The Grace of God: Sanctification Continued

sanctificationLast week we began considering how our hearts are purified by God’s sanctifying grace. “Little s” sin are the willful acts of disobedience a person constantly committed before he/she was justified and experienced the new birth in Christ. For the truly reborn, “little s” sin should only be the rare occasion, if at all, in the person’s life. However, “big s” Sin, the being of sin, persists in the heart and needs to be eliminated, not by anything the believer does but only by the grace of God. Remember God’s words to the people of Israel through Ezekiel, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Eze 36:26). A heart of stone lives by the law, a heart of flesh lives out love.

To receive a gift from another, a person must extend his/her hand. Extending the hand is only an act of cooperation, it does not compel the giving of the gift. Likewise, we must cooperate with God’s sanctifying grace, just as was needed with convincing grace. Two forms of cooperation were required
earlier, repentance and works evident of repentance. Parallel cooperation is needed with sanctifying grace. I spoke last week about repentance and the manner in which Wesley distinguished that which accompanied conviction and that which accompanies sanctification. The first he termed “legal” repentance and the second, “evangelical.” .” Legal repentance is our confession of our sinful acts, evangelical repentance is our confession of the persistence of Sin in our hearts, which Wesley referred to as “unholy tempers.” We need to quit pretending we are something we are not. The new birth did not make us holy just as God is holy. The new birth did make us new creations, new persons in Christ Jesus, but a process follows to become without blemish, to be completely sanctified. The born again waits for the second work of God to make him/her holy, but waiting does not mean idleness. Wesley wrote on this topic, “(we wait)…in vigorous, universal obedience, in a zealous keeping of all the commandments, in watchfulness and painfulness, in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily.”

Two types of works were encouraged, not to gain God’s favor, but to retain it. These are acts of mercy and acts of piety. Acts of mercy need little explanation. Jesus laid out clearly His expectations for His disciples (then and now), “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mat 25:35-36). It is not enough to address a person’s physical needs, their spiritual needs must be met, too. Most often, the physical needs, even though ultimately of less importance, must be taken care of first. It is difficult for someone who has not eaten or is cold or sick to hear the gospel message.

These precepts are clearly stated in Wesley’s sermon “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth”:

Over and above all this, are you zealous of good works? Do you, as you have time, do good to all men? Do you feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction? Do you visit those who are sick? Relieve them that are in prison? Is any a stranger and you take him in? Friend, come up higher…Does he enable you to bring sinners from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God?

Clearly, for Wesley the question was always, “Do you love not just God, but your neighbor, too, with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, and all your soul?” If so, demonstrate it.

Next week we will consider the second type of works evident of evangelical repentance: acts of piety.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

The Grace of God: Justifying Grace – the Rest of the Story

graceWe began this series by understanding how God’s redemptive grace is available to absolutely everyone. We have followed the path of redemption by the grace of God from prevenient grace to convincing grace and finally last week justifying grace – the grace that makes us “just-as-if-I” never sinned. Justifying grace frees us from the guilt of sin and the penalty of sin. Unfortunately, there are many who believe justification is all that is required and “once saved, always saved” or in similar thinking that justification is the end goal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two sides to the coin of justifying grace – justification and new birth. These two states of grace are inseparable and occur simultaneously. Only sinners can be justified and only sinners need to be justified. Once a person has received the justifying grace of God he/she is changed, the old has died and the new is born. Remember the discus-sion Jesus had with Nicodemus, “‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a sec-ond time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.’” (John 3:3-5). We all experienced natural birth involving water, but those who would enter the kingdom of God must experi-ence a second birth through the Spirit of God.

Justification is what God does for us. New birth (or sometimes “regeneration”) is what God does in us. Justification removes the penalty of sin, new birth gives the presence of the Holy Spirit. Justification gives us peace, new birth gives us power. The new birth gives the individual power over sin, but not freedom from sin. There remains the propensity to sin and turn from God, as the hymn says, “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Prior to justification, sin wins far too many times in our lives, after the new birth, sin becomes the rare exception and the individual is immediately repentant. Before justification and new birth a person has the faith of a servant, afterwards the faith of a son or daughter of God. The servant obeys laws and commands out of fear of God, the son or daughter conforms his/her life to the will of God out of love for Him.

The new birth is an apt description. There is not just a quantitative change in the person, he/she does not become a little bit better after experiencing this aspect of God’s grace. There is a qualitative change, the old has died and the individual is a new creation in Christ Jesus. This change cannot be accomplished by any human means, only through the supernatural work of God.

We are not adults at birth. There is a process of learning, growing, and maturing that takes time. Likewise, at the new birth we are not fully mature, totally holy, completely conformed in the image of Christ. The new birth is the starting point for this process to begin. Our physical, natural birth began the process that leads to justification and new birth. New birth begins the process that leads to complete sanctification, a process that for most of us takes a lifetime.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor Scot

The Grace of God – Justifying Grace

gracedoveWe began this series by understanding how God’s redemptive grace
is available to absolutely everyone. We have seen how God touches every
single person without exception with His prevenient grace. We connected
free will with grace and realized beginning with convincing grace a person can always say “no” to God. Last week we looked at the relationship of convincing grace, repentance and works evident of repentance. The one who cooperates with God through convincing grace obeys God in accordance with the grace received. He/she stops doing evil things, forgives others, and does good. But convincing grace leaves one under the law and a person only knows God as the ultimate judge. It takes another work of God to move a person further. That work is justifying grace.
Justifying grace is associated with the terms “being saved” and “new
birth” and “being born again.” Justifying grace is the work of God alone, He
decides when and where. It is the free gift of God. Justifying grace is a work
God does for us that is only possible by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ
on the cross. Christ alone was able to pay the price for our sinfulness. Justifying grace removes the penalty for all past sins, it is “just-as-if-I” never sinned. We do not believe in the notion of “once saved always saved.” To go on willfully sinning after experiencing God’s forgiveness is to make a mockery of Him. As Paul wrote, “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” (Rom 6:1-2).

Wesley refers to justifying grace as the first liberty of the Gospel. In being pardoned of our past sins, we are freed from the power of guilt. In one of his sermons, Wesley wrote, “And being saved from guilt, they are saved from fear.” Justifying graces frees us from the penalty of past sins, the power of guilt, and the fear of the wrath of God. Before receiving justifying grace, a person has the “faith of a servant,” a faith marked by fear. A
servant knows the will of the master, but service is by compulsion. A servant is bound to his/her master and so lives in a” spirit of bondage.” Justifying grace changes our relationship with God. We receive a “spirit of adoption,” we are no longer servants in the household of God but are adopted as sons and daughters of God. We have the witness of the Holy Spirit within us, the assurance that we have been truly forgiven. We no longer fear God’s wrath, we only fear disappointing God.

Even though John Wesley was raised in a Christian household (his father was a minister) and he had been an Anglican missionary to the British colonies in Georgia, it was not until he was almost thirty-five years old that he experienced God’s justifying grace in his own life. Wesley described what occurred one evening at a Bible study in this way, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Justifying grace involves both our head and our heart. It is more than knowing that Christ died for our sins, it is having the assurance in your heart that Christ loves me, that He died for my sins, even mine, and has saved me. Justifying grace changes our relationship with God, frees us from the penalty of sin, and allows an inner peace that was never before possible. But this is just part of the story.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

The Grace of God: Convincing Grace

grace 2In the last two weeks we have considered some of the fundamental aspects of God’s grace. We have taken a look at how the prevenient grace of God works in absolutely everyone’s life without exception. In this sense, prevenient grace is irresistible. After this work of grace we can always say “no” to God. We do not have to let God work in our lives, we do not have to accept the benefits that He offers us, the ones He desires for us. No matter how we choose, God will not turn away from us.

After last week’s article, a person came to me and said, “Now I understand how my aunt and uncle can be good people without being Christians.” Prevenient grace gives us the option to be good but it does not keep us from sin or from sinning. It takes another work of the grace of God to move us from a life prone to sin, it is not something we can accomplish on our own. Sin tends to dull our spiritual senses, so to speak. Sin wants us to believe the lie that our own personal sin is not really all that bad, so it is not really a problem if we do not stop. After all what’s a little gossip compared to murder? As humans we want to rank sin and make some less offensive than others.

The truth of the matter is that before a holy God, there are only two categories: sin and no sin. The work of the Holy Spirit is needed to break through that spiritual self-satisfaction and make us understand our true situation.

God could allow humankind to remain in this state and all would be condemned. But God is a loving God, full of compassion and mercy, whose loving-kindness knows no end. By His own statement, God finds no pleasure in the death of even a single evil person. God desires reconciliation with all persons. Therefore, by His mercy and free and undeserved gift, the gift of convincing grace, a path to reconciliation is provided. God’s convincing grace pierces the fog and darkness that sins brings around our hearts and minds and begins to reveal our true standing before God. It is by God’s convincing grace that a person comes to know that God is not just a pushover, who will accept anyone just as he/she is. By convincing grace, person learns that love without discernment does not mean anything. For God to truly love us, He cannot allow us to remain in sin. Convincing grace opens the spiritual eyes of a person to understand that a religious façade is just that, all show and no meaning. The gift of convincing grace allows us to understand that a life apart from God is shallow and worthless, full of fear and anxiety, a life without hope. Convincing grace convinces the person that the wages of sin is indeed death. Convincing grace reveals the flaws and shortcomings of our self-created image, our sense of security, our misguided self-assurance. To paraphrase John Wesley, God awakens us from our spiritual slumber and prepares us for the next step in the way of salvation.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

The Grace of God – Prevenient Grace

graceLast week I wrote about two qualities of God’s grace, firstly, it is resistible (we can all say “no” to God because of free will) and secondly, it is universal (God’s grace is available to absolutely everyone, not just a select few). I also wrote that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, talked about grace in four different aspects: prevenient grace, convincing (or convicting) grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace. This week I would like to write
about God’s prevenient grace. Before jumping into prevenient grace, we need to remember several important concepts:

1) All of humankind was created in the image of God.
2) Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
3) Sin has impacted everyone, there has been no one, there is no one, and there will be no one that is born sinless. This is known as the doctrine of original sin. (see Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12)
4) Sin destroyed the image of God in people.
5) People are totally incapable of changing this situation.

Because original sin destroyed the image of God in each and every
person, we lost our ability to know good and we are alienated from God. Not only do we lack the capacity to know good, sin changes the human heart so that it predisposes people towards sin and disobedience. This understanding is not just that of John Wesley but of Luther and Calvin, too. Original sin leaves us in darkness, spiritually polluted, disdainful of good, and with a heart desiring evil. Original sin puts us in a very bad place without hope and without anything we can do about it.

But this is not the end of the story. God, out of His great love for
each and every person, would not leave us in such a condition. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’” (NRS, John 3:16-17). The gospel of John also tells us, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (NRS, John 1:9). The light which enlightens everyone, not some, not many, not even most, but everyone.

The work of Jesus Christ made possible for the image of God to be at least partially restored in absolutely everyone. This action does not require any act or deed or word on our part. This work of God is known as prevenient grace, the grace that goes before. It goes before we know God, it goes before we are convinced of our own sinful nature, it goes before we make any decision to accept Christ into our hearts, minds, and life.

Prevenient grace is the one exception of grace being resistible. God finds no pleasure in the death of even a single person, sinner or not. God has chosen out of His great mercy, compassion, and loving-kindness to not leave anyone in the dark and hopeless state caused by original sin. God desires that everyone at least have the ability to choose Him over evil. Prevenient grace is free to everyone, it is not earned, it is not selective. Prevenient grace breaks the total control of sin in the life of a person and in part restores the image of God, enough so that each of us can know God, and His moral law. Prevenient grace is the source of our conscience. Prevenient grace is the source of any good done by any person, believer or not.

Prevenient grace restores free will.

Prevenient grace has acted on every person ever born and everyone who will ever be born. And finally, prevenient grace restrains human wickedness, even in those persons who do not even acknowledge the existence of God.

To deny original sin and prevenient grace means that at least one person has the capacity to be good and to live a life worthy of eternal life with God without any action or help or interference from God. Once that claim is made, the barn door is opened, and the incarnation of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross is made
worthless and unnecessary, because, if even one person does not need salvation, why not all?

Prevenient grace is just the beginning. In the coming weeks, we will consider convicting grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

The Grace of God – The Wesleyan Perspective

Usually when we use the term “grace of God” we tend to think
in terms of something gentle and beneficial that brings us a blessing.We say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” referring to God protecting us or keeping us out of a bad situation. But there is much more to grace than this simple understanding. Grace really includes a wide range of God’s activity in each of our lives. God’s grace is absolutely necessary in our Christian life. God’s grace is free and we can do nothing to earn it. Without grace we would be lost and without hope. By grace we are justified. By grace, God rescues us from the guilt and power of sin. By grace, we are transformed into the image of Christ. By grace we are made perfect for eternal life in the kingdom of God at the end of the age.

There are those who would say that a person is not able to
say “no” to the grace of God. These persons describe God’s grace as
being “irresistible.” If God wants to “grace” you, there is nothing you can do about it. This seems to contradict our understanding that God created humankind with free will. He has given us the ability to
choose whether to love Him or not, to choose whether to be obedient
or not, to choose whether to sin or not. As Methodists, we believe we
have the ability to say “no” to God. He does not want us to live in sin apart from Him, but He will allow us to do that if we insist. For Methodists, grace is resistible.

There are those who say that God has predestined certain people to be saved and others to be condemned. This thinking leads to the conclusion that God’s grace is not available to everyone, only to the few who have been elected by God to be saved. This way of understanding is where the saying “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” originated. For those who are not in the elect, it does not matter what they do. If they are good or if they are bad, the end result is the same. This goes against what Methodists believe. A crucial part of our understanding of God is that His grace is available to everyone. That does not mean everyone accepts His grace, remember we believe in free will, but everyone at least has the option. One need only look to passages in both the Old Testament and New to see that scripture supports this understanding. In Ezekiel God
says, “Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live” (NRS, Eze 33:11). We are all familiar with John 3:16-
17 “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him’.”

In conclusion, as Methodists, those who accept the theology developed by John Wesley, we believe grace is both resistible and universal. Salvation is possible for everyone, but not everyone will say yes to God.

In the coming weeks, we will be looking at the various ways that God can work in our lives. John Wesley described these as prevenient grace, convicting grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

Three Simple Rules: #3 Attend to All the Ordinances of God

Over the last two weeks we have considered the first two of John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules.
The first challenges us to do no harm and to avoid evil, and in Wesley’s words, “especially that which is
most generally practiced.” In other words, those social and cultural things we do without even thinking
about the biblical implications or the way in which we have been called to live differently than the world.
The second simple rule is “do good.” It is not enough to avoid harming others and doing any evil, we
must actively go out and be agents of good in this world “as far as possible” to all persons, not just those
we like. Both of these rules impact our relationships with others. The third rule deals with our relationship
with God. Good persons of any faith or no faith at all can adhere to the first two rules. It is the third rule
which sets us apart and makes all the difference in the world and all the difference for the world.
“Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God; such are: The public worship of God. The
ministry of the Word, either read or expounded. The Supper of the Lord. Family and private prayer.
Searching the Scriptures. Fasting or abstinence.”
These practices draw us into the presence of the living God, bringing us to a state of
attentiveness and openness to all that God has for us, His grace, love, mercy, compassion, and wisdom.
As Christians we are called to live lives of constant transformation, of being in a process of sanctification
in which we are constantly growing closer to the image of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And all of us,
with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed
into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (NRS, 2
Cor 3:18). When we practice the ordinances of God, we allow God to do that sanctifying work in our
lives, to take us from one glory to another.
This list is not meant to be exclusive. In Wesley’s Sermon No. 39 he also speaks of the
ordinances of God and describes the life of a Christian (please excuse the archaic “he” language to refer
to any Christian), “There he partakes of all the ordinances of God. There he receives the supper of the
Lord. There he pours out his soul in public prayer, and joins in public praise and thanksgiving. There he
rejoices to hear the word of reconciliation, the gospel of the grace of God. With these his nearest, his
best-beloved brethren, on solemn occasions, he seeks God by fasting. These particularly he watches
over in love, as they do over his soul; admonishing, exhorting, comforting, reproving, and every way
building up each other in the faith. These he regards as his own household; and therefore, according to
the ability God has given him, naturally cares for them, and provides that they may have all the things that
are needful for life and godliness.” Consider the list of the Ten Timeless Practices along with those
above. The last two sentences of the quote are examples of what is called “Christian conferencing” or
spending meaningful time together with other Christians for support and encouragement.
As much as possible we are to attend to all the ordinances of God, not just the ones we prefer or
find appealing. When we follow this exhortation, we permit God to work in all aspects of our lives, not just
the convenient ones.
The ordinances of God lead us back to doing no harm and avoiding evil and doing good, but as
vessels of His love, mercy, and compassion and girded by His power and wisdom. The ordinances of
God are the path of transformation and renewal in our own lives, in our families, in our church, in our
community, and in our world. Thanks be to God.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

Three Simple Rules: #2 Do Good

Last week I wrote about the first of John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules,” “Do no harm.” This week we will take a look at the second, “Do good.” It is not enough simply to avoid evil, we are called to be the “salt of the earth,” our actions should change the flavor of the world in which we live. Some would ask, “Why bother, the problem is too big.” Others, especially those who view the world as the authors of the Left Behind series, might say, “Things have to get much worse before Jesus comes back so let’s just let nature run its course. It’s no use trying to change the world, that will only delay the return of Christ.”

To the first statement, I would reply, “Consider a snowflake. It is one of the least powerful objects we encounter in our lives. Now think of the destructive power of an avalanche and how it can change the face of a mountainside. An avalanche is nothing more than a whole lot of powerless snowflakes all acting together with the power of gravity thrown in.”

To the second objection, I would answer, “This is a simple misreading of the Bible.” How many times must scripture teach us to do good? Remember Micah 6:8: “You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right,” (NJB) or James 2:26: “so faith without works is also dead.” How about Deuteronomy 6:18: “Do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, so that it may go well with you,”? The New Living Translation of Luke 3:8 says, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” I’m sure you can think of many other examples, too.

Wesley wrote, “Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men: To their bodies, of the ability which God giveth, by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison. To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with; trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine that ‘we are not to do good unless our hearts be free to it.’ By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others; buying one of another, helping each other in business, and so much the more because the world will love its own and them only. By all possible diligence and frugality, that the gospel be not blamed. By running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be as the filth and offscouring of the world; and looking that men should say all manner of evil of them falsely, for the Lord’s sake. It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation…”

These are not John Wesley’s ideas, they are simply his rephrasing of scripture. Wesley called himself a “man of one book.” In other words, all of his life experiences and everything he read he viewed through the lens of the Bible. He saw the poor and hungry, the imprisoned and he did something about it. These were not just helpful suggestions, this was his way of living out of the scriptures and Wesley expected no less from those called Methodists.

Watch for opportunities to do good in your everyday life, “doing good of every possible sort” and do them to all persons. Wesley encourages us to live frugally. What does that have to do with good deeds? Frugal living frees up funds to feed the poor, clothe the naked, support missionaries, and to be a counter example to the waste of the world. If each of us did a single good deed, a simple act of kindness, each day that would be almost 25,000 acts of kindness each month or 300,000 per year! That would surely be a goodness avalanche
that would change this community for the better, in a way that would help us all and bring glory to God.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Scot

Three Simple Rules

John Wesley firmly believed, and so do I, that anyone who is truly saved, who has known the saving grace of God in his/her life, will live differently than the rest of the world. For Wesley, evangelical faith would be revealed in evangelical living. For those who joined his movement Wesley had “three simple rules” to guide persons in their life of discipleship. Very simply these were: 1. Do no harm, 2. Do good, 3. Love God. These rules still have value for us today and are worth considering. We need to remember some of the specific examples Wesley cited were in response to the world in which he lived. We may need to consider other examples for life in the 21st century. Over the next several weeks we will be taking a closer look at each of these rules.

First do no harm. Wesley wrote, “By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as: The taking of the name of God in vain. The profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work therein or by buying or selling. Drunkenness: buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity. Slaveholding; buying or selling slaves. Fighting, quarreling, brawling, brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil, or railing for railing; the using many words in buying or selling. The buying or selling goods that have not paid the duty. The giving or taking things on usury—i.e., unlawful interest. Uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of ministers. Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us. Doing what we know is not for the glory of God, as: The putting on of gold and costly apparel. The taking such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus. The singing those songs, or reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God. Softness and needless self-indulgence. Laying up treasure upon earth. Borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them. It is expected of all who continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation…”

Consider the opening words, “by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced…” Wesley was not afraid to tell his followers, “I don’t care what the rest of the world does, we need to live differently.” His challenge is for us as well. Consider his admonition about the Sabbath. If we look at scripture, there is more said about the Sabbath than any of the other commandments and God does not speak kindly of those who violate the Sabbath. How would our lives and our world be different if we truly observed the Sabbath? Some may argue that it is not economically possible, as if profit is a higher consideration than God. Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby are two large corporations that will not open on Sunday, yet they survive. In Israel all stores are closed on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, even though the majority of the people do not identify themselves as being religious. In Kentucky (and elsewhere) there are payday lenders, who while they may be charging what has been determined to be “lawful” certainly falls under the category of usury. These lenders only charge 20% per month and our legislators go along with it. After last Tuesday’s Boyd County Fiscal Court “hearing” (and I use the term loosely) it would be easy to slip into the evil commonly practiced “returning evil for evil, or railing for railing” but we are called to a different kind of response.

Wesley addresses our private lives, too. He challenged Methodists to avoid “reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of God.” Wesley was well-read and did not mean avoid reading any book other than the Bible. In today’s terms, I think he would have had a problem with the Harry Potter books, books that promote witchcraft and sorcery and a source of power other than God. Many of the video games do not point us to the knowledge or love of God. What are we letting our children and grandchildren read and play? What about “needless self-indulgence?” I do not believe
we need to live in extreme austerity or poverty, and Wesley even taught that families need to be taken care of, but the question each of us needs to consider is “Where is the line between necessity and needless self-indulgence for me?”

As I consider the events of recent years I see disturbing trends, many of which go back to “Laying up treasure on earth.” Not too long ago the business of financial planning grew. These days financial planners have been replaced by “wealth managers.” We are no longer satisfied with economic security, now we want wealth! Think about Bernie Maddoff who was willing to cheat even his friends for his personal gain and when found out tried to transfer money to his wife to avoid repaying what he had stolen. Chase Bank just paid a $410 million fine for manipulating gas prices to increase profits. That money came out of your pocket and mine. The list goes on and on.
Sometimes nothing short of law will suffice to correct a social evil quickly. Slavery is a good example of this. But even though the institution of slavery was abolished, the effects still linger today. Laws can change what is legal, but
they cannot change the hearts, minds, and souls of women and men. When we are willing to embrace and live out a life of personal and social holiness by avoiding evil of every sort, especially that which we see every day, then our families, our churches, our communities, our nation and our world will change.

~ Grace & Peace, Pastor Scot

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