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Just as there is the need of the ‘proof of life’,[1] which is that the life of Christ is in you and you are living the life of Christ, so too there must come a time and place where there is the evidence of God’s grace in your life.

When he, Barnabas, arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.[2] What prompted Luke to write this verse was that there was as a result of the persecution of Stephen, the scattering of the disciples, some of them… went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.[3] As a result, when Barnabas arrived there, he saw the evidence of God’s grace; saw and heard of Greeks giving their lives to Jesus and being saved, and he saw the formation of a church. Unfortunately, there is not much else that he saw recorded for us.

As the elect of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Grace, there must be an ‘evidence of grace’ for those who come in to see, and as such, there must not only be the evidence of God’s saving grace, but of God’s refining grace and His perfecting grace. When the Gospel of Jesus is preached, there is manifested the saving grace of Grace as the Holy Spirit convicts sinners and draws them to repentance and faith in Christ. And this faith is being made more certain as He works with those who preach the Gospel, confirming them with signs, wonders and miracles.[4] However, if there are no new people being saved when the message has been preached, then where is the evidence of saving grace? As the basic and most fundamental level of our functioning, regardless of what denomination, traditions or doctrines you hold to, there is no value to the existence of any fellowship or church if the message we preach does not cause people to repent and believe so that the saving grace of God is always manifested. It is a timely place to look at the core reason for our testifying and witnessing of Jesus Christ: It is that men everywhere might repent, believe and be saved for the glory of His Name. As such, even if we are standing at the Mount of Olives before Jesus is in our view, we must still preach His Gospel so that those who can hear might still repent and believe, for salvation comes first by grace through faith and faith is destroyed once it is fulfilled. So, when Jesus arrives, there is no longer salvation by grace through faith, but only by works through truth, for every eye will have seen Him and not only seen Him as the first disciples did, but will have seen Him in the fullness of His glory and the glory of the Father and His holy angels.

As such, lest we think too highly of ourselves, and we can and we will, for that is the temptation of perfection, the same perfection that brought Satan down as his perfection caused pride to swell in him, always remember that even when perfecting grace has made Grace perfect in your life and your words and actions, the evidence of that Grace must always be seen in the accompanying manifestation of saving grace in the lives of people who come to hear your message and see you, and that saving grace does not manifest unless there is repentance first and then faith. As such, again to remind you, the gospel of the false prophet is always, “Believe, believe and believe,” without the need for continuous, unceasing repentance.

What then is the evidence of refining grace? It is the evidence of unceasing, excessive submission to Him and His words, which also means a continuous, unceasing practice of His word that begins with unceasing listening and unceasing attempts of doing what He told us to do, beginning with repentance and faith always. In our practice, as you have and must now come to realise, you will make mistakes, you will err and you will fail more often than you succeed. As such, the evidence of refining grace, just like the evidence of saving grace, is the testimony. For testimony is always the first evidence of a life witness. Just as those who have received and are manifesting the saving grace of Jesus will have testimony of their salvation experiences, whether dramatic, or as some incorrectly call it, ordinary, so those who have evidence of the refining grace of discipleship, have testimony, testimony of their arduous practice of the word of God and the accompanying sister of Grace, Humility. The humility to readily admit where they have been wrong and humility to admit how slow they were to understand, and of what little faith they had, so that time and again, this rebuke could apply to them: “O, unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”[5]

Indeed, the first evidence of refining grace is not the testimony of success, but rather, the testimony of failure, so great and so often that you test the patience of the Lord and join with Paul in saying, “What a wretched man (woman) I am!”[6] For discipleship is firstly disciplined fellowship with the Lord as you listen to His words and put them into practice, sometimes succeeding just like the twelve did when the Lord first sent them out,[7] but more often failing.[8] But learn from the disciples; when we fail, do not argue but repent and once more put your shoulder to the plough. Thus the evidence of refining grace is heard in the testimony of those who have subjected themselves to paying the price of discipleship. However, the evidence of Grace is heard in a truthful testimony of both success and failures without arguments, just deep soul searching repentance that keeps you with Paul who is the apostle with the Gospel of Grace, and you can humbly say, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the Law of the Spirit of Life set me free from the Law of Sin and Death.”[9] For we no longer sin as one who is overcome and mastered by sin, but if we do sin, it is because we failed to overcome and master the sin that crouches at our door, and we repent to the truth that we have sinned and not lie to God as Cain did when asked, “Where is your brother Abel?” It would have been better if Cain had replied, “I have killed him,” instead of, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”[10] For when he asked that question of the Lord, he had actually challenged the Lord to an argument, a debate as to whether he was his brother’s keeper.

So the evidence of refining grace in each of you must be manifested, even as perfecting grace gives you ever increasing success, in a testimony filled with all the times you did not do things you should have done, and the things you should have done you did not do, to paraphrase Paul.[11] And exactly what is it that we should or should not do as disciples? Just as all sinners should repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all disciples should do what Jesus said they are to do, which is to put His words that they hear into practice and to do the things that He had been doing and even the greater things. I trust you now know the things we ought to do have nothing to do with the partial upholding of the Mosaic Law as recommended by James the Younger, which brings a curse to all who listen to him. The curse is of course the curse of partial observance of the Law.[12]

For this reason, I boast about my weaknesses and your weaknesses, where we did not succeed in our practice, where we did not recognise the voice of the Holy Spirit correctly, and when we did hear, we still chose to disregard His voice, and the awful consequences of that failure, which is really no failure for we practised if we repented. And in the midst of all the work and the trials, that is, the effort we made to succeed, are the stories of triumph and success that encourage one another to try again.

Aside from your testimony, which is laced with stories of your major failures as well as gems of your success; refining grace is also displayed in your attitude, for after awhile you will acquire the attitude of a veteran’s campaign that has been fought hard and long. Gone are the youthful boasts of “bring it on,” but in its place a quiet seriousness, yet a restful confidence that the task is impossible, but with God all things are possible. So, like veterans of earthly wars, you develop a healthy respect of the enemy and a quiet discipline in your life to know that it is not the past successes that count on the day of battle, but the success of that day that matters. Even as your mind thinks of the success, your heart is keenly aware of the price paid for the success, which places in you a behaviour and the stature of one who knows to be prudent and keep silent, yet when the time is right, let out the God Almighty shout that brings down the walls of Jericho. Forty years of discipline in the desert, which had told the second generation of Israelites to obey God exactly, was more important than espousing their own judgements and opinions on any matter as their forefathers had done. As such, in your speech, refining grace erases all argumentativeness from your speech, leaving a holy silence that declares you know the Lord is God. Even the way you move yourself, walk, or lay hands, begins to assume a stature of maturity so that even the demons know that you have been discipled by the Holy One of Israel, and that failure generates repentance from you and success produces humility.

However, refining grace does not only produce an evidence seen in your life, but it produces evidence that is seen in the life of the fellowship, for the purpose of discipleship includes the production of one and ones who love one another as Christ loved them. What should be evident to all who come in is the presence of love for one another that is gracious, a graciousness that sets each and everyone free to follow Jesus in the way Jesus wants them to follow Him, again without question and without arguments. If you have the grace to befriend all, befriend all. If you have the grace to be alone in your solitude with Christ to the apparent forsaking of one or all, then so be it, for God is merely testing each of us using iron to sharpen iron as it were, or as He said to Jeremiah, making each of us a tester of metal and we are the ores.[13]

It is the graciousness to permit one another to develop and manifest into the fullness of the stature that Christ has in mind as we watch and pray for one another. If one corrects another, then it must be done and received with the same refining grace, at times fiery and hard yet always having the cooling presence of the River of Life so that both are strengthened in their fellowship with the Lord and then with one another. Indeed, the Lord has said, “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”[14] So, why should it surprise you that He will have someone appear to be like an enemy to you, your fellow elect, if it is not to buffet you like a thorn in the flesh that allows the sufficiency of His grace to be manifested, and His words, “My power is made perfect in weakness,”[15] proved true.

Unless there is a fellowship of disciples, there can be no evidence of refining grace, only saving grace. But if the Gospel is not preached, then how can even saving grace be evident in any fellowship? In the absence of Grace, the void is filled by rules upon rules, do upon do, and that is exactly what you see in fellowships where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no longer preached with all desperation and earnestness for the salvation of souls. In those who are confident of their richness as measured by the yardstick of the world, they are more than glad to live in peace with those who do not yet know the Gospel, willingly withholding the soul-saving Gospel lest they offend. And they wonder why there is little grace evident in their lives, just rules upon rules, do upon do, words upon words, until the whole thing falls on them like some white-washed wall for not a single blind man sees, no lame walk, no deaf hear, no lepers are cleansed, and the Good News is only given to the rich and not to the poor.

As such, if one of the apostles of old were to come as Barnabas went to Antioch, would he see the evidence of grace in our midst? And for us, it is not only saving grace that is to be amongst the evidence that we present, but refining grace. And if we have not refining grace to offer as evidence that we have been journeying on the road of discipleship, each carrying our cross as we follow Jesus, then how can there be evidence of perfecting grace for the Overcomer Himself to see when He comes once more into our midst as His feet touch the soil on the Mount of Olives and splits it in two?

James said, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”[16] But, we would rather say, “Examine for yourselves the evidence of Grace in our midst.” In all humility, I submit that I am not yet able to teach you what is the evidence of perfecting grace, for you are not yet able to bear up under its demands. AMEN


 

[1] http://www.holyspiritsworkshop.com/word2006/13.05.2006_HarderTeachingsI.pdf

[2] Acts 11:23

[3] Acts 11:20-21

[4] Mark 16:20

[5] Mark 9:19

[6] Romans 7:24

[7] Matthew 10

[8] Matthew 17:17

[9] Romans 8:1-2

[10] Genesis 4:9

[11] Romans 7:15

[12]Galatians 3:10 

[13] Jeremiah 6:27

[14] Matthew 10:36

[15] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[16] James 2:18

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