Appropriating the Means of Grace | June 2020 Tabletalk

Now that it is the end of June I remember that I never did a post on this month’s issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. “The Ordinary Means of Grace” is the theme this month, and once again the issue is filled with edifying articles centered on that subject.

Burk Parsons says this in part in his introduction to the issue:

When it comes to our worship of God, too many Christians think that it doesn’t really matter what we do or how we do it because our sovereign God can use any means to accomplish His ultimate purposes. That, however, does not justify our using means that God has not given us. Nevertheless, many Christians and many churches believe that we may use whatever cleverly devised means we invent to bring about our desired ends.

If we actually believe God is sovereign, we must trust His sovereignly appointed means to bring about His desired ends. The means that God has appointed for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace are what we call the ordinary means of grace—namely, the Word, prayer, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and, necessarily joined to these, the church’s discipline and care of souls. These means are appointed by God, are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and point us to Christ, and they sustain us and nourish us in our union with Christ as we rest in the sovereign ends of our triune God.

One of the featured articles is by Dr. Ryan McGraw, professor of systematic theology at Greenville Seminary. In “Appropriating the Means of Grace” he treats the necessity of our using God’s appointed means for our preservation in faith and growth in grace. At the outset he ties this use of God’s means to the church:

The means of grace highlight the necessity of the church in the Christian life. The Lord has not designed us to live the Christian life alone. It has been remarked that believers are like hot coals. Alone they go out, but together they fan into a flame. Public worship is the place where we enter into the special presence of the omnipresent God (Pss. 113:4; 139:7). When the Father gathers His family together, Christ speaks to them through the preaching of the Word (Rom. 10:11–17; Eph. 2:17) as we offer our prayers by the Spirit and enjoy God’s presence in the sacraments. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves (Heb. 10:25) means more than simply being with other Christians. The public assemblies of the church under its officers are where we receive means to sustain us in salvation. We must appropriate and use the means of grace by faith, preparing ourselves to receive them and studying their nature and use from Scripture.

And at the end of the article he shows what great things God accomplishes in our lives when we regularly use His appointed means:

…Just as we perish without food and water, we perish without receiving Christ as our spiritual food and drink (John 6:53). Though the means of grace are simple and at times seemingly unremarkable, God does great things through them. In our sanctification, we should expect slow and steady progress (most of the time). There are rarely quick fixes for sin, and giant leaps in sanctification are unusual. God delivers some people instantly from sins that are deeply set in their lives, but most of the time we need to fight to put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13). The triune God uses the means of grace to kill sin in us and to lead us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps. 23:3). Skipping church is like skipping meals. Each meal may not be spectacular, but all of them together keep us alive. We often do not learn how much we grow by the means of grace until we neglect or lose them.

The Lord uses the means of grace to nourish spiritual life in Christ. We should expect the Spirit to bless the Father’s chosen means by faith. We should prepare to receive the means of grace by study and meditation. We should trust in God to use means to bring us to the Savior rather than trusting in the means instead of the Savior. Let us look for the Lord in the means of grace to foster the work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope (1 Thess. 1:3) as we confidently endure to the end of our race (Heb. 12:1). Jesus is the pioneer and end of our faith, and He will place our feet in wide places (Ps. 31:8) as we use the means that He has appointed to walk with Him.

Good thoughts for us as we ponder our way in these spiritually dangerous times. Now as never before we need to be diligent in using God’s means of grace. For only by grace will we stand and persevere and thus enter our everlasting reward.

Source: Appropriating the Means of Grace | Tabletalk

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