Pastor’s ponderings

John Wesley recorded in his personal journal an event that happened on May 24, 1738:  In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading [Martin] 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.

            Wesley’s Aldersgate Experience is a much-discussed part of his life.  He had been ordained some 12 years earlier in the Church of England, had participated in a mission to the Georgia colony in America, and had participated in a variety of other church activities.  Yet, it wasn’t until this point that he admits that “I did trust in Christ,” that he was assured of his salvation.  Afterwards, Wesley’s ministry bloomed, as the movement of the People called Methodists began to reveal itself.

            I can’t help but to wonder if Methodism is again in need of this sort of experience, if we all need to feel our hearts “strangely warmed” once again, that we need the confident assurance to trust in Christ and in Christ alone.  So much has happened in the past many months, and more changes appear to be on the horizon in the next couple of years.  So much that makes us wonder where we stand in our faith, whether we are certain of who we are and what it is that God is doing in our midst.  In our denomination, in our local churches, in each of our lives, in all these places we wonder and question.

            But let us remember – “Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, “Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven.” The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, “I believe.” This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

            Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active.” (taken from Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans).

            Blessings be upon you all,

                                                            Pastor Steve

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