John Van Devender of Gadfly's Muse has a wonderful post called Paralyzed by Grace. That phrase, "paralyzed by grace," is from Dallas Willard, who happens to be someone I respect a great deal. In a recent interview in Leadership Magazine, Willard said, "People need to see that action is a receptacle for grace, not a substitute for it. Grace is God acting in our lives to do things we can't do on our own."
I really like Willard's phrase, "action is a receptacle for grace." But not just any action, of course. The grace of God is ultimately transformative. We grow increasingly conformed to the image of Christ, and this results in transformed action. Or one might say, "Not I live, but Christ lives in me." It is a high claim and can seem presumptuous, but it is God's goal for his children. Our actions can be flesh-born and flesh-centered, or they can be Christ-born and Christ-centered.
John's musings on this subject are very helpful. He writes:
[T]here is a widespread Christian pessimism about what we should expect from Christ in this life. Though we pastors are generally quite able to point people toward the hope that is yet to come, we tend to fall short in preaching and proclaiming the reality of the transforming grace a Christian ought to experience in this life. We leave the average pew-filler with the vague idea that being a Christian consists pretty much in thinking, living and going along in life as other non-Christian people do, except that we have an extra little closet called Christian Spirituality where we keep our Sunday Go-To-Meeting /Bible-Study/ Talk-With-Other-Christian clothes.Ultimately, we want to see clearly, don't we? We want to see ourselves in the great story of God's restorative plan for creation. We want to be used, today, tomorrow, in whatever way God chooses. We want to be available. But this needs faith. Otherwise, we try to accomplish it in our own power. In truth we do not really ever surrender, not fully, to one in whom we do not fully trust. John writes, "I define 'faith' as that habit of mind and thought such that we see all of creation and ourselves within creation, in terms of Jesus Christ and in terms of His Kingdom. By this definition, every aspect of our lives is understood through the lens of Christ and His Kingdom."
Given that kind of "seeing," we can truly begin to perceive our own place in what God is up to from one moment to the next. We can "get in the game," living the grace of God, not just wistfully recalling it.