As Wesleyans we believe that God saves us as individuals, but that saving grace is expressed in different ways and is usually best understood and helped along in a community of faith that is also being saved. To be a Christian is to be part of a body, part of a community already. God creates out of his own likeness and image, and that is of a community, a Trinity. God's love expands to add our personhood in creation and as such we are best understood, grow best, love best, and serve best as a part of community.
We often forget what this means and the real need we all have for community so today pray this prayer, and ask God to reveal Himself and His love for you in the faces and actions of others.
Almighty God, you have made all people and created them to be like you. You are love and so we are at our best when we love one another. Help us to love.
We give thanks for each other, and we ask that you would draw us together in unity of spirit, unity of purpose, and unity of care. Open our eyes to see the people around us who bear your image and who need us to help them become who you made them to be. Open our eyes to see those who have and are helping us to become who you made us to be.
Open our hearts to the communities around us that do not know your voice yet and help us to go together to answer the needs of mercy we see all around us. Help us to listen, help us to learn, help us to hold both ourselves accountable to one another and to encourage each other to pursue Jesus at all costs.
You are good to us, never leaving nor forsaking us. Help us to follow you together.
In Jesus' name
1 Thessalonians 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
What does being saved really mean? Theologians have long talked about the reality that we step from death into life, that in a moment our sins are forgiven when we believe in the person and work of Jesus. This is what we call being justified, or being forgiven of the sins we have committed. Being justified is when we believe in faith that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. That God in essence, gets us back to zero so to speak. We have nothing on our record because God has erased it, or rather paid the debt for us. We are realigned with God. But is that enough?
God is without sin, perfect, complete, whole and He wants us to be this way too. He wants us to be without sin, perfect, complete, and whole. God seeks to not only reconcile you to Him by removing your debt, but also to set you free so that you might actually live well. Might have your real life match up with your forgiven life. That you would be like Jesus is. Thats what sanctification is: The synching up of your real life actions, desires, hopes, and wants with the forgiveness Christ has given to you. You are declared righteous, and God wants you to become righteous.
Its like this: My son like to try and cook and the other day he "made" breakfast for the family. Scrambled eggs, waffles, bacon, strawberries, juice - it was great! But the truth is I did most of the heavy lifting. I bought the groceries. I measured the mix for the waffles. I turned on the oven and stove for the bacon and eggs. When he made mistakes, I cleaned them up and fixed them. I declared when things were done and I assigned him safe things to do so that the meal would turn out. He made breakfast because I declared he made breakfast and I let him practice the things that he could do. But when he is 30 and he makes breakfast again for his family, it won't be because I did all the lifting - it will be because his actions and ability match his declaration of making breakfast. Not to belabor the point but he can't really cook now, but he is learning to because my goal isn't just to let him watch me but to empower him to live it himself.
Paul says the God of peace is the faithful one who can sanctify us and keep us sound and blameless until the end. God sanctifies us, makes us like Jesus, so that when we are all grown up it isn't just that we have no bad on our record, but lots and lots of good too. Being saved isn't just getting back to zero, its about being with and being like God - full of life, and love, and peace. The one who is faithful has called you to this and he will do it. Maybe you are just watching and learning now, but soon God will lead you to make breakfast too. To live in the life He has called you to.
(And thats good because God sometimes makes fish for breakfast, but I like bacon and eggs.)
This painting is called: "Even In The Darkness Of Our Sufferings Jesus Is Close To Us" by Elizabeth Wang. In my congregational formation class, we have been discussing the way God and humanity interact. As Christians, the Bible teaches us that God gives His image and likeness to us. In the first creation account God creates the whole world and creates as its capstone, humanity, male and female. They are like God: they create, they understand, they communicate, they had the potential to shape and form life and the world around them. The Bible also teaches that there was a garden in which humanity lived and were offered a choice: Eat of any tree's fruit except for one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Humanity failed in their choice and chose themselves over the goodness that God had provided and in that sense, our first parents fell. Their ability to choose to do good was marred. Their relationships with each other, with God, and even in themselves were broken. Distrust abounded as did a proclivity to do wrong. God's creation was set on a destructive path, as were the friends He had created to share in fellowship with Him.
But God does not leave wrong to its own ends, and will not give His creation, and especially His friends away.
God's Holy Spirit, which hovered over the waters of creation, hovered instead near to the hearts of humanity, calling and wooing them to listen and respond. The Holy Spirit worked in the spirit of Humanity and restored to them the ability to hear. Where there was only sickness and death, God's power brought healing and life. Now God's human creation can respond to God's calling to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with Him, not because they are innately good, but because God has opened their ears, awakened their hearts, and blessed their minds. God sends Jesus to Humanity to serve as example, act as mediator for wrong doing, and provide the avenue for following where God would lead.
The picture above reminds me that God moves on our behalf, and often acts before we ask so that we might be restored. Much like when I lead my children by the hand through a crowd, Christ leads our hearts to places that we might respond and obey. Thank God that He didn't wait for me to want to follow before He began to show me how to follow!