Habits of Graceby David Mathis
Length: Approximately 8 hours. To read (227 pages)
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Through Habits of Grace, David Mathis approaches readers with a pastoral heart. He longs for the Church to experience the lavishness of God's grace. To do this, we need to continually practice the fundamental habits of the Christian. These are the means God uses to dispense his grace.
Who should read this?
Habits of Grace is for anyone who has a desire to follow the scriptural command to “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). It is must reading for every committed local church member, and a great tool of discipleship to help the new believer understand why a Christian must study God’s Word, spend time in prayer, and commit to fellowship with a local body of believers
It is also a great resource for pastors as they reflect on God’s vision and mission for their local church body, and their calling to train the body of believers to do the work of ministry.
David Mathis graciously coaches us to continually practice the fundamental disciplines of the Christian faith. Like a coach, who understands that no matter how great an athlete’s talent, Mathis understands that the fundamentals build the foundation of success. Regardless of career, whether musician, chef, artist or tradesperson, one must continue to practice and master the fundamental elements of the trade. This same understanding holds true for Christians. If Christians are going to succeed, then they must hear God’s voice, have his ear, and belong to his body.
David Mathis wants the Christian to understand what it means to “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). He wants us to understand that Christian believers must discipline themselves for growth. As he says, you must, “Take regular action to get more of God in your mind and your heart, and echo his ways in your life . . .” (27). However, Mathis also challenges us to heed the warning of his good friend John Piper who says, “The essence of the Christian life is learning to fight for joy in a way that does not replace grace” (25).
Mathis challenges us to recognize the simplicity, stability, power and joy of God’s grace, as he reminds us that spiritual practices “. . . need not be fancy or highfalutin. They are the stuff of everyday, basic Christianity–unimpressively mundane, but spectacularly potent by the Spirit” (25-26). In an age where there is a renewed focus on spiritual disciplines, Mathis reminds us that spiritual formation is an activity of God’s grace, empowered by our actions as we apply God’s means of grace.
He notes, “The way to receive the gift of God’s empowering our actions is to do the actions” (28). Yet, Mathis also helps us recognize that, “. . . All our exertions of effort toward that goal are gifts of grace” (27).
Quoting J. I. Packer, Mathis helps us return to thinking about the fundamental means God uses to dispense his grace. Packer says, “The doctrine of the disciplines is really a restatement and extension of classical Protestant teaching on the means of grace” (26). Mathis expounds, “God has revealed certain channels through which he regularly pours out his favor.
And we’re foolish not to take his word on them and build habits of spiritual life around them” (26). The means God uses to lavishly pour out his favor are “. . . simply: word, prayer, and fellowship” (26).
Habits of Grace is written from the perspective of a master teacher, communicator and pastor, who understands that the simplicity of the gospel message and its seemingly mundane practices, often causes individuals to exert effort in the wrong direction. Instead of being faithful recipients of God’s grace, which allows a life that “. . . progressively produces holy desires in us (‘sanctification’)” (27); we often rely on our own skills and techniques–failing miserably. God is not going to give us opportunity to boast in our own abilities. Such activity will not produce the Spirit-filled, abundant life God is calling us to enjoy in and through Jesus Christ.
I must leave a warning to mature Christian readers. Please don’t assume that this is a simple book for infant believers. Mathis writes winsomely, in an easy to read format, yet he showers the reader with deep truths. Mature believers as well as new believers, will benefit from reading these pages. Dear readers, you will walk away with a better understanding of the means God uses to dispense his grace.
You will be challenged to cultivate a deeper understanding of these habits, and gain a renewed commitment to deepen your personal habits as you read Scripture, spend time in prayer, and fellowship with a local body of believers. These habits will be a healing balm for wounded souls, a joyful practice for struggling Christians, and produce renewed hope in the hearts of seasoned believers. Each one will learn to enjoy Jesus more.
Mathis offers readers six deep lessons on each habit of study, so we gain an extensive understanding of the means of grace God uses to shape and transform his Church daily into his holy likeness and image. Finally, Mathis wraps up Habits of Grace by challenging individuals to apply God’s means in three important areas: our role in God’s mission, our stewardship of money, and our use of time. Habits of Grace extend to all areas of Christian living, inward and outward, to the world around us, into the eternal purposes and plans of God.
The strength of Habits of Grace are three-fold. This book helps one understand how to enjoy Jesus more, how God’s means bring purpose to our Christian life, and why God dispenses his grace so lavishly. I gained an increased understanding of how God’s grace sanctifies, how God’s grace liberates, and how God’s grace brings glory to Him alone. Mathis structures his book in three sections around the three habits: word, prayer and fellowship, and takes us on a deeper journey into the truths and effectiveness of each habit.
Habits of Grace is well-written, scripturally and theologically sound, and perfectly designed for a multitude of purposes. It can be effectively used in a Sunday School or weekly classroom setting, with a home group, as a discipleship tool, or as a regular devotional tool. This is a book that definitely belongs in homes and church libraries, with its Biblical truths rooted in the hearts of believers.
Mathis has succeeded where many Christian authors fail. This is a book with minimal weakness. He definitively points us toward the practices he is expounding upon. Drawing us to a deeper engagement with God’s word, a renewed understanding of prayer, and a renewed commitment to the local church body, Mathis has successfully avoided pointing us toward practices that are not centered in the truths of Scripture. Mathis has built on a solid foundation.
Habits of Grace stirred excitement in the heart of this mature believer. Through his writing, David Mathis was used as a tool of God’s grace to deepen my longing for relationship with Jesus Christ, as well as a renewed longing to be a blessing within my local church body as well as my community. This is one of those rare books that I will read frequently, allowing the wisdom it dispenses to root deep into my heart.
- “You don’t need seminary to feast regularly in the Scriptures” (50).
- “Christian meditation begins with our eyes in the Book, or ears open to the word, or a mind stocked with memorized Scripture” (59).
- “. . . We must see his listening to us in prayer in relation to our listening to him in his word” (93).
- “Even godly human laws are not supreme. God’s heart and his justice are to guide our thoughts and actions, and we as Christians should not be so quick to defend a system we do not completely understand. We need to recognize that God calls for justice, and justice is above rules and laws” (114).
- “While the corporate worship of Jesus by the church universal is an essential element in our great destiny, it is the corporate worship of Jesus by the church local that is a vital means of God’s grace in getting us there” (156).
- “The wise recognize rebuke as a gift of gold (Prov. 25:12). It is kindness, and a token of love” (186).