Recently I added a few posts on @hint.holler that mentioned God's grace. The engagement with these posts on Instagram took off. My phone started blinking awake with notifications all through the night and I ended up banishing it outside my room until I could check them in the morning.
It was a curious experience for this IG novice and I wondered what it was that had so struck a chord with people. It clearly wasn't my stunning graphic design skills or photos of domestic wins, as I had simply added black text to a blank background.
After mulling over this for a few days, I concluded the answer lies simply in our great need for grace. We find it difficult to comprehend and live with. For all the self-motivating messages of empowerment and strength we are infused with in our culture, when we are alone with ourselves we are often awash with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.
And that's because, if we're honest, we are insecure and inadequate. We are imperfect and incomplete. Yet, that is the beauty of the gospel message.
"For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will -- to the praise of his glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves [Jesus]." - Ephesians 1:4-6 (NIV)
What is so curious about grace is not so much how elusive it seems, but how freely it is given. Grace is not a human construct. It isn't something we can conjure up to patch our fear of imperfection. Instead, it is the result of God's unearned and everlasting love for us.
"He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." - 2 Timothy 1:9-11
At the inception of humanity we were already wired to live from a place of grace. That means God's grace was upon us from the very start. If it wasn't, we have no hope of a relationship where we can walk with Him and hear His voice.
GRACE OPENS THE EAR TO HEAR
We so often struggle to hear from God because we let those insecurities and inadequacy convince us we can't, or won't, hear from Him. As if, somehow God waits until we are holy before He will speak to us (how's that working out for you?).
But to grow in your ability to hear from God, I believe you need to have a revelation of grace. This is because you need to accept that it has nothing to do with what you have done, but what He has done and wants to do.
Why is our understanding of grace so important for us to confidently hear from God? It is because it is by God's grace that we can hear from Him in the first place. Here are a few things I have learned as this revelation has unfolded in my own life.
grace is found in God's self-revelation
It is impossible for us to know God except that He chooses to reveal himself to us. What we can know about Him is only from what He has made known. We don't seem to deserve to and we definitely can not earn it and yet, He chooses to reveal His heart and will to us. Whether it is in a dream, through a messenger, or by His Holy Spirit, God's self-revelation is an act of grace.
When we place self-imposed conditions on our ability to hear from God, e.g. how often you go to church, how much you read the bible, how long you pray for or any other who, what, where, when and how rules, we forget it is "not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." (note: all of these activities are important only if they foster relationship not religion). I should have figured this out a long time ago, but for some reason I just didn't. If I had, perhaps I would not have been so anxious or strived so much in my longing to hear God's voice.
Ultimately, there is no greater proof that God wants to reveal Himself to you than through the appearance of Jesus, walking and talking with the likes of you and me. "this grace... has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus." It is on the Cross that we see God's grace revealed in Jesus Christ in unexpected ways.
grace shuts the door on sin
For a long time my concept of grace was only in relation to sin. After all, it is when I am convinced of my failings and pride (it seemed to me that I just had to blink and there was something to confess!), that I am confronted with my great need for grace to be forgiven.
Yet, because of God's grace we discover:
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." - Ephesians 1:6
It was on the cross that grace shut the door to sin. Our awareness of our sin no longer provides a reason or excuse for us not to draw near to God. In fact, that is exactly what He encourages us to do. Like any healthy relationship, humility and confession are important for honest two-way conversations. It also becomes the reference point for the encouragement and wisdom God has to share with you.
For many years what prevented me from hearing from God was my dread of what He would say. But over time, when I did eventually turn to Him I discovered rather than a royal telling off, He always had a real word of encouragement. (Sometimes I would try and point out to Him why He shouldn't be talking to me like that and then He did rebuke me for not letting Him encourage me!)
Maybe this has been a sticking point for you when it comes to hearing God's voice for yourself. If you are preoccupied with your sin, then perhaps you have not fully comprehended the work of your Saviour.
When we accept this gift of grace, shame no longer has the power to restrain us from turning to God or undermine our ability to hear from Him. Not only will you hear the good news that He has saved you from your sins, but an encounter with grace empowers us to live differently too.
grace empowers us to live a life of love
In more recent years, God has shown me that His grace is much richer and deeper than just forgiving my indiscretions. God's grace is not just the cancelling out of our wrongdoing. It confers a value and dignity upon us purely because of His desire to give us life. God's grace is infused with His love.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advances for us to do." - Ephesians 2:8-10
We see this love demonstrated in Jesus' death and resurrection, but also in the giving of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul used the Greek word charisma, meaning "favor freely given" or "gift of grace", to refer to the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gives to believers (you can read about them in 1 Corinthians, Romans & Ephesians).
These gifts, graciously and freely given to us, are to be used to show God's grace to others. They are all used to bless and encourage other people, including being able to receive and share a message from God. For example:
+ gift of wisdom
+ gift of word of knowledge
+ gift of prophecy
When you have a revelation of God's grace it empowers you to live a life of love. With this as our reference point, we can expect to hear from Him because of His desire to love others through us. It may even be as simple as sensing the Holy Spirit direct you to check in on someone or nudging you to offer to encourage a stranger. As you grow in grace you will grow in love and the Holy Spirit will empower you to love others with supernatural gifts.
"Grace must find expression in life, otherwise it is not grace.” Karl Barth, Theologian
grace makes room for mistakes
Our ability to discern God's voice comes with maturity and time - and lots of mistakes. All of this requires grace. We need to have an appreciation that God is coaching us with great patience and understanding. His grace is upon us so we can grow through taking risks and giving it a go.
We tune in.
We make mistakes.
We have faith.
We get it wrong.
We get it right.
We try again.
God's grace makes room for mistakes. It is the only way we start to learn the nuances, or hints, that indicate it is the Holy Spirit speaking and not last nights' cheese platter. Mistakes allow us to determine what is us and what is Him. We begin to recognise His 'voice' and act more quickly to respond accordingly.
Mistakes allow us to be critical of our own habits and motives that might result in biased interpretation rather than a true word from God. Sometimes God has used my mistakes to shape my character; he's shown me where pride tripped me up, my ego made assumptions, or my prejudice was in play. When He humbles me like this I can be stripped of these traits and reset my bias towards love.
Hearing from God requires a revelation and acceptance of grace to appreciate God's desire to reveal Himself to us. When my understanding on grace only applies to sin, I get stuck there -- and I get frustrated. Thanks to God's patient work in me, I have discovered grace goes much further than that.
It is rich with love, hope, and power!
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." - Ephesians 2:4-7
Paul wrote Ephesians gripped with a revelation of grace drenched with love.
If you want to deepen your relationship God and talk with Him, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fresh revelation of His glorious grace.
As you do, I pray you will encounter something special and come alive as God's grace takes hold of you!
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How does your understanding of God's grace affect how you hear Him?