I recently had the privilege of sitting down with David Mathis—executive editor for Desiring God and pastor at Cities Church in the Twin Cities—to talk about his new book, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines (with a group study guide sold separately).
Crossway provided some time-stamps for our conversation
00:00 – What do the endorsements for the book tell us about what you were trying to do in Habits of Grace?
02:21 – What are you getting at when you talk about “habits of grace”?
04:39 – In your experience, what are some of the main challenges that Christians face with respect to the “habits of grace”?
07:48 – When it comes to our intake of God’s Word, why is it important to emphasize both breadth and depth?
09:51 – How do we ensure that our understanding and practice of the spiritual disciplines is biblical and not unduly shaped by non-Christian influences?
13:04 – Where and how is the Holy Spirit present in your understanding of living the Christian life?
16:30 – With the multitude of books already in print related to the spiritual disciplines, why did you feel the need to write another one?
“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, Founder, desiringGod.org; Chancellor, Bethlehem College and Seminary
“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, Pastor, Passion City Church, Atlanta; Founder, Passion Conferences
“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, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
“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
“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.”
Donald S. Whitney, Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality, Senior Associate Dean of the School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
“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, Enjoy, Fear and Faith, and United
“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 DeMoss Wolgemuth, author; radio host, Revive Our Hearts
“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, author, The Next Story; blogger, Challies.com
“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 Gracebringing the disciplines back into the conversation and, hopefully, back into our practice as well.”
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story
“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
“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
“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
Table of Contents
Introduction: Grace Gone Wild
Part 1: Hear His Voice (Word)
- Shape Your Life with the Words of Life
- Read for Breadth, Study for Depth
- Warm Yourself at the Fire of Meditation
- Bring the Bible Home to Your Heart
- Memorize the Mind of God
- Resolve to Be a Lifelong Learner
Part 2: Have His Ear (Prayer)
- Enjoy the Gift of Having God’s Ear
- Pray in Secret
- Pray with Constancy and Company
- Sharpen Your Affections with Fasting
- Journal as a Pathway to Joy
- Take a Break from the Chaos
Part 3: Belong to His Body (Fellowship)
- Learn to Fly in the Fellowship
- Kindle the Fire in Corporate Worship
- Listen for Grace in the Pulpit
- Wash in the Waters Again
- Grow in Grace at the Table
- Embrace the Blessing of Rebuke
Part 4: Coda
- The Commission
- The Dollar
- The Clock
Epilogue: Communing with Christ on a Crazy Day
You can read Piper’s foreword and Mathis’s preface here.