Disciplines of Grace: Introduction: Philippians 2:12-13
Let me begin with a statement, this generation of Christians in the West is the most informed and least godly generation of Christians that has ever been. I am not only talking about the fact that Christians are no longer recognizable as different from the world, nor am I referring to the many instances of public sin that Christian leaders and Christians in general are caught in. No, in our modern age with all of it conveniences, and all of its media and distractions we have lost our inner disciplines and spirituality. We are a people who are prayerless, we do not read our bibles, we do not think about God, we have grown impatient with reading, with hard thinking and research. We want google spirituality that is instant, that has taken all the difficulty out of accessing information, that is always attractive and well presented. We don’t know how to sacrifice but are connoisseurs of all the best things. We are not able to suffer well not having enough resources. We are full of constant complaints about our comforts. In a word we are infants. Think about children for a moment, they demand instant gratification, they squall as if they are dying when all they are is hungry because they haven’t eaten in 3 hours, they weep at the smallest injury, they fixate on their appearance not the state of their hearts, they are suckers for advertising and want the next new thing that shows up on an advert or their friends have begun to collect, they have no ability to clean their own rooms, brush their teeth when they should, they don’t self-regulate whenever sweets are around, and on and on I could go, but sadly this is what Christians are like today. Sadly many Christians are in a constant state of immaturity.
We are wanting to begin a series that addresses this common need. As sinners we are always inclined to self-gratification and not self-discipline, it is only as we mature that we take control of our urges and desires and thoughts and bring them into line with what we ought to be doing. Sadly, we find it easier to be good at things like sport or work or a hobby than in spiritual things. We want to do a series on the spiritual disciplines. Now what do we mean by spiritual disciplines?
You can call them spiritual disciplines or you can call them the means of grace, but what we mean by this denomination is those things that God blesses for our spiritual growth. J I Packer says that ‘the doctrine of the disciplines is really a restatement and extension of classical Protestant teaching on the means of grace.’ The list of things usually includes prayer, fasting, bible reading, going to church, worship, giving, family worship, journaling, etc. So which is best spiritual disciplines or means of grace? Each label has a good emphasis, spiritual disciplines emphasizes our part, that we need to apply ourselves that godliness does not come easily like sin, it comes with effort. But this could be overemphasized to make it sound like we are the authors of our own holiness. Means of grace has that key word grace in it which stresses that we grow in the same way we are saved, not by our efforts and merit but by God on the basis of His free and lavish grace giving us the growth. The word means also directs us to look at those God appointed things that God blesses to help us grow. Some have taken this emphasis to make it sound like Roman Catholicism where just by doing certain things mechanically and guaranteed blessing can be had ex opera operato. I have chosen to call these series, disciplines of grace as a way to try and strike a balance in what we mean. Grace is always the initiator, the catalyst, the one that beings the process of salvation whether it is in justification or sanctification. It is by grace that God gives the increase in any growth in holiness. However, we also recognise that God has appointed the use of means and that a diligent use of them is required for us to know the increase God gives.