(Part 8 of 10 from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?”) By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri

The word grace was around for hundreds of years before Paul used it in his epistles. Grace is a relational term that implies an ongoing, mutual connection between people. Historically, when a person of higher stature sent a gift to another, it signified the beginning of a relationship. The gift was called a “grace” and was a sign of great favor. The person receiving the gift understood the relational intent behind the “grace.” Accepting the grace meant the recipient agreed to an ongoing relationship with the giver. The grace giver considered the recipient to be someone special. Today, grace continues to mean that we are someone’s favorite and very special to them.

Many Christians rightly connect grace with salvation because God’s free gift of grace redeems us (Rom 3:34). However, grace is about much more than salvation. Paul prays that grace would multiply to us and explains how grace worked powerfully in his ministry. Peter encourages us to grow in grace.

Grace is much more than a theory or doorway to salvation.

Through heaven’s eyes, God views us as His favorite and unique daughter or son, making grace a living reality. Living in grace means we can respond to His invitation to moment-by-moment interactions with Him. We consistently see our eternal value and worth reflected through God’s eyes, voice, and understanding. He sees us very differently than we see ourselves. That grace-filled attachment changes how we see God, ourselves, and others. Our identity — the person we understand ourselves to be — changes in response. You and I grow into an identity rooted in grace as we become the person God created and intended us to be.

Grace-filled Gatherings

The joy and wonder of being God’s favorite son or daughter transform what we value. We see others differently from an overflow of grace than we can with earth’s eyes. Our interactions with them allow us to love and see them as God does. Instead of reacting to the flaws, imperfections, and behaviors that annoy us, we have the chance to discover the heart of a person who is God’s favorite. The most important thing about them is not their pain, distress, indifference, or narcissism. It’s their heart — learning to see and relate to them as God does. We share the treasure of God’s grace with them — allowing it to change how we see, hear, speak and act.

Groups rooted in grace don’t waste time trying to find peace by talking through problems. They see little treasure in endless pain, hurt, misunderstanding, and problem-solving discussions. Grace-filled gatherings focus on experiencing, receiving, sharing, and reflecting God’s grace together. Being together is an opportunity to join God as He reveals Himself to the group. Gathering affords time for us — individually and corporately — to become God’s eyes, ears, and hands to “constantly and progressively build (ourselves) up on the foundation of your most holy faith” (Jude 1:20 TPT). Being together means connecting with God’s presence and grace, so we are increasingly transformed into His image. (Romans 8:29).

This is an authentic process, and not a matter of “faking it” until we stumble upon transformation. Telling ourselves how we “should” see others so that we can be “good Christians” is frustrating and unfruitful. It’s equally unhelpful when others try to tell us what God’s heavenly viewpoint should be. Authentic transformation is possible when we encounter God and share an eyes of heaven moment together. Sharing these moments multiples grace and shalom.

Collectively, we are exploring what matters most — experiencing God’s presence and grace so that we may reflect it to one another and share it with the world. To find the treasure of small group community that we are looking for, some crucial questions to discern in our small group setting include:

  • Are we seeking to be known so that we spiritually mature in the Lord, or are we sharing our pain and upsetting moments to gain the sympathy and approval of others?
  • Is our vulnerability an expression of humility in the quest to dive further into grace, or is it a way to perform for the group and reinforce our avatar?
  • Are we seeking God’s peace or simply trying to minimize pain?
  • Do we genuinely care for each other, or are we engaged in codependent rescues of desperate avatars?
  • Is the purpose of the group to feel better about ourselves or to discover the increasing depths of God’s Presence and grace?
  • Is the treasure we seek eternally real, or is it the worthless pursuit of the 4 Ps and a working avatar?

Implications for Transformational Small Group Design

These challenging questions cut to the heart of our interactions with others. Fear, the 4 Ps, and avatars (INSERT HYPERLINK TO BLOG #1) are all components of our flesh and disastrous elements of the human condition.  They are part of our struggle until we see Jesus face-to-face, our identity is fully revealed, and we are “like Him.” (I John 3:2). Until then, fear and its consequences are a part of life.

Our gatherings can be transformative when we facilitate the dynamics that

  • enable personal encounters with God’s grace when we are together
  • allow His grace to change how we see Him and ourselves
  • help us see others through God’s eyes of grace and interact with them as He does

When you and I learn to see one another through God’s grace, His peace marks our way of life and relationships.

Next read “Finding Identity and Transformation by Seeking Things Above” — the ninth of our series of excerpts from the article, “Through the Eyes of Heaven: Does ‘Talking It Through to Find Peace’ bring Shalom?” By Jim Wilder and Ed Khouri.

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