The Ordinary Means of Grace

  American evangelicalism is entirely too complicated. Christians are often confronted with Christian para-church (i.e. outside of the authority of ordained Church leadership) organizations, retreats, concerts, political activism, music industry, magazines, television, missions groups, etc. and made to feel that if they are not involved in every para-church "ministry" that comes to their attention that they are in some way uncommitted to Christ. Indeed, turning down invitations to be involved in the latest fads of the contemporary church (i.e. Promise Keepers, 40 Days of Purpose, Prayer of Jabez, etc.) puts doubt into some people's minds as to whether or not one is even a Christian. The test for Christian sincerity in our day is not necessarily faithful attendance to Lord's Day worship, time spent daily in God's Word, and leading the family in worship and devotions. It is more like whether one is listening to the contemporary Christian music station, reading the latest Christian best-seller, and / or putting a fish on the back of one's car. To be sure, I would never want to question the sincerity of those who promote and/or attend such ministries (I have been to many myself). The question I'm raising is this: Is Christian life & growth supposed to be so darn complicated? The answer is no. 

God has graciously established means whereby we come to know Christ and subsequently grow in Him. Just as God has ordained that a plant will grow by water and sunlight, so Christians grow through simple, God-ordained means. These means are called ordinary, not because they are without power and glory, but because they are ordinarily used by God to transform His people. The means of grace are God's Word (I Peter 1:23-2:22; II Tim. 16-17; I Cor. 1:20-21), the sacraments (I Cor. 11:23-33; Col. 2:11-12), and prayer (Matthew 6:5-13; Phil. 1:9-11).

Try to picture the simple Christian life: A husband and wife wake a few minutes early each morning to spend time individually reading and meditating upon God's Word and praying for themselves, marriage, family, unsaved friends, missions, and whatever they read that morning in the Bible. After a long day the family gathers around their Father (husband) as he leads them in family worship - a brief time to read scripture, sing, and pray as a family. Every Saturday night the family gathers for a special "Lord's Day" preparation time to consider the Word that will be preached and the sacraments that will be administered (the Word preached visibly) and to pray for God's blessing upon their day of concentrated worship and rest from the common weekly duties. The family then honors God on the Lord's Day by focusing in a special way upon God, redemption in Christ, and all the blessings that are found in Him; perhaps even engaging in extended family worship times or fellowship with other believers.

To the world - even to some evangelicals – this doesn't sound very exciting. Even so, there is something beautiful and pure about faithful, consistent, joyful, humble submission to God and the means that He established for our growth in grace. Rather than telling people to buy the latest best-seller or to make sure and attend the latest "exciting men's conference", perhaps we ought to be focusing more on encouraging one another to be consistently devoted to daily personal worship, family worship, and weekly corporate worship. Imagine if all professing believers embraced the simple Christian life that God desires all of His children to live. I think sometimes that para-church ministries can be a distraction from the simple walk with God that is demonstrated and commanded in Scripture. Ask yourself this morning how you can arrange your life to better "discipline yourself [and your family] for the purpose of godliness" (I Timothy 4:7). Grace Church, there is great freedom and relief in confidently following God's means of salvation in Christ.