Normative Christian Experience Map 1
(explanation below picture)
Maps 1-3 are a general description of Spiritual formation in the Wesleyan Way.
The Normative Christian Experience involves transformation through the empowerment of 4 graces. Grace is the unmerited gift of the desire to be and the power to do the will of God. Unmerited means you can’t work for it, can’t earn it, can’t win it. Unmerited means God gives it to you because He loves you. These 4 graces are Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace, Sanctifying Grace, and Glorifying Grace.
We start our journey with Creation, notice the stick figure, the head of the stick figure is a triangle which represents the image of God (Genesis 1:27). In the Garden, humanity is response-able to God, enjoying a right relationship with God, with Others, with the Earth, and with Self.
The Human Predicament
When the fall occurs the heart of the stick figure now has an "I" in it. This is the "I" of egoism, or the sin nature. The result of the Fall is spiritual death, estrangement from God who is the source of life (Genesis 2:17, Romans 3:10-12). Jesus sacrificial death makes atonement for all of humanity (John 3:16). The stick figure is still spiritually dead but the prison door is now open for people to respond to God's call to reconciliation (Luke 14:23, John 1:9; Revelation 22:17). This is the starting point of the Normative Christian Experience.
Prevenient Grace: The Grace that Calls Us to Reconciliation.
God’s love and call go out to all humanity drawing every person to Himself (2 Peter 3:9). Prevenient grace is the grace that woos us to God, it is also the empowerment for people to do good instead of evil. The manifestation of prevenient grace is that a person has a conscience, the ability to sense right from wrong (John Wesley, On Conscience, sermon #105). Now this conscience doesn’t come with a content, a preset standard of values and virtues. The manifestation of Prevenient grace is the ability to discern between right and wrong.
“Prevenient grace, the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses toward God. This grace prompts our first wish to please God, our first glimmer of understanding concerning God’s will, and our “first slight transient conviction” of having sinned against God. This grace also awakens in us an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death and moves us toward repentance and faith.” (Mitchell Lewis, John Wesley’s Few Words on Prevenient Grace, 12/4/2015) Prevenient grace is the desire to be and the power to do God’s will, given to everyone, that under the guidance of God the Holy Spirit leads us to reconciliation with God the Father.
It is the conscience that the Holy Spirit utilizes to awaken every individual to a knowledge that they are incapable of living up to their own standards of morality creating a search for what Keith Green called “that crazy missing part” (Your Love Broke Through, 1977) (John `6:8). The Spirit awakens a person to the “disparity between his/her behavior and his/her own recognized criteria of rightness…” (Dunning, Grace Faith, and Holiness p. 433).
[John Wesley described this as being on the porch of the house of religion. Please note Wesley’s use of the world religion was always used in a positive sense, unlike today where the word is associated with restrictions, rules, and regulations. Individuals can dwell on the porch for a long time, very close, very moral, but still not know the grace of entering into the faith. If you’re stuck living on the porch of religion is that you are perpetually trying to clean yourself up. You get stuck in a cycle of repentance. You keep asking to be forgiven but you never really change. Living on the porch of religion you tend to legalistically follow all the rules. You fanatically think you have got to keep the rules or God is going to get you. You never feel secure. You tend to be very judgmental of others. But find comfort in the fact that you keep the rules. The huge trap is that you can think you’ve got it but not be inside the house of religion. You can live your entire life on the porch. You can repent. Try to live a decent life. Do good works to prove how good you are. But you are missing it. The Apostle Paul wrote about this frustration:
Romans 7:15 & 7:18 & 7:21 & 7:24 (NLT) I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. …I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't…. It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. … Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? ]