Earlier this year I was asked to speak to St. Paul's confirmation class about the Wesleyan/Methodist understanding of grace.
Methodists understand grace as acting in three major moves, in a progressive (we are Wesleyans after all!!) manner. The goal was to get 6th graders to engage a concept I have been asked about in almost every oral examination on the process to ordination. A tall task indeed! I used this analogy of Hollywood and the film industry to help them understand more about their faith.
is often like a movie trailer. It exists before the real thing and gives experience, making us familar with the story and hoping to excite us about the actualization in an encounterable manner. Trailers make us want to see the movie.
Prevenient grace is the free gift of God to all men and women tugging their hearts towards a saving relationship with him.
brings us to the moment in the movie theater. You can call it an opening night gala. What can be known beforehand is known. The trailer worked and drew us into the physical event. A person is now truly experiencing the story for the first time. Where it once existed only in brief and broken ways, the full story is made known.
Justifying grace marks the awareness of sin and the need for a recognition of Jesus Christ. In justifying grace, each of us truly experience the depth of Christ and His love for the first time.
seats the DVD in our permanent collection. It is the special collecters edition with all of the extras (But not those horrible Star Wars editions that change the whole thing...those DVD's totally blow the illustration). It doesn't change the story, but presents the permanent and ongoing fulfillment of both the trailer and the original theater viewing. The DVD purchase brings the movie into the home, where we own it and are able to continuing experiencing the story in new ways.
Sanctifying grace brings us closer to holiness. It is the constant move of God in our lives as we pursue Jesus Christ more and more. Through sanctifying grace we are continuing to experience the transformative power of God in our lives.
I find this threefold expression of saving grace helpful because it is hopeful.
God moves in each of our hearts, edging us towards saving and justifying grace. If and when a person makes the decision, they are not abandoned. Grace continues, always changing us. May God be changing each of us as we read these words.