This morning I want to introduce you to the Wesley brothers who were alive in the 1700’s. They started a revival in England and sent it to America. I’m encouraged by John and Charles Wesley’s heart to pursue holiness as God tells us to: “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” -1 Peter 1:15 We can learn from them that our holiness has room to grow.
Here is a short account of their ministry. Click the links to read more about them.
“The Holy Club was an organization at Christ Church, Oxford, set up by brothers John and Charles Wesley in 1729, who later contributed to the formation of the Methodist Church. Jeering college students scoffed at these “Methodists” who tried to systematically serve God every hour of the day. They set aside time for praying, examining their spiritual lives, studying the Bible, and meeting together. In addition, they took food to poor families, visited lonely people in prison, and taught orphans how to read. Members of the organization celebrated Holy Communion frequently and fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays until 3 P.M.”
The first work of the Holy Club was the study of the Bible. The new movement was spiritual, humanitarian, but, first and strongest of all, scriptural. The searching of the Scriptures was earnest, open-minded, devout, unceasing. Wesley himself said: “From the very beginning–from the time that four young men united together—-each of them was homo ur, ius libri; a man of one book …. They had one, and only one rule of judgment …. They were continually reproached for this very thing, some terming them in derision Bible Bigots; others, Bible Moths; feeding, they said, upon the Bible as moths do on cloth …. And indeed, unto this day, it is their constant endeavor to think and speak as the oracles of God.”
After school John Wesley was sent to Savannah, Georgia to minister and found it very difficult. So difficult that he returned to England. The next account is very interesting, because it is here that John was born again.
John Wesley returned to England bitter, disillusioned and spiritually low. He told Peter Boehler, a Moravian, of his experience and his inner struggle. On May 24, 1738, Boehler convinced him to go to a meeting. Here is Wesley’s description:
“In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for 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.”
This shows us that no amount of holiness on our part will make us good enough for heaven. Salvation comes from the Lord and we must see our need of Him before we can accept Him as our Savior. Pursuing holiness can have that effect – once you see how far short you fall of true holiness, you realize how much grace you are in need of. After John’s conversion he headed back to England and started a revival that blessed and transformed the Church.
Meanwhile, another former member of the “holy club,” George Whitefield, was having remarkable success as a preacher, especially in the industrial city of Bristol. Hundreds of working-class poor, oppressed by industrializing England and neglected by the church, were experiencing emotional conversions under his fiery preaching. So many were responding that Whitefield desperately needed help.
Wesley accepted Whitefield’s plea hesitantly. He distrusted Whitefield’s dramatic style; he questioned the propriety of Whitefield’s outdoor preaching (a radical innovation for the day); he felt uncomfortable with the emotional reactions even his own preaching elicited. But the orderly Wesley soon warmed to the new method of ministry.
John Wesley and the Holy Club used these questions each morning to do a self-examination before the Lord. I do not do this on a regular basis, but I have found it helpful some mornings to pick a few of them and journal my answers.
- Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
- Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
- Can I be trusted?
- Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
- Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
- Did the Bible live in me today?
- Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
- Am I enjoying prayer?
- When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
- Do I pray about the money I spend?
- Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
- Do I disobey God in anything?
- Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
- Am I defeated in any part of my life?
- Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
- How do I spend my spare time?
- Am I proud?
- Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
- Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
- Do I grumble or complain constantly?
- Is Christ real to me?
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.”