Recently I’ve been writing and talking a lot about the need for Christians to actively grow in their walk with God. Interestingly, I’ve noticed the more I write and speak on this topic, the more I am focusing on my growth. Of course, this is because I don’t want to be “that guy” talking about a topic while not taking and practicing what I teach others. This has caused me to develop a deeper conviction that we as Christians need more help on this subject not less.
Many of us especially those of us who have grown up in the church “know the truth” and can recite it quickly off the top of our heads. For those of us who have been to Bible College and Seminary, this problem is compounded even more. We know all the right words to say and things to do because we “learned them” but the truth is we often fail to apply them and be passionate about them. This is why I greatly enjoyed David Mathis new book Habits of Grace Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
The book has four parts each with a particular topic within spiritual growth that it covers. Mathis covers the Word of God, prayer, fellowship, time management, the Great Commission, and money, among other topics. In the foreword to the book, Piper notes, “enjoyment of Jesus is not like icing on the cake; it’s like powder in a shell” (12). He explains, “The ultimate aim of the Christian life—and the universe—hangs on the people of God enjoying the Son of God” (12). He continues explaining, “Grace does not just pardon our failures; it empowers our success—like successfully enjoying Jesus more than life” (13).
The author helpfully explains that “It is the grace of God that gives us his “means of grace” for our ongoing perseverance and growth and joy this side of the new creation. And the grace of God inspires and empowers the various habits and practices by which we avail ourselves of God’s means” (24). There is so much good content in this book that I could spend a great deal of time going over it but let me just point out a few things I liked about this and then encourage you to get it.
First, this book is grounded in the biblical text and drenched in the gospel. Building on the excellent work of Donald Whitney on the spiritual disciplines and Tim Keller’s excellent new book on prayer, Mathis helps his readers understand why they should enjoy engaging in the spiritual disciplines. It’s not enough to engage in the spiritual disciplines. We should not be people who just do certain things and check them off. David knows this which is why he keeps putting the biblical text before us. He shows us why we should engage in these aspects of the Christian life and then moves to explain how the gospel we believe commands our obedience.
Finally, this book is not only theoretical it is practical. The author helps his readers understand what the Bible teaches on the topic to (or “intending to”) assist the reader in engaging in the particular discipline. It’s easy to gain knowledge but what this book does so well is help us to enjoy engaging the spiritual disciplines. This emphasis is needed in this genre and makes me thankful that Mathis wrote this book.
Whether you are a new or seasoned Christian, a Bible college or seminary student, or a pastor or professor, this book has something for you. Every Christian at every stage of their Christian life needs to continue to grow in the gospel. Books like Habits of Grace will help us to engage the spiritual disciplines but not only to check them off our daily list of things to do. Rather, this book will help Christians to engage in the disciplines for the purpose of enjoying God while engaging the spiritual disciplines to the glory of God. I highly recommend this book and believe readers will be challenged, convicted, and equipped to know and serve the Lord by reading it.