are possible. The Apostle Paul lived a disciplined and focused life before God, but he was a force of super-nature, not nature. The grace-empowered disciple says, along with the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:10), “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” As we give ourselves this week to the spiritual disciplines laid out in scripture, let’s meditate as well on the source of our achievement in God.