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Prevenient Grace: Movements of Grace (1)

. 4 min read

2013/09/15

Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1.4-10, John 1.40-51

I love to hear our personal stories, particularly the
stories that include or focus on the spiritual dimension of life.  Folks call that story by many names – a
testimony, a spiritual journey, a witness. 
I’ve heard people tell stories about being born across the street from
the church and carried there the Sunday after they were born.  I’ve heard others talk about a life of
atheism, only to be encountered by Jesus in a dream.  Some folks have been rescued from addiction;
others – religious and observant all their lives – suddenly realize that they’ve
been missing something and reach out for Jesus as if for the first time.

            Today we
begin a series of messages on the movements of grace in our lives, a series
that dives into our roots, into the richness of our specifically Methodist and
Wesleyan tradition, to explore this theme. 
It is a gift to the broader Christian tradition that comes from our
heritage.  It is unique in its language
and perspective, and entirely consistent with Scripture and older
tradition.  Grace is a central theme of
the biblical story, and grace remains a consistent theme in Christian theology.

First thing about the narrative of grace is that “I”
am not the subject
of the story – God is. 
When I hear a personal faith story that centers on the human subject –
on how I taught Sunday School or served on church councils or committees, how I
got sober, how I help people – I am not hearing a grace story.  And, if I am not hearing a grace story, then
I am not hearing about God, and something essential is missing.  Perhaps when you think about your spiritual
journey, you realize that you are missing or overlooking God at work in
you.  Perhaps you struggle to see the
consistent theme of the grace of Jesus Christ woven throughout your story.  Perhaps you hear the story of others and feel
you don’t have one of your own.  This series
is for you.

First thing … I am not the subject of the story.  Second thing … God is always
gracious, and grace is always active. 
God sends rain and sunlight, and it doesn’t matter whether you are
innocent or criminal (Matthew 5.45).  The
theological term for this is “common grace”, because all human beings
have this in common, whether we realize it or not.  Our focus in this series, however, begins
with common grace and moves forward from there in three movements described by
John Wesley – Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying Grace.

Prevenient:

            Prevention
(common grace)

                        My
friend, amazed he ever got home some nights

            Coming
before, going before

                        Before
what? Justifying Grace, justification – the cross in our lives

                        Decisive
moment of saying “Yes” to Jesus

                                    and
the gift of “regeneration”, the “new birth” of the Spirit

            “God’s
kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2.4)

1.         Singularity

            shape the
multiple variables and possibilities

            God active
in determining human destiny? Singularity – the cross

            pov of the
cross in our lives – looking back, looking forward

Jeremiah 1:5  Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the
nations.

2.         Romance (a form of pursuit)

            courtship,
comes before the engagement and wedding

            “God
destined that I would marry you”

            My story:
Sutini

3.         Hunt (another form of pursuit)

            some do not
welcome God’s pursuit, eventually give up

            Friend’s
story: dream

“The Hound of Heaven” by Frances Thomson (1859-1907)

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
. . . .
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbPd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat . . . .

Nathanael: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Your story:

            locate the
singularity

            recognize
God’s pursuit

            or … say “yes”
today

Resources:

“The Hound of Heaven” by Frances Thomson (1859-1907)
from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse, 1917, Nicholson &
Lee, editors