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Dr Watson writes ‘How do we follow Jesus Christ, and walk with Him in the world?’

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, felt his heart “strangely warmed” on May 24, 1738, one evening in Aldersgate Street, London. It was then that he knew his faith was no longer just knowing about Jesus Christ, but actually knowing Him.

A year later, on April 2, 1739, John Wesley had another experience, when he began preaching in the open air. This was something that he didn’t want to do, but felt compelled to undertake, so that he could take the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone who would hear it. And this began what became a major movement, first within the Church of England, and then across the Atlantic and around the world.

The theme for the Aldersgate SG 2014 Convention will be “A Matter of Heart and Life: Discipleship in the Wesleyan Tradition” – a reference to John Wesley’s “strangely warmed” experience. It is truly an honour to have been invited by Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup to speak at this year’s commemoration of Wesley’s Aldersgate experience with The Methodist Church in Singapore.

I look forward to being with you on that occasion, over the three evenings of presentations, as well as a seminar which I will be leading on “Covenant Discipleship”.

I will be addressing firstly our relationship with Jesus Christ, and secondly, how we live that out in the world. For this issue of Methodist Message, allow me to give you a preview of the first of my three topics, “Born of the Spirit”.

Born of the Spirit
Before we can understand the true meaning of Christian discipleship, we must start with the reality of human sin, though not in the way it is often misrepresented. The fact of the matter is that sin is not our fault. Our parents gave us a tremendous head start, and what they didn’t teach us we learned in one morning at school.

But it becomes our fault when we try to deny that we are sinners. Moreover, sin is not only personal: it is also social, systemic, and in our present global self-awareness, patently universal. In short, we are part of a fallen planet.

The good news is that God is not leaving things the way they are, but has come in the Person of Jesus Christ to begin a New Creation.

Jesus described this as the Kingdom, the Reign of God, where love will prevail, not hatred; peace, not war; eternal life, not death. He calls us to proclaim this redemption and invite the world to accept it as a wondrous gift. This is why we need to be born of the Spirit (John 3:1-10), often described as being “born again,” though this too can be misrepresented as an “either/or,” as “being saved or not saved.”

But when we read what John Wesley had to say, we find a deeper and much more encouraging insight. Wesley tells us that the best way to understand the spiritual life is by looking at the natural life.

Thus there is spiritual conception (as with the natural life this is God’s secret), spiritual growth in the womb (usually, but not always, the church or a spiritual community), spiritual birth (sometimes dramatic, but almost always a transition that none of us can actually remember), followed by spiritual growth and ultimately spiritual maturity.

All of this we will explore in the presentation on Thursday evening, May 22. Please come, and bring your questions so that we can have what Wesley called a time of “Christian Conference”.

 

Picture by Stocksolutions/Bigstock.com

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The Rev Dr David Lowes Watson is an eminent Wesleyan scholar, author and Methodist minister of the Tennessee Conference, The United Methodist Church.

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