Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Called, Justified and Glorified (Romans № 25 Part 3)

In our last of three posts concerning Romans 8.28-30 we will end with Paul's view of our comprehensive salvation. Let's read the last verse:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.(Rom 8.30 ESV)
Having dealt with foreknowledge and predestination in the former post, we have three more terms to define. There is a logical progression of thought in this chain of salvation, each link connecting to the other. They reach into the future but we can see our destination from here.

3. Called καλεω

There is a difference in how the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul used "called". Christ spoke of the kingdom of God in a parable, describing it as a wedding feast and concluded, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Mat 22:14 ESV) In this instance, called means "invited to salvation" and chosen means "saved". In other words, people who hear the gospel are called to recieve the good news. This does not guarentee that they will become the chosen, those who respond favorably to salvation's call.

Conversely, when Paul speaks of "called", he means "chosen". It is an effectual call, one that is tied closely with God's omniscience of who will choose salvation. Thus, in Paul's terminology, all who are called are the chosen, the elect of God.

4. Justified δικαιοω

The logical progression from an effectual calling is justification. To justify, in Paul's vocabulary, is God's declaration of "Not Guilty" in his heavenly Court. As Wesley, preaching from the text, "And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Rom 4:5 ESV), declared in his Sermons, # 5, "Justification By Faith":
The plain scriptural notion of justification is pardon, the forgiveness of sins. It is that act of God the Father, hereby, for the sake of the propitiation made by the blood of his Son, he 'showeth forth his righteousness (or mercy) by the remission of the sins that are past.' This is the easy, natural account of it given by St. Paul, throughout this whole epistle. So he explains it himself, more particularly in this and in the following chapter. Thus, in the next verses but one to the text, 'Blessed are they,' saith he, 'whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.' To him that is justified or forgiven, God 'will not impute sin' to his condemnation. He will not condemn him on that account, either in this world or in that which is to come. His sins, all his past sins, in thought, word, and deed, are covered, are blotted out, shall not be remembered or mentioned against him, any more than if they had not been. God will not inflict on that sinner what he deserved to suffer, because the Son of his love hath suffered for him. And from the time we are 'accepted through the Beloved,' 'reconciled to God through his blood,' he loves, and blesses, and watches over us for good, even as if we had never sinned.
Instead, the sinner who comes to God through Christ is imputed with the perfect active and passive obedience of Christ. (See my post, Righteousness in Christ, for a discussion of this wonderful doctrine.)

5. Glorified δοξαζω

The last term to define on this chain of salvation is an interesting one; it speaks to all of the Christian's hopes and dreams when he his mortal body is transformed into his resurrection body. The ultimate goal of salvation is to be with the Lord forever. In his Explanatory Notes for verse 30 Wesley comments on glorified, saying, "[Paul] speaks as one looking back from the goal, upon the race of faith. Indeed grace, as it is glory begun, is both an earnest and a foretaste of eternal glory."

While we Christians haven't experienced the Glories of the Presence of God as our departed saints have, the process has already begun. In the already/not yet aspects of salvation, we already have been made partakers of the divine nature (2 Pe 1.4) and this will come to ultimate culmination when faith becomes sight.

Praise the Lord!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Foreknown and Predestined (Romans № 25 Part 2)

In our last post on Paul's letter to the Romans we examined 8.28, one of the best known verses in the Bible. However, how does God work out all things to our good? Paul answers in verses 29 and 30:
"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Rom 8:29-30 ESV)
In this second of a three part installment we will begin looking at some powerful theological concepts. Christians have been debating them for hundreds of years and I don't expect that I'll put to doctrinal bed the issues involved. However, what follows is my best effort at trying to understand them.

1. Foreknew προγινωσκω
"For those whom [God] foreknew..." (Rom 8.29a ESV)
The omniscience of God is an amazing thing. God does not learn; he simply knows all things. David declares, "Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether." (Psa 139.4 ESV)

God knows everything about everything about everything. From eternity past he already knew who would entrust themselves to his Son and his Son's gospel. Some may feel that this word refers to God selecting people to be saved before the creation of the world. However, I think that goes too far and isn't required in defining "foreknew"--I believe it speaks of God's beforehand knowledge of those who, aided by his grace, would accept the Messiah freely. This leads us to our next point in the chain of salvation.

2. Predestine προοριζω
"...he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Rom 8.29b ESV)
Predestination is a scary word for some Wesleyans; it sounds too Calvinistic. However, it is a biblical concept and one that needs to be placed in proper context.

The question that we need to ask is, "Predestined to what end?" Paul answers it: anyone whom God knew beforehand would become a Christian is predestined to become holy like Jesus. As Wesley preached in his Sermons, # 128, "Free Grace":
1. How freely does God love the world! While we were yet sinners, 'Christ died for the ungodly.' While we were 'dead in our sin,' God 'spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.' And how freely with him does he 'give us all things!' Verily, FREE GRACE is all in all!

2. The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL."
As a Wesleyan I do not believe that God, before the creation of the world, predestines some for salvation or others for damnation.
"The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price." (Rev 22.17 ESV)

Wesley further exhorts in "Free Grace":

9. Call it therefore by whatever name you please, election, preterition, predestination, or reprobation, it comes in the end to the same thing. The sense of all is plainly this, — by virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, on part of mankind are infallibly saved, and the rest infallibly damned; it being impossible that any of the former should be damned. or that any of the latter should be saved.

10. But if this be so, then is all preaching vain. It is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end of preaching — to save should — is void with regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved: They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned. The end of preaching is therefore void with regard to them likewise; so that in either case our preaching is vain, as you hearing is also vain.

11. This then, is a plain proof that the doctrine of predestination is not a doctrine of God, because it makes void the ordinance of God; and God is not divided against himself. A Second is, that it directly tends to destroy that holiness which is the end of all the ordinances of God. I do not say, none who hold it are holy; (for God is of tender mercy to those who are unavoidably entangled in errors of any kind;) but that the doctrine itself, — that every man is either elected or not elected from eternity, and that the one must inevitably be saved, and the other inevitably damned, — has a manifest tendency to destroy holiness in general; for it wholly takes away those first motives to follow after it, so frequently proposed in Scripture, the hope of future reward and fear of punishment, the hope of heaven and fear of hell. That these shall go away into everlasting punishment, and those into life eternal, is not motive to him to struggle for life who believes his lot is cast already; it is not reasonable for him so to do, if he thinks he is unalterably adjudged either to life or death. You will say, 'But he knows not whether it is life or death.' What then? — this helps not the matter; for if a sick man knows that he must unavoidably die, or unavoidably recover, though he knows not which, it is unreasonable for him to take any physic at all. He might justly say, (and so I have heard some speak, both in bodily sickness and in spiritual,) 'If I am ordained to life, I shall live; if to death, I shall live; so I need not trouble myself about it.' So directly does this doctrine tend to shut the very gate of holiness in general, — to hinder unholy men from ever approaching thereto, or striving to enter in thereat.
Predestination is not about God choosing who will be saved and who will be damned. Rather, it's about ordering the lives of those he knows (beforehand) who will accept his Son so they will be made holy.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

One of the Hardest Things to Accept

Have you ever been so eager to receive something in the mail, or a telephone call, or an email, that you wondered if you would ever receive it?

That's torturous to undergo, but there is something harder for a perfectionist like me to wait for at times: a sense of receiving God's forgiveness.

I know the Scripture; the Bible is clear. The Apostle Paul unambiguously states:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Eph 2.8-9 ESV)
In his Explanatory Notes for verses 8 and 9 John Wesley elaborates on the missionary's meaning:
Eph 2:8 - By grace ye are saved through faith - Grace, without any respect to human worthiness, confers the glorious gift. Faith, with an empty hand, and without any pretence to personal desert, receives the heavenly blessing. And this is not of yourselves - This refers to the whole preceding clause, That ye are saved through faith, is the gift of God.

Eph 2:9 - Not by works - Neither this faith nor this salvation is owing to any works you ever did, will, or can do.
Forgiveness is freely given. When God forgives, God forgives. His Son made it possible for instantaneous pardon for any violator who repents of his sin. What becomes hard for a person, at times, is to receive God's promise so easily.

Why is it so easy to be so slow in accepting God's forgiveness? Here are some possibilities:

1. A continuing sense of shame. Obsessing over how horrible the sin was can continue to haunt a person after God forgave him his sin.

2. A misplaced sense of needing to earn it. Let's face it: in this life, we get things by deserving them. The world pays us in a myriad of ways--after we've earned it.

The problem, of course, is that God's forgiveness is never given because we deserve it. Grace, by definition, cannot be deserved. Grace--unmerited, free favor with God--can only be given because God provides atonement for our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will never deserve to be forgiven by God, never worthy enough to get that second, third, fourth chance.

God just gives grace to us because that's the kind of God, in Christ, he is.

Talk to yourself. Demand that you listen to yourself! Tell yourself the truth. When a person turns to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and truly repents of his sin, God forgives. Instantly.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pull Up a Chair!

Would you like to sit in this chair?

Is this how we treat some people who attend our churches?

James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, gave some pretty straight instruction about welcoming people into our fellowship:

"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' while you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there,' or, 'Sit down at my feet,' have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man."
(Jas 2.1-6a ESV)

John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes, had a beautiful turn of phrase. Commenting on verse four, he said, "You reason ill, and so judge wrong: for fine apparel is no proof of worth in him that wears it."

In other words, worldly distinctions that separate people in public life have no business in the church. What a person is esteemed to be on the outside is to be checked at the door.

It doesn't matter what kind of car a person drives.
It doesn't matter what label is on his clothes.
It doesn't matter how much money he has in the bank.
It doesn't matter who he knows.
It doesn't matter how many "connections" he has.

All are to draw near to God in worship as one people.

I won't kid you; it's easy to cater to people that you think will get you somewhere, people that will help you accomplish your goals or make you feel good about yourself. The Church of God, however, is not about status or power. It's about people who have acknowledged their spiritual poverty and their need.

The cross of Jesus levels the playing field. It shouts to everyone, "You're all going to hell! But let me show you how to find eternal life in the One who died on me!"

Don't give an icy reception to "unattractive" seekers of God because those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.

All of them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Child of God!

Today at Awakening Theology I want to share with you a song from my church heritage. In the early years of the Church of God (Anderson), one of our prominent hymn writers, Barney E. Warren, penned a song that is one of my favorites. It's entitled A Child of God. I requested that it be sung last night at our Wednesday evening service. A Child of God boosts my spirit and brings me peace as I sing these comforting (and powerful) words.

Please read the words of shekinah:

1 Praise the Lord! my heart with his love is beaming, I am a child of God;
Heaven's golden light over me is streaming, I am a child of God.

2 Let the saints rejoice with my raptured spirit, I am a child of God:
I will testify, that the world may hear it, I am a child of God.

3 Let a holy life tell the gospel story, I am a child of God;
How he fills the soul with his grace and glory, I am a child of God.

4 Saved from sin today, ev'ry band is riven, I am a child of God;
Thro' the tests of life I have peace from heaven, I am a child of God.


I am a child of God, I am a child of God;
I have washed my robes in the cleansing fountain,
I am a child of God.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lord, Take the Second Place in My Heart?

Where is God on your list of priorities? Can you say with King David, "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psa 42.1b-2a ESV)?

Is Christianity an appendage you add to your life or is it your core from which everything else hangs?

Is Christianity something you do--one among many things--or is it something you are?

Wesley had a definite opinion about the place Christianity should have in each human heart. He preaches strongly:

"'Seek ye first the kingdom of God:' — Before ye give place to any other thought or care, let it be your concern that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who 'gave his only begotten Son,' to the end that, believing in him, 'ye might not perish, but have everlasting life') may reign in your heart, may manifest himself in your soul, and dwell and rule there; that he may 'cast down every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' Let God have the sole dominion over you: Let him reign without a rival: Let him possess all your heart, and rule alone. Let him be your one desire, your joy, your love; so that all that is within you may continually cry out, “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.'" (Sermons, #29)

Is that your definition of Christian commitment? If not then, according to Wesley, your definition is deficient. If the Trinity is not your supreme reason for existence then you have misunderstood Christianity.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is Christian Truth Flexible?

Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' (Jer 6.16 ESV)

In the United States there are two camps concerning the Constitution: one camp believes the document is to be read and understood as it was intended to be understood when first penned. The second camp believes the Constitution is a "living document" that needs to be re-interpreted as times change.

We have the same problem in Christianity. The first group believes the doctrine of The Faith stands given (Jude 3) while the second group believes that we should re-interpret the Bible to keep up with the changing times.

Is the Bible a living document? Should it be re-interpreted as time progesses and as attitudes and opinions shift in society? John Wesley would say, "No!" He preaches:

"How much more are they troubled at the injuries wicked men are continually offering to God!This was the circumstance which made the contradiction of sinners so severe a trial to our Lord himself: 'He that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me.' And how are these despisers now multiplied upon earth! Who fear not the Son, neither the Father. How are we surrounded with those who blaspheme the Lord and his Anointed; either reviling the whole of his glorious gospel, or making him a liar as to some of the blessed truths which he hath graciously revealed therein!How many of those who profess to believe the whole, yet, in effect preach another gospel; so disguising the most essential doctrines thereof by their new interpretations, as to retain the words only, but nothing of 'the faith once delivered to the saints!'" (Sermons, # 127, "The Trouble and Rest of Good Men")

Like it or not, we have a back leather cover for our Bibles. There are 66 books in the inspired list that Protestants acknowledge. Our mission is to figure out what the writer meant when he wrote to the original audience. We should never ask, "What does this passage mean to me?" Who cares what it means to us! Rather, our responsibility is to ask, "What has this passage always meant?"

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Religious, But Still Not Christian

"having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power" (2Ti 3.5a ESV)
Did you know that you can attend worship services, try to be a good person and still not be a Christian?

Wesley carefully distinguished between a religious person and a Christian. Listen to his explanation from his Sermons, #22:

And it is as impossible to satisfy such a soul, a soul that is athirst for God, the living God, with what the world accounts religion, as with what they account happiness. The religion of the world implies three things: (1.) The doing no harm, the abstaining from outward sin; at least from such as is scandalous, as robbery, theft, common swearing, drunkenness: (2.) The doing good, the relieving the poor; the being charitable, as it is called: (3.) The using the means of grace; at least the going to church and to the Lords Supper. He in whom these three marks are found is termed by the world a religious man. But will this satisfy him who hungers after God?

Will reforming the character and doing religious observations satisfy the soul? Is it enough? Will turning over a new leaf and participating in ritual transform the soul? Wesley answers:

No: It is not food for his soul. He wants a religion of a nobler kind, a religion higher and deeper than this. He can no more feed on this poor, shallow, formal thing, than he can 'fill his belly with the east wind.' True, he is careful to abstain from the very appearance of evil; he is zealous of good works; he attends all the ordinances of God: But all this is not what he longs for. This is only the outside of that religion, which he insatiably hungers after. The knowledge of God in Christ Jesus; 'the life which is hid with Christ in God;' the being 'joined unto the Lord in one Spirit;' the having 'fellowship with the Father and the Son;' the 'walking in the light as God is in the light;' the being 'purified even as He is pure;' — this is the religion, the righteousness, he thirsts after: Nor can he rest, till he thus rests in God.

Okay, maybe you attend worship services. Maybe you tithe. Maybe you serve on a board or committee for your congregation. Is your soul satisfied?

In my evangelicalism we have a phrase--"getting saved"--to describe what Wesley is describing. It's a relationship with Jesus Christ, attended by the Witness of the Holy Spirit, in which a person knows he is a child of God. It is the title to a book that Henry Scougal wrote, The Life of God in the Soul of Man.

Do you have a relationship with God? If not, may I suggest you begin one. Pray something along these lines:

"God, I believe Jesus, your Son, died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. I believe he rose again from the dead. Please forgive me of my sins; I turn away from them all. By your loving power I will live for you now. Thank you."

If you've prayed this prayer, tell somebody that you did. Find a good Bible-obeying church and serve the Lord locally in that church. May God bless you!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wesleyan, and Still Not Married

"I married my brother [Charles] and Sarah Gwynne. It was a solemn day, such as becomes the dignity of a Christian marriage."
(John Wesley, Journal, April 8, 1749)

This blog entry is a very personal one for me; I rarely comment on myself because this blog is about classic Wesleyanism, not me. However, it's a timely topic that I will discuss. It's impossible not to be autobiographical in this post. Hopefully others will find comfort through reading it.

I am a minister of the gospel--and I am a single man, never married. I've never felt the call to lifelong celibacy. I don't desire to remain single. Yet singleness has chased me through my mid-thirties and it brings loneliness. I want a gold ring to adorn my left hand but, to this point, I am ringless.

I want a wife, children and the family pet; however, for whatever reason (be it my fault, her fault or nobody's fault) none of my relationships has led to the altar. I truly wonder if I ever will marry.

To be blunt, as I age further I don't want people to wonder, "Is Larry gay or something?" I certainly am not!

It can be difficult to be a minister and be single; it may actually hold you back because people want to see a pastor with a happy family. (I'm not suggesting I want to marry for strategic reasons; I'm just facing the ugly truth of reality and exposing what I guess to be a secret fear among single ministers.)

Singleness is a perplexing problem for the Christian. A Christian believes that his life is guided by the Holy Spirit; this would include something as important as marriage. Scripture teaches us:

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD."
(Pro 18.22 ESV)

However, what is he to say if such marriage appears never to come? He asks himself (or herself):

1. Am I not spiritual and mature enough for marriage, whatever that means?

If this is true then I'm confused because I'm sure plenty of rather unspiritual and immature people found righteous mates. I've seen plenty of married women sitting alone in the pews because their spiritually deadbeat husbands don't come to church. (Was that out loud? lol)

2. Is God keeping me single for ministry?

If he is then I think he'd give me peace about the single state; also, I haven't found such ministry that keeps me so busy to this point!

3. Is God preparing my perfect mate for me as we speak?

I don't mean to take lightly the Lord's timing; however, a little heads up from the Father would be nice!

I just don't find these answers to be satisfying. Perhaps they are all true but this list doesn't give me peace in my singleness.

Since my college days I've lived with the conviction that God doesn't select one person for another to marry. Now, I realize this is EXTREMELY touchy with singles--probably because it's so scary to consider--so I'd better lay out my argument.

The Apostle Paul is addressing widows in Corinth. He is speaking to the issue of remarriage for them and says, "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (1Co 7.39 ESV).

Notice Paul's single qualifier; he says, "She can marry anyone but he has to be a Christian." [We must take into account what the New Testament teaches about marrying a divorced person, of course, but that's assumed.]

A single Christian can marry any other single Christian. We are free...and that's the problem! God doesn't guarantee a spouse.

What if we don't find her (or, in the case of ladies, him)? What if the other person doesn't agree? What if the feeling isn't mutual?!

I have no problem in a Christian praying for a spouse; I'm sure God honors such prayer with his divine wisdom and providence. However, the decision is a two-way street. Both people must agree to the proposition!

Perhaps it's my fault, my hang-ups, my failure to act during opportune times. Perhaps it's just life. God promised us joy in the Spirit but not happiness.

There's a difference.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Should We Legislate Morality?

On Fetter Lanes' 200th post we examine a big topic today. Should we Christians attempt to affect the passsing of laws on the local, state and federal level or should we devote ourselves to the salvation of souls?

I think this creates a false disjunction; I believe this isn't an either/or proposition but, rather, a both/and: I believe we should participate in government while never forgetting that the Church's mission is to bring sinners to Christ.

John Wesley saw no problem in working both sides of the street, sacred and secular, to achieve a better society. Here are his words from his Sermons, # 52:

"...that the making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness which overspread our land as a flood is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of his enemies. It is giving glory to God, and showing mankind that even in these dregs of time,

There are, who faith prefer
Though few, and piety to God."

And, he raises a common argument against his position and then refutes it:

"'But if the end you aim at be really to reform sinners, you choose the wrong means. It is the Word of God must effect this, and not human laws; and it is the work of Ministers, not of Magistrates; therefore, the applying to these can only produce an outward reformation. It makes no change in the heart.'

"It is true the Word of God is the chief, ordinary means, whereby he changes both the hearts and lives of sinners; and he does this chiefly by the Ministers of the gospel. But it is likewise true, that the Magistrate is 'the minister of God;' and that he is designed of God 'to be a terror to evil-doers,' by executing human laws upon them. If this does not change the heart, yet to prevent outward sin is one valuable point gained. There is so much the less dishonour done to God, less scandal brought on our holy religion; less curse and reproach upon our nation; less temptation laid in the way of others; yea, and less wrath heaped up by the sinners themselves against the day of wrath."

Besides, if a person truly believes it is wrong to legislate morality then he is an anarchist; to enforce any law is to legislate morality. If a person commits murder our society legislates morality by saying, "Murder is wrong. You're going to prison." Why, then, are Christians mocked when they oppose, say, legalized gambling?

Why can't American Christians both lobby Congress and evangelize sinners? Are we lesser citizens of the United States than secular people? Do we have fewer rights of citizenship?

I say no.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Follow the Rules!

We come across rules all of the time. Do this or don't do that. It's an inescapable fact of life.

And I think rules are fine for a local church.

Yes, I believe that church services should be places where seeking sinners find acceptance; however, I believe that local congregations should have high expectations for Christians.

I believe we often are reticent of making demands of our believers for fear that we will have folks leave us. However, how can we "go and make disciples" if we discipline them with nothing?

John Wesley had rules to be a member of his Methodist societies. If you didn't keep your vows then you were out. Think about this passage from his Journal for June 16, 1757:

"In the evening I preached at Sunderland. I then met the society and told them plainly that none could stay with us unless he would part with all sin; particularly, robbing the King, selling or buying run goods, which I could no more suffer than robbing on the highway. This I enforced on every member the next day. A few would not promise to refrain, so these I was forced to cut off. About two hundred and fifty were of a better mind."

It seems rather simple to me; join a Methodist society and vow and say "no" to sin. Refuse to give up sin and get kicked out of the voluntary group. Sounds reasonable. However, some today may find Wesley's action draconian in today's delight of slim demands or low expectation of Christian participation or behavior. However, I think he got it right. If a person voluntarily joins a group then he has to follow the rules.

Several years ago I went to see a karate instructor because I wanted to join his class. He made an insightful comment: They didn't seek me out, I sought them out. The implication was clear; there were rules and expectations that I had to follow. I understood. If I wanted to put on a gi and be a member then I had to be one of the larger unified group.

Why should a local congregation be any less?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Stupidest Post on This Blog!

There is no point to this post. Don't look for depth where none exists. I'm not attempting to educate; I'm not satirizing contemporary Wesleyanism. It's just a stupid parody.

Go ahead and laugh. You might like it! ;-)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Spill-Over Effect

Christianity holds out great promises for the Christian: God loves him, and wants to tell him so! In 1744 Wesley preached:

"'The love of God was also shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost which was given unto him' (Rom. 5:5). 'Because he was a son God had sent forth the Spirit of his Son into his heart, crying Abba, Father!' (Gal. 4:6). And that filial love of God was continually increased by the witness he had in himself (1 John 5:10) of God’s pardoning love to him; by 'beholding what manner of love it was which the Father had bestowed upon him, that he should be called a child of God' (1 John 3:1). So that God was the desire of his eyes, and the joy of his heart; his portion in time and in eternity." (Sermons, # 4, "Scriptural Christianity")

However, is this revelation of the love of God to do anything? Is it only for something for us to enjoy, a personal token of the Trinity's love for us? Not according to Wesley it wasn't. He believed that love given was love to give. There is to be The Spill-Over Effect.

He further preaches from the same sermon:

"he that thus loved God could not but love his brother also; and 'not in word only, but in deed and in truth.' 'If God,' said he, 'so loved us, we ought also to love one another' (1 John 4:11); yea, every soul of man, as 'the mercy of God is over all his works' (Ps. 145:9). Agreeably hereto, the affection of this lover of God embraced all mankind for his sake; not excepting those whom he had never seen in the flesh, or those of whom he knew nothing more than that they were 'the offspring of God,' for whose souls his Son had died; not excepting the 'evil' and 'unthankful,' and least of all his enemies, those who hated, or persecuted, or despitefully used him for his Master’s sake. These had a peculiar place, both in his heart and in his prayers. he loved them 'even as Christ loved us.'"

Are your public relations an indicator of your soul? Do you express the love of Christ to others that Christ expresses to you? Splash the blessings around!

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's All Free

Have you ever wanted something but sticker shock prevented you from purchasing it? What if I were to tell you that the best things in life are free; you couldn't buy them, anyway, and you're not required to try.

The best things you can have are God's blessings. Consider Wesley's words at the opening of Sermon 1, "Salvation by Faith":

"All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that 'formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,' and stamped on that soul the image of God, and 'put all things under his feet.' The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. 'All our works, Thou, O God, hast wrought in us.' These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy: and whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God."

Since all blessings come in Christ [Eph 1.3] then we know that God isn't stingy. Paul further wrote that since God, "did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8.32 ESV)

The blessings of God is a waterfall that never runs dry!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Prayer For Holy Spirit Power

On Sunday, November 18, 1770, John Wesley preached the funeral of his old friend, George Whitefield. Toward the close of his address, he broke out in prayer:
O God, with Thee no word is impossible! Thou does whatsoever please Thee! O that Thou would cause the mantle of Thy prophet, whom Thou hast taken up, now to fall upon us that remain! 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?' Let his spirit rest upon these Thy servants! Show Thou art the God that answers by fire! Let the fire of Thy love fall on every heart! And because we love Thee, let us love one another with a 'love stronger than death!' Take away from us 'all anger, and wrath, and bitterness; all clamor and evil speaking!' Let Thy Spirit so rest upon us, that from this hour we may be 'kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us!'
(Sermons, # 53, "On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield")


Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Wesleyan or "Just" a Christian?

There's something that's been on my mind for a while, something that I now want to talk to my readers about. I'll broadcast it today!

It has to do with my continual use of the word "Wesleyan". I'm not ashamed of the word and, further, I'm not ashamed to be called it. John Wesley is one primary theological influence.

Also, theological types understand me when I use the term. What do they instantly know? They think, "Okay, he's not a Calvinist."

However, many people who may stumble across my corner of cyberspace may wonder, "What's up with this? Is 'Wesleyan Christianity' some kind of cult? Does this guy think he's better than other Christians?"

I emphatically deny being better than other Christians. I don't use the term Wesleyan to distance myself from my Christian brothers and sisters of other traditions. I am saved by the grace of God just as any Christ disciple is.

It is the intent of this blog to spread the message of John Wesley and early Methodism that grew in the Great Awakening of the 18 century. However, let me be clear: John Wesley did not die for my sins on the cross. The Lord Jesus Christ did, and he is my master.

If anyone calls me a Wesleyan, that's fine with me. I am a theological hybrid of Methodism and the holiness movement of the 19 century. However, if someone simply calls me a Christian, I'll never be offended!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Nuts and Bolts of Christianity

Have you ever considered how many things are held together by nuts and bolts?

Christianity is the same way.

While there are many important doctrines over which Christians disagree, what are the essentials?

Paul gives us the answer:

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." (1Co 15.1-8 ESV)

In short, we have to embrace the same gospel.

Yes, there are different issues that divide Christians' opinions. Calvinist or Arminian? Amillennial or Premillennial? Complimentarian or Egalitarian? Paedobaptism or Credobaptism? Etc.

While these doctrines are important (and they are--let's not kid ourselves with some false ecumenism that sweeps doctrinal differences under the catechizing rug) they are not the crux of the gospel.

What is the crux?

The Godhead is composed of a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Son of God, at the Incarnation, became the God-Man and was born of a virgin, Mary.
Jesus Christ lived a sinless life of perfect obedience to Torah.
He died on the cross as a propitiation, an offering of atonement for the forgiveness of the sins of the world (though only those who would believe on his name would receive the provision of forgiveness)*
He body and physically rose from the dead and later ascended into heaven as the victorious Conqueror of Sin.
He sent the Holy Spirit to fill his church.

This is what I believe is of supreme importance; all else, while important, may be disagreed about (and will be)!

*I recognize that some Calvinists will take issue with this statement. Because they believe in Limited Atonement they would say Christ died for the sins of the Elect, not the sins of the World. As a Wesleyan I disagree; however, I do not dispute their salvation even though I take issue with their definition.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Don't Treat the Gospel with Contempt

John Wesley was a serious man. The gospel, to him, was serious business and he treated it so. He records an event in Scotland in his Journal entry for May 20, 1776:

"I preached about eleven at Old Meldrum, but could not reach Banff till nearly seven in the evening. I went directly to the Parade and proclaimed to a listening multitude 'the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.' All behaved well but a few gentry, whom I rebuked openly, and they stood corrected."

Wesley put the ill-behaved under wraps, quickly, by a public rebuke. This may run counter-cultural to the philsophy of today:

Never make sinners feel uncomfortable.

Wesley didn't buy into that philosophy; the gospel was serious stuff to him. It had to do with the difference between eternal life and eternal death, heaven and hell, the sons of light and the sons of darkness. The gospel wasn't to be trifled with and it wasn't to be disrespected.

Was Wesley offended that some made light of him? Perhaps, but I feel that it went deeper than personal affront. I believe he became incensed that the rude gentry publicly dismissed the gospel with their behavior.

I'm the same way; yes, you may anger me if you make light of me, but don't make fun of my Jesus. I may rebuke you.

Monday, February 5, 2007

I'm Waiting For Wesley!

I have one more Christmas present yet to come. I am waiting for a 7 volume set of John Wesley's writings (7,488 pages) coming to me. It's on order from Christian Book Distributor and can be purchased here.
The set won't be released until March 1, 2007, so I've been waiting for weeks. I'm so excited!
It's possible that thousands of pages of John Wesley doesn't move you like it moves me. What gets you excited as you wait for it to occur?
Do we get exicted when we think of upcoming corporate worship services, thinking, "I'm going to enter the Presence of the Lord with his saints!"
Do we get giddy over the priveledge of pouring over his Word?
Do we feel a rush to realize we can pray to the Triune God at any moment?
Do we wait eagerly for Christ's Parousia, his Coming?
What gets us excited?
What should get us excited?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Deliver Us From the Evil One Part 2

John Wesley had more experiences with the demonic recorded in his Journal. Let's consider two accounts in this post:

October 27, 1739

"I was sent for to Kingswood again, to one of those who had been so ill before. A violent rain began just as I set out, so that I was thoroughly wet in a few minutes. Just as that time the woman (then three miles off) cried out, 'Yonder comes Wesley, galloping as fast as he can.' When I was come, I was quite cold and dead and fitter for sleep than prayer. She burst out into a horrid laughter and said, 'No power, no power; no faith, no faith. She is mine; her soul is mine. I have her and will not let her go.'

"We begged of God to increase our faith. Meanwhile her pangs increased more and more so that one would have imagined, by the violence of the throes, her body must have been shattered to pieces. One who was clearly convinced this was no natural disorder said, 'I think Satan is let loose. I fear he will not stop here.' He added, 'I command thee, in the name of the Lord Jesus, to tell if thou hast commission to torment any other soul.' It was immediately answered, 'I have. L---y C---r and S---h J---s.' (Two who lived at some distance, and were then in perfect health.)

"We betook ourselves to prayer again and ceased not till she began, about six o’clock, with a clear voice and composed, cheerful look:

"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow."

October 28, 1739

"Returning in the evening, I called at Mrs. J---'s, in Kingswood. S---h J---s and L---y C---r were there. It was scarcely a quarter of an hour before L---y C---r fell into a strange agony; and presently after, S---h J---s. The violent convulsions all over their bodies were such as words cannot describe. Their cries and groans were too horrid to be borne, till one of them, in a tone not to be expressed,said: 'Where is your faith now? Come, go to prayers. I will pray with you. "Our Father, which art in heaven."' We took the advice, from whomsoever it came, and poured out our souls before God, till L---y C---r's agonies so increased that it seemed she was in the pangs of death. But in a moment God spoke; she knew His voice, and both her body and soul were healed.

"We continued in prayer till nearly one, when S---h J---'s voice was also changed, and she began strongly to call upon God. This she did for the greatest part of the night. In the morning we renewed our prayers, while she was crying continually, 'I burn! I burn! Oh, what shall I do? I have a fire within me. I cannot bear it. Lord Jesus! Help!'—Amen, Lord Jesus! when Thy time is come."

Satan seeks the destruction of souls. Don't cooperate with his desire; keep yourself devoted to Christ.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Deliver Us From the Evil One Part 1

Humanity has enemies--adversaries who want to destroy them. They are Satan and his demons; they seek the ruin of mankind. It may seem antiquated and old-fashioned by some, a subject that should have been left in the superstitious Dark Ages. However, I believe these entities are real, these spirits of malevolence exist.

With all of the evil in the world today you can't convince me there aren't unclean puppet masters who are yanking the strings of humanity.

Wesley gives us a chilling retelling of an event he witnessed in his Journal entry for October 23, 1739:

"Returning in the evening, I was exceedingly pressed to go back to a young woman in Kingswood. (The fact I nakedly relate and leave every man to his own judgment of it.) I went. She was nineteen or twenty years old, but, it seems, could not write or read. I found her on the bed, two or three persons holding her. It was a terrible sight. Anguish, horror, and despair above all description appeared in her pale face. The thousand distortions of her whole body showed how the dogs of hell were gnawing her heart. The shrieks intermixed were scarcely to be endured. But her stony eyes could not weep. She screamed out, as soon as words could find their way, 'I am damned, damned; lost forever! Six days ago you might have helped me. But it is past. I am the devil’s now. I have given myself to him. His I am. Him I must serve. With him I must go to hell. I will be his. I will serve him. I will go with him to hell. I cannot be saved. I will not be saved. I must, I will, I will be damned!' She then began praying to the devil. We began:
Arm of the Lord, awake, awake!
"She immediately sank down as sleep; but, as soon as we left off, broke out again, with inexpressible vehemence: 'Stony hearts, break! I am a warning to you. Break, break, poor stony hearts! Will you not break? What can be done more for stony hearts? I am damned that you may be saved. Now break, now break, poor stony hearts! You need not be damned, though I must.' She then fixed her eyes on the corner of the ceiling and said: 'There he is: ay, there he is! come, good devil, come! Take me away. You said you would dash my brains out: come, do it quickly. I am yours. I will be yours. Come just now. Take me away.'
"We interrupted her by calling again upon God, on which she sank down as before; and another young woman began to roar out as loud as she had done. My brother now came in, it being about nine o’clock. We continued in prayer till past eleven, when God in a moment spoke peace into the soul, first of the first tormented, and then of the other. And they both joined in singing praise to Him who had 'stilled the enemy and the avenger.'"

Let us pray, "And don't lead us into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One." (cf. Matt 6.13)