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Sanctifying Grace

Happy Valentines Day everyone,

I pray God’s grace upon you all. Whatever grace you need is available. It is always this way, you need only to ask God. Stay in his will and in the Spirit of God and there is nothing you cannot do. Today we will complete our brief series on God’s grace. We have looked at God’s prevenient grace, God’s grace before we know or are even aware of God. Then there is God’s justifying grace, the grace of salvation, that very moment when God enters our heart, we confess our sinfulness and our belief in Jesus Christ, and we are no longer separated from God by our sin. We are washed in the blood of the Lamb Jesus Christ. Today we will look at sanctifying grace, the process by which God completes his work in the believer, making us whole and Christlike. But before this, I want us to just talk about grace. These three expressions of grace help us to understand that God loves us. God is always reaching out to us. He is not hiding from us. Now many of us, through our own sinful actions, may be hiding from him. But God is always seeking us, through his Spirit. As much as I tried, I could not run away from God or his call to preach. I spent thirty years in total running away from God or his call to preach. Yet here I am, as a preacher, testifying that God loves you no matter what and to stop running. Just stop running from God. God’s grace is like the tide. We go to the beach, plunk down in our chairs and the waves come and wrap around us, creating pools of grace, surrounding us with grace. Then the tide shifts, it goes out, and the pools of grace are gone. Grace is not as plentiful as it was when the tide was in. It’s there, if we need it. God is still there, as always, but maybe we have distanced ourselves from God. Our decisions and choices, the quality of our prayer life, our desire to be Spirit led or not all affect the flow of grace in our lives. If there is a shortage of grace in our lives, it is a problem on our end. A thinking problem, a sin problem, a fear problem, a false idol, or any of a myriad of problems that the world confronts us with, that we try to fix ourselves, without the help of God. Then, like children, we remember God and his mercy, we think of Jesus and plead his blood, and the tide of grace flows back into our lives. If only we could stay at the high tide of grace in our lives. We can, it’s our fault that we do not, it’s because we are prone to wander. Our attention spans are so short. Prayer and confession should be a daily act. I don't do this often anymore, but I used to be a worry wart and stress, and I would have panic attacks. When I stress now, it is because I have lost my focus on God. Always, always, this is the case. If I analyze my last 24 hours or so, I realize that I have missed my prayer time, and that I have distanced myself from God. I cannot let the busyness of my world, my life, my ministry, pull me away from my access to God’s grace. The world will do this if we let it. Prayer has to be daily for me. To access God's grace as I need it, I must be in touch with God minute by minute. To do this I must be be Spirit led. We need to stay plugged in to God. The way we do this is through God’s sanctifying grace. Again, sanctification is the process by which the believer is made holy and Christlike. My advice to you is this: when you avoid sanctification you invite spiritual peril. Read that again. In other words, you are making some decision that moves you away from God, not closer to God. Sanctification, as a process, continually brings us closer and closer to God. If we hinder this process, we stop moving closer to God and the tide of grace flows out. Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Through the process of sanctification we learn what God’s will is. We also learn how to stay in his will, how to remain Holy Spirit led in a world designed to entice us away from God and his Son Jesus. God’s goal for humanity is the complete restoration of the divine image that was corrupted in the Garden of Eden. Sanctifying grace is the gradual restoration of this divine image of Jesus Christ in all of us. Each of our sanctification journeys are unique. Because each one of us is unique. Now, I do not normally quote the UM Book of Discipline, however I will today. “We (United Methodists) hold that the wonder of God’s acceptance and pardon do not end God’s saving work, which continues to nurture our growth in grace. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to increase in the knowledge and love of God and in love for our neighbor.” Our journey with Christ is just beginning when we are born again. Upon being born again, though we may be a full adult physically and mentally, spiritually we are infants, and it is from this stage that we must progress. Without sanctifying grace we would be just spoiled, entitled and self centered Christians. Without sanctifying grace we would not understand anything other than our relationship with Christ. We would understand what God has done for us, what it means for us, and we would be limited to this self-centered view of God. We would miss so much. But thanks be to God that we don’t receive condemnation, but through his grace examination that leads to our transformation. This trans-formative process is sanctifying grace. This is how we grow spiritually. As we mature spiritually, we realize that it’s not just about us. The more that we grow spiritually, the more we become like Christ. Christ was a sacrificial servant. Born to die, for us. The more we become like Christ, the more that we become like this sacrificial servant that Christ so willingly became. His actions of service and sacrifice become our actions of service and sacrifice. As we grow through this sanctification, suddenly we realize, the blessings that we receive and desire so much in our lives, are about being used up by others for Christ’s sake. We learn how to poor ourselves out for Christ's sake. It really isn’t about us and our development anymore. Instead it’s about how God uses us to impact the lives of others. It’s about fellowship, service, and mentoring others. It’s about our connection throughout the body of Christ, those in other denominations, and those who do not know Christ. The mission field and the harvest become our focus. The most exciting thing is when we are at the maturation point, no longer baby Christians, God uses us to impact the lives of others in unforeseen and miraculous ways. Sanctifying grace is the necessary growth process for all believers. Each of these expressions of grace are important. One expression of grace is not more important than another. Without a certain instance of grace in our lives we may no longer be alive. Naturally, many would assume that justifying grace is the most important, getting saved. However, without God's prevenient grace in my life, I would not be here. So, I would respectfully suggest that all of these graces are important, with the most important grace being whatever type is needed next in our life. The most important grace is the next blessing coming to us through his Spirit. Whether it is prevenient grace, justifying grace, or sanctifying grace does not matter. It is God’s grace and that alone is what matters most. It is unmerited and undeserved, but always according to God’s will, a special blessing, to enhance God’s kingdom, for his purposes extended to us through his Spirit, always moving us closer to the image destined for us in Christ Jesus. This grace I pray for you all. Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Blessings, Thad Brown Opportunity House and Harmony UMC

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