A few years ago I was asked to teach a confirmation class on the three ways Wesleyans understand grace. After much thought I began to understand how Hollywood offers us an example lesson in the movement of grace in the lives of every Christian.

How Hollywood Teaches Wesleyan Grace

Methodists understand grace as acting in three major moves, in a progressive (we are Wesleyans after all!!) manner. The initial goal was to get 6th graders to engage a concept I have been asked about in almost every oral examination on the process to ordination.  A tall task indeed! I used this analogy of Hollywood and the film industry to help them understand more about their faith. I have since begun using this illustration in many other settings.

Prevenient grace…
is often like a movie trailer. It exists before and gives experience, making us familiar with the story and exciting us about the actualization in an encounterable manner. Trailers make us want to see the movie.

Prevenient grace is the free gift of God to all men and women tugging their hearts towards a saving relationship with him.

Justifying grace…
brings us to the moment in the movie theater. You can call it an opening night gala. What can be known minutely beforehand is now actual experience. The trailer worked and drew us into the physical event. A person is now truly experiencing the story for the first time. Where it once existed only in brief and broken ways, the full story is made known.

Justifying grace marks the awareness of sin and the need for a recognition of Jesus Christ. In justifying grace, each of us truly experience the depth of Christ and His love for the first time. We are assured of our status of belonging with God.

Sanctifying Grace…
seats the DVD in our permanent collection. It is the special collectors edition with all of the extras (But not those horrible Star Wars editions that change the whole thing…those DVD’s totally blow the illustration). It doesn’t change the story, but presents the permanent and ongoing fulfillment of both the trailer and the original theater viewing. The DVD purchase brings the movie into the home, where we own it and are able to continuing experiencing the story in new ways. We learn the story word for word and can repeat it anywhere through constant viewing.

Sanctifying grace brings us closer to holiness. It is the constant move of God in our lives as we pursue Jesus Christ more and more. Through sanctifying grace we are continuing to experience the transformative power of God in our lives.

I find this threefold expression of saving grace helpful because it is hopeful.

God moves in each of our hearts, edging us towards saving and justifying grace. If and when a person makes the decision, they are not abandoned. Grace continues, always changing us. May God be changing each of us as we read these words.