Monday, January 19, 2009

Usual means of grace, with exceptions

Means of grace: ways in which God works or commands us to work. Ways in which God has given us to participate in His work. Tools for all we need in this life.
If the body of Christ today is lacking anywhere most, it is in this area; there is so much confusion to the 'ordinary' workings of God. There need not be any confusion, but i would like to submit some thoughts that might not be too conventional.
God in His holiness is without a doubt totally other, and this God is NOT bound by anything. There are no such laws that govern Him, rather all that is (including the laws) comes forth from Him. That said God uses various means and has given us various means (tools) to use NOT because He needs them, but because He has chosen to work this way.
For instance, PRAYER is a means of grace, yet we know God already knows all our needs. We also know that prayer is NOT a form of spiritual manipulation (we don't move God to do something which He doesn't already want to do) all prayer is contingent upon His will- so why pray? We pray ultimately because He tells us to, and because He tells us to, it then works naturally with our new natures.
Preach the word: The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but hasn't God already saved a people for Himself, doesn't the Holy Spirit illumine a man's mind, convince and convert him? Couldn't angels proclaim a purer more accurate message? Then why preach? Because this is the way God has chosen to work, this is the way God calls us to live. Once again, we preach not only out of obedience, but we actually plead with men because God gives us this burden to plead with men, although it may seem confusing to our minds. In other words God not only puts forth the means, but also gives us the proper motivations and affectations that line up with those means.
Church is also one of those means, the local church. Why do i need anyone when i have the word and the Spirit of truth within me? Why do i need to be around the problems of other people, they'll just slow me down? Why do i need the organized religion of mere men? Because IT IS the way God has chosen it to be. God has LIMITED each one of us in our growth that we MUST use the things God has put in place in order to thrive. God has within the local church model, put things in place that will absolutely humble the pride of men, and cause us to trust more that He knows best. God has given gifts to the church to teach what the LORD won't let you see unless you receive it from others.
All this to say He uses means in order to give us daily grace. This is all part of our salvation.
YET we must also recognize that GOD is NOT bound to these means. They are the ORDINARY means of grace, not EXCLUSIVE means. They are what we are to follow, what we are to hold to, and what we are to teach. YET we must not be afraid to say, GOd does NOT have to use these and HAS not always used these. Take a man in prison for his faith, is he limited because of his lack of fellowship? his separation from the local church? It seems the testimonies of such men would be NO, WHY? well first because God isn't bound and because in His grace in His love, in His sovereign working of the life of every believer, God has often blessed men with extraordinary growth and even insight (apart from the word, apart from the local church ...) and i would submit that is because such a man is NOT choosing to disobey and thus is still blessed!
What about the testimonies of men in closed countries that have said they came to Christ through visions or a audible voice? Would you say God COULD NOT do that, or would you say NO, God would send someone there to preach and then maybe. Could such had a DAMASCUS road experience like Paul (apart from the preached word)? Is it possible that God can do that and that perhaps it's a message to us that if we don't desire to join in it, that He can still do it without us?
It's not that hard to understand or believe that, as it is to believe that a man is saved under weak, shallow and man-centered evangelism. Yet it is true that many men have been saved through a great deal of error, perhaps even under the preaching of someone who has since apostatized. That's more odd to me then God doing something supernatural, yet it does happen.

!!!NOW!!! Let me say this, in warning to the lovers of pragmatism. Just because it has worked doesn't make it OK. Just because God has done something in a certain way before does not mean we are to seek after that. We are NOT called to GUESS and PRESUME upon God's working. We are called to search the scriptures and do likewise. TO approach anything, with a 'sure it's not in the scriptures but hey it works' is to test God. That's the same as saying 'God i know you've commanded this, but i have a better idea'. In fact this is exactly what Moses did wrong. Moses was commanded to speak to the rock in order for water to come out, and in his pride Moses choose rather to just do what he did before. Well? it worked didn't it? Yes the water came out, everyone was refreshed and MOSES was PUNISHED!!!!
God will NOT bless sin, though His purposes will still be carried out, He will punish or discipline transgressors. One could look at the testimony of a believer who lived in a land of intense persecution, and think "hey they still grew, they didn't go to a church, I don't need the church either!" and they would be in direct violation of God's REVEALED (clearly commanded, communicated) will. In the same way too many are looking at evangelism and not concerning themselves with what God said to do and what God said He WILL bless. Instead men are looking at exceptions and 'results' then forming their methods and theology based upon that. They are continuing to STRIKE the rock, by doing this they not ONLY add something new (unwarranted) but by doing so they take AWAY from what God has told us to use.
Let a solid teacher of the gospel come and you might get a few people, let it be a Christian movie and everyone's expecting a third great awakening! Everything's a ministry these days, from sports groups, to clothing places, to films everything is a high expectation for possibly ushering in the kingdom, but what gets little thought , little attention is the PREACHED word, the LOCAL church, the SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES and so on. In fact i remember hearing a testimony about someone coming to faith through a vision (in India or somewhere like it) and the person requested we all pray for more of this; which was received by the church as a good idea?!!! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO, That's NOT what we are to pray for, we are to PRAY for laborers and to SEND them and to GO, because that's the 'ORDINARY' way, that's the way the scriptures tell us to do it, not through exceptions.
Likewise i've mentioned before in parenting, there may be lots of exceptions where parents really blew it but somehow God was pleased to bless those children in such a way you would think they were raised by the apostle Paul. There are too many looking at the disobedience of men and seeing how God has worked in spite of them and have lived sloppy lives trusting God to clean it all up in the end.
TO do it the way GOd has told us to, to seek Him the way He has told us to, to reach out to the lost they way He has told us to, to be a part of the local body the way He has told us to, is to BRING THE MOST GLORY to GOD. Leave your pragmatism and your creative inventions in the marketing world, God doesn't need your assistance, He knows what He is doing.
Let us then be convinced that we are to seek out what God has said, what the biblical model is for all things: the Local church, Christian living, evangelism, family and so on.
I hope this was clear enough, bless you.

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