As Wesleyans, we Nazarenes are people of hope. We proclaim, as did John Wesley, the “optimism of grace.” We do this because we believe God not only helps us with the sins and mistakes of our past, but He also gives comfort and assurance in regard to our present and our future.
Nazarene theologian W.T. Purkiser believed that God not only deals with the actual sins of our past (the willful choices we have made to disobey God), but through the renewal that comes at salvation, God also allows the redemptive work of Christ to be “the starting point for God’s continuing action through the Spirit in spreading the fruits of His victory to individual human hearts and lives” (Purkiser, Beliefs That Matter Most, BHP, 1959).
This means that God’s forgiveness of our past sins opens the door for a present assurance that God is continuing the work of growth in grace.
Those familiar with the life of John Wesley know that his earliest ongoing struggle was assurance: How can I be assured that God loves and forgives me? Wesley, like all of us, found the answer in the saving and sanctifying grace of God. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…” (Col. 2:13, NIV).
Purkiser goes on to say that while salvation deals primarily with our past, sanctification is about our future. In other words, when we receive the forgiveness of God through Christ, we are primarily concerned about the past. However, when we in turn respond to God’s continual call of grace by consecrating ourselves fully to His ways, we are looking toward the future. In Purkiser’s words, we “make an offering inspired by the mercies God has already given. . . .” (Purkiser, p. 73). It is, in the words of Hebrews 12:1-2, a “reasonable act” that moves us into a more assured present and a more hopeful future!
Today, we ask God to be the “Lord of the past” for us, forgiving our sins and thoughtless ways that once defined us (2 Cor. 5:17). We ask God also to be the “Lord of our present,” granting “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) to “guard our hearts and minds” today. Finally, through His sanctifying grace, resting in the eventual glorification that is the ultimate inheritance of those who are His (1 Cor. 15:42-44), we move toward the future in step with the ways and purpose of God: the God of the past, present, and future.
God of our past and present, thank you for the hope you give for our future, being formed more and more into the image of your Son Jesus Christ by the sanctifying power of your Spirit. Grant us your peace and joy through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This devotional was written by Charles W. Christian who is managing editor of Holiness Today. You can find this devotional here: holinesstoday.org/god-of-past-present-future