God’s Grace is on the Porch, at the Doorway, and with us on our Journey
We have heard about God’s grace, but what it is? Of course, no human can begin to understand the mystery of God’s amazing grace that He showers onto us. But Christians find it exciting when they see God working in their lives. According to the Wesleyan Methodist Book of Discipline, Grace is God’s presence with us, working in our lives to create, heal, forgive, reconcile, comfort and transform human hearts, communities and the entire creation.”
In his sermon, published in 1765, John Wesley describes three ways he believes God’s grace is given to us humans. These three ways are: (1) Prevenient Grace (2) Justifying Grace and (3) Sanctifying Grace. And to illustrate this, John Wesley pictured a “House” with a porch and a doorway, to help describe God’s all- encompassing grace.
Prevenient grace is present in all creation – in the natural order. It is sometimes called “Common Grace” as it is given to everyone. The Bible says: grace is the “true light that the Son of God lights every soul coming into the world with” (John 1:9) Scripture says that God gives gifts of grace and a conscience to know right from wrong to every person on earth.
According to John Wesley, prevenient grace is God’s grace drawing us up on the porch. Gently nudging and calling each person to do the right and just thing, to follow kindness and love and to come nearer to Him. To believe in Christ as Savior and Lord. We can accept or ignore God’s grace – the grace that draws us along to Him. Just as God has free will, He has created us with free will. And we are free to say “no” to God’s grace. Free to say “no” to the invitation to follow Christ. We are not robots and we have a choice.
Prevenient Grace is the Good Shepherd (Christ) out in the cold dark night searching and calling for His lost sheep. Wesley describes “Prevenient Grace” as the grace that finds us and urges us to come up on the “Porch” and over to the door. The porch is where we make our decision to either go through the door or stay out. God’s grace in our lives has drawn us to want to follow Him when we are near the door and on the porch. Only God knows how to urge us on.
The porch can be where we linger and decide we don’t want to go inside after all. Or the porch can be where we prepare to enter the house and begin the journey of following Christ. It’s decision time. Do we walk through the door or stay outside? God will not force us to love Him. We must say “Yes” to God’s gracious invitation and step through the door in order to begin the Christian journey! It’s our call!
“Prevenient Grace” prepares us for “Justifying Grace.” And “Justification Grace” is the door we walk through into a whole new existence! The door is open with a “Whosoever will” sign over the doorpost. (Revelation 22:17) Wesley says that “Justification” is another word for God’s “pardon.” It is the forgiveness of our sins and our acceptance with God.” It happens when we repent and believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord.
Justifying Grace is the doorway into the house of God’s salvation! This grace is the open doorway and our faith in Christ is the process of walking through it. Scripture says: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any person boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) If “Justifying Grace” is like a journey, where the one who has walked through the door now turns toward a new future, packs his or her bags, joins the guide and sets out toward the destination. Justifying Grace is called conversion or coming to faith.
But God’s saving work and grace is not the end of God giving us gifts and graces. God’s grace continues to nurture and bless and guide and heal and teach and comfort us all through our lives. God’s presence in our lives is an ongoing experience. Through the power of the Holy Spirit as we go through life we are enabled to increase in the knowledge and love of God and our neighbor. “Sanctifying Grace” represents the grace God continues to give us all our lives as we walk with Him.
Sanctifying grace continuously forms us into the likeness of Christ. Scripture says: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6) We are constantly in need of being spiritually renewed and refreshed.
Our Christian faith is a social faith. Faith always includes a social dimension. We cannot be solitary Christians. Our faith must grow through our participation in a church community where we are nourished and equipped for mission and service. As the body of Christ we pray together, sing and praise God together, repent, share the Sacraments, study the Scriptures and listen to sermons all together. These are some of the means of God’s grace, blessing us through other believers and blessing them through us. God often gives us His grace through fellowship with other believers. And God uses us to bless others. Scripture says: “Do not neglect or forsake the fellowship of meeting with other believers” (Hebrews 10:25) We are not meant to be lonely individuals. We are stronger in the Lord when we are together.