The Grace Conductor Pattern

Orchestra members recognize the importance of following the conductor. As a trumpet and French Horn player, I have fond memories of many concert experiences. Our high school band marched in half time shows (at football games), parades and gave concerts. At Florida Bible College I was member of the orchestra, and then began a two year adventure as a member of a traveling Christian music group–The Internationals. Our concert tour included hundreds of locations across the United States Canada and Europe. One thing all these concert experiences had in common–we needed to follow the conductor.[1]

If you look in a church hymnal (admittedly, harder to find these days) and, for example, see the music for “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” you’ll observe that the key signature is 4/4 time (four beats per measure). In conducting this song, the hand gestures of the song leader would use a conducting pattern of 1,2,3,4. These strokes of the leader’s hand are repeated throughout the song. The concept of a conducting pattern can also illustrate how the Holy Spirit directs the child of God to abide in Christ day by day. Consider them with me. [2]

Conductor Stroke 1: Humble yourself

In order to abide in Christ our first response needs to be humility. We are not to be solo instruments that ignore the need for a Conductor.

“Be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5b,6; See James 4:6). Although we have a natural tendency toward pride and self sufficiency, life‘s circumstances and God‘s Word call us to humble ourselves.

Conductor Stroke 2: Yield yourself

The next response is to yield to God’s will. The ‘music’ we play is scripted by the One who has made us His instruments and has planned good works that we should perform them (Eph. 2:10). The Holy Spirit as Conductor leads us in the tempo of His plan and in harmony with His purposes.

Romans 12:1,2 summons us to yield to God’s wise, benevolent leadership. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV). This yielding to God‘s will needs to be manifested in our physical behavior: “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). As the hymn puts it, our attitude should be “I surrender all.”

Conductor Stroke 3: Trust in God

The next response in the grace conducting pattern is to trust in the Holy Spirit’s enablement. The Grace Conductor not only prompts us externally, He inspires us from within.

The Spirit of God leads us to radically depend on the indwelling Christ to live His life in us and through us, instead of us. Paul exemplified living by this pattern: “I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20 Amplified Bible). Instead of depending on our own resources and coping strategies, we are to depend wholeheartedly on God’s grace and enablement.

Miles Stanford observed, “Contrary to general opinion, there is no place for self-confidence in the Christian life. Confidence is essential, but not from the source of self. The awakened believer is so keenly aware of the sinful self-life that, for him, self-confidence is out of the question. In time, his ‘O wretched man’ complex is replaced by “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24, 25). Christ-confidence is the basis for the healthy Christian’s walk.”[3]

For many religious people, trusting God’s grace for living is counterintuitive. We think that living for God is about trying harder. The Lord Jesus was asked, “’What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent’” (John 6:28,29).  As evangelicals we are adamant that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8,9), but too often we assume that sanctification is based on works. However, living as a disciple is a grace through faith walk (See Col. 2:6; Gal. 5:5).

Conductor Stroke 4: Worship God

As the Holy Spirit leads us to humble ourselves, yield, and trust, this leads us to worship God. Worship is the acknowledgment and promotion of God’s glory. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Our Lord used the illustration of us being a light in a dark world: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Now let’s test this illustration. Is this fourfold response contained in Christ’s teaching on the Vine and branches in John 15:1-8?

As the Gardener, God is the “conductor.”

1. Apart from the Vine, the branch is just a piece of firewood (John 15:6). -humility
2. The branch does not function independently of the Vine (John 15:4). – yielding
3. The branch is fully dependent on the life of the Vine to produce the fruit (John 15:5). – trust
4. The Gardener is glorified by the fruit produced by the Vine through the branches (John 15:8). – worship

How is this fourfold response supremely demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of Man? Behold:

1. Christ’s supreme humility in His incarnation, servanthood and crucifixion (Phil 2:5-8)
2. Christ’s supreme delight in God’s will (John 4:34; Heb 10:7,9).
3. Christ’s supreme trust in the Father’s care and the Spirit’s power (Psalm 22:9,10; John 5:19,30)
4. Christ’s supreme glorification of the Father (John 12:26; 17:1,5)

In light of Christ’s example of responsiveness, the apostle John draws this implication for the believer: “He who says he abides in Him [Jesus Christ] ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

Note: This Grace Conductor Pattern illustration does not convey all there is to the Christian life, and is not to be a legalistic mechanism. Yet, this fourfold response can be a simple, memorable, practical way to facilitate abiding in Christ.

Although I still miss some cues and play some ‘wrong notes,’ since the Lord revealed this illustration to me, it has been helpful and well-received. In an online Bible study on this topic, one of the participants testified that this teaching had become life-changing for him. After explaining the illustration to a fellow believer,  she declared “This reminds me of the sign of the Cross!” Although not a sacramental gesture, the pattern does seem to fit with the principles of the daily cross (Luke 9:23).

Fellow believer, I invite you to prayerfully experiment with these four guidelines.  Whether or not you’re musically inclined, you are a member of God’s ‘Orchestra’.  The Holy Spirit is the ‘Grace Conductor’ Who holds the baton of Truth, tapping the music stand of our circumstances to get our attention. Let’s tune our hearts to God, follow His direction, and live in harmony with His plan.


[1] In the Internationals I met Linda and we married four years later! Thank you to Jim and Dolly Greer for recruiting us to be members back in 1974. (I remember one special concert at Peoples Church of Toronto where we were part of the Living Christmas Tree presentation. Paul Williams directed the Peoples Church orchestra and choir and our group for a wonderful Christmas concert. A photo of the performance is in their book. Peoples; Church on the Go.)
[2] Some will dismiss this teaching because they see abide as a noun instead of a verb; a doctrine to believe and talk about rather than a relationship to be lived out. But “abide” in John 15:4 and “be filled” in Ephesians 5:18 are imperative verbs. Abiding in Christ is not just a theory, but a grace-based responsibility.
[3] Miles Stanford, None But the Hungry Heart (1/27) AbideAbove.com
[4] The four point “sign of the Cross” starts at a different place positionally and theologically.
Copyright by John Woodward, 2021.Permission is granted to reprint this article if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com. Biblical quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from the Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyrighted by Thomas Nelson.
A video of the lesson about the Grace Conductor Pattern is here: https://vimeo.com/463123966

Subscribe to receive Grace Notes

Grace Notes is a Biblical email devotional sent weekly and freely to our subscribers. The goal is to highlight the dynamics of abundant living through Christ.

  • And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Please feel free to subscribe! It's free!

cross_sunset

Sign up to receive Grace Notes weekly

Everyone needs grace, so everyone needs Grace Notes! Receive our weekly publication, free, in your inbox. Timely messages to meet your grace need.

"I love Grace Notes!" -- DP, subscriber

A verification email from Grace Notebook has just been sent to you! Please click on it to confirm your subscription.

If you do NOT click on the confirmation link in this email, your email address will NOT be added.

If the email does not appear shortly, please check your spam folder. If possible, please whitelist john@gracenotebook.com.

Thank-you!

boy

Hold on!

cross_sunset

Sign up to receive Grace Notes weekly

Everyone needs grace, so everyone needs Grace Notes! Receive our weekly publication, free, in your inbox. Timely messages to meet your grace need.

Close

"I love Grace Notes!" -- DP, subscriber

boy

Hold On!

A verification email from Grace Notebook has just been sent to you! Please click on it to confirm your subscription.

Close

If you do NOT click on the confirmation link in this email, your email address will NOT be added.

If the email does not appear shortly, please check your spam folder. If possible, please whitelist john@gracenotebook.com.

Thank-you!