Habits of Grace
Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines
by David Mathis
Hear his voice. Have his ear. Belong to his body.
Three seemingly unremarkable principles shape and strengthen the Christian life: listening to God’s voice, speaking to him in prayer, and joining together with his people as the church.
Though seemingly normal and routine, the everyday “habits of grace” we cultivate give us access to these God-designed channels through which his love and power flow — including the greatest joy of all: knowing and enjoying Jesus.
“We cannot earn God’s grace or make it flow apart from his free gift. But we can position ourselves to go on getting as he keeps on giving.”
First Edition 2016
Crossway Books (Wheaton, Illinois)
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David Mathis has more than accomplished his goal of writing an introduction to the spiritual disciplines. What I love most about the book is how Mathis presents the disciplines — or ‘means of grace’ as he prefers to describe them — as habits to be cultivated in order to enjoy Jesus. The biblical practices Mathis explains are not ends — that was the mistake of the Pharisees in Jesus’s day and of legalists in our time. Rather they are means by which we seek, savor, and enjoy Jesus Christ. May the Lord use this book to help you place yourself ‘in the way of allurement’ that results in an increase of your joy in Jesus.
—Don Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
So often, as we consider the spiritual disciplines, we think of what we must do individually. Mathis takes a different approach that is both insightful and refreshing. Along with our personal time of prayer and reading, we are encouraged to seek advice from seasoned saints, have conversations about Bible study with others, and pray together. The Christian life, including the disciplines, isn’t meant to be done in isolation. Mathis’s depth of biblical knowledge along with his practical guidance and gracious delivery will leave you eager to pursue the disciplines, shored up by the grace of God.
—Trillia Newbell, author, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity and Fear and Faith
I am drawn to books that I know are first lived out in the messiness of life before finding their way onto clean sheets of paper. This is one of those books! David has found a well-worn path to Jesus through the habits of grace he commends to us. I am extremely grateful for David’s commitment to take the timeless message in this book and communicate it in language that is winsome to the mind and warm to the heart. This book has the breadth of a literature review that reads like a devotional. I am eager to get it into the hands of our campus ministry staff and see it being read in dorm rooms and student centers across the country.
—Matt Bradner, Regional Director, Campus Outreach
This is the kind of book I turn to periodically to help examine and recalibrate my heart, my priorities, and my walk with the Lord. David Mathis has given us a primer for experiencing and exuding ever-growing delight in Christ through grace-initiated intentional habits that facilitate the flow of yet fuller springs of grace into and through our lives.
—Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Biblical Womanhood in the Home; radio host, Revive Our Hearts
Simple. Practical. Helpful. In Habits of Grace, Mathis writes brilliantly about three core spiritual disciplines that will help us realign our lives and strengthen our faith. In a world where everything seems to be getting more complicated, this book will help us to downshift and refocus on the things that matter most.
—Louie Giglio, Passion
Most people assume that disciplined training is necessary for attaining any skill—professional, academic, or athletic. But for some reason, Christians do not see this principle applying to their Christian lives. In his excellent book, Habits of Grace, David Mathis makes a compelling case for the importance of the spiritual disciplines, and he does so in such a winsome way that will motivate all of us to practice the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. This book will be great both for new believers just starting on their journey and as a refresher course for those of us already along the way.
—Jerry Bridges, Author, The Pursuit of Holiness
There is not a Christian in the world who has mastered the spiritual disciplines. In fact, the more we grow in grace, the more we realize how little we know of hearing from God, speaking to God, and meditating on God. Our maturity reveals our inadequacy. Habits of Grace is a powerful guide to the spiritual disciplines. It offers basic instructions to new believers while bringing fresh encouragement to those who have walked with the Lord for many years. It is a joy to commend it to you.
—Tim Challies, Blogger at www.challies.com
This book is about grace-empowered habits, and Spirit-empowered disciplines. These are the means God has given for drinking at the fountain of life. They don’t earn the enjoyment. They receive it. They are not payments for pleasure; they are pipelines. All of us leak. We all need inspiration and instruction for how to drink—again and again. Habitually. If you have never read a book on ‘habits of grace’ or ‘spiritual disciplines,’ start with this one. If you are a veteran lover of the river of God, but, for some reason, have recently been wandering aimlessly in the desert, this book will be a good way back.
—John Piper, Desiring God
David Mathis has given us a book on the spiritual disciplines that is practical, actionable, and accessible. He speaks with a voice that neither scolds nor overwhelms, offering encouragement through suggestions and insights to help even the newest believer find a rhythm by which to employ these means of grace. A treatment of the topic that is wonderfully uncomplicated and thorough, Habits of Grace offers both a place to start for beginners and a path to grow for those seasoned in the faith.
—Jen Wilkin, author, Women of the Word; Bible study teacher
David Mathis has provided us with a gospel-driven, Word-centered, Christ-exalting vision of Christian spiritual practices. Furthermore, he understands that sanctification is a community project: the local church rightly looms large in Habits of Grace. This book is perfect for small group study, devotional reading, or for passing on to a friend who is thinking about this topic for the first time. I give it my highest recommendation.
—Nathan A. Finn, Dean, The School of Theology and Missions, Union University
When I was growing up, spiritual disciplines were often surrounded by an air of legalism. But today the pendulum has swung in the other direction: it seems that family and private devotions have fallen off the radar. The very word habits can be a turnoff, especially in a culture of distraction and autonomy. Yet character is largely a bundle of habits. Christ promises to bless us through his means of grace: his Word preached and written, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Like a baby’s first cry, prayer is the beginning of that life of response to grace given, and we never grow out of it. Besides prayer, there are other habits that grace motivates and shapes. I’m grateful for Habits of Grace bringing the disciplines back into the conversation and, hopefully, back into our practice as well.
—Michael Horton, Westminster Seminary California
Although this little book says what many others say about Bible reading, prayer, and Christian fellowship (with two or three others tacked on), its great strength and beauty is that it nurtures my resolve to read the Bible and it makes me hungry to pray. If the so-called ‘means of grace’ are laid out as nothing more than duties, the hinge of sanctification is obligation. But in this case, the means of grace are rightly perceived as gracious gifts and signs that God is at work in us, which increases our joy as we stand on the cusp of Christian freedom under the glories of King Jesus.
—D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School