Today’s reflection comes from Paul Martin – Thank you, Paul.
Grace – “G-od’s R-iches A-t C-hrist’s E-xpense” – is the Bible’s shorthand for everything we need from God in the spiritual realm. As we were thinking of the fruit of the Spirit on Sunday, I considered how much grace was necessary in the life-time growth of this beautiful fruit. No one can manufacture love, joy, peace and the rest by their own efforts – each is the product of generous grace or, as John puts it, “we have all received from him grace upon grace.”
So, as we try to put Rachel’s message to us into practice, where do we find this grace?
The Lord gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
So humble yourselves before God.
Rachel spoke about submitting to the Spirit so that we can be transformed by him. Another way of saying we must submit is to talk about humbling ourselves. In spite of the Spirit’s fantastic power and skill, he can’t / won’t change me while I remain proud and stubborn. I need to put myself in the right place first – I must humble myself. For me, there are three key aspects involved.
- I must recognise that I need to be changed. In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax-collector, only the latter, who called to the Lord for mercy because he was a sinner, went home from the temple right with God. He humbled himself, but the Pharisee didn’t. Reminding God of how good we are (the Pharisee pointed out his fasting and tithing) puts ourselves in opposition to God. “God opposes the proud.”
- I must listen to what the Spirit is telling me. Ironically, I find myself re-asserting my pride by telling God what he needs to change in me! Humbling myself before him means I let him write the agenda. In my experience the Spirit tells me what he wants to change, either through the Word or through the gracious advice of my fellow disciples. When he uses frustrated work colleagues or despairing family members, I know I have needed humbling because of my pride.
- I must expect change to be a daily discipline. Although the Spirit could transform us immediately, his way is more gradual. Just as natural fruit takes time to grow and ripen, the fruit of the Spirit is a long-term project. Rachel reminded us that his fruit needs to be seen in all aspects of our lives. This means consistency and constancy are essential. I might exhibit his peace today, but he also wants to grow peace in me tomorrow and the next day and so on. Whatever the changing circumstances of my life, his peace will eventually become constant and consistent.
Something that encourages me and makes the whole thing seem more bearable (and even exciting!) is the thought that we are all in this together. Discipline sounds hard but disciples are not meant to be loners. At SW Community Church we are a class of learners, ready to help each other and urge one another onwards. So, in that spirit let me say again, “Let us humble ourselves before God” and “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us.”
Also, you may be interested in listening to this song of blessing for the UK: