Imagine what would happen if the founder of our denomination (John Wesley) would visit Faith United Methodist church in Edmore, Mi.
One of the many theological emphasis that I love about the Wesleyan tradition is this idea that our response to faith and who Jesus Christ claims to be, should penetrate and permeate our lives. Wesley consistently talked and drew attention to that fact that faith is not just an exercise in learning about salvation and redemption. Instead it’s a process of growing as individuals and our faith should become part of who we are. It should be reflected in the way we act, develop and respond to people. In one book that I read , “Wesley considered present human salvation to be fundamentally a gradual therapeutic process that grows out of our responsive participation in God’s forgiving and empowering grace.” (Pg 192 Maddox) In other wards we need to be actively participating in a process with Christ that changes us and HIS empowering grace should affect, our activities and actions.
This is one of the main points that I believe John Wesley would take us to task about. People often seem to think that salvation and faith in Christ are simply a decision, and once they have made that decision, they are saved and they simply need to attend church on Sunday’s. They don’t understand the ideas that Faith and Justification are not just believing in your mind that God is real and that Jesus is his Son. Faith is more than “the“ subjective” aspects of assent to spiritual truths or trust in God’s love. In the most primal sense it was the “objective” evidence of God’s pardoning love for us — It is this Witness that evokes within us, in response, a personal trust and confidence in God’s specific gracious forgiveness and acceptance.” (Pg 173 Maddox) I wish people of Edmore Faith UMC would realize that this “gift” of grace is not just a way to obtain fire insurance, but rather a lifestyle of objective evidence that takes the love of Christ and transforms thoughts, attitudes and actions. Faith is a response to God’s prevenient Grace, and when our heart’s become tender we change, and we live more and more holy. Wesley also aspired to live a life of holiness. “The entries in Wesley’s diary certainly indicate the seriousness of his attempts at holy living and the pervasiveness of his concern for inward purity of intention, all grounded in an understanding of Christian virtue that was essentially scriptural.” (pg. 40 Heitzen-rater)
I believe that Wesley would ask us to take our faith more seriously. We often seem to say we believe, but the inward purity and outward actions don’t really match what we say. It’s easy to say I believe in something however, it’s totally another thing to actually act on that belief. Faith is not just some idea or ideal. Christian faith requires Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) reminds us “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Yes, its a gift but you must personally respond through “faith”, which requires action on our part. Wesley lived his faith, yet many of us in the church want to stand and shout “I believe”, but aren’t active in truly trusting Christ. Wesley would most likely ask them about sanctification. He might ask them, why then… hasn’t there been real change in their life’s. Year after year we can’t remain the same if Christ is at work within us. The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to grow and become mature in our journey. Once again this is a process of character change and of learning and growing through the “means of grace”. God provides for us these many “means of grace” through the practices of fellowship, communion, baptism, prayer and fasting, reading the scriptures and many others, so that… we may experience the benefits of new life and the pardon of sin. However, he also provides theses so that all of us would become participants in the growth of grace and sanctification. We can’t expect holiness without taking our part seriously and acting on what we say we believe.