Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Looking for just the right gift for a preacher? Consider Warren Lathem and Dan Dunn’s 2008 book, Preaching for a Response: Leading New Believers into Spiritual Maturity, published by Bristol House. preaching-for-a-response2

The authors (Lathem has served as a pastor, district superintendent, and seminary president; Dunn has been a pastor, associate pastor, and missionary) know how to declare biblical truths in ways that elicit a clear response from listeners — a skill neither learned in seminary.

From the book:

These authors have a collective 17 years of formal theological education.

Yet never in those years did anyone attempt to instruct either of us in how to preach for a response, how to give the invitation for a response, or even why we ought to find a way to invite and encourage a response….

[But r]esponse is inherent in the gospel and the gospel preacher who does night invite response is not being completely faithful to the gospel.

Other excerpts:

How many sermons are preached, how many worship services are conducted in church all across America without any thought being given to a response by the hearer? How often do preachers and worship leaders prepare a great banquet, set it before the people, entice them to this gospel feast with beautiful words and music, yet never say, “Come and get it”?…

We may delude ourselves into thinking that just because the listener recognizes the need to respond, that he or she will know how to make a proper response to the gospel.

More likely, without direction, guidance and invitation from the preacher, most will simply make no overt, conscious, intentional response, and by failing to do so will in fact reject the message they just heard….

Why do most mainline preachers fail to issue an invitation or give an opportunity for response? There are several possible reasons….

  • We do not really believe people are lost…
  • We do not believe the power of the gospel…
  • We do not know how to invite a response…
  • We would not know what do if they did respond…
  • Our order of worship does not accommodate a response…
  • We are fearful of the opinion of others…
  • We do not take preaching seriously enough….

Preaching for a Response includes advice about “what to say” and “how to say it.” The chapter “Twelve Keys to Effective Preaching” emphasizes the basic building blocks of effective speaking — such as maintaining strong eye contact, using varied pacing, employing short sentences, and ending strong.


Warren Lathem


Dan Dunn

The book also includes detailed suggestions on how to plan worship services, week after week, aimed at eliciting responses that move people toward maturity in Christ.

You can order Preaching for a Response here (Amazon) or here (Bristol House).

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Steve Hawthorne, director of the prayer ministry Waymakers, offers interesting insights about the event we call Palm Sunday, which this year is celebrated on April 1.

He notes that in the days leading up to the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus had “instigated a movement of hope throughout the towns and villages of the entire region” as He performed miracles and answered prayers.

triumphal-entry-jesusofnazarethBy the time He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of praise, “the whole city was stirred and [people] asked ‘Who is this?'” (Matt. 21:20).

For several days after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus taught at the temple, and “all the people hung on his words” (Luke 19:48).

By the end of the week, of course, the Lord’s adversaries had him arrested and crucified. But Scripture says the arrest occurred during the dark of the night, “because [Jesus’ enemies] were afraid of the people” (Luke 22:2).

In his Lenten-season prayer guide, Seek God for the City, Hawthorne notes:

1) “Palm Sunday shines as prophetic picture of the spiritual awakening Christ desires to bring [in communities everywhere]”; and

2) “Whenever there has been revival, it has been a partial fulfillment of the promise of Palm Sunday.”

To help pastors, Sunday School teachers, and small-group leaders explain the significance of Palm Sunday, Waymakers has posted background information here, along with three sermon suggestions.

Use the audio player below to listen to a 12-minute excerpt of Steve Hawthorne teaching about Palm Sunday and Holy Week. He was recorded in 2008 at Christ Church in Austin, Texas, a congregation associated with the Anglican Church in North America. (Player won’t work? Click here.)

Steve Hawthorne holds a Masters degree from the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. With Graham Kendrick, he is the co-author of Prayerwalking: Praying On-Site with Insight.

A Palm Sunday prayer: “Father, we pray for spiritual awakening and shouts of praise here, as Jesus enters our city with His presence and power. Stir people to ask, ‘Who is this?’ — that we might proclaim to them the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.”

Related resources
Background information about Palm Sunday, plus three Palm Sunday sermon suggestions | Waymakers
A Service of Prayer, Scripture and Song for Holy Week | United Methodist General Board of Discipleship

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With a goal of fostering “flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ,” the Fellowship of Presbyterians, a group of more than 500 theologically conservative congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has unveiled a new “denominational entity”: the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). The official unveiling occurred at a Jan. 18-20 Covenanting Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The new entity will work with like-minded congregations that decide to remain part of the PC(USA) or choose to cut ties with the older denomination.

“The Fellowship offers three different options for affiliation so congregations can pursue what best honors their ministry context,” according to a news release (PDF) from the Fellowship of Presbyterians.

“The options are: affiliate with the Fellowship as a ministry association (involves no change in status with the PC(USA)); pursue a union membership with the PC(USA) and ECO; and join ECO as full members (requiring dismissal from the PC(USA)),” the release said.

In an address introducing ECO, the Rev. John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, said the new denomination was created to help local churches become more effective in making disciples.

You all know what has been going on in mainline denominations, including our own — shrinking memberships and fading churches and aging clergy and lessening evangelism and a preoccupation with survival and internal strife and external irrelevance.

And it is not just theological drift….

[But w]hat if God were to raise up a movement? What if [the] torch for a thoughtful, reflective, urgent, egalitarian, globally active, culturally engaged, Jesus-centered, evangelical faith [were to be] wed with courageous, innovative, bold, risk-taking, bold entrepreneurial ministry leadership? And the torch of this faith were to burn more brightly in this generation than in the last one?

John Ortberg

We’re not talking about a safe, easy, reassuring step from one denomination to another as a way of expressing denominational displeasure….

Purity by separation has been tried before. If the new entity that we talking about is only that, it will just deteriorate a little more slowly….

[But i]magine God were to launch a movement of Spirit-led, Jesus-centered churches where pastors and leaders took seriously the biblical injunction to become teachers of the nations, so that our world and culture could hear in Him that there is such a thing as moral and spiritual knowledge that can guide human lives….

Imagine that the claims of Jesus were to receive a fresh hearing our day because they were being expressed in thoughtful, winsome, non-churchy, literate ways by Jesus followers who had wrestled and studied and prayed, and sought to follow Jesus with all of their hearts….

Imagine a movement where church meetings and denominational meetings never waste anybody’s time…. Imagine a movement that when leaders gather together, it is to learn and to receive vision and to mentor…and to be accountable and to encourage one another….

Imagine that when leaders get together they talk about things like: How do you reach people who don’t know Jesus so they can get to know Jesus? How can you worship better? How can you help the under-resourced people more effectively? How do you make disciples? How do you do justice?….

Can God not do that? Has the Holy Spirit lost His power?

As we…have talked and prayed about a new denominational entity, the idea, the prayer was that it be not just a denominational alternative — [but] that there might be a structure that could be a vehicle and a servant of a movement….

The job of a denomination is the serve the local church, not the other way around…. And the idea is…real simple: to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Because the church really has one job — to make disciples, followers, of Jesus.

Streaming video of Mr. Ortberg’s full address is below. A downloadable mp3 audio file is here (18 MB).

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‘Assessment’ report: United Methodism faces compound crisis
Riley Case: ‘Operational Assessment’ shows UMC has lost its way
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops

Related articles and information
New evangelical Presbyterian body unveiled | Michael Gryboski, Christian Post (Jan. 21, 2012)
Conservative Presbyterians launch new denomination | Daniel Burke, Religion News Service (Jan. 20, 2012)
A bold church unafraid: Fellowship casts vision | Leslie Scanlon, Presbyterian Outlook (Jan. 19, 2012)
Introducing ECO: the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians | Carmen Fowler LaBerge, The Layman (Jan. 19, 2012)
Fellowship of Presbyterians unveils name for ‘new Reformed body’ | Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service (Jan. 19, 2012)

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Jan. 22 marked the 39th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Taken together, the two rulings (authored by Justice Harry Blackmun, a United Methodist) effectively voided dozens of state laws aimed at protecting unborn children from abortion.

Sign outside a UM Church in North Georgia

Since then, abortion doctors have performed more than 50 million abortions in the U.S. — primarily for purposes of birth control rather than for medical reasons. On average, more than 3,000 abortions occur in America every day.

In 2005, on the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decisions, United Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the Florida Conference addressed the topic of how faithfulness to the gospel and to the Wesleyan tradition demands a pro-life position on abortion.

Speaking to the annual gathering of Lifewatch, the UM pro-life caucus, he called on United Methodists to stand against “the violence of abortion in the name of the God of peace.”

Below are excerpts from Bishop Whitaker’s address, followed by audio of his remarks.

When John Wesley gave the General Rules to the people called Methodists the first thing he told them was, “Do no harm.” In order to show evidence that we are a people who are being saved by God, we should do no harm.

The rule to do no harm directs those of us who are Christians to practice non-violence. A Christian is someone who is horrified by violence, refrains from violence in her or his life, and seeks to restrain violence in the world insofar as possible….

When Jesus was born, all of the angels in heaven praised God and promised peace on earth.

When he grew up he inaugurated his ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan River, and the Spirit of God confirmed that he was the Son of God by descending upon him not as an eagle but as a dove, the bird of peace.

Bishop Timothy Whitaker

Bishop Timothy Whitaker

He taught the people, saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”

As one would expect in a world of violence the Prince of Peace suffered a violent death…. By his violent death he overcame violence. Then God vindicated him by raising him from the dead; and when he appeared to his disciples he announced, “Peace be with you.”

On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon his disciples, and the church was born. The church is a community from all of the nations called to be a peaceable people who follow Jesus until he comes again at the end of history and establishes that kingdom where “death will be no more: mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4 NRSV).

We who are the church are called to be a peaceable people. In our practices and in our public witness we are called to make peace in the world. We acknowledge that the ultimate kingdom of peace has not yet been established by God.

We ourselves cannot build the kingdom, but we can build for the kingdom. We can live and witness in ways that can lead to a more tangible peace here and now that points to the coming kingdom of God….

Pope John Paul II made a powerful Christian witness to God’s peaceable purposes in his 1995 encyclical called The Gospel of Life. He warned the world about creating “a culture of death” that is rebellion against “the Gospel of life.”

He showed us that a culture of death is one that endorses abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment.* He asserted that the commandment, “You shall not kill,” is integral to the revelation of God….

In the United Methodist Church we ought to apply our theological reflection, our pastoral guidance and our public witness against the violence of abortion in the name of the God of peace…

I think that our silence and passivity about abortion comes from the difficulty of being a Christian in America.

The logo of Lifewatch,
the pro-life UM caucus

I used to think that being a Christian in America is easy. I thought it would be hard to be a Christian in a country dominated by other religions, or in a Communist country where atheism was avowed by the state, but I thought it was easy to be a Christian here.

Now I realize that practicing the Christian life in America has its own difficulties. The seductions of American life may seem more subtle, but they are real and dangerous.

In America both the culture and the state view persons as autonomous individuals who have private rights to live as they choose.

But we who are Christians have a different anthropology: we view persons as members of a community who are made in the image of the Triune God and who have both rights and responsibilities.

Therefore, we cannot endorse a woman’s right to abort an unborn child as a morally neutral decision because we understand that the child also has a right to live and the community has a responsibility to care for this child if the mother is unable to rear it….

Can there be any doubt that there is silence and passivity about abortion in our Church?

How often is a sermon about abortion or an educational forum on abortion offered in our congregations? How many congregations are involved in supporting crisis pregnancy centers in their communities or offering tangible support to women with unwanted pregnancies? What kind of pastoral counsel is being offered behind the closed doors of the pastor’s office?….

(UMNS photo)

We who are United Methodist Christians should continue to seek to embody in our teaching, pastoral guidance, congregational care and public witness the preservation of human life, and a protest against the killing of human life, in the name of the God of peace….

It is often said that there is no clear prescription against abortion in the Bible. That is because such a horror is unthinkable and unspeakable to the people of Israel and to the people called the church….

From the very beginning Christians everywhere have felt this revulsion against the killing of human life. As Christians moved into the wider world where abortion was not unthinkable or unspeakable they had to apply the divine commandment against murder to the horrible practice of abortion….

In our time and place, in our own Christian communion, we who are United Methodists also have a responsibility to live according to our first rule, which is to do no harm. Do no harm to the unborn! Do no harm to the witness of the Church as a peaceable people! Do no harm to the Gospel of peace!

Use the audio player below to listen to a portion of Bishop Whitaker’s 2005 address, Do No Harm!, delivered in the Simpson Chapel at the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. (8.5 minutes).

The full text of Bishop Whitaker’s 2005 address is included in the March 2005 Lifewatch newsletter (PDF).

The speaker at this year’s Lifewatch service is the Rev. Jim Heidinger, former president of the UM renewal ministry Good News. The service will be held today (Monday) at the United Methodist Building (PDF) on Capitol Hill.

Use of the facility is not donated by the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society, which is a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) a group that supports legalized abortion. Rather, Lifewatch rents space in the UM Building for its annual service and board meeting.

In a recent press release, RCRC accused pro-life “zealots” of waging a “war on women.”

In conjunction with MoveOn.org, RCRC is currently sponsoring a “Virtual March for Women’s Lives” as part of a promotion called “Trust Women Week.”

Other groups co-sponsoring the “Virtual March” include the Center for Reproductive Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Fund Abortion Now, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

In addition the annual Lifewatch service, the March for Life to the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to take place Monday, preceded by a rally on the National Mall. The rally and march draw tens of thousands of pro-lifers each year.

The March of Life events (i.e., pre-rally activity, the rally, and the march itself) will air live on EWTN, the Roman Catholic cable/satellite channel, beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Live online audio and video will be available here.

The March for Life rally will also air live on C-SPAN 2 (live online video here starting at Noon ET).

EWTN will re-broadcast the March for Life events tonight (Monday) at 11 o’clock ET and again on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 2 p.m. ET.

The March for Life has been held annually since 1974.

*Editor’s note: In The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), Pope John Paul wrote that punishment of a murderer “ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

This blog post is adapted from a post first published in 2009.

Related posts
The Manhattan Declaration: In defense of human life
United Methodists praying, speaking, and marching for life
Why aren’t UM leaders supporting the Manhattan Declaration?
Party platforms and the UMC
UM pro-life group urges Sen. Ben Nelson: ‘Do no harm’
UM Board of Church and Society withdraws support for Freedom of Choice Act
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ’08

Related articles
How a pastor might first broach the abortion issue with his congregation | Paul T. Stallsworth, Remarks at the 2010 Convention of National Right to Life, Pittsburgh, Pa. (June 2010)
NOTE: The Rev. Mr. Stallsworth is president of the Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality and editor of the Lifewatch newsletter.
United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones addresses pro-life event | Connor Ewing, IRD (Jan. 22, 2010)
Presentation to the Study Committee on the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church | Paul Stallsworth, Lifewatch (November 2009)
United Methodists and abortion today | Bishop Timothy Whitaker (Feb. 9, 2009)
United Methodism on abortion | Paul T. Stallsworth, On the Square—First Things (May 29, 2008)
The pro-life pulpit | Lynne M. Thompson, At The Center (Winter 2005)
Roe ruling: More than its author intended | David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times—via HispanicPundit.com (Sept. 14, 2005)
Diversity of life: Opposition to abortion spans ideologies and ethnic groups | Gene Edward Veith, WORLD—via National Pro-Life Religious Council (Nov. 6, 2004)
The sanctification of human life (a historical overview of the Christian church’s position on abortion and other issues related to the sanctity of human life) — Chapter 2 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Why is the New Testament silent about abortion? | Michael J. Gorman, Good News (May/June 1993)
‘Durham Declaration’ asks for ‘Scriptural approach’ to abortion in the UMC; Signatories include Bishops Ole E. Borgen and William R. Cannon | United Methodist News Service (March 12, 1991)
Text of the Durham Declaration (January 1991)

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This is the latest in a monthly series that presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.

The following is condensed from “The Marks of the New Birth,” Sermon 18 among Mr. Wesley’s standard sermons. For easier reading, some of the wording in this condensation has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).

A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

Sin shall not have dominion over you. (Romans 6:14)

When we have the true, living faith by which we are born of God from above, a fruit which cannot be separated from it is power over outward sin of every kind, over every evil word and work. Wherever the blood of Christ is by faith applied to the heart, it “cleanse[s] your conscience from dead works” (Heb. 9:14).

His blood also gives power over inward sin; for it purifies the heart from every unholy desire and temper.

“How,” asked St. Paul, “shall we who [by faith] are dead to sin, live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:2). For “[o]ur old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6).

“Likewise, reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body,” Paul urges, “but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead…. For sin shall not have dominion over you.” (Rom. 6:11-14).

Paul then says, “God be thanked, that though you were [i.e., in time past] the servants of sin,” yet now “being free from sin, you have become the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18).

St. John asserts this same invaluable privilege of the sons of God, particularly with regard to power over outward sin. After he had been crying out, as one astonished at the depth of the riches of the goodness of God, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” (1 John 3:1), he soon adds, “Whoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for [God’s] seed remains in him: And he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).

Some will say, “True: Whoever is born of God does not commit sin habitually.” Habitually! Where is that in the text? I read it not. It is not written in the whole Book.

Adding “habitually” quite swallows up the text. The precious promise is utterly lost and the word of God is made of none effect.

Shall we not St. John interpret his own words? Examine the whole tenor of his discourse. In John 3:5, he had said, “Ye know that [Jesus Christ] was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” What is the inference he draws from this? “Whosoever abides in him sins not. Whoever sins has not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:6).

To his enforcement of this important doctrine, he adds a highly necessary caution: “Little children, let no one deceive you” (1 John 3:7) — for many will endeavor so to do, to persuade you that you may be unrighteous, that you may commit sin, and yet be children of God! “He who practices righteousness is righteous, even as [Jesus] is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”

It is then that the apostle says: “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for [God’s] seed remains in him: And he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this,” adds the apostle, “the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest.” By this plain mark — the committing or not committing sin — are they distinguished from each other.

Adapted in part from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘You must be born again’
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
A word from Mr. Wesley: The sure cornerstone of our faith
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The new birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’

Related information
The Marks of the New Birth (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)

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This edition of the Methodist Thinker Mini-Podcast features a teaching excerpt from the Rev. Rob Renfroe, pastor of discipleship at The Woodlands (Texas) United Methodist Church and the president of the UM renewal ministry Good News.

The Rev. Rob Renfroe

The excerpt is from a 2009 sermon series, “The Trouble with the Truth,” preached at The Woodlands UMC .

To listen (5 min.), click the arrow on the audio player below — or download an mp3 file (5MB).

For previous MethodistThinker Podcasts, click the “podcasts” tab at the top of this page. To subscribe, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts” link near the top of the right column.

Robert Lane Renfroe earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Rice University (1977) and an M. Div. summa cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (1982).

After graduating from seminary, he was appointed to be the associate pastor at The Woodlands UMC north of Houston.

In 1988, he was named pastor of First United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Texas. Four years later, he moved to Mission Bend UMC in Houston.

In 1998, Renfroe was named executive pastor at Houston’s First United Methodist Church, serving alongside Dr. Bill Hinson (PDF). After three years in that role, he returned to The Woodlands UMC as the pastor of discipleship, a position he continues to hold.

From 2007-2009, Renfroe served as president of the board of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.

Renfroe became the leader of Good News — and publisher of Good News magazine — in the summer of 2009, following the retirement of the ministry’s long-time leader, James V. Heidinger II.

A 10-minute video excerpt from Rob Renfroe’s “Trouble with the Truth” series can be seen below.


Related posts
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
Renewal & Reform Coalition releases letter to Council of Bishops
UM renewal leader: ‘The UMC is worth fighting for’
Podcast: Rob Renfroe on ‘The Deeper Issues of Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Dr. James Heidinger on ‘United Methodist Renewal’
Podcast: Charles Keysor – ‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’
A salute to James Heidinger of Good News

Related articles and information
The deeper issues of United Methodist renewal | Rob Renfroe, Good News (via The Sundry Times)
Compromising positions | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May-June 2011)
What do United Methodists expect from their bishops? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
Should the UMC change its ordination standards and allow sexually active homosexuals to serve as clergy? | Rob Renfroe, Good News (Feb. 17, 2011)
In pursuit of truth | Rob Renfroe, Good News (January/February 2011)
Good News moves ministry to Houston, Texas area | Good News (November/December 2010)
Your life, God’s gift | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2010)
Believe, experience, and increase | Rob Renfroe, Good News (June/July 2010)
Grace and truth (video) | Rob Renfroe, Asbury Seminary Chapel (April 13, 2010)
Health care and the most vulnerable | Rob Renfroe, Good News (November/December 2009)
Speaking the truth in love | Rob Renfroe, Good News (September/October 2009)
For the cause of Christ (PDF) | Rob Renfroe, Good News (May/June 2009)
Defining the issues: A Methodist witness | Albert Mohler (Nov. 1, 2006)
United Methodism in crisis: Scriptural renewal through the Good News Movement | Chapter 4 of Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life by Steven M. Tipton (University of Chicago Press, 2008 — via Google Books)
Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church (ordering info) | Thomas C. Oden, Baker Books (2006)
40 years of vision for United Methodist Renewal (PDF) | James V. Heidinger II, Good News (November/December 2007)
The story of Good News: A recollection by Charles W. Keysor (PDF) | Good News (March/April 1981)
The Junaluska Affirmation: Scriptural Christianity for United Methodists (PDF) | Forum for Scriptural Christianity (Good News) (July 20, 1975)

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This is the latest in a monthly series that presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.

The following is condensed from “The New Birth,” Sermon 45 among Mr. Wesley’s standard sermons. For easier reading, some of the wording in this condensation has been slightly updated, based on the adaptation found in Renew My Heart (Barbour Books, 2011).

A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.”
(Jesus in John 3:7)

Baptism and the new birth are not one and the same. Baptism is a sign and seal of regeneration by His Holy Spirit — a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness.

Baptism, the outward sign, is distinct from regeneration, the inner grace being signified. The one is visible, the other invisible. The one is an act of man; the other is a change wrought by God in the soul.

Just as the new birth and baptism are not the same, they do not always accompany each other. One may possibly be “born of water” and yet not be “born of the Spirit.” There may sometimes be the outward sign where there is no inward grace. I do not now speak with regard to infants. Whatever is the case with infants, it is sure that all of mature years who are baptized are not the same as born again.

“The tree is known by its fruits,” and it is too plain to be denied that many of those who were children of the devil before they were baptized continue the same afterward. They continue to be servants of sin with no pretense to either inward or outward holiness.

Being charitable?

What must one say who loves the souls of men and women? We see them living in willful sin, and we are grieved. What can one say — other than, “You must be born again.”

“No!” says another. “That cannot be. How can you speak so uncharitably to people. Have they not already been baptized? They cannot be born again now.”

Wesley statue in Bristol, England
Photo by Chris Bertram (used by permission)

Can they not? Do you really affirm this? Then they cannot be saved. In saying, “They cannot be born again,” you, in effect, deliver them over to damnation.

Where is the uncharitableness now? On my side or yours? You block their way to salvation and send them to hell, out of mere charity!

Perhaps it is the sinner himself — to whom in real charity we say, “You must be born again” — who responds, “I need not be born again. I was born again when I was baptized. Would you deny me my baptism?”

I answer, you have already denied it by every willful sin you have done. I say to that one, if you have been baptized, do not admit it. For how highly it aggravates your guilt, and how it will increase your damnation! For in your baptism you renounced the devil and all his works. Whenever, therefore, you do any of the works of the devil, then you deny your baptism.

Never boast again of what ought to make you ashamed.

No exception

Whether you are baptized or unbaptized, you must be born again.

If you have not already experienced this inward work of God, let this be your continual prayer: “Lord, add this to all your blessings — let me be born again. Take away whatever seems good to You — reputation, fortune, friends, health — only give me this, to be born of the Spirit. And then let me daily ‘grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'” (2 Peter 3:18).

Adapted from Renew My Heart,
published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: Holiness in singleness
A word from Mr. Wesley: The sure cornerstone of our faith
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The new birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
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The New Birth (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)

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The MethodistThinker Podcast has returned from hiatus with a new, shorter format. Rather than featuring longer-form presentations, as it has for the past two years, the refashioned podcast is only five minutes long.

Each “mini” podcast will feature a brief teaching excerpt from a Methodist leader.

We hope the shorter format will make the podcast more user-friendly for busy pastors and lay people.

Dr. Bill Bouknight

The first installment of the new bi-weekly MethodistThinker Mini-Podcast features Dr. Bill Bouknight preaching about the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Listen below, or download an mp3 file. To subscribe, use the “Subscribe to Podcasts link near the top of the right column.

William R. Bouknight retired from the pastorate in 2007 after more than 40 years of serving United Methodist congregations in South Carolina and Tennessee. He became an associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church in 2008.

Dr. Bouknight is the author of The Authoritative Word: Preaching Truth in a Skeptical Age (Abingdon, 2001), and If Disciples Grew Like Kudzu (Bristol House, 2007). He was educated at Duke University, the University of Edinburgh, and Yale Divinity School.

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This is the latest in our monthly series that presents excerpts from the writings of John Wesley, co-founder (with his brother Charles) of the Methodist movement.

The following is condensed from “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount—13,” one of many sermons Mr. Wesley preached on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). For easier reading, some of the wording in this condensation has been slightly updated from the original.

A link to the full text of the original sermon is included in the links below.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven…. [E]veryone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. (Matt. 7:21,26-27)

Having declared in his Sermon on the Mount the whole counsel of God with regard to the way of salvation, and having observed the chief hindrances of those who desire to walk therein, Jesus concludes with the weighty words presented above.

It imports us, in the highest degree, thoroughly to understand the force of these words.

What are we to understand by the expression, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord…”? It undoubtedly refers those who think of going to heaven by any way other than that which our Lord described in his Sermon.

Our Lord’s expression implies (to begin at the level of “verbal” religion) whatever creeds we may rehearse and whatever whatever number of prayers we may repeat.

Further, we may abstain from every presumptuous sin, from every kind of outward wickedness. We may refrain from all those ways of acting or speaking which are forbidden in holy writ. We may have a conscience void of any external offense. We may be clear of all uncleanness, ungodliness, and unrighteousness, as to the outward act.

And yet we are not hereby justified.

We may attend the supper of the Lord, hear abundance of excellent sermons, and omit no opportunity of partaking all the other ordinances of God. We may do good to a neighbor, deal our bread to the hungry, and cover the naked with a garment.

Still we may have no part in the glory which shall be revealed.

Anyone who marvels at this is stranger to the whole religion of Jesus Christ. For how far short are all these things from righteousness and true holiness. How widely distant from that inward kingdom of heaven first sown in the heart as a grain of mustard seed that afterwards puts forth great branches on which grow all the fruits of righteousness.

None who do not have this kingdom of God within them shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Our Lord well knew that many would not receive this saying.

Therefore confirms it again: “Many” — not just a few — “will say to me in that day,” not only, “We have said many prayers” or “We have refrained from evil” or “We have exercised ourselves in doing good,”  but even more, “We have prophesied in your name and in your name done many wonderful works.”

And yet, Jesus will say even unto them, “I never knew you” — for your heart was not right toward God. “Depart from me,” you who — notwithstanding all these things you did — are “workers of lawlessness,” transgressors of my law of holy and perfect love.

To put this beyond all possibility of contradiction, our Lord confirms it by this comparison: “Everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house” — as they will surely do, sooner or later, upon every soul of man — “and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Such must be the portion of all who rest in anything short of that religion Jesus described in his Sermon on the Mount. And the greater will their fall be, because they heard his sayings, and yet did “not do them.”

Jesus’ blood and righteousness

In contrast, the one who builds his house upon a rock is he “who does the will of my Father in heaven.” He sees and feels all his sin and all his guilt — till it is washed away by the atoning blood. He is conscious of his lost estate, of the wrath of God abiding on him, and of his utter inability to help himself — till he is filled with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

His soul is athirst for nothing on earth, but only for God, the living God. He loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind, and soul, and strength.

How truly wise is this man! He sees, clearer than the light of the noonday sun, that the end of man is to glorify God and to love and enjoy him for ever. And with equal clearness he sees the means to that end — which is to know, love, and imitate God, and to believe in Jesus Christ who he has sent.

This wise man “builds his house upon a rock,” upon the Rock of Ages: the Lord Jesus Christ. He builds only upon Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On this cornerstone he fixes his faith, and rests the whole weight of his soul upon it.

He is taught of God to say, “Lord, I have sinned; I deserve the nethermost hell — but I am justified freely by thy grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ — and the life I now live, I live by faith in Him, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I now live — even in the flesh — a life of love, a life of holiness and happiness, praising God and doing all to his glory.”

Actor Alan McNaughtan as John Wesley

Upon which foundation are you building? The rock or the sand? What is the foundation of your hope? Where have you built your expectation of entering into the kingdom of heaven?

Upon orthodoxy or right opinions? Perhaps on belonging to an excellent church? Such may be helps to holiness; but they are not holiness itself.

Upon what have you built your hope of salvation? Upon doing no harm? Upon attending all the ordinances of God?  Upon good works?

Then go and learn again, “By grace you are saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8); “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but of his own mercy he saves us” (Titus 3:5). Count all you have done but dung and dross.

Build upon the rock! Renounce all hope of ever being able to save yourself. Be it all your hope to be washed in his blood and purified by his Spirit who “himself bore [your] sins in his own body upon the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).

Weep for your sins and mourn after God until he turns your heaviness into joy. Then weep for those who do yet not weep for themselves. Mourn for the sins and miseries of mankind. For the immense ocean of eternity, without a bottom or a shore, already has swallowed up millions and is gaping to devour those who yet remain!

Be angry at sin as an affront to the Majesty of heaven, but love the sinner still — like our Lord, who “looked round about upon the Pharisees with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5).

You in God, God in you

Let nothing satisfy you but the power of godliness, a religion that is spirit and life — the dwelling in God and God in you.

Be purified through faith from every unholy affection, cleansing yourself “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). Through the power of God’s grace, be purified from pride by deep poverty of spirit; be purified from anger and every unkind passion by meekness and mercifulness; be purified from every desire but to please and enjoy God by hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength!

Let your religion be the religion of the heart. Be amazed and humbled to the dust by the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Be a lover of God and of all mankind! Show your faith by your works, and thus “do the will of your Father in heaven!”

And as surely as you now walk with God on earth, you will also reign with him in glory!

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The way to the kingdom’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’
Podcast: Donald English — Aldersgate Day address, 1988
Podcast: Bishop Gerald Kennedy on ‘The Marks of a Methodist’
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’

Related information
Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, 13 (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)

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The following commentary is by Wesley Putnam, a full-time evangelist in the UMC and former president of the National Association of United Methodist Evangelists.

Wesley Putnam

Below, Mr. Putnam provides an eyewitness account of a Feb. 27 church conference at University United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, at which the church voted to affiliate with the pro-homosexuality Reconciling Ministries Network.

RMN seeks to change the United Methodist Church’s position on same-sex relations, which is rooted in the historic Christian teaching that sexual contact between two men or two women falls outside the boundaries of acceptable moral conduct for disciples of Jesus Christ.

RMN also seeks to end the UMC’s prohibition on accepting sexually active homosexuals as candidates for ordained ministry (¶304.3 of the UM Book of Discipline).

Links in the commentary below have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.

I got up early on Sunday, Feb. 27, and headed out from Bedford, Texas, to Austin. This was the day that had been advertised by University United Methodist Church as the day they were going to vote on becoming a Reconciling Congregation.

“A local church or any of its organizational units may not identify or label itself as an unofficial body or movement.

“Such identification or labeling is divisive and makes the local church subject to the possibility of being in conflict with the Discipline and doctrines of The United Methodist Church.”

Judicial Council Decision #871

“[A]nnual conferences may not legally negate, ignore, or violate provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree, even when the disagreements are based upon conscientious objections to those provisions.”

Judicial Council Decision #886

The primary problem with this vote is that it is clearly forbidden by Decision #871 of the United Methodist Judicial Council [see excerpt at left]. In addition, Judicial Council Decision #886 has bearing on this matter [also excepted at left].

As soon as I found out that University UMC was planning this vote, I notified the pastor, the Rev. John Elford, that he was moving the church in a direction that seemed to be in clear violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. He indicated he was determined to continue and had already discussed it with his District Superintendent.

I then contacted the office for the District Superintendent in the Austin District, the Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones, citing the relevant Judicial Council Decisions. I never received a response.

Next, I contacted Bishop Jim Dorff of the Southwest Texas Conference and informed him of the plans of UUMC. He excused the action because, in his view, the congregation was only “affiliating” — not “identifying” — with the Reconciling Ministries Network.

I fail to see the difference. Affiliating with a group is identifying with a group. And Judicial Council Decision #871 simply says that Annual Conferences, local churches, and units within churches (Sunday School classes, UMW groups, etc.) are forbidden to “identify or label” themselves as “an unofficial body or movement.”

After weeks of back and forth emails, I decided to attend the Feb. 27 Church Conference at University UMC as an observer. I also attended the morning worship service just before the church conference.

A first-hand account

The sanctuary at UUMC is lovely, and the bottom floor was comfortably full with between 250 and 300 worshipers. The congregation that gathered was multi-generational. I was met by friendly greetings from several members as I made my way to my seat.

University UMC — Austin, Texas

I noticed that rainbow crosses and pink triangles were displayed on many lapels.

The pipe organ was belting out a rousing call to worship and the sound reverberated off the ample hardwood surfaces of the room. The atmosphere was celebratory as the congregants anticipated the purpose of this day.

The style of worship was traditional. There was a lot of liturgy and an assortment of ancient hymns, plus also a couple of more recent songs from the hymnal supplement.

Everything in the service was designed to lead up to this historic vote. Even the children’s sermon was a call to remember that there are many different pieces that make up a puzzle.

“When God’s peace is at work, even though we are going in lots of different directions, God brings us together and gives us God’s love,” the pastor told the children. “To love each other, care for each other and be reconciled to each other. We want to be with all different kinds of people, not just people just like us,” he said.

The last statement was directed to the adult congregation more so than it was to the children.

University UMC’s pastor, John Elford, is a tall man with a quiet and conversational speaking style. In remarks sprinkled with humor, he emphasized that UUMC is a “welcoming congregation” and the people there are “learning more and more every day” about all that term means.

Ironically, the Scripture Pastor Elford chose to speak on was “Blessed are the peacemakers” — on a day when he was leading the church to take a divisive action.

Audio of John Elford’s Feb. 27 sermon (19 min.)

I certainly didn’t disagree with everything he said. He spoke of the hard work Jesus calls us to of reconciling the world to God. He said it is not always easy to make peace. Peacemaking can be back-breaking work in which we must trust God’s providence for success.

Pastor Elford said we need not fear as we do this work because evil is being overcome with good. He declared that the forces we are up against are what Paul called “principalities and powers.”

Regrettably, the context of the day infused Pastor Elford’s words with a meaning that differs from church’s historic proclamation of the gospel. Ultimately, the pastor of University United Methodist Church was challenging his congregation to “make peace” with what God’s Word has declared to be sinful. In this new meaning of things, a person cannot be truly “welcomed” unless his or her behavior is affirmed and even endorsed.

The Rev. John Elford (standing, blue shirt) awaits the vote

Pastor Elford was calling his church to celebrate behavior that has been condemned for thousands of years — including in both the Old and New Testaments.

Further, he was asking them to violate the spirit of our denominational Book of Discipline and the clear intent of the UM Judicial Council by joining an unofficial group whose statement of purpose is opposed to church law.

The controversy over how the church will treat homosexual behavior has been “front and center” in every General Conference for four decades. The United Methodist response has been consistent, clear, and gracious. We view homosexuals — as we do all people — as being of sacred worth, but we recognize homosexual behavior as being contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the established body of doctrine held by the church. That is our stand.

It is not the prerogative of a pastor or local church to purposely rebel against settled church law, while suggesting that everyone who opposes them (including, by implication, the UM Judicial Council, the General Conference, and every orthodox UM member) is a part of the “principalities and powers” of darkness.

But led by their pastor, and with the district superintendent present, this is precisely what University United Methodist Church did. After the 11 a.m. service, by a vote of 228 to 15, UUMC became affiliated with the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Why this matters

The wording of the ballot (shown below at right) makes it clear that the ruling of the Judicial Council has been violated. By calling itself “a member of RMN” and placing the phrase “A Reconciling Congregation” on its website and other communications, UUMC has identified or labeled itself as an unofficial body or movement.

Click to enlarge

There are several possible chargeable offenses inherent in this action.

I believe in presiding over this vote, the Rev. Bobbi Kaye Jones failed in her job as a District Superintendent. When this Church Conference was called for, she should have ruled the meeting out of order and refused to place the power of her office behind this action.

Moreover, because Bishop Jim Dorff was made aware of this action and refused to intervene, he has, in my opinion, failed to do his job in upholding and defending the faith and enforcing the Discipline.

Why does the action of University UMC matter? In a word, it’s all about covenant. As an elder in the United Methodist Church, I am in covenant with all other elders, bishops and district superintendents included.

From the UUMC website

The Discipline defines that covenant in Paragraph 306: “An order is a covenant community within the church to mutually support, care for, and hold accountable its members for the sake of the life and mission of the church” (emphasis added).

This is serious business.

This whole debate began in the 1990s when my home conference in Northwest Texas voted to become a “Confessing Conference.” This action was challenged and the Judicial Council rulings cited above were made. Any church or conference that had declared itself as affiliated with the Confessing Movement or Reconciling Movement were asked to remove any mention of it from their signage and printed materials.

The Confessing Movement churches and conferences complied. But as the Reconciling Ministries Network continues enlisting churches in its cause, the bishops are turning a blind eye.

Because of the vows I took as a member of the order of elders, I am compelled to speak up. I will not be silent.

Related posts
Why the United Methodist Church cannot condone homosexuality
Riley Case: Retired bishops’ statement is a sign of UMC’s sickness
Renewal & Reform Coalition responds to retired bishops’ call to alter UMC’s sexuality standards
In embracing homosexual marriage, Foundry UMC rejects UM boundaries, breaks with 2 millennia of church teaching
Riley Case: The future of the United Methodist Church is at stake
Judicial Council overturns bishop’s ruling on sexuality statement
Maxie Dunnam: Amendments outcome reflects ‘sense of the faithful’
Judicial Council says no to same-sex marriage
Billy Abraham on United Methodism: ‘There is no common faith among us’
Bill Bouknight: The good news from General Conference ’08

Related information
Eros defended or eros defiled — What do Wesley and the Bible say? | Ben Witherington, The Bible and Culture (Patheos.com) (Feb. 14, 2011)
A reply to Wesley Putnam | Adrienne Trevathan, MOSAIC blog (March 21, 2011) — Note: MOSAIC is a student-focused extension outreach of the Reconciling Ministries Network, “affirm[ing] all sexual orientations and gender identities as gifts of God.”
University United Methodist Church moves to become part of larger reconciling network | Joshunda Sanders, Austin American-Statesman (Feb. 26, 2011)
Christianity elevates sexual morality (a historical overview of the Christian church’s teaching on sexual morality) — Chapter 3 of How Christianity Changed the World | Alvin Schmidt (Zondervan, 2004 — via Google Books)
Why bother becoming “reconciling”? | The Rev. John Elford, Keeping Jesus Weird blog (Jan. 15, 2011)
Why bother becoming “reconciling”? (part 2) | The Rev. John Elford, Keeping Jesus Weird blog (Feb. 7, 2011)
Three steps to affiliate with RMN (PDF) | Reconciling Ministries Network
Methodists to vote on GLBT inclusion | Audrey White, The Daily Texan (Nov. 22, 2010)
United Methodist churches perform same-sex weddings with one foot in the closet | Amanda Hess, TBD.com (Sept. 30, 2010)
What the evidence really says about Scripture and homosexual practice: Five issues (PDF) | Robert A. J. Gagnon (March 2009)
Slavery, homosexuality, and not being of one mind | Riley B. Case, via The Sundry Times (July 1, 2008)
How churches can refine message on homosexuality | Robin Russell, United Methodist Reporter (May 19, 2008)
United Methodists uphold homosexuality stance | Robin Russell, United Methodist News Service (April 30, 2008)
Judicial Council Decision 1032 and ecclesiology (PDF) | William J. Abraham, General Board of Higher Education & Ministry Consultation on Decision 1032 (February 2007)
The church and homosexuality | Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, e-Review (Florida United Methodist News Service) (July 12, 2006)
Methodists strengthen stand against homosexual practice | Christianity Today (May 5, 2004)
Debate at the 2004 General Conference on various legislation related to homosexuality (includes audio) | 2004 General Conference Archive
Resources list: Ministry for and with homosexual persons (requested by the UMC’s 2004 General Conference) (PDF) | United Methodist Publishing House
Homosexuality and the Bible (PDF) | R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Homosexuality and the Great Commandment (an address to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh) | Peter C. Moore (November 2002)
Good News’ response to Cal/Nevada’s dismissal of complaints against 68 clergy involved in same-sex covenant | James V. Heidinger II on behalf of the Good News Board of Directors (Feb. 14, 2000)
Good News board urges bishops to preserve unity of church | United Methodist News Service (Feb. 2, 1999)
‘Good News’ says push to accept homosexual practice threatens to split United Methodist Church | United Methodist News Service (May 6, 1997)

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Friday’s massive earthquake in Japan raises an age-old question: Is God is the author of “natural disasters”? Methodist co-founder Charles Wesley spoke to this question in a sermon first delivered in 1750, an edited text of which is below. (Wesley also composed two volumes of earthquake-related hymns.)

The version of Wesley’s sermon presented here has been shortened from the original, subheadings have been added, and the language has been updated slightly for easier reading. The original text is linked below. — Ed.

O come hither, and behold the works of the LORD;
what destruction He hath brought upon the earth!

(Psalm 46:8)

Whatever the natural cause of earthquakes may be, sin is the moral cause. This cannot be denied by any who believe the Scriptures.

Charles Wesley

Earthquakes are set forth by the inspired writers as God’s proper judicial act, or the punishment of sin.

Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken,
Because He was angry. (Psalm 18:7).

So also the Prophet Isaiah:

I will punish the world for its evil…
And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
Therefore I will shake the heavens,
And the earth will move out of her place,
In the wrath of the LORD of hosts
And in the day of His fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:11, 13).

And again,

You will be punished by the LORD of hosts
With thunder and earthquake and great noise. (Isaiah 29:6).

We cannot conceive that the universe would have been disturbed by these furious accidents before sin. Therefore reason, as well as faith, sufficiently assures us that such disasters must be the punishment of sin, and the effect of that curse which was brought upon the earth by the original transgression.

Judgment and repentance

Nothing can be so affecting as this judgment of earthquakes when it comes unexpectedly as a thief in the night, when there is no time to flee, or method to escape, or possibility to resist; when no sanctuary or refuge remains, when the earth opens suddenly, and becomes the grave of whole families, streets, and cities.

There is only the difference of a few hours or minutes between a famous city and none at all!

When God makes the mountains tremble, and the earth shake, shall not our hearts be moved? “‘Do you not fear Me?’ says the LORD. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence?'” (Jeremiah 5:22).

Will you not fear Him who can thus suddenly turn a fruitful land into a barren wilderness; an amazing spectacle of desolation and ruin?

O that His fear might this moment fall upon all you who hear these words; constraining every one of you to cry out, “My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments” (Psalm 119:120).

Repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance; let us break off our sins this moment.

“‘Now, therefore,’ says the LORD” — who is not willing any should perish:

“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”

So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him? (Joel 2:12-14)

Will you heed the warning?

God waits to see what effect His warnings will have. He has no pleasure in the death of him who dies.

God warns you of the approaching judgment, that you may take warning, and escape it by timely repentance. He lifts up his hand and shakes it over you, that you may see it and prevent the final stroke.

He tells you, “Now is the axe laid unto the root of the trees” (Matthew 3:10).

Therefore repent; bring forth good fruit; and you shall not be hewn down, and cast into the fire. O do not despise the riches of His mercy, but let it lead you to repentance!

How slow is the Lord to anger! How unwilling to punish! By what leisurely steps does He come to take vengeance! How many lighter afflictions before the final blow!

If we provoke Him to lay waste our earth, and turn it upside down, and overthrow us, as He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, shall we not have procured this unto ourselves? If we perish at last, we perish without excuse; for what could have been done more to save us?

Yes, you have now another call to repentance, another offer of mercy. In the name of the Lord Jesus, I warn you once more, as a watchman over the house of Israel, to flee from the wrath to come!

The Lord was in the earthquake, and He put a solemn question to thy conscience: “Are you ready to die?” “Is your peace made with God?”

If the earth just now were to open its mouth and swallow you up, what would become of you? Where would you be?

Repent and believe the gospel

Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall yet be saved. Confess with a broken heart your unbelief; your having rejected, or not accepted, Jesus Christ as your only Savior.

Until you repent of your unbelief, all your good desires and promises are vain, and will pass away as a morning cloud. The vows which you make in a time of trouble, you will forget and break as soon as the trouble is over and the danger past.

But if you repent and believe, then you are justified by faith. You will have peace with God, and will rejoice in hope of His glorious appearing.

He who believes has the earnest of heaven in his heart; he has love stronger than death. Death to a believer has lost its sting. Therefore he will “not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:2).

For he knows in whom he has believed; and that “neither life nor death shall be able to separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus his Lord.”

Come, then, to the Author and Finisher of faith, confessing your sins, and the root of all — your unbelief — so that He can forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Come to the Friend of sinners, and he will give you pardon! Enter into the rock, the ark, the city of refuge!

He has spared you for this very thing; that your eyes might see His salvation. Whatever judgments are yet to come, those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus shall be delivered.

Call upon Him now. Your life, you soul, is at stake! Cry mightily unto Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Related posts
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘Salvation by faith’
A word from Mr. Wesley: ‘The first doctrine’
A word from Mr. Wesley: The way to the kingdom
Podcast: John Wesley on ‘The New Birth’

Related articles and information
The cause and cure of earthquakes (full text) | The Rev. Charles Wesley (Note: The site mistakenly attributes the sermon to John Wesley.)
Theodicy: Where would a just God be if not in the earthquake? (PDF) | Anne Bracket, Wesley Heritage Foundation (July 2001)
Should the earth this moment cleave: An hymn by Charles Wesley | Fred Sanders (Biola University), The Scriptorium (Jan. 13, 2010)
Earthquake hymns by Charles Wesley (1750), Pt. 1 (PDF) | Duke Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition
Earthquake hymns by Charles Wesley (1750), Pt. 2 (PDF) | Duke Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition
Charles Wesley’s hymn on the Lisbon earthquake (1756) (PDF) | Duke Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition
Britain celebrates Charles Wesley’s life, legacy | Kathleen LaCamera, United Methodist News Service (Dec. 19, 20007)
Charles Wesley: Lacking the Holy Spirit no more | Glimpses of Christian History

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