Saturday, September 30, 2006

To Know the True God

"For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords'-- yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." (1Co 8.5-6 ESV)

Does it really matter what god or gods we believe in? Does it matter, ultimately, because the whole of humanity will come out okay in the end? It's been said, "All roads lead to Rome"; do all roads lead to God?

According to John Wesley, not all roads do. Reflect on his view from his Sermons, # 114, "The Unity of the Divine Being":

"And as there is one God, so there is one religion and one happiness for all men. God never intended there should be any more; and it is not possible there should. Indeed, in another sense, as the Apostle observes, 'there are gods many, and lords many.' All the heathen nations had their gods; and many, whole shoals of them. And generally, the more polished they were, the more gods they heaped up to themselves. But to us, to all that are favoured with the Christian Revelation, 'there is but one God;' who declares himself, 'Is there any God besides me? There is none; I know not any.'"

Notice his phrase, " all that are favoured with the Christian Revelation". A revelation is an unveiling, a communication from God to man, something that can't be discerned by reason. For there to be a revelation, by definition, God must tell us what it is or we wouldn't know it and couldn't guess at it.

If true Christian Revelation exists then all other such "revelations" of different religions are wrong. Either God revealed it or he didn't.

I suppose you can tell that I love the shades of white and black!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Axe to Grind Series № 4

This fourth entry into the Axe to Grind Series has the Arminian Wesley taking issue with the Calvinist reformer, Martin Luther. In his Journal entry for June 15, 1741 Wesley deconstructs a book from Luther:

"I set out for London, and read over in the way that celebrated book, Martin Luther’s comment on the Epistle to the Galatians. I was utterly ashamed. How have I esteemed this book, only because I heard it so commended by others; or, at best, because I had read some excellent sentences occasionally quoted from it! But what shall I say, now I judge for myself? now I see with my own eyes? Why, not only that the author makes nothing out, clears up not one considerable difficulty; that he is quite shallow in his remarks on many passages, and muddy and confused almost on all; but that he is deeply tinctured with mysticism throughout and hence often dangerously wrong."

Well, John, tell us what you really think!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Functionally Religious Atheist

Can a person be religious but without God? Yes, I certainly believe that he can. He can have all of the branches of a religious person but devoid of the fruit of the Spirit. Weigh Wesley's words carefully from his Sermons, # 113, "The Difference Between Walking by Sight, and Walking by Faith":

"Brethren, are you of this number, who are now here before God? Do you see 'Him that is invisible?' Have you faith, living faith, the faith of a child? Can you say, 'The life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me'? Do you 'walk by faith?' Observe the question. I do not ask, whether you curse, or swear, or profane the Sabbath, or live in any outward sin. I do not ask, whether you do good, more or less; or attend all the ordinances of God. But, suppose you are blameless in all these respects, I ask, in the name of God, by what standard do you judge of the value of things? by the visible or the invisible world? Bring the matter to an issue in a single instance. Which do you judge best, — that your son should be a pious cobbler, or a profane lord? Which appears to you most eligible, — that your daughter should be a child of God, and walk on foot, or a child of the devil, and ride in a coach-and-six? When the question is concerning marrying your daughter, if you consider her body more than her soul, take knowledge of yourself: You are in the way to hell, and not to heaven; for you walk by sight, and not by faith. I do not ask, whether you live in any outward sin or neglect; but, do you seek in the general tenor of your life, 'the things that are above,' or the things that are below? Do you 'set your affection on things above,' or on 'things of the earth?' If on the latter, you are as surely in the way of destruction, as a thief or a common drunkard. My dear friends, let every man, every woman among you, deal honestly with yourselves. Ask your own heart, 'What am I seeking day by day? What am I desiring? What am I pursuing? earth or heaven? the things that are seen, or the things that are not seen?' What is your object, God or the world? As the Lord liveth, if the world is your object, still all your religion is vain."

I have a sneaking suspicion that this would be unnerving news to many church goers today. Many folks are caught up in "worldliness"--focused on the things below, not the things above.

I further fear many of these people may think, "I go to church. I try to be a nice person. So, I must be all right."

Well, I'm glad they go to church (so long as it's a Bible-obeying one) and I'm glad they try to be a nice person but it's a non sequitor for them to say, "So, I must be all right." That just doesn't follow!

Jesus rebuked some of the religious elite of his day; men who were scrupulous in the matters of Torah, Tanach and scribal oral tradition but spiritually bankrupt in true religion. In Matthew 23, Jesus called them:

"hypocrites" (vs. 13, et al)
"blind guides" (vs. 16, 24)
"blind fools" (vs. 17)
"blind Pharisee" (vs. 26)
"like white-washed sepulchres" (vs. 27)
"serpents" (vs. 33)
"brood of vipers" (vs. 33)

Yes, a person can be very religious--and be very far from God.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Adam Clarke's Take on the World's Ruin

"Then He left [the Pharisees and Saducees] and went away. When the disciples crossed the sea, they forgot to take any bread. And Jesus said to them, 'Look out, and keep on guarding yourselves against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees!' Then they began to discuss it among themselves, and said, 'It is because we did not take any bread.' Jesus knew it and said, 'Why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Have you so little faith? Do you not understand yet? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand and how many basketfuls you took up? Nor the seven loaves for the four thousand and how many hamper-basketfuls you took up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you about bread, when I said, keep on guarding yourselves against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees?' Then they understood that He meant, guard yourselves not against yeast for bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."
(Mat 16.4b-12 WmsNT)
Commenting on Matthew 16.6, Clarke writes:
Beware of the leaven - What the leaven of Pharisees and Sadducees was has been already explained, see Mat 16:1. Bad doctrines act in the soul as leaven does in meal; they assimulate the whole Spirit to their own nature. A man’s particular creed has a greater influence on his tempers and conduct than most are aware of. Pride, hypocrisy, and worldly-mindedness, which constituted the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, ruin the major part of the world."
The destruction of the world through three things: pride, hypocrisy and worldly-mindedness. Yes, that will pretty much do it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Shattering the Walls of Resistance

"Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'"
(Acts 2.37 ESV)

The Holy Spirit can use our words and shatter the wall of self-confidence or self-complacency in the hearts of others. In today's blog Fetter Lane quotes from John Wesley's Journal for
June 24, 1759:

"I preached at Nafferton at one. As I was riding thence, one stopped me on the road and said, 'Sir, do you not remember, when you were at Prudhoe two years since and you breakfasted at Thomas Newton's? I am his sister. You looked upon me as you were going out, and said, 'Be in earnest.' I knew not then what earnestness meant, nor had any thought about it; but the words sank into my heart so that I could never rest any more till I sought and found Christ.'"

With us, words are a dime of dozen. With God, three words can be the catalyst for conversion. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit continually! Let him be the power behind your words to shatter the walls of resistance!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Cry For Entire Sanctification

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(1Th 5.23 ESV)

In his Sermons, # 40, "Christian Perfection", John Wesley included a poetical prayer by Charles about Entire Sanctification.
(Picture © Wesley Center Online.)

The Promise of Sanctification

(Ezekiel 36:25.)
By the Rev. Charles Wesley.

1 God of all power, and truth, and grace,
Which shall from age to age endure;
Whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,
Remains, and stands for ever sure:

2 Calmly to thee my soul looks up,
And waits thy promises to prove;
The object of my steadfast hope,
The seal of thine eternal love.

3 That I thy mercy may proclaim,
That all mankind thy truth may see,
Hallow thy great and glorious name,
And perfect holiness in me.

4 Chose from the world, if now I stand
Adorn’d in righteousness divine;
If, brought unto the promised land,
I justly call the Saviour mine;

5 Perform the work thou hast begun,
My inmost soul to thee convert:
Love me, for ever love thine own,
And sprinkle with thy blood my heart.

6 Thy sanctifying Spirit pour,
To quench my thirst, and wash me clean;
Now, Father, let the gracious shower
Descend, and make me pure from sin.

7 Purge me from every sinful blot;
My idols all be cast aside:
Cleanse me from every evil thought,
From all the filth of self and pride.

8 Give me a new, a perfect heart,
From doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;
The mind which was in Christ impart,
And let my spirit cleave to thee.

9 O take this heart of stone away,
(Thy rule it doth not, cannot own;)
In me no longer let it stay:
O take away this heart of stone.

10 The hatred of my carnal mind
Out of my flesh at once remove;
Give me a tender heart, resign’d,
And pure, and fill’d with faith and love.

11 Within me thy good Spirit place,
Spirit of health, and love and power;
Plant in me thy victorious grace,
And sin shall never enter more.

12 Cause me to walk in Christ my Way,
And I thy statutes shall fulfill;
In every point thy law obey.
And perfectly perform thy will.

13 Hast thou not said, who canst not lie,
That I thy law shall keep and do?
Lord, I believe, though men deny;
They all are false, but thou art true.

14 O that I now, from sin released,
Thy word might to the utmost prove!
Enter into the promised rest,
The Canaan of thy perfect love!

15 There let me ever, ever dwell;
By thou my God, and I will be
Thy servant: O set to thy seal!
Give me eternal life in thee.

16 From all remaining filth within
Let me in Thee salvation have:
From actual, and from inbred sin
My ransom’d soul persist to save.

17 Wash out my old original stain:
Tell me no more It cannot be,
Demons or men! The Lamb was slain
His blood was all poured out for me!

18 Sprinkle it, Jesu, on my heart:
One drop of thy all-cleansing blood
Shall make my sinfulness depart,
And fill me with the life of God.

19 Father, supply my every need:
Sustain the life thyself hast given;
Call for the corn, the living bread,
The manna that comes down from heaven.

20 The gracious fruits of righteousness,
Thy blessings’ unexhausted store,
In me abundantly increase;
Nor let me ever hunger more.

21 Let me no more in deep complaint
“My leanness, O my leanness!” cry;
Alone consumed with pining want,
Of all my Father’s children I!

22 The painful thirst, the fond desire,
Thy joyous presence shall remove;
While my full soul doth still require
Thy whole eternity of love.

23 Holy, and true, and righteous Lord,
I wait to prove thy perfect will;
Be mindful of thy gracious word,
And stamp me with thy Spirit’s seal!

24 Thy faithful mercies let me find,
In which thou causest me to trust;
Give me the meek and lowly mind,
And lay my spirit in the dust.

25 Show me how foul my heart hath been,
When all renew’d by grace I am:
When thou hast emptied me of sin,
Show me the fulness of my shame.

26Open my faith’s interior eye,
Display thy glory from above;
And all I am shall sink and die,
Lost in astonishment and love.

27 Confound, o’erpower me with thy grace:
I would be by myself abhorr’d;
(All might, all majesty, all praise,
All glory be to Christ my Lord!)

28 Now let me gain perfection’s height!
Now let me into nothing fall!
Be less than nothing in thy sight,
And feel that Christ is all in all!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back on Speaking Terms (Romans № 12)

To comprehend the extent of the love of God is beyond our ability. Read Paul's thoughts on the matter:

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."
(Rom 5.6-11 ESV)

There is a comparison by contrast occurring here. For the most part, the world is reticent about dying even for one who is "worthy" but Jesus died for humanity...all of whom are sinful. By Christ's sacrifice and life we are:

1. Justified (declared and made righteous)
2. Delivered from the wrath to come (the Day of Resurrection and Judgment)
3. Reconciled to the Father (we have laid our weapons of rebellion down and surrendered)
4. Will be saved by Christ's High Priestly intercession (ultimate salvation)

All for people who don't deserve it. That, by definition, is mercy and grace.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

How to Save the World

How are we to convert the world to Christ? Read John Wesley's report in his Journal for October 18, 1749. He knew what it was like to receive a frosty reception.

"I rode, at the desire of John Bennet, to Rochdale, in Lancashire. As soon as ever we entered the town, we found the streets lined on both sides with multitudes of people, shouting, cursing, blaspheming, and gnashing upon us with their teeth. Perceiving it would not be practicable to preach abroad, I went into a large room, open to the street, and called aloud, 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.' The Word of God prevailed over the fierceness of man. None opposed or interrupted; and there was a very remarkable change in the behavior of the people, as we afterward went through the town."

The Holy Spirit used the sermon of John Wesley to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16.8). He still does so today.

Evangelical Christianity seems so interested in being relevant, cool, and entertaining that I believe we're afraid of offending sinners. But the gospel is offensive to unregenerate hearts!

I don't believe in acting like an arrogant jerk but I do believe that straight and frank preaching (or personal evangelizing) is God's method for saving sinners. As Paul said so long ago:

"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Rom 10.13-15 ESV)

Are we so afraid that the world will reject our message--or are we so afraid that the world will reject us?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Only Way to God

How do we get to heaven? Is there only one way?

Americans don't like the concept of absolute truth. Most refuse to believe in it, relying rather on situational ethics or contortionistic thinking to avoid uncomfortable truth. The Bible can offend those who aren't interested in deciding on all-or-nothing propositions. Here is one:

"Jesus said to [Thomas], 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14.6 ESV)

A plain reading doesn't give us any wriggle room, does it? But people will try because they don't want to read it the way Jesus said it.

In his Commentary Adam Clarke gives us guidance on the latter part of the verse:

"No man cometh unto the Father — By any other doctrine, by any other merit, or by any other intercession than mine."

Notice Clarke's conclusion:

1. No other teaching leads to the Father.
2. No other merit but Christ's merit leads to the Father.
3. No other intercession but the Messianic High Priest's intercession leads to the Father.

This means that any other alleged way to God--any other way than Christianity--is wrong.

Some Christ professors believe that non-Christians may get to heaven without knowing the doctrine that saved them or the Messiah who died for them. Some actually believe that people can be saved unconsciously by Christ Jesus.

This, to me, flies in the face of the plain assertion of Christ. When it comes to heaven I want blunt statements that bluntly tell me how to get there.

Jesus remains many things and one of them is blunt.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rolling Over in His Grave

In your more pessimistic moments, have you ever wondered what John Wesley might think today of the United Methodist Church and all of the other denominations that claim him as their theological heritage?

I wonder if Wesley, given the opportunity, would tell his brother, Charles, "Uh...just go ahead and disband the 'Holy Club'. We're Anglicans. Period."

What do you think?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Love That Can Only Be By God (Romans № 11)

One Scripture from Paul's letter to the Romans as the focus of our study:
and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5.5 ESV)
Note Adam Clarke's comments on one phrase:
Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts - We have the most solid and convincing testimony of God’s love to us, by that measure of it which he has communicated to our hearts. There, εκκεχυται, it is poured out, and diffused abroad; filling, quickening, and invigorating all our powers and faculties. This love is the spring of all our actions; it is the motive of our obedience; the principle through which we love God, we love him because he first loved us; and we love him with a love worthy of himself, because it springs from him: it is his own; and every flame that rises from this pure and vigorous fire must be pleasing in his sight: it consumes what is unholy; refines every passion and appetite; sublimes the whole, and assimilates all to itself. And we know that this is the love of God; it differs widely from all that is earthly and sensual. The Holy Ghost comes with it; by his energy it is diffused and pervades every part; and by his light we discover what it is, and know the state of grace in which we stand. Thus we are furnished to every good word and work; have produced in us the mind that was in Christ; are enabled to obey the pure law of our God in its spiritual sense, by loving him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor, any and every soul of man, as ourselves. This is, or ought to be, the common experience of every genuine believer; but, in addition to this, the primitive Christians had, sometimes, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. These were then needful; and were they needful now, they would be again communicated.
Actually, I didn't include this commentary into my sermon; most of my message involved quoting John Fletcher's remarks on spiritual senses (the ones I've been quoting all week).

If only we can get people reading him again...

John Fletcher: Spiritual Feeling

If you're walking on this beach with bare feet, I suggest you walk quite gingerly! Rocks just aren't fun for walking!

However, given the preference, I'll take feeling over numbness; the tactile sense of touch, of physically experiencing the world around us is an adventure in textures and temperatures. Have you ever stroked the soft fur of a small kitten? Have you ever walked through the green grass wet with last night's dew?

Let's consider John Fletcher's thoughts on spiritual feeling from Christ Manifested:
Last of all, we must not forget FEELING; for if we are more than stoics in religion, if we have but one degree more of devotion than the marble statues which adorn our churches, we should have, I think, some feeling of our unworthiness, some sense of God's majesty. Christ's tender heart was pierced to atone for, and to remove the hardness of, ours. God has promised to take from us the heart of stone, and to give us a heart of flesh, a broken and a contrite heart, the sacrifice of which He will not despise. King Josiah was praised because his heart was tender. The conversion of the three thousand, on the day of Pentecost, began by their being pricked in their hearts. We are directed to feel after God, if happily we may find Him. Our Lord Himself is not ashamed to be touched, in heaven, with a feeling of our infirmities. And Paul intimates that the highest degree of stubbornness and apostacy [sic] is to be past feeling, and to have our conscience seared as with a hot iron.
According to Fletcher (and Paul) spiritual numbness is a result of spiritual destruction. Let us never not know what it means to be without the feeling of the Spirit to our spirits.

To conclude our John Fletcher Week, Fetter Lane needs to answer one question: did the pastor of Madeley "really" believe that a Christian could experience spiritual senses like tasting, feeling, smelling, seeing and hearing or was he being poetical? (Perhaps you've wondered this, yourself, over the past few posts.) Let's turn one last time to Christ Manifested:
I hope that you will not attempt to set aside these plain passages by saying that they are unfit to support a doctrine, since they contain only empty metaphors and amount to nothing. This would be pouring the greatest contempt on the intrinsic clarity of the Word of God, the integrity of the sacred writers, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who inspired them. Just as certainly as there is a spiritual life, there are senses which are calculated for the display and enjoyment of it; and these senses exist no more in metaphor than the life which exerts itself by them. Our Lord settled the point when he declared to Nicodemus that no man can see the kingdom of God, the kingdom of grace here, and of the glory hereafter, except he first be born of God-born of the Spirit; just as no child can see this world, except he be first born of a woman-born of the flesh. To put it another way, a regenerate soul has its spiritual senses opened, and made capable of discerning what belongs to the spiritual world, in the same way that a newly born infant has his natural sense unlocked, and begins to see, hear, and taste what belongs to that material world into which he is entering.
Yes, he meant it literally. Let us not forget that John Wesley wanted John Fletcher to be the next leader of the Methodist societies; Fletcher, however, died before Wesley. For Methodists, so called, the Swiss born and French speaking Fletcher is to be respected and heard.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

John Fletcher: Spiritual Taste

In The Church of God (Anderson) we use grape juice and (often) wafers when we partake of Communion. While I can't say that the wafers taste much better than I imagine Styrofoam tastes, it still is a poignant ceremony that moves me when I receive the elements; our sense of taste is a bridge that brings us into worship of the Triune God revealed by the Son's sacrifice of himself.

John Fletcher believed that a Christian can experience spiritual taste as well. Consider his point of view from Christ Manifested:
As to the sense of TASTE, if believers have not a spiritual faculty of tasting divine things, what delusion must they be under when they read 'His fruit was sweet to my taste' or 'how sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, they are sweeter than honey to my mouth'? On the other hand, how faithfully can they speak in this way, if they have themselves tasted the heavenly gift, and the good word of God and, as new born babes, have begun to desire the sincere milk of that Word! Surely, if they eat of the flesh of the Son of God, drink of His blood, and taste that the Lord is gracious, they have a right to testify, that 'His love is better than wine', and to invite those who 'hunger and thirst after righteousness' to 'taste that the Lord is good', so that they also may be satisfied with His goodness and mercy.
May we all have such a spiritual taste of things divine.

Friday, September 8, 2006

John Fletcher: Spiritual Smell

The power of smell is uncommonly strong. Have you walked in a garden and smiled at the fragrances of God's nature?

Have you ever detected a certain perfume and thought of a former girlfriend? Have you ever walked into your parents' home at Christmas to the smell of cookies baking in the oven?

Today Fetter Lane contemplates John Fletcher's conviction that the Christian can smell spiritual scents. Consider his view from Christ Manifested:
The sense of SMELL. How void of meaning are the following passages, if they do not allude to that sense which is intended for the reception (what the barrenness of human language compels me to call) spiritual perfumes: 'How much better ... is the smell of thine ointments than all spices ... the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon'; 'All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia'; 'Because of the savour of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth.'
I can't remember ever receiving a spiritual scent but my lack of personal experience doesn't disprove such a concept. If God gives us physical scents for our enjoyment, why not spiritual delights as well?

Thursday, September 7, 2006

John Fletcher: Spiritual Hearing

Have you ever taken the time to listen to nothing in particular? If you haven't done so recently, consider taking some time to listen to nature. Look at this picture and let your imagination hear the ambient sounds:

Can you hear the water lapping against the boat? Can you hear the gentle bumping of the boat against the dock? Can you hear the creaking of the dock's sun bleached boards? Can you hear the noise of the wind rise and fall? Can you hear the chirping of crickets or the occasional splash as a fish comes to the surface of the lake? What can you hear?

We live in a noisy universe; so often we are too busy to listen to the rhythm of life. What is worse, so often we are too busy to listen to the cadence of God's voice.

John Fletcher knew that believers can hear beyond the range of the physical vibrations reverberating against our eardrums. He knew we can hear with our spirits, too. Consider his thoughts from Christ Manifested:
Let us now consider the sense of HEARING. If you do not allow for the possibility of spiritual hearing, what do you make of our Lord's repeated caution 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear'? Or what can be the meaning of the following scriptures : 'Hear now this, 0 foolish people ... which have ears, and hear not'; 'Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears'; 'Ye cannot hear my word-ye are of your father the devil.... He that is of God, heareth God's words : ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God'? Can it be supposed that our Lord spake of outward hearing, when He said 'The hour cometh, and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God'; 'My sheep hear my voice'; 'every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me'? Do not all sinners stand spiritually in need of Christ's powerful 'Ephphatha! Be opened!'? Is a man truly converted, if he cannot witness with Isaiah 'the Lord wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned'; or say with the Psalmist 'mine ears hast thou opened'? Had not the believers at Ephesus heard Christ, and been 'taught of him'?; when St. Paul was caught up into the third heaven, did he not hear words unspeakable? And, far from thinking spiritual hearing absurd, or impossible, did Paul not question whether he was not then out of the body? And does not St. John positively declare, that he was in the spirit, when he heard Jesus say 'I am the first and the last'?
He who has ears to hear, let him hear that the Spirit is saying to the churches—and to him.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

John Fletcher: Spiritual Sight

During my teenage years I was a junior firefighter at Cannonsburg Volunteer Fire Department outside of Ashland, Kentucky. Being a "junior" meant that I could fight brush fires or provide support outside of burning structures; I couldn't enter burning buildings. I had my own "turn-out" gear: a helmet, coat, boots and gloves.

I also did some training with an air pack; the heavy tank went on my back and my mask and air supply were connected by a thick rubber tube.

There was one air pack drill that I heard about but was glad I never experienced. It involved completely taping over a mask to keep it absolutely dark. Then, the firefighter would follow along an obstacle course of sorts by staying with his hose line. This would simulate a fire where the smoke would be so bad that a firefighter, crawling on the ground, couldn't rely on his vision to help find the exit.

I'm glad I never had to do it. The thought of the tight confines of the pack's mask and the complete loss of sight gave me a sense of claustrophobia. I like sight; darkness can scare me.

Today we read John Fletcher's view on the spiritual sight available to believers but not unbelievers. We continue with Christ Manifested:
"Let us begin with SIGHT : St. Paul prayed that the eyes of his converts might be enlightened; 'that you might know what is the hope of His calling.' He reminded them that Christ had been 'evidently set forth crucified' before their eyes. He assured them, that 'the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not' the gospel, and declared that his commission was to open the eyes of the Gentiles, 'and to turn them from darkness to light.' Abraham saw Christ's day, and was glad. Moses persevered, as seeing Him who is invisible. David prayed 'Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.' Our Lord remarked that the heart of unbelievers 'is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted.' He counselled the Laodiceans to 'anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see'; He declared that 'the world cannot receive' the Spirit of truth 'because it seeth Him not'; that the things which belong to peace are hidden from the eyes of an unbeliever; and that the pure in heart 'shall see God'. John testified that the man who does evil 'hath not seen God', and that 'darkness hath blinded the eyes' of the man who does not love his brother."
Is the pastor of Madeley speaking of physical eyesight? No, he is referring to spiritual eyesight, something hard (if not impossible) to explain but real, nevertheless. Fletcher continues:
"The eyes referred to are those with which believers see the salvation of God; they are so distinct from those of the body, that when our Lord opened them in Paul's soul, He caused scales to grow over his bodily eyes. Also, no doubt, when Christ gave outward sight to the blind, it was chiefly to convince the world that He is the One who can say to blind sinners 'Receive your sight; see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; look unto Me, and be ye saved.'"
The thought of losing our spiritual sight should terrify us. Let us continue to see God within our souls.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

John Fletcher: Spiritual Manifestations

It is tragically easy to forget the life of John Fletcher (September 12, 1729 — August 14, 1785) . To live in the shadow of John Wesley would be no easy task, yet this faithful pastor at Madeley rightly takes his place in the ranks of the Methodists, so called.

Today's blog begins John Fletcher Week. We will examine some of his views on the ways Christ manifests his presence to believers. In chapter one, "The Reality of Manifestations", Fletcher writes from his book, Christ Manifested:
I am of the firm opinion that the Lord Jesus Christ seeks to manifest Himself to all born-again believers, in this life. Realising, however, that an opening sentence of this kind may come as a complete surprise to the reader, I ask only that you will give me time to explain myself. For, although this belief may be thought, by some, to be based upon mere enthusiasm, I am convinced that-for purposes which are worthy of His wisdom-our Saviour desires to reveal Himself to all of His sincere followers, in a divinely spiritual way, sooner or later.
How such a thing can be possible is the theme Awakening Theology will take up in the following days. For now, however, let's focus on one thing: Christians receive revelations from Christ that sinners do not. Consider his opinion:
The reverse of the natural man is the spiritual man, so called because God has revealed spiritual things to him by his Spirit, who is now in him a principle of spiritual and eternal life. 'The spiritual man' wrote the Apostle, 'judgeth (that is discerneth) all things, yet he himself is discerned of no man.' The high estate he is in can no more be discerned by the natural man, than the condition of the natural man can be discerned by a brute.

St. Paul not only described the spiritual man, but wrote particularly of his internal, moral senses; he believed that mature believers, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. He prayed that the love of the Philippians 'may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all sense or feeling.'
Why is it that critics of Christianity look at believers with skepticism and, then, after their conversion, they suddenly understand? It's because of the revelatory work of the Spirit within their spirits. This divine communication is the joy of the Christian and the bewilderment of the sinner. This week we will examine the superior position the spiritual man in Christ has over the natural man outside Christ.

All because of the Spirit of Christ.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Getting Ready for Awakening

Suppose God's Spirit descends in revival power; suppose a Great Awakening of holiness and perfect love seizes us. Are we ready for the seizing?

There is a sense in which we cannot be ready until God blesses us with the readiness that comes from spiritual awakening. However, I advise us to be as ready as possible should the following joyful occasion occurs:

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'" (Zechariah 8.23 ESV)

Since Peter warned us to, " always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3.15 ESV) we should prepare for a Great Awakening.

How do we do it? Let me suggest the following to the ministers. Let's cinch some things up.

1. As I mentioned in my last post, I believe we actively should pray personally and corporately for a Great Awakening. Ministers, let the congregations hear you constantly ask that the Spirit would be poured out. Drum it into their consciousness to pray for, to wait for, to expect the outpouring.

2. Keep preaching, teaching and learning Wesleyan doctrine. Never take for granted that the church knows the theological ropes. (I have to catch myself lest I talk of Wesley incessantly to my people but they know I want a Great Awakening.)

3. Start writing sermons to be used if God graces us with a Wesleyan revival. That's right, start writing them! What will an influx of newly reborn saints need? The milk of the word. (Many saints need that, too!) Also, don't neglect the meat for the seasoned hearts strangely warmed.

I really believe in this concept. Show God you mean it when you want him to pour his Spirit over your congregation, city, state, country and world by beginning to anticipate what sermons will need to be written. Wesley had his Sermons on Several Occasions. Why not have your own? Get ready!

4. Make your intentions known. Fetter Lane is my attempt to get people to start thinking of a Great Awakening for America. I refuse to believe that since we don't have Wesley or Whitefield, Edwards or Finney anymore then times of refreshing can't come! Yes, they can come!

5. Keep your focus. Pray for salvation and entire sanctification. The church doesn't exist to tell people how to be "successful" in this life. The church doesn't exist to rival the world in entertainment. The church exists to save the lost and disciple the believers and worship the Triune God.

Okay, perhaps people will think I am being foolish. So be it. It would be an honor to be a jester in the Court of my King.

May Wesley's words from April 21, 1777 ring true once more:

"This revival of religion has spread to such a degree, as neither we nor our fathers had known. How extensive has it been! There is scarce a considerable town in the kingdom, where some have not been made witnesses of it. It has spread to every age and sex, to most orders and degrees of men; and even to abundance of those who, in time past, were accounted monsters of wickedness."

(Sermons, # 132, "On Laying the Foundation of the New Chapel, Near the City-Road, London")