Summary: The Company We Keep, part 6. After discussing your vision for change two weeks ago, and your intentions to change last week, Dave discusses the “means” of change this week, or “how” spiritual change happens.
Means of Grace
The Company We Keep, prt. 6
Wildwind Community Church
June 6, 2009
2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
18 …grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Have you ever been told to do something, but then felt like you weren’t told how to do it? Or have you ever been told to do something, but then you weren’t given the tools for getting it done? We’ve been talking about spiritual formation – learning to live our lives the way Jesus would live them if he were us. And I’ve taught you about the difference between training and trying. Remember – when you try you just go out and put in a lot of effort and hope that’s enough. When you train you enter into a lifestyle consisting of practices (disciplines, or habits) that will enable you eventually to do what all the trying in the world will not help you to do.
How many of you have heard of the phrase, “The end justifies the means.” Of course that means that if something turns out well, it doesn’t really matter how you went about doing it. For example, if you get information from a criminal about a terrorist attack using torture, then some might say the end (getting the information) justified the means (using torture) – that you got the result you wanted so it doesn’t really matter how you got it.
Well, as strange as it seems I want to talk to you about means today. Means. Not mathematical means. Not meanings. But means. How you go about doing something. There’s nothing worse than being given something to do, but then not being given the means to do it – that is, not getting the proper tools, the proper instructions, and the proper methods. We are told in our text for tonight to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.” Okay, how do I do that? We see that the Bible tells us to grow, but doesn’t actually tell us how. Ever notice that? What’s up with that?
Well what’s up is that the “how” was handed down in the early church. They were told what to do, and they knew the “means” (the how) to do it. It’s not spelled out clearly in scripture because it was part of the community of the church. If you attended a Christian church, it was taught to you and passed on to you. Today that is no longer the case. We assume today that people who are using these “means,” these “spiritual disciplines” are an elite class of super-Christians. Somewhere we came to think it’s just about praying and reading your Bible and those who go beyond that are in a special class.
But this isn’t true. We are told to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. But we’re not told how. Christ tells us to come with him and learn from him how to live the life God calls us to. But we’re not told how. And the traditional method of prayer and Bible reading that is such a hallowed formula for knowing God? You won’t find that mentioned anywhere in the New Testament. There’s no mention of a daily quiet time as we know it today. This is critical for us to understand. You won’t be able to pay serious attention to anything I’m saying if you think you already know what to do. Please hear me. If you are under the impression that Paul’s command to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ means to have a daily quiet time, do daily “devotions,” or something like that, that is a mistaken impression. Now I will show you how those things fit nicely into the overall picture, but that’s not what Paul is talking about and those things are only pieces (though very important pieces) of the whole.
So today we’re going to talk today about the “means” of grace. I have already defined the word “means.” Let’s define grace and once that’s done you will easily understand the phrase “means of grace.” Grace is God working in my life. That’s grace. Grace isn’t just “being saved,” or “not going to hell,” or anything like that. Grace is God working in my life. So when I talk about the “means of grace,” what I’m talking about is things you can do that will allow God to work in your life, or “how” God works in your life.
Let’s give a practical example. Let’s say we weren’t talking about the means of grace, but the means of training for a marathon. What would the means be? One means would be endurance training – pushing yourself consistently to run farther and farther. Another would be running what are called “fartleks” – exercises that increase your speed. Another would be cadence drills, which help you increase the number of steps you are taking per mile, which conditions your legs and feet to work together better. Another means would probably be a little bit of hill training. Another means would be your diet. Another would be getting plenty of rest. These are all means of training for a marathon – in other words, ways that you go about doing it.