I pulled George G. Hunter’s book The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement off my shelf the other day. As I was flipping through the pages, the following paragraphs stood out.
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The third movement of God’s grace in our lives is called Sanctifying Grace. God has been at work in our lives with Prevenient Grace. When we heard the Gospel and believed we were born again as God applied Justifying Grace. Now the question becomes what will God do next? God has an amazing plan and desire for our lives.
Peter answers a question that many of us have asked: What is God’s will for my life? Now, the response that we make to the answer Peter gives should not be, “Is that all?” That would not be correct. The fact that God, in his wisdom and purpose, has decided to tell us what He will do should create in us joy and peace; patience and passion. So what is God’s will? Listen to what Peter says is 1 Peter 4:3:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification (ESV)
The New International Version says it this way: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” Do you see that. The implication here is not that this is an option we can opt into or out of. God’s will, what he has determined will happen is that you become like Jesus. That is what it means to be sanctified. To look so much like Jesus that the world sees Jesus and not us.
Could that be why we don’t want to be sanctified? We don’t want to have our identity replaced with Christ’s? I cannot think of anything I want more than to have my weaknesses replaced by his strengths; my sorrows by his joy; my pain by his healing; my sin by his grace. That is what God has offered. That is what Jesus has purchased through his death and resurrection. That is what the Holy Spirit has applied to our lives. Be sanctified. God desires that for you.
The second “movement” of Grace as John Wesley understood it is Justifying Grace. Once Prevenient Grace has worked in and on our lives we come to that moment of decision. We are called by the Gospel and the work of Jesus to trust in Him for salvation and a restored relationship with God. At the moment that this conviction fills our hearts, God is applying grace to our souls. What makes this movement special and unique is this, at the moment that we exercise faith we are justified before God. We have not been made totally righteous, not yet. That comes next as we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12, ESV).
What we experience at the moment of salvation is the declaration by God that what has begun at salvation is as-good-as-done in the eyes of God! Can you believe that? We are not as we ought to be, but God has declared the work finished! That is what Justification means, we are no longer held guilty of our sins AND we are now set on the path of eternal life.
There are two places in scripture that help us here. Philippians 1:6 reveals God’s promise to finish what HE has started. Meditate on that and rejoice. The second passage reveals something that is just as wonderful. Peter tells us where our salvation is kept for safe keeping in 1 Peter 1:3-5. This is important for us because it provides our confidence in the Father’s love for us, Christ’s work in us and the Spirit’s power through us to accomplish God’s will in the world. Peter tells us that “we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (NLT). The key here is the word “for.” The burden of my salvation is on God, in Christ. That is the majesty and wonder of God’s love and grace. He protects, sustains, maintains and finishes His work of justification. Thank God for justifying grace!
One of the distinctive contributions of John Wesley to the Christian world was a clearer understanding of what God was doing in the lives of all people. Wesley understood God’s grace to function in three distinct “movements” in a person’s life. The first movement is understood as being “Prevenient.” Historically, this was also called God’s preventing grace. The essential reality is that even before a person knew or understood or even desired God’s grace, God was at work in a person’s life preparing the way for them to hear and know Jesus Christ. (Look at Ephesians 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:20 for examples of this.) So what does this mean for you, the Christian, and for those who are not yet believers? It means that God is always at work. When you want Him and when you don’t. When you need Him and when you think you won’t. As we grow in our knowledge of what God is doing, our confidence in His love grows as well. What’s the bottom line?
YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!