Friday, January 21, 2011

A Conversation with the Apostle of Grace by James Ryle

“My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

We arrive at the Tavern and enter to find the Apostle Paul seated at a table, working on a new book.

Greetings, Paul! My friends and I are on a journey to the place called Grace, and I am so glad to find you here once again. If it’s not a bother, would you take a moment and tell us what the Lord Jesus showed you?

“I would be delighted!” Paul answered, “for I have no greater desire than to finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” ((Act 20:24).

Listen up everybody; we are in for a real treat!

“As you know, Paul said, I was zealously devout in seeking to please God; so much so that I even persecuted those who were followers of The Way. For I truly believed at the time that they were a dangerous threat to the Truth.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, stopped me in my tracks on the Damascus Road. That singular encounter with the risen Lord changed my life forever! I carried my proven zeal into my new found Faith and labored more earnestly to excel as a follower of Jesus.

Yet I continued running into challenges, which I could not overcome.

“The good that I would, I do not,” I wrote, “but the evil that I would not do – that’s what I do!” My vexation rose to such a level it felt as though thorns were piercing my soul. I cried out to the Lord to remove this from me, and this is what He said:

“My grace is sufficient, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

“I did not understand what He meant at first, but after three times of hearing Him repeat these words, suddenly the truth shot into my spirit like a bolt of lightning.

“I had always believed that His grace was a kindness shown toward an undeserving inferior, but in that moment I understood that His grace was His power made available to me so that I could be who He created me to be, and do what He was calling me to do.

“Most gladly will I glory in my infirmity that the power of Christ may rest upon me!” I said in great exuberance. And, while the Damascus Road experience changed my life – this revelation of His grace changed my living!

Now, because of grace, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

People often ask me, “What was the thorn in the flesh?” I never tell them, because that’s not the point. No, what I want them to see is that from that moment forward the thorn, nor any other thing the devil threw at me, had any power to thwart my journey!

“And from that day I lived, preached, and wrote with a new and deeper passion than ever before about the Grace of God! For I now know that grace is ‘the power of Christ to do God’s will’ no matter what obstacles we may encounter along the way.

“This changed everything! Now, if you will read my letters and, with my permission, replace the word ‘grace’ with the phrase, ‘the power of Christ to do God’s will’ – it will change everything for you, too!”

“And, if you are willing to stay with me a while longer before continuing on your journey,” Paul concluded, “Tomorrow, I will show you a few of my favorite writings and you will see for yourself what I mean.”

What do you say, fellow travelers; shall we stay an extra day here?

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)

Good morning, Paul. Our group stayed up late into the evening around the fire, buzzing with excitement about what you had to say to us yesterday. And we are filled with anticipation for what today will bring forth.

Several asked me if I would ask you to start this morning by explaining what you meant when you wrote the phrase “fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

Ah, yes,” Paul replied, smiling as though he knew all along that one would mess with a lot of us down through the ages.

“You do understand, don’t you, that it comes down to the difference between Pride and Humility?”

Yes, we have discussed that already on our journey.

“Very well,” Paul continued, “then you know that a proud man is determined to live in the power of his own self will, to decide his own way, on his own terms – even if he is attempting to serve and please God.

“But a humble man places no confidence in the flesh; for he knows that Jesus is the true Vine and that we, apart from Him, can do nothing.

“Anyone who seeks to justify themselves with God on any terms other than those provided by God exclusively in and through our Lord Jesus is a man, or woman, who by necessity is “fallen from grace.” That is to say, they are outside the provision of Christ’s power. For Jesus will not empower anybody to succeed apart from God’s will.

“If you are determined to do your own thing, then the Lord will oblige you by stepping aside and leaving you to do it on your own. The expression, fallen from grace, does not mean “losing your salvation” (as some have erroneously concluded); rather, it means, quite frankly, “losing your sanity!”

“I have shown you that Grace is the power of Christ to do God’s will. If you are not interested in doing God’s will, then don’t expect the Lord to give you His grace to do your own thing. Are you crazy?! You must be!

“Consider what I wrote elsewhere, “For by grace (i.e., the power of Christ to do God’s will) are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8).

“Or this, one of my favorites, ‘For where sin did abound, grace (i.e., the power of Christ to do God’s will) did abound much more!’(Romans 5:20). You see? You and I are no longer slaves to sin, because a power greater than sin is now at work in and through us. It is the power of Christ – God’s Grace!

“Perhaps now you can see why I said, “I am what I am by the grace of God; and His grace (i.e., the power of Christ to do God’s will) given unto me was not in vain, for I labored more abundantly than they all. Yet it was not me, but the grace of God in me!”

“When I left my dear friends from Ephesus on the shores of the Aegean Sea, I said, “Brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace (i.e., the truth about the power of Christ to do God’s will), which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Act 20:32).

    “I knew that the only way they would ever make it was by the grace of God. And, friends, that’s the only way you will ever make it also.

“Forgive me for going on like this,” Paul said, “but talking about Grace brings out the preacher in me!  But let me leave you with this — God has given every humble man and woman a measure of grace, the exact proportion of Christ’s power necessary for them to be who God created them to be, and to do whatever He has called them to do. Take time each day to make sure you are living in your measure.

“This was even true of our Lord Jesus in the days of His Incarnation. The grace of God was upon Him, empowering Him fully to live each day in the freedom and power of His Father’s presence and purpose. And He never once stepped outside that place of blessing.

“And now it’s your turn. You can do it, and God will do the same for you!

“May the grace of God be with you as you travel onward to that Great City you are seeking! For, but in a little while, you will enter its gates, never to leave! And I will see you there!”

And with these words Paul sends us on our way. We continue first thing in the morning.

“My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

As we once again undertake our upward journey to a place named Grace, our hearts are full from a recent visit with the Apostle Paul at the Tavern.

Grace is the power of Christ to do God’s will.

Our visual Tour Guide (pictured at the right) now makes perfect sense. By looking at the illustration we can see that God’s will for each of our lives is measured out as a specific sphere of ministry and influence around our lives. And He has matched that measure with a proportionate supply of His grace – the power of Christ to do God’s will.

Once we humble ourselves in agreement with God and embrace His will for our lives, His grace begins to fill our sphere of influence with power, purpose, provision, and peace. Like Paul we can now say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

When we are standing in the center of God’s will, then we have everything we need to be and do whatever it is that God wants for us. Paul said, “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This says it all!

To take it one step further, now let’s fill in the next measure…..the Measure of Faith. (write FAITH in the box on your personal copy) click here to get copy of drawing

Remember? Paul told us about this. “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (i.e., outside your measure); but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom 12:3).

The measure of faith which God has dealt to you is in exact proportion to the measure of God’s will for your life, and the measure of God’s grace in your life.

Because God made each of us unique, we all have gifts differing from one another according to the grace that is given to us, and we are to exercise these gifts “according to the proportion of faith” (see Romans 12:6).

Faith is the conscious awareness of what meets with God’s approval, as revealed to us by the Spirit of God through the Word; and the courageous decision to live within that conviction.

Faith is not merely believing you can do something; it is knowing that you can through the power of Christ – GRACE.

When faith is active in our lives we will not over-extend ourselves into matters that are outside of God’s will. Nor will we through fear and unbelief limit ourselves to doing something less than God’s will.

Presumption, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, takes us outside the measure of Grace….and leaves us languishing in a place called Grief. (fill in the boxes on your travel chart).

Here, then, is what we know to be true.

God has given each one of us the grace and the faith that we need to do exactly what He has called us to do – no more; no less. Life takes on its fullest meaning and finds its greatest success when we abide in this blessed place – a place named Grace.

Brace yourself; for tomorrow when we turn the corner up ahead….what you will see is going to blow your minds!

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