Mathis, David. Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016. 238 pp. $14.99.
In Habits of Grace, David Mathis offers a simple, accessible and refreshing perspective on the spiritual disciplines, or “habits of grace” as he likes to call them. He categorizes these disciplines into three key principles: God’s voice, God’s ear, and God’s people. These three principles correspond to taking in God’s word (God’s voice), then praying back to God (God’s ear) and then fellowship and corporate worship (God’s people). Mathis aims to emphasize the joy and grace that we are given when we cultivate these habits. Mathis is well aware that “disciplines” can sometimes have a bad reputation because they appear contradictory to grace or the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Yet, Mathis writes, “The final joy in any truly Christian discipline or practice or rhythm of life is, in the words of the apostle, ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Phil. 3:8)” (30).
These habits of grace are not ultimately about habits or disciplines, but they are meant to know, love, treasure and worship Jesus more. Mathis says, “When all is said and done, our hope is not to be a skilled Bible reader, practiced pray-er, and faithful churchman, but to be the one who ‘understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth’ (Jer. 9:23-24)” (30).
The book itself has six chapters on hearing God’s voice through his word. Mathis discusses Bible reading, studying, meditation, and memorization. Then he devotes six chapters to having God’s ear in prayer, touching on topics such as enjoying prayer, praying in secret, praying with consistency and company, fasting, journaling and solitude. Finally, six chapters on belonging to God’s body in fellowship, examining biblical fellowship, corporate worship, baptism, Lord’s supper and correction. Finally, Mathis ends with three chapters on the disciplines or habits of mission, time and money.
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Do you know someone who is in a spiritual rut or season of dryness? Perhaps you are bogged down in your personal Bible reading or private prayer life. Perhaps you know many who read the Bible each day, checking off the box, but lack a clear understanding of its purpose. Or maybe you have this feeling that you probably should memorize or meditate on Scripture in a greater way, but you don’t have a clue where to begin. Or perhaps you read Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life many years ago and established a pattern, but you realize you could use a refresher course in the disciplines.
Habits of Grace by David Mathis provides a fresh and simple resource on the spiritual disciplines. Mathis understands that the disciplines aren’t the point, but rather knowing, loving and treasuring Jesus more is the point. We do this through the disciplines of taking in the Bible, prayer, Christian community and corporate worship. The value of this resource isn’t in its exhaustiveness (there are other resources that go further in depth such as Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life), but rather is simplicity and pastoral desire to help the reader do as its subtitle says, to enjoy Jesus through the spiritual disciplines.
This is a great resource to give to a new believer or perhaps a seasoned believer who has never understood the value of cultivating spiritual disciplines. Habits of Grace works hard to steer clear of legalistic, box-checking, duty-driven discipline, but rather portrays the beauty and delight that are available to every believer in hearing God’s voice speak, having God’s ear in our cries and prayers, and the privilege of belonging to his body.
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Habits of Grace is a simple, accessible and practical resource to help believers discover the joy and delight of knowing Jesus through spiritual disciplines.