Have you ever found out someone is a Christian and thought to yourself, I can’t believe he/she’s a Christian?
My guess is that person was probably not exhibiting the necessary “Christian graces” that you’d expect. Perhaps they were bad-mouthing people or letting slip vulgarities from their sanctified lips. Or they were so full of themselves and dominating the conversation that others could hardly get a word in. Or maybe they uncaringly walked past that old man sitting by the road begging just like everyone else did without batting an eyelid.
Christians are called to be different, to be set apart from the rest of the crowd. We are called to be kind, compassionate, humble, gentle, and walking in integrity. We’re supposed to be the ones who step up to do the job when no one else wants to, the ones who respond in love when someone slights us.
Even non-Christians hold that expectation of us, because they know the God we serve is a God who is love, even if they may not know all the rest of the Bible. And we Christians are to be the ambassadors of God to the world.
So why is it that so many Christians are struggling and falling short in being worthy ambassadors of Christ?
For one, our human flesh is at odds with and frankly quite incapable of fulfilling the necessary prerequisite character traits. In and of ourselves, we are as arrogant and selfish and indifferent as any other person. We seriously need to accept this in order to move on.
For another, it’s due to a lack of revelation – not knowledge alone, but revelation.
Many Christians are under the impression that to follow and obey God sincerely means: whatever God says, we do, and try our very best to do. Meaning, as God has called us to be kind and compassionate and to love others, we try our very best to do just that, and pray for God to help us to do that.
Sounds logically good and spiritual, but unfortunately people around them don’t always see the desired results (see above paragraph on futility of the flesh).
There’s only one person in the entire universe who can be as perfectly loving, kind, gracious, humble, and noble as Jesus – and that’s Jesus Himself. We have to learn to let God be God in us.
Many of us Christians know and confess this truth, that today it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). We also understand and subscribe to the teaching that it is out of the outpouring and overflow of God’s grace and love that we have first received from Him and the humility and nobility that we see in His behaviour, that we then pour out unto others similarly and love others.
This is what I wholly believe too. But to be really honest, sometimes the practical part of living it out can very easily and unconsciously slip back into drawing out from ourselves or trying to emulate Christ’s example.
So I really jumped for joy on the inside when I realised the simplicity and grace that God has already provided in His Word in anticipation of our needs and insufficiencies.
Let’s take a look:
Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:5, NKJV)
As Christians, we are to live by flowing in the Spirit. The ability to walk in God’s wisdom and purposes, and God’s working of miracles comes through God’s supplying of the Spirit. And the present tense of the verb means it’s happening even right now.
Young’s Literal Translation renders the meaning even clearer and more emphatic:
He, therefore, who is supplying to you the Spirit, and working mighty acts among you — by works of law or by the hearing of faith [is it]? (Galatians 3:5, YLT)
God is constantly supplying the Spirit to us believers, and He is constantly working mighty acts among us.
What kind of mighty acts? It gets no plainer than this:
Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? (Galatians 3:5, MSG)
What this means is, everything that we could never do for ourselves – be it being kind and loving to others, or taking the lowly place, or changing the way we speak – in short, living as Jesus does, including even effecting healings and miracles in His power, is being lavishly supplied to us continuously and constantly by God right now.
How does it happen? The verse tells us: by the hearing of faith.
This means that even as we hear the word being preached, God wants us to know and believe that He is supplying the grace to do what the very verse says there and then – because He is.
So for example when the preacher teaches on putting away all malice and anger and false words, we need to see that the grace to do that is being supplied as the word goes forth.
When the preacher unveils Jesus in His humility and nobility in the Bible, the grace and ability to be humble and self-sacrificing is being supplied in the preached word.
It’s no longer a matter of listening and then looking at ourselves and trying to do or follow.
It’s simply seeing the supply that is already there to empower us to do as the Word says even as we hear it preached.
What an amazing rest and joy this realisation brings.
It has to be in a context and foundation of grace, because only when we understand God’s lavish heart of love and grace can we see the abundant supply that is already there and constantly flowing towards us.
Beloved, you don’t need to struggle and try your hardest to achieve any longer.
Simply rest in the knowledge that as you hear and behold, the grace and strength to perform is being lavishly supplied.
It is His Spirit being supplied. And His Spirit in us shall surely accomplish the desired works.
Because when you encounter Jesus, you encounter grace.