Right now I’m in the process of taking a course on United Methodist History. I’m currently reading about the early years of John and Charles Wesley’s ministries. And, though I’ve read about them before, I am again struck with John Wesley’s passion and drive to seek to live a holy Christian life. His careful journaling of his daily activities including his triumphs and his failures show us a man who to the very fiber of his being wants to be what God wants and created him to be.
I am not yet to the part of Wesley’s experience where his “heart is strangely warmed.” And this is before Wesley has developed his understanding of grace, particularly Prevenient Grace. So I know that he is in the early stages of his spiritual development. But I am reminded also that another reformer, Martin Luther, was also very concerned with pleasing God and holy living.
And it makes me ask the question, where has our passion gone for seeking to be a holy and set apart people as Christians? Some Christians seem to focus on the moment of justification and once they feel like they’ve had a justifying experience with God they feel like they are “saved” and no longer have to worry about God stuff.
In other words we’ve turned being a Christian into a transaction or a commodity. Much of our Christian culture tends to think of salvation as something in the past. And this thinking of our faith as a past thing kills any desire for holy living.
Others become discouraged and believe deep down that God really can’t change them. They have missed the gospel message that what God is about isn’t a transaction or a done deal in the past but about making us into followers/disciples of Jesus Christ. We are to be a community growing and learning in God’s grace.
But we can grow in God’s grace because God provides us, as Wesley called them, omeans of grace.
By means of grace Wesley meant “By means of grace I understand outward signs words or actions ordained of God and appointed for this end to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men preventing justifying or sanctifying grace.” (Sermon XVI Means of Grace.)
He listed as ordinary means of grace prayer, searching the scriptures, and receiving the Lord’s Supper, and healthy living. He also lists baptism, Christian conferencing, and works of mercy.
As Christians we should be attending daily to our prayer lives, reading, study, and hearing sermons from the Bible, participating in the sacramental life of the church, ministry together, and doing good to and for others in the name of Jesus.
The Christian life isn’t a spectator sport. It isn’t a club we join to then sit on the sidelines. As one of the recent UMC emphasis called “Rethink Church” says we should think of church not as a noun but as a verb.
We need to recapture and re-emphasize John Wesley’s focus on holy living, through both personal and social holiness. It isn’t enough to just become a Christian any more than it is just enough to be born. We must have a passion for growth, maturity, and change. It are to seek after the goal of being made perfect in love.
Would that we would all recapture the passion of the reformers for not just knowing Christianity in our heads but living faith of Jesus Christ in our hearts and with our hands!