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Tom has recently published the book:  Holiness:  The Journey, The Joy, The Difference.

Do you feel dissatisfied with the way you are and long to be a better person?

Have you ever wanted to cry out to the Lord, "Lord, please change me?"

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The story of John Wesley's life and message are as dynamic today as they were in the day when Wesley lived. This article highlights the key points that shaped Wesley's life and thinking, and the lasting legacy that he left with us today.

john wesley 192John Wesley was an enormously successful itinerant evangelist. Even the most renowned modern day evangelists stand in awe of his amazing accomplishments.

 

Born June 17, 1703, he was the fifteenth child of Samuel and Suzanna Wesley.   At age six he was dramatically rescued from a fire that consumed his father's rectory.  In the years that followed he always felt that God had spared him for a purpose.   As has been stated, he was truly a "brand plucked from the burning."

 

During his years of evangelism, John Wesley traveled more than a quarter of a million miles.  Most of these miles were traveled on horseback.  He crossed the Irish Sea scores of times in the cause of evangelism.  He preached literally tens of thousands of sermons.  For fifty years he traveled forty-five hundred miles a year and preached an average of twice a day.  Most of his sermons were preached in the open air to large crowds.  On horseback or in a carriage he read constantly and was a prolific writer.

 

Mr. Wesley came on the scene at a time when moral values were extremely low and there was a great indifference to the Christian faith.  The supernatural had gone out of religious thought and practice.  Wesley was used of God to turn many from philosophical speculation about religion to a personal experience with God. Using the authoritative Word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit, Wesley, the evangelist, moved both England and America toward God.  He tamed angry mobs and witnessed thousands of lives being transformed by the grace of God.

 

The preaching ministry of John Wesley brought revival to the Church, saved Britain from a bloody revolution, and brought about much social reform.  He preached frequently to the harlots, publicans, and thieves.  He saw many turned into productive citizens through the power of the gospel.

 

There is nothing irrelevant about Wesley's message.  He not only challenged people to live holy lives; he also led them into an active involvement in meeting society's social needs.  His ministry brought about a great deal of social reform at a time when it was desperately needed.

 

After his heartwarming experience on Aldersgate Street in London, his life and preaching were transformed.  He wrote, "Up until then I was nearly always defeated.  Now my words are like fire in stubble."  He became England's greatest preacher and organizer. He was an evangelist who considered the world to be his parish. His contemporary, George Whitfield, may have been more eloquent, but Wesley was gifted, not only as an evangelist, but in conservi­ng the fruit of his labors.  He passed on to his eternal reward on March 2, 1791.

 

Wesley's major emphasis in preaching centered around several issues.   He preached that Christ died for all, and all who believed on His name would be saved.  He taught that believers could have the assurance and the witness of the Spirit that they were "in Christ."  He lifted up the truths of Christian perfection and perfect love.  He also placed special emphasis on the various social issues of the day.

 

Unlike many other evangelists, Wesley impressed upon his converts that conversion was just the beginning of the Christian life.  He never downplayed the miracle of the new birth, but he placed strong emphasis on the truth that conversion was just the begin­ning.  He urged the new converts to go on into perfection and to love God with all of their hearts and their neighbors as themselves.

 

Over the years, there has been a great deal of confusion and there have been false accusations about the truth of Christian perfec­tion.  However, it was his proclamation of this truth that enabled Mr. Wesley to see the conservation of the fruit.

 

Today we need to lift up the amazing miracle of the new birth.  No one can go on into perfection until they have been first of all genuinely converted.  However, if we are going to get the back door closed in our churches, we are going to need to convince the believers that God can not only forgive them of their sins but can also cleanse their hearts from sin.

 

Wesley proclaimed the possibility of living by grace a life of supernatural love that enables one to live victoriously--not above error, immaturity, mistakes, or even the possibility of sin, but with a sensitive conscience to live void of offence toward God. He preached that holiness of heart and life is not an achievement of man but a gift of God.  He taught that it is a relationship with God in this life that brings death to self-will and abundant life.

 

The fruit of Wesley's preaching was chiefly conserved by gathering the people into what he referred to as class meetings.  In these meetings, he held before them the possibility of Christian perfection.  Herein lies the secret of his enormous success.

 

We find ourselves living in a time when there is a desperate need for evangelists and pastors to proclaim clear, Biblical messages on the subject of entire sanctification.  Also small account­ability or discipleship groups can still be very effective if they are properly organized.

 

It is truly astonishing to realize that when Wesley died, there were already more than 130,000 Methodists in Great Britain and America.  This is amazing when we realize that Wesley maintained very high standards of membership.  There were many more adherents that were not as yet official members.  According to Wesley, a member had to be "all out for the Highest," attend classes for spiritual instruction, testify in the midweek service, and gladly accept the responsibilities of personal evangelism.  The adherents at Wesley's death probably numbered more than one million.

 

John Wesley was often amazed himself at the phenomenal growth and strength of the movement that we refer to as Methodism.  He would cry out in adoring wonder, "What God hath wrought."  We need to realize that a few hurried words of instruction at an altar of prayer for new converts is never enough.  Wesley's genius was that he challenged the converts to go on into entire sanctification. He brought them together in class meetings where they were made accountable for their prayer life, Bible study, and personal evangelism, and whereby receive discipline and fellowship.

 

Mr. Wesley felt that in his role as an evangelist it was necessary for him to preach on sin, righteousness, and judgment before he was able to deal with God's love, mercy, and grace.  It seems that we have many today who want to entice people into the kingdom by preaching a man-centered, easy believism.  It really isn't working very well.  We desperately need God-called evangelists whose hearts have been set aflame with a passion for souls--evangelists who will not only proclaim the dynamic of the new birth, but also challenge believers to go on into perfection.