Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Basic Practices of Christian Faith 3: Conclusion


Self deception is a destructive component of the human condition. We are inclined to believe what ever pleases and makes us comfortable. Never mind that, whatever it may be, is false and may lead to our spiritual or physical death. We are easily lead to think and believe and act in ways that are self-serving and self-centered.

The means of grace are a necessary corrective to our propensity to self deception. They provide a corrective to the alternatives presented by the world. They give direction toward and focus on Christ when sin drives us into ourselves and our own desires. The means of grace convey prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace through tangible words (prayer and Scripture), actions (prayer, Lord's Supper, Christian conference, visiting the sick and doing good) , and relationships (Christian conference, worship, Class meetings). They help to remind us who we are (beloved children of God; sisters and brothers to Jesus Christ) and whose we are (we belong to God the Father, revealed and incarnate in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit that empowers, inspires and leads us into relationship with God and the Church).

We live in a world corrupted by sin that endeavors to convince us that we are the center of the universe, that we don't need God, and that no other human being can be trusted to care for or love us. This same sin has distorted the image of God within us. Thus, no matter how much faith we have, we are susceptible to the lies of the world and the self-deception they encourage. God has given us the means of grace as a means to counter the powers of sin. They are an acknowledgement of sin's presence and power in the world and in human life and relationships. God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has given the means of grace to the Church through the ages to help us cooperate with God's project of restoration and healing for our souls and all creation.


Wesley understood the means of grace to be the means for human participation in the life of God and as means for cooperation with God in the process of healing and renewal of the divine image.[1] In other words, the means of grace are like medicine God makes available for the healing of our lives, souls, relationships and world:

Wesley's considerations of the means of grace focused predominantly on their contribution to sanctification (in the broad sense). When one understands sanctification on Wesley's terms, as a life-long process of healing our sin-distorted affections, there is an obvious need for continually renewing the empowerment for this healing. The other essential requirement is a persistent deepening of our awareness of the deceptive motivations and prejudices remaining in our life, because co-operant healing entails some discernment of that which still needs to be healed. Wesley understood the means of grace to provide for both of these needs.[2]

In the means of grace, we make ourselves available to God and the healing power of grace. They teach us how to respond to God's love, accept God's acceptance of us, and receive God's forgiveness. In this sense the means of grace are like therapy for the body, soul, mind and relationships of those who seek God and God's healing love in Jesus Christ.

As we practice them and allow them to become part of our life the means of grace form us into the image of Christ and help us to walk with him. As we walk with Christ we must then walk where he walks and orient our lives and attitudes toward that which is central to his life. In other words, the means of grace ultimately lead those who make them part of their lives into solidarity and service and ministry with the poor.

The more grace renews and restores the image of God within us, the more we must be drawn into the lives and struggles of the poor. As mentioned above, Jesus explicitly identified himself with the poor (Matthew 25:31-36). He proclaimed his mission to be with and for the poor (Luke 4:16-21). He lived his life with the outcasts, the weak, the sick and vulnerable of his world (Luke 5:29-32).

Function and purpose of the means of grace are to convey prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace to people broken and corrupted by sin. They awaken the heart to God in Christ, restore relationship with God, renew the image of Christ, and allow human beings to cooperate with God's work of healing for their souls and to participate in God's life in the world.

As we are healed and participate in God's life and work, our lives are re-oriented away from ourselves and toward God's will for the universe. An essential part of this new orientation is God's preferential option for the world incarnate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

[1] Maddox, 199.

[2] Ibid., 202.


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