Volume. XXXiii, No. 20
Sunday, 11 November 2018


From the Pastor’s Heart: How to be Godly (Part 2)


Richard Rogers was born in 1551, and his father was a “joiner” or furniture maker. Through the help of a wealthy patron, he was educated at Christ’s College, Cambridge. He was a non-conformist and had a reputation for austerity. His grandson, William Jenkyn, called him “the Enoch of his age,” because Rogers walked with God and was sorry that each day was not his last (Beeke and Pederson, Meet the Puritans, 507). Richard Rogers is the author of Holy Helps for a Godly Life, which offers rich insights for spiritual godliness. More fully, his complete work is called Seven Treatises. Holy Helps for a Godly Life is the third treatise out of Seven Treatises. I’ll quote his words freely at times, because his insights are more thorough than mine!
Rogers was a sincere and godly man, yet he struggled with ongoing conflicts with sin and flesh. He especially “lamented four besetting sins that gave him most trouble: [1] ‘light thoughts’ or ‘roving fantasies’; [2] ‘liking of worldly profit’ (financial gain, that is); [3] ‘unprofitableness’ or ineffectiveness in communicating his attitude to others; [4] and, lastly, neglect of study” (M. M. Knappen, ed., Two Elizabethan Puritan Diaries by Richard Rogers and Samuel Ward, Chicago: American Society of Church history, 1933, 5). His heart was bent toward God. He wrote on November 17, 1587, “I have firmly purposed to make my whole life a meditation of a better life, and godliness in every part even mine occupation and trade, that I may from point to point and from step to step with more watchfulness walk with the Lord. Oh the infinite gain of it” (Knappen, 64). He also wrote on November 29, 1587, “And this is mine hearty desire that I may make godliness, I mean one part or other of it, to be my delight through my whole life” (Knappen, 65).
Means of grace
In order to understand and know of godliness, first, we need to understand the means or helps by which a godly life is helped and continued. These means or helps are the spiritual disciplines, and believers in the Reformed persuasion call them “the means of grace.” “In the narrower sense, the means of grace refer to the ordinary channels through which God communicates His grace to men – namely, the preaching of the word, the sacraments, and prayer.”
Charles Hodge says, “By means of grace are not meant every instrumentality which God may please to make the means of spiritual edification to his children. The phrase is intended to indicate those institutions which God has ordained to be the ordinary channels of grace, i.e., of the supernatural influences of the Holy Spirit, to the souls of men. The means of grace according to the standards of our Church, are the word, sacraments, and prayer” (Systematic Theology, Oak Harbor, Wash.: Logos Research Systems, 1997, 3:466).
The means of grace do not have magical powers in and of themselves to confer grace. In this regard, they do not work ex opera operato. This is a term to refer to Catholic understanding of grace. For example, they believe that the Lord’s Supper has a magical power to confer grace. It proposes an idea that any recipient of the external sacraments receives grace automatically. It is important for us to know that the preaching of the word, sacraments, and prayer, do not confer grace automatically and mechanically. Though we hear and read the Word of God, partake of the Lord’s Supper, are baptized and pray, if we do not do anything by faith, they do not benefit us. The means of grace communicate the grace of God to the believers, who will receive this grace through faith, which is also a divine gift.
Once again, we need to be reminded that the means of grace are not different from the spiritual disciplines including Scripture reading, meditation, private prayer, fasting, etc. For this subject, you may want to read Walter Marshall’s book, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Grand Rapids: Reformation heritage Books, 1999).
Rogers explains about the means of grace, though he does not use the term in his writings, as follows: “The Christian life is upheld and continued by means. Everyone who sets upon this life will desire to know these means and how to rightly use them, because the hindrances and discouragements in the Christian life are many and great. It is therefore fitting for me to show what I understand by these means or helps…. As the Christian life does not begin without means, neither can it grow without them” (Richard Rogers, Holy Helps for Godly Life, Brian G. Hedges, ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, Kindle loc. 149 of 2097).  He also defines these means or helps as follows: “The means God has appointed to help His people to continue and grow in a godly life, are those religious exercise, by which Christians may be made fit to practice it” (Ibid.). 

The presented views exclude any wrong ideas of spiritual discipline or growth in godliness.  Many a time, professing believers desire to experience overnight spiritual growth without going through spiritual exercises including all the implied means of grace like prayer, meditation, or preaching of God’s Word.  However, such wrong views must be rejected, and we must discipline and train ourselves by employing the means God has appointed.  We ought to understand what it means when Paul said, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b). 

The means of grace will benefit only a particular group of people, not all humanity.  Those who benefit are true believers who have rested in the finished work of Christ for their justification.  They believe and trust in the Gospel that Christ died for sinners and rose again from the dead.  There is no help apart from Christ’s finished work for salvation.  They give all credit to God’s Word.  Therefore, the means of grace are helps for the believers to grow in happiness and godliness. 

Hence we must find a truth that modern believers often forget.  Holiness is the way to godliness.  By employing the means of grace, the believers are setting boundaries around themselves and disciplining themselves to abide within them.  Though it sounds very much restrictive, such discipline will lead them to greater freedom. 

Two categories of the means of grace

In general, we may say that there are two divisions of the means of grace: the public means and the private means.  The following is the list that Rogers came up with (Rogers, loc. 149 of 2097).  First, the public means are: (1) the preaching of the word, (2) the sacraments, and (3) public prayers, with the singing of hymns and psalms.  Second, the private means are: (1) watchfulness, (2) meditation, (3) putting and keeping on the Christian armor, (4) reflection on personal spiritual experience, (5) godly conversation with other believers and within one’s family, (6) private prayers, and (7) the reading of both Scripture and godly literature.  Interestingly, Rogers put all of them in the list into a category of ordinary means.  Then, he explained two additional means or helps as extraordinary means.  They are (1) solemn thanksgiving and (2) fasting. 

 

Lovingly,

Your Pastor


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

  • Welcome to our pulpit: Pastor David Weng.
  • All worshippers are encouraged to join the Ladies’ and Men’s Choir in preparation for the Christmas Carols.
  • Precept Seminar starts today. Attendees please bring a pen, notepad, and a set of coloured pencils or highlighters.
  • BBK Class (Eng) will start earlier at 1:30 pm so that those enrolled at the Precept Seminar can attend.
  • BBK Class (Kor) resumes next Lord’s Day, also earlier at 1:30 pm due to the Precept Seminar.
  • Session Meeting will not be held next Lord’s Day due to the Precept Seminar.
  • Those who have completed their Basic Bible Knowledge Course and would like to be baptised, re-affirmed or have their membership transferred please see one of the Elders.
  • Lunch Duty: This week: AFG. Next week: VFG.

 

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Visitors & church activities in the past week.
  • Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki’s Ministry in Phnom Penh.
  • Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (Adl); Pastor Ki & Elder David Yeo (Melb);  & others who have travelled.

 

Prayer

  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren;  & others in afflictions.
  • Special Prayer: Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); 
  • Missions: Rev Sun Sokha & family; Faith Krang Angkrang Church (Phnom Penh).
  • Uni & Year 12 students: Exam preparation.
  • Ebenezer BPC (Melb) – God’s wisdom & guidance for Pastor Ki & Elder David Yeo as they help our brethren there.
  • Rev & Mrs Mathews Abraham & family – for God’s guidance.
  • Journey mercies: Pastor Ki & Elder David Yeo; & others who are travelling

 

 

 

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