I pray this cold wet morning finds you all well. Today we will continue our look at grace, the grace theology of the Methodist Church. I am a Christian because of Jesus, but I am a Methodist because of John Wesley’s grace theology. It’s not complicated, and it is easy to understand, and, I believe, resonates with the believer. It is easy to share. It resonated with me, when I was a new believer in Christ. When speaking of grace, as United Methodists, we recognize three different expressions of grace: prevenient or preventing grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. If you are a Methodist, you learn to embrace the grace. Because this grace of God is our everything.
We looked at the prevenient grace of God last week. It is the grace before justifying grace, the grace that is present before we are even aware of God.
Wesley described prevenient grace as the porch on a house. It is where we prepare to enter the house. It is where God prepares us to enter into his kingdom. Prevenient grace allows something to change in us. We become aware of God. For much of my life I had no idea that God was real, much less aware that God desired me. Prevenient grace helped me to become aware of God. Also, I learned the necessity of submitting to God. This was a more difficult lesson for me than just awareness.
As I said, prevenient grace is the front porch into God’s kingdom, today we will look at the doorway into God’s house, justifying grace. Prevenient grace prepares us for God’s justifying grace. Justifying grace is the entryway into God’s house, when we step across the threshold and enter God’s kingdom. It is the moment of our salvation.
Justification to John Wesley, is another word for pardon. It is the forgiveness of all of our sins, and our acceptance with God. Justifying grace is the assurance of forgiveness that comes from repentance, from turning toward God’s gracious gift of new life. We are born again. It is being reconciled and realigned with God through the acceptance of God’ atoning act in Jesus Christ.
Justifying grace is the work of the cross in us. Everything that happened up to the cross, and on the cross, and after the cross was part of God’s plan. Justifying grace is the cross applied to our life as an individual. The work of Jesus was finished thousands of years ago. What must happen now is for each of us, in our own way, to realize our sinfulness and rebellion, seek forgiveness for this sin and rebellion, and put our faith in Christ.
Through Jesus’ work on the cross, God reconciles each of us to himself. We are adopted into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With this comes a brand new identity as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters to King Jesus. We are also welcomed into the body of Christ, the church. Ephesians 2:8,
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Justifying grace is the grace of God that saves us. It saves us from our bondage to sin, it saves us from an eternity of damnation, it saves us from being in conflict with a holy God. Justifying grace saves us from ourselves. If left to our own desires, we would corrupt what God has in store for us. Apart from God, we are nothing, though in our own minds we might convince ourselves otherwise. There is no work that we can perform that will gain us this grace. It is our belief, our faith in Christ that does this.
Realizing our identity and worth as being rooted in Christ is the essence of justifying grace. To accept that identity is to enter the doorway into a whole new existence, a new life.
When we enter into this new life the sin and shame of our old life are meaningless, it is our past, and becomes part of our personal testimony. The future is now everything, our future led by God and his Holy Spirit. Let’s read all of this passage in Ephesians 2:1-9,
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
All of us, at some point in our lives, all of us were dead in our transgressions and sins. Some of us may still be. If you do not recognize the point of justifying grace in your life, you may not have experienced this grace of transformation.
My moment of justifying grace came while I watched a preacher on TV in 1988. I accepted Christ then as my savior. This was an enigmatic beginning for me, because I was skipping church while Kristi was attending a morning service. But the point of emphasis for me is that I could not escape God. Even by skipping church, I could not escape the call of God in my life, God chased me through the TV.
Another preacher, on my Walk to Emmaus retreat, had a tremendous revelation while discussing the concept of justifying grace. He was from another large, mainline denomination. He was a son of a preacher, been in church his whole life, he’d even become a preacher himself, and had been preaching for nine years.
To his horror, he realized that he was not saved. He had never given his heart to Jesus. He could not identify his moment of justifying grace, when he was born again. He had always just been in church. This was rectified rather quickly with a prayer of confession. Do you think there was a difference in his sermons and preaching after this moment of justifying grace. You can believe it. He better understood God’s love, God’s grace, by having personally experienced this grace. Now he understood what it really meant to be alive with Christ. Romans 3:21-24,
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known , to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Now, I realize that many of us are getting older, and that we might not remember the date or the details of our moment of justifying grace. I am not here to create doubt in your salvation. It’s just the opposite. I am here to facilitate your assurance of your salvation. This is what is most a blessing from God’s grace, our ability to rest assured that God does love us, wants the best for us and our families, and desires us to be with him and Jesus for eternity.
Embrace this grace from God, treasure it, hold on tight to it, and share it with others. To the believer in Christ, this grace is our everything.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Embrace the grace.
and Harmony UMC