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Last, but by no means least, we must take the step of making regular use of the means God has given to help us grow and mature in grace. You might think of them as a kind of spiritual medicine that helps us grow stronger in our pursuit of God and Christlikeness and in our battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. As long as we continue to take our medicine, we will go from strength to strength; but if we stop, or become intermittent, we will begin to lose ground spiritually and become more vulnerable to infection from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Assuming that one has already been baptized, this would mean following the example of the early church; they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). In practical terms, this means becoming a committed member of a congregation where these four means of grace are honored and practiced.
“The apostles’ teaching” is basically the teaching of the New Testament (and, by extension, the Old as well). Devoting ourselves to it involves listening to weekly preaching and teaching from the Bible and practicing personal, daily reading of Scripture, along with memorization of and meditation on selected passages. The latter two, often neglected, have been over the centuries among the most powerful resources for growth.
“Fellowship” is the sharing of our lives with other believers at a depth that enables us to know and be known, to bear one another’s burdens and pour out our lives for them, even as they do the same for us, and to serve them with our God-given gifts as they serve us in turn.
“The breaking of bread” in this context refers to the Lord’s Supper. This is a means of grace that has been overemphasized in some circles and neglected in others. But throughout history it has been recognized as a means of special spiritual communion with Jesus that strengthens us spiritually, if rightly received.
“The prayers” involves praying in church, in prayer groups, and over meals, and especially private time in personal prayer to God. There is no substitute for ample time alone in prayer to our Father in heaven, for only thus do we come to know Him better and love Him more. Finally, as we seek to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves” (James 1:22) and as we devote ourselves to good works (Titus 3:8), we will be wise to remind ourselves often that we are saved not by our works but only by the free grace of Him who loved us and gave up His life for us (Gal. 2:20).
Following the path laid out above will help us to grow and mature spiritually, fortify our souls against the resurgence of the flesh, strengthen us against the devil’s schemes, and help us become more and more like Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D. Min. Vice President of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute, has lived in the Washington, D.C., area since 1978 and served as president of the C.S. Lewis Institute from 1998 to April 2010. Prior to coming to the Institute, he served as co-pastor of Christ Our Shepherd Church and Director of The School for Urban Mission, both based in Washington, D.C. He is the author of two books and is a consultant for Church Discipleship Services, developing discipleship programs and materials to strengthen the local church. Tom earned a Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Church Alliance.