Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Justifying Grace

Last Sunday, July 25, I preached on the second of the graces that John Wesley talks about. Remember that Wesley’s plan of salvation said that we are “saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2: 8-9). Of course, all of the reformers in church history have said this. The Protestant Reformation was, in part, all about a recovery of the notion that we are “justified by faith” and Luther, Wesley, and others added: alone.

Prevenient Grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit which is present in every person. It is free in all and for all. A person may in fact be “before Christ” but no person is “before grace”. This means, as I said earlier, that God acts first in our salvation. God loves first. Keep the order right. God loves; then, we love. Prevenient Grace is the grace that came to you before you were able to think or choose for yourself. God’s grace was preparing you for the day when you could step forward and receive Christ for yourself. God used, uses, every person, experience, gift at his disposal to bring you to himself.

Next is Justifying Grace. It is God’s grace that gives you the gift of being able to choose for yourself whether you will believe, trust, and follow Christ. God’s Spirit draws us to this point and then we are offered Christ and a choice. And, we say yes or no.

Sunday I said that God’s gives us saving faith as a gift. Saving faith is the knowledge that we are sinners, that no matter how much we try, we are self-obsessed. We seek God on the one hand and then turn around to take things in to our own hands. As one writer says, “we strut around as if we owned the place.” We have the knowledge of our own failures and sins and we turn to Christ for forgiveness. God came in Jesus Christ all the way to a cross to show us just how far he was willing to go to have us.

Saving faith is knowledge; it is also mental assent. I decide; I choose for myself. I cannot live on my mother’s faith, no matter how strong that was/is. I have to have faith for myself. So, in my mind/heart I come to give myself over to the God who knows me better than I know myself, who loves me, and who wants to bring me home.

Saving faith is also laying hold of Jesus by choice. It’s stepping forward and laying hold of Jesus as my hope of life and salvation in this world and in the world to come. It’s all about Jesus.

I was talking with a young woman as we worked together on a construction project in a United Methodist Youth Mission. She grew up Methodist but now was a member of the Unitarian Church (no offense to Unitarians, I hope). But, she said she missed her Methodist Church. I asked her what she missed most. She said: “I miss Jesus…”

We lay hold of the Jesus who comes to lay hold of us. Jesus is the embodiment, the incarnation, of the God of the universe. There, right there, right here, in Jesus of Nazareth is the God of all live.

When did you say “yes” to Jesus? When did you choose to follow Christ?

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

2 comments:

Welcome

Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.
Blessings!
Dave

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About Me

A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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