Summary: This is a Walk to Emmaus Clergy Talk.
Please turn to page 52 in your Worship Book and join me in the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.
Good morning, my name is Benny Anthony, and I took Gulf Coast Emmaus Walk #67, where I sat at the table of Peter. I worship and serve at NFMUMC. The title of this talk is Prevenient Grace.
If you have your Bibles turn with me to Psalm 139 and let’s read verses 13-15.
I. First of all: What is Prevenient Grace? Prevenient Grace is a gift from God that comes before and prepares the way for greater gifts. The “pre” in “pre-venient” means before. The pre-lude comes before the service. A pre-fix comes before a word. The second part of this word is “–vien.” It comes from a Latin root that means “to come.” “Vini, Vidi, Vici”-“I came, I saw, I conquered.” A word closely related to “Prevenient” is the word “intervene.” That means to come in the midst of. To intervene in a situation you come while it is going on. Suicide intervention means to come while a person is about to kill themselves to stop it. To previen means to come before it happens; to intervene before hand. One form of this word is “prevent” which means to come before to keep something from happening. You get a vaccination before you are sick to prevent it from happening. But God’s grace comes before not to keep something from happening, but to cause it to happen.
Let me explain. Did you know that when you decided to give your life to Christ you didn’t do it alone? You made the decision, but something happened before that to pave the way for that decision. God was already at work in your life getting you ready for that day. Maybe it was something that happened in your life or the words of a friend or the prayers of relatives, but God was at work softening your heart, wooing you and loving so that your heart would be ready when the time was right. A great example of this wooing is found in Revelation 22:17 where it says: “”The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ Everyone who hears this must also say, ‘Come!’ Come whoever is thirsty; accept the water of life as a gift, whoever wants it.”
I remember being wooed by God when He called me into full time ministry. I was sitting in church and our pastor Max Willocks preached a sermon on Missions. Following the sermon Brother Max gave the invitation. I recall this tugging and pulling at my heart. I felt this presence leading and guiding me to the altar—urging me to give my life to Him in full time service. I was a Christian but I certainly had NO plans to become a minister. I knew in my heart that God certainly couldn’t use me…but God had other plans for me.
It was God’s Spirit that convinced me that I needed Him, and that He could use me and make me into what He wanted me to be. On my own I would have never recognize that need.
Our wills and perceptions have been so distorted by sin. Without help we are unaware of our lostness. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that shows us our need. We would be unable to choose to do something as good and noble as deciding to follow Jesus on our own. The capacity to even do that is a gift from God.
II. The biblical message is clear: Human beings are created in God’s likeness for a relationship with the divine.
In the beginning God created the world, the cosmos, and all things in it—“and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:1-25).
God created mankind, male and female, in His own image and likeness—and declared that they were good (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-22). The divine-human relationship was deep and meaningful.
Like Adam and Eve each and every one of us is a unique and beloved child of God. Because God is love (1 John 4:16), each of us has the capacity to love and be loved.
Because God is Spirit (John 4:24) and we are created in the image and likeness of God, each of us is a spiritual being—you could say that we are “wired for God” from the very beginning. Just like the psalmist said in Psalm 139 that we read earlier.
Because we are created in the image and likeness of God, the deepest and most essential part of us longs for a relationship with God. As Augustine said in his Confessions, “Our hearts will not find rest until they find rest in Thee [God].”
The bad news of human sin is preceded by the good news of our origin in God.
Adam and Eve made wrong choices that cost them their place in the Garden and brought disorder to all creation (Gen. 3; 6:1-11), yet God provided for them.