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A Concise Understanding of the Means of Grace

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A Concise Explanation of the Means of Grace Jason Klay Harrison 09 December 2011 Harrison 2 Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. - 2 Peter 3:18 Grace is the giving of any substance from a patron to his/her client, which is completely free from all future reciprocal commitments. It is not the expected normality in any modern society. In a reciprocity culture, grace is unanticipated because rarely is anything supplied without some sort of future expectation. T
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     A Concise Explanation of the Means of Grace  Jason Klay Harrison09 December 2011  Harrison 2 Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. - 2 Peter 3:18Grace is the giving of any substance from a patron to his/her client, which is completely free from all future reciprocal commitments. It is not the expected normality in any modernsociety. In a reciprocity culture, grace is unanticipated because rarely is anything supplied without some sort of future expectation. Thus, grace is easily misunderstood because many people expect to be attached to some form of reciprocity. Grace breaks the hold of reciprocity and expects no future commitment. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a future response from theclient, however that response cannot be chained in any reciprocal fashion to that which was givenin grace. Therefore, most forms of grace today need to be expressed and explained by the patronas such. Though grace may be misunderstood in normal cultural transactions andcommunications, this need not be true of one’s encounter with God. God is constantly revealinggrace to his children through many forms. These forms, or means of grace, are not only availableto Christians but also to all of humanity. The only requirement to receive grace through thesemeans is a willingness to accept. Yet, receiving grace is only the first part, the client should alsounderstand what they have received and the means by which they actually encountered it.United Methodism has the distinct opportunity to express and explain these means of grace in very meaningful ways through its Wesleyan tradition. This paper will look at thedifferent means of God’s grace as understood through United Methodist polity and history, forthe purpose of better comprehension of the grace of God that is given to each person.  Harrison 3 By “means of grace” I understand outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God,and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace. 1  - John Wesley For the United Methodist Church, the means of grace need to be adequately explainedand expressed because they are significant to Methodism’s identity and have been emphasizedthroughout its tradition. When American Methodism was officially established at the ChristmasConference of 1784, they urged all members to avoid evil, to do good, and to use the means of   grace supplied by God  . 2 “Methodists have always been strictly enjoined to maintain the unity of faith and good works through the means of grace  .” 3 Even today, the United Methodist Churchdescribes one part of their process for making disciples as the nurturing of persons in Christianliving through the means of grace. 4 Thus, this rich Wesleyan heritage is important and findstraditional emphasis in one of its founders, John Wesley.According to John Wesley, the means of grace accompanied a wide range of activitiesassociated with public worship, personal devotion, Christian community, and discipleship. Hesaw the Christian life as composed of these activities, which are invited and enabled by the graceof God. Thus, the means of personal experience and response to God’s loving presence for the  1 “The Means of Grace,” The Works of the Rev. John Wesley (hereafter cited as Works ), V:187. 2   The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (hereafter cited as BOD ), (Nashville, TN; UM PublishingHouse, 2008), 12. Emphasis has been added. 3 Ibid., 48. Emphasis has been added. 4 Ibid., 88.  Harrison 4 Christian is the means of grace. 5 To understand and explain these means, they can be organizedinto three broad categories or typologies; the general means, instituted or particular means, andprudential means. 6    The General Means of Grace  The general means of grace indicate particular attitudes and practices present throughoutthe Christian life. These would include universal obedience, keeping all the commandments, watching, denying oneself, taking up one’s cross daily, and exercising of the presence of God. 7   This category is the only one that will constantly bear fruit, for “never can you use these meansbut a blessing will ensue.” 8 Whenever a person is active in one of these means of grace, he/shecan expect God’s grace to be revealed in his/her life. Watching is a wholehearted effort of the Christian to have a conscious and intendedalertness to sin, temptation, and one’s weakness. This is the underlying “disciplinedaccountability and confessional practices” found in the prudential means of grace. 9 Watchingencourages the Christian to continue depending upon the grace of God and recognize the frailty of mankind. By “watching,” the Christian becomes alert and can inwardly focus on God’s gracein order to learn God’s will, which in turn is linked to the exercise of the presence of God.  5 Henry H. Knight, The Presence of God in the Christian Life  , (Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1992), 2. 6 Ibid., 3. 7 Ibid., 5 8 “Minutes of Several Conversations,” Works , VII: 324. 9 Knight, 122-23.
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