“Means of grace” are the things in which God uses to grow us in grace and sanctify us together with the rest of the church. The means of grace within gospel community (the church) are vast and vital to the Christian life. Many in the past have seen baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and sometimes prayer as the only official means of grace within the church, but there are several others that should also be considered. These include the teaching of the Word, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, prayer for one another, worship, church discipline, giving, spiritual gifts, fellowship, evangelism, and personal ministry to individuals. Many of these things can be done alone, but when they are done in the context of a local church they come with increased blessing and benefits.
The teaching of the Word builds up the body and draws the members deeper in their walk with the Lord. Baptism is the public sign of the gospel and how it has transformed the new believer’s life and often results in substantial spiritual growth and encouragement in the church. The Lord’s Supper is similar in that it pictures the gospel and the nourishment that the gospel brings to the one with saving faith. Prayer for one another not only builds up those who are participating, but it also accomplishes powerful things in the body. Worship brings much glory to God and like the preaching of the Word brings about sanctification in the believers who worships in spirit and in truth. Church discipline, though it can seem like the opposite of a means of grace, when it is done properly can unify the church, protect it from impurity, and lead to the repentance of a straying brother or a false convert. The financial giving of the church body also blesses the church and brings God’s blessing on those who are cheerful givers. Spiritual gifts by their very nature build up the body along with the fellowship of the church. Evangelism brings about the blessing of adding more worshipers bringing the church to see God’s power and grace better. Finally, as members care for one another in personal ministry while using their spiritual gifts, the church will be built up in love leading to added blessings.
One important thing that I seek to do as a pastor is help christians read the Bible on your own. Many christians struggle as they open the Bible to read having trouble understanding what they are supposed to getting from the text. You may have even asked yourself if it is worth it. I ran across two helpful questions to ask when reading through the Bible book by book. The main questions that we should ask when reading the scriptures is what does this passage tell me about by fallen condition and how does redemption in Jesus fix it. This question is so important because this is ultimately what the Bible is all about. When we begin to ask other questions, we can begin to see the Bible as a book of rules. When see see the Bible as simply a bunch of regulations, the Gospel hard to find and apply to our lives. Though the Bible does give commands to Christians, the central message of the Bible is redemption in Jesus Christ, let us read the Bible with that in mind.
When we read the Scriptures with a focus on Christ, we will seek to understand the fallen condition that is seen in the the passage and how the text points to the redemption found in Jesus. This focus does justice to the authors intention which should be the focus of a faithful Christian. An incorrect way of going about this is by going beyond the authors intention and place our own meaning on the text in order to force it to say something about Jesus. This is not good. We should always want to discover what the text says about ourselves and Jesus, not what we want it to say.
I pray this helps you as you seek to live a live driven and informed by the Bible.
Also see How we may Read the Scriptures with the Most Spiritual Profit.
Happy New Year! Praise the Lord for another year of serving him and growing in our knowledge of his glorious grace and kindness to us. In light of the New Year, I want each of you to assess your spiritual growth over the last year. How has the Lord changed you? What have your learned? What were some setbacks or challenges you faced? How did you get through them and what did you learn from them?
The reason this is a good time to ask these questions is because it is the time of year for you to be thinking about an even more important question. What are you going to do different this year? One of the reasons why Hannah and I try and get away for a few weeks every year is to ask these questions and examine our relationship together and our relationship with Jesus. I would encourage you do the same as we all start the New Year together. Make a resolution to do things differently this year or maybe keep up a habit that you started last year. Maybe it’s reading and studying your Bible more or being more intentional in serving your spouse. Maybe for you it’s doing nightly devotions with your family or being more constant in daily prayer.
Let us commit to running after Jesus this year with more enthusiasm. That you would cut out more of your time to growing in the riches of the knowledge of Christ by reading God’s word and praying. May God bless us with even more of his grace in 2016!
See my 2016 New Years sermon here.
This is a fruitful outline from a written sermon by the English Puritan Thomas Watson. This godly man did not have an easy life, as he faced much persecution and lost all of his young kids during his lifetime. In the midst of suffering, Watson found his hope not in his situation but in God and in the words of Scripture. Reading Watson’s sermon gave me much spiritual profit and here is the basic points that Watson makes. I tried to write the points word for word, which is why some points are in outdated english but many points are simplified so they can be understood easily.
How we may Read the Scriptures with most Spiritual Profit
- Remove those things which will hinder your profiting
- Remove the love of every sin
- Take heed of the idols which will choke the word read
- Take heed of mess around with scripture
- Prepare your hearts to the reading of the word.
- In controlling our thoughts
- In getting rid of unclean affections
- Read the scripture with reverence
- Read the book of scripture in order
- “we do not read a friend’s letter in the middle”
- Get a right understanding of scripture.
- “if the word shoot above our head, it can never hit our heart.”
- Read the word with seriousness
- Labor to remember what you read
- Meditate on what you read
- “Reading brings truth to your head, meditation brings it into our heart.
- Come to the reading of scripture with humble hearts.
- Give credence (acceptance as true) to the word written
- Highly Prize the scriptures
- Get a passionate love for the word.
- Come to the reading of the word with honest hearts.
- Willing to know the whole counsel of God.
- To read it that we may be made better by it.
- Learn to apply scripture
- “A medicine will do no good, unless it be applied”
- Observe the commands as well as the promises.
- Let your thoughts dwell longer upon the richest passages.
- Compare yourselves with the word.
- Take special notice of those scriptures which speak to your particular situation.
- Take special notice of the examples in scripture
- Leave not off reading the Bible till you find your hearts warmed
- Set upon the practice of what you read.
- “reading without practice will be a torch to light men to hell”
- Make use of Christ’s prophetical office
- Tread often the threshold of the sanctuary (Go to church)
- Pray that God will make you profit