“…the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning His will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against Him.” – John Wesley on the essence of prevenient grace.
Question for the day: Do we believe that God is at work in the lives of unbelievers?
One of the core distinctions of our Methodist beliefs comes from the concept of a three-fold grace. As many of you know, I did not have the benefit of a church environment as a child. So as I struggled as an adult with what I could believe in faith matters, this concept appealed to me in a very profound way. It is a large part of why I chose to become a Methodist, because I did not see this emphasis in many other protestant denominations. So I feel it is important that we talk about it.
As Methodists, we believe God’s grace is manifest in our lives in 3 distinct stages: prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying.
Prevenient grace is the concept that God is working in our lives to call us to Himself before we are even aware of it. We believe that before we even know about God, He is creating circumstances around us that will enable us to know Him. This is one of the reasons we affirm infant baptism, as an acknowledgement that God is at work in the lives of children before they can make those affirmations for themselves.
The thing about prevenient grace is that it is always there, even if we choose to ignore it. How awesome is that? That we can repeatedly reject God, and yet the mystery is that He will continue to try and reach us. If that does not convince us of our value to Him, then nothing else will. His love for us knows no end and doesn’t even make any sense by our standards.
I believe in prevenient grace because I can look back on my life (pre-faith) and see His hands at work, even though I did not recognize it at the time. So to expound on a previous entry, my personal experience tells me that this is so. How about some of you. Can anyone else share a story or an event that speaks to this concept of God being at work in our lives before we came to know Him? I love hearing those…
Praise be to Your holy name. For You are a God with a plan. You had a planned relationship with me before I was even born. You have cared for me all my life. You watched over me, even when I did not know You. Thank You, my Lord, for never leaving me. Thank You for pursuing me until You had my attention. Thank You for continuing to speak until I heard You. You are a patient and merciful God. Because of these things, I will always know that I am a child of Grace.
In the name of the Lamb I pray,