What he said. Watch it all.
Today marks the 275th anniversary of Fr. John Wesley’s Aldersgate Experience, in which his heart was “strangely warmed” and which changed the course of the Methodist movement forever. I was a Methodist for the first 50 years of my life and am proud of that heritage. It is a sad testimony to the human condition that Wesley’s followers eventually split from the Church of England. But that does not take away the fact that Wesley and his movement came from the great umbrella that is the Anglican Tradition and we are the better for it.
Wednesday, May 24, . I think it was about five this morning, that I opened my Testament on those words, “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature.” ( 2 Peter 1:4.) Just as I went out, I opened it again on those words, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The anthem was, “Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice. O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint. If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it? For there is mercy with thee; therefore shalt thou be feared. O Israel, trust in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins.” In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there, what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught, that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation: But that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth them, according to the counsels of his own will. After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations; but cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.
—John Wesley, Journal
Be sure of this. Whatever it is that you love more than God— he will require it of you at some point. You will have to lay that dream, that possession, that obsession, on the altar. You will have to furthermore lay yourself on the altar, present yourself as a living sacrifice. God doesn’t merely want something from you God wants you, the person he created in the first place!! No wonder Jesus told his disciples they must take up their crosses and follow him. It’s a life and death matter, and if you would gain your life, you must first lose it in the love of God and the following of his Son. And if you say in your heart of hearts— this is too much for me. I can’t do it… you are right.
In this post I would like to explore two of the horizontal love commandments– ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (the ‘I’ in question being Jesus). Let’s start with the observation that love is commanded. It’s not optional. It follows as well from this that the sort of love we are talking about in this post, while it certainly may involve feelings is not basically grounded or based in feelings one has for others. Feelings are notably unresponsive to attempts to command them. The sort of love Jesus has in mind then is commandable as well as commendable. It has to do with a decision of the will, resulting in loving actions.
A day to remember two of my favorite theologians. John especially is one of my personal heroes.
(Charles Wesley died 29 March 1788. John Wesley died 2 March 1791. Because Chad is remembered on 2 March, the Wesleys are remembered on 3 March.)
The Wesley brothers, born in 1703 and 1707, were leaders of the evangelical revival in the Church of England in the eighteenth century. They both attended Oxford University , and there they gathered a few friends with whom they undertook a strict adherence to the worship and discipline of the Book of Common Prayer, from which strict observance they received the nickname, “Methodists.” Having been ordained, they went to the American colony of Georgia in 1735, John as a missionary and Charles as secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. They found the experience disheartening, and returned home in a few years. There, three days apart, they underwent a conversion experience. John, present with a group of Moravians who were reading Martin Luther‘s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, received a strong emotional awareness of the love of Christ displayed in freely forgiving his sins and granting him eternal life. Following this experience, John and Charles, with others, set about to stir up in others a like awareness of and response to the saving love of God. Of the two, John was the more powerful preacher, and averaged 8000 miles of travel a year, mostly on horseback. At the time of his death he was probably the best known and best loved man in England.
Lord God, who inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
On this feast day of John and Charles Wesley (which is actually transferred till tomorrow since today is a Sunday and a feast day of our Lord’s resurrection), I am thankful for John Wesley and my Methodist heritage, even though I have returned to the mother Church and am now an Anglican priest. I am especially thankful that God blessed me with Dr. Paul Chiles, Dr. Phil Webb, Rev. Ron Payne, and Rev. Bill Patterson. Each of these men served as ministers in the Methodist churches I attended in Van Wert, Perrysburg, and Toledo, and each had a profound influence on my spiritual development.
And of course I am thankful for my parents who were faithful Methodists all their married lives and who hauled me off to church every Sunday.
If you prefer text over video (see my previous post), here is Dr. Ben Witherington on the latest fiasco regarding the supposedly scandalous life of Jesus in which he was really married. Our Lord’s life was scandalous alright (Paul says so himself in 1 Corinthians 1.18-25), but not exactly what those who think Jesus was married have in mind. Dr. Witherington takes this baloney to task. If you want to see what a serious biblical scholar looks like, check it out.
I enjoy fairy tales as much as the next person (see the picture on the right), and some of the best fictional early Christian stories from the late second through the early fourth century are Gnostic fairy tales. It would appear that someone has found a fragment of such a tale and handed it to Harvard Professor Karen King.
From the good doctor’s blog. The video is about 7 minutes so check it out. And make sure you check out the comments that follow. Pretty interesting.
From Dr. Witherington’s blog:
One of the things I have grown weary of in the last decade or so, is anti-ecclesial rhetoric. What I mean by this is the pitting of the ‘church’ over against Jesus, or ‘the established church’ over against more ‘organic’ models of Christianity (e.g. house churches, and the like). I suppose we all from time to time look for something or someone to blame our problems on, and the Christian church has become something of a punching bag, even for a goodly number of devout Christians. Sometimes this is because they have joined the ‘I’m spiritual, not religious’ movement, or the ‘I love Jesus, but the church…. not so much’ band wagon. Some of this frankly is caused by a profound misunderstanding of the word church/ ekklesia. Perhaps then, it would be wise to start this post with some basic definitions.
A good piece. Read and reflect on it all.
I recently posted a piece from Dr. Rob Gagnon regarding his perceived shift in Exodus’ stance on reparative therapy for gays. Today Dr. Ben Witherington chimes in on the underlying theology behind the shift. Drs. Gagnon and Witherington both make the point that it is entirely an unloving thing for Christians to encourage folks to remain in their sin, whatever the sin is, under the guise of God’s grace. I would wholeheartedly agree.
Robert Gagnon has a right to be disturbed about Mr. Chambers’s recent pronouncements. It is not an act of compassion to encourage people to embrace a view of salvation or sexual behavior that requires less in regard to holiness than both Jesus and Paul required of us. Indeed, it is recipe for disaster.
An excellent piece by professor Witherington on the Satan.
C.S. Lewis once said it is perhaps the greatest trick or smoke screen or deception of Satan to convince people that they are too wise to believe in him. But at the same time, it is a mistake to give him too much credit as well. There is a balance between the extremes reflected in the NT, and this is in part because all of the writers of the NT believe they live in ‘this present evil age’ which, now that the Kingdom is breaking in, is passing away. Satan, after the death and resurrection of Jesus is fighting a rear guard action, for he has already lost the battle of D Day, and V-E Day is coming when Christ returns.
Check it out and see what you think.