To say that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is the essence of the gospel. Our fundamental hope in life and death is that we are saved by God's grace and not by our efforts. And one of the wonders of God's grace is that it abounds to us through means. From our conversion to Christ to our ongoing transformation into his image God uses divinely appointed means to sanctify us.
My favorite confession of faith says it this way:
“The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened.”
— Second London Confession, 14.1
Our confidence in God's grace to save and sanctify us should never encourage the "let go and let God" mentality, as if the only thing left to do to grow in faith and godliness is to stop seeking it. We must seek it. Yes, we must seek it in Christ, but we seek him through the means he has given us. So we should rightly point to such means, promote them, and rejoice in them as God's gifts to us.
Sure, there is the danger of practicing spiritual disciplines as an end in themselves. But there is also a danger of neglecting the means of grace (forgoing spiritual growth and health as a result) for fear of misusing them.
“Give all diligence in the use of the means of grace, if you desire a flourishing state of soul. They are the Divinely appointed channels of conveyance from the Fountain. They are the tributary streams from the Great Ocean. You cannot possibly maintain a healthy, vigorous state of the inner life, without them. You cannot neglect, with impunity, private prayer, meditation, and self-examination; or public ordinances—the ministry of the Word, the services of the sanctuary, the assemblies of the saints. A slight thrown upon these must entail a severe loss to your soul. Some professors can go from Sabbath to Sabbath, plunged in worldliness, or eager in the pursuit of gain, in total neglect of the prayer-meeting, or of the weekly Bible lecture—those needed rests and hallowed pauses in the way—as if there were no such appointments. These are among the things which weaken the hands, and discourage the heart…
But a more painful calamity even than this, is the dryness, deadness, and barrenness which this neglect brings into their own souls.”
— Octavius Winslow, The Inner Life
Lean into the means of grace that you may lean on Jesus himself. You know the promise stands that if we seek we will find. But where will you look for Christ? How will you lay hold of him by faith if you neglect these gifts? Open that Bible, hit your knees, gather with the saints, not to check duties off a list, but to cling to Jesus himself.
Originally posted at JoeThorn.net (October 1, 2013)