Cultivating Habits of Grace: Day 1

Day 1: It's All About Grace

In this first video, David Mathis shares three important discoveries he made in his Christian life that undergird this study and are helpful to mention right at the very beginning.

Next Steps:
Consider the three main channels of God’s ongoing grace, and briefly evaluate your life and habits here at the outset of this study. Take a few minutes to list out your daily and weekly “habits of grace,” if any, for hearing God’s voice (in his Word), having his ear (in prayer), and belonging to his body (in the fellowship of the church).

About the Book

Hear his voice. Have his ear. Belong to his body.

Three seemingly unremarkable principles shape and strengthen the Christian life: listening to God’s voice, speaking to him in prayer, and joining together with his people as the church. Though seemingly normal and routine, the everyday “habits of grace” we cultivate give us access to these God-designed channels through which his love and power flow—including the greatest joy of all: knowing and enjoying Jesus.

In Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines and the companion workbook for individual or group study, David Mathis helps us to discover simple ways to cultivate habits of grace that empower us for the Christian life by connecting us to God's abundant grace.

Video Transcript

Thank you for joining us on this five-day adventure through the habits of grace. We want to talk about the spiritual disciplines. There are three discoveries that I’ve made in my Christian life that undergird this study and I think would be helpful to mention here at the very beginning.

The Reality of Grace

The first is the reality of grace. I grew up in church and so, before I was even born again, I was taught spiritual disciplines—I was taught to read my Bible, I was taught to pray, I was taught to be in fellowship with the church. Those are all really good things. But before I was born again—before my heart was new—I went through those things, I went through the motions, and they were mainly external. It wasn’t until college—where I was truly born again, where my heart came alive—that the various practices or habits of grace began to be significant to me in feeding my own soul and getting to know Jesus better.

The reality of grace was significant in all that. The Christian life is all of grace: before us, behind us, to the left of us, to the right of us, beneath us, above us—we are swimming in grace in the Christian life. Before we were even born—if you believe in Jesus—God chose you in him before the foundation of the world and gave you the grace of election (Ephesians 1:4). And that was on his own initiative and for his own purpose, not based on your works (2 Timothy 1:9). For thousands of years, the prophets prophesied of the grace that was to be yours in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 1:10).

And then, at the very climax of history, grace himself came, grace embodied, grace incarnate (Titus 2:11). The grace of God appeared; he’s full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus is the climatic manifestation of God’s grace and Jesus lived and he died for us, and then rose in triumph and ascended to heaven where he is seated at God’s right hand as the very paragon of grace in the Christian life.

And then, he broke into our own lives, not just two thousand years ago when he accomplished all that he did, but even now, as he applies his work to our lives. He calls us effectually by his grace (Galatians 1:6). And then he causes us to be born again by grace. We believe by grace (Acts 18:27). We are forgiven by grace (Ephesians 1:7). We are brought into union with Christ and receive the Holy Spirit by grace.

One way the New Testament often talks about grace is that we’re justified by grace. That means we are counted righteous—we are declared to be righteous. Not on the basis of our works—what we do—but on the basis of Jesus’s perfect life. Jesus’s accomplishments for us at the cross and in his triumphal resurrection.

So all this grace comes into our lives before we can even recognize it. Before we do anything, we are only God-less, disobedient, and sinful. Then the grace of God breaks in and begins saving us. But the grace of God doesn’t stop there. The grace of God not only justifies apart from what we do, but the grace of God is so lavish it doubles (so to speak) by moving into our lives and changing how we live. The grace of God sanctifies, as the grace of God begins to work on us and make us progressively holy.

The Means of Grace

So the Christian life, from beginning to end, is a life of grace. And God has revealed his channels us grace to us via his Word so that we can go on accessing and availing ourselves of his grace in the Christian life. The first discovery is grace; the second discovery is the means of grace.

To explain the means of grace we can think about a light switch. When I flip on a light switch in the morning, I don’t celebrate, "Hey! Look what I did! I turned the lights on!" I didn’t provide that power. An electrician wired my house, the power company provided the power; all I did was flip the switch that released the flow of the power.

Means of grace are like that. We don’t provide the power, we don’t celebrate our actions or what we produce. God provides the power and God reveals to us the actions that we can take to release the power. It's similar to turning on a faucet. I didn’t put the plumbing in. I’m not the water company that turns on the water. I simply turn on the faucet and the flow of water comes. It’s similar with the means of grace. God has given us actions that we can take that release the regular flow of his power for the Christian life.

A text that kind of puts all the big ones together is Acts 2:42, which talks about the early church. You’d expect that in the description of the early church you’d have some kind of categorization of the main things they were engaging in or the means of grace in which they lived their Christian life. Acts 2:32 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers." There are four things listed in that verse, but I think of "the breaking of bread" (i.e., the Lord’s Supper) as a part of "the fellowship."

Consequently, I've got three things in mind that I like to help Christians with in simplifying their spiritual lives. The apostles' teaching is the first one. That’s the Word. That’s hearing God’s voice in the Bible. Then there’s the prayers. That’s having God’s ear in prayer. And then there’s the fellowship. That's belonging to his body in the church.

One question we need to raise here at the beginning of our study is: What is the end of the means? Means are means to something, to some end. What is the end of the means?

The answer to that is Philippians 3:7-8: "I count all things to be lost in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Or John 17:3, where Jesus prays that we would know the true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Or, to put it in Old Testament terms, Hosea 6:3: "Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord." The end of the means is knowing and enjoying Jesus. The end is not growth per se. Growth will happen as a kind of a side benefit. What I’ll encourage you with, again and again, is that communing with Jesus—knowing and enjoying him—is the end of the means.

The Habits of Grace

Grace itself and then the means of grace were my first two discoveries. The third and final discovery was the habits of grace.

From being single in college, to being on staff at the campus ministry, to having a full time job, to getting married, to having twin boys and now a daughter, I’ve been through a few seasons of life. One thing I’ve learned is the manifestations of the spiritual disciplines or the habits of grace change—need to change—from season to season.

There are God’s timeless principles related to the fundamental means of grace for our lives (the Word, prayer, and fellowship). Then there are various habits of grace that we can cultivate in various seasons that are specific to our particular life-stage and to our individual personalities and gifts. What I want to do in this study is encourage you along those lines—to have the timeless principles in mind: hearing God’s voice, having his ear, and belonging to his body. And then I want to help you begin to create and experiment with specific habits in your life that will avail you of those key channels of God’s ongoing grace.

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