(S1) — SERIES— MEANS OF GRACE: CONNECTING WITH GOD
The Bible teaches us that, from the begining God made himself available to humanity
“God made himself available to the Israelites physically through the laws, commandments that he had given them.”
400 years God was silent
“7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them.
Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Malachi 3(NKJ)
Jesus—Disciples—Connection to God—New Covenant
Jesus’ Death—Resurrection—Ascension—H.S.—Peter—3,000 added to their numbers
Today’s reading—The Believers Together
Jesus was their all in all—Their source of strength, wisdom, direction, help, and hope.
How woiuld they now connect with God?
With Jesus who was the life-blood of their faith?
(S2) — J.W. posed a similar question in his sermon, “The Means of Grace”
“Are there any ordinances now, since life and immortality were brought to light by the Gospel?”
How do we stay connected with God?
What do the scriptures teach about how God makes himself available to us now?
What does it mean to connect with God in meaningful ways?
Think about a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP...How do you maintain/strengthen the relationaship?
Truth is, sometimes we fall short in connecting in meaningful ways—Busy—Priorities—Poor communication (Devices).
We can miss out on the relationships that matters the most.
Hurricane Harvey—Houston(2017)—UM pastor’s attempt to help someone—Boat—Did not want to leave—Who sent the boat?—U.M. team
The elderly man—”I’m a baptist, I think I’ll wait for a Baptist boat to come by.”
Pastor—”If I were a Methodist in a home that was about to be flooded and a baptist boat came along, I think i’d go ahead and get in it.”
As a believer today, it’s easy to MISS the BOAT when it comes to connecting with God....
“God’s help in the form of GRACE comes to us in practical ways—in much the same way as a boat is a practical means of saving someone form a flood” (S.W.W.Jones)
The good news is, Jesus gave his first followers a way, through the gift of the H.S. Gathered one place, they set the example of how to stay connected with God...
(S3) — Acts 2:42 (NLT)
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
They devoted themselves—Recognized God’s GRACE or presence in four ways
In the TEACHING of the apostles—Students of the stories of Jesus
2. Their GATHERED community, or fellowship (koinōnia)
1 John 1:3 “We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us.
And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
3. SHARED meal—specifically the Lord’s supper—
Prayer was not unique to the Israelites of the early biblical period.
It differed from those of surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures.
The biblical examples of prayer portray Yahweh as a God who listens, not a deity who is distant.
The teachings about and examples of prayer in the N.T. stem from these Jewish roots, yet they contain innovations introduced by Jesus and The most notable developments are prayer in the NAME of JESUS and the introduction of the Lord’s Prayer.
Leslie T. Hardin, “Prayer,” ed.
John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
J.W. latter identified these ways of connecting with God as The ‘MEANS OF GRACE’
(S4)— What did he mean by, ‘Means of Grace?’
“The 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.”
P/J/S—Before I met Jesus—When I met Jesus—Jesus working in me
“John Wesley taught that God's grace is unearned and that we were not to be idle waiting to experience grace but we are to ENGAGE in the means of grace—Ways God works invisibly in us, hastening, strengthening; and confirming faith so that God's grace pervades in and through us”
These means or ordinances were, “OUTWARD signs of an INWARD grace”
How do you connect with God? Stories of Jesus—Gathering—Communion—Prayer.
What way is most meaningful?
Wesley, as he did often in his sermons, refuted the way theses MEANS in the church of England, had become empty vessels for the purpose bringing glory to man not God.
(S5) — He expressed it this way
“Outward religion is nothing worth without the religion of the heart; ‘that God is a Spirit and they who worship Him in spirit and truth’; therefore, external worship is lost labour without a heart devoted to God; that the outward ordinances of God then profit much when they advance inward holiness...” J.W.
The DEVOTION of the gathering believers in their practice of faith, to connect with God through the means Jesus had taught them., is evident as more than an outward expression of their faith
43 “ A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.”
They were experiencing a deep connection with God in the Spirit.
One they had because of Jesus’ own devotion to his father in heaven.
This devotion was embedded in the DNA or culture of the first community of believers.
Their close connection with each other was dependent on their deep connection to God.
It’s no wonder they GREW in great NUMBERS!
J.W. said, “that over time some began to pay more attention to the MEANS than to the END.
Going through the motions—Repetition
(S7) — J.W. encounter with Peter Bohler—
“I was clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved.
Immediately it struck into my mind How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?”
I asked Bohler whether he thought I should leave it off or not.
He answered, “By no means.”
I asked, “But what can I preach?”
He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
The first person to whom he offered salvation by faith alone, was a prisoner under sentence of death.
His name was Clifford.
Peter Bohler had many times desired me to speak to him before.
But I could not prevail on myself so to do; being still, as I had been many years, a zealous asserter of the impossibility of a deathbed repentance.
Jail Visit—Forgotten Man Ministries
It’s OK if we don’t always feel something inside—If were unsure about next steps in our faith.
The goal of all Christian practice is a transformed heart—one that loves God fully and loves one’s neighbor as himself.”
For the new body of believers, The RESULTS of their devotion to these Christian practices...
“43…the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” Acts 2
J. W. preached the importance of these means of grace—“According to the word of these Holy Scriptures, all who desire the grace of God are to…WAIT UPON the LORD in these ways in anticipation of the spirit of God to work inwardly in us
Worship design—Human effort—Make space for the presence of God to open your heart—Our attitude, how we come to worship matters
Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the Kingdom of God...above all else…seek in the means of grace
W. found the chief of these means is to...
Wait upon the Lord ...in the Way of PRAYER
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.
Keep on seeking, and you will find.
Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks, receives.
Everyone who seeks, finds.
And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”