Sunday, February 1, 2015

Revival 4 of 6: on Grace

• Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Communion Sunday
Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday
With Ephesians 2:8-10
4 of 6 on a series with Adam Hamilton’s 2014 book Revival: Faith As Wesley Lived It  @kerrfunk                                                                
• John Wesley preached from this text more than 40 times. (JW preached pretty much twice a day for over 50 years, over 40,000 preaching events – the man was passionate about preaching, about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ wherever people would gather -- but Ephesians 2:8-10 is a key text for JW).

• In the year 2000 a movie came out, “Pay it Forward” about a middle school student Trevor who, as part of a Social Studies assignment to come up with a way to change the world, comes up with “pay it forward”… you help 3 people out, and they can’t pay you back, but instead they pay it forward, with each of them helping three people, and so on.

It’s a great idea. Sometimes you’ll see a watered-down version in a drive-thru or maybe a tollbooth. I’ve given (for the car behind me) and I’ve received.

There’s a kind of theological concept in the idea of PIF, a kind of grace.

Greek word for grace is charis, as in charisma or Karissa or Eucharist. Great word, great concept having to do with kindness, yes, and selfless love, yes… In Paul’s letters you’ll find it 148 times – no small deal.

Grace is both a quality of God’s character – God is loving, God is kind – and Grace is God’s active work by the Holy Spirit… God moves in people for their own betterment.

Part of the essence of grace is gift… A gift given without expectation of repayment.

• Watered down, it’s the tollbooth pay.

John Wesley, over fifty years of preaching, spoke about three different kinds of grace.

Imagine you didn’t know there was a tollbooth, you pull up and suddenly you find out that you are in debt. You didn’t know. But you also find out it’s been paid!
PREVENIENT grace: before you knew you needed grace, before you knew you were in debt, your debt was paid. Before you knew you needed God, God was there, calling, preparing for you, preparing you, making grace available.

Prevenient grace is God working in people to bring us to faith when the time is right, and God working through us to bring others to faith when the time is right. It’s a gift, God’s work through the Holy Spirit, and a quality of God’s character, goodness and kindness.

• That’s one flavor of grace. JW also spoke of a second kind of grace, Justifying grace, or the grace of justification. J = made right. By the grace of God, we, who are sinners, are made right with God. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, our sins are washed away and God sees us clean. Not by our merit but by gift of JC. We are justified. You might think of JG as an event.

• There’s a third flavor of grace JW speaks of…Our lives are not events but a series of events, a process of maturation, growth in grace and holiness. Again, by grace of God, as we respond to Prevenient and to Justifying grace, hopefully we receive and we mature, we become more and more like Jesus. JW called that sanctifying grace, that maturation process of becoming more and more like Jesus.

A Christian cannot simply receive prevenient and justifying grace, but God desires that we move on to maturation…

p. 87 We’re meant to say, “Here’s my life, Lord. I give it to you. I accept your love and grace and your acceptance of me. I’m yours!” And then we’re meant to go deeper in our faith, and to become what God created us to be. We’re meant to pray, “Please restore me and make me the person you want me to be.”

• Wouldn’t you know it, by God’s grace, there are ways we can put ourselves in best position to receive God’s grace… I’ve been calling them “habits of holiness” but JW called them “Means of Grace.” How do we experience God? How does God move to work in us and how do we work to experience God? Through the means of grace. You’ve heard them before. Reading scripture and other inspired writings. Worship. Prayer. Communion. Fasting. Participating in study. Participating in acts of mercy. God uses these acts, these means, to invite us into grace, to justify us and make us right with God, and to grow in us. Prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying. Ordinary things that we can do where God meets us and moves in us. MOG. As in this morning’s children’s message: we can position ourselves to receive God’s grace.

• There is history in chap 4, btw… JW, responding to God’s grace, increasing passion about preaching God’s saving grace, to as many as possible, as effectively as possible… go to where there are hungry people. But as JW became more outspoken about God’s grace, churches grew cold about his challenging message and challenging delivery… so he left the church and spoke where there were people who were willing to listen – might say he became a street preacher, where God used him to preach the gospel to THOUSANDS of passersby, passersby who were normal folk, hungry for relief, comfort, revival. As people responded to God’s word in him, he also provided community for followup – people to walk with, to be in study and accountability with… people to serve with.

• Hear this quote: All Wesley’s activities – his outdoor preaching and his willingness to work relentlessly to teach the gospel – were undergirded by an important theological conviction, one that came to characterize most religious movement that trace their lineage to Wesley: God’s grace is available to all. (93)

• from Means of Grace into Sacrament of Holy Communion (p. 15-16)

Ephesians 2:8-10        (Common English Bible)                                       02/01/15
You are saved by God’s grace because of faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

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