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Means of Grace: Part 1

This is the most stressful time of the year for many of us. There is the anticipation of the stressors of family gatherings, a focus on food and alcohol, the ever-present comparison trap, disruption of routines, financial pressures, and perhaps navigating the holiday season while grieving loss.

When faced with feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, we usually DO something to make ourselves feel better... Here's the problem - it doesn't work. I mean, it might make you feel better in the short term… but next year, it's going to be the same movie over again.

Imagine a cascading water fountain as your life, where your actions and behavior are the lowest and most visible tier, above that are your feelings and emotions, above that are your thoughts, and right at the top, your core beliefs.

Like the fountain, things flow downward. In other words, your core beliefs (internalized messages, how you perceive yourself, God, the world, others, experiences internalized truths) flow into your thoughts (ideas, opinions, expectations, intentions, inner voice) which in turn drive your feelings (emotional state, internal reactions), and those play out in your behaviors (the way that you deal with your thoughts and feelings)

When we start with trying to deal with feelings through behaviors, it's like trying to make the water flow upwards in the fountain. It doesn't work.

The place to start is with core beliefs because everything flows from that.

Your life will flow in the direction of your core beliefs.

Here are some examples of negative core believes

  • It will always be this way

  • I am BAD

  • I can’t trust myself

  • Don’t show emotions

  • I'm not good enough

  • If people knew the real me…

  • Feel inadequate / imposter

  • I can’t change

  • I am powerless

What if it could be different? The good news is that the Gospel has the power to change your core beliefs and bring about an incredible transformation in your life, in thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

It is important to have some clear, basic, core beliefs, about what the Gospel is, what Grace is, and what the Means of Grace are there for.

Romans 5:8-10

But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 How much more then, since we have now been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

I. I. What is the Gospel?

The Gospel is a promise of God's salvation, and it is the proclamation of the Kingdom of Jesus. The good news is that man can be saved by Jesus taking our place on the cross and paying for our sins with his own life. Salvation is received by grace, through faith. The Gospel frees us, in a moment from the penalty of sin. Yet it doesn't stop there. Jesus overcame death and ushered in the start of a new creation. Through a process, of being part of his Kingdom, and walking by grace in obedience to the King, we can be freed from the power of sin (bondage, destructive patterns, negative core beliefs, and so on).

II. What is Grace?

Grace is that which brings forth the righteousness of God for the sinner. Righteousness is that which comes through justice and mercy on the cross. Righteousness is who God is.

  • Righteousness puts the sinner into a right relationship with God - it is the result of being forgiven, declared not guilty (justification)

  • Righteousness is that which conforms to the character of God, Righteousness is the condition of being conformed to the “likeness of God” (Eph. 4:24) (sanctification)

Grace is that which puts you into a right relationship with God and conforms you to the character of God.

It is important to see the two parts here. Justification happens at a point in time when a person comes to believe in Jesus for salvation. This is freedom from the penalty of since. Sanctification is not a point in time, but a process, through grace and obedience, being conformed (changed) over time, by the Holy Spirit. Here is where we grow in freedom from the power of sin.

It's a bit like when a person gets married (a point in time) but then continues on to learn and grow in how to be married ( a process)

Without seeing both parts, one may be free from the penalty of sin, but will not progress in freedom from the power of sin.

III. What are the Means of Grace?

The means of grace, aka Spiritual practices/disciplines, are things that God has given us to help our process of formation - in other words, to progress in freedom from the power of sin. They are ways that we can position ourselves so that our core beliefs can begin to align with God. The means of grace are for us means of joy in God, to KNOW Jesus, to enjoy Him, THIS is the heart, the goal. The means of grace are not about earning God's favor, nor manipulating him, but rather positioning ourselves to be shaped by Him.

Think of them like a magnifying glass that focuses the rays of the sun on a dried leaf to bring about significant change in a specific area. Grace is always flowing, and the means of grace enable us to focus that grace on a specific area in our lives.

Over the next few weeks, we will unpack some of these.

Following Jesus is utterly dependent on the grace of God. By it, we

come into spiritual life, and in it, we continue on.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18

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