Book Review: Habits of Grace
Christianity is a faith that is built all around the grace of God. What we mean by that is that we are Christians not because we’ve earned it or deserve it, but because God in his love and kindness has made it so. Furthermore, we remain Christians not by our good works but by his commitment and faithfulness. However this truth in reality is often missed and we begin to base the state of our souls around our output -how much we’ve prayed, read our Bibles, given or served. These ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ often feel like a duty rather than a joy, a source of guilt rather than a source of hope. Many Christians don’t read or pray on a regular basis because of this very battle; we find it legalistic and moralistic to establish routine and discipline for growing in relationship with God, surely we should want to read our Bibles and pray, right?
David Mathis in his book ‘Habits of grace’ tackles these questions head on; where do the spiritual disciplines fit in our grace based faith? Do they have any part to play? Are they an additional thing for the select few, with most ‘normal’ Christians going through life with the guilt that they could do better without the power to actually change? This book is a superbly written guide to Spiritual disciplines and even the title communicates the feel and flavour of the book. It isn’t written to guilt trip you into change, but rather to paint a compelling picture of the gifts of grace these disciplines are for Christians.
Mathis’ overall point is that God, in his grace, has given his children these gifts of grace to help us grow in intimacy with Him. These ‘means of grace’, as many refer to them, can become habits of grace for us, allowing us to walk in the fullness of life that Jesus has come for us to enjoy. It is written in a beautifully simple yet profound way that will captivate and inspire you to enjoy and grow in these means of grace.
Mathis outlines three means of grace that set the foundation for Christian life and maturity: Hearing Gods voice through the Bible, Having Gods Ear through prayer, and belonging to his body through fellowship. Within each of the three he goes to great length, detailing both biblically how we know these three disciplines are so key, and practically how we can apply them into our own lives. I love the way Mathis shows how these simple and often overlooked things are genuine gifts from God to help us grow as Christians. His unpacking of scriptural truth is excellent; you can see the influence of his mentor John Piper in his writing as he communicates deep biblical truth in a clear and simple manner. Many of us think we should engage in Bible reading, prayer and church because ‘that’s what a Christian does’ or because we have to. In this book we get a compelling biblical outline for why they are given to us for our benefit, blessing and breakthrough.
Alongside the biblical unpacking, one of the things I loved most about this book was the practical tips he gives. Whether you’ve been a Christian for 1 day or 100 years, I honestly believe this book can help you grow in appreciation for the means of grace God has given us and to step out in new ways of growing in them. His tips on memorising scripture and journaling particularly impacted me and I’ve found have shaped the way I commune with God. This book has inspired me to read less of the Bible so that I can get more from it. Sounds crazy I know, but I found that I had fallen into the trap of reading the Bible so I could tick it off my to-do list rather than to encounter Jesus and grow in my love for Him. By reading less I’ve created space to allow God to speak, while journaling has then given me the tools to account and remember what God has said. Too often we read our Bibles, shut them, and forget all that we read. Journaling has really helped Gods word and revelation remain with me through my day. The tips are shared as helpful guides rather than as rules or laws and throughout the book there is a theme of gracious encouragement and empowerment.
So let me encourage you, wherever you are with the spiritual disciplines, this book could be a real help to propel you into a new season of greater intimacy and growth -not so you can read more of the Bible, pray for longer or serve harder in the church, but so you can grow in greater depth and intimacy with the Lord. You can grow in knowledge of Him, enjoy the privilege of prayer and the blessing of the Church. Habits of grace will both inspire and equip you to not settle, but dig deeper into the things of God.
About the Author
Martin leads the Eldership team and our Canterbury site, as well as managing the staff team. Married to Kathryn, they have two daughters - Annabeth and Millie.