Week 3: Sanctifying Grace
(View the series overview here, Week 1 here, and Week 2 here.)
For the Leader:
Let’s say you’re driving in your car. You run out of gas. So, you call a friend to bring you a gallon or so of gas. With the fresh gas in your car you crank up and go on your way. Let’s think back. You were provided with friends that you knew would bring you gas if need be (prevenient grace). You ran out of gas in a place where you were safe (prevenient grace). You realized you couldn’t crank the car without gas, so you got someone to bring it to you (Justifying grace).
But, that’s not the whole puzzle. Let’s say you’ve got your gallon of gas and you drive along as if nothing else is needed. You know how this story ends. You WILL die again…I mean, run out of gas again. One time of filling our car with gas isn’t enough. WE NEED MORE. We need sustenance. God calls this process of “keeping us going” or “moving on towards perfection (Wesley)” sanctification, or as Wesley stated, “Sanctifying Grace”.
Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be. John Wesley described this dimension of God’s grace as sanctification, or holiness. (Excerpt from Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians. Used by permission.)
Through God’s sanctifying grace, we grow and mature in our ability to live as Jesus lived. As we pray, study the Scriptures, fast, worship, and share in fellowship with other Christians, we deepen our knowledge of and love for God. As we respond with compassion to human need and work for justice in our communities, we strengthen our capacity to love neighbor. Our inner thoughts and motives, as well as our outer actions and behavior, are aligned with God’s will and testify to our union with God. (Excerpt from Teachers as Spiritual Leaders and Theologians. Used by permission.)
We’re to press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. Rather, he understood it to be a continual process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin. (Adapted from Who Are We? : Doctrine, Ministry, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church, Revised: Leader’s Guide by Kenneth L. Carder, Cokesbury, p. 46.)
When talking about “The Walking Dead” this week, be sure to note that we are DEAD without GRACE! Just because we experience God’s Prevenient Grace, and except God’s Justifying Grace, that doesn’t mean we can live without Sanctifying Grace. We can slip into the trap of feeling just as “dead” as we were before if we don’t continue to walk in God’s Grace.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Between now and then:
Part 1: Think of a student in your group that hasn’t come in a while. Maybe they were strong at the first of the year and have recently been absent, or maybe they’ve just missed a few times in a row. Shoot them a text or a message with part of the above scripture in it (the part about abiding in Jesus to bear fruit), let them know you miss them and that you enjoy seeing them and hearing what they have to say and invite them back for this week’s youth group.
Part 2: Let one of your strongest students know what’s going on and that “Johnny” or “Sally” has been on your mind because they’ve been gone for a while. Encourage that student to contact them, too. Ask that student to also send them a text inviting them back and telling him/her they are missed. After all, everyone wants to know they are important and are missed when they’re gone.
Middle School Adaptation:
Play a nice game of, “Who can _______________ the longest.” The premise of this game is very simple, and usually pretty funny. It will require some supplies on your behalf, nothing too crazy, just a few things. Basically, you just give your group a series of “tasks” and you see who can do each of them the longest. Below is a list of possible tasks. Feel free to change these up as you see fit and let the other leaders know if you come up with a great idea for this game:
- Hold an Alka Seltzer tablet in their mouth while drinking water longest
- Who can take the most bites of an onion
- Who can stay in a hand stand the longest
- Who can eat the most of a jalepeno pepper without drinking water
- Who can hold their breath the longest
- Who can drink a soda the fastest
…you get it…you can add your own from here.
This may be a good week just to go hang out somewhere for a while. A huge part of Sanctifying Grace is realizing that you can’t do it alone. It is realizing that God uses other people in your life to influence you, to help you grow, and walk with you through both good and bad times. Go to your favorite Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, or spot on campus and just spend a few minutes talking to each other.
Another good activity for this week- if your kids are up for it, write letters to God. Encourage them (whether it’s at youth group or on their own time) to write God a letter about their journey so far. Get them to thank God for the people that have been placed in their lives to help them and to let God know that they need his grace EVERY DAY. We always say we know these things, but it helps sometimes to write them down. This may be something good for the leaders to do as well.
- Look at the John 15 scripture together. What does it mean to “abide” in Jesus? Spend a little time talking about that. It’s ok if you don’t know the answer. It’s all about the discussion.
- What are some things we can do to “abide in Christ?” This is a good time to talk about spiritual disciplines such as Reading the Bible, Prayer, Devotion, etc.
- Do you have a time during the day you try to set aside for reading the Word, praying, and worshipping? Why or why not?
- Do you see a need for these disciplines so that we can experience God’s Sanctifying Grace?
- What can we as a youth group do together to help each other abide in Christ?