Three years ago, maybe even one year ago, I never thought I would’ve used the phrase “means of grace” in a real conversation.
You know, the “means of grace” – scripture, sacraments, prayer,
But that’s exactly what I did in a conversation this week. I had a conversation with a friend about struggling with doubt, and the idea came to my head, because I was struggling with the exact same things he was.
I wrestle with doubt from time to time. But it’s never anything I do by myself, away from other people, that helps me through these times.
It’s always through these means of grace, and the place where these means of grace are given freely – church.
I don’t know whose fault it was, probably mine, but growing up, church was simply the medium through which the message is delivered. It was about showing up, singing some songs, learning a lesson, and heading to lunch. The idea that the church was the message didn’t dawn on me until recently.
I read about it…in a book – Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace by Harvie Conn. His chapter on this put words to something I’ve been thinking through for while now, and it rocked my world.
But as I was talking to my friend, and he was telling me some things that were going on in his life, I realized they were the same things I was dealing with. Yet I could already sense that God was at work in me. I was frustrated, wrestling with sin, tired, and just generally in a bad mood, but I realized after church Sunday that my spirit was encouraged, lifted up, and somehow refreshed. It didn’t make a lot of sense, really, because nothing particularly shocking happened. The sermon was a good one, the music was fine, but as I came to grips with how I was feeling, when I admitted to God and to myself that I was frustrated, tired, doubting, and a million other things, His Word was made clear. Worship became more intimate. And His people, perhaps without even knowing it, comforted me.
People often say “we don’t go to church, we are the church.” That’s a false dichotomy. We can, and should, do both. Coming together as a body of believers to hear the Word proclaimed, to sing to our Lord, and to encourage and build up our brothers and sisters in Christ is such a sweet joy and an awesome responsibility.
So, all that to say, I’m thankful beyond measure for my church. I’m thankful that my church has the means of grace on such amazing display. I’m thankful that my church is the kind of place where I can admit to doubting, being irritable, and being tired.
Above all, I’m thankful that God has given us ways that He shows His grace to us. Thankful that He has these ways of reminding us of who He is and what He’s done.