Episode 228: Misunderstanding The Means of Grace – There’s Still Hope
May 3, 2022
The means of grace are wonderful ways to encounter God and grow in your relationship with Jesus. Sometimes, however, we confuse the means with the end. Join us this week to explore a few misunderstandings around the means of grace.
The means of grace are opportunities to grow in our understanding and experience of God’s love. It’s all too easy to think that reading the scriptures, prayer, or Holy Communion is the point. The love of God we know in Jesus is the point.
Wesley on the Means of Grace
“But in process of time, when the love of many waxed cold, some began to mistake the means for the end, and to place religion rather in doing those outward works, than in a heart renewed after the image of God. They forgot that “the end of” every “commandment is love, out of a pure heart,” with “faith unfeigned;” the loving the Lord their God with all their heart, and their neighbour as themselves; and the being purified from pride, anger, and evil desire, by a “faith of the operation of God.”
The end goal of the means of grace is a life transformed by the love of God we know in Jesus.
Relationships, earning God’s love, and God’s preferred patterns for the means of grace are a few other topics we cover in the episode on the Misunderstandings of the means of grace.
Explore the Scripture mentioned in the Episode
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
More than anything, remember this: wherever we are in our journey of faith, hope abounds! Want to encounter that hope? Explore the means of grace.
[00:00:00] Sara: You're listening to leader cast episode 228.
[00:00:05] You're listening to Leader cast, Transforming Mission's podcast with Tim Bias and Sara Thomas. Providing you with resources to navigate the challenges and opportunities of courageous Christ- centered leaders
[00:00:22] Tim: So, let me just confuse things from the very beginning. I'll make one statement. It's the mains and not the.
[00:00:33] Sara: Oh, goodness. Tim's going to leave us hanging there for a minute. As I remind you that you can find show notes for this firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash two to eight, including links to Wesley's sermons that we mentioned in this episode and scripture references.
[00:00:52] Tim: So today we're continuing the series on hope and the means of grace. And just want to remind you that there that that's a twofold purpose for this series. The first one is to encourage you as a Christ centered leader, to tend to your own faith formation. And then the second is to revisit. The means of grace as a source of hope.
[00:01:16] Sara: In each episode, we're exploring one big idea. And so this episode is the misunderstandings of the means of grace, as well as answer two questions. What's the leadership message. And where is hope now, Tim? You started us off with it's the mean. Not the end. Say more.
[00:01:38] Tim: Oh Sara today, as you've already said, we're talking about misunderstandings. So the means of grace And the biggest misunderstanding I can name is that we confuse the means and the end, we sometimes think that may be participating in the means of grace. Instead of a means to something else.
[00:02:05] Sara: And I think John Wesley had something to say about that in his sermon on the means of grace. He probably had more to say on it than just this sermon, but let me attempt to read a portion of Wesley's message in sermon 16, the means of grace. This is what he said. But in the process of time, when the love of many wax cold, some began to mistake the means for the end and to place religion, rather than in doing those out or works than in a heart renewed.
[00:02:39] After the image of God, they forgot and listen to this carefully folks. They forgot the end of every commandment is love out of a pure heart with faith unfeigned, the loving the Lord. There God with all their heart and their neighbors themselves, and the being purified from pride, anger, and evil desire by a faith of the operation of God, try we reading Wesley out loud. It is not easy, but what sticks out to me in that, Tim is the end is a heart renewed after the image of God.
[00:03:23] The love of God we know in Jesus. Can I say it another way? Being perfected in love? There's million other ways that I can it, it. So save me. Cause I'm going to start preaching. If you don't interrupt me.
[00:03:41] Tim: I don't need to save you and I can't save you, but God's grace has already done that. Sara, let me.
[00:03:47] share a verse of scripture. It comes from a Ephesians so the second chapter. For it's by grace. You've been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves. is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast that's for patients to eight and nine.
[00:04:09] Sara: Yeah. So you now see how this episode is going to go. We're going to talk at multiple levels what we're, what we're really talking about. let's reconcile that scripture with the means of grace and the misunderstandings of the means of grace. And to do that, here's what we're going to do. We're going to talk about the means, and then we're going to talk about the end, and then we're going to talk about the leadership message and name hope.
[00:04:38] Tim: Well, it works for me. We explored a little of Wesley's writing then too. He pointed to the means of grace being the ordinary ways we encounter God's grace. So prayer searching the scripture. Holy communion are the common ways we can experience God's grace. And that includes God's prevenient grace, as well as justifying and sanctifying grace. Those disciplines are ways we connect with God and learn to love one another. But here's what I want to say. We confuse the means of grace with being the point. The love of God we know in Jesus is the point. But sometimes we feel like, I'm I, I'm going to say it from my perspective. And that is, I'm a good person.
[00:05:33] I do a daily devotional practice. The means of grace. What else do I need to do? And we forget Jesus is the point and that we live this grace not just talk about it, studying.
[00:05:50] Sara: I guess how I want to say it is you can't earn God's love. So don't confuse the means with the end. You can't do anything to get God to love you any more than God already loves you. And if you think that God will love you more, if you pray more or spend more time in scripture or partake in holy communion, more frequently,
[00:06:13] I don't see. God, keeping a log and saying, oh, Sara prayed this morning. And Sara prayed before she got on the podcast and Sara pray good for Sara. She now gets five stars and five buckets of myeloma, but that's not how it works. Thanks be to God. That's not how it works. Jesus simply wants no the love of God and share the love of God with others.
[00:06:37] So let's go back to that Ephesians two scripture again, and. I once again, have the pleasure of sharing a little John Wesley with you. Grace without any respect to any human worthiness, confers, a glorious gift. And if you want to hear us talk a bit about the gift and giving and receiving, go back to the last episode, episode 2 27, because we have a conversation about that.
[00:07:06] And then the second piece of it is by works. this faith nor the salvation is owing to any works you ever did. We'll or can do so Wesley just highlights. What, what the scripture says, God and loving our neighbor is the end goal. Having a heart transformed by the love of God know in Jesus is the point.
[00:07:38] So as Christ centered leaders, Tim, what's the message.
[00:07:43] Tim: Sara. I think the message.
[00:07:45] for Christ centered leaders is it's pretty clear to me. We have an opportunity to teach, to model and prepare people to encounter the love of God that we know in, in, through Jesus, through the means of grace. The end goal is a life transformed into the image of God. I might say it this way, the coming, who God created us to be. I'm going to say it backwards. And so you can straighten me out. And that is those of us who don't the means of grace or participate in the means of grace doesn't mean that we've not been extended grace. And it doesn't mean we haven't experienced grace, but I'm going to tell you it's very difficult to abound and to live the kind of life that God intends for you to live. If you're not aware of the grace and that's one of the big misunderstandings, I think people say, well, God's grace, it's with us all the time. So we'll, we'll just live the way we live. Now. We may not say it that way, but if you don't participate and cultivate the grace in your life, that's exactly what you're doing.
[00:09:07] Sara: Well, if, if you're not participating in cultivating it, how do you recognize. and well, yes, there is. God's prevenient grace. Once you come to the place of understanding and being a person of faith, we're, we're moving on towards the sanctification, right? It's the holiness of heart and life. It's the becoming more like Jesus, as you say it to him becoming who God created you to be.
[00:09:36] So if the end goal is a transformed life and in that transformation is about becoming more like Jesus, what a leaders need to remember now, before you answer part of what's running through my mind is that prayer and searching the scriptures are basic spiritual disciplines. And I don't want to say isn't there something more out there.
[00:10:02] Tim: Well,
[00:10:03] Sara: But sometimes that's where I think we go as leaders. It's kind of like, okay, this is a silly example, but we had chicken and green beans and rolls and a baked potato for dinner two nights ago. And we're going to do chicken again. It's like, it's too ordinary that we can't focus on it. But when we think about the breadth and the depth of scripture and the multiple ways that we can pray.
[00:10:33] Simplifying the, the practices, the means of grace and saying that they're too simple, or we get bored with them. And therefore I'm bored in my spiritual practice or a favorite here, the sarcasm in my voice on that, one of it's just not feeding me.
[00:10:52] Tim: You mean all those green beans and all that stuff. Isn't feeding you. I'm sorry.
[00:10:58] Sara: And, and so what I want to remind you, this is that each time we open the scriptures, each time we go to God and prayer, each time we come to the table, we aren't the same people.
[00:11:12] We weren't. The last time we did those things. If we are truly continuing to grow in grace, it's just that it's, it continues to accumulate and grow and expand and expound so that we are becoming, I'm going to borrow your line, Tim, more of who God created us to be.
[00:11:34] Tim: Well, it's the second time you've been preaching here. Sara what I'm thinking is with the spiritual disciplines and the means of grace. As really the practice of those brings us into relationship. It's
[00:11:46] about relationship,
[00:11:47] Sara: Yes.
[00:11:48] Tim: God, relationship with one another. Their means help us encounter the love of God we know in Jesus, so that we become more like Jesus, but that we might also recognize Jesus and others.
[00:12:01] Sara: Part of what I'm hearing you highlight Tim, is that the importance of relationship. And if we think about God's grace and God's love and God's gift to us, God wants to be in relationship us. And if we think about it and I'm treading on shaking around here, but think about your personal relationships, you don't go along seasons, not speaking to the people that you love the most.
[00:12:37] You and nurture those relationships. You tend to those relationships, you're present to those relationships and vice versa. And, and that's part of what we receive when we encounter God in and through the means of, of grace. So I'm wondering Tim, are there other misunderstandings of the means of grace that are running through your mind that you're thinking of?
[00:13:05] Tim: Well, I'm sure there are other misunderstandings of the means of?
[00:13:09] grace, but what's running through my mind. I think we've already said, and that is we live in a time that we actually earn what we have. And God's grace, as, as you've said, isn't something we earn or deserve. So practice of the means of grace is not doing something to have God say, as you've said here's another mark for Tim or here's another mark for Sara practicing. The means of grace keeps us so in tune with God that we're able to love people when people may come across as being unloved. Because we love the way God loves us. Practicing the means of Grace May have us understanding scripture in a different way than what we originally learned it to be. Because as we've grown in our faith, we have a different perspective of the context of the scripture that helps us then. Love and live the way God intends for us to love and live. I could keep going down that path, but then the practice of means of grace then alternately keeps us in healthy relationship with God and healthy relationship with one another. And I'm not sure that I am sure. I'm going to say I am sure.
[00:14:30] I'll always say I'm not sure, but I am sure that if you practice the means of grace, you're more apt to love your enemy than you are. If you don't practice the means of grace, Because if you're in relationship with God, I kind of think of it this way.
[00:14:46] Once you say yes to God and God's grace, and we talked about this last time, then you can't, you can't help, but to extend God's grace. So God Jesus comes home with you and brings all of his sick brothers and sisters with him. And you got to love them too. It, you can't say now Jesus, you can come, but you leave all of them out there. And the practice of the means of grace even has you now thinking, think has each of us thinking who God's going to put in my path today?
[00:15:18] Sara: All right.
[00:15:20] Tim: Wonder, wonder who I might meet today? help me become more who I'm supposed to be. So then there's an expectation when you are participating in the main subjects.
[00:15:32] the big misunderstanding is I've prayed and I've read the scripture now, what do I do?
[00:15:39] Sara: This is going to seem really superficial after what, what you've offered, but I think it's another misunderstanding of the means of grace or it's a misunderstanding leading up to engaging in the means of grace. it kind of builds on the confusing, the means with the end.
[00:15:58] I'm thinking of places that I've been and people that I've had conversation with wanting to know, you know, which version of the Bible do I need to read is the newer and international version better than the new revised standard version, better than the ESV, better than the message better than the common English Bible, or do we, do we, or should we pray?
[00:16:24] In the Lord's prayer debts or trespasses. and I would call that adventures in missing the point, because I don't think when we're talking about the means of grace, God is not saying, oh, watch out, Sara picked up the NIV today. We're all reading, especially if we're reading in English, we're reading a translation of the Bible.
[00:16:53] So remember that and yes, there are some translations of the Bible that more scholarship behind and okay. Do your homework on that. But at the end of the day, when we are reading scripture formation, I truly do not believe that one of the things that God is worried about what translation what words you're using in prayer.
[00:17:19] I think what God cares about is the condition of our hearts and friends. I'm not talking about your blood.
[00:17:27] Tim: Sara. I would agree with you. What I'm thinking is, and at the risk of being offensive, trying to make a little joke, I use the king James version with the red letters, because that tells me that that's the one Jesus.
[00:17:40] Sara: You notice I left that one out?
[00:17:42] . So as we wrap this one up, And what words of wisdom do you have to share with our listeners today?
[00:17:53] Tim: I'm sorry. I think I've, I've just about wisdom, doubt. In terms of misunderstandings of the means of grace I I'm gonna, I'm gonna make a wish and it's, it's not it's not wishful thinking as much as it is what I would hope for our listeners and that that they would actually practice prayer and search the scripture and participate in holy communion for nothing else than just knowing that God loves them. There's nothing else you need to do with that other than when you pray, maybe sit quietly and just hear God say you're my beloved child. And I'm pleased with you. When you read the scripture, you're not reading it so much to find out secret code
[00:18:38] Sara: Yeah.
[00:18:39] Tim: some way that you should behave as much as it is that when you read the scripture, you're hearing God say, and this situation I'm with you and you're not alone. I've gotten. And in holy communion, you're just remembering those things. Again, you just, you're bringing them back to the present. So when you're living your life every day, there's a time when you can say to the people around you. I love you. And I know that I can love you because God loves me. God loves you and I'm with you because I know that God's with me so I can be with. And when we break bread together, we're just remembering how good God is for us. I think big misunderstanding is we do that all by ourselves. It doesn't have anything to do with anybody else. And I think it has everything to do with God's love and our love for one another.
[00:19:44] Sara: And there is your word of hope for this episode, friends, God will meet you right where you're at and love you for who you are and not what you. Or as I've been known to say it, God loves you. And there's nothing that you can do about it. So, as a reminder, you can find show notes for this email@example.com forward slash 2, 2 8.
[00:20:05] Along with the links to Wesley that we mentioned in this episode, and remember who you are is how you lead bye for now.
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