One MCS - Annual Conference Highlights

The grace to carry your cross

Jul 2009    

SURRENDER & OBEDIENCE

“Grace is all God’s work … However, the Christian life is not all about God’s work. When God acts, He expects a response. God’s grace and our works go together. The old-fashioned words here are surrender and obedience.”

AT THE END of one Good Friday service, a woman approached me. She was polite but I sensed that she was unhappy as she thanked me for the sermon and then said, “I wish that you had also touched on the grace to carry the cross.”

During that sermon on Luke 9:23, I had mentioned that Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. That means giving up something we like so that another person is blessed. Ear-lier I had also said that in some Christian circles the words “disciple” and “cross” are not in their vocabulary. Theirs is an easy form of Christianity.

Grace is all God’s work. Once we inject an element where we can earn it, then grace ceases. However, the Christian life is not all about God’s work. When God acts, He expects a response. In other words, God’s grace and our works go together. The old-fashioned words here are surrender and obedience.

Our response to God is similar to His grace towards us – we give (to Him, and to others) in the same way He has given to us. Grace is not all about receiving from God, a notion that prevails nowa-days. From God’s perspective, grace is what He gives. We are in Christ, so we exercise grace by giving.

The most difficult part about giving is the “up” part. Money is the easier part of giving. We do not like to give up what is closest, most comfortable, and pleasurable in our lives, including the giving up of ourselves. But when we do, that is grace at work.

When we give up something in carry-ing our cross, we may think we have suf-fered a loss. Nothing can be further from the truth. Paul says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up us for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NIV).

Whatever grace we release, there is more available from the God of Grace Himself. But until we actually surrender and in obedience carry our cross, we will never know the grace to carry the cross. Grace is not just what we receive before we carry our cross; grace is also the act of giving up of ourselves in carrying our cross. When we do, the power of grace is supplied to us.

The Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup is the President of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC).

WHAT SPIRITUALITY MEANS TO ME

‘My journey of learning to love God’

CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY is, to me, the process and outcome of growing in my relationship with God which begins when I accept Him as my personal Lord and Saviour.

It is a process in that it is ongoing – a “daily” taking up of my cross which is only completed when my life on earth is ended. It is also the final outcome of my relationship with God – the goal of becoming like Him, Who is spirit [John 4:24], and having my character trans-formed to His likeness.

In other words, Christian spirituality is my life-long journey of learning to love God and obeying Him until I become like my Saviour and Lord in loving God with all my heart, soul and mind and loving others like myself.

This journey will not be possible without the work of the Holy Spirit who “lives in me and will be in me”. [John 14:17] On my own, I will tend not to desire what God desires. In my redeemed but still fallen state, my natural inclina-tion is to choose the way of comfort and ease. But it is the Spirit of truth dwelling in me who will convict me “of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment”[John 16:8], who will remind me of what God says to me in His word and prompt me to obey Him.

At the same time, spirituality is also a choice I make. I have to decide to choose to “know and grow” in my daily relation-ship with Christ by giving priority to reading His word, understanding it and applying it to the “messiness of human relationships”.

I have to make a conscious decision to keep my communication with the Holy Spirit clear through confessing my sins, and my union with Him close by regular thanksgiving and petitions. It is also up to me to choose to surrender my will to the Holy Spirit’s will.

This ongoing process of choosing to know God and obeying Him is not easy. The journey of growing in my relation-ship with Him involves “quantities of sweat and weariness”. But, as Gary Thomas puts it so candidly in his latest book, Holy Available, [p. 199]: “I’ve come to realise that when I refuse to face the pain of transformation, eventually I must endure the misery of my immaturity.”

So, my fellow Methodists, Christian spirituality inevitably involves tough choices to obey God rather than self. However, “the pain is a good pain, the difficult journey is a good journey, and the beautiful fight is still a beautiful fight” [ibid, p. 209], because God is using this wonderful, costly process to mould us into the perfect persons He created us to be.

The Rev See Ping Eik is the Pastor-in-Charge of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

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