(Grace to the Third Power) A Wesleyan View of Grace "Justifying Grace"
November 1, 2018
Part Two in a Series
“Grace for all, Grace in all . . .Free for All, Free in All” – John Wesley
Jus’ta-fi – to be made right, to free from blame or guilt.
Remember, the whole point of this series of articles is to help us to discover the three ways that we can experience the power of God's grace. True freedom leads to fresh power in our lives! And true freedom comes as a gift from God’s grace. Let’s look at Paul’s beautiful message of grace found in the letter to the Ephesians:
True freedom leads to fresh power
in our lives! And true freedom
comes as a gift from God’s grace.
“God saved you by His grace when you believed, and you
can't take credit for this. It is a free gift from God. Salvation
is not a reward for good things we have done, so none of us
can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT
We can discover three ways, John Wesley taught, to experience the power of God's grace. John Wesley was the one who is generally credited with coming up with the names of the three ways we can experience the power of God’s grace: prevenient grace, justifying grace, sanctifying grace. In this article, we're going to talk about what John Wesley called “justifying grace.”
First of all, do you know the difference between Justice, Mercy, and Grace?
Justice is when you get what you deserve.
Mercy is when you don't get what you deserve.
Grace is when you get something that you don't deserve.
We don't deserve God's forgiveness. We don't deserve His love, His unconditional love for us, but He is giving it to us, as Paul reminds us, as a “free gift”.
Justifying Grace is About Freedom
Freedom comes with a price! It's free to you and me, but there was a price that had to be paid, a sacrifice that had to be made. The Father presented Jesus the Son as a sacrifice for sin.
“People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus
sacrificed His life, shedding His blood;” Romans 3:25 (version)
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours,
but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2 (version)
In Old Testament times, in Ancient Israel, the people believed that they had to make animal sacrifices in order to appease the wrath of God and in order to atone for their sins. But even in the Old Testament there are many instances where the writers of the scripture knew that these sacrifices were not enough.
David wrote in Psalm 51, verses 16 & 17:
“You do not desire a sacrifice or I would offer one, Lord. You do not
want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You
will not reject a broken and repentant heart, oh, God.” Psalm 51:16-17
The New Testament says only one sacrifice is sufficient and that is the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross for your sins and mine. The Bible says from the time we are born, we are selfish, we are sinners, and we are moving in a self—ward direction.
I don't know about you, but that's the way I am. I'm frequently thinking about myself. I can't help it. There's a bent towards sinning in me...a bent towards selfishness. Even as a Christian, I feel it constantly - being pulled towards self. Don’t you feel it too?
I talked in the October issue of the Gazette about how God's prevenient grace
is active in our lives, even before we believe in God or know that He is there wooing us in His direction. His prevenient grace is wooing us to Him because He loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. But, now, as we explore God’s justifying grace, something can happen right here. We can experience the power of God's justifying grace in our lives!
Hopefully, what happens is this: As God's prevenient grace is active in our lives...before we even know He's there... before we've even considered accepting Christ, that prevenient grace wooing us towards Him results in us accepting Jesus Christ's death on the cross for our sins. It is here that we experience His justifying grace.
Justifying grace is all about the cross! God himself came in the person of Christ and offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. And so, when we come to the place (when we are wooed to the place) where we are finally willing to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross and we admit that His blood was shed as the atonement for our sins. Once we come to that point…and we ask for forgiveness…and we ask Jesus to come into our lives…and we repent of our sins…then, and only then, can we experience the power of God’s justifying grace.
The word ‘repent’ is not the same as asking for forgiveness. We ask for
forgiveness, and then we repent. What does repent mean? Repent means to turn and go in the opposite direction. I'm going in this direction, and if I repent, I turn 180 degrees, and I go in the other direction.
When we repent, we turn around and move in a God-ward direction away from self. God says we must ask for forgiveness and repent. Repenting is an act of our will. We have to decide that we're going to move our lives in a God—ward direction. We need help doing that, and I’m going to talk about that in the next article, but when we respond to God’s justifying grace and accept what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, we are justified…made right with God!
The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, When we repent, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. We experience at that moment God's justifying grace. In an instant, it makes us right with God!
Remember, what does justify mean? “To be made right, to be freed from blame or guilt.” Through the cross and through Jesus' sacrifice, we are made right with God in an instant. That's justifying grace. We are made right with God!
Interestingly, the work of prevenient grace, you might say, is the work of the Father wooing us back to Him. The work of justifying grace is the work of the Son on the cross. And, in the next article, we're going to talk about sanctifying grace, which is the work of the Holy Spirit perfecting us and making us more like Jesus.
What else does justifying grace do? It gives us freedom, especially from slavery to sin and self.
“You are justified freely by His grace through the redemption
that came through Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:20-25
What does the word redemption mean? It means a ransoming, a redeeming, a liberating. It means that we are held in the grip of sin; we are held by the dominion and the power of sin, and we need God's grace to break free of that grip of sin in our lives.
Jesus said in John 8:34, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin”, and Paul agrees and says in Romans “we should no longer be slaves to sin.” We read it a few paragraphs back in Romans 3:23. In the first part of that verse it says, “All have sinned and fall short of glory.”
Jesus said in John 8:35, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
A huge part of justifying grace has to do with setting us free from our sins and our selfishness!
The mystery of justifying grace is this: God does for us through Jesus Christ what we cannot do for ourselves. He justifies us when we are utterly guilty. Jesus sacrifices for us when we have nothing to offer. He sets us free from the powerful grip of sin and selfishness. He frees us not only from sin, but He frees us in order that we might forgive others.
Next month, as a part of this g3 series, we will look at “Sanctifying Grace”!