In the United Methodist Church, one of the topics you will hear a lot about is grace. John Wesley made God’s grace a touchstone for his preaching. All of the small groups, the societies and classes, that he arranged or participated in involved sharing God’s grace with each other and those who were in need.
In the larger scope, God’s grace includes any gift of God that we receive from God without having to earn it. Our talents and abilities are gifts from God. The resources we have at our disposal are all graces or gifts from God. The people who teach us and help us through life are all provided to us by the grace of God.
In a more narrow focus, people often will limit their definition of God’s offering of grace to the free, unearned gift of righteousness, forgiveness, and atonement through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. While this is a very important understanding of grace, Justifying Grace, it is not the only one. In this article, I want to look at what comes before our receiving of God’s Justifying Grace.
Another understanding of how we receive God’s free gift of grace is what is called Prevenient Grace. It is the grace that God extends to us all before we are completely aware of it and before we have the will or ability to act on it. It is God’s movement toward us. It is Jesus Christ’s re-creation of us into the image of God, into that state where we are able to acknowledge God as God, to accept His authority over our lives, to receive His forgiveness for our sins, and to really love Him.
I recently started thinking about Prevenient Grace as I listened to one of my Third Day CD’s the other day. Some of you know that Third Day is my favorite band. Some of you also know that I am a seminary student and, as such, am spending much of my time in mental wrestling matches with some of the Christian heavyweights of history. So, just in case you think I’m mistakenly reading some old, theological concept into my tunes, take a look at the opening lyrics they sing in the song, King of Glory:
Who is this King of Glory, that pursues me with his love,
And haunts with each hearing of his softly spoken word?
My conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need.
Who is this King of Glory who offers it to me?
This is all about sensing God’s pull on us. It sings about God pursuing us because he loved us first! What an awesome way to praise God for calling to us, reaching out to us. In the midst of our sin, God opened up that oddly-shaped space in our hearts that only God can fill. People often spend years and years searching for something that fulfills them, that gives their lives meaning, when all along the searching was for something – Someone – who was right in front of them the whole time.
Take some time today to thank God for calling to you. Praise Him for providing the way for you to cross the divide between you and Him that was the result of sin. Love him as a child loves the perfect Father. Trust Him to continue to offer His grace. After all, if He has come this far to find His lost lamb, why do think He will stop now? Hallelujah!