John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, emphasized God’s means of grace that enable us to grow as Christian disciples. The Lord designed these spiritual disciplines as reliable ways to experience divine mercy, love, and power.
Wesley divided God’s means of grace into two broad categories: works of mercy and works of piety.
Works of piety encompass devotional habits that draw us closer to God. According to Wesley’s teachings, they include: prayer, Bible study, Holy Communion, fasting, and Christian community.
Works of mercy lead us to reach out to others in the name of Christ. Faithful disciples joyfully embrace doing good, visiting the sick and imprisoned, feeding and clothing the needy, practicing financial stewardship, and seeking justice.
Works of piety help us to grow in personal devotion. Works of mercy challenge us to reach out to others.
To do one is to do the other. To neglect the one is to neglect the other. Either without the other is not enough. This is not a choice of either/or but both/and.
Paul said works without faith is dead. James said that faith without works is dead. Both were right.
Works of piety and works of mercy are equally important; and they inspire one another. Christian discipleship is both an inward and outward reality. Our personal devotion leads to service of others. Our service to others leads to personal devotion. This becomes a self-reinforcing cycle of faith.
And don’t be misled by the word “works.” It calls to mind human diligence and labor; and certainly we play our part in responding to God’s call upon our lives. However, we also recognize that all of these activities are means of God’s GRACE.
Grace is the first and last word of the gospel. Grace is a gift freely given to us even when we don’t deserve it. Ultimately, we grow in faith because of God’s grace in our lives. Whatever attempts we make to exercise the means of grace are enabled and enhanced by the Spirit’s presence.
You cannot go back in time and start these disciplines five years ago. But which ones will you wish you had started five years from the present? Today is the day, now is the time—start here, start now.