Today’s Daily Light
Executive Editor, desiringGod.org
Put Yourself In the Path of God’s Grace
I can flip a switch, but I don’t provide the electricity. I can turn on a faucet, but I can’t make the water flow. There will be no light and no liquid refreshment without someone else providing it.
And so it is, in a limited sense, for the Christian with the ongoing grace of God. His grace is essential for our spiritual lives, but we don’t control the supply. We can’t make the grace flow, but God has given us circuits to connect and pipes to open in case it’s there.
Our God is lavish in his grace, often liberally dispensing his favor without even the least bit of cooperation and preparation on our part. But he also has his regular channels. And we can routinely avail ourselves of these revealed paths of blessing, or neglect them to our detriment.
The Places Where the Grace Keeps Passing
“The essence of the Christian life,” says one seasoned saint, “is learning to fight for joy in a way that does not replace grace.” We cannot earn God’s grace or make it flow apart from his free gift. But we can position ourselves to go on getting should he keep giving. We can “fight to walk in the paths where he has promised his blessings” (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 43–44). We can ready ourselves for receiving along his regular route sometimes called “the spiritual disciplines.”
Such practices are not fancy or highfalutin. They are the stuff of everyday, basic Christianity — unimpressively mundane, but spectacularly potent by the Spirit. While there’s no final and complete list of such spiritual disciplines, the long tally of helpful habits can be clustered into three big groups: hearing God’s voice, having God’s ear, and being with God’s people. Or simply: word, prayer, and fellowship.
These were called “the means of grace” by previous generations. “The doctrine of the disciplines,” says J.I. Packer, “is really a restatement and extension of classical Protestant teaching on the means of grace” (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 9). Whatever the term, the key is that God has revealed certain channels through which he regularly pours out his favor. And we’re foolish not to take his word on it.
What “Means of Grace” Means
To put means with grace might endanger the free nature of grace. But it need not do so — not if the means are coordinate with receiving and the exertions of effort are graciously supplied. Which is emphatically the case for the Christian. Here there is no ground for boasting.
“All our exertions toward the goal of Christlikeness are gifts of grace.”
The one on whom we lean is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10). He not only elects the undeserving without condition, and works in them the miracle of new birth and the gift of faith, but he also freely declares them righteous by that faith, and begins supplying the flow of spiritual life and energy to experience the joy of increasing Christlikeness.
God’s immense flood of grace not only sees us as holy in Christ, but also progressively produces holy desires in us. It is grace to be forgiven of sinful acts, and grace to be supplied the heart for righteous ones. It is grace that we are increasingly “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29), and grace that he doesn’t leave us in the misery of our sin but pledges to bring to completion the good work he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
For the glory of God, the good of others, and the satisfaction of our souls, the goal of the Christian life is such Christlikeness, or godliness, or holiness rightly understood. And all our exertions of effort toward that goal are gifts of grace.
2nd/final part of article continued tomorrow 😊