The Greater Means of Grace
A few years ago a lot of noise was made in the health food world about "super foods." Munching on kale and cranberries was said to power up your body in ways that other foods could not.
What if there were "super graces" that could do the same for our souls? What if we could power up with grace and gain a greater victory over sin in our lives?
Well, would you believe that there are such things?
For the last several weeks we've been looking at the means of grace. We've been saying that there are certain things that the Lord uses to power up our spiritual growth.
First, we said that God uses everything (i.e. His providence) to mold and shape us. Last week we considered how fellowship is a "second level" means of grace.
We could also add service to this second tier. After all, the book of Proverbs says, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” As we bless others with our good works the Lord works to enrich us. Of course, the greatest enrichment we could ever receive is His sanctifying grace.
Yet there's even more effective ways to grow in our walk with Christ. Things like prayer and singing may be considered the "super foods" of grace in that the Lord works even more mightily through them.
In one sense, we know these are more beneficial to our growth in Christ because of how much Scripture is devoted to these topics. Many prayers and songs are sprinkled throughout the pages of the Bible. We even have a whole book devoted to prayer and singing (the Psalms). Furthermore, we have a myriad of exhortations calling us to sing, make melody in our hearts, pray, and give thanks.
A quick consideration of some of these texts will show how the Lord specifically blesses these "third tier" means of grace.
The book of James tells us to draw near to God. Why? Because when we pray He promises "to draw near to us." In other words, in times of prayer God comes and ministers to our hearts. He uses that as an opportunity to strengthen us in our faith and build us up in holiness.
Or, we can think about what Jesus says to Peter in Mark 14:38. Jesus says, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” What was the point of praying? Why was Jesus so insistent that his disciples seek the face of God? Because they were spiritually weak and susceptible to temptation. Prayer was the key to gaining the grace they needed to stand firm and keep from lapsing.
As a matter of fact, we sing about this in the old hymn:
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
We forfeit peace and bear needless spiritual pain because we neglect the means of conquering these ills. But when we pray, we gain the renewing power the Lord grants by it.
Singing has much overlap with prayer. So it is natural to understand how it serves as a means of grace. Yet Col. 3:16 makes it explicit when it says,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
The KJV is great because it says "singing with grace in your hearts" (some versions say "with thanksgiving"). The Apostle recognizes that the act of worship is done by the power of grace and adds the spiritual profit that comes through this grace.
Another interesting text is Deut. 31:19-22. “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them."
In this passage singing is actually used by God for a negative purpose. It serves as an indictment against God's people. While this instance isn't necessarily for grace and upbuilding (we might say it is a means of judgment!), it explicitly shows how the Lord can use song for deep spiritual purposes. No doubt, the conviction that song brought could be used to deter them from sin too.
The above texts do not even begin to be a sample of the myriad of passages in Scripture that deal with the topics of prayer and singing. Yet these do show that the Lord has a special use for these acts. They are funnels which bring grace into our lives and cause us to experience renewal in a much more profound way.
Thus, as we pray and sing (by ourselves or in the context of corporate worship), we can be assured that God is at work. His grace is being communicated to us and we are rescued from the sin that remains in us.
Great Lives & Exegeting Like a Pro
Bob Ludwig will bring his "Great Lives" series to a close this Lord's Day with a focus on Peter Marshall - Presbyterian minister and Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. Through the rest of August we'll learn to "exegete Scripture like a pro." Matt will teach the principles of exegesis and help us apply them practically in the book of Colossians.