The term Means of Grace is pretty old and it probably doesn’t mean a lot to most people today because it has fallen out of popular use, but I like it.I like it because it tells me that God has appointed concrete, practical, ways for us to experience more of his grace. And I desperately need more of his grace. In fact, I don’t even know just how much I need his grace so I want to do whatever I can to experience more of it.
God’s means of grace are many but I’ll limit myself to three of them: Scripture (Part 1), Prayer (Part 2), and Fellowship (Part 3). Perhaps I’ll look at a few others at some point in the future but for the time being hopefully these three will help us to follow Jesus as we take full advantage of God’s graciously given means.
It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of reading the Scriptures, possible but not easily done.
The 66 books that make up our Bible have been graciously given to us by God as his means for revealing himself, and more importantly his Son Jesus through whom we are able to come to know God in a deeply personal relationship (Hebrews 1:1-4). No other book compares with the Bible because the Bible authoritatively reveals to us the Creator God who fashioned all we see, hear, taste, touch and smell. This same all-powerful, self-sufficient Creator God refused to give up on his creation even when we rejected him in favour of pursuing deification on our own terms. Instead he relentlessly extended his unfailing love to us culminating in the sending of his Son to die our rightful death for our treasonous rebellion against him. The story ends in resurrection. As a foreshadowing of what is to come Jesus rises from the dead and promises his followers that one day they, and the whole of creation, will rise from the death of sin to everlasting glory and joy in his kingdom where sin and death are undone. In the meantime we have these very precious promises and the Holy Spirit who gives us faith, grace and strength to persevere (2 Peter 1:3-4).
The Scriptures essentially form the backbone of our faith because without them it would be almost impossible for us to say anything about God with any degree of certainty. As Christians we are able to read the Scriptures and on the basis of what it says we are able to make certain assertions about who God is and what he is like. This makes it absolutely imperative that we become well acquainted with God’s self disclosure through Jesus in the Scriptures. This means we need to read, and re-read, the Scriptures. However, mere reading won’t cut it. We need to go beyond simply reading the Scriptures to imbibing it, incarnating it, making it a part of ourselves. This requires that we read the Scriptures and then meditate on them “day and night” (Psalm 1:2 NIV).
Meditating on Scripture is pretty simple in theory but much more demanding in practice. Meditating is really just thinking about how what your reading from Scripture relates to what God has done for us through Jesus. It’s about connecting the small picture (whatever chapter/s you happen to be reading) with the big picture (God’s overall story of salvation in Christ). Listening to good preaching and reading good books will help us to develop this means of grace in our lives. Personally, I find writing out my thoughts in a journal to be a great aid to my own practice of meditation, however, I would encourage you to find out what helps you to meditate on the Scriptures. Maybe that will be through keeping a journal but perhaps listening to music helps you or discussing what you’ve read with a housemate, friend or spouse. Experiment and see what works!
The goal of meditation is to meet with God through his Word. It’s about an experience of grace which changes us from the inside out. I know for myself that meditation often becomes more about amassing more knowledge about God than about actually meeting with God through an encounter with Jesus as I revel again in all he is and has done for me. For the record, I love learning new things about anything but especially about God so I’m pro-learning but all our knowledge needs to serve some greater purpose. Our knowledge of God needs to lead to deeper love for God otherwise it’s all for nothing (cf. 1 Corinthians 13).
This week please allow me to encourage to read the Scriptures with a renewed desire to not only learn more about God but to meet with him as you meditate on who he is and all he has done for you in and through Jesus.