Faithlife Sermons

Maximizing the Means

The W's and H of Worship  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:00
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John chapter 6 teaches us how to maximize the Means of Grace.

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Our Scripture Lesson this morning comes from John 6:60-69. That we may hear God’s voice clearly this day, let us pray.
Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus tells us that the words he speaks are spirit and life. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot understand nor receive His Word. According to your tender mercies open our eyes that we may be able to behold glorious things in your Word. Amen.
John 6:60–69 ESV
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Throughout this series on worship we have seen that the corporate worship of God’s people on the Lord’s Day is the primary place that we grow to become mature disciples of Christ Jesus. Just like the church of the Old Covenant was called out of Egypt to assemble before God, so the church of the New Covenant is called out of the world to assemble before God. Gathered before God the collective people hear God’s voice and respond to it with trust, obedience and praise. Worship is not something we give to God, but our response to God for what he has given to us!
The ordinary way by which God gives us the grace to transform us into mature disciples is the hearing and preaching of the Word, baptism, the Lord’s Supper and prayer. These three things are what theologians refer to as the ordinary means of grace. The are “ordinary” because they are the way God normally works. God can and does work in extraordinary ways, such as Paul’s Damascus road experience or visions of Christ that are currently being reported in some Islamic countries today, but these are all EXTRA-ordinary and cannot be expected, nor are they to be pursued.
The problem is that our old nature despises the ordinary means and pursues the EXTRA-ordinary means. To get the most out of the means of grace we need to be honest about this weakness. Not only this, but the Devil knows this weakness and he does all he can to divert us from the ordinary means. So the first set in Maximizing the Means is to know that:

The Ordinary Person Despises the Ordinary Means

When I say Ordinary Person, I am referring to our Old Sinful Nature. Although the Christian, by the Holy Spirit is able to “put to death” the old sinful nature, the final stroke that will forever free us from the old nature will not occur until our death. Until that time we have to daily deal with the reality that their is still a part of us that hates the things of God.
The truth that the Ordinary Person Despises the Ordinary Means is clearly seen in John 6. In this chapter Jesus has just feed 5000 people with just 5 barley loaves and 2 fish. After feeding the 5000, Jesus crosses over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Let me pick up the story at verse 22.
John 6:22–35 ESV
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
The response of the crowd was immediately a negative one:
John 6:41–42 ESV
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Notice two things about the crowd:
First, they wanted worldly bread, not spiritual bread. Jesus didn’t beat around the bush—They were seeking him because they wanted their bellies filled with free bread! For most people, religion is a means to their own ends. The biggest churches in America have gotten big, because they have catered to people’s “felt needs.” Everyone wants something, be it financial wealth, a happy marriage or a sense of personal well being. If you make a convincing promise to give it to them you will draw large crowds. This type of religion is the “work” of man. Notice that the crowds asked what type of work they could do? In our sinful natures we want to design our own means of grace, as a means to worldly things.
The second thing to note, is that they also hungered after the trilling, entertaining, the spectacular. When Jesus challenged them, they challenged him back. “Moses gave our forefathers bread from heaven. What will you give us?” Did you catch how hypocritical this response was? Jesus had just done a greater miracle than Moses had done, yet they want to see another miracle! The problem with miracles is that people become so easily unimpressed. The same thing happens in the movie industry. This year’s special effects will be unimpressive next summer. No wonder people get bored with the Ordinary Means of Grace!
In our main text this morning Jesus explains exactly what is going on:
John 6:63 ESV
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
1 Corinthians 2:13–14 ESV
13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
In other words, even though preaching, prayer, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinary, something EXTRA-ordinary must be happening behind the scenes for them to be effective as a Means of Grace. A good, biblically worshiping Presbyterian/Reformed Church should be the most Pentecostal church in town! Every Sunday there should be miracles happening in our hearts and minds that a more miraculous that feeding 5000 or walking on walk—the miracle of transforming us from those who Despise the Ordinary Means to Those Who Delight in the Ordinary Means! This bring us to the second thing we must know to Maximize the Means of Grace.

The Spiritual Person Delights in the Ordinary Means

As the crowds and even many who claimed to be Jesus’ disciples departed grumbling, Jesus said this:
John 6:67–69 ESV
67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Something EXTRA-ordinary had happened to Peter, he had been transformed into one who loved the Word of God and the things of God. He had become a Psalm 1 man!
Psalm 1:1–3 ESV
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
How did this transformation happen to Peter? The ultimate cause lays in the sovereign will of God the Father.
John 6:44–45 ESV
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—
Many abuse the doctrine of Sovereign Grace and use it as an excuse for spiritual passivity and slothfulness, but God so works his sovereign grace that it works through our wills and the ordinary means, not apart from them. In his first epistle Peter urges his readers to make diligent use of the Means of Grace.
1 Peter 2:2–3 ESV
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
In other words, we must...

Pursue the Ordinary Means by Faith

Hear again Peter’s answer to Jesus:
John 6:68–69 ESV
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter believed not only that Jesus was the “Holy One of God”, but he believed that Jesus had “the words of eternal life.”
To receive a spiritual blessing from a Lord’s Day worship service we must assemble believing that we will receive a spiritual blessing from the Ordinary Means of Grace. The Word read and preached, the Sacraments observed and Prayers said, seems so weak and ineffective according to human perceptions. If we are honest with ourselves all of these things “feel” ineffective at times. It is not uncommon to go away from a worship service “feeling” unblessed. When we feel that way, we must remember that:
2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV
7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Our natural, sinful nature wants instant blessing, but Jesus taught us to persevere in seeking delayed blessing.
Luke 11:9–13 ESV
9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Notice what Jesus says at the end of this passage? The “heavenly Father” will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” There is no maybe about this promise! God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask!
What did we hear Jesus teach earlier from John 6?
John 6:63 ESV
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
The key to receiving a blessing from a Sunday morning worship service is not found in what happens on Sunday, but what happen Monday through Saturday. Are you knocking on the door of heaven, asking the Father to give the Holy Spirit to the preacher, the congregation and to yourself? It is this Private Worship that brings down the Holy Spirit’s fire on Sunday morning! And it is this Private Worship that week will examine next week as we conclude this series on worship.
Let us pray.
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