Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

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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This is the third 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 from John Wesley’s sermon, “The Way to the Kingdom.” The wording has been slightly updated from the original, 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.

The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:15)

What is the way to the kingdom of heaven? First, know yourself to be a sinner.

Know that you are corrupted in every power, every faculty of your soul. Your understanding is darkened, and you cannot discern God or the things of God. Your will is perverse and distorted. Your affections are alienated from God; your passions are either undue in degree or placed on undue objects.

What can you do to appease the wrath of God, to atone for your sins? Alas, you can do nothing. Nothing you do will in any way make amends to God for one evil work, word, or thought.

Even if you could from now on do all things well and perform perfect, uninterrupted obedience, it would not atone for what is past. Not increasing your debt would not discharge it.

To be deeply sensible of how helpless you are — as well as how guilty and how sinful — is the forerunner of the kingdom of God. Now, repent and believe the gospel.

The gospel is good tidings, good news for guilty, helpless sinners. The gospel is:

  • “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners”;
  • “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life”;
  • “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Believe this, and the kingdom of God is yours. By faith, you attain the promise. He pardons and frees from guilt all who truly repent and genuinely believe His holy gospel. As soon as God speaks to your heart: “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven,” His kingdom comes. You have righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Only beware that you do not deceive your soul with regard to the nature of this faith. It is not bare assent to the Bible or the articles of any creed.

From the 1954 film 'John Wesley'

It is a confidence in the pardoning mercy of God through Christ Jesus, who loved you and gave Himself for you, and a sure trust that you are now reconciled to God by the blood of the cross.

Do you have a sure trust in the mercy of God through Christ Jesus, a confidence in the pardoning God? Are you convinced that “I, even I, am now reconciled to God by the blood of His cross?” Do you thus believe?

Then the peace of God is in your heart, and sorrow and sighing flee away. You are no longer in doubt of the love of God. It is as clear as the noonday sun. Your heart cries out about the loving-kindness of the Lord.

You are no longer afraid of hell or death or him who once had the power of death — the devil; no, nor painfully afraid of God Himself — but you have a tender concern not to offend Him.

When you thus believe, your soul magnifies the Lord, and your spirit rejoices in God your Savior. You rejoice that you have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. You rejoice in the Spirit of adoption, the Holy Spirit, who cries within your heart Abba Father! You rejoice in a hope full of immortality and in reaching forward to the “mark for the prize of your high calling.”

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

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Related information
The Way to the Kingdom (full text) | The Rev. John Wesley (from The Sermons of John Wesley, 1872 Edition — Thomas Jackson, editor)

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During February, while MethodistThinker is on hiatus from new postings, we’re showcasing podcasts from our fall 2010 season. This podcast features an address by Bishop Alfred Norris.

Bishop Alfred Norris in 2005 (via UMNS)

Born in Louisiana in 1938, Alfred Lloyd Norris was educated at Dillard University in New Orleans and Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

After serving for 16 years as a United Methodist pastor and district superintendent in his native state, he was named president of Gammon in 1985.

In 1992, he was elected to the UM episcopacy and assigned to the New Mexico and Northwest Texas conferences. Later, Bishop Norris moved to the Texas Annual Conference, where he served until his retirement in 2004.

In 2006, he was asked to return to the active episcopacy to fill the term of North Texas Bishop Rhymes H. Moncure, who had died in office. After leading the North Texas Conference for two years, Bishop Norris retired again from active status in 2008.

Last year, he returned to Gammon Theological Seminary when asked to serve as the school’s interim president and dean, a position he held until Jan. 1, 2011. Gammon, founded in 1883, is the United Methodist part of a consortium of six historically African-American theological schools in the Atlanta area collectively known as the Interdenominational Theological Center.

This podcast features Bishop Norris’ address, edited for length, presented at the 2005 ordination service of the North Georgia Annual Conference.

Listen using the audio player below (18 min.) — or download an mp3 file (8.2 MB; on a PC, right click and choose “save as”).

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

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Podcast: Maxie Dunnam on ‘The Pastor as Prophet, Priest, and Evangelist
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Podcast: Bishop Robert E. Hayes on ‘A Long Fight with a Short Stick’
Podcast: Bill Hinson on ‘The Making of a Minister’

Related articles and information
Interim president-dean for Gammon Theological Seminary appointed | General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (March 22, 2010)
Bishop Alfred Norris to lead North Texas Conference | United Methodist News Service (Sept. 13, 2006)
Biography of Bishop Alfred L. Norris | Council of Bishops Gallery, United Methodist Church

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The final MethodistThinker Podcast of 2010 features an address by the foremost American evangelist of the 20th century, the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, speaking at the 1980 United Methodist Congress on Evangelism.

Born in North Carolina in 1918, William Franklin Graham gave his life to Jesus Christ at a evangelistic service in Charlotte in 1934.

The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham

Five years later, he was ordained in the Southern Baptist Convention. After graduating from Wheaton College (Illinois) in 1943, he served as a pastor and radio preacher.

In 1945, Graham became vice president of Youth For Christ, and in 1947 he was named president of Northwestern College in Minneapolis (now located in St. Paul).

Three year later, he launched the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and began his long-running radio program, The Hour of Decision.

In 1956, Graham helped found Christianity Today magazine, “partly to provide a voice for evangelicals in the mainline who did not find themselves represented in the Christian Century,” according to Grant Wacker, professor of Christian history at Duke Divinity School.

Throughout the 1950s, Billy Graham held evangelistic campaigns in many major U.S. cities, including a New York City crusade that ran for 16 weeks. He also held rallies in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe.

Graham continued to travel and preach regularly for five decades, until finally slowed by age and Parkinson’s Disease. His final crusade, at age 86, was in 2005 in New York City.

Billy Graham’s many best-selling books include America’s Hour of Decision, Peace with God and Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham.

The message on this podcast, edited for length, was recorded in January 1980 at the United Methodist Congress on Evangelism, held that year on the campus of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

Dr. Graham’s message, “Confusion About Evangelism,” discusses the following:

  • Confusion over what evangelism means;
  • Confusion over the motive for evangelism;
  • Confusion over message of evangelism;
  • Confusion concerning strategy of the enemy in opposing evangelism;
  • Confusion over methods of evangelism.

To listen, use the audio player below (26 min.) — or right click (Windows users) to download an mp3 file (12.3MB).

The Congress on Evangelism is sponsored each January by the United Methodist Council on Evangelism and the UM General Board of Discipleship, with support from the Foundation for Evangelism.

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

Related posts
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Podcast: Bishop William R. Cannon: ‘The Whole Gospel for the Whole World’
Podcast: Terry Teykl on ‘Praying for the Lost’
Podcast: Charles Keysor—‘How then should UM evangelicals fight?’(NOTE: Keysor, founder of the UM renewal ministry Good News, came to Christ at a Graham crusade in 1959.)
Podcast: Billy Abraham on ‘Connecting Doctrine and Evangelism’
Related articles and information
Billy Graham and his last crusade? | Greg Laurie’s blog (Nov. 19, 2010)
Billy Graham’s legacy | A lecture by historian Grant Wacker, Duke Divinity School (April 24, 2009)
Graham ends crusade in city urging repentance and hope | New York Times (June 27, 2005)
The Billy pulpit: Graham’s career in Mainline Protestantism | Grant Wacker, Christian Century (via Beliefnet) (Nov. 15, 2003)
RNSGRAHAM-thumbnailA copyrighted photo of Billy Graham speaking at the UM Congress on Evangelism | Religion News Service (January 1980)

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