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By Doug Fortune
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There are three kinds of grace that operate in the life of every believer—saving grace, sanctifying grace and serving grace. All three come from God and are essential for the Christian life and for end-time service in the kingdom of God.
Saving grace comes to you when you first hear the gospel and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. In Ephesians 2 and verse 8, the apostle Paul writes: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…."
We can't get saved by being "good," because none of us are "good" enough to earn our way into Heaven. We are saved by grace through faith—not by our charitable giving or by our good deeds toward humanity. It's a gift—all we have to do is receive it and walk in it.
Do you remember what happened when God's grace first came toward you? All of a sudden there came a drawing to the things of God. When people were talking about the Lord or when you heard a preacher on television, it began to capture your interest. God was arranging things to make you aware that He was trying to get your attention. You were experiencing the beginning touch of God's saving grace coming toward you. God was saying, "I'm drawing you because I want to be a part of your life."
Finney Encounters God's Saving Grace
When God's saving grace began to draw Charles Finney to the place of salvation, he started reading his Bible secretly. Mr. Finney was a successful lawyer. He was known around town as someone who only went to church for social and economic reasons. When a certain group of church members began praying for him and confronting him about receiving salvation, he quickly put them in their place.
"One reason I don't want to become what you are," Finney responded, "is because you've been praying for revival for years and God has not answered you. That leads me to believe that God is either dead, deaf or He doesn't like you!"
Finney had a sharp mind. When he saw that many of his law books made reference to the law of Moses, he went out and bought a Bible to make his law library more complete. He didn't know that God's saving grace was beginning to draw him to the place of salvation.
Finney was too embarrassed to let anyone see him read his Bible, so he would lock the door of his office. If he heard footsteps coming down the wooden walkway, which led up to his door, he'd throw his Bible down and quickly place his law books on top of it so no one would know what he was doing.
Finally, Finney couldn't take it anymore. One day, as he was walking toward his law office, he decided to continue on. He walked into some woods on the edge of town and knelt down between two fallen trees and said, "God, I'm not going to leave this place until I find out if you're real or not." When he came out of the woods several hours later, he was a completely different man. When he walked back to his office, one of his clients was standing there.
"Mr. Finney," the man said, "I've been waiting for you all day. Where have you been?"
"I've laid my law-books down today," Finny said, "I will never plead man's case before man again; I will plead man's case before God hereafter, forever!"
Finney was gloriously converted that day and he went on to become one of the world's greatest evangelists. Eighty-five percent of Finney's converts were known to stay true to the Lord! Now that's God's saving grace, folks!
The second kind of grace that God gives us is sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is what comes to you after you've been born again. It comes to help you work out all the things in your life that aren't Christ-like.
Old time Pentecostals used to argue a lot about sanctification. Half the time they didn't even know what sanctification was! Saving grace is God's grace coming toward you. Sanctifying grace is God's grace working in you.
God's sanctifying grace works on the inside to purify the thoughts and intents of your heart. It comes to you when your mouth is not right, your morals are not right, your money life is not right or when your relationships are not right. God sends His sanctifying grace to help you mature into Christlikeness (John 17:17).
Concerning sanctifying grace, the author of the book of Hebrews writes:
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. Hebrews 12:15-16 (KJV)
If you inwardly rebel against God's sanctifying grace, you'll begin to get bitter. If you continue to resist God's sanctifying grace, that bitterness will eventually "spring up" and defile others through bad attitudes, fornication or other outward manifestations of inward rebellion.
When God's sanctifying grace begins to come toward you, you'll turn on the television or the radio and hear a preacher preaching on a certain sin or weakness and it will suddenly capture your attention. When you pick up a magazine, it will be talking about that same thing. When you walk down the street, you'll hear people having a conversation about that same subject.
Everywhere you turn it will seem like God is talking to you about dealing with that same sin or character flaw. It may even come up in your mind and spirit a whole lot. That's a sign that God's grace is coming to help sanctify you. Don't ignore that stirring! Recognize that God wants to deal with you and help you get your life cleaned up.
There is a vast difference between conviction and condemnation; conviction comes from God and condemnation comes from the devil. Conviction draws your attention to a sin or error in your life that needs to be changed and it shows you the way out. Condemnation will throw all of your sins and shortcomings in your face and tell you that there is no more hope for you. God's sanctifying grace brings conviction and then empowers you to change and become more like Christ.
The third kind of grace that God sends us is serving grace. Everyone likes serving grace because it provides the power to minister effectively to others. Saving grace comes to you, sanctifying grace works in you and serving grace flows through you to make Jesus real to the world.
How do we get serving grace to activate? By faith! (Eph 2:8) For example: let's say that you know that God has called you to preach, sing or be an usher, but you don't know how to "flow" in it yet. What do you do? You start by faith! You get up and you begin to do it even though you're not proficient in it yet!
I remember hearing one of my pastor friends talk about the first time he started preaching. He started as a Sunday school teacher. During his first message he brought lots of notes to teach from because he didn't quite have that serving grace working in him yet. He said that when he stood up to speak, he was through with his notes in only a few minutes. He didn't know what to do so he stuttered and stammered and read a few paragraphs from the church quarterly. The following week the same thing happened. What was he doing? By faith, he was beginning to activate the serving grace of God that was in him. He said, "I remember the day when God's serving grace "kicked in." From that time on, all fear lifted, and I began to flow in my gift and anointing." He tapped into God's serving grace by raw faith.
If you feel called to serve as an usher, teach the Bible or lead worship, you have to start by faith and put God's serving grace to work. Don't sit there and say, "I'm waiting for the right time." That's just fear talking to you. When you're in fear, you will never move. You have to "prime the pump" and stir up your gift by getting involved. It starts out kind of "dry" sometimes, but eventually it will begin to flow like a river!
God has given every one of us graces to serve with, but some of those graces are stuck inside and held captive because you're waiting for everything to be "just right." Things will never be "just right." According to heaven, as soon as God's serving grace comes to you, you're ready to begin to move in it. All you have to do is step into it by faith. As you keep walking, the grace of God will get stronger and stronger in your life. Break your fear barrier today and begin to activate God's serving grace!