Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ferocious Love

In his theological treatise, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley pens his defense on his view of Perfect Love. In one section he writes,
...to this day both my brother and I maintained, (1.) That Christian perfection is that love of God and our neighbour, which implies deliverance from all sin. (2.) That this is received merely by faith. (3.) That it is given instantaneously, in one moment. (4.) That we are to expect it, not at death, but every moment; that now is the accepted time, now is the day of this salvation.
Wesley didn't think that Christians had to die physically before they stopped sinning! (Not stop making mistakes but stop deliberate sinning.) While this is nothing new in holiness quarters, I fear it's new to Evangelicalism as a whole.

Whatever else he was, Wesley was a realist. He understood that some Christians didn't receive this grace the moment they prayed for it. He adds a question and answer section later in the work, including these statements from Plain Account:
Q. Is this death to sin, and renewal in love, gradual or instantaneous?

A. A man may he dying for some time; yet he does not, properly speaking, die, till the instant the soul is separated from the body; and in that instant he lives the life of eternity. In like manner, he may be dying to sin for some time; yet he is not dead to sin, till sin is separated from his soul; and in that instant he lives the full life of love. And as the change undergone, when the body dies, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any we had known before, yea, such as till then it is impossible to conceive; so the change wrought, when the soul dies to sin, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any before, and than any can conceive till he experiences it. Yet he stills grows in grace, in the knowledge of Christ, in the love and image of God; and will do so, not only till death, but to all eternity.

Q. How are we to wait for this change?

A. Not in careless indifference, or indolent inactivity; but in vigorous, universal obedience, in a zealous keeping of all the commandments, in watchfulness and painfulness, in denying ourselves, and taking up our cross daily; as well as in earnest prayer and fasting and a close attendance on all the ordinances of God. And if any man dream of attaining it any other way, (yea, or of keeping it when it is attained, when he has received it even in the largest measure,) he deceive his own soul. It is true, we receive it by simple faith: But God does not, will not, give that faith, unless we seek it with all diligence, in the way which he hath ordained.

This consideration may satisfy those who inquire, why so few have received the blessing. Inquire, how many are seeking it in this way; and you have a sufficient answer.

Prayer especially is wanting. Who continues instant therein? Who wrestles with God for this very thing? So,`ye have not, because ye ask not; or because ye ask amiss,' namely, that you may be renewed before you die. Before you die! Will that content you? Nay, but ask that it may be done now; to-day, while it is called to-day. Do not call this `setting God a time.' Certainly, to-day is his time as well as to-morrow. Make haste, man, make haste! Let

Thy soul break out in strong desire
The perfect bliss to prove;
Thy longing heart be all on fire
To be dissolved in love!
Wesley gives us much to digest, doesn't he? I'll tell you bluntly, he convicts me! What about you?

Do you want God more than you want your next breath of air?
Do you want God so badly you hunger and thirst for his righteousness?
Do you want the will of God more than you want your own plans to succeed?
Do you want a heart perfected in love?

Many people in the Church don't even believe such a relationship with God is possible. My guess is that many more don't want to think about it too deeply. Call him an enthusiast, call him a fanatic, call him what you will, John Wesley shook England. If the Lord Jesus waits in his Day of Resurrection and Judgment, long after I'm dead people still will be talking about him.

Because he dared to preach about loving God ferociously.