Bible Study: Growing In Grace

Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 in Bible Studies, Spiritual Growth | 0 comments

Bible Study: Growing In Grace

Introduction

Grace is a vital aspect of the gospel and we need to rely upon it in our Christian life, but many believers don’t understand it, realize its importance, or know how to recognize it and receive it.

The gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also, it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth (Col 1:5-6).

 

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Rom 5:17).

 

You therefore beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Key Spiritual Dynamics: Grace & Truth

Grace and truth are two spiritual dynamics made available to us through Jesus Christ. Under-standing them is key to our growing freedom and on-going spiritual growth and healing.

  • John 1:14: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 1:17: The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Prophets Prophesied the Coming Of Grace

This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” (Zach 4:6-7)

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries. (1 Peter 1:10)

Apostle Paul and the Gospel of Grace

St. Paul’s mission was “to testify of the gospel of the grace of God.”

I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).

In his letters to the churches, Paul repeatedly speaks of “grace.”

  • To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 1:7).
  • To the churches at Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi and Colossae, Paul wrote: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • “To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Tim 1:2)
  • “To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:4)
  • To Philemon, a believer from Colossae Paul wrote: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit” (Philemon 1:25).

Paul cites benefit of grace: we will reign in life

To the believers in Rome, Paul wrote: “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17b). In other words, they need not feel like victims in life. He also prepared them to expect grace to increase even more, when sin is on the increase (Rom 5:20b).

 

Understanding Grace

We need to understand that grace is something far more than what most of us have been taught; i.e., an abstract or inherent quality. Rather it is an influx of divine power or divine influence acting upon our heart and manner of life, by the in-working of the Holy Spirit. In other words grace is something you and I can experience.

Theologians on Grace

“In Paul … grace is never merely an attitude or disposition of God (God’s character as gracious); consistently it denotes something much more dynamic—the wholly generous act of God. It denotes effective divine power in the experience of men.” (James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8. Dallas: Word Books, 1988), p. 17.

“We have to be on our guard against the supposition that grace is an abstract quality. It is an active personal principle, showing itself in our dealings with those by whom we are surrounded… We have gradually come to speak of grace as an inherent quality in man, just as we talk of gifts; whereas it is in reality the communication of Divine goodness by the in-working of the Spirit, and through the medium of Him who is ‘full of grace and truth.” (Robert Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1871), p. 179.

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck

Dr. Peck (1978) observed the existence of “a powerful force originating outside of human consciousness which nurtures the spiritual growth of human beings.”  He suggests that grace is a common phenomenon, even though it is not explainable within the conceptual framework of conventional science and natural law. He calls it something miraculous and amazing, yet many people resist it.

My Experience with Grace

Many years ago I had an experience with God’s grace that left its mark in me. At the time I was very angry with Jerry (for what I no longer remember); actually I was stuck in my anger, not able to let go of it. Suddenly I felt my anger begin to dissipate, but then, I felt myself resisting that. I wanted to stay angry. In that moment, I heard the Lord speak to me: “If you resist my grace now, you will not receive it again.” This got my attention! I knew it was the Lord. I immediately became willing to let go of the anger and allow God’s grace to flow into my heart again. I knew that grace from God was something to be highly valued, even though I didn’t understand it yet.

Since then I have experienced God’s grace many, many times. Slowly, I have learned to treasure it and to rely upon it. When I am stuck in some life-negating attitude, I more quickly cry out, “Lord, I am helpless to get out of this; please send me your grace. I will wait until you send it. Thank You.”

When I need to surrender something to the Lord, I cry out for His grace to come, so I can do it. In other words, I stop fighting whatever situation or negativity I am stuck in—be it laziness, confusion, anger, depression, powerlessness, etc.—and surrender it to the Lord. I put my eyes back on Jesus and rest in Him. This works!

As a youth, I learned in church that God’s grace referred to his unmerited favor. But grace has become something far more than just a theological truth in my life; it is a very real, but invisible, power which affects my heart and my responses to situations in life. It is the power of God flowing into me.

 

What the Bible Says About Grace & Its Benefits

Grace and Salvation

  • Acts 15:11—But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.
  • Rom 3:24—being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
  • Eph 2:7-8—in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Grace and Sin

  • Rom 6:14—For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
  • Rom 5:20-21—And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Jude 1:4—For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Grace and Suffering

  • 1 Peter 5:10—After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
  • Ezra 9:8—But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.
  • Prov 3:34— Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.

Grace and Abundance

  • 2 Cor 9:8—And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.

Grace and Forgiveness

  • Heb 12:15—See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

Grace and Weakness

  • 2 Co. 12:9—He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Grace and Food

  • Heb 13:9—Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

Grace and Comfort & Hope

2 Thes 2:16-17—Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

Grace and Prayers

  • 1 Peter 3:7—You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
  • Heb 4:16—Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Grace and Our Words

  • Ps 45:2—You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever.
  • Eph 4:29—Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear
  • Col 4:6—Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

Grace and Conduct

  • 2 Cor 1:12—For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.

Grace and Beauty

  • Prov 4:9—She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty.”

Grace and Power

  • Acts 4:33—With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.
  • Acts 6:8—Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.

Grace and Ministry

  • Acts 14:26—From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished.
  • 1 Cor 15:10—But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
  • Eph 3:6-8—through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles, the unfathomable riches of Christ.

Grace and Gifts

  • 1 Peter 4:10—As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
  • Romans 12:6— Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
  • Eph 4:7—But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Grace and Victory

  • 1 Peter 5:12—Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
  • Rom 5:20-21—And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace and Spiritual Growth

  • 2 Peter 3:18— But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Peter 1:12—Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
  • Acts 20:32—And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

How Can You Grow In Grace?

To grow in grace suggests that we increase our awareness of grace, our ability to rely on grace, our ability to go to the throne of grace, and our ability to receive grace day by day.

Go to the Throne of Grace

The work of Jesus Christ has opened the doorway for us to go the throne of God’s grace. Thus we can draw near with confidence and find the grace we need to help us—if we humble ourselves.

  • Heb 4:16—Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
  • 2 Cor 12:9—He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’

Humble Our Self

  • James 4:6—But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

Recognize and Receive It

Grace is readily available, but many believers in Jesus Christ don’t know how to recognize it or receive it. The writer of Hebrews warns us not to come short of God’s grace, lest a root of bitterness takes root in our hearts. We are encouraged to let our hearts be strengthened with grace, rather than be occupied with food.

Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

 

Warnings Concerning Grace

Don’t Fall From Grace

In his letters, Paul reminds the early believers not to revert back to the Law of Moses—measuring themselves by some standard—less they lose touch with Jesus Christ who dwells within them and fall away from grace.

Paul is not referring to our eternal salvation, but our ability to receive the grace of God in our daily lives. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to recognize, respond to, and rely upon God’s grace.

  • Gal 1:6—I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by (in) the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;
  • Gal 2:21—I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.
  • Gal 5:4—You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
  • 1 Tim 6:21— which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.

Don’t Come Short of God’s Grace

  • Heb 12:15—See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

Don’t Receive the Grace Of God In Vain

  • 2 Cor 6:1—we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain
  • Jude 1:4—For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the graceof our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Don’t Insult the Spirit Of God

  • Heb 10:29—How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Reflections

Meditation—Struck By Grace

We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow ourselves to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it.

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure has become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us and they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.

Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance…

It is such moments that make us love our life, that make us accept ourselves, not in our goodness and self-complacency, but in our certainty of the eternal meaning of our life. We cannot force ourselves to accept ourselves. We cannot compel anyone to accept himself. But sometimes it happens that we receive the power to say ‘yes’ to ourselves, that peace enters into us and makes us whole, that self-hate and self-contempt disappear, and that our self is reunited with itself. Then we can say that grace has come upon us.

The aforementioned material is a quote from Paul Tillich’s work called The shaking of the foundation, (as cited in Howard & Howard, 1985, p. 120-121).

What Does Grace Mean To You?

When have you felt grace at work in your life?

  1. Make a note of experiences of synchronicity; i.e., coincidences that you can’t explain.
  2. Ponder dreams that have helped you.
  3. Identify healing moments that point to a miraculous force of grace your life.
  4. What incidences of health dangers have you successfully survived?
  5. Reflect on the ways you have received grace: your partner, friends, children; your community, church, fellowship group; music, art, creation; undeserved forgiveness, God’s manifest presence, gifts of Holy Spirit; in laughter and play.

Draw out what grace means to you.

Write a letter, poem, prayer, or psalm to the Giver of grace.

In what ways have you resisted grace?

 

Meditation—Welcoming Grace

Reflect on the following thoughts

“My children, mark me, I pray you. Know! God loves my soul so much that His very life and being depends upon God’s loving me whether He would or not. To stop God from loving me would be to rob Him of His Godhood” (Meister Eckhart, as cited in Howard, & Howard, 1985, p. 123).

Then sit comfortably with both feet on the ground and nothing in your lap. Shut your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply a few times. You are creating an opportunity to envision yourself fully open to Grace. Just relax and be receptive, allowing images to come on the screen of your mind’s eye of what it would be like if you were in the presence of total love and acceptance, loved for who you are and for who you are becoming. Use the following questions, pausing sufficiently, to allow the visioning to take place:

  • How would you look?
  • What would your posture be?
  • The expression on your face?
  • How would you feel?
  • What would you be doing with your life?
  • How would you be spending your money…your time?
  • What interest would you be developing?
  • What would your relationships be like?

When sufficient time has elapsed, open your eyes and use colored crayons to create a symbol, or image, of what you have envisioned. If you are doing this in a group, display your symbols by attaching them with tape to your chests and sing together “Amazing Grace” (Howard & Howard, 1985, p. 185).

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