Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

Evidence Of Grace

For a number of months we began our weekly staff meeting at the church by asking the question, “Where have you seen the evidence of God’s grace in the church, or in your life, in the past week?”

Originally I intended that this question would spark a lively celebration of grace sightings among us. I envisioned each of us sitting around the table struggling to restrain ourselves, waiting for our turn to share the abundance of grace we had experienced throughout the past seven days.

But the reality of the experience was different than the vision.

Each week I would dutifully ask the question…and wait.

Crickets chirped in the distance. Nary a sound was heard.

 

At first I waited patiently, thinking it might take us a while to warm up to “another new idea from the preacher.” But after several weeks passed, I became embarrassed that we could not seem to be able to identify evidence of God’s grace in the midst of a church.

Maybe we were not looking for signs of grace. Maybe we were too busy to see grace all around us. Maybe we did not know what “evidence of God’s grace” looked like.

I am not sure what it was that caused us to struggle to see signs of God’s grace, but after a number of months, I stopped asking the question all together and we moved on with our meeting agenda.

But then one day in my devotional reading I came across this Scripture from Acts, chapter 11:

20 …They entered Antioch and began to proclaim the good news about the Lord Jesus also to Jews who spoke Greek. 21 The Lord’s power was with them, and a large number came to believe and turned to the Lord.

22 When the church in Jerusalem heard about this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw evidence of God’s grace, he was overjoyed and encouraged everyone to remain fully committed to the Lord.

(Acts 11:20b-23, Common English Bible)

This passage describes the Antioch revival—the coming of faith to the people of Antioch, through the preaching of “the good news about the Lord Jesus.”

The Bible describes it quite simply enough: the good news was proclaimed, the power of the Lord was present, a large number of people turned from their sins, turned to Jesus, and became believers.

The Word was announced. The Lord was at work. People had their lives changed. Faith was birthed.

Christianity in its earliest form seemed so simple. Declare the good news of Jesus. Get out of the way and let the Lord work. Watch as the good news drew people to faith in Jesus Christ.

When the good news about the success of the “good news” reached the home office in Jerusalem, the church sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on this new group of believers. When Barnabas arrived, the Bible says, he “saw evidence of God’s grace.”

There is something about that phrase that seems to arrest my attention whenever I read it.

What did Barnabas see?

What was the “evidence of God’s grace” in Antioch?

Why is it so hard for me to see “evidence of God’s grace” when I know in my heart that grace is all around me?

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch he was greeted by a brand new group of Christ followers. Evidence of grace was visible in their lives. First, Barnabas saw believers who had formed a community of faith despite their cultural differences. The church in Antioch was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Perhaps unity and harmony in the church are evidences of grace? Loving our brothers and sisters in the faith in spite of our differences, failures, and flaws, is evidence of God’s grace. Division, dissension, and disunity are signs of our lack of grace.

Barnabas also saw the evidence of grace in the changed lives of the Antioch Christians. The good news of Jesus Christ has life changing power, so much so it is evident in the lives, the demeanor, the words, and the actions of Christ followers.

I wrestle with that thought. I wonder if anyone can see evidence of Jesus’ life changing grace in me? I wonder if anyone can hear evidence of grace in the words I speak, or see evidence of grace in the way I live?

Years ago I heard someone say, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

I wonder if we were put on trial for being people of grace, if evidence could be brought against us?

When I try to imagine what evidence of grace looks like I keep coming back to Paul’s description of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians, chapter 5:

22 …The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

(Galatians 5:22-23a, Common English Bible)

The best test I know to check for evidence of grace in my life is to ask myself, “Do you see the fruit of the spirit reflected in your life—your thoughts, your words, and your actions?”

Often, my answer leaves much to be desired.

On a daily basis, the fruit of the spirit is lived out in a number of practical ways:

Pursue God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Mature in Christlikeness (1 Peter 2:2).

Be kind to others (Ephesians 4:32).

Restore relationships (Matthew 5:9).

Rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4).

Persevere through trials (James 1:2-3).

Suffer persecution for Christ (2 Timothy 3:10-11).

Delight in God’s commandments (Psalm 119:47).

Read, study, memorize, listen to and meditate on the Bible (Joshua 1:8).

Share your faith (2 Timothy 4:5).

Be patient with others (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Contribute to church unity (Ephesians 4:3).

Desire goodness (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Faithfully prioritize church (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Prefer others (Romans 12:10).

Surrender fully to Christ (Luke 9:23).

Act faithfully (Galatians 5:22).

Serve in the church (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Experience true peace (Galatians 5:22).

Be a committed marriage partner (Colossians 3:18-19).

Love God and others (Matthew 22:37-39).

Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).

Exercise self-control (Galatians 5:23).

Grow in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18).

Repent of known sin (Luke 13:5).

Develop biblical wisdom (Ephesians 5:15).

Examine yourself (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Practice hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Be humble (1 Peter 5:6).

Work hard with integrity (Colossians 3:23-24).

Act with gentleness (Galatians 5:23).

Listen more than you speak (James 1:19).

Want Christian fellowship (Acts 2:42).

Speak wholesome words (Colossians 4:6).

Encourage others (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Be an example for others (1 Timothy 4:12).

Forgive others (Mt. 6:12).

Hate evil (Romans 12:9).

Be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Support missionaries (3 John 1:7-8).

Engage in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:13).

Generous financial giving (2 Cor. 8:3-5).

Live hopefully (Hebrews 6:11).

Develop biblical convictions (James 4:17).

Commit to pure doctrine (Titus 2:1).

Desire God’s will (John 4:34).

Be thankful (Colossians 3:15).

Make spiritual things the top priority (Colossians 3:1-2).

Long for the Lord’s return (Revelation 22:20).

–author unknown

Barnabas saw evidence of God’s grace among the Antioch Christians. God’s grace is all around me, even at work within me…and in those I will encounter today…including you.

Will I open my spiritual eyes and see evidence of grace today?

Even more importantly…will you see evidence of grace in me today?

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