Summary: A Brief Biography of Wesley and His Teaching about God’s Grace and a discussion of his importance for today’s church.
Welcome, attendance pad, prayer
I am continuing this series today on Christianity and world religions. But today I am taking a different twist. I am going to talk about John Wesley. If it were not for this man I doubt that we would be meeting here in this place or form today. This church is celebrating 50 years of mission and ministry this year. We are United Methodists and our spiritual forefather is John Wesley.
But before I talk about Wesley I do want to give you a pop quiz on the world religions I’ve been discussing the past few Sundays. So I have this question for you:
Q: Why is a vacuum cleaner a bad gift for a Buddhist?
A: Because it comes with attachments.
Remember I said that Buddhists try to rid themselves of all attachments in life?
OK, back to Wesley. First I want to consider:
I. THE MAN
Why is this man important to us?
A. John Wesley is important to us because he started the Methodist movement
Now our anniversary celebrations this year will be meaningless if all we do is look back to our accomplishments of the past. The challenge for us is to serve the present age, this 21st Century we find ourselves living in. Likewise a pure autobiography of Wesley is meaningless without understanding his importance to us in the 21st Century
John Wesley was an Anglican clergyman who became one of the most influential people of eighteenth century England. He lived from 1703-1791. Last year was the 300th anniversary of his birth.
His parents were remarkable. His father Samuel, was an Anglican clergymen and his mother Susanna, a woman of spiritual depth. They had nineteen babies, ten surviving.
His childhood was marked with the mother’s strong influence and a traumatic boyhood experience. He was saved from their burning house in Epworth when aged six, in a way that gave him the belief he was "a brand plucked from the burning" for a reason.
After school at Charterhouse he completed his Master of Arts at Oxford. For 13 years he tried hard to serve God through brief ministries helping his father, and in two years of overseas missionary service in the colony of Georgia in America..
His missionary service was frustrated by failure. On his way home from USA, he wrote in His Journal: "I went to America to convert the Indians, but Oh, who shall convert me?"
B. In his younger years, John thought the way of salvation was through human effort.
C. That changed on May 24, 1738 when he felt his “heart strangely warmed” at Aldersgate St . I visited this location several years while in London and there is a plaque there commemorating his experience.
As a result of his failed missionary effort, it is commonly believed that in December of 1737 and throughout that winter, John Wesley suffered from severe depression which brought him to the brink of death.
Even though he had been a priest in the Anglican church for a decade,
Even though he thought himself to be a learned and scholarly person,
Even though he should have been the person with all the answers….
He found himself struggling with even the basic beliefs of his faith…including his salvation…
That is, until May 24, 1738 –
His warm heart experience was the dividing point of his life. May 24th 1738, while aged 35, he felt his heart "strangely warmed" while listening to Martin Luther’s introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Romans, while at a devotional meeting of a group of Moravian Brethren.
He wrote: "About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart by faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my 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." From that came a great evangelical movement.
John Wesley, for the first time, came to a true understanding of the freedom his faith offered. And 18 days after his experience, he found himself preaching again at Oxford. This time with a new zeal for being saved by grace through faith.
It brought into being a new kind of Protestantism combining evangelism and social reform. His travels after conversion were prodigious. The second stage of his life saw him become England’s most influential preacher. He rode over 225,000 miles on horseback, preaching 44,000 sermons and establishing societies all over the English speaking world. He personally won 140,000 converts to Christ. His death in 1791, saw the establishment of two hundred thousand followers in Britain, Europe and America.