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Turning Up Grace And Obedience

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By: Megan Evans

I’ve often struggled with reconciling the relationship of grace and obedience.

I look at a particular sin in my life and flippantly think, “Oh, God’s grace covers that!” Or I look at what I have been sacrificing and think, “I bet God is proud of this!”

Within minutes of those exact thoughts, though, I look at that specific sin and think, “There is not enough grace in the world to cover this.” I look at what I have been sacrificing and think, “This can never be enough.”

When does this dissonance end? The better question to ask is, “In whom does this dissonance end?” Jesus Christ.

In Union with Christ, Wilbourne explains that we need to hear both grace and demand at full volume.

We need to hear Ephesians 2:8-9, that we have been saved by grace and not works. We need to remind ourselves of this daily. Hourly.

No sin can take us too far gone for God to love us. And there is nothing on earth we can do that could ever take away our need for dependence on him. Wilbourne says,

“Therefore, the remedy to our deepest wound and the antidote to Satan’s most venomous lie is a sure and certain confidence in the goodness of God toward us. Only those who believe in his grace will have the power to obey him.”

Where does this obedience part fit? “Only those who believe in his grace will have the power to obey him.” But I thought it was just grace alone that gave me faith? Hebrews 12:14 says, “Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” Wilbourne contends,

“…because we are prone to excuse ourselves with the consolations of grace, and because we are awash in a sea of consumerism that leads us to define the gospel mainly in terms of the practical benefits it brings us, and because we can be given to sloth – we need to hear these voices that turn the call to follow Christ all the way up to full volume. Undiluted. The only way to know God is to follow him.”

Receiving grace and the benefits of sins washed clean requires faith. I have to believe that I am a sinner saved by grace. But because I believe in Christ, I believe that he is still making me new and that I still need him to turn from sin.

I can’t do this without obedience. I can’t worship a God because I am thankful for what he did for me in the past. No, I worship him by obeying because I am grateful for what he is continuing to do in my life.  

We can’t do both on our own, though. We can’t live up to the standards of obedience God calls us to. We can’t give ourselves enough grace to cover our sins.

The joining of 100% grace and 100% obedience is met in the person of Jesus Christ. And because of Christ living, dying, resurrecting for us, and sending his Spirit, we now are in union with him.

Union with Christ means “the work of Christ for us cannot be separated from the person of Christ in us (Wilbourne). He didn’t die an arbitrary death; he died so that he could be working in us with us.

Because of our union with Christ, obedience no longer feels like something we can’t reach. Grace no longer feels like something we can’t obtain. We can turn toward him, run to him, and be a part of what he has done and is doing.

Our sins are fully paid for by grace. We have all the power we need in Christ to continue to turn from sins toward Godliness: obedience. We have Christ dwelling in us.

“Our union with Christ is real but invisible. We must use “the eyes of [our] hearts” (Eph 1:18) to look not at what is seen, but what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18). When temptation comes, you can say, “That’s not who I am anymore. I’m in Christ and Christ is in me. Christ, help me to be the person I am in you – by grace” (Wilbourne).

Posted by Megan Evans with
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Mission Brings Health

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By: Elisha Lawrence

The statement "Mission Brings Health" may not sound provocative to you, but it does to me. I heard it recently from a group of church planters at a conference.  The reason it was so provocative to me is that in a genuine sense I experienced the opposite.

While I grew up in a Christian home and learned a lot of things, I think I became a Christian just before college. The start of my spiritual growth was undoubtedly through college while being involved with a campus ministry.

The thing that got me hooked on Christianity was honestly the mission. I was amazed that God drew people to Himself. Not having seen a lot of people outside the church world come to know Christ before college, I was blown away when I saw it firsthand.

In college, I was around people who routinely talked with their friends about Christ. They initiated friendships with people they didn’t know with the hope of sharing Christ with them. And I was both terrified of it and inspired. I wanted to see God work. I wanted Him to use me.

So I threw myself into college ministry with reckless abandon. And God taught me so much through what has now been 14 years of ministering to college students.

And while mission most certainly brought health to my life — a passion to learn about Christ, a desire to share the gospel, daily discipline of spending time with the Lord — it revealed a darker side of my heart too.

Part of me was inspired by God’s Word. Scripture like Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 9:36-38, Colossians 1:28-29 and 2 Timothy 2:2 were life verses. I genuinely did want God to work both in my life and in the life of others. I also wanted praise, honor, and recognition.

When I heard people share their testimonies and they mentioned a person who led them to Christ, I longed for someone to talk about me like that.

My fantasies were about having generations of people who traced back their spiritual lineage to my name. While mission did bring some health to me, it also revealed a deep-seated selfish ambition in my heart.

I used the mission of God to try to be like God. And as a result, I crashed physically. After 11 years, I was exhausted and felt a deep uneasiness that I couldn’t figure out. I didn’t want to pull out of mission altogether, but I felt like I couldn’t keep going.

I thank God that He is a gracious God who reveals sin in our hearts. And I’m thankful to God for men who spoke into my life as I processed through my spiritual and emotional fatigue. I had mentors in Campus Outreach and City Church who patiently worked with me and a sweet wife who endured my daily ups and downs.

Truth be told, I don’t think my problem was necessarily being on mission. I just neglected a vital reality of being on mission and that’s being filled with the Spirit of God. It’s not that I wasn’t reading Scripture and praying regularly. I was. It’s not that I wasn’t reading Scripture or involved in a community group. I was.

I was practicing all the spiritual disciplines that I still believe are vital to spiritual growth and I was growing. However, even in that growth, I do think I was missing a vital connection with the living God. And that is what scares me when I hear that mission brings health.

When I think about City Church and our mission statement, “Gospel Change for Broken People on Purpose,” I am deeply thankful to be part of this church.

God does 100% call us to live lives on mission with Him. God is a missionary God who fills people with His Spirit and uses us to take the gospel to people. He wants us to be counselors, evangelists, and friendly neighbors. He wants us to take a deep interest in other people and their spiritual well-being.

But as we do that, we also must recognize our brokenness. Because I’ve seen the darkness of my own heart, I’m different as I go out on mission. Because I realize that God is still on a mission to change my heart, I know I’m not the finished project.

It’s kind of funny, but mission did bring health to me ultimately. Seeing that my heart can take even a good thing like serving the Lord and turn it sinful reveals my desperate need for the Lord to be with me.

I can’t do mission without Him. I can’t do anything without Him. My adequacy is from God (2 Cor 3:5). Apart from Him, I can do nothing (Jn 15:5). And knowing this, I can approach the call to be on mission with humility.

When I share the gospel, it isn’t just something for those I talk with, but it’s for me too- And in this way mission truly does bring health!

Posted by Elisha Lawrence with
Tags: mission

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