Four kinds of grace every leader needs

By grace and grace alone

Grace: What a sublime and incredible cornerstone doctrine that we lean into as Christians (Ephesians 2:8,9.)  One of my current favorite songs is,“Grace Alone” which you can find on iTunes.

Here are a few of the words from that song:

So I’ll stand in faith by grace and grace alone
I will run the race by grace and grace alone
I will slay my sin by grace and grace alone
I will reach the end by grace and grace alone

As I have been thinking about the wonderful doctrine of grace recently, it occurred to me that leaders need to experience God’s amazing grace in four ways.

1.  Saving grace

It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway!) that the first step in being a Christian leader is to truly be a Christian. There are, alas, leaders in Christian ministry today who are “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.”  Paul warns of these so-called leaders over and over in his letters (see Acts 20:29,30 as well see Jude 3-16 & 2 Peter chapter 2). There are leaders in his church who are seemingly moralistic and virtuous, but who do not know Christ personally and do operate in the power of grace.

In some churches men are selected to be elders/leaders who are successful in business, well liked in the community, and have charming and winsome personalities, but who don’t carry the aroma of Christ. I’m not trying to be judgmental, just trying to be honest. The greatest message in the Bible was given to a seemingly righteous and religious leader (Nicodemus) in John 3; a leader to whom Jesus said, “You must be born again.” We must be born again by the Spirit of God and it is a work of grace and grace alone!

2.  Sanctifying grace

Once we are saved by grace and grace alone, the next grace we deeply and desperately need is sanctifying grace. We need to “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as Peter admonishes us in 2 Peter 3:18. Growing and maturing in grace necessitates that we are in genuine community with other brothers and sisters and that we also develop a few habits of the heart by way of spiritual disciplines which will, over time, produce genuine fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) in our lives and ministry.

Jesus clearly equates maturity with abiding in him and his Word in John 15. Knowledge and information should lead to transformation. The real mark of sanctifying grace is not a matter of how much we know, but how much we grow. Today, with the proliferation of posts, blogs, websites, podcasts,  vodcasts, TV and radio, many leaders are becoming information junkies and have made information and knowledge an end in itself rather than a pathway to transformation, becoming more like our wonderful Savior. We need to be sanctified by His Word, as Jesus prayed for his disciples in John 17:19.

3.  Overcoming grace

There are too many leaders who are in bondage to “…sin which clings so closely…” referenced in Hebrews 12:1(ESV)–the kind of sin which holds us down and holds us back from experiencing God’s grace in its fullness in our lives. When one reads of the number of pastors who are addicted to pornography, drink or drugs, it’s downright frightening. Romans 6 makes it abundantly clear that God is a delivering God who desires to have us experience freedom from sin’s power. It would appear from my vantage point that many leaders have given up on the idea of living in victory and have capitulated to the Liar and enemy of our souls. I love Romans 6:12,13 in The Message,

“That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life.  Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things.”

That’s it…remembering we are raised to life through the powerful message of the Gospel; a new way of life empowered by God’s Holy Spirit!

4.  Anointing grace

So we are saved by grace and grace alone. Gods plan and desire is that we grow in that grace as we experience community and consistently practice holy habits of the heart. Additionally, He wants us to trust his “Amazing Grace” to overcome habitual sin and experience deliverance from the power of sin in our lives.

All of this sets us up for seeing his anointing grace on the leadership responsibilities He has for us. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of the “business as usual” saying: “Well, this is what we are expecting to see happen this year.” Away with that type of thinking! What does God want to see happen?  What is he expecting? Oh, to see his anointing hand in what He is leading us to do and to trust him for.

A number of years ago, I was at a Billy Graham crusade in San Diego and listened to Grady Wilson (a Graham associate evangelist) speak at a local church. During a Q&A session he was asked how Billy Graham stayed humble for all those years. I’ll never forget Grady’s response. He said that when the team first formed they made a deal with Billy that if God would keep him anointed, they would keep him humble. God’s anointing and a few good friends to keep us humble; wow, what a powerful combination.

Oh to experience God’s obvious anointing on my life. I believe there is a big difference between me being at work and Jesus being at work.  I long to see his fingerprints all over what he is leading and empowering me to do…otherwise, what’s the point!