Summary: . Wesley identified two kinds of holiness. First is personal holiness which is avoiding sin and developing the character of Christ. We develop this through the Means of Grace which include, weekly worship and communion, prayer, fasting, Personal Bible stu
What do you do with a Gift Like That? Works of Mercy
A Dutch pastor was helping Jews escape the Nazis when he himself caught. He was loaded into a boxcar with several Jews and others to be sent to a concentration camp. It was a long, frightening journey through the night. Finally the train stopped, the doors opened, and lights were shining in their faces. They thought their worst fears were fulfilled and then they realized that something unexpected was happening. People were cheering and singing. And the folks on the train discovered that they were in Switzerland, safe in the hands of people who cared for them. Someone had dared to switch the track. The pastor, telling this story, then asked, “What do you do with a gift like that?” In his letter to the Galatians, Paul describes a tremendous the gift of being freely justified by God’s grace. He announced and described this freedom in the first four chapters of the letter. Then, in chapters 5 and 6 he says, “What do you do with a gift like that?” In other words, how do we live in response to the grace given us?
Over the last few months, we’ve been looking at the workings of God’s grace in our lives. John Wesley identified three movements of God’s grace. First is prevenient grace. This is God’s love at work in our life loving us and wooing us seeking a response before we know Him as Savior. Second is justifying grace which we receive when we confess our sins and accept God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. That’s the beginning of the journey of faith and God’s sanctifying grace in us to developing our character, heart and mind to become like His Son. From this point on, we seek to lead a life of holiness. Wesley identified two kinds of holiness. First is personal holiness which is avoiding sin and developing the character of Christ. We develop this through the Means of Grace which include, weekly worship and communion, prayer, fasting, Personal Bible study and small group accountability. Second is social holiness.
And so what do you do with this gift of grace we have received? Lead lives of holiness. Because God has accepted us, forgiven us, and given us new life, the only acceptable response is to follow in Jesus’ example, to love and obey God and to love and serve the needs of others. We are saved by faith. Faith is the root, watered and developed through the Means of Grace. Works of mercy are the fruit, making a difference in the lives of others. Jesus calls us to be salt and light – preserving, flavoring, blessing, influencing and we do that through the Means of Grace and Works of Mercy.
Works of Mercy are at the heart of what it means to be Methodist. When John Wesley returned to Oxford University, he became the leader of a small group Bible study started by his brother Charles. They became known as the Holy Club because they sought to lead lives of holiness. The first purpose of the Holy Club was to study of the Bible, searching the Scriptures earnestly, open-mindedly and unceasing. The second was to put their faith into practice for James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The Holy Club started with visiting those in prison. They then also began to visit the poor and providing an education to those who otherwise receive one. In addition, it was their practice to give away all they had after they had met their basic needs. Every raise was not used to increase their standard of living but was given away to help those most in need.
Wesley’s Works of Mercy can be characterized around three things. First is poverty. He wanted to put the poor to work so they could become self-sufficient. Education, job training and opportunity were the focus of Wesley when it came to poverty. Wesley also was known to fund struggling entrepreneurs. Second is a focus on the sick. John Wesley not only visited them, he also organized others to visit the sick as well. He established free medical clinics in London, Newcastle, and Bristol. He was also interested in the prevention of illness and even published one of the first home remedy books for the sick. Third is education. Wesley believed education was the key for people improving their station in life, not only for children but adults as well. So Wesley founded schools, starting with Sunday School, a one day school to teach the children working in the factories 6 days week how to reach and write. He even established his own publishing system to be able to provide cheap books and pamphlets so the poor could educate themselves with knowledge of the world and the Christian faith.