Our God is lavish in his grace. He's free to liberally dispense his goodness without the least bit of cooperation or preparation on our part, and often he does. But he also has regular channels through which he pours out his favor.
These are sometimes called "spiritual disciplines" or "means of grace." We as Christians can routinely avail ourselves of these revealed paths of blessing, positioning ourselves to go on getting as God keeps on giving.
His regular channels of grace are his voice, his ear, and his body--the Bible, prayer, and fellowship. The greatest grace along these paths is knowing and enjoying Jesus himself.
HEARING GOD'S VOICE
The fundamental means of God's ongoing grace, through his Spirit, in the life of the Christian and the life of the church is God's self-expression in his Word, in the gospel, perfectly kept for us and on display in all its textures, riches, and hues in the external written word of the Scriptures.
The Bible is for us. The whole Bible is for the whole church.
There's simply no replacement for finding a regular time and place, blocking out distractions, and letting your mind and heart be led and captured and thrilled by God himself communicating through his objective written words. As you read, learn to linger over a text, whether seeking to better understand it ("study"), or to emotionally glory in that understanding ("meditation"), or to memorize a portion to help renew your mind throughout the day.
As we understand and engage with Scripture's meaning, we refocus our souls for living out our day. We increasingly "have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16) as we're conformed to his image.
HAVING GOD'S EAR
As we go deep in God's revelation, taking it into our very souls and being changed by his truth, we respond to him in prayer.
God not only bids us hear his voice; he wants to hear ours.
Prayer, for the Christian, is not merely talking to God, but responding to the One who has initiated toward us. He has spoken first. This is not a conversation we start, but a relationship into which we've been drawn.
Prayer makes its requests of God, but is not content to only receive from God. Prayer must have him. Prayer is ultimately about having more of God.
Private prayer shows who we really are spiritually. It's essential in healing the many places we find ourselves broken, needy, lacking, and rebellious.
Prayer changes hearts like nothing else. It's for all of life, and especially for our life together in community. Praying together adds power to the request, but also means more glory for the Giver when he answers.
BELONGING TO HIS BODY
We were made to worship Jesus together.
Corporate worship is the single most important means of grace and our greatest weapon in the fight for joy. More than any other means, corporate worship combines all three principles of God's ongoing grace: his word, prayer, and fellowship.
In corporate worship, our focus together is the crucified and risen Christ and the incomparable excellencies of his person and work. We experience the secret of worship--the joy of self-forgetfulness--as we become preoccupied together with Jesus and his manifold perfections.
In our gatherings for corporate worship, hearing the fresh preaching of the gospel from the Scriptures is the climactic grace. It's that moment among the assembled church when God speaks most clearly and completely. In faithful Christian preaching, we not only hear about Jesus, but we meet him.
The act of preaching itself is a picture of the gospel. As the preacher stands behind the Book, doing his level best to reveal Jesus afresh to his people, our Lord is put on display. When we listen, we realize that what we need is not some boost from a trusted fellow to get us over the wall, but the rescue of the Savior for the utterly helpless.
And so Jesus was sent not only to die as the remedy, but to preach (Luke 4:43). Jesus himself is the person the Scriptures most often refer to as preaching. Jesus was the ultimate preacher, but after his ascension, the preaching doesn't disappear. When we turn to Acts in the Bible, preaching is alive and well as ever. The preaching of the Groom [Jesus] extends into the life of the church.
GRACE WILD AND FREE
In considering these means of grace and the habits that help us go on receiving God's grace in our lives, this much must be made clear: These things are never about earning God's favor.
God's grace is unmeasured, boundless, wild--and free. Because of it, we're enabled to repent of our sins and to believe God's promises. 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). This flood of God's favor brings us his forgiveness and our adoption as his children. It starts us on the path of grace-empowered effort and initiative.
Have you taken the first step on this journey?
David Mathis serves as the executive editor at desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church, and adjunct professor at Bethlehem College & Seminary. He writes regularly at desiringGod.org, and he and his wife, Megan, have four children.