Easter Life

The Great Privilege of those who are Born of God - Reflections for Personal Devotion and Conversation with Others

Sermon 19 in the Standard Sermons of John Wesley
By: Lauren DeLano

1. What is the relationship between new birth and sin? Do we still sin even after we have been born of the Spirit or experienced new birth?

The doctrine of new birth indicates that a real change takes place within us. When we are born of the Spirit, we become children of God and are free from sin. This doesn’t mean that we don’t sin, but instead that we are free from the punishment of sin because we are covered by God’s grace and forgiveness. As we experience new birth, our spiritual eyes and ears are opened more fully to God and we experience the love of God deep in our hearts. Yet, though we are spiritually awakened and drawn into relationship with God, we still commit both inward and outward sins. So, it is not so much that we do not sin, but that we are invited into a relationship that calls us towards a new way of living which leads us to cultivate a life of unceasing love and praise for God. And, we are called to do the work to let God be our guide rather sin and temptation. What is the relationship between new birth and sin? Do we still sin even after we have been born of the Spirit or experienced new birth?

2. What is the relationship between sin and grace? Are we always moving from sin to grace?

As Christians, we often talk about moving from sin toward grace rather than from grace toward sin. Justification offers us grace because of what God does for us through Jesus. It is on the cross that our sins are forgiven and that we receive justifying grace. Thus, we imagine that the trajectory in our lives is always from sin to grace. Yet, Wesley warns us not to be so content with this idea of a forward trajectory, because we can also go from grace to sin in our lives. Just because we have experienced justification and new birth doesn’t mean we are free from temptation and from a dimming of our relationship with God. Wesley uses David as an example of one who was filled with God’s love and grace and yet strayed from God (2 Samuel 11). While the Spirit of God is always present and offering us grace, we choose whether to accept that grace or whether to give in to temptation – so there is always movement between sin and grace or grace and sin. We have control of our movement between these in this relationship of sin and grace. What is the relationship between sin and grace? Are we always moving from sin to grace?

3. How are we expected to participate in our relationship with God?

As children of God, we have the privilege of participating in a relationship with God. As we enter into this relationship, it is not to be one sided where God only gives to us and we only receive. Instead, God breathes life into us, and we are expected to breathe back towards God by offering love and prayer and thanksgiving to God. We are expected to grow in our faith and to respond to God’s love by the way we live our lives. If we choose to let our relationship with God be one sided and do not engage with God, then God will no longer be present in our lives – not because God has hidden from us but because our spiritual eyes are no longer looking for God and our spiritual ears no longer hear God. While God is always present in our lives offering God’s protecting, pardoning, guiding Spirit, God never forces us to be in relationship with God. We choose whether to let God guide us and lead us. Just like any good relationship, there is a need for both parties to give and receive. How are we expected to participate in our relationship with God?