In my last post I wrote about some “tools” we can use to keep our connection with God intact so that the most important aspects of our lives are all working properly. In this post, I want to add to that list of tools with the help of James A. Harding, who was a leader in the Churches of Christ of the Stone-Campbell Movement, co-founder of present-day Lipscomb University, and the namesake of present-day Harding University.
In an article published by The Gospel Advocate in 1887, Harding lamented the shallow faith he observed in many Christians: “Our greatest trouble now is, it seems to me, a vast unconverted membership. A very large percent of the church members among us seem to have very poor conceptions of what a Christian ought to be. They are brought into the church during these high-pressure protracted meetings, and they prove to be a curse instead of a blessing. They neglect prayer, the reading of the Bible, and the Lord’s day meetings, and, of course, they fail to do good day by day as they should. Twelve years of continuous travel among the churches have forced me to the sad conclusion that a very small number of the nominal Christians are worthy of the name.”
Wow! That’s a stinging assessment of the veracity of the faith claimed by many of the people whom Harding encountered. And, according to Harding, the cause of this predicament was that many folks were not implementing the available tools that would create within them a robust relationship with Christ.
According to John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine in their book Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding, Harding identified four “tools”that would ensure a strong connection to Christ:
“Harding identified the four as (1) reading and studying the Bible, (2) ministering to others (especially the poor), (3) participating in the Lord’s day meeting at the Lord’s table, and (4) habitual prayer…But these were no mere ‘duties.’ Rather, they are ‘four great means of grace’ – appointed means by which God dynamically acts among, in and through his people. They are not avenues of human self-reliance but modes of divine transformation through which God graciously sanctifies believers. They are spiritual disciplines by which God conforms his people to the image of Christ.”
Harding rightly believed that the proper response of a Christ-follower to the saving grace of God was to live a “consecrated” life that was fully devoted to the service of the Lord. Thus, spiritual maturity should not be marked by the number of activities we do but by how much our character has been conformed to the image of Christ. And the “four great means of grace” identified by Harding can help.
So, what “tool” has helped you the most in becoming more like Christ?