Grace. What’s the big deal about grace? Specifically, why do Methodists put such an emphasis on grace? Why do they talk about “Prevenient Grace” and “Justifying Grace” and “Sanctifying Grace”? What’s the difference between them all. Over the next four blog posts, we’re going to be talking about grace.
Before we get into some of the nuts and bolts of specific gracious thoughts and manifestations, we need to have a basis for our need for grace. Grace is so vital to the church, and yet it seems that we don’t talk about it all that often, or when we do talk about it we speak of it as though its something that that everyone already knows about.
What do you think of when you hear the word “grace”?
Do you think of a person named Grace? Do you think of praying before meals, “saying grace”? Or do you think of someone from the South talking about the country in the Meditteranean?
Grace is a gift given to us that is completely and totally undeserved. Grace is not only a gift to us, but it is the gift that God gives to us. Grace can be defined as everything that God has even done, is doing, and will ever do for us. Grace is God coming as a baby to live like us, work like us, struggle like us, be tempted by us, overcome not like us, and die for us all so that we can be reunited fully with our God and Creator. Grace is God forgiving our sins on behalf of Jesus Christ. Grace is God answering our prayers. Grace is love. Grace is God.
But Grace is hard for us to accept. In one of my classes, a fellow student was bemoaning the fact that it’s so hard to preach about sin in today’s culture. And that’s true, because people don’t like to be told that what they’re doing is wrong. People, even pastors, don’t like to admit that they are at fault. We’d all rather believe that all is good and right in the world and that we’re all just basically good people responsible for each others actions with no real objective standard by which to be judged against. The reality, however, is that there is a solid objective reality that we will all be judged against, and we can all know whether or not we are obtaining to that level of holiness.
But, we can’t live up to that standard. Ever. Not living up to that standard is what we can call sin. We need to recognize sin in our lives. We need to be able to call sin what it is, and that sin is what allows us to recognize and name grace.
One of the easiest ways for all of us to understand grace is with the word “forgiveness.” Imagine a world without sin. Without sin, there would be nothing to forgive. With no forgiveness, there would be no need for grace. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul asks rhetorically, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” The answer is the definite “absolutely NOT!”
We can talk about grace all we want, but that’s only because we also recognize that we have all fallen short of the glory of God, and are in need of forgiveness from our sins. We need grace. We need it in full measure. We need to talk about it more than we do.