Summary: God’s prevenient grace calls us to a relationship with Him.
Amazing Grace: God Calls Us
John Newton penned the famous hymn Amazing Grace in 1779. We discovered last week that God’s salvation is made real in our lives because of His amazing grace, but we also discovered that God’s gift of grace is not a one time offering. Newton certainly understood that God’s gift of grace was not a one time offering. Listen to verse number three:
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
For Newton, life was a journey, and God’s grace accompanied him every step of the way. We saw last week that we understand the working out of God’s salvation as a journey as we go through life, and we also acknowledge that every journey begins with a first step. As Methodists in the Wesleyan tradition, we believe that God’s grace working in our lives at that first step on the journey is God’s prevenient grace.
If I may recall last week’s message for one more moment, we said that grace was God’s completely undeserved, loving commitment to us. We can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but God, in love, extends His mercy toward us to reconcile us to Himself—to have a relationship with us.
Relationships are important to us. John Gray has built an entire career offering relationship advice for men and women with his endless stream of “Mars and Venus” books—you know, it started with Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.. He even does “Mars and Venus” seminars now as a way to entice us to buy his books, and we do. Everyone from Oprah to Dr. Phil spend tons of time dishing out advice on how to handle our relationships because we spend so much time trying to figure out relationships. First with our parents, then with that special someone we grow to love, then our children (especially if they are teen-agers!). Then there are neighbors, co-workers, friends and extended family. We have so many relationships to keep straight that we almost overlook one relationship that is the most important one of all, our relationship to God. Our relationship to God goes unnoticed until the day we come to faith in Jesus Christ, and then we go to work reading our Bible, attending church, praying and serving God. We think our relationship with God began the day we came to faith. And you might be right. Our relationship with God did begin the day we came to faith, but God’s relationship with us, now that is another matter all together. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah said long ago as he communicates his understanding of the depth of God’s knowledge of who Isaiah was:
“Listen to me, all of you in far-off lands! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.” (Isaiah 49:1)
And the prophet Jeremiah, announcing his ministry to the nation of Israel could proclaim:
“The Lord gave me a message. He said,  "I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
Both of these Old Testament prophets understood that God had a relationship with them long before they were aware of it, and that fact, in its bare essence, communicates the idea of prevenient grace. Let me illustrate.
The Bible is God’s story. The earliest chapters of the Bible reveal a God who is seeking a relationship with humanity. In chapter three of Genesis, after Adam and Eve had sinned by eating of the forbidden fruit, God appeared toward evening and called out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” Yes, the story begins with a seeking God. God seeking humanity to reconcile us to Himself. God’s story finds God offering this relationship with Noah (Gen. 9: 8-13), with a nomadic livestock trader named Abraham (Gen. 12: 1-3). God renewed his covenant search for the redemption of humanity with Moses after God delivered the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery (Exodus 19:3-6). God sought a man after His own heart in King David, and it was David who said, “It is my family God has chosen! Yes He has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is eternal, final, sealed” (2 Sam. 23:5).
Humanity broke God’s covenant. But God was searching still. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied:
“The day will come,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the old one I made with their ancestors...They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord. “But this is the covenant I will make with them...I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people...And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.”