Christian Author: Nancy W. Boyer

STRANGELY WARMED

Father John Wesley 1703-1791

  John Wesley, whose home we visited in England, never left the Anglican Church of England (Episcopal), although he is credited as being the founder of the Methodist Church as we know it today.   His small prayer room is still used by people searching for God’s guidance in their lives.  We were told while visiting this small apartment that he prayed  in the early morning for hours.  The room was not bigger than our modern-day walk-in closets.   Yet, there was great presence felt and those who visit are often allowed to actually handle the original books that he read.  (of course,with gloves)  

    How does a Christian clergy person become a pastor or priest without  fully knowing a personal experience with Christ?  It happens more often than we may know.  It happens with not only clergy, but ordinary  people who are part of a church all of their lives. It happened to John Wesley.    This is what Wesley said:  

‘In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s (Martin Luther)_ 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.’ 

Does God read our hearts and meet us at our  need no matter where we are in life?   I think the answer is a definite “Yes”!   It really does not matter the label we have placed on ourselves:  Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, (or any denomination) Catholic, Jewish, Muslim,Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist etc .     If we are truly searching for God and call on the name of Christ, He will most definitely answer.  It may not be an audible voice, but the heart will be “strangely warmed”  and assurance that we have salvation in Christ will be there.   It may not be explainable, but neither are many things of life…we just  simply know.  

Dean Kevin Martin is an Episcopal priest.   He had completed seminary; gone through all the rituals, but he, too, found his heart “strangely warmed” years later.  This is the experience of a priest who reached out to Christ after seminary and truly found faith in Christ many years ago.  Dean Kevin was not bound by labels of the gospel, but a desire to understand and experience his own faith within the church where he worships and serves.    Here is an excerpt of what he said of his experience: 

“On a cold January evening in 1975, I knelt in the darkened living room of the Rectory of Emmanuel Church in Stamford, Connecticut and made a total surrender of my life to Jesus Christ. This surrender came in response to an overwhelming sense of God’s presence as I spoke out the desperation and despair that I felt. The details of what happened are not important here because I am writing on the feast day of John and Charles Wesley to share what I learned from John Wesley after my conversion… 

The problem was that I was already an ordained priest. It was some time later that I would learn that I shared with Wesley a post theological education conversion to Christ. I say “conversion to Christ” because that is what it was for me. I had felt called to the ministry, and, before seminary at least, I had believed in the Trinity and the creeds of the Church. What happened to me that night was that I experienced a personal sense of forgiveness and total acceptance by a living and real Christ. Jesus Christ became alive for me in a new way.

The most immediate result of this was expressed by what I did that night. I took the sermon that I had written that week and burned it in the fire-place. I was determined to speak now of the love of Christ I knew personally, and not the ideas about God that I had learned in seminary…

None of these teachers  (speaking of seminary)ever spoke of a personal relationship with Christ as something to be desired, and most down played any sense of conversion. Conversion, if it existed at all, was a gradual process of growth. Consequently, I look back a bit jaded at my seminary experience…”  

  (Read the full account on his blog.) 

   Like Dean Kevin,years ago my husband followed the call of God to study in seminary.   Afterwards he spent 37 years in Christian ministry ,which also includes his 20 years as a United States Navy chaplain.   He was ordained as a Methodist pastor.  When he stood in John Wesley’s pulpit in England, he did not know that he, too, would be part of the Episcopal Church which Wesley had served so fervently.   One might call it” coming full circle”.   In fact, at one point the clergy of Wesley’s time asked him not to speak in his church because of his fervor for his faith.  Was serving Christ to be without furor?   (There is never a time when churches and the ranking clergy do not have their problems with expectations. )    This did not stop Wesley.  He simply went to his father’s grave and stood on it; preaching the gospel of Christ to those passing by.    These personal experiences leads one to believe that faith often comes at unlikely times.  We only need a ready heart.     After the resurrection, Christ promised that we would receive the Holy Spirit and He would teach us all things.  God will meet us where we are.  Has your heart been strangely warmed? 

Here are a few of the things Dean Kevin learned from John Wesley:

  • All the head knowledge in the world cannot substitute for “knowing Christ Jesus in the power of his resurrection.”
  • True conversion leads to passionate love for the poor and to concrete steps to alleviate their poverty.
  • Holiness of life is the goal of all disciples — we don’t want to be people who do good things — we want to become people who are Christ-like.
  • Simplicity of life is a Christian virtue
  • Christian leaders who hold power often work to suppress Christian experience ,even those who once claimed a conversion experience.
  • Innovation for the sake of mission and evangelism is Apostolic and needed in every age.
  • People have free will and it is obvious that we have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in ministry and growth.
  • In Christ, women are equal to men and can be effective agents of ministry.

 About John Wesley:       The English evangelical clergyman, preacher, and writer John Wesley (1703-1791) was the founder of Methodism. One of England‘s greatest spiritual leaders, he played a major role in the revival of religion in 18th-century English life.  The 18th century found the Church of England out of touch with both the religious and social problems of the day. Its leadership was constituted largely by political appointees, its clergy were riddled with ignorance, and churchmen of genuine concern were rare. The influence of rationalism and deism even among dedicated clergymen caused the Anglican Church to be unaware of the spiritual needs of the masses. John Wesley’s great achievement was to recognize the necessity of bringing religion (Christ)to this wide and neglected audience.  Wesley was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, on June 17, 1703. He was the fifteenth of the 19 children of Samuel and Suzanne Wesley, an Anglican minister who took his pastoral duties seriously and instilled this idea in his son. John’s mother, a woman of great spiritual intensity, molded her children through a code of strict and uncompromising Christian morality, instilling in John a firm conception of religious piety, concern, and duty.In 1714 Wesley entered Charterhouse School, and in 1720 he became a student at Christ Church, Oxford. Receiving his bachelor of arts degree in 1724, he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1725 and was elected a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1726. He became curate to his father in the following year and was ordained a priest in 1728. Returning to Oxford in 1729, Wesley, in addition to the duties of his fellowship at Lincoln, became active in a religious club to which his younger brother Charles belonged. The Holy Club, nicknamed “Methodists” (because of their methodical form of study) by its critics, met frequently for discussion. Its members engaged in prayer, attended church services, visited prisoners, and gave donations to the needy. The Holy Club was one of Wesley’s formative influences, and he soon became its acknowledged leader.  Taken from the Encyclopedia of World Biography | 2004 |

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