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.
Fellowship is one of those terms we, as Christians, like to banter about applying it to any time we spend with other Christians. However, according to D.A. Carson fellowship is about community on a shared mission, not genial conversation over tea and biscuits after church.
But what is our mission as the church?
“Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.” (Chris Wright, The Mission of God, p.22-23)
This is an expansive vision of God’s mission, it encompasses the whole of creation and incorporates the whole of our lives within its scope. Wright goes on to argue throughout his book that we should not limit mission to any one thing (such as evangelism or pursuing justice) but rather that all we do should ultimately be directed toward sharing the redemptive good news of who Jesus is and all he is doing in his creation.
“God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20 NIV)
The church is diverse. We are not all the same. God has made us all different, giving each of us different gifts to be used for the advancement of his mission for his glory. Do we bring God less glory just because we don’t have a showy gift or do we do less for the advancement of his mission because our gifts operate in the background. Of course not!
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:21-26)
When we understand that God’s mission is bigger than one thing, that its goal is the redemption of the whole creation from sin, we are freed to pursue God’s redemptive mission as God has called and gifted us. This is the very point Peter makes in his first letter:
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:7-11 NIV)
Just as God’s mission is bigger than one thing it’s also bigger than one person. We can’t do it alone. The mission of God and the mission of the church are one in the same and it is only together, by his grace, that we will have power to carry out his mission throughout his creation.
If you’re not already a member of a local church I would encourage you to commit to your church by becoming a member, or find one you can commit to, and then get involved using the gifts God has given you for the advancement of his mission and the extension of his glory in the church and throughout the world.
If you are a member of your church but not involved pray and seek counsel on how God has gifted you and look for, or make, opportunities to serve others with the gifts God has given you.
And if you are both a member of your church and serving others, in whatever way that may be, then thank you! What you are doing is making a difference! Even if you can’t see any results just yet and persevering is tough remember that your work is not in vain but is achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs the difficulties you are facing now (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Church membership is the way we enter into the fellowship of the body of Christ because in it we are publically committing to God’s church on God’s mission in God’s world. In this way it becomes a means of grace because as we live with other Christians, developing friendships and pursing a common mission, God exposes our weaknesses and offers us his strength. Committing to live with other Christians under the authority of a local church will cause us to see our sin and God’s grace more clearly because we will have many opportunities to receive grace as we repent of our own sin and to extend grace to others in their sin.
God uses this participation in his mission with his people to make himself known to us in ways we could never experience if we tried to go it alone. We shouldn’t rob ourselves of this opportunity to experience God’s grace by neglecting to fellowship with other believers through our local church.
Love the Church. Join the Fellowship. Share the Mission.