Acts 20:28-32 [Paul saying goodbye to the Ephesian elders] So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. … Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! … And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.
At the end of his teary farewell to beloved friends, Paul returns to the topic of grace—my favorite subject, my deepest longing.
Grace builds up. I want to tell you my experience at the writer’s conference listening to two different keynote addresses.
The first, to open the conference, earnestly described how terrible America is today, and who he thinks is at fault for the mess we’re in, with political references that made me think of Romans 13:7 (“Give respect and honor to those who are in authority”) only by contrast. What have I gotten myself into? I wondered.
So, I felt anxious when I saw the topic of the closing-day keynote was “Our Voice in a Hostile Culture.” If it’s more of the same, I can’t listen to it, I thought. I don’t want to leave this conference feeling upset and disappointed with the event leaders who have been so kind to me.
As I listened, though, I found myself in tears. The speaker called us to Kingdom values. We are citizens of Heaven first, and we serve a King whose nature is love, and justice, and righteousness, and mercy. We are to represent him. Our voice is to be characterized by grace:
“In all things, become love—so that if anyone thinks of love, they think of you. In all things, all the time, become love. Patiently listen. Hear what people have to say. Treat them with respect. Look for what you have in common, the ways you can connect. Have an attitude of grace. Practice grace. Pray into it. Offer vision and hope. Be compassionate. Our lives are to be a lovely fragrance attracting people to the King whose grace we ourselves have experienced …”
In the flood of comments in the chat (we were on Zoom), one person wrote, “This talk has been worth the whole price of the conference.” I agree. Of all the thousands of words I listened to over three intense days, these are the words that most impacted and encouraged me. The words that will continue to challenge me.
Lord, teach me grace. Remind me constantly of your grace in my life. Please show me today how to build up those whose lives touch mine.
4 thoughts on “But God’s grace builds us up”
Thanks for sharing, Deb. There is little more important today in our country in terms of sharing the Gospel and living healthy lives than understanding what you wrote. I was blessed by the Sunday sermon on Eph 6 and spiritual warfare. Our pastor did a great job of clarifying that the posture Paul is calling us to, the posture of “Standing firm” is not a hostile posture. It is a posture of maintaining that which God has given us. Verse 12, he pointed out, emphasizes that our battle is not against other people, but against spiritual forces. Your “But God” points in the same direction. When we as Christians (or evangelicals) take political stances in a way that creates hostility or speaks with disrespect and depreciation of others, we create barriers for people coming to Christ. If we use Christ’s name to wave banners of disrespect and depreciation, we may find ourselves taking the Lord’s name in vain. In that case, we find ourselves going against one of the ten commandments and against the Lord’s prayer. Worse, we create hostility to Christ and come under his condemnation. He takes His Name very seriously and we must do the same.
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Thank you, Dave.
Truly beautiful quote…and how much we all need to give and receive grace!
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We do. Thank you, Elaine.