By: Amy Hornbuckle
I didn’t have to do anything to receive the grace of God. I didn’t have to perform, perfect, or provide. In fact, my inability to perform well, be perfect, or provide for myself is what created my need for grace. I was deep in spiritual poverty (we all were) and out of unconditional love God sent His Son to save me.
Grace covered everything I was and everything I did. This is good news. This means I still don’t have to perform, perfect, or provide. His grace is sufficient, sustainable and free; and this grace includes faithful disciplines. It means my Bible study, prayer, hospitality and service aren’t measured by time, check-lists, or knowledge. Free grace means that our souls’ redemption flows into our outward devotion. And that can’t be measured by a standard we place on it. God knows our heart, mind and soul well enough to also know its posture. Why are we spending time in His word? Why are we praying? Is our motivation Christ? Or is our motivation man’s approval and obedience? Five minutes in the Word of God can either be fruitful, faithful and worshipful, or it can be empty, mechanical, and selfish. Our spiritual disciplines mean nothing without the work of Jesus compelling us to rest in Him.
His grace is sufficient for us. I am free from the resume-building culture that was my Christ-less life; and you are free from whatever form of success you chased. But this freedom is more than just a single moment of salvation. It’s an invitation into a faithful walk with the Lord. An invitation to step into a new body, a new soul and join Christ as a co-laborer in God’s work. Taking this step forward inevitably means transformation. Slowly but surely, we are transformed into the image we bear – have you taken that step?
There’s a reason we are here. There’s a reason we have been reconciled to God. And it’s not because He needs us. Our creation and our redemption exist as an overflow of God Himself. He desires our relationship but that relationship is from His goodness and to glorify Him. This means that our faith should exert an overwhelming desire to serve the Person in Whom we believe and in Whom we were created.
The word “vain” essentially means empty or “effecting no purpose.” A faith lived in vain is an empty faith: one that doesn’t trust, love, pursue, build or sanctify. It is stagnant or suppressed, or merely a remark that leaves our lips without any depth. It’s sitting in that single moment of salvation and not taking that next step. Not pursuing the person of Jesus and letting His word move your heart and change your life.
James speaks on this in 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”
Let us be careful. James is not saying we are saved by works, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. But James is calling out those that say they have faith. True saving faith will produce faithful works. It will compel, motivate, convict and transform our whole selves into the likeness of Christ.
This saving faith is built on grace. If we are to distinguish a faithful servant from a hypocrite, let us ask the question: have we received God’s grace in vain?
1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
Grace is what saved Paul from self-destruction. Grace is what worked through Paul as he built the church and spread the Gospel. Grace sustained him, protected him, and humbled him throughout his life. Paul understood that the grace given to him was not meant to be passive but to be pursued – he partnered with grace in the labor.
We know that grace is freely given: it has nothing to do with our past or present effort. But the effectiveness of grace solely depends on whether we actually receive it. What good is grace if not manifested in our lives? What good is freedom if we live like we’re still slaves to the sin Christ died to free us from?
An Empty Discipline
I recently found myself convicted that my time with God had become a vain discipline. My routine in God’s word had become a chore for work: something I picked up for head knowledge. I saw the inevitable effect on my attitude, posture and joy and when mentioning it to a friend she said, “give yourself grace.”
In that moment I heard Paul’s voice. And though we do need to remind ourselves of grace in countless ways and times of life, this was different. I didn’t need to give myself grace, I needed to repent. I wasn’t straying from my time with God out of logistical reasons, circumstances, health or the like – I was straying from my time with God out of pure laziness and selfishness. I was allowing my mind to be consumed with life and forgetting the Person who gave me my life.
I desperately needed to kneel at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to remove the idols and distractions in my life, and draw my heart back to Him. That, is where I received grace: when I recognized my imperfection and need for His grace. God knows our heart, mind and soul well enough to know its posture.
As we remind ourselves and our sisters that our quiet time is a grace-based discipline, let us receive that grace, absorb its truth and labor with it. Let’s pay attention to our heart – is it apathetic or purposeful? Where’s our desire? What’s our motivation? Are we taking grace for granted and justifying our selfish desires? Or are we laboring with the grace, doing what we can, in order to continue pursuing righteousness?
I don’t think anyone could have told me I was reading in vain. That my time with God was empty. But I do think that the more my community asked me intentional questions, the louder the conviction grew Until finally, my sinful posture was revealed. And, thank Jesus, once again my sin was met with His abundant grace.
Amy grew up in St. Louis, Missouri but now lives in Florida with her husband of 9 months. She is a proud dog mamma, and loves taking long walk in the midst of God’s creation. She works as a Children’s ministry director, operations manager, and Women’s ministry and discipleship. Her true passion is to equip women of faith through both writing and speaking.