Part III of our series on Opening Your Home
In our last post, we noted how the central story of the Bible is God’s hospitality. We concluded that post by pointing to Romans 1:18-23 which teaches us that God’s hospitality is apparent in nature as well.
The knowledge of God in nature (e.g., the sunshine, the rain, our ability to live and move and breathe) is called natural theology. But it is not only God’s goodness in nature that shows his hospitality. It is his all-around goodness (God shows his love and care to all humans, not just those who believe in his son, Jesus) that comprises his hospitality.
When you think about it, God answers a lot of prayers, not just those of Christians. And he does a lot of miraculous things for people who do not know (or who do not love) Jesus.
We have a name for this hospitality of God—the host-like grace of God that he shows to all human beings, which often gives us an awareness of God even before we come to see that we are sinners and Christ is our savior. We call this prevenient grace.
Here is how The United Methodist Book of Discipline (2004) defines prevenient grace:
…the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses. 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. God’s grace also awakens in us an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death and moves us toward repentance and faith.
God’s prevenient grace is what makes it possible for us to respond to his grace in Christ. Remember: because of original sin, there is no good thing in us—our spirits are born dead and captive to sin. As a result, we would have no way to respond to his grace unless he showed us grace from the “outside in”—God’s hospitality which we can see in the goodness of creation, and God’s goodness to us even in the depths of our sin.
Prevenient grace is what makes it possible for us to respond to God’s offer of grace, even when our spirits are incapable of hearing or sensing him inwardly.
Which is why this month, as part of hearing and doing the Work of Mercy of opening our homes, .W Church is singing Charles Wesley’s hymn “Sinners, Turn: Why Will You Die?”
Charles wrote hymns not just for singing but also for learning theology. He wrote them to be used as “daily devotionals.” That’s why his hymns have so many verses! So I want to commend this hymn to you to learn and sing.
Think deeply on the theology. This is God the host speaking, through creation and through his consistent, persistent good to all human beings. His question: Sinner, why do you insist on clinging to sin and death when you can see evidence of my hospitality all around you?
Sinners, turn: why will you die? God, your Maker, asks you why. God, who did your being give, Gave Himself, that you might live; He the fatal cause demands, Asks the work of His own hands. Why, you thankless creatures, why, Will you cross His love, and die? Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God, your Savior, asks you why. God, who did your souls retrieve, Died Himself, that you might live. Will you let Him die in vain? Crucify your Lord again? Why, you ransomed sinners, why, Will you slight His grace and die?
Sinners, turn: why will you die? God, the Spirit, asks you why; He, who all your lives hath strove, Wooed you to embrace His love. Will you not His grace receive? Will you still refuse to live? Why, you long sought sinners, why, Will you grieve your God, and die?
Let the beasts their breath resign, Strangers to the life divine; Who their God can never know, Let their spirit downward go. You for higher ends were born, You may all to God return, Dwell with Him above the sky; Why will you forever die?
You, on whom He favors showers, You, possessed of nobler powers, You, of reason’s powers possessed, You, with will and memory blessed, You, with finer sense endued, Creatures capable of God; Noblest of His creatures, why, Why will you forever die?
You, whom He ordained to be Transcripts of the Trinity, You, whom He in life doth hold, You for whom Himself was sold, You, on whom He still doth wait, Whom He would again create; Made by Him, and purchased, why, Why will you forever die?
You, who own His record true, You, His chosen people, you, You, who call the Savior Lord, You, who read His written Word, You, who see the Gospel light, Claim a crown in Jesus’ right; Why will you, ye Christians, why, Will the house of Israel die?
Turn, He cries, ye sinners turn; By His life your God hath sworn; He would have you turn and live, He would all the world receive; He hath brought to all the race Full salvation by His grace; He hath not one soul passed by; Why will you resolve to die?
Can ye doubt, if God is love, If to all His mercies move? Will ye not His Word receive? Will ye not His oath believe? See, the suffering God appears! Jesus weeps! Believe His tears! Mingled with His blood they cry, Why will you resolve to die?
Dead, already dead within, Spiritually dead in sin, Dead to God while here you breathe, Pant ye after second death? Will you still in sin remain, Greedy of eternal pain? O you dying sinners, why, Why will you forever die?
What could your Redeemer do More than He hath done for you? To procure your peace with God, Could He more than shed His blood? After all His waste of love, All His drawings from above, Why will you your Lord deny? Why will you resolve to die?
Turn, He cries, ye sinners, turn; By His life your God hath sworn, He would have you turn and live, He would all the world receive. If your death were His delight, Would he you to life invite? Would he ask, obtest, and cry, Why will you resolve to die?
Sinners, turn, while God is near: Dare not think Him insincere: Now, even now, your Savior stands, All day long He spreads His hands, Cries, you will not happy be! No, you will not come to Me! Me, who life to none deny: Why will you resolve to die?
Can you doubt if God is love? If to all His vowels move? Will you not His Word receive? Will you not His oath believe? See! the suffering God appears! Jesus weeps! Believe His tears! Mingled with His blood, they cry, Why will you resolve to die?