Summary: ? John Wesley identified 5 tools for growing in our faith as the Means of Grace. He didn’t invent them. In fact, these are practices handed down from both Judaism and the early church. And as a result, generations have born the fruit of these spiritual di
The Means of Grace
Have you ever been told to do something, but then 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? There’s nothing worse than being given something to do, but then not being given the means to do it. We’re just left to figure it out. In our Scripture today, Paul challenges us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” but then he never tells us how to do that. So how do you grow in God and what are the tools needed to do that? John Wesley identified 5 tools for growing in our faith as the Means of Grace. He didn’t invent them. In fact, these are practices handed down from both Judaism and the early church. And as a result, generations have born the fruit of these spiritual disciplines. He considered them to be gifts from God. Their purpose is to help us be obedient to God, grow our relationship to Jesus, transform us into the likeness of Jesus and build the kingdom of God. They enable us to make ourselves regularly available to God and to the power of grace.
The problem today is that we assume people not only know these means of grace but are practicing them as well. The Methodist church has failed in equipping its believers in how to grow their faith. For example, how many of you even know what the means of grace are. More practically, how many of you have ever been taught how to pray or to fast? Now the goal of the Christian life is to become like Jesus Christ and the only way to do that is through the grace of God and the means to do that is through the Means of Grace.
Last week, we talked about how John Wesley started with the end in mind. He asked what a fully devoted, mature follower of Jesus look like. To answer that question, he went to Scripture, the guide for our life and Jesus, the example of our faith. John Wesley identified 10 biblical characteristics of a follower of Jesus Christ and thus a Methodist. He shared those in a 1742 short pamphlet titled, “The Character of a Methodist”. From this, he created a discipleship system to build such qualities and characteristics in the people called Methodist including the Means of Grace.
Wesley defined the means of grace as “outward signs, words or actions ordained by God,…to be….channels whereby He (God) might convey to men preventing, justifying or sanctifying grace.” He believed practicing the means of grace was essential to the life of Christian discipleship. These basic practices are how Christians open themselves to God’s grace and allow the Holy Spirit to work within us, transform us and empower us to do the work of Jesus. The means of grace make us available to God and the power of grace to conquer sin, purify us, and make us whole. They are practices through which we learn the mind of Christ by attending to all his teachings, summarized in the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all of your strength … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31).
But here’s the catch. Unless you regularly practice the means of grace, you limit God’s grace and power in your life. God cannot give you what you do not put yourself in a position to receive. It’s kind of like a lamp in your living room that never gets plugged in. It may look good and you can turn the switch but there’s no power. You cannot take the next step in the faith journey without God’s grace empowering you. So the first thing is you have to plug into God for that to happen and that is done through the means of grace. Unfortunately, many Christians never experience God’s full grace and power in their lives to be a follower of Jesus because they never regularly access God’s resources. They may do one or two of the means of grace but not all five and thus they receive some grace and power but not all that’s available to them. The great saints of the faith who have made an incredible kingdom impact throughout the centuries were able to do so because they practiced the means of grace. These are training activities you can do now that will eventually enable you to do what you cannot do simply on your own.
We must understand this: the Means of Grace is about power – accessing God’s power of love, grace and forgiveness which you do not currently have. There’s nothing strange or mystical about this. But there is something very practical. As you practice the means of grace, God will transform you so that you are increasingly living in His power, a power that is not your own. And as you learn to live in God’s power, you will increasingly find yourself able to accomplish the kinds of things that only God’s power is able to accomplish. As you learn and begin to practice the “means of grace, God’s love and grace will work right into your life. They will increasingly help you to receive more and more of God’s grace, and thus more and more of his powerful activity in your life. You will then be able to do what you could not do before. It will simply feel natural – like a part of you. Because when God is working, and you are working in his power, you will not make an effort to obey him – you’ll just find yourself doing it. In other words, it not just becomes a part of who you are but rather who you are. So the means of grace are activities you can set about doing that will increase your capacity to receive God’s grace – to allow God to work in your life and you will increasingly find yourself doing what Jesus would do and over time, you become like Jesus.