Grace was one of the central aspects of discipleship that I emphasized early in my blogging on making disciples (see posts beginning 11/18/10). I want to come back to that subject with a new perspective as it relates to our discipleship.
In spiritual formation, three questions are central: (1) How have you experienced grace in the past? (2) How are you experiencing grace in the present? (3) How will you experience grace in the future? These questions find expression in three distinct dimensions that relate to how we live out our discipleship.
The grace we have experienced in the past is focused by spiritual reflection. While I did not initially interpret what I was doing in my earlier blogs on baseball and my life as a Little Leaguer, the underlying result on my focus on past experiences was a discovery of the grace that has been a part of each epoch in my life. My reflections focused for me the experiences of grace that came to me through my cousin, my Little League coach, my mother, the Little League team I coached, the family whose ministry needs focused my pastor-coach tensions, and the coach-teacher in high school who gave me a greater sense of my unique gifts. The grace in being chosen for a team, in dealing with rules and making errors, in not achieving my all-star dreams, in losing the big game, and so many more experiences reveal aspects of grace that are important in the way I understand and handle my past.
Grace is not just an experience of the past; it is present and future. The grace we experience in the present is focused by spiritual practices. The spiritual reflection I have just referenced is a spiritual practice. Bible study (both individual and corporate), blessings at meals, prayer, serving on church committees, volunteering for the free medical clinic, and even blogging are just a few of the spiritual practices that I am discovering can open avenues of grace in my daily life. This is a new way of thinking for me and one I will be exploring more deeply.
The entire programme outlined in my Making Disciples chart that directs attention toward faith formation is a way of discovering how we can experience grace in the future. Setting our goal on Christlikeness is a task that is undergirded by grace. We will never reach that goal, but we must continue to strive individually and together as a community of disciples for that grace and goal. The chart reminds us of God’s initiative of grace, our response to that initiative, and the ways in which the practice of loving God and neighbor beckon us toward the grace inherent in becoming disciples, servants, and a Christlike people engaged in witness, ministry, fellowship, mission, and service.
Grace in the past, grace in the present, and the invitation to grace in the future are the driving forces of being a disciple of Jesus, making disciples of ourselves and others, and becoming like our Master-Teacher-Example-Lord. Grace, grace, marvelous grace; wonderful, infinite, matchless grace—we can never have too much of it.