Inside: God’s Word, prayer, and fellowship are gifts from the Lord. He uses these to graciously shape us into Christ’s image, strengthen our faith, and grow us in godliness.
As believers in Christ, we are called to be holy, just as God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). This journey of sanctification, this pursuit of godliness, is not a sprint but a lifelong marathon. It requires discipline, commitment, and dependence on God’s grace. What does this pursuit look like? How do we run this race marked out for us? Let’s explore three key disciplines — reading and studying God’s Word, prayer, and fellowship — that serve as avenues of God’s grace in our journey toward Christlikeness.
John MacArthur stated on the means of grace of the Word, prayer, and fellowship that they are:
“instruments through which God’s Spirit graciously grows believers in Christlikeness and fortifies them in the faith and conforms them into the image of the Son.”
Listen to the Podcast (45 Minutes) or read the abbreviated post below (6 minutes):
Means of Grace to Grow in Godliness PDF Handout – (all the quotes and verses from the podcast episode are listed in the handout)
EP 10: Spiritual Priorities for the New Year @Thankful Homemaker
Spiritual Priorities Planning Guide @Thankful Homemaker
Daily Time with the Lord Free PDF @Thankful Homemaker
Spiritual Disciplines Series @Thankful Homemaker
EP 127: The Proper Pattern for Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15) @Thankful Homemaker
Bible Reading Plans 2024 @Michelle Lesley
Bible Reading Plans 2024 @Ligonier
Infographic: How is Your Prayer Life? @Crossway
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
True Community by Jerry Bridges
The Word of God:
An essential part of any believer’s spiritual journey is the Word of God. It is not merely a book of rules or an ancient text. It is the living, breathing Word of God, a means of grace that God uses to mold us into the image of Christ. When we spend time in God’s Word, we are not just gaining knowledge or seeking to fulfill a religious duty. We are coming to know God Himself. His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
As we delve into the Scriptures, we allow our hearts and minds to be shaped by His truth. We allow His Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). We don’t just read the Word, we meditate on it, we digest it, and we allow it to permeate every aspect of our lives. The Word of God is our daily bread, our spiritual sustenance. It is through His Word that we come to know God, His character, His promises, His commandments, and His love for us.
Donald Whitney states:
No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There simply is no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible, God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God.
The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God.
In the Bible, we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how God wants us to live and what brings the most joy and satisfaction in life. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be godly, we must know the Word of God—intimately!”
Another means of grace in our pursuit of godliness is prayer. Prayer is our direct line of communication with God. It is through prayer that we express our adoration for God, confess our sins, give thanks for His blessings, intercede for others, and present our requests to Him. But prayer is not just about speaking; it is also about listening, about quieting our hearts and minds to hear from God.
Prayer brings us into the presence of God. It takes our minds off the temporal and focuses them on the eternal. It brings a peace that surpasses all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Through prayer, we grow in our relationship with God, we get to know Him more intimately, and we align our wills with His.
“Prayer requires effort. When we pray for people, we focus our thoughts on them; we take their burdens upon ourselves; we intercede before God for them; we sacrifice our time for them; we commit ourselves to their well being. We demonstrate true care and compassion.”
God did not design us to go through this journey of faith alone. We are meant to be in fellowship with each other, encouraging one another, bearing each other’s burdens, and spurring one another on towards love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). Fellowship with other believers is not just about socializing; it is about sharing life together, studying the Word together, praying for each other, and walking together in obedience to Christ.
Fellowship is a gift from God, a means of grace through which we are encouraged, corrected, and challenged to grow in godliness. As we spend time with God’s people, we are reminded that we are part of a larger family, that we are not alone in our struggles, and that we are all part of God’s grand story of redemption.
Jerry Bridges said:
- The body grows as each member grows. But the ultimate focus of our concern should be the same as God’s: growth of the whole body. There is no room for self-absorbed individualism in the New Testament concept of fellowship.*
We don’t simply coast into Christlikeness. It requires time and discipline. The Lord uses many areas of our lives to mold us into the image of His son, and the spiritual disciplines are one such way. They help us to know, love, and serve the Lord as the scripture outlines for us.
We all desire to have the mind of Christ formed within us so we can love others well and point them to the gospel. The more we know about the Lord, the more we come to love and worship Him. The goal of discipline is not to make us better or nicer people, but to have the mind of Christ formed in us.
Just as maintaining our physical health requires the discipline of a healthy diet and exercise, our spiritual lives also need a healthy diet of the intake of the Word, prayer, and fellowship, and the exercise of putting those into practice in our day-to-day lives.
The Lord uses three areas to shape us into Christlikeness. The first two are out of our control – they are people and circumstances. With these first two, the Lord works from the outside in. The third area is the spiritual disciplines, which are worked from the inside out. I can’t control the situations and people that come into my life, but I can decide if I will make time to read my Bible and pray today, and be in fellowship with others. The desire and power to practice the disciplines are produced by the grace of God – they are His means of grace in our lives.
I appreciate Donald Whitney’s example:
He says, “A deep, insatiable hunger for the Bible is a gift from God, but we are the ones who must turn the pages and read the words. God doesn’t pull our passive bodies over to the desk and cause our hands to open the Bible and draw our eyes back and forth over the pages without any effort on our part.”
We can’t lift ourselves by our own bootstraps and make ourselves Christlike on our own. Only God can make a sinful person more like Christ. But it doesn’t mean we have nothing to do in our sanctification, or another way to put it is in our pursuit of godliness.
As we present ourselves before God – He makes us more like Jesus.
As we present ourselves before God – looking to God by faith and through His means of grace – we can expect to meet God there and be changed by Him.
Let us pursue godliness with determination and reliance on God’s grace. Let us commit to reading and studying His Word, to spending time in prayer, and to fellowshipping with His people. As we do, we can trust that God will use these means of grace to transform us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ, for His glory and our joy.