What do we mean by the Means of Grace?
What would you do if your favorite teenager grew reluctant to bathe? Can you imagine the dialogue? “I’m fine. I feel fine. And why does it matter anyway? Besides, if it rains, I’ll get a shower then because we do live in Florida — it’ll rain eventually.”
Not an implausible scenario, I know, but dreadful all the same. Personal freedom is pitted against health and social responsibility. “My feelings” trump the wafting aroma of an under-washed body. To me, this is the clearest picture of what personal spirituality sounds (and smells) like vs. trusting God and yielding to His good design.
To credit your favorite teenager, it actually may rain. But there is a place where the water will predictably show up — called a shower. And if for some reason, there’s a delay in the rain, there will still be an opportunity to put yourself under the refreshing waters and be a blessing to those around you.
This is a simple way to understand the means of Grace and the goodness of what God has promised all who trust Him.
What do we mean by the “means of Grace?” First, “means” is a pathway, an action or a strategy by which an outcome is attained; a method or system for desired results. “Grace” = God’s Work (not our work, but resolutely HIS). We are saved by Grace through faith. God works in Christ to do everything necessary for our salvation and we trust His work (not ours).
So the means of Grace historically have always been seen as those avenues or methods by which we position ourselves for God to work. And He has promised to meet us — to show up — in His Word, in prayer and in the gathering of His people.
Think again of the contrast between chancing a bath during a rainstorm vs. the privilege of taking a shower. A very predictable script says, “I don’t need organized religion; I feel closer to God in nature or out on the water. And I certainly don’t need the rules of an ancient book.”
Personally defined spirituality clings tenaciously to self-will. It is fueled by pride. But the Gospel teaches us that self-will and pride are the sources of everything terrible — EVERYTHING! It’s why we would be condemned justly by our Maker, for our ego and treason. And it’s why Jesus had to die in order to save us.
This is simply why we have always been a church where we encourage regular and yes, daily practices like reading God’s Word, praying and gathering with His people — daily in friendship, and weekly in small groups and at corporate worship. We actually trust God to keep His promises to work upon us, as we humbly position ourselves where He invites us to be blessed.
But against these nightmares of pride and unbelief is Jesus’ love and work, to do what we could never do. So which trend best describes you and your thinking? It may rain out there — you really may run into an amazing experience of God, but if you do, it will only be because of His mercy. But He loves you. He has graciously provided these means for His working in your life. He can be trusted and He always shows up where He has promised to be.
Please join us as we take Him at His Word.
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