Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on 3/10/2019.
Title: Prevenient Grace John 6:44, 12:32, Luke 15:4-6, 17-20
Sermon Series: Distinctive Wesleyan Emphases
Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy]
Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?
What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?
What’s wrong with this lightbulb? Well, what I would like to tell us is that different theologians would give you a different answer. There are some theologians who would say that this lightbulb is evil. That it is entirely and completely depraved and filled with sin and absolutely totally broken. But other theologians might say it a little differently. The problem with this lightbulb is that it’s not plugged in. If you have a lightbulb like this and you say, “Why isn’t it shining?” It’s supposed to fit into a socket. And it shines when power comes to it. But when there’s no power, it doesn’t shine. We flip the switch on and the lights shine. We turn the switch off and the light doesn’t work.
You and I are a little bit like that. We were made– we were shaped by God like this lightbulb. But you and I will never be who we really are made to be, who we really are shaped to be, who we really are meant to be until there’s power flowing through us. And it’s the power of God. So you see, this lightbulb, among all those other answers, has a potential that is unfulfilled until it is connected. You and I have a potential to be a different kind of person. But it cannot be fulfilled until we are connected to the power of God. Prevenient grace is a United Methodist turn. What it basically means is that God is with us before we are everything we ought to be. God doesn’t wait for us to shine on our own power. God comes to us.
Prevenient grace. You remember the story of the prodigal son? There’s a little phrase in that story from Luke 15 that just means a lot to me. There is a phrase that comes to him on the worst day of his life. He’s a Jewish person. He got his inheritance early. He went to a far off land. Big city like – I don’t know – St. Louis, Las Vegas. I don’t know. And he blew all of his money. And all the friends he had when he had money weren’t his friends when he didn’t have money. And the closest thing he could get to a job that would allow him to survive was to feed the pigs. If you’re a Jewish person, feeding the pigs, not good. And he was so hungry that he was looking at what the pigs were eating and he thought, “I’d like some of that.” Friends, that’s pretty low but even at that very low point in his life, the Bible says that he came to his senses. How is it that we come to our senses? Whether it’s during the worst time or hopefully a better time, how is it that we wake up and realize we need to do this instead of that, we need to go this direction instead of that direction, we need to so this kind of sin and stop doing those kinds of things? How is it that we wake up and come to our senses and are aware that life should be different? It’s because God is in our lives before we’re perfect. God is in our lives before we know Jesus. God is in our lives before we give our lives to Jesus. God is in our lives before we make a commitment to follow Jesus. God is there. And that reality that God is there in theology is called prevenient grace. Because God is with us, we wake up and we come to our senses. Take a look at what happened with the prodigal son. When he came to his senses, he said, verse 18, “I will set out and go back to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.'” And not only did he realized what he needed to say, what he needed to pray, here’s the hard part sometimes, he actually got up and did it. Verse 20. So he got up and went to his father. What prevenient grace does is it helps us, verse 18, to know what we need to do, “go back to the father,” to know what we need to say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I’m not worthy.” It tells us what to do and we’re able to get up and do that. That’s God helping us before we belong to God. And this help doesn’t stop. Prevenient grace is always with us. Here’s what the Book of Discipline in the United Methodist Church says about prevenient grace. We acknowledge God’s prevenient grace. What you acknowledge is something that’s already there. We acknowledge the divine love that surrounds all people and that proceeds any and all of our conscious impulses. Before babies are able to form thoughts, before babies are able to form words, God’s love is surrounding them and influencing them. This grace, prevenient grace, prompts our first wish to please God. Our first glimmer of understanding God’s will that God wants us to do this or not be that. Prevenient grace brings to us our first slight transient conviction of having done something wrong, of having sinned against God. God is working on us and God is not finished yet. Prevenient grace is God’s grace and it also awakens in our a longing, an earnest longing deliver us from sin and death. And it moves us towards repentance and faith. Prevenient grace is godsend through Jesus, “Come to Me.” We are not made for the darkness. We are made to be filled with light. We are made for God’s Power to flow through us. We are made to become who we can be when our partnership with God is alive. But prior to that moment, in every situation where we are less than perfect, in every situation where we are foolish, and every human situation to where we’re not living up to what’s best, God is pulling us toward what we can be with God’s help. And it is Jesus Christ who’s pulling us. We’re drawn to the light. We’re drawn to a God that’s saying to us, “And Jesus is the light of the world.” No matter what sort of darkness we may find ourselves in, Jesus is the light of the world. And Jesus draws us to him. John 12:32, Jesus said it, “When I am lifted up from the earth,” and he was talking about dying upon the cross. “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself.” And as we understand that Jesus gave His life for us, we would understand that He gave His life for us so that we may have new life. When we see Him on the cross, we will understand it. Three days later, Easter happens. This [comes?] from John 6:44 where Jesus announced, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” And our belief and prevenient grace says that God is drawing everyone. God is drawing you and me. And because God draws us to Jesus, there will be a time, Jesus says, “I will raise them up at the last day.” No matter how dark the place may be where you are, if you look for the light shining, you will see the direction that God is drawing you to God. Think of the tomb on Easter Sunday morning before the stone was rolled aside. It was dark. But because Jesus rose from the dead, there is a light that shine in every bit of human darkness to draw us toward God’s Way, which is not only God’s Way out of trouble but God’s Way toward a better life. 23rd song. Green pastures still [inaudible] us. The sheep are lead by the shepherd. Let God draw you to the light. Prevenient grace is that light is shining. And speaking of which, do you remember what the light shown in Bethlehem? Prevenient grace is not something that God does from very, very far away, Jesus is in Heaven, yes. He was right. But as Jesus looks down on us, it becomes so clear that this is not far away help, but what it’s needed it’s for Jesus to be right here right now. Consider this, Jesus said, one man of you having 100 sheep, if he has lost 1 of them, let’s not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it. God could not stay in Heaven while there was one of us who was lost in darkness. So we see prevenient grace even at Christmas time. Because prevenient grace is Jesus coming to be among us right here, right now. Still, today, right here, right now. Still for you, whatever it is that you might need, Jesus is right here and right now, and his light is shining in any sort of darkness to help you find the [way?].
When he has found that lost sheep, he lays her on his shoulders rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls to gather his friends and his neighbors saying to them, “Rejoice with me. I’ve found my sheep which was lost.” Jesus Christ is always seeking us to bring us home safe. To green pastures. To still waters. To restore our souls to that place where we said, “I shall not [go?].” And that seeking us we call prevenient grace.
Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, today I am [far or less?] than the person that I want to be or can be with your help. Guide me to all that is good. Guide me to you. And just as Jesus came for us, we’re going with him. Because there are other people who need that light as well in their darkness. Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, once we become Christian, we forget sometimes what it’s like in those bad old days before. Lord, once we find the church and realize how being a part of a church can help us, we forget about what it was like before. Please remind us, Lord Jesus, how before we were so Christian, before we were so religious, before we ever went to church, before, Lord, we ever thought about you, you were thinking about us. Before we loved you, you loved us. Before we turned to you, you had come and were seeking us. Lord, remind us that you have always been on our side seeking to bring us out of darkness into your light. Remind us, Lord, of your prevenient grace calling us softly and gently to come be with you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. I can’t think of [inaudible] that speaks more clearly of this. Please stand and let’s sing and remember how Jesus has called us to come home. Three verses. [music]
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.