"Love Of Christ" by Ivan Guaderrama
For the next several weeks of devotionals (and perhaps well into the summer months), I plan to share some of my favorite thoughts and principles from our own Wesleyan theology. As Paul said to one of his churches, I shall eagerly hand on to you that which I have received; that which has become of “first importance” to me (1 Cor. 15:3). Is this not the basis of Christian ministry? If you receive something of value, some glimpse of good news from God, some element of Truth from outside of yourself that could be of help to others, then we ought to share it. Or, as we heard Jesus tell the apostles last Sunday in worship, “you shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Just share what you know about Jesus. Tell your story. We need not make our practice of evangelism any more complicated than that.
One thing I know as of late is how much I have enjoyed reading over John Wesley’s foundational essay from 1742 entitled The Character of a Methodist. For all of those who are wondering whether or not they can or should still identify with the United Methodist Church, and are willing to do just a little bit of research and reflection, I believe this is a wonderful place to begin. More recently, I have discovered a new translation of this document by David Wentz, which is broken down into 6 sessions for group study. It is a simple, yet profound, ready-made Sunday school class or other small group just waiting to happen (hint, hint!).
Another useful resource on this theme is The Five Marks of a Methodist by Steve Harper. It too comes with a variety of available supplements for individual or group study, but this little green book is for me a gift all on its own. Building once again on Wesley’s original work, I thought it a good day to share a few words on the first ‘mark’, which is that a Methodist loves God.
As John Wesley wrote,
God is the joy of our heart, and the desire of our soul, which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none upon the earth that I desire but you! My God, and my all! You are the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!
And as Harper added,
“As we can see from Wesley’s exclamation above, the love of God produces joy. The church is necessary and good, but it isn’t perfect. If we stop with the love of the church, we will eventually be disappointed and hurt. A profession of faith is necessary and good, but it isn’t the sum total of the Christian life. New birth is essential, but it only makes us spiritual infants. New birth is where we begin, not end, our discipleship. If we stop with a doctrinal faith, we will eventually be discouraged as we see fellow believers hotly debating it, and ourselves coldly living it. So there is only one place to begin: the love of God. Here is the source, the supply, and the life—of every disciple. The love of God is the goal to which we aspire, and it is the means by which we reach it. A disciple loves God.”
And as Charles Wesley has taught us to sing,
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down.
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation!
Enter every trembling heart.
Have you found the love of God to be at the center of your plans for today? What other love is there worth pursing?
God save us from the distorted illusions of the big three—money, sex, or power. God help us not to miss the ‘mark’ of an authentic life in your name. Help us to receive your love for ourselves and to share that love with others. AMEN.
Grace to You,