Well…in keeping with our vine, branch, and fruit imagery, I want to use the word RIPE to describe this idea. If you’ve ever been on the Walk to Emmaus spiritual retreat, (which I encourage all of you to do) you may have heard some version of this.
1.) The R stands for Restoring our relationship with God and others.
One of the results of our sinful nature is our fractured relationships – with God, other people, and ourselves. But through God’s grace, those relationships can become whole again…at least closer to being what God wants them to be.
Perhaps you’ve discovered in your own lives that, upon occasion, you and someone you’re very close to, get into an occasional argument. Not really an argument as much as a “spirited disagreement.” Yes, that sounds much better. And just maybe you’ve noticed that one of the characteristics about those arguments is how often the sin of pride makes an appearance.
I have found that, very often, the argument isn’t even about whatever it was originally. After a while, it becomes a turf war…with neither person wanting to give in. But in my own experience, it’s when God’s Spirit starts going to work on me that I begin to realize that I’m being proud, stubborn, and selfish, (and any number of other sinful attitudes).
That’s when I find those words that are so difficult to say beginning to well up: “I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.” “Will you please forgive me?” Now beloved, I know they may be hard to say, but it’s only then that true restoration of the relationship can begin to take place. And that’s an example of God’s sanctifying grace at work. That’s how his grace works in all our relationships…with him, with others and even with ourselves. It’s as his grace works in and through us over the course of a lifetime… that we become more and more like Christ… than when we first began.
And that’s our goal, isn’t it? Don’t you want to be able to say: “I’m not yet where God wants me to be…but by God’s grace I’m not where I once was.”
2.) Our next letter is “I”…and “I” stands for Imparting new life, new light, new strength, and a new heart.
As we continue to faithfully walk with God, he pours out his sanctifying grace upon us. This is the process by which the righteousness of Christ is imparted to us. In other words, it becomes a part of who we are. We begin to look more and more like Christ in our daily lives.
I adore my children. I thank God for them each and every day. But I must say that my beloved children have taught me one very important doctrine of the Christian faith. The doctrine of Original Sin. Why do I say that? Because, I never had to teach my children these words: “Mine!” “Me!” “No!” “Give me!” But that’s not just my children, is it? That’s true of all our children. And for you kids out there… that was also true of your mom and dad.
My point is, sin was part of our spiritual DNA at birth. And so, one of my jobs as a father is to serve as an agent or ambassador of God’s justifying and sanctifying grace in their lives. We can think of it this way: I work for the King… and he wants me to help steer my children to him. And not only that, but he wants me to help them know him, love him, and live for him and live like him.
Well that’s going to take the imparting of Christ’s righteousness into their lives…through grace. As the old saying goes: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Well, You can lead a person to Christ, but it’s God who makes the person a Christian…and who enables them to live like one.
3.) The third letter is “P.” The “P” stands for “Perfecting us in the image of God and the likeness of Jesus Christ.”
We were all originally created in the image of God. But sin messed that image up. It’s not gone…but it doesn’t reflect him well anymore. And so, when we place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior, Lord, and all-sufficient treasure… we’re RE-created. And the result of that RE-creation, as I alluded to earlier, is that we become new creations in Christ.
2 Cor. 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Galatians 6:15 – Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.
We become a new creation. As we stand before God… he no longer sees us as sinful people. He sees us as new creations who’ve been redeemed by his Son.
But then God says something very important to us. He says, if I can paraphrase him: “Go and be who you are.” He says, “You are holy…now go and be holy.” He says, “You are a new creature in Christ…now go and live like a new creature in Christ.”
Hebrews 6:1 says that we need to go on to maturity in Christ. The Apostle Paul says…
Philip. 3:12-14 – … I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
You see, sanctification is about going on to maturity, pressing on toward the goal, and straining toward what is ahead. We can’t remain content where we are. Each day should be marked by striving, by God’s grace and power, to be more like Christ than we were the day before.
4.) Well, our final letter is “E”. “E” stands for “Equipping us to do the work of Christ in the world – to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
In the Great Commandment Jesus reiterated the Old Testament by saying that we’re called to love God with all that we are. And he said that the second great commandment is like it. We’re to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the Great Commission Jesus told us that we’re to go into all the world and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything that he commands. So how do we do that? How can we build Christ’s Church and extend his Kingdom into every sphere of life?
The answer is that God equips his children with gifts for ministry. Every follower of Christ has at least one gift that God has given him or her for the edification of his saints – for the building up of his body. That means beloved, that every one of you who calls Jesus Lord and Savior, has been gifted by him… so that he can use you to minister to his church and the world… in his name… and for his glory. That’s what it means to equip you.
Well that’s it. That’s grace. That’s the heart of who we are as followers of Christ. The Apostle Peter encourages us with these words at the end of his second epistle. He writes…
2 Peter 3:18 – …grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
And that’s what it’s all about… growing in the grace of God.
We start off in grace, before we’re even aware of it. And we call that God’s prevenient grace. And then we’re given the power to turn from our old destructive and selfish ways and place our trust in Christ alone – and we call that justifying grace. And from that day on we’re supported, empowered, nurtured, and guided to live the life that God calls us to – and we call that sanctifying grace.
From beginning to end – it’s all about God’s grace.
Grace and Truth,