Grace: the Gift of God 

55.0 The Path of the Overcomer

by Hubert F. Sturges, M.D., www.graceissufficient.com, October 2009
Topics:
Prevenient Grace
In Christ
Faith
The Faith Relationship
Overcoming is not Happenstance
Perfection

Prevenient grace

Prevenient grace is a term used by John Wesley to describe "preventing grace." This grace is given to you even before you have faith. It occurs before and without reference to anything you may have done. As you are corrupted by sin, prevenient grace allows you to use your God-given free will to choose or to reject the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ.

Definition

Prevenient grace is also defined as the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses. This grace prompts your first wish to please God, your first glimmer of understanding concerning God's will, and your 'first slight transient conviction' of having sinned against God. God's grace also awakens in you an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death and moves you toward repentance and faith.

John Wesley further teaches that, "You have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preceding you, that you may have a good will. ...

Prevenient grace elicits ... the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning His will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against Him."

Some will say that the work that Christ did for all men on the Cross is justification. John Wesley does not use that term. And the Bible does not describe a justification without faith. Yet Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary met the demands of the broken law for all men. He provided for all men a new probation to allow all men the opportunity to again choose Him. I believe that the word "atonement" better describes what Christ did on the Cross for us.

In Christ

What does it mean to be "in Christ?"

   20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV).

   17 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

   18 "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, ESV).

Some have made the assertion that Christ actually comes in and takes possession of a person. That He physically lives in the Christian. There is danger in this belief as such persons are tempted to believe that they are "above sin." If God is within, then everything they do is righteous. I think you can see the problems that could arise from that. Only in Christ are you save, and only in Christ is the sinful nature covered.

So, what does it mean to be "in Christ?" First Thessalonians 5:17 says "Pray without ceasing." Those who have studied the true use of Christian Meditation will recognize that the Christian must think, speak, and act as if in the presence of God. Such a person must take joy in Christ, and much of his continual mental conversation is a conversation with Him. This must be guided by the objective revelation of Himself that is found in the Bible.

To be "in Christ" is to make Him the focus of your life. You become more like Him. Is this excessive? Is it being "too religious?" If you think so, then what does this mean?

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3).

Wow! When you look at it that way, this is the commandment that we break most often. There are so many "gods" that take time away from the one true God. If you make God first in your thoughts, words, and actions; you will be a different person and a happier person. When you put God into your life, there is no room for sin! In Him there is true freedom.

Faith

How can motives be changed? At Eden, every man was given a spark of faith -- and a desire to do good (Gen 3:15; John 1:9). If you choose to do good, you will be led step by step to Christ. The more you see of the perfection of Christ, and the more you see of the Cross of Christ -- the more you are motivated to follow Him.

Faith is your part in taking hold of grace! Definitions of faith include trust, belief, commitment, and willingness to obey God. These are all true, but do not fully explain faith. In fact to understand faith you must include an intuitive relationship (an emotional commitment?) with God. It too is a gift, an understanding given by God.

"That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9).

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17, KJV).

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)).

So while faith is a gift from God, it is also an action that comes from within man. It is by faith that we trust Christ, and reach out and take hold of the grace of God.

".. Prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence." White, E.G.: Steps to Christ, 94-95

The Faith Relationship

Adam and Eve in their sinless pristine state lived in perfect surroundings. They were visited regularly by God and the holy angels. This was their life. They thought about God, spoke of Him, made the Garden of Eden beautiful for Him. All their creativity in song, art, word, and action was to bring praise to His name. They were created in the image of God! They had a love that we, as sinners, only dimly appreciate. Sin did not even enter their thinking.

Then there was war in Heaven. Adam and Eve were to be tested. A tree in the midst of the garden called "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" was set apart. They were not to eat of the fruit. It was the purpose of God that men have no knowledge of evil.

Satan told Eve, "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).

What does this mean? If I should go to the store and shoplift an item, it is a sin. It is also a learning experience. I will have learned HOW to steal. Shoplifting will then become a new option in my life that can be overcome only by the grace of God.

God intends that you have no knowledge of sin. When you are born again (John 3:3-21) in Christ, you are a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) and all things are become new. As you realize what Christ has done for you, your motives are changed. You now love God, and want to live for Him. The sinful nature is now covered with the robe of His righteousness.

It is in exercising that faith, choosing the grace of God, that He gives you power to obey the law and become more like Him. The memory of sin begins to fade.

The path of the overcomer is not happenstance.

Here are some verses to think about:

   "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not" (1 John 5:18).

   "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9).

So long as you are in Christ you will not sin! He will keep you from falling (Jude 24)! There is a special problem when God’s people sin (Hebrews 6:6 and GC 489). You fall from grace. You put Christ to open shame, crucifying Him afresh. But Christ stands before the throne of God for you, and through the daily burnt offerings, He holds His hand over you to give you time to confess, repent, and ask forgiveness.(Exodus 29:38-42; Leviticus 6:13; Numbers 28:2-6).

How about weak points:

After you are born again, a new creature, there are still besetting sins to overcome. These are the habits and tendencies of the past life. The blind spots. Why does not God take all these away too? Remember, God gave you free will, and He regards this as a sacred gift. He will never over ride your power to choose.

God will carefully permit a temptation to expose a weak point in your character. This temptation is measured according to your ability to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). This will give you the opportunity to confess and ask for the grace of God to overcome those tendencies. This prayer God is always glad to answer with a YES!

If you fail, and yield to the temptation, you will be led around to the same temptation again. Again you will be given the opportunity to overcome. At each failure the temptation becomes stronger. With continued resistance to grace and failure to overcome, the sin becomes larger, until you are given up to your sin.

Conviction, confession, and repentance are conscious choices made by you.

Perfection?

When you succeed in overcoming sin and come closer to Christ, you will see your own deficiencies more clearly. Your sense of guilt will increase. This is a gap that can be crossed only by the Cross of Christ. Your faith and your trust in Christ must increase as you follow this path of overcoming. You must put your life in His hands, for He is the author and the finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Will you ever become perfect? Ever stop sinning? Interestingly, this is "none of your business!" This is a responsibility that Jesus has taken on Himself (see again Hebrews 12:2 and 1 John 1:6-10). Your trust and faith takes hold of the perfection of Jesus as your own. I believe that to be perfect is to have a perfect trust (faith) in Jesus. And that faith is a faith that works.

This is very real. In overcoming sin you don't fight sin or Satan. You claim the victory that Christ has already won (1 John 5:4). You have a harder battle -- the "hard stern battle with self." It is easier to do something than to consent to the new life. It is easier to whip your back until it bleeds than to submit to Christ as Lord of your life. When self is subdued and you submit to Christ, grace, the creative act of God becomes real in your life. You become a new creature. Your motivation is changed. You no longer desire to sin.

   "The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to "the principalities and powers in heavenly places," the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 9