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The Means of Grace
Jan. 7, 2007
Dear Friend of Mary Craig Ministries,
Many today hear a snappy sermon; laugh at a few foibles and the frailty of the human condition; and then go forward to say a little prayer "to receive Christ." After placing their trust in Christ by the grace of God, they walk back to their seats thinking life will be different now but never truly grasp the heinousness of sin and their need for ongoing repentance, faith, and future grace.
Just today a young woman responded to an evocative presentation of the gospel by praying to receive Christ at Craighouse. I pointed out to her the need for personal growth in Christ as we move ahead in the Christian life, that every believer needs to avail himself/herself of the means of grace.
What are the means of grace? We are saved by grace through faith and given grace to obey through faith which works by love. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Grace. God is the God of all grace. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Thus we are exhorted not to insult the Spirit of Grace in Hebrews 10.29. Once justified by grace, we are to yield to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are to avail ourselves of the means of grace, those outward and ordinary means ordained by God as Christ mediates the benefits of salvation.
Every believer can enjoy God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, and hope of eternal relationship with Christ here on earth now as he/she continues to utilize the means of grace.
It's rather like being born with a gift, and having the gift but never discovering it, developing it, or using it. You live as though you had no gift and after you die, you face the reality that you wasted something very precious. Or, you could discover and appreciate the gift you were born with, practice and get coaching and develop the gift, use the gift for the benefit of others, and be a real blessing.
We have this gift, Christ and eternal life in Him. We can be like wedding glasses used once only to be wrapped up and stored in a closet. Or, we can be like fancy crystal glasses used only on special occasions, hand washed and stored in the cupboard. Or, we can be favorite glasses, used and washed, used and washed, and kept handy on the kitchen counter. Which do you think turns out to be "golden?"
The primary means by which Christ communicates to His own are the Word, the sacraments of Christian baptism and the Lord's Supper, and prayer. These are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.
The Word of God as a means of grace is comprised of Law and Gospel. The Law serves (1) to bring a person under conviction of sin (Romans 3.20) in order to make one conscious of a total inability to meet the demands of the Law; (2) to lead a person to the necessity of Christ (Galatians 3.24); and (3) to serve as a guide to believers as to "what love looks like." The Holy Spirit uses the Law to restrain sin and promote righteousness in a nation, a family, a person.
The Gospel declares the good news of Christ as the only way back to the Father, that Jesus lived a perfect life, died to pay the penalty for sin, and rose again from the dead. The Gospel exhorts those to come to Christ in faith and repentance, and to rely and trust in Christ alone as the only hope of salvation. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. (Romans 1.16, 1 Cor. 1.18)
The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to enlighten, convince, humble, and build up believers in holiness, grace, comfort, etc. as the Word is faithfully read, preached, and searched. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to draw people to the Truth, to conform believers to the image of Christ, and to strengthen faith such that believers "grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3.18)
Through prayer we actively communicate with the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. We come boldly to the Throne of Grace to obtain mercy and to find favor, or grace to help, in a timely way. (Hebrews 4.16) We talk, we listen, we worship, we express our wonder, we share our feelings and thoughts and all we are with all God is.
The sacraments of Christian baptism and the Lord's Supper do not save anyone in and of themselves, but these are means of grace to the believer as they are received. The Great Commission (Matthew 28.19) includes baptism. Baptism is the outward sign of the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life and it demonstrates faith as old lives are left behind and new life in Christ is acknowledged. (Romans 6.4; Col. 2.11-13; 1 John 3.2, 23) In the Lord's Supper we join ourselves with the Blood covenant and proclaim Christ's death until He comes. (1 Cor. 11, Matthew 26.28; Exodus 24.8; Isaiah 53.12; Revelation 19.6-9)
In addition God has ordained certain means by which His grace is improved in us. For example, as we embrace proper worship and partake in praise as individuals, as families, and corporately as the family of God, we grow in grace. Honoring the Sabbath, receiving the Word read and expounded, offering prayers, singing songs to God, reaffirming our faith, pronouncing blessings, bringing the tithe and offerings, guardedly administering the sacraments, and giving sacred oaths and vows all contribute to growth in grace. (Acts 2.37-42; John 16.8) Subduing the flesh through fasting and abstinence encourages humility as an act of worship and means of grace. (James 4.6)
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live in community and oneness, and we also are brought into the community of the covenant people of God. "One anothering," mutually caring for the members of Christ's body through regular fellowship (Hebrews 10.23-25) and actively participating in "good works wrought in God" (John 3) affirm the Lordship of Christ in our lives. Witnessing the gospel to others, giving glory to God through testimonies of God's grace, and involving ourselves in communication that gives grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4) all honor God and encourage growth in grace. Through these the Holy Spirit renews us and glorifies Christ. (Eph. 2.10; Col. 1.10; John 15.8)
God ordained means through which He confers grace to His people.
Let 2007 be a year in which you avail yourself of the means of grace and see the gospel of Christ prosper in you, in your church, and around the world!
Your gifts speak volumes of your generosity and dedication to the gospel of Christ. Pray for the mission to Ethiopia January 25th - February 1st that the gospel of Christ penetrates the darkness of men's souls and that many are saved, healed, and delivered from the ravages of sin by God's grace.
P.S. Go to www.marycraig.org for more on Ethiopia and to help you in your faith. Order from our Catalog section using PayPal. Worship with us 4:30 p.m. Sundays, grow and flourish in small group ministry at Craighouse®, located in the Pompano Plaza at 114 E. McNab Road, Pompano Beach, FL 33060. Log on to www.craighouse.org for a map and more events and Bible studies. Reach MCM at 954-491-7270. Send in your prayer requests. Mary Craig Ministries, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Federal ID 65-0429517. Be blessed! We love you.
You, therefore, beloved, seeing you know these things before,
Beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked,
Fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace,
And in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3.17, 18
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