Monday, August 2, 2010

Sunday Salt: What John Wesley's Mother Taught Him

Sin likes to hide. That's one reason I believe it is so important to examine ourselves in order to discover where sin is lurking in our hearts. One of the chief enemies of our joy and our faith is the subtle desire for sin that our hearts hold on to and try to sneak around with. Our hearts disguise it with all sorts of seemingly innocent justifications, which is why it takes some self-examination and some scrutiny to root it out.

This is one of my favorite quotes on that process of identifying hidden sin and spotting habits that lead us away from God. Although I will likely post something from John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, in the future, today's quote is from his mother Susanna:

"Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself."
-- Susanna Wesley (Letter, June 8, 1725)

Wesley himself also has a very interesting story of conversion that fits with what I am going to post about this week, so I'll link to it here: on the main page, click the Testimony tab right under the title "John Wesley". Wesley practiced fasting, prayer, and many works of charity in an ascetic or self-depriving way, preached, traveled to America to evangelize the Indians, and established many of his spiritual ideas about Christian life all before he experienced what was probably his true conversion. It was not until 1738 that he experienced real faith in Christ alone to forgive his sins, and he confesses it was only then that he knew the peace of being assured he was cleansed and forgiven. Wesley's testimony is a good example of how long we can be led astray and deceived in thinking we are living the life of faith when we are only trying to follow rules and be "religious." This is why it is so important to listen to the Gospel and apply it.

For this reason, I am also careful to examine and test the ideas that Wesley promoted. I find many valuable things in what Wesley taught, but the way he developed his ideas and the rigid discipline he approached religion with before he really experienced the freedom of the Gospel mean that some of his thoughts and teachings are unreliable. It's always a good idea to test anything a person says against Scripture, no matter how respected and beloved he may be.

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