Spirit & Truth Hosts Class Meeting Workshop

I am excited to participate in a workshop hosted by Spirit & Truth on class meetings. The workshop is tomorrow January 14, 2021 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm EST.

I will give a brief introduction to the role class meetings played in early Methodism and why we should retrieve them today. What is most valuable about this workshop is that you will have the chance to hear from John Wayne McMann and Will Leasure. John Wayne and Will are pastors who have both successfully launched class meetings in their churches. You will get to hear their testimonies to how they have seen God use class meetings to change lives in their churches. There will also be practical concrete suggestions on the nuts and bolts of launching new class meetings.

Here is the description of the workshop from Spirit & Truth’s website:

Small group accountable discipleship is the heartbeat of disciple-making. In recent years many churches are discovering the power of reclaiming the class meeting model which served as the fuel for the Wesleyan revival of the 1700s. If you want to get far more intentional with your discipleship strategy as a church, invest in your small groups, or launch a small group ministry from scratch…this workshop is for you. If you’ve been wanting to implement class meeting style small groups, but you’re not sure how to practically get started…this workshop is for you. It’s time to start investing in the Great Commission more than just talking about it. Join us for this online interactive workshop led by two pastors who have been implementing this discipleship system with great success.

Schedule: 2:00-4:00pm ET on Thursday, January 14 via Zoom

Cost: This training is FREE! (But pre-registration is required.)

The workshop will be recorded, so you will also be able to view the recording after the event if you can’t be with us tomorrow.

To register and learn more, go here.

Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you.

John Wesley’s “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth”: A Brief Summary

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John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 28th sermon in this series. I have been publishing one sermon each Tuesday. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth” is the 28th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 13th of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.”

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

I am, secondly, to show the wisdom of him that doth them, that ‘buildeth his house upon a rock.’ He indeed is wise who ‘doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ He is truly wise whose ‘righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.’ He is poor in spirit; knowing himself even as also he is known. 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. He is meek and gentle, patient toward all men, never ‘returning evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing’; till he overcomes evil with good. His soul is athirst for nothing on earth, but only for God, the living God. He has bowels of love for all mankind, and is ready to lay down his life for his enemies. He loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his mind and soul and strength. He alone shall enter into the kingdom of heaven who in this spirit doth good unto all men; and who, being for this cause despised and rejected of men, being hated, reproached, and persecuted, ‘rejoices and is exceeding glad,’ knowing in whom he hath believed; and being assured these light, momentary afflictions will ‘work out for him an eternal weight of glory.’ [II.1]


One sentence summary:  

This sermon outlines the difference between building a house on sand or on rock in following Jesus.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock;

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.

And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand;

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

– Matthew 7:21-27


Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth”

1. Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount with these words, “setting his seal to his prophecy, and impressing his whole authority on what he had delivered, that it might stand firm to all generations.”
2. There is no other way than the way outlined by Jesus.
3. This sermon will, first, “consider the case of him who builds his house upon the sand; secondly, to show the wisdom of him who builds upon a rock; and thirdly, to conclude with a practical application.”

I.The case of the one who builds a house upon the sand.
1. Wesley emphasizes the serious consequences of building upon sand, regardless of good intentions or good works.
2. Doing no harm also does not guarantee that you will enter the kingdom of heaven.
3. Doing good works does not guarantee that you will enter the kingdom of heaven.
4. “If any man marvels at this, let him acknowledge he is a stranger to the whole religion of Jesus Christ; and in particular to the perfect portraiture thereof which he has set before us in this discourse.”
5. None will enter the kingdom of God unless they have this kingdom within them. Jesus reemphasizes this in this passage.
6. Those who “rest in anything short of that religion” which Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount built their house on sand.

II. The wisdom of the one who builds a house upon rock.
1. “He alone shall enter into the kingdom of heaven who in this spirit doth good unto all men; and who, being for this cause despised and rejected of men, being hated, reproached, and persecuted, ‘rejoices and is exceeding glad,’ knowing in whom he hath believed; and being assured these light, momentary afflictions will ‘work out for him an eternal weight of glory.'”
2. The wise person knows her true state before God and she knows the way to the kingdom of heaven: “even now to know, to love, to imitate God, and to believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent.”
3. It is wise to build upon the rock, which is Jesus Christ himself.
4. This does not mean the Christian is done with trials or temptation. “It still remains for God to prove the grace he hath given: he shall be tried as gold in the fire.”

III. Practical Application
1. Do not mistake things that help one grow in holiness (such as right doctrine or an excellent church) with holiness itself.
2. Avoiding harm is necessary but not sufficient. “When all this harmlessness flows from a right principles it is the least part of the religion of Christ. But in you it does not flow from a right principle, and therefore is no part at all of religion.”
3. Attending all the ordinances of God is important, but still not sufficient. “Faith, mercy, and love of God; holiness of heart; heaven opened in the soul” are essential.
4. Do not rely on your good works. “Learn to hang naked upon the cross of Christ, counting all thou hast done but dung and dross.”
5. Real faith produces inward and outward holiness. “That faith which hath not works, which doth not produce both inward and outward holiness, which does not stamp the whole image of God on the heart, and purify us as he is pure; that faith which does not produce the whole of the religion described in the foregoing chapters, is not the faith of the gospel, not the Christian faith, not the faith which leads to glory.”
6. “Now, therefore, build thou upon a rock. By the grace of God, know thyself.”
7. “Now weep for your sins, and mourn after God till he turns your heaviness into joy.”
8. “Learn in every state wherein you are, therewith to be content… Be angry at sin, as an affront offered to the majesty of heaven; but love the sinner still.”
9. Hunger and thirst for eternal things, not things that perish.
10. “Now, seeing thou canst do all things through Christ strengthening thee, be merciful as thy Father in heaven is merciful. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Love friends and enemies as thy own soul. And let thy love be long-suffering, and patient towards all men.”
11. “Now be thou ‘pure in heart’; purified through faith from every unholy affection, ‘cleansing thyself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfecting holiness in the fear of God.'”
12. “In a word: let thy religion be the religion of the heart… And as sure as thou now walkest with God on earth, thou shalt also reign with him in glory.”


Resources:

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Thirteenth” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-seven Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

The Witness of Our Own Spirit

The Means of Grace

The Circumcision of the Heart

The Marks of the New Birth

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Third

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fourth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fifth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Sixth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eleventh

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Twelfth

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Twelfth”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 27th sermon in this series. I have been publishing one sermon each Tuesday, but missed last week. (We got a puppy, which has been wonderful. But it has also thrown my schedule off quite a bit!) Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Twelfth” is the 27th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 12th of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.”

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Twelfth.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

Upon all occasions you may easily apply this rule. In order to know whether any who speak in the name of God are false or true prophets it is easy to observe, first, What are the fruits of their doctrine as to themselves? What effect has it had upon their lives? Are they holy and unblameable in all things? What effect has it had upon their hearts? Does it appear by the general tenor of their conversation that their tempers are holy, heavenly, divine? That the mind is in them which was in Christ Jesus? That they are meek, lowly, patient lovers of God and man, and zealous of good works? [III.2]


One sentence summary:  

Jesus warns of the dangers of false prophets, who can be recognized by their fruit.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

– Matthew 7:15-20


Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Twelfth”

1. Many people “run on to destruction” because they would not walk in the narrow way.
2. To try and prevent this, the Lord has sent watchmen to warn people of their danger. But what happens when they themselves go astray?
3. Sadly, this is not uncommon. And so Jesus wisely warns us to “Beware of false prophets.”
4. This sermon will: First, inquire who false prophets are. Second, what appearance they put on. Third, How we may know what they really are, regardless of their appearance.

I.1. Who are these false prophets?
2. “By ‘prophets’ here are meant, not those who foretell things to come, but those who speak in the name of God.” False prophets, then, teach a false way to heaven, a way which does not actually lead there.
3. Every broad way is a false one. And those who do not teach us to walk in the narrow way, “to be singular, are false prophets.”
4. “The only true way to heaven is that pointed out in the preceding sermon [the Sermon on the Mount]. Therefore they are false prophets who do not teach men to walk in this way.”
5. It doesn’t matter what any of these other ways are called. If what they teach is different from the Sermon on the Mount, they are false prophets.
6. “How much more do they fall under that condemnation who speak evil of this good way!”
7. False prophets are those “who encourage the proud, the trifler, the passionate, the lover of the world, the man of pleasure, the unjust or unkind, the easy, careless, harmless, useless creature, the man who suffers no reproach for righteousness’ sake, to imagine he is in the way to heaven.”

II. 1. They are not obviously false prophets, or no one would follow them. They come in disguise as those leading to the way to life.
2. They appear harmless, mild mannered, and inoffensive.
3. They seem useful. They have been set apart “to watch over your soul, and to train you up to eternal life.”
4. “They come, thirdly, with an appearance of religion. All they do is for conscience’ sake! They assure you it is out of mere zeal for God that they are making God a liar.”
5. “Above all, they come with an appearance of love. They take all these pains only for your good.”

III. 1. How may we know what they really are? You shall know them by their fruits.
2. “In order to know whether any who speak in the name of God are false or true prophets it is easy to observe, first, What are the fruits of their doctrine as to themselves? What effect has it had upon their lives? Are they holy and unblameable in all things? What effect has it had upon their hearts?
3. Second, what is the fruit of their teaching on those who hear them?
4. A false prophet brings forth evil fruit “always, and of necessity.”
5. Beware of false prophets! They cannot lead you in the way to heaven.
6. Wesley wrestles with whether we should ever hear false prophets. Jesus directs his followers at times to hear those who are known to be false prophets.
7. This applies not only to hearing them read Scripture but to expounding it.
8. False prophets also administer the sacraments. To direct people to not hear them, when they are leading churches would be to cut them off from the sacraments. “This we dare not do, considering the validity of the ordinance [sacrament] doth not depend on the goodness of him that administers [the officiant], but on the faithfulness of him that ordained it [Jesus].”
9. “All, therefore, which I can say is this: in any particular case wait upon God by humble and earnest prayer, and then act according to the best light you have.”
10. Wesley concludes by addressing false prophets directly: “How long will ye lie in the name of God, saying God hath spoken, and God hath not spoken by you? How long will ye pervert the right ways of the Lord, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness? How long will ye teach the way of death, and call it the way of life? How long will ye deliver to Satan the souls whom you profess to bring unto God?”
11. “Woe unto you, ye blind leaders of the blind!”
12. “If the Lord had sent you, the ‘work of the Lord’, would ‘prosper in your hands.’ As the Lord liveth, if ye were messengers of God he would ‘confirm the word of his messengers.’ But the work of the Lord doth not prosper in your hand: you bring no sinners to repentance. The Lord doth not confirm your word, for you save no souls from death.”
13. “Your speaking as from God has only confirmed them that heard you in the tempers, if not works, of the devil. O take warning of him in whose name ye speak, before the sentence he hath pronounced take place. ‘Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.'”
14. “My dear brethren, harden not your hearts. You have too long shut your eyes against the light. Open them now, before it is too late; before you are cast into outer darkness. Let not any temporal consideration weigh with you; for eternity is at stake.”


Resources:

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Twelfth” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-six Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

The Witness of Our Own Spirit

The Means of Grace

The Circumcision of the Heart

The Marks of the New Birth

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Third

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fourth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fifth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Sixth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eleventh

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

Thoughts on Theological Education (And Three Practical Suggestions)

There are a handful of books I hear about over and over, intend to read, but for one reason or another have a hard time getting to. When I finally do get to a book like this, it is almost always rewarding.

Desiring the Kingdom, James K. A. Smith

Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith was such a book. It was published more than a decade ago and has been widely read. I finally got around to reading it a few weeks ago. And now I can see why I’ve heard so much about it. This is not intended to be a review of the book, but my initial reflection on theological education that was prompted by it. (I do recommend reading it, if, like me, you haven’t gotten to it yet.)


Here are some key questions towards the beginning that drew me in:

What if education, including higher education, is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires?

What if we began by appreciating how education not only gets into our head but also (and more fundamentally) grabs us by the gut – what the New Testament refers to as kardia, “the heart”?

What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions – our visions of ‘the good life’ – and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking?….

And what if it had as much to do with our bodies as with our minds?

What if education wasn’t first and foremost about what we know, but about what we love?” (17-18)


These are fascinating and important questions!

My interest was further piqued by his summary of the purpose of the book on the next page:

This book is out to raise the stakes of Christian education, which will also mean raising the stakes of Christian worship. The goal is to get us to appreciate what’s at stake in both – nothing less than the formation of radical disciples who desire the kingdom of God.” (19)

In Desiring the Kingdom, Smith seeks to correct the misunderstanding of people as primarily thinkers or believers that is prevalent in many parts of American Christianity. In this problematic approach, formation is aimed at the head and not at the heart. It  is primarily cognitive, rather than embodied and affective. Smith uses a variety of avenues to try to help the reader see that the culture understands the role of desire. This is why advertising, for example, targets our hearts and not our heads.

And this is why the culture is so much more successful in forming people than the church.


Smith turns to Christian higher education in the final chapter of the book. Let me set the table with two key quotes from the beginning of the chapter:

If Christian education is not merely about acquiring a Christian perspective or a Christian worldview, what is its goal? Its goal, I’m suggesting, is the same as the goal of Christian worship: to form radical disciples of Jesus and citizens of the baptismal city who, communally, take up the creational task of being God’s image bearers, unfolding the cultural possibilities latent in creation – but doing so as empowered by the Spirit, following the example of Jesus’s cruciform cultural labor….

If something like Christian universities are to exist, they should be configured as extensions of the mission of the church – as chapels that extend and amplify what’s happening at the heart of the cathedral, at the altar of Christian worship. In short, the task of Christian education needs to be reconnected to the thick practices of the church.” (220)


As I read Desiring the Kingdom, I found myself trying to apply Smith’s ideas to theological education, particularly the training of clergy for full-time service and leadership within the church.

It seems to me that much of so-called mainline theological education fails to do what Smith envisions, not so much because it continues to be overly concerned with the life of the mind in a way that ignores the heart or the cultivation of desire. Seminaries seem to me increasingly concerned with forming desire. The problem is that it is not always clear what informs values about what we ought to desire. Put differently, Smith’s goal: “the formation of radical disciples who desire the kingdom of God” requires a degree of clarity regarding theological commitments. (This may be a difference between my own context and that of Smith’s. While I agree with him about the ultimate importance of forming radical disciples who desire the kingdom of God, I also see a need for greater clarity and coherence in theological commitments for this to be possible.)

Mainline theological education largely exists to prepare people to be pastors in Christian churches. This is a very specific purpose. And it is unavoidably connected to a host of values, beliefs, and convictions. But this is also not the only reason that mainline seminaries exist. Someone who wants to get a PhD in Religious Studies, for example, will often start by pursuing a Master’s degree. These students may or may not be Christians. As a result, in many mainline seminaries there is something of an ambivalent relationship between Christian commitments that are unabashedly designed to form radical disciples of Jesus and academic work.

One way seminaries address this tension is by creating extracurricular offices and programming that provides spiritual formation for students who elect to participate in it. And this is a logical approach given the dominant assumptions for much of contemporary theological education. My purpose here is not to be dismissive of these efforts. Rather, I want them to be lifted up as essential and centered in the curriculum itself.


It is strange to me that the church would require a specific degree for ordination and also accept so little control over how students are formed while in seminary. This is all the more odd when you remember that these institutions were themselves founded and funded by these churches.


If Christian education is best thought of as Christian formation, and if the task that is most needed is shaping our hearts and teaching us to love rightly, how might this change the way that students are prepared for ministry during their time in seminary?

First, if seminaries put discipleship at the center, there would need to be careful thinking about the places where there is overlap across denominational or confessional lines where fruitful formation within the Body of Christ can happen.

Second, there would need to be clearly demarcated denominational or confessional spaces where overlap would not be fruitful. The key is that there would be distinct space for different denominations or confessional traditions to gather and seek to cultivate desire for this distinctive embodiment of the Christian life. This should be integrated within the curriculum. There are already examples of this happening in many seminaries with denominational “Houses of Study” that are largely led by denominations that require that seminaries allow them more input in how their students’s are formed in seminary.


What would this look like practically speaking?

My sense is that few people would actively resist bringing greater attention to formation of the heart within seminary life. In fact, most seminaries already recognize that this is an area that can be improved and have worked hard to address this deficiency. But, again, my sense is that these are almost always activities that occur on the periphery. They are voluntary and tangential or entirely outside of the curriculum.

To give one example: Generally speaking, learning how to pray is not generally seen as a core competency in order to graduate from seminary.  But surely prayer is something that a pastor needs to be able to do well. Surely prayer is something that one needs to practice in order to become more effective. And to Smith’s point: a person who is becoming a radical disciple of Jesus Christ who desires the kingdom of God will surely be a person who spends significant time praying.

Embodied practices like prayer, searching the Scriptures, worship, receiving the Lord’s Supper, etc. are not at the center of mainline seminary curriculum.

I suspect most committed Christian laity would find this to be surprising. Aren’t these the very places seminary students most need to be proficient if they are to be effective leaders in the church of Jesus Christ? These are not the only areas where pastors need to be capable. But they are surely areas where pastors do need to be capable.


I conclude with three specific ways a seminary curriculum could help students who are preparing for full-time ordained leadership become radical disciples who desire the kingdom of God.

Mark time by practices of corporate worship

The conversation about whether attendance in chapel should or should not be required misses the mark in my view. Rather, the goal should be a seminary experience that would simply be unthinkable without regular corporate worship. I imagine someone saying, “I don’t know what that would be, but if we aren’t regularly gathering together as a community to worship the Triune God, it certainly is not seminary.”

Integrate Scripture reading, prayer, and discernment with instruction

Classes would have rhythms of reading Scripture and praying together. It would not be seen as unusual for a class to pray in the middle of a session. This would not be an irresponsible interruption to the information that needs to be covered, or an unwarranted intrusion into student’s lives. Students would be learning to discern truth and the voice of the Lord, even in the classroom. Space would unashamedly be given to this in the learning environment. Learning to hear the voice of God, for example, with all of its struggles, frustrations, joys, and breakthroughs would be centered in the seminary experience, not pressed to the margins, viewed with skepticism, or ridiculed.

Gather in Class and Band Meetings

For Wesleyan/Methodist students, small group formation in groups like the class meeting and the band meeting would be essential. This was the first practice that came to mind as I read Desiring the Kingdom. (I know, big surprise there.) Classes and bands teach participants to look at their lives through the lens of the gospel. And these groups help students notice and voice the places where they have experienced God’s goodness. And they teach participants the blessing of inviting people into the places where they have struggled to be faithful or have felt distant from God. Wesleyans believe that growth in holiness happens in community. Therefore, it is essential that Wesleyan “social holiness” is integrated into seminary curriculum.


Desiring the Kingdom is an important book. I encourage you to read it if you haven’t. What do you think about the role of theological education in forming desire for the kingdom in students? How is this being done well? How do you think it could be done better?


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eleventh”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 26th sermon in this series. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eleventh” is the 26th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 11th of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.”

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eleventh.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

This is an inseparable property of the way to heaven. So narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, unto life everlasting, so strait the gate, that nothing unclean, nothing unholy, can enter. No sinner can pass through that gate until he is saved from all his sins. Not only from his outward sins, from his evil ‘conversation, received by tradition from his fathers’. It will not suffice that he hath ‘ceased to do evil’ and ‘learned to do well’. He must not only be saved from all sinful actions and from all evil and useless discourse; but inwardy changed, throughly renewed in the spirit of his mind. Otherwise he cannot pass through the gate of life, he cannot enter into glory. [II.2]


One sentence summary:  

The way that leads to destruction is wide, easy to follow, and popular, while the way that leads to life is narrow and unpopular.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leaders to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leaders unto life, and few there be that find it.”

– Matthew 7:13-14


Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eleventh”

1. Jesus warns us of the dangers of bad examples and bad advice.
2. Wesley cites Matthew 7:13-14
3. The properties of the way to hell: wide, broad, leading to destruction, and largely populated. The properties of the way to heaven: straight, narrow, leading to life, and few find it.

I.1. “The inseparable properties of the way to hell: ‘Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.'”
2. “Sin is the gate of hell, and wickedness the way to destruction.”
3. Carnality, pride, self-will, and love of the world are sins that “diffuse themselves through all our thoughts, and mingle with all our tempers.”
4. There are countless sins in our midst right now, even in this city.
5. “Even in this which is called a Christian country the generality of every age and sex, of every profession and employment, of every rank and degree, high and low, rich and poor, are walking in the way of destruction.”
6. The higher people rise in wealth and status, “the more sins do they commit; using their honor or riches, their learning or wisdom, not as means of working out their salvation, but rather of excelling in vice, and so ensuring their own destruction.”

II. 1. “Straight is the gate and narrow the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
2. “This is an inseparable property of the way to heaven. So narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, unto life everlasting, so strait the gate, that nothing unclean, nothing unholy, can enter.”
3. The way that leads to life is “universal holiness.”
4. How few there are who fully love God and neighbor!
5. Negative examples have a powerful impact on us, especially when there are so many. “How difficult must it be to stem the tide, and to keep ourselves ‘unspotted in the world’!”
6. This is all the more challenging because bad examples often come from “the polite, the well-bred, the genteel, the wise, the men who understand the world; the men of knowledge, of deep and various learning, the rational, the eloquent!”
7. There are also many “mighty and noble and powerful men, as well as wise, in the road that leadeth to destruction.”
8. “Many rich are likewise in the broad way.”
9. “For how dark, how uncomfortable, how forbidding is the prospect on the opposite side! A strait gate! A narrow way! And few finding that gate!
10. Those on the narrow way are easy to ignore or ridicule because they “are not noble, not honorable men.”

III. 1. Strive to enter in at the strait gate.
2. One reason it seems that some cannot enter in is because the door has been shut.
3. “Probably they did seek before the door was shut; but that did not suffice. And they did strive, after the door was shut; but then it was too late.
4. “Settle it in your heart, and let it be ever uppermost in your thoughts, that if you are in a broad way, you are in the way that leadeth to destruction. If many go with you, as sure as God is true, both they and you are going to hell.”
5. “Now, then, ‘strive to enter in at the strait gate,’ being penetrated with the deepest sense of the inexpressible danger your soul is in so long as you are in a broad way, so long as you are void of poverty of spirit and all that inward religion which the many, the rich, the wise, account madness.”
6. Strive to enter in at the straight gate by ordering your conversation right, by abstaining from all appearance of evil, and doing all possible good to all people. “Be ready to cut off thy right hand, to pluck out they right eye and cast it from thee; to suffer the loss of goods, friends, health, all things on earth, so thou mayst enter into the kingdom of heaven.”


Resources:

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eleventh” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-five Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

The Witness of Our Own Spirit

The Means of Grace

The Circumcision of the Heart

The Marks of the New Birth

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Third

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fourth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fifth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Sixth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth”: A Brief Summary

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John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 25th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings (sorry I’m a bit late today). Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth” is the 25th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 10th of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.”

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

‘This is the law and the prophets.’ Whatsoever is written in that law which God of old revealed to mankind, and whatsoever precepts God has given by ‘his holy prophets which have been since the world began’, they are all summed up in these few words, they are all contained in this short direction. And this, rightly understood, comprises the whole of that religion which our Lord came to establish upon earth. [23]


One sentence summary:  

Jesus warns against several of the main hindrances of Christianity (such as judging others and casting pearls before swine) and concludes with the Golden Rule.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent?

If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him!

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

– Matthew 7:1-12


Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth”

1. In Matthew 7:1-12 Jesus identifies the main hindrances to Christianity and ends with application.
2. In Matthew 5, Jesus described inward religion, “the dispositions of the soul which constitute real Christianity.” In Matthew 6, Jesus shows “how all our actions… may be made holy… by a pure and holy intention.”
3. In the beginnings of Matthew 7, Jesus identifies “the most common and most fatal hindrances of this holiness.”
4. The first hindrance is judging.
5. This caution is needed at every stage of the Christian life.
6. This caution is for non-Christians as well as Christians.
7. Jesus especially cautions non-Christians against judging hypocrisy in Christians.
8. Judging is not only speaking evil of someone, it is also thinking evil of another.
9. “The thinking of another in a manner that is contrary to love is that judging which is here condemned.”
10. “We may not only fall into the sin of judging by condemning the innocent, but also… by condemning the guilty in a higher degree than he deserves.”
11. Judging shows a lack of love “which never draws an unjust or unkind conclusion from any premises.”
12. Another snare to be avoided is condemning a person where there is insufficient evidence.
13. Christians should hesitate to immediately believe a person’s self-accusation.
14. The problem of judging others would be largely solved if we consistently applied Matthew 18:15-17.
15. Once you have addressed the problem of judging others, still be careful you are not too quick to help that you “cast your pearls before swine.”
16. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.”
17. Be “very unwilling” to make this determination, but once it is clear someone is proud of their shame and separation from the will of God, do not cast your pearls before them.
18. And yet even if all your attempts to persuade someone fail, there is still prayer.
19. “It is in compassion to the hardness of our hearts, so unready to believe the goodness of God, that our Lord is pleased to enlarge upon this head, and to repeat and confirm what he hath spoken.”
20. God is ready and willing to give good gifts to all who ask.
21. “But that your prayer may have its full weight with God, see that ye be in charity with all men.”
22. The golden rule is recognized well beyond Christianity.
23. This summarizes “the whole of that religion which our Lord came to establish upon earth.”
24. This can be understood positively (do to others what you would want them to do to you) or negatively (do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you).
25. “It is clear to every man’s own conscience, we would not that others should judge us, should causelessly or lightly think evil of us.”
26. “Let us love and honor all men. Let justice, mercy, and truth govern all our minds and actions.”
27. “This is pure and genuine morality.”


Resources:

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Tenth” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-four Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

The Witness of Our Own Spirit

The Means of Grace

The Circumcision of the Heart

The Marks of the New Birth

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Third

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fourth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fifth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Sixth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 24th sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth” is the 24th sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 9th of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.”

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

To ‘serve mammon’ is, lastly, to obey the world, by outwardly conforming to its maxims and customs; to walk as other men walk, in the common road, in the broad, smooth, beaten path; to be in the fashion; to follow a multitude; to do like the rest of our neighbors; that is, to do the will of the flesh and the mind, to gratify our appetites and inclinations – to sacrifice to ourselves, to aim at our own ease and pleasure in the general course both of our words and actions.

Now what can be more undeniably clear than that we ‘cannot’ thus ‘serve God and mammon’?

Does not every man see that he cannot comfortably serve both? That to trim between God and the world is the sure way to be disappointed in both, and to have no rest either in one or the other? How uncomfortable a condition must he be in, who, having the fear but not the love of God, who, serving him, but not with all his heart, has only the toils and not the joys of religion! He has religion enough to make him miserable, but not enough to make him happy: his religion will not let him enjoy the world, and the world will not let him enjoy God. So that by halting between both he loses both, and has no peace either in God or the world. [11-12]


One sentence summary:  

You cannot serve God and mammon.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek); for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But first seek ye the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

– Matthew 6: 24-34


Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth”

1. Many Christians fear God and perform outward service to the Lord, but they also serve mammon.
2. You cannot serve two masters.
3. You cannot serve God and mammon.
4. In order to serve God, we must first trust God.
5. In order to serve God, we must second love God, to “desire God alone for his own sake.”
6. In order to serve God, we must third resemble or imitate him.”
7. In order to serve God, we must obey God and keep his outward commandments.
8. Serving mammon means trusting in wealth and the things we buy with it.
9. Serving mammon means, secondly, loving the world, “desiring it for its own sake.”
10. Third, serving mammon means resembling or being conformed to the world.
11. Fourth, serving mammon means “to obey the world, by outwardly conforming to its maxims and customs.”
12. You cannot comfortably serve both God and mammon, “to trim between God and the world is the sure way to be disappointed in both, and to have no rest either in one or the other.”
13. You cannot serve both and be consistent with yourself.
14. You cannot serve both God and mammon because “there is the most absolute contrariety, and the most irreconcilable enmity, between them.”
15. “Therefore, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
16. This is not to say that God requires that we give no thought whatsoever to the concerns of this life.
17. What is condemned is “the anxious, uneasy care; the care that hath torment; all such care as does hurt, either to the soul or body.”
18. Trust God to provide for your basic needs.
19. God knows your needs and will provide for them if you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
20. “Let God have the sole dominion over you. Let him reign without a rival. Let him possess all your heart, and rule alone. Let him be your one desire, your joy, your love; so that all that is within you may continually cry out, ‘The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.'”
21. An interpretation of Romans 10 based on this logic.
22. Connection to Philippians 3.
23. God knows everything you need and will not fail to give you what you need.
24. Don’t worry about tomorrow.
25. “Above all, do not make the care of future things a pretense for neglecting present duty.”
26. Do not fail to do what good you can do today because you are worried about what might happen in the distant future.
27. Do not worry about possible temptations you might face tomorrow. “In every situation the grace of God will be sufficient for you.”
28. Think of tomorrow when it comes. Live today.
29. “Gladly suffer today, for his name’s sake, whatsoever he permits this day to come upon thee. But look not at the sufferings of tomorrow.”


Resources:

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Ninth” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-three Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

The Witness of Our Own Spirit

The Means of Grace

The Circumcision of the Heart

The Marks of the New Birth

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Third

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fourth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fifth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Sixth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth”: A Brief Summary

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This is the 23rd sermon in this series. You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Background: 

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief. 

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth” is the 23rd sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 8th of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon focuses on works of piety, works of mercy, and the Lord’s Prayer. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.” 

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote:  

“May not this be another reason why rich men shall so hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven? A vast majority of them are under a curse, under the peculiar curse of God; inasmuch as in the general tenor of their lives they are not only robbing God continually, embezzling and wasting their Lord’s goods, and by that very means corrupting their own souls; but also robbing the poor, the hungry, the naked, wronging the widow and the fatherless, and making themselves accountable for all the want, affliction, and distress which they may but do not remove. Yea, doth not the blood of all those who perish for want of what they either lay up or lay out needlessly, cry against them from the earth? O what account will they give to him who is ready to judge both the quick and the dead!” [25]


One sentence summary:   

Wesley gives an account of stewardship, calls for giving generously to the poor, and warns of the danger of riches for the one who fails to be a faithful steward.


Scripture passage for the sermon: 

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal;For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” 

– Matthew 6:19-23


Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth”

 
1. The same purity of intention is required in the normal things of life as in giving, fasting, or prayer.
2. “The eye is the intention: what the eye is to the body, the intention is to the soul.”
3. If our eyes are fixed solely on God, our lives will be filled with the light of Christ.
4. If you seek God in all things, with focused intention, you will find the fountain of holiness, constantly filling you with “his own likeness, with justice, mercy, and truth.”
5. “This light which fills him who has a single eye implies, thirdly, happiness as well as holiness.”
6. Your eye either is fixed solely on God, or it is not and then leads to evil.
7. “If thine eye be not single, if thou seek any of the things of earth, thou shalt be full of ungodliness and unrighteousness, thy desires, tempers, affections, being all out of course, being all dark, and vile, and vain.”
8. There is no peace for “them that know not God.”
9. Those who lay up treasures for themselves on earth are not singly fixed on God.
10. Many read this passage regularly without recognizing that “they are themselves condemned” by it.
11. Jesus’s command here does not forbid providing for the basic necessities like food and clothing for ourselves and our household. It also does not forbid saving “what is needful for the carrying on our worldly business so that we are not in debt, can provide for the basics for ourselves and our families, and provide the same for them if we die.
12. Saving beyond this is forbidden by Jesus.
13. “If you aim at ‘laying up treasures on earth’ you are not barely losing your time and spending your strength for that which is not bread… You have murdered your own soul.”
14. It is exceptionally difficult for those having riches to enter the kingdom of God.
15. The warning is particularly for those who desire riches, “those who calmly desire and deliberately seek to attain them.”
16. Who will warn this generation of this danger?
17. Jesus did not tell everyone they must sell all that they have. He gave this as a specific command to a particular person.
18. Do not trust in riches for help or happiness.
19. Everyone will die and when they are near death, riches are of no help.
20. Do not trust in riches for happiness. If you are tempted to, ask yourself: Are the richest people the happiest?
21. Trust in the living God for help and happiness.
22. Do not try to gain more and more wealth.
23. If you have riches do not set them aside for posterity or spend them on yourself on excessive indulgence.
24. “Equally inexcusable are those who lay up what they do not need for any reasonable purposes.”
25. The vast majority of the rich are “under the peculiar curse of God” because “they are not only robbing God continually, embezzling and wasting their Lord’s goods, and by that very means corrupting their own souls; but also robbing the poor, the hungry, the naked, wronging the widow and the fatherless, and making themselves accountable for all the want, affliction, and distress which they may but do not remove.”
26. “Give to the poor with a single eye, with an upright heart.”
27. The rich are to “be merciful as your Father which is in heaven is merciful.”
28. “Be a steward, a faithful and wise steward, of God and of the poor.”


Resources: 

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Eighth” in its entirety. 

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-two Standard Sermons: 

Salvation by Faith” 

The Almost Christian” 

Awake, Thou That Sleepest” 

Scriptural Christianity“ 

Justification by Faith“ 

The Righteousness of Faith“ 

The Way to the Kingdom“ 

The First-Fruits of the Spirit“ 

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption“ 

The Witness of the Spirit, I“ 

The Witness of Our Own Spirit“ 

The Means of Grace“ 

The Circumcision of the Heart“ 

The Marks of the New Birth“ 

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God“ 

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First“ 

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second“ 

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Third“ 

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fourth“ 

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fifth“ 

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Sixth“ 

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh“ 

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended! 

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.

Allan NRSV Classic Reference Edition with Apocrypha: An Exceptional Binding

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If you are a fine Bible enthusiast, you know that there has been one glaring omission from the Bibles that I have reviewed so far: Allan Bibles. If you don’t know about Allan Bibles, they are perhaps the most highly regarded of all fine Bible publishers. When I asked for a review copy of an Allan Bible, I was politely told that they have been unable to meet demand for their Bibles, and so they do not give review copies. This is partially due to their size. Allan is a small outfit, especially compared to major publishers like Cambridge, Zondervan, and Crossway. But it is also because their customers rave about Allan bindings.

About a year ago, I started pinching pennies to save up to buy an Allan Bible to see for myself. When I found out that they were releasing a new NRSV with apocrypha, I decided to grab one. The first thing I discovered was that Allan Bibles do sell quickly! The only option I had was a red cover. This Allan NRSV Classic Reference Edition with Apocrypha is the subject of today’s review. (And unfortunately, due to their popularity the NRSV reviewed here is out of stock as of this writing.)

Cover

You can buy Allan Bibles in a variety of goatskin covers. Allan is especially known for their Highland goatskin covers. Highland goatskin is a natural grain, which means an artificial grain isn’t imprinted or stamped on it. I had seen so many people rave about Highland goatskin – the goatskin of all goatskins! – that if I was going to shell out for an Allan Bible, it had to be in a Highland goatskin cover.

Allan is also known for the yapp on their covers. Yapp means that the cover extends well past the pages. A full yapp cover basically completely covers the entire text block (the pages of the Bible). A semi-yapp cover folds partially over the pages. 

The Allan NRSV Classic Reference Edition with Apocrypha is bound in a red semi-yapp Highland goatskin cover. The binding is edge-lined. The text on the spine is simple and nicely done. I like this cover. The Highland goatskin feels natural in a good way. It is a bit rougher than other goatskin covers. I assume this is because it has gone through less treatment than many other covers. Some goatskin covers feel plush, and this does not. Out of the box, it has the ideal rich leather smell you hope for when you buy something that is real leather. I also think this cover will break in really well. I expect this Bible to only get better with age and use. And that, of course, is the point in buying an exceptional Bible that is made to last.

The best part about this Bible is how flexible the binding is. The spine curls inward as you open the book, which lets it easily lay flat at any page in the book. You can also easily wrap the cover around the back of the Bible, one of my admittedly quirky criteria for an exceptionally bound Bible.

The reason to Allan Bibles are so popular is because of the exceptional quality materials they use in their covers and the extraordinary craftsmanship in the binding itself. I have other Bibles with great covers that are exceptionally bound, but none that are better than this one.

Layout

Here is where I must admit some disappointment with this Bible. Allan’s process is different than the other Bibles I have reviewed here. They take a text block (the actual pages of the Bible) from another publisher and bind those pages with an amazing cover. For me, this means the text itself is a bit of a disappointment. The ideal fine Bible is one with an exceptional cover that matches the quality of the ink and pages in a layout that is enjoyable to read. 

The text block for this Bible was done by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The text is acceptable. But it isn’t great. For the price, I was hoping to be wowed by every aspect of this Bible. The layout is a standard double-column layout with references in a center column. I cannot find the font size, but it seems a bit smaller than I would expect for this size Bible.

Other Features

The ribbons in this Bible are a rich blue that was a brilliant choice. They go great with the red cover. (Allan Bibles have a reputation for coming with really long ribbons, and these are very long!) 

This Bible includes the Apocrypha, which some people will love and others might not like. It is a nice research tool because the Apocrypha also includes cross references to other passages in the Bible. In my review of Zondervan’s NRSV single-column reference Bible, I lamented that it seems to be standard in NRSV editions to restart pagination in each testament (and celebrated that the Zondervan edition does not do this). The Allan NRSV restarts pagination in the Apocrypha (which is between the Old and New Testaments) and again in the New Testament.

This Bible does not have the glossary that is found in most NRSV reference editions. I am not sure if it was not included in the SPCK edition or if Allan left it out for a slightly thinner profile. Most readers won’t mind this omission, but it does somewhat limit the Bible’s appeal as a reference edition. (Particularly when a Bible as small as Cambridge’s NIV Pitt Minion includes a 2,474 word concordance with more than 10,000 Scripture references.)

When I first heard about the Allan NRSV Classic Reference Edition with Apocrypha, I remember much of the buzz was over the antique marbled page edges. I was skeptical about whether I would like these and would have definitely chosen art-gilt page edges if I had a choice. When the Bible arrived, the marbled page edges were a disappointment to me. I wonder if they work better with different color covers. The speckled pages give me the feeling of trying too hard to make the Bible seem older than it is and to me it ends up coming across as contrived. But this, of course, is purely subjective. I know some people love the risk Allan took and think it paid off.

Finally, the Bible comes with maps and a generous amount of lined paper at the end of the text block. The lined paper is a another well-known and much beloved feature of Allan Bibles.

Conclusion

Allan bindings live up to the hype. I don’t think you can improve on the quality of the binding. It is truly exceptional. While I am very glad to have gotten my hands on an Allan Bible, I don’t think I would buy this Bible again. To me, the quality of the paper does not live up to the quality of the cover and the binding. And I just don’t like the marbled page edges, particularly knowing that it means the Bible doesn’t have Allan’s celebrated dark art-gilt page edges. Having said that, I know a handful of people who bought this Bible and all of them rave about it.

My sense is that Allan did not have ideal options for an NRSV text block for this edition. I would love to see an Allan binding in an edition that has better quality paper. From other reviews I’ve read online, my sense is that you would find the complete package in one of their ESV or KJV editions.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you.

John Wesley’s Sermon “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh”: A Brief Summary

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John Wesley, Justification by Faith

This is the 22nd sermon in this series, which means we are half way there! You can expect to see a new post in this series by 10am EST on Tuesday mornings. Just joining the growing number of people reading these sermons? Feel free to start at the beginning by reading the first sermon by John Wesley in this series, “Salvation by Faith,” or jump right in with us!


Background:

Did you know that many of John Wesley’s sermons are part of the formal doctrinal teaching of multiple Wesleyan/Methodist denominations? Wesley’s sermons have particular authority because these were the main way he taught Methodist doctrine and belief.

“Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh” is the 22nd sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. It is also the 7th of 13 sermons on the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon focuses on works of piety, works of mercy, and the Lord’s Prayer. The fact that 13 of the 44 original Standard Sermons focused on the Sermon on the Mount gives an idea of the importance John Wesley placed on Matthew 5-7. Wesley spends so much time on these three chapters of the Bible because he believed they provide essential teaching from Jesus on “the true way to life everlasting, the royal way which leads to the kingdom.”

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh.” I hope it will inspire you to read the sermon in its entirety yourself. Links to the sermon and other resources are included at the end of this post.


Key quote: 

Here then is the natural ground of fasting. One who is under deep affliction, overwhelmed with sorrow for sin, and a strong apprehension of the wrath of God, would without any rule, without knowing or considering whether it were a command of God or not, “forget to eat this bread”, abstain not only from pleasant, but even from needful food. Like St. Paul, who after he was “led into Damascus, was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”[II.2]


One sentence summary:  

Fasting is an instituted means of grace that connects embodied practice with inner trasformation.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;

That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

– Matthew 6:16-18


Concise outline of “Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh”

1. From the beginning, Satan has worked to separate inward from outward religion.
2. It is by this very device of Satan that faith and works have been put in opposition to one another.
3. In the same way have the end and the means of religion been put at odds with each other.
4. Of all the means of grace there is scare any concerning which men have run into greater extremes than fasting.

I. The Nature of Fasting

1. “All the inspired writers, both in the Old Testament and the New, take the word to ‘fast’ in one single sense, for not to eat, to abstain from food.”
2. Other practices were sometimes added to abstaining from food in the Old Testament, but they were not essential to fasting.
3. There are a variety of lengths of fasting, but the most common is “one day, from morning till evening.”
4. Abstinence is a supplemental term added by the church for those who cannot fast entirely and means to eat little. It is not spoken of in scripture one way or another.
5. The lowest kind of fasting is abstaining from pleasant food.
6. There were called fasts in the Old Testament and there have been seasons of fasting in the early church and contemporary churches. There have also been national fasts. The directions here primarily refer to private times of fasting.

II. The Grounds, Reasons, and Ends of Fasting

1. First, people in extremely difficult circumstances often fast, sometimes because eating is such a low priority they don’t even think about it.
2. “The natural ground of fasting” is when someone “under deep affliction, overwhelmed with sorrow for sin, and a strong apprehension of the wrath of God,” forgets to eat out of their anguish.
3. People sometimes fast because they are aware of their tendency to eat too much of what they are permitted to eat.
4. People fast to “remove the food of lust and sensuality, to withdraw the incentives of foolish and hurtful desires, of vile and vain affections.”
5. People sometimes fast in order to “pushing themselves for having abused the good gifts of God.”
6. More importantly, they fast as a “help to prayer.”
7. Fasting is undertaken sometimes in hopes of averting the wrath of God. (Ex. of Ahab.)
8. Example of fasting in Jonah 3.
9. “It is a means not only of turning away the wrath of God, but also of obtaining whatever blessings we stand in need of.”
10. “The apostles always joined fasting with prayer when they desired the blessing of God on any important undertaking.” (Acts 13, 14, Matthew 17)
11. Fasting is a means of grace given to us by God directly.
12. The main reason for Christians to fast is because Jesus tells us to in Matthew 6.

III. Objections

1. Objection: Christians should fast from sin, not food.
Answer: “That a Christian ought to abstain from sin is most true. But how does it follow from hence that he ought not to abstain from food?”
2. Objection: But is it not better to abstain from pride, from peevishness, and anger, and discontent, than from food?
Answer: “Without question it is… We abstain from food… that by the grace of God, conveyed into our souls through this outward means, in conjunction with all the other channels of his grace which he hath appointed, we may be enabled to abstain from every passion and temper which is not pleasing in his sight.”
3. Objection: We tried fasting and did not find benefits.
Answer: It is possible to fast in a way that makes things worse, makes you more unhappy and unholy. The fault is not in the means itself, but in the manner of using it. “Do what God commands as he commands it.
4. Is it not mere superstition to imagine that God regards such little things as these?
Answer: If everyone who has fasted was superstitious, “all the generation of God’s children” who have practiced this before us would be condemned.
5. Objection: If fasting is so important, shouldn’t we fast always?
Answer: “By all means use as little and plain food, exercise as much self-denial herein at all times, as your bodily strength will bear… But this is not fasting, scriptural fasting.”
6. Answer continued: Abstain from unnecessary eating and indulgence as much as possible. This is good. But this is not fasting and fasting is still an instituted means of grace.
7. Scriptural examples.

IV. In What Manner We Are to Fast

1. Fix your eyes singly on the Lord.
2. Do not think of fasting as a way of earning merit.
3. Do not imagine that “the bare outward act will receive any blessing from God.”
4. Fasting should be done in a way that is prudent and cares for our bodies and our own bodily strength.
5. Fasting should be a season of “exerising all those holy affections which are implied in a broken and contrite heart.”
6. Join fervent prayer with fasting.
7. Add works of mercy, concrete expressions of care for the bodies and souls of other people, to fasting.


Resources:

Read “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Seventh” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first twenty-one Standard Sermons:

Salvation by Faith

The Almost Christian

Awake, Thou That Sleepest

Scriptural Christianity

Justification by Faith

The Righteousness of Faith

The Way to the Kingdom

The First-Fruits of the Spirit

The Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption

The Witness of the Spirit, I

The Witness of Our Own Spirit

The Means of Grace

The Circumcision of the Heart

The Marks of the New Birth

The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the First

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Second

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Third

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fourth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Fifth

Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse the Sixth

I highly recommend the critical edition of Wesley’s sermons, which has excellent references that show his reliance on Scripture throughout his preaching. There are four volumes if you want every known Wesley sermon. They aren’t cheap, but this is the most important publication by Abingdon since its release. Highly recommended!

There is also a three volume edition of Wesley’s sermons in modern English, which is easier to read if you find the 18th century English frustrating. Here is the first volume.


Kevin M. Watson is a professor at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He teaches, writes, and preaches to empower community, discipleship, and stewardship of our heritage. Click here to get future posts emailed to you. Affiliate links used in this post.