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’
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’

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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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