Month: April 2015

A Summary of John Wesley’s “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”

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Years ago, I was in a systematic theology class looking at different models of sanctification from different Christian traditions.

Having more Reformed tendencies, I was able to read John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.  While I don’t agree with Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection,  I did appreciate the opportunity to broaden my horizons.  Wesley did incredible things for the kingdom of God, for which I am grateful.

A one paragraph summary for those who are interested and may be confused by Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection:

Essentially, Wesley believes that Christians are able to become perfect in this lifetime.  Before we immediately dismiss him however, two things must be understood to put this into context: his understanding of sin, and his understanding of perfection.  He has a much narrower understanding of sin than the Reformed position, i.e., fewer things count as sin to him.  And second, he has a lower understanding of perfection: the perfect Christian can still make mistakes.  Perfection means to love God fully.

While I still disagree with this doctrine and think that Scripture reaches a different conclusion, reading his own argument helped me to realize the gap between us was much smaller than I first thought.

Act of Approach

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A Puritan prayer concerning the gift of grace that it is to approach the throne of God.

LORD,
I praise thee continually for permission
to approach thy throne of grace,
and to spread my wants and desires
before thee.
 
I am not worthy of thy blessings and mercies for I am far gone from original righteousness; My depraved nature reveals itself in disobedience and rebellion; My early days discovered in me discontent, pride, envy, revenge.
 
Remember not the sins of my youth,
nor the multiplied transgressions of later years,
my failure to improve time and talents,
my abuse of mercies and means,
my wasted sabbaths,
my perverted seasons of grace,
my long neglect of thy great salvation,
my disregard of the Friend of sinners.
 
While I confess my guilt, help me feel it deeply,
with self-abhorrence and self-despair, yet
to remember there is hope in thee,
and to see the Lamb that takes away sin.
 
Through him may I return to thee,
listen to thee,
trust in thee,
delight in thy law,
obey thee, be upheld by thee.
 
Preserve my understanding from error,
my affections from love of idols,
my lips from speaking guile,
my conduct from stain of vice,
my character from appearance of evil,
that I may be harmless, blameless, rebukeless,
exemplary, useful, life-giving, prudent,
zealous for thy glory
and the good of my fellow-men.

Service, Unity, and Jealousy (1 Cor. 12:12-31)

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If you were to pick one of the New Testament churches as the model church, the church of Corinth would probably be last on the list.  This church (remarkably still called saints in 1 Cor. 1:2–a true sign of God’s gracious nature) was filled with virtually every vice and was divided on essentially every issue of the faith.  Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul attempts to unify the body on different issues, and his plea for unity culminates in this chapter through an illustration that is easy for all of us to relate to.
Just as the body is unable to go anywhere if its right and left legs don’t work together, so also the body of Christ is not much good without being unified in the person of Christ.  Oftentimes in the church, jealousy runs rampant–people want to serve in one capacity, but they are ill-suited for that ministry and would be better used in a different area.  Paul’s call here is clear–don’t wish that you were someone else!  Use the gifts that God has given you, and why?  Paul gives us the answer in a similar passage in Ephesians 4:12-16: to build up the body of Christ.  How are you using your gifts to build up the body of Christ?  In what way are you bringing about unity in the church?
Prayer:
Holy, Gracious God, three distinct persons yet one united Godhead, we ask that our church body would reflect your unity.  As we serve you, we ask that your glory would be our single concern, as we build up the body of Christ unto full maturity.  For Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.
 

Decrease in Religion, Increase in Poverty?

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I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I am currently reading Eric Metaxas’s biography of William Wilberforce, Amazing Grace.  At the beginning of his book, Metaxas describes the cultural context of Wilberforce, one that provides an interesting critique/insight into our culture today.

It is worth dilating for a moment on George Whitefield and the state of the Christian faith in England in the middle of the eighteenth century. Since the time of the Puritans and the religious wars of the previous century, England had decidedly turned its back on any expressions of what we might call serious Christian belief. Having led to so much division and violence, religion was now in full-scale retreat. The churches of mid-eighteenth-century England all but abandoned orthodox, historical Christianity and now preached a tepid kind of moralism that seemed to present civility and the preservation of the status quo as the summum bonnum. And so, understandably, people looked less and less to the churches for the ultimate answers to their questions, and a fog of hopeless and brutal superstitious spiritualism crept over the land. The poor, as is ever the case, would suffer the most from these changes in Britain’s religious atmosphere.

Without getting too political, it is undeniable that the number of adherents to Christianity have decreased over the past decades.  It’s also undeniable that the gap between the rich and the poor has increased over the past decades as well.  I’m no sociologist (nor is Metaxas), so I am not necessarily arguing for causation when there is simply correlation, but it is an interesting insight.  Within the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more on the parallels between William Wilberforce’s day and our own context, and a few things that we can learn from him.