Killing Sin by the Spirit, Post 3 (Get Grace!)

Here's the truth: We cannot kill sin. We are powerless on our own.

Lots of people will give you lot of ideas about how to be more filled with the Holy Spirit and how to get more grace. They might point you to to the latest best-selling Christian book. Years ago, it would have been The Prayer of Jabez or A Purpose-Driven Life. Today, it might be some book on prayer circles or a Jesus Calling book. But God has not made accessing His grace and the power of His Spirit a secret, nor does He want us seeking Him outside of His word and apart from His people. I suspect what some people want from these trendy fads – perhaps what most people want – is a short-cut formula to a life filled with happiness and free from struggle. God nowhere promises us that!

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. – Titus 2:11-14, ESV

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? – Galatians 3:3, ESV

Here’s the truth: We cannot kill sin. We are powerless on our own. God’s grace has appeared to train us and God’s Spirit has been given to us to empower us to live for God and not for our flesh. We need the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, not our flesh.

So how do we get the grace we need?

Lots of people will give you lot of ideas about how to be more filled with the Holy Spirit and how to get more grace. They might point you to to the latest best-selling Christian book. Years ago, it would have been The Prayer of Jabez or A Purpose-Driven Life. Today, it might be some book on prayer circles or a Jesus Calling book. But God has not made accessing His grace and the power of His Spirit a secret, nor does He want us seeking Him outside of His word and apart from His people. I suspect what some people want from these trendy fads – perhaps what most people want – is a short-cut formula to a life filled with happiness and free from struggle. God nowhere promises us that!

God does promise to never leave us nor forsake us and He promises to give us what we need to live a life that pleases Him – not a life completely free from sin, struggle, heartache and pain, but a life of genuine love for God and for others.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” – 2 Peter 1:3, ESV

So, how do we get the grace we need for a life of godliness?

God has given us means of grace, ordinary means of growing in extraordinary grace. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is helpful when it says –

Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Three means, each of which has two aspects:

1. The Word: God speak to us.

a. Reading the Word: As we read the word, we grow in our understanding of God, His character, His purpose, His work of redemption and His precious promises. We see how God has dealt with His people in the past, how He has been faithful to His promises, how He has been merciful to His people and also how His people have suffered from their foolishness and disobedience. The world never stops speaking to us, telling us its story of selfishness and materialism. That’s a story our flesh likes to hear! We need to counter that story with God’s truth in His Word.

b. The Word Preached: God gave the church pastor-teachers to preach the Word and by doing so to equip the saints. (See Eph 4:11-13 and 2 Tim 4:1-4). We all need to be sitting under sound Biblical preaching. God uses preaching to apply His word to our hearts in a way that simply reading it, studying it or even discussing it with others cannot match.

2. Sacraments: God pictures and promises His grace to us. 

a. Baptism: Baptism identifies us as belonging to God’s people, as He names us and claims us publicly in baptism. The washing of water depicts the regenerating and cleansing work of the Holy Spirit in applying the work of Christ to us. Baptism remembered helps remind us who we are and whose we are, helping us deal with those questions of identity we dealt with yesterday.

b. The Lord’s Supper: The Lord’s Supper is an ongoing sacrament, a means of grace wherein Christ feeds our souls with Himself. As we share in the Lord’s Supper by faith, we feast on Christ and His life, blood and righteousness are applied to our hearts.

3. Prayer: We pour out our hearts to God in praise, repentance, thanksgiving and request. 

a. Private Prayer: Jesus repeatedly told His disciples to get alone in prayer with their Heavenly Father and He set the example by spending all night in private prayer on multiple occasions. Jesus also gave us a model for prayer in The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13), showing us that we are to praise God, seek His kingdom and will first and foremost, present our needs to Him, ask for forgiveness and seek His help against temptation.

b. Public, Corporate Prayer: Prayer is not just a private exercise, not just an individual experience. God also calls us to gather with His people for prayer. The early church in Acts gathered for prayer repeatedly and God used their prayers in mighty ways.

These means of grace are outward and ordinary. They are also powerful and transformative, when we truly seek the Lord by faith in them. We can easily do all of these things in an empty manner out of a sense of routine or mere obligation or we can seek the Lord in His word, in His sacraments and in prayer. We don’t need emotional experiences or some new “secret insight.” We need the Lord and He is not hiding from us. He will meet us and give us the grace we need to keep growing in Him.

Jason A. Van Bemmel is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. This article appeared on his blog Ponderings of a Pilgrim Pastor and is used with permission.