God’s Work through the Means of Grace: It’s All So Ordinary

Means-of-Grace-3The following are theologian Michael Horton’s further thoughts on being content with God’s “ordinary” means of grace for the Christian’s faith and life:

‘Expect a miracle!’ That’s good counsel if there is a promise in Scripture to back it up. The problem today is that many Christians are not looking for God’s miraculous activity where he has promised it, namely, through his ordinary means of grace. Through these means, he has pledged to raise us from spiritual death, to forgive sins, to assure us of God’s favor, and to conform us to Christ’s image.

…Typically, we identify ‘acts of God’ with the big stuff: earthquakes, hurricanes, and parting seas. Or perhaps a better way of putting it: we identify the big stuff with what can be measured and recognized as an obvious miraculous intervention by God. Millions of people around the world will turn out for a prosperity evangelist’s promise of signs and wonders. But how many of us think that God’s greatest signs and wonders are being done every week through the ordinary means of preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper?

…If our God is so keen to work in and through the ordinary, maybe we should rethink the way we confine him to the theatrical spectacles, whether the pageantry of the Mass or the carefully staged crusade. It takes no honor away from God that he uses ordinary – even physical – means to bring about extraordinary results. On the contrary, it underscores the comprehensive breadth of his sovereignty over, in, and within creation as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

To be content with Christ’s kingdom is to be satisfied also with his ordinary means of grace.

…Just as we wouldn’t have expected to find the Creator of the universe in a feeding trough of a barn in some obscure village, much less hanging, bloody, on a Roman cross, we do not expect to find him delivering his extraordinary gifts in such human places and in such humble ways as human speech [preaching], a bath [baptism], and a meal [the Lord’s supper]. This can’t be right, we reason. We need signs and wonders to know that God is with us. Yet it is only because God has promised to meet us in the humble and ordinary places, to deliver his inheritance, that we are content to receive him in these ways.

CNN will not be showing up at a church that is simply trusting God to do extraordinary things through his ordinary means of grace delivered by ordinary servants. But God will. Week after week. These means of grace and the ordinary fellowship of the saints that nurtures and guides us throughout our life may seem frail, but they are jars that carry a rich treasure: Christ with all his saving benefits.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter 7 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I am currently making my way through. The chapter is simply titled “Contentment.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.139-49.

Horton’s words leave us with some questions: Are we content with God’s ordinary means of grace? And if so, are we using them as He intends?