Empowered by grace

author: Sally Golding

‘It is by grace you have been saved, through faith- this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God- not by works so that no-one can boast.’ Ephesians 2:8-9.

I don’t know how many times I had quoted that scripture in my near 30 years of being a Christian, when I was confronted with the reality that I didn’t really believe it! My following testimony will explain how I had been operating on a ‘saved by grace, kept by works’ value system.

I became a Christian when I was 17, learning the wonderful truths of God’s unconditional, sacrificial love. However, I didn’t read my Bible on a regular basis, nor was I disciplined with prayer and this habit was not then helped by working shifts as a nurse where routine was not part of my life. I would talk to the Lord often and be aware of His presence, but ‘regular’ prayer and Bible reading were not factored into my life, so the maturing process was not as it should have been even though the important relationship with the Lord had been established.

Seasons changed and from working shifts to having children, habits didn’t improve, but whilst  Ephesians 2 verses 8 and 9 were well-known to me ( as they had been quoted from the ‘pulpit’ on many occasions), at the back of my mind, I somehow thought that God would be more pleased with me if I ‘did’ more prayer and Bible reading. So I would have spates of reading large chunks of my Bible and trying to pray more routinely but of course I would fall back into old habits!

About 3 years ago, during a time of particularly enjoying God’s presence, I was ‘feeling’ Him near me all the time in spite of not really ‘doing’ anything. So I asked the Lord when this season would end as I wasn’t working to sustain it. Immediately, His response to me was, ‘My grace NEVER runs out.’ I sensed this ‘hit’ my spirit- like a rebuke, but with amazing reassurance- and I just stood in the street where I was and worshipped Him!

This was the beginning of a journey I am still on. Following, what I call my ‘Grace Encounter’, the next morning I woke up thinking of a book I had only ever seen on a shelf in the Christian bookshop, ‘What’s so amazing about grace?’ by Philip Yancey. Wondering if it really was the Lord speaking to me or whether I had made it up, I was reluctant to buy the book for it just to go part-read onto our bookshelf! So first I asked a friend if she had a copy I could borrow to ‘try it out’ before I purchased one  but she wasn’t sure and was going to look for me. In the meantime I came across a second-hand copy for just £1 in a local bookshop.

I read this book and because it had such a profound effect on me, I started to read it again and make notes on it(I’m not recommending the book as such because the Lord was speaking specifically to me through it). The end result was I had a greater understanding of the grace of God towards me, enabling me to be more gracious to others.

The amazing thing is that since the ‘encounter’ I have read my Bible both more in quantity and frequency, have seen more answered prayers and have a greater compassion for others, none of it driven by a ‘works mentality’, but rather inspired and spurred on by a desire to know this God of grace and give away the blessing that has come to me. I am saved by grace and empowered by grace to do the works- I give Him all the glory!

Every Disciple: Fruit Bearers

fruit bearing

There is an attitude in the mind of the Christian that needs to be dealt with. It’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’ that divides the church. It’s not often a conscious attitude but it’s still a real one. Whether we label it clergy & laity, full timers & part timers, professionals & amateurs, or producers & consumers it’s a problem for us all.

The church was never established with this divide in mind. In Jesus’ model every disciple of his was called to be just as full time as anyone else.

Not dealing with this attitude disables us from living an effective Christian life and it robs the church of its power.

Jesus said ‘my sheep hear my voice and they follow me’. All of us, then, are in the same camp/category, all of us are ‘sheep’.

In John 15, speaking to his disciples, he said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6

Every Christian is a disciple and every disciple is called to ‘abide’ in Jesus. Abiding (some translations use the word remain) is an ongoing and conscious relating to Jesus, fellowshipping with him and drawing from him as your life source everyday.

The promise we’re given is that as we do this, we will bear much fruit and not only a high quantity of fruit but quality fruit – fruit that will last. Here, from the mouth of Jesus, is a statement affirming that we have all been called (‘taken hold of’ by Christ) in order that we would all produce good fruit – fruit being Christian character and behaviour that results in the kingdom of God being more fully present on earth.

Every disciple of Jesus is a fruit-bearing disciple. There is no favouritism in God’s family, all of us occupy the position of branch in the vine, all of us need to remain attached to the vine if we’re to do what we want to do and have been commissioned by Jesus to do.