A little over 15 years, ago Steve McVey wrote the best selling book Grace Walk. Apparently when McVey got to the end of that book he wasn’t done writing, because a few years later out came his follow-up book Grace Rules. The second book, like the first one, takes aim at the subtleties of legalism that often find expression in our churches.
For example, if you’ve been around church a while, you might have noticed something very strange that happens when someone comes to Jesus. Before they are saved, they are told, “It’s all about Jesus! It’s not about you. It’s all about Him and what He’s done for you!” But once they’re saved the tune changes. Now it’s “all about you and what you do for Him!”
Before salvation it’s faith, faith, faith! But once the honeymoon is over, it’s works, works, works! Steve McVey pokes holes in this idiocy:
“Every true believer fully understands that he did nothing to become a Christian. He simply trusted Christ. Yet many believe that they must now do something to become a victorious Christian. So they substitute trying in place of trusting.” (p.21)
In Grace Rules, Steve McVey demolishes the idea that God is looking for us to spend our lives engaged in acts Christian service. God is not some divine employer in the sky and He doesn’t actually need our help with anything. Yet a legalistic mindset reduces Christianity to lifeless works of service. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that, “Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift to God.” According to Steve McVey, nothing could be further from the truth:
“It really strokes our human ego to think that we can do something for God. Yet the truth is we cannot. Only God can do something for God. In His infinite grace He allows us to participate in what He is doing by placing His life inside us and then expressing that life through us.” (pp.13-14)
God is after so much more that our work. God is after intimacy. Our Father wants us to know Him and abide in Him and allow Him to express Himself to us and through us. As McVey says,
“Spiritual service is not our gift to God, but rather His gift to us.” (p.198)
And that’s not just some pithy saying. When you find yourself resting in a good God, yet at the same time doing the very thing that He put you on the planet for, it is the greatest thrill in the world! Nothing else comes close to living in the sweet spot of being who God made you to be. I’m talking about trusting Him, allowing Him to reveal Himself supernaturally in your circumstances, and bearing fruit effortlessly.
In the 15 years I lived in Hong Kong, I met literally hundreds of missionaries and church workers serving the Lord. For a while I could never figure out why so many were joyless. Many looked like they had lemons for breakfast. This puzzled me, because serving the Lord ought to be a joy (Is 12:3). But it never is when we’re operating under law, when we serve because we think we’re obliged to serve. Serving the Lord is also supposed to be – dare I say it – easy. That’s Jesus’ word, not mine (Mt 11:30). Steve McVey gives a brilliant example of easy work when he tells the story of Philippe.
Philippe came to Atlanta from West Africa, met Steve McVey, heard the gospel and gave his life to Jesus. As a new believer, Philippe visited Steve once a week to learn how to follow Jesus. Each week Philippe asked questions and took extensive notes. Steve McVey only learned later that Philippe was sending his notes to his village chief back in Cameroon. The chief would call all the villagers together and read them Philippe’s notes. Some of the villagers got saved and were asking questions. The chief passed these questions to Philippe who then brought them to Steve.
“Suddenly it hit me. I thought of all the years I had tried to produce something spiritual; all the time that I had spent trying to make a difference. I had sincerely used my abilities for God, but always felt frustrated. Now here was God doing it Himself. I was meeting with one man in Atlanta and I was also evangelizing and discipling a whole village of people in Africa! Only God can do that!” (p.43)
If I was to summarize Grace Rules in a sentence, it’d be this: No one can live the Christian life except Christ. Our role is to trust Him to express Himself through us. Steve McVey asks us to imagine what would happen if the spirit of Mozart suddenly came into you. What would you want to do? You’d reach for the nearest piano and start playing! You would be thrilled by this amazing new ability. You would want to express your new talent often. Whenever people came around you’d say “watch this!” and dazzle them with your creative compositions.
The good news is that someone greater than Mozart has moved in! The mystery of the gospel is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Step aside and let Him shine! I think it was Bill Johnson who said:
“He’s in you and he wants out! He’s in us like a river. He’s not in us like a lake.”
If you are established in the grace of God and are looking for pictures of what it means to let Christ live through you, read Grace Rules.