Sermon 1/27/2019: John Wesley’s Sermon #1: Salvation by Faith

Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on 1/27/2019.

Title: John Wesley’s Sermon #1: Salvation by Faith

Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy]

Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]

News: Worship was canceled due to bad weather on 1/13/19 and 1/20/19.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?


Thank you, choir. It is a joy to be back together, almost an emotional thing to see everybody’s face again, for us to be back together. This is meant to be an emotional day. It’s good to be serious, but this is meant to be an emotional day. This is meant to be an emotional day too. It was pretty serious. But it was an emotional day. Every year when it comes around again and we think about it, we get serious, but we also feel the emotions. Getting married is meant to be an emotional day. And this is meant to be an emotional day too. The day your granddaughter, [Demali?], is born. And then of course now, there’s Lilly, and now they’re grown up and now number three is coming. This is meant to be an emotional day. It’s going to be emotional when we get down to Austin. It’s meant to be emotional.
And this is meant to be an emotional day. This is a picture of the day the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. Some people might be emotional in an unhappy way on that day, but I think a lot of people were probably emotionally very happy on that day. In fact, how odd it is that people go to the stadium, and they get emotional. And when they come to church, they only get serious. And sometimes they don’t feel much of anything at all because feeling is important to be a human being. This is meant to be an emotional day. We should feel something in our hearts. Because if we feel the pain of this day, we’re going to feel the joy of this day. It is meant to be an emotional day because the faith that we have is meant to be an emotional thing. When we come together for worship, it is meant to be an emotional day.
Let me tell you a joke. A strange thing happened one day. A Methodist from 100 years ago all of a sudden showed up in church, in a big city church, came in dressed up the way they were dressed up 100 years ago, and the pastor looked at the head usher and said, “That man looks dangerous. There’s just something about him that seems wrong, that seems off. I don’t trust him.” He said to the usher, “I want you to keep an eye on him. He’s going to try to disrupt our worship service.” And the Methodist from 100 years ago– by the way, 100 years ago they called us shouting Methodists. And the Methodist from 100 years ago came down and sat in the front row. That would tell you he was pretty weird. And it looked like during the whole service he was just vibrating because every time the pastor said something that blessed him, he looked all happy. And the head usher was watching him because the pastor had asked, “Watch out for that man.” Finally during the pastor’s sermon, the pastor said something that the 100-year-old Methodist from 100 years ago liked so much, he jumped up and shot his hands into the air and said, “Hallelujah!” The usher came up behind him immediately and said, “Sir, we’re not allowed to do that here. You have to sit down. And not feel that until after the church is over.”
Now, let’s just see. Would you please stand up? Jerry, you don’t need to stand up, but [laughter] [inaudible]. If you want to do an experiment, just try this. Stick those hands up in the air and say “hallelujah” as loud as you can.
Now, did it feel a little good? You can see why they do that at baseball games. Please have a seat. We don’t want to get carried away [laughter]. See, we scared you well. It’s not what you’re used to do. Please tickle her and we’ll [inaudible].
There was a test, called the Natural Church Development Test. Some researchers in Germany examined 37,000 churches, and some churches were growing and some churches were shrinking, and they developed a test based on the characteristics of the churches that were growing compared to the churches that were shrinking, and they came up with eight things that were really important. And then they made that into a test and churches all across the United States took it. It became an objective way to measure where your church was, based on this ever enlargening, growing number of churches, and there were eight characteristics. And in two different churches I served, they took that test, because the idea behind the test was this. If you take the place where you scored the lowest, the place where you scored the lowest is called your limiting factor. It’s what’s holding you back. And if you can take the place where you scored the lowest and help it to increase, it would turn the whole church around. And in both of those churches, and in churches throughout the United Methodist Church, the lowest score was passionate worship. Was that people felt anything at all during the worship service.
Now, I don’t think it’s fair and legitimate to whip up the service like it was a rally, like a high school rally, but genuinely in our hearts if we feel God’s love when we come together in church, it’s going to make a huge difference. And I want to tell you that in United Methodist, and that goes all the way back to the very first day – I’m sorry [inaudible] – we need to be an emotional church. We need to look in our hearts and let them be full and not let them be empty. And this goes all the way back to the very first beginning of the church. John Wesley preached the sermon at Oxford University, standing there in his church on the campus of Oxford in front of the university and the faculty; that got him in a lot of trouble. And the trouble it got him into is he explained what was his opinion it meant to be saved by faith, because we need to understand what that requires.
The first thing he said was this. “We need to understand what salvation by faith is not,” he said. “Salvation by faith is not merely the faith of a heathen. Hebrews 11:6 says ‘And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.'” Every religion, every person in the world feels drawn to do good and to be a better person. John Wesley says salvation by faith is more than that.
Secondly, he says it’s more than the faith that the devil has. More than the faith of the devil, though this goes much farther than that of a heathen. For the devil believes not only that there is a wise and powerful God, the devil believes that God is gracious to reward and just to punish. But the devil believes without any doubt whatsoever that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Christ, the Savior of the world because the devil knows the truth of God. The devil has a very certain and clear faith. He’s totally opposed to it, but he does not misunderstand what he is against. It’s not the faith of the devil, the devil doesn’t doubt. In fact, I’ll be frank with you friends, the devil knows more about God than I will ever know. The devil has more knowledge of the things of God than I ever will have. The difference is that the devil wants to work against them, instead of for them. The faith that saves us, now you can just imagine, this is the University of Oxford. Wesley looks at them and says, “Your intelligence will not save you, because it’s not a matter of everything you know.” Because you won’t even come close to knowing what the devil knows. Why? Luke 4:34: “The demon says, ‘What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?'” They instantly recognized him. “Have You come to destroy us?” They understand what He’s there to do. The demon says, “I know who You are. You’re the Holy Son of God.” They knew. So the faith that saves us is not just something that we know. It’s more.
Thirdly, John Wesley says, “The faith through which we are saved, in that sense of the word which will hereafter be explained, is not barely that which the apostles themselves had while Christ was yet upon earth.” It’s not a matter of being familiar with Jesus Christ or what Jesus said. Why? Because the faith through which we are saved requires us to have a faith in Christ. And it requires Christ to have died upon the cross and risen from the dead, the grave. Christ and God through Christ are the proper objects of that faith. Herein therefore it is sufficiently absolutely distinguished from the faith either of an ancient or modern heathen because neither good works nor good intentions is sufficient to be saved by our faith. It is more than wanting to be a good person. It is more than wanting to do the right thing. The faith that saves us is distinguished from the faith of the devil by this. It’s not a speculative rational thing, a cold and lifeless assent. For a university scholar says, “Well, I can agree with that and that and that.”
All too often in our church today, we think that faith is a matter of taking a survey and deciding what we’re willing to agree with. It’s not that. It’s not a trade of ideas in the head. But the faith that says this is also a disposition of the heart. Our heart needs to be in it. Because, Romans 10:9, John Wesley says, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your head–” wait a minute, he didn’t say that. “Show that you believe by doing good things.” No, wait, he didn’t say that. “If you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,” because men, women, human beings believe with the heart. And when you believe with your heart, when the feeling is there, justification comes. When you believe in your heart and so is justified, and that person confesses with his lips and so they’re saved. Your heart is an essential part of the salvation that comes by faith.
Number five, John Wesley numbered the paragraphs in the sermon, so it was easy to discuss them. Herein does it differ from the faith which the apostles had when the Lord was on the earth. That it acknowledges that it was necessary for Jesus to die. It acknowledges the benefit, the merit that comes to us because Jesus died for us. And it acknowledges the power of His resurrection to change our lives. Or as it says in Romans 6:4, Wesley reminds them, “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death” – not just so that you get wet, but – “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.” Our lives might be changed. So it’s something that is in your heart. It is meant to be an emotional faith. So many people out there, they say, “I came to worship, but I didn’t like it. It was boring.” Do you know why it’s boring? It has to be in your heart. And we need to do things to help lift it up in people’s heart so that it comes out. If you let yourself feel, the faith that you have will be real. We need to be filled up in our hearts to overflowing.
Mark 12:30, Jesus said, “And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart” – that one comes first – “with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength.” With all that you are, but it’s love. And, friends, think about the kind of love that exists where nobody feels anything. That’s not very good. It needs to come from all of our hearts.
January 25th, 1736, just a couple of days ago, John Wesley was making his way across the Atlantic Ocean to Georgia to be a missionary. And the storms were terrible, and he was ashamed to admit the storms would shake the ship to the point that he was afraid that he would die. And he looked at himself, and he says, “Where is your faith?” But in that ship, there was this little group of German emigrants. They were going from a part of Germany called Moravia to the United States. They were going to settle there. But the main reason they were coming is they were going to be missionaries to the Indians, which John Wesley also wanted to do. And they were having a worship service one Sunday night when all of a sudden the storm came up and a wave broke over the side of the ship. And all the English people started screaming for their lives, and the Moravians calmly kept singing the hymn that they were singing as if nothing had happened.
John Wesley came up to their leader and he was just astonished. He said, “Weren’t you afraid?” And the leader looked at him– the man, by the way, was Bishop David Nitschmann was his name. David Nitschmann looked at him and said, “No. Our men are not afraid to die.” And John Wesley said, “Well, aren’t your women and children afraid to die?” And Nitschmann said, “No. Our women and children are not afraid to die.” And this made such an impression on John Wesley, he decided he needed to know more about this. And they began to talk to him about whether or not Jesus Christ lived within his heart. There’s no question John Wesley’s head was very religious. There’s no question John Wesley’s behavior, his life, was very religious. But somehow, it had not gotten into his heart. It was not an emotional thing. It was that cold, rational train of thought that in his sermon he condemned.
And John Wesley began looking for that kind of heart faith. He looked for it for over two years, obsessed about it and searched for it. And finally there came a night – it was a Thursday night – that he went to this little small group that was meeting in a house in Aldersgate Street. And in those days when there was no television, they would get together and take turns reading a book out loud and listening, and sometimes they would talk about it. And John Wesley was there. And about a quarter before 9 o’clock at night, they were reading through Luther’s book on Romans, the beginning, the introduction to it. And as the leader was describing the change which God works in the– what’s that word?
Heart. The change that God works in the heart through faith in Christ. All of a sudden, it all made sense to John Wesley. And he wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” He had found the faith in his heart that he had sought for so long. And ironically, the sermon that was preached before the university was preached three weeks later. And he told them, “You need to have a faith that dwells in your heart.”
So at the heart of the matter of loving God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength, at the heart of the matter of loving our neighbor as ourself, at the heart of the matter of loving one another, which I think you feel after the absence over the last couple of weeks from seeing each other, at the heart of loving someone is that we allow ourselves to feel emotion. So friends, let yourself feel, and your faith will become more and more real and more and more filled with power. Let’s pray together.
I thank You, Lord, for the Methodist sense of being serious about faith. But remind us, Lord, that when they meant to be serious about faith, they also meant to be serious about what it feels like to have a life-changing faith. So serious, Lord, that they were criticized for the enthusiasm that they had. Lord, I pray that You would help whatever score our church has with passionate worship, that You help our worship team to be more passionate, to be more filled with feeling, and therefore, Lord, to be more fulfilling to all of us. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
And when worship is more feeling oriented, we want to praise God. So let’s stand and sing this hymn which is about how you feel when you praise God. Let’s sing together. [music]


Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)

Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

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