Monday, January 30, 2017

Ordained Personal Relationships: Grace Joints

Ordained Personal Relationships: Grace Joints
Ordained Personal Relationships
Touching life together through personal relationships is the heart of God’s kingdom. He joins or connects people together in relationship with him and with each other as it pleases him. “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as he desired” (1 Corinthians 12:18). He draws people to himself by his Spirit and connects people together by his Spirit. Men want to limit relationships by doctrine, denominations and local congregations, but there are no such limitations in the spirit. Both divine connections and divine assignments are used in fulfilling God’s purpose for building personal relationships. This study shows that God builds his kingdom on ordained relationships by grace. It examines how to build and sustain meaningful relationships with grace.

Introducing Grace Joints

The power of God is embodied in his Spirit, who is called the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29). Grace can be defined as the active power or energy of the Spirit operating through a believer. God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38). Humble people are in a position to receive grace from the Lord for he gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). If believers humble themselves, Christ will be exalted in them. Christ is manifested in the lives of believers through the work of the Spirit. Humility is an attitude about God rather than an attitude about oneself. Humility recognizes God’s authority and depends on it. Humility takes God’s perspectives and adopts God’s ways.

In God’s kingdom people are supernaturally joined together through ordained relationships by grace. We call these ordained relationships grace joints, because they are built and sustained with God’s grace. The body of Christ is knit together by what every joint supplies (Ephesians 4:16). These joints are believers whom God supernaturally connects. When each joint works properly, God increases the body of Christ in love. Grace joints are important in the kingdom, because growth only occurs at the joints: Christ uses joints and ligaments to hold his body together, as God causes it to grow (Colossians 2:19). God’s growth is only on grace joints, so any growth plan which does not focus on joints is ineffective.

The relationship between Jonathan and David is one of the best known and most powerful personal relationships described in the word of God. Jonathan was the crown prince and next in line to be king of Israel, but the Lord had anointed David to be king. It appeared Jonathan and David would be on different sides in a power struggle, but God joined their hearts together after Jonathan heard David speak about his faith and trust in God (1 Samuel 18:1-3). Jonathan stripped himself of his robe and armor and gave them to David (1 Samuel 18:4). This gesture showed Jonathan greatly honored and respected David, and now we understand it symbolized his right to ascend the throne was being transferred to David.

As believers step into the world and spend time with the lost, they can touch them with God’s love and grace. As their hearts are opened, the possibility of sharing the word of God with them will increase. The opportunity to share God’s love will flow effectively out of personal relationships. Many will respond to his love expressed through personal relationships and be saved. While Philip was in the midst of a great revival, God gave him a new assignment to reach one lost person. An angel told Philip to go south on the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza (Acts 8:26). As instructed he went down to the desert and saw a man from Ethiopia travelling in a chariot. The Spirit said, “Go up and join this chariot” (Acts 8:29). Philip ran up to the chariot and was able to share the gospel with the man and then baptized him in water.

God assigns you to build personal relationships with some people but not all those with whom you come in contact. You are responsible only for “those who are allotted to your charge” (1 Peter 5:3). It is very important to seek the Lord to determine whom God is assigning to you. Spiritual growth occurs with your unique allotment, not with the masses of people.

Growing Together in Grace

Other than a person’s relationship with God, the most important thing in life is mature, fulfilling personal relationships for that is where God promises his blessings. His blessings are poured out on his people who unite for a purpose (Psalm 133:1-3). He ordains such personal relationships for believers and gives them grace to operate in these relationships. When each party freely contributes grace to others in the relationship, all the parties benefit from the relationship. Operating in grace means that a person is led by the Spirit of grace, is strengthened by grace and contributes grace to others. Grace relationships or joints are supernatural relationships which make them stronger than natural ones. Even when difficulties arise in a grace relationship, the parties will not abandon the relationship but allow the Spirit of grace to reconcile them.

In God and by his grace, relationships become strong and meaningful. People need to walk together in relationships to discover their God-given purpose and fulfill destiny. Those who are pursuing purpose and destiny are on a journey. Adventure, risk and satisfaction from fulfillment are encountered on the journey. Each of those on the journey are called and equipped by God, but also have to be accompanied by others who have answered the call. They help each other with wise counsel and encouragement. Those who are further along on the journey can offer a helping hand to those who follow. Supportive relationships are needed for people to advance in their journey. “May you all continue the journey with your spirits strengthened by the grace of the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One” (Philippians 4:23 VOICE). Relationships with those on the journey help provide success and safety.

The word of God is filled with examples of great leaders who intentionally developed relationships with people to help them fulfill purpose and destiny. David was a shepherd before Samuel anointed him to be king, and Elisha was a farmer before Elijah called him. Peter, James and John were fishermen before Jesus called them, and they wanted to return to fishing after his death and resurrection. Jesus had to follow up with them after his resurrection in order for them to fulfill their purpose and destiny as apostles. Paul described himself as a father to Timothy and Titus, as well as others. He built lasting relationships with them and continued to communicate with them when he was not able to be with them. Paul recognized the role of grace in building relationships. “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). This section will help you understand how to have relationships God’s way.

Grace Reconciles Relationships

The reconciling force of grace is a fundamental force in building a strong relationship. Through the free gift of grace by Jesus Christ many are reconciled to God and made right with him. They can stand confidently in this relationship of grace, knowing that God is their Father and that he has glorious things for them. The heavenly realm becomes open and accessible to them. Believers are instructed to seek those things which are above (Colossians 3:1-2).  They have access to the throne of grace where they can obtain grace, as well as mercy and help (Hebrews 4:16). Thus believers can obtain more grace by spending time at the throne of grace in the presence of the Lord.

Lusts for the things of this world can damage relationships, but the things of this world become less important than eternal things when believers spend time in the Lord’s presence. Then the mundane things of this world become less important. As believers experience more of the heavenly realm, they will walk in greater power. Operating in God’s grace is evidence that a person has experienced the heavenly realm.

Grace Invites the Presence of the Spirit

It is possible to welcome and receive the Spirit of grace and then see him move into a situation. It is also possible to grieve the Spirit of grace and see him depart from a situation. When the Spirit has removed himself from a situation, the believer has two options, either to continue operating only with natural abilities or to follow the leading of the Spirit and leave. Continuing to operate only with natural abilities will make the situation worse, but following the Spirit will lead to peace and victory.

The Spirit of grace abides where there is peace, love, harmony and faith. Relationships flourish in this positive environment. On the other hand, fighting and arguing push the Spirit away. There is little or no grace to help strengthen relationships in such a negative environment. Maintain a positive, faith-filled environment in personal relationships to help them grow.

Grace Strengthens Believers

Believers will find that their natural abilities are inadequate to build strong relationships. Even when believers are weak, God’s grace is powerful. His grace is sufficient for power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). As long as believers function where they have grace, they will be able to build strong relationships, stand against attacks of the enemy and walk in victory. Use the grace you receive to strengthen others.

When pressures on personal relationships are the greatest, many temptations abound. In such cases believers need strengthening to withstand temptations. Grace strengthens believers to pursue ways of escape rather than yielding to temptations.

Grace Serves Others

Use grace in a way that will best serve others (1 Peter 4:10). You can serve others through gracious words and gracious actions by speaking and acting on the word of God. The words of a wise man are gracious and win him favor (Ecclesiastes 10:12 AMP). When believers operate in grace, they will know how to answer for the hope that is within them. They do not need to plan what to say. The Spirit will fill their mouth with the words of the Father (Matthew 10:18-20). Knowing what the Father would have a believer say in a particular situation is an operation of grace. The word of God is full of grace and truth (John 1:14), and it is even called the word of grace (Acts 14:3 and 20:32).

God’s grace supernaturally empowers and energizes believers to live a victorious life. As long as believers function in the area where they have grace, they will be successful. However, believers cannot effectively minister grace to others until they have received grace and operated in grace.

Grace Fashions the Future

The eyes of faith see the future, but it takes grace to build it. For all future time God will show the riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). When people look at current situations through natural eyes, they may see obstacles and impossibilities; but when they are strengthened with grace, they can see the possibilities. Look beyond present circumstances and begin to fashion the future for yourself and others by relying on grace to supernaturally overcome natural situations and change circumstances.

Implications for Spiritual Leaders

Leaders can build only on the true foundation of Jesus Christ with God’s grace. Paul wrote, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it” (1 Corinthians 3:10 NIV). The foundation was laid in grace, so those who build on the foundation are to build with grace. It takes the guidance of the Spirit of grace for a person to build with grace.

Leaders are often pressed to grow their ministries and congregations in order to increase their finances, influence and prestige. They may be tempted to grow their ministries using the plans of other leaders. You cannot import another person’s vision or plan for growth successfully. Do not base your plans on the success or failure of other people. It’s prideful for leaders to think they know a better way to grow than God’s way with grace and grace joints. The Spirit will give you a unique growth plan, building on true grace joints allotted to you. Be led by the Spirit! He knows what is best for you.

Carnally minded leaders will try to use every person they can to build their own ministries. But God may have a different purpose than building your ministry for some of the people around you. Using people to build your ministry when God has something else for them to do would be like your building with wood, hay and stubble that will burn up in the fire. “The fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). However, many leaders do not seek to know which relationships are of God. God wants his leaders to build on the grace joints which represent gold, silver and precious gems. Ask the Spirit who has been allotted to you as a grace joint and grow with these joints through God’s grace.

Personal Story on Grace Joints

Sherry and I learned about grace joints while we were teaching the word of God and ministering to children and adults in a nearby community. More people were coming to our services than could be seated in the little building in which we were holding services. We rented a larger building a few blocks away, thinking many of these same people would go with us. However, the Spirit said we were not joined with any of those people and that we could not build with them. We can build only on joints in the body of Christ. I argued with the Spirit, because we had led those people to the Lord and taught them the word of God. But I was wrong, and he was right. None of those people went with us to the larger building even though it was within walking distance from the small building. Our ministry grew but not with those people, because the Lord had not joined them with us. He had other joints for them, and they had to follow the Spirit to find their own joints. It takes the Spirit to reveal the ordained joints where spiritual building can occur.

Sherry and I pursue personal relationships with many of those people whom God places in our paths, while they are yet imperfect. We realize once they are perfected and have everything together they will have no need for us. We pursue relationships with those who may not be in a position to benefit us. In the beginning, friendship is the primary reason to pursue a relationship. However, many of our relationships mature into other areas. For example, some people ask us to provide oversight in their lives and hold them accountable.

We are always seeking the Lord about whom he has joined with us. When people come to us and ask to join themselves with us, we try to help them while we are seeking the Lord for direction. The Spirit will soon reveal whether he has joined them with us. Sometimes people claim to be joined with us when the Spirit says they are not. We help people when we can; if the Lord has not joined them with us our efforts may not be completely wasted, but these efforts are not as fruitful as working with those who have been joined with us. Sometimes the Spirit assigns us to work with people before they really understand anything about grace relationships. We work with them while we can and hope our relationship will grow.

Conclusions

God’s grace flows through relationships between God and believers and among believers. A relationship with God is a conduit for the flow of his grace. Humility enhances the flow of grace in relationships and results in blessings and growth.

Grace relationships are highly valued in the kingdom of God, because God uses them in his building. The growth of God occurs only on the grace joints. Life pulsating through relationships is the very heartbeat of the kingdom. The power and authority of the kingdom of God is in relationship.

Except for your relationship with God, the most important thing you can do in this life is to build strong personal relationships. Seek God’s grace and you will find it in abundance and be able to minister grace to others through personal relationships. As you give grace to others, you will receive more grace. Take advantage of opportunities to fellowship with others, because they can lead into new and/or stronger relationships. Be led by the Spirit in investing time and effort in personal relationships. Invest wisely in those relationships which lift up Jesus Christ in you and in others.


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