Summary: This is a clergy talk I give for Men’s Walks to Emmaus but with slight modification a sermon I preach on Justifying Grace from a Wesleyan-Armenian perspective.
Gentlemen, Good Afternoon! My name is David Reynolds, and the title of this talk is “Justifying Grace.” This morning Bob Baker shared with us the story of God’s Prevenient Grace. We heard the message that God loves us and offers us a personal relationship with Him. WE saw how the Holy Spirit, God’s “Hound of Heaven,” from the moment of our Conception, continues to pursue us in order to lead us into this person Father-son relationship with Him. Prevenient Grace is God’s “Courtship Phase” in our relationship, the dating period before the marriage. During this time the Holy Spirit uses other people, the Church, circumstances, and events to “woo” us into becoming His sons. He pursues us to bring us to the point where we say “yes” to God offer of this loving, family relationship with Him.
Justifying Grace takes the story one step further. It is the message of how you and I come to accept the relationship God offers. Justifying Graces moves us to accept in our hearts the gift of a living relationship with God as the number one priority in our lives. Justifying Grace “puts us right with God.” To be justified means to “be put right with God by grace through faith.”
Throughout the Old testament God invites us into a covenant relationship with Him, a relationship of mutual love. “By intent or default, we do not respond to the call of God to place our faith in Jesus Christ.” That is, we either intentionally refuse His offer or we keep procrastinating acceptance of His invitation.
But God keeps calling us. He is the prophet Hosea, and we are Hosea’s unfaithful wife Gomer. The Lord told Hosea: “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the Land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord” [--Hosea 1:2]. Gomer made wrong choices in her marriage relationship just as we do in our relationship with God. She was unfaithful to Hosea, breaking her marriage vows to seek the pleasure of other lovers. As a result of her choices she wound up in the chains of slavery. Just as God’s endless love does not give up on us, so Hosea did not give up on Gomer. In love he redeemed her from
Slavery and brought her back home to live a holy life.
From the beginning of His ministry our Lord called people to enter the Father-child relationship God offers us all. In His home synagogue of Nazareth Jesus read from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent
Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” [--Luke 4:16-22]. Applying this prophecy to His own ministry, Jesus launched the “Day of Grace” in which god’s forgiveness is offered to everyone.
God does not offer us things but a relationship with Him. This relationship is based upon agape love, love which is self sacrificial. John reminds us in I John 4 that He loves us so much that He sent Jesus in order that we might have eternal life through Him. Only when we have accepted God’s relationship of love can we really begin to truly love each other.
“What I devote my life to is my God.” Either Jesus is “My Lord and my God,” or I am my own Lord and God. Either I take charge of my life, set
individual, personal priorities, and direct my interests; or I yield control of my life to Jesus Christ and let Him set my priorities and direct my interests. Who is your God? You or Jesus Christ?
God initiates restoring our lost relationship with Him, but each one of us is faced with a personal decision to accept or reject His offer. Just like Joshua we must: “Choose this day whom we will serve. . .” [Joshua 24:15]. “Justifying Grace is that stage of grace operative in us deciding to accept the relationship God offers us.” It is the moment I say “yes” to God. “When we say “yes” to God, our lives begin anew in grace.”
The moment Justifying Grace comes into play is commonly called our conversion or the point in time we are “born again.” I first experienced Justifying Grace as a nine year old boy at the altar of my home Church Aldersgate Methodist in Marion, Illinois. It was during our Spring Revival of 1957. I already knew in my heart that Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3 were true: “. . . unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom.” Prevenient Grace had worked through my parents, pastors, Church, Sunday School and Bible School teachers to lead me to this point. I wanted to become a Christian, but I was scared, timid, and shy. I don’t think I had ever seen another nine year old go to the altar. So one night during the Invitation hymn, “I snuck up to the altar” with my Dad, who had gone to pray for the salvation of a friend. I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins, come into my heart, and be my Saviour. I was justified by grace and became a child of God.