Thursday, June 16, 2011

Love Came First-Prevenient Grace

If you spend much time in Methodist circles online you will hear the term "prevenient grace" tossed around quite a bit!  I know what you're thinking because I thought it myself when I first heard it-what does that mean?

Here's how my dictionary defines it: 
 "the grace which operates on a person's will and disposes him to repentance"
Dandy.  What does that have to do with love?  It's the starting point for understanding why faith is so important.  I think just about anybody who has gone to Sunday School or had a passing acquaintance with church can quote John 3:16:
 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
God loved the world then and he loves the world now-today!  In the beginning there was no need for faith because God was fully present.  Adam and Eve didn't have to imagine what God looked like because he walked and talked with them.  Wesley in his sermon The Law Established by Faith-Discourse Two said this:

  "...Let those who magnify faith beyond all proportion, so as to swallow up all things else, and who so totally misapprehend the nature of it as to imagine it stands in the place of love, consider farther, that as love will exist after faith, so it did exist long before it. The angels who, from the moment of their creation, beheld the face of their Father that is in heaven, had no occasion for faith, in its general notion, as it is the evidence of things not seen. Neither had they need of faith in its more particular acceptation, faith in the blood of Jesus: for he took not upon him the nature of angels, but only the seed of Abraham. There was therefore no place before the foundation of the world for faith either in the general or particular sense. But there was for love. Love existed from eternity, in God, the great ocean of love. Love had a place in all the children of God, from the moment of their creation. They received at once from their gracious Creator to exist, and to love.  Nor is it certain (as ingeniously and plausibly as many have descanted upon this) that faith, even in the general sense of the word, had any place in paradise. It is highly probable, from that short and uncircumstantial account which we have in Holy Writ, that Adam, before he rebelled against God, walked with him by sight and not by faith."
Love came first as well as free will.  Adam and Eve exercised their free will.  They made a choice and there were consequences-separation.  That's the point when sin came in to the picture.  But God so loved the world that he had a plan!  He sent His Son.  John 3:17 adds to the picture:
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." 
 Let me bring this a little closer to home because lofty terms can be kind of hard to wrap your brain around if you're not a professor of Divinity!  God so loved you, and me, and everyone in his creation that he sent His Son to save us.  His love has been there right from the start and it is STILL here today!  Picture in your mind God holding his arms open wide saying "come to me and let me hold you  precious child because I've always loved you!"  You didn't do anything to deserve it or earn it.  You didn't have to get yourself perfect first.  It's not something you can buy.  It simply is as it is!  You have a choice.  You can accept it by faith through Christ.  Or, you can reject it.  But the opportunity to experience God's love is always there!  It has always been there, right from the very beginning.

Now I am sure that some learned scholar out there could probably give a much more detailed explanation.  From everything I've read either in the Bible or in Wesley's sermons the first step comes down to understanding three things.  First, you're not perfect (in other words-sinful nature).  Second, God loves you anyway, which is why he sent Jesus.  Third, it's your choice. 

Should you choose to say yes, repentance, justification and sanctification come next.  That my darlings, is a topic for another day! 

One last thing.  I'm no expert.  I just want to share and encourage others to believe and understand that they can take this journey as well!  I know the old English can be intimidating but I really encourage you, if you want to know more about the Methodist faith, read Wesley's sermons!  It will add so much depth to your Bible studies!  Be blessed!  Be well! Peace!

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