Crossway Heirloom Thinline Bible: Portable, Easy to Read, and a Delight to Use

There are so many factors that make a fine Bible exceptional. Here is what I think is most important: Do you want to pick up the Bible again and again? Do you enjoy holding it and, most importantly, reading it? Crossway’s Heirloom Thinline Bible is an excellent example of getting it right. The font in noticeably larger than Cambridge’s Pitt Minion (previously reviewed here) but because of the simple minimalist two-column layout, the Bible is in a surprisingly small package. This is a Bible you can take with you on the go without adding much more bulk than the smallest portable Bibles, with the benefit of significant enhancement in ease of reading.


Cover

Crossway ESV Heirloom Thinline Bible Cover

The Crossway ESV Heirloom Thinline Bible reviewed here is black goatskin. The cover feels substantial, while still being very flexible.The grain is a great balance between either too smooth or too pebbly. It has a really nice texture. The spine has four ribs, which I think are perfect. The lettering on the spine is gold. The design comes close to overkill for me, as there is both the ESV logo and English Standard Version spelled out in addition to “Holy Bible” at the top and Crossway’s logo at the bottom of the spine.

This Bible has edge-lined binding, which is known to be the most durable. One drawn back for edge-lined Bibles for me has sometimes been a stiff hinge where the pages don’t lay flat when the Bible is opened. My sense is that if you don’t have a basis for comparison, this is something that most people would never notice. But if you’ve see an edge-lined Bible that has a flexible hinge (here’s a great example), it is disappointing to see a stiffer hinge. I like to be able to roll the cover around the back of the Bible when I’m reading, which is harder to do with stiff hinges. However, this is less of an issue with the Crossway Heirloom Thinline because of how thin it is while still having a fairly wide page, particularly in proportion to each other. This is a minor concern from my perspective and would not keep me from purchasing this Bible.


Layout

This Bible has a very simple, minimalist layout. I love it!

It has 8-point type, which I consider to be quite large for a Bible with this profile. It is double-column with paragraphs (instead of each verse being separated).  The Bible is black lettering throughout (the words of Jesus are not in red). There is a relatively concise concordance containing 2,400 word entries and 10,000 Scrpiture references. It also has color maps.

This Bible surprised me because I would ordinarily eliminate from consideration a Bible without cross references. This Bible would not be possible in the profile and font size with any additional apparatus. Crossway’s Heirloom Thinline Bible is close to ideal in terms of the combination of portable size with enjoyable reading experience. This advantage makes the lack of references logical.


Conclusion

My enthusiasm for premium Bibles comes from a conviction that the printed word matters. In a time when we spend more and more time with exceptionally well crafted and addictive devices, we need Bibles that are beautifully designed and enjoyable to hold and read. The more Bibles I’ve been able to get my hands on, the more convinced I am that these are a worthwhile investment, particularly as they are made to last a lifetime.

The Crossway ESV Heirloom Thinline Bible is beautifully designed and enjoyable to hold and read. I find myself picking it up and flipping through it because it is so well made and engaging. This is a fantastic Bible. Crossway did a great job on this one!


Bonus: If you’ve tried to read the Bible cover to cover without success, try this!

Crossway has impressed me with their thorough support for the ESV across the board. In addition to their Heirloom line, they also have creatively and thoughtfully produced a variety of Bibles. Outside of the Heirloom Bibles, my favorite is easily the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set.

Have you always wanted to read through the entire Bible, but tend to get bogged down somewhere in Leviticus and just never make it through?

If so, I would highly recommend giving this Bible a try. It is designed to be read like you actually read. Each of the six volumes can be comfortably held in your hands and has paper, font size, and margins similar to a typical book you would read from front to back. The paper is much thicker than a typical Bible (like a normal book) and there are no distracting additions on the page. (There aren’t even chapter or verses.)

I highly recommend this Bible for immersive reading of Scripture. If you want to read through the entire Bible in a relatively short period of time, you should check out this set.


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. Crossway provided a review copy of this Bible in exchange for an honest review.

John Wesley’s Sermon “The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 15th 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 linked below, 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.

“The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God” is the fifteenth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. In this sermon, Wesley describes 1 John 3:9 as the “great privilege of those that are born of God.” Are those who have faith in Christ and have experienced the new birth really able to stop sinning? How is that possible? And if so, how is it that people who are born again fall back into sin? Wesley engages these questions in this bold sermon.

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God.” 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: 

You see the unquestionable progress from grace to sin. Thus it goes on, from step to step. (1). The divine seed of loving, conquering faith remains in him that is ‘born of God’. ‘He keepeth himself’, by the grace of God, and ‘cannot commit’ sin; (2). A temptation arises, whether from the world, the flesh, or the devil, it matters not; (3). The Spirit of God gives him warning that sin is near, and bids him more abundantly watch unto prayer; (4). He gives way in some degree to the temptation, which now begins to grow pleasing to him; (5). The Holy Spirit is grieved; his faith is weakened, and his love of God grows cold; (6). The Spirit reproves him more sharply, and saith, ‘This is the way; walk thou in it.’ (7). He turns away from the painful voice of God and listens to the pleasing voice of the tempter; (8). Evil desire begins and spreads in his soul, till faith and love vanish away; (9). He is then capable of committing outward sin, the power of the Lord being departed from him. [II.9]


One sentence summary:  

It is the great privilege of all who are born of God to resist voluntary transgressions of the law.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” – 1 John 3:9


Concise outline of “The Great Privilege of Those that Are Born of God”

1. It has frequently been supposed that being born of God was the same thing as being justified.
2. Though in time they are indistinguishable, they are not the same. Justification is a relative change. The new birth is a real change.
3. Not discerning the difference has caused great confusion.
4. We need to consider ‘whosoever is born of God’ and then in what sense ‘he doth not commit sin.’

I. The meaning of the expression “Whosoever is born of God.”

1. Being born of God is not merely being baptized, but a vast inward change.
2. The natural birth is the easiest way to understand the spiritual.
3. The unborn child has little knowledge of the visible world.
4. He that is not yet born cannot sense the spiritual world because his senses aren’t opened up and there is a thick veil.
5. As soon as a child is born, his senses are opened.
6. So it is with him that is born of God.
7. He has scarce any knowledge of the invisible world.
8. When he is born of God, his whole existence is changed. Wesley uses the image of spiritual respiration.
9. The eyes of his understanding are opened, he clearly sees the love of God and his promises.
10. His ears are opened and the voice of God no longer calls in vain.

II. In what sense does the one born of God not sin?

1. In what sense does the one born again ‘not commit sin?’ The one who receives love from God every moment gives back love and praise.
2. Wesley defines sin as a voluntary transgression of the law.
3. But it is a plain fact that people born of God have sinned.
4. David was born of God and committed the horrid sins of adultery and murder.
5. There are examples even after the sending of the Holy Spirit. Ex. Barnabas
6. An example from Galatians 2:12-14.
7. Wesley seeks to reconcile the previous examples with the assertion of John that “whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” He answers: So long as “he that is born of God keepers himself, the wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 John 5:18) Wesley outlines how someone falls back into sin.
8. Wesley illustrates this with the example of David’s sin.
9. The progress from grace to sin (see the steps in the key quote above)
10. Wesley illustrates this using Peter as an example.

III. Does sin precede or follow the loss of faith?

1. The loss of faith must precede the recommitting outward sin.
2. The life of God in a believer continually requires the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
3. God does not continue to act upon the soul unless it re-acts upon God.
4. Let us fear sin more than death or hell. Watch always that you may always hear the voice of God.
5. A second fruit of the love of God is universal obedience to him we love, and conformity to his will, being zealous of good works.


Resources:

Read “The Great Privilege of those that are Born of God” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first fourteen 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

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.

Some Good News

Candler School of Theology recently announced that I have been promoted to associate professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies. I was also granted tenure.

Here is the announcement.

I want to say thank you to the many friends, family, and colleagues who have generously invested their time, energy, and resources in me. I eagerly await the day I can say thank you in person.

In 2006, the Lord called me to work for the renewal of the church by pastoring seminary students who are preparing to become pastors. When I first heard that calling, I was certain it could only happen if God opened the doors for me that needed to be opened. Some of those doors have been hard to walk through.

But the One who called me has been faithful every step of the way.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:14-21) has been special to my family. The end of this prayer is the best way I can express my gratitude to God:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


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 “The Marks of the New Birth”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 14th 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 linked below, 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.

“The Marks of the New Birth” is the fourteenth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons. In this sermon, Wesley identifies the marks that one who has experienced justification by faith and the new birth will have. When people experience the new birth, what should we expect their lives to be like? This sermon addresses that question. The answer of faith, hope, and love may initially seem simple. But the way that Wesley fleshes this out is rich and raises deep questions about the Christian life and our expectations for life in Christ.

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Marks of the New Birth.” 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 it is, in the judgment of the Spirit of God, to be a son or a child of God. It is so to believe in God through Christ as ‘not to commit sin’, and to enjoy, at all times and in all places, that ‘peace of God which passeth all understanding’. It is so to hope in God through the Son of his love as to have not only the ‘testimony of a good conscience’, but also ‘the Spirit of God bearing witness with your spirits that ye are the children of God’: whence cannot but spring the ‘rejoicing evermore in him through whom ye have received the atonement’. It is so to love God, who hath thus loved you, as you never did love any creature: so that ye are constrained to love all men as yourselves; with a love not only ever burning in your hearts, but flaming out in all your actions and conversations, and making your whole life one ‘labour of love’, one continued obedience to those commands, ‘Be ye merciful, as God is merciful;’ ‘Be ye holy, as I the Lord am holy;’ ‘Be ye perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ [IV.1]


One sentence summary:  

The marks of the new birth are faith, hope, and love.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“So is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8


Concise outline of “The Marks of the New Birth”

1. How is everyone born again, born of God? What is implied in being a son or child of God? What is the new birth?
2. I propose to lay down the marks, just as I find them in Scripture.

I. The First Mark of the New Birth Is Faith

1. The first mark of the new birth is faith.
2. It is not a barely notional or speculative faith.
3. True living faith is not only an assent, but a disposition which God has wrought in a person’s heart.
4. An immediate and constant fruit of this faith is power over sin.
5. Power over outward sin is affirmed in John.
6. Whosoever is born of God does not sin (more engagement with John).
7. Another fruit of this living faith is peace.

II. The Second Mark of the New Birth Is Hope

1. A second mark of those who are born of God is hope.
2. This hope implies (1) testimony of our own spirit. We walk in sincerity and (2) the witness of the Spirit.
3. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.
4. All who have received this one Spirit cry “Abba Father” together.
5. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

III. The Third Mark of the New Birth Is Love

1. A third scriptural mark, the greatest of all, is love.
2. He is so joined unto the Lord as to be “one spirit.”
3. The necessary fruit of this love for God is love for our neighbor.
4. Love of God and neighbor will lead to keeping the rest of the commandments.
5. A second fruit of the love of God is universal obedience to him we love, and conformity to his will, being zealous of good works.

IV. Summary

1. A summary of what has been said so far.
2. The question is not what you were – what are you now?
3. Don’t say: I was once baptized; therefore I am now a child of God.
4. To say you cannot be born again but in baptism is to seal yourself under damnation.
5. Verily, verily, I say unto you, you must also be born again.
6. May all who prepare their hearts yet again to seek God’s face receive again that Spirit of adoption and cry out, Abba, Father!


Resources:

Read “The Marks of the New Birth” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first thirteen 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

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!


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 “The Circumcision of the Heart”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 13th sermon in this series. I took a few weeks off in July, but generally 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 linked below, 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.

“The Circumcision of the Heart” is the thirteenth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons and is the first that Wesley actually preached. The sermon is a revised version of a sermon he preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford on January 1, 1733. This is a sermon Wesley himself identified as a crucial summary of his understanding of salvation and holiness.

In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Circumcision of the Heart.” 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: 

In general we may observe it is that habitual disposition of the soul which in the Sacred Writings is termed ‘holiness’, and which directly implies the being cleansed from sin, ‘from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit’, and by consequence the being endued with those virtues which were also in Christ Jesus, the being so ‘renewed in the image of our mind’ as to be ‘perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect’. [I.1]


One sentence summary:  

The circumcision of the heart is a radical change, an inner transformation, where by faith we receive humility, faith, hope, and love.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter.” – Romans 2:29


Concise outline of “The Circumcision of the Heart”

1. If Christ be risen, ye ought then to die unto the world, and to live wholly unto God.
2. This is a hard saying to natural people.
3. Circumcision of the heart is a right state of soul.

I. What is the circumcision of the heart?

1. The habitual disposition of the soul which in the Sacred Writings is termed holiness, directly implies being cleansed from sin and being renewed in mind so as to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
2. Circumcision of the heart implies humility, faith, hope, and charity.
3. We are convinced we are not sufficient to help ourselves.
4. It is a disregard of that honor which comes of man.
5. Faith alone is able to make us whole.
6. It is a faith that is mighty through God to pull down strongholds.
7. All things are possible to him that thus believes.
8. This faith delivers from the yoke of sin.
9. Brings hope and testimony of their own spirits that they are children of God.
10. He will renounce the works of darkness, every appetite, and affection not subject to the laws of God.
11. Add to all of this love and you have the circumcision of the heart.
12. It implies we love our brother and sister also.
13. Have no end, no ultimate end, but God.

II. Reflections that naturally arise from such an inquiry

1. No one has a title to the praises of God unless his heart has been circumcised by humility.
2. None shall obtain the honor that comes from God until his heart is circumcised by faith.
3. A caution against laying another foundation, in seeking to ground religion on the “eternal fitness of things.”
4. Importance of faith and works.
5. None is truly led by the Spirit unless the Spirit witnesses with their spirit that they are children of God.
6. It is time for people to deal faithfully with their own souls.
7. This is not any easy effortless road.
8. It requires daily self-denial.
9. Reemphasis on the centrality of a heart circumcised by love.
10. Do everything to the glory of God, set our sights completely on giving our hearts to God.


Resources:

Read “The Circumcision of the Heart” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first twelve 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

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!


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.

It is time to start reopening churches #Covid-19

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I think I have wrestled with this post more than anything I have written here. I want you to know that before I say anything else because I have been trying very hard not to make things worse by speaking rashly or condemning others. Covid-19 is an unprecedented crisis in world history, at least in my lifetime. I believe everyone is doing the best that they can. And I believe that we are all under great pressure and strain. I have often been afraid, and I bet you have been too. In these kinds of moments, it can be virtually impossible to hear each other well, particularly in this kind of medium. (The pandemic has also been so politicized it seems to make it close to impossible to talk in a way that can be heard as something other than partisan talking points. I have done everything I can to avoid that here.) For what it is worth, I have done the best I can to be charitable and gentle. I have written this out of love and concern for the church, which I see as increasingly paralyzed by fear. And so, I have decided to risk saying something. And of course, I could be wrong about everything I’ve said here. We all have extremely limited vision at the moment. If you experience conviction as you read, I’ll leave that between you and the Holy Spirit.

We need to be more aggressive in reopening churches.

I appreciate that it is not prudent to return to large in person gatherings inside the church. But I think we are being far too complacent and content to limp along with the temporary solutions we cobbled together when the first wave of the pandemic hit.

The church seems paralyzed by a culture of fear and safety that is not from God.

It seems to me that the criteria for returning to in person gatherings of any form have shifted radically from the initial shutdown in March. Do you remember the reason we embraced radical new measures like social distancing and even shelter in place in the Spring? The rationale for flattening the curve was to prevent hospitals from being overrun, which would lead to people dying because they did not have access to an ICU room or a ventilator.

The goal now seems to be to prevent anyone from getting sick. Many of us are embracing severe restrictions to prevent the disease from spreading at all. This is well-intentioned at first glance, but impossible.

In some context the burden of proof seems to be even higher: a church must stay closed until they can guarantee that no one who is sick will be on church grounds. That is an unreasonable standard. If that is the goal, for example, why would you need any other protocols? Isn’t the reason we wear masks and social distance built on the assumption that sick people are in our midst, we just can’t know which ones of us are?

And so many churches are finding themselves in a cycle of announcing a target date for reopening, pushing it back, and then pushing it back again, and again. You get the point.

Churches should respond to the changing circumstances in their communities. This is wise and prudent. However, I see increasing fear and decreasing clarity about when church leaders would feel safe reopening in some way.

If a church cannot open in a week because there is a risk that someone who is sick will come to worship, when is it realistic that that level of risk will no longer be present? If church leaders intend to embrace that level of safety, they need to be honest and direct about it. And they also need to be honest and direct that this means churches will be asked to stay closed not only for a few more weeks, but likely for years.

To key leaders like bishops, district superintendents, and senior pastors, I understand why many of you remain concerned about churches reopening. I appreciate your desire to limit the spread of a highly contagious disease that has no treatment. I do not take this lightly and agree that it is a crucial concern, particularly for those who have high-risk factors for Covid-19.

And yet, it feels like many of you are more passionate about keeping the church closed than you are about them reopening. I have heard from many people across the connection who feel that the burden is on churches that want to reopen to prove that they can do so in a way that guarantees there will be no transmission, or even presence, of Covid-19.

My concern with that burden of proof is that just isn’t how pandemics work. The church needs you to be clear that you are ultimately passionately in favor of churches reopening. There will be times when the threshold of community spread in particular areas makes it imprudent for churches to gather. But we need you to do far more than discourage churches to reopen. We need you to actively encourage churches to fight to find creative ways to wisely and courageously gather. Wisdom and courage need not be in opposition to each other.

I would like to see bishops, district superintendents, and pastors in charge, shift from pressuring churches to stay closed to pressuring them to reopen in the best ways that they can.

Much of my concern comes from the feeling that we are drastically underestimating the essential need for public worship for those who are Christians and for those who have not yet received the gift of faith in Jesus.

Here is how my own denomination defines the local church:

“The local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple making occurs. It is a community of true believers under the Lordship of Christ. It is the redemptive fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by persons divinely called and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s own appointment. Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world.” [The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016 ¶201)

The United Methodist Church explicitly teaches that the local church exists to maintain worship. It needs to be stated unequivocally that the maintenance of public worship is not some optional side show that is nice when possible. It is at the very center of why the church exists at all.

I anticipate that some reading this will object, “but we have been maintaining worship throughout the pandemic.” First, there are many, many churches that are not able to maintain public worship right now because they have not had the ability to have video worship services either in advance or live. These churches are doing the best that they can. And I do not intend to condemn them. But we need to acknowledge that many parts of the church have not been maintaining worship at all for five months. This is devastating to the faithful and needs to be acknowledged explicitly and regularly by anyone who is convinced that the harm of reopening churches is greater than the good of fulfilling the reason the church exists.

Second, can we be honest that the vast majority of churches that have started online worship services during the pandemic fall far short of the in-person services we’d had before? The efforts to start these services were faithful and went above and beyond by all who have been involved in getting them up and running. But they are not close to an adequate replacement for in person worship.

Pastors and worship leaders: many faithful members of your churches will stick with you through this season because they love you and appreciate what you are doing. This has been exceptionally difficult. But many laity also find much of the experience of online worship to be frustrating and hard to follow. There are often a host of technological glitches that make the production quality very poor overall.

We need to be clear that online worship is not the future of the church.

Study Gnosticism, why it is a heresy, and why the body is an essential part of the Christian life and part of what needs to be saved. Corporate worship with bodies present matters. There are going to be seasons in the midst of a pandemic when it is impossible to responsibly gather corporately in the flesh. But we must not pretend that what we do in the midst of those times is as good as the physically gathered body. It just isn’t.

I am also concerned that there is a failure to recognize the ways that people in our churches are fighting to be together and taking risks to do so. Are we noticing what is happening outside of our churches?

Parents are enrolling their children in sports leagues (despite the very public spread of Covid-19 in various attempts to return to professional sports).

Parents are enrolling their children in preschools, in many cases preschools run by churches that are otherwise closed.

[I will resist unpacking this further here, but church preschools reopening in closed churches is a stunning illustration of the present confusion.]

Private schools seem to mostly be reopening, though that is subject to change. Public schools are closed in some areas and opened in others. Many parents who were given a choice whether to send the children back to school want their kids to have in person instruction, though many others elected not to.

This list gets to a related concern: The formation of Christians for more than a generation seems to have produced Christians who believe that worship is not that big a deal. There is a crisis of faith (and I mean a crisis of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ in a basic way) when parents can be expected to consistently prioritize secular extra-curricular activities over worship and participation in the life of the church.

If extracurricular activities come back faster than the church brings back public worship, we will reinforce a serious and devastating confusion about what it means to be in Christ and what it looks like to be connected to the church.

Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

There are a host of bad outcomes that can come from not gathering. We may decide they are not sufficient to take on any additional risk of gathering together. But they are important enough they ought to be named and considered.

How do we balance the real risk that people will get sick if we reopen with the real risk that people will walk away from the church or lose their faith entirely if we don’t?

In a time when people are dying from a pandemic, the need to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have not come to faith in Jesus needs to at least be considered along with concerns about safety.

I have seen the phrase “Do no harm” used many times in discussing closing churches and keeping them closed. United Methodists will recognize this as the tagline of the first “General Rule.” We need to consider the kinds of harm happening right now in a much broader way than only the concern to limit the spread of Covid-19 (and I hope we can all agree that everyone wants that).

How do we balance the concern that there could be harm if we open the church with the harm that comes from long-term isolation, depression, overdoses, and suicide?

Are we considering the deaths related to Covid-19 that have nothing to do with contracting the virus?

In the current climate it is a virtual guarantee that any church that can be connected to an outbreak will receive major negative media attention.

But what about all of the churches that have already resumed in person worship in various forms without major incident? How do we account for those churches and the good that has come each time they have faithful maintained worship?

It is perhaps too much to ask, but I would love to see bishops and other leaders come alongside churches and use their power and authority to encourage them and bless them. What if a bishop were to say to a pastor considering opening a church, “I trust you. You know your context and the conditions there better than I do. If you, as the pastor in charge, decide to reopen I will commit to pray for your success. And if there is an outbreak, I will stand with you and defend you in every way and in every place that I can.”

In the diminished trust in the current UM environment, I cannot imagine how encouraging that would be to a pastor to hear. And that would strike me as a powerful example of leadership in a basic way, not to mention the episcopal office.

It is quite discouraging to hear the number of clergy who cannot imagine such a scenario, and instead anticipate their bishop would make an example of them to press other churches to stay closed and to protect themselves from criticism.

I am not asking bishops to stop advocating and educating their conferences based on current realities and what they see. I am asking them to have much greater urgency about the church gathering together in some way in person. The space between a church being completely closed and meeting as it did back in February is enormous. There are infinite ways to not be completely closed to in person meetings without imprudently jumping straight into a 250 person indoors sanctuary service.

The church needs to be taking proactive steps to reopen. That may not mean meeting indoors. Indeed, in most of the U.S. I think it would be premature to begin meeting as we had before March. We need to be prudent and aware that there is a deadly pandemic in our midst.

But the fact that a church cannot have their normal 11 o’clock sanctuary service does not mean they have no other options. We need to do a much better job thinking outside the box. We can have outdoor worship services, which most health experts believe is safer than indoors. We can multiply the number of worship services and cap the number of attendees to follow recommended best practices.

There are a multitude of other options. It is time for leaders to lead out of the place we’ve been stuck for the past several months. The hard truth is that it appears the pandemic is going to be an unwelcomed presence in our midst quite a while longer.

We can’t be content with the new pandemic status quo any longer.

Here is an example of what I’m envisioning: After prayerful consideration, the leadership of a church near us (not United Methodist) decided it would be premature to return to normal worship in the building. They also refused to be complacent and recognized online only gatherings were spiritually malnourishing. So they began meeting on Wednesday evenings for a worship service outside in front of the church. And they encouraged small groups to meet together in person on Sunday morning to view the worship service together. These are creative ways to reconnect the Body of Christ and move in a positive, though measured direction.

At the end of the day, it may not be time for your church to open yet. I can live with that. I can even respect that. Really. You may need more time to plan for a wise and courageous reopening, that will be significantly different than it was in February.

And circumstances can change rapidly. We should respond rapidly to changing circumstances.

My concern here is that it feels to me like the church has pulled into a shell and it seems increasingly unlikely to come back out until there is a guarantee that everything will be ok. The problem is we are not going to get such a guarantee.

There are no paths without risk. This is an extremely challenging time. I yearn to see leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ take the right kinds of risks and make the right kinds of mistakes.

I understand that there are deep disagreements about how and when to best move forward. I am not trying to start a fight here or score cheap rhetorical points. I am for you and your churches. I want to encourage us to prayerfully seek God’s guidance and scratch and claw to reclaim as much of what we’ve lost as possible, because the local church exists for the maintenance of worship.

Come Holy Spirit. Not being able to worship together has been so hard. Guide, direct, and bless your church. Give us prudence and courage. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.


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.

I have closed comments on this post because I do not intend to start a fight or encourage people who agree or disagree to fire off a quick response that has more heat than light. You’re welcome to contact me directly here. I read all comments I receive, though I am not able to respond to all of them.

 

John Wesley’s Sermon “The Means of Grace”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 12th sermon in this series. I took a few weeks off in July, but generally 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 linked below, 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.

“The Means of Grace” is the twelfth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons and focuses on a crucial concept for Wesleyan discipleship. In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Means of Grace.” 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: 

By ‘means of grace’ I understand outward signs, words, or actions ordained of God, and appointed for this end – to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men preventing, justifying, and sanctifying grace….

The chief of these means are prayer, whether in secret or with the great congregation; searching the Scriptures (which implies reading, hearing, and meditating thereon) and receiving the Lord’s Supper, eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of him; and these we believe to be ordained of God as the ordinary channels of conveying his grace to the souls of men. [II.1]


One sentence summary:  

The means of grace are concrete spiritual disciplines set apart by God as the most reliable way we receive preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“Ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them.” – Malachi 3:7 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Means of Grace”

I. Misuses and misunderstandings of the means of grace

1. Are there any ordinances since life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel?
2. Some began to mistake the means for the end – to place religion in doing, not in a heart renewed.
3. To those who abused them, they didn’t do what they were intended.
4. Some sought to reform misuse by pointing out the uselessness of the means for their own sake or as a work.
5. Some went too far the other way and began to say outward religion was nothing.
6. This is particularly embraced by those tired and ready to sink into indolent activity.

II. Proper understanding of the means of grace

1. Means of grace – outward signs, words, or actions ordained of God, and appointed for this end – to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace. Means of grace are prayer, searching the Scriptures, and receiving the Lord’s Supper.
2. The whole value of the means depends on their subservience to the end of religion.
3. All outward means, if separate from the Spirit of God, cannot profit at all.
4. The use of all means will never atone for one sin, the blood of Christ alone atones.
5. A large proportion of Christians abuse the means of grace to the destruction of their souls.
6. By grace ye are saved.
7. How do I wait upon God for salvation?
8. It cannot be that the Word of God is silent on such an important point.

III. The witness of Scripture regarding the use of the means of grace

1. All who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the means of grace. The first is prayer (Wesley cites Matthew 7:7-8 and Matthew 13:46).
2. God tells us to use prayer and promises it will be effectual. (Matthew 7:9-11, Luke 11:13)
3. We receive of God by importunately asking what otherwise we should not receive at all! (Luke 11:5, 7-9)
5. Matthew 6:6.
6. James 1:5.
7. 2nd: search the Scriptures (John 5:39) – hearing, reading, meditating on Scripture.
8. 2 Timothy 3:15, and 16-17.
9. Scripture is good for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction.
10. All who desire the day to dawn search the Scriptures.
11. 3rd: the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
12. Let all who truly desire the grace of God partake of the Lord’s Supper.

IV. Objections

1. You cannot use these means without trusting in them. If I am troubled when I leave off the means, that indicates being troubled because I willfully disobeyed God, not that I trusted in the means.
2. This is seeking salvation by works. Waiting in the way God has ordained is not that.
3. Christ is the only means of grace. This is a mere play on words.
4. Scripture directs us to wait for salvation – Yes, in the way God ordained (i.e, using the means of grace).
5. God has appointed another way – “stand still and see the salvation of God.”
6. Doesn’t Paul say, ‘If ye be dead with Christ, why are ye subject to ordinances?’ (Col 2:20) The great truth must stand: all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the means he hath ordained.

V. How to use the means of grace

1. How should these means be used?
2. Hearing or conversation is often first.
3. No particular order is required and the means can be varied.
4.a. God is above all means. He can do whatever he pleases.
4.b. Let it be deeply impressed in your soul – there is no power in this.
4.c. In using all means, seek God alone. Use means as means – in order to renew your soul in righteousness and true holiness.
4.d. Take care not to take pride in your use of the means.


Resources:

Read “The Means of Grace” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first eleven 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

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!


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.

Communion

Preface: I realize that these continue to be very strange and difficult times for many people. I believe that leaders are doing the best that they can to be faithful and lead well in a very difficult season, especially when we don’t know nearly as much as we’d like. This post is intended to share a moment of gratitude in what has been a difficult season. It is not intended as a passive aggressive attack on other churches or even as comparison. I want to share good news with you. I hope you can receive it in that spirit as a testimony of thanks and God’s goodness to me.

I am confident that March 11, 2020 will be the day I most associate with the beginning of experiencing Covid-19 as a pandemic that would change life in radical ways I could not have anticipated. There are many details between that day and today that are fuzzy and when one day runs into another. But I remember many details of that day clearly, as I talked about in an initial post on growing your faith in a time of social distancing.

Yesterday is a day I hope will be a day that marks the beginning of a return to a new normal. Please read that last sentence as an expression of hope and not as an overly-confident prediction of the future.

On August 2, 2020 at 11:00 am, my church’s parking lot was full of cars once again. It was different than the last time the church parking lot was full on a Sunday. This time there were no people in the building. The congregation was assembled not in pews or folding chairs, but in cars, trucks, and SUVs.

We were given the order of worship as we entered the parking lot, which identified the FM station we were to tune our radios to. And we were directed by parking lot attendants/ushers to our “seats.”

As one of our pastors gave an opening greeting, the congregations honked their horns in celebration of the moment.

There were moments that felt awkward to me. It was almost impossible to simply stay in the car when we arrived because we so badly wanted to be closer to our family of faith that we hadn’t seen in way too long. And there were the inevitable moments when the technology didn’t work as it was intended.

But it was glorious.

As our pastor said at the beginning of his sermon, it is time to stop playing defense with Covid-19. Yesterday was only a first step. But it was a step.

I slid over into the seat with my wife for the celebration of Holy Communion. I wanted to be able to see our pastors as they celebrated and held the elements. I had tears in my eyes throughout the responsive liturgy. I was moved because I realized how hungry and desperate I was for Jesus once the liturgy began. And I was emotional because I was so grateful to be able to receive the Lord’s Supper once again.

We waited forty minutes after the liturgy to receive communion in our car. And it was worth every minute.

Now that doesn’t mean I enjoyed every minute of waiting. At various points every person in the car, myself included, had a moment of impatience. But we also had an awareness that if we could wait five months, we could wait a few more minutes.

I want you to know that the service was not perfect. And I want you to know that I am inexpressibly grateful to the leadership of our church for taking the risk and seeing it through.

I told my kids that this was a unique moment because this is a rare time when the church is doing something it has never done before and never thought it would need to do in this way. There are bound to be hiccups and gaffes along the way. I was excited to see our church stepping into a place where we would make mistakes, but they would be the right kind of mistakes to make in the places we need to learn.

If I’m honest with you, I am aching to be united physically in the same space in closer proximity with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am not content for Drive-In Church to become the new normal. But I don’t think it will be. And I am grateful to see my church thoughtfully and carefully working to find ways to reunite the Body of Christ to recite these powerful words:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.

John Wesley’s Sermon “The Witness of Our Own Spirit”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 11th 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 linked below, 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.

“The Witness of Our Own Spirit” is the eleventh sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons and is related to the previous sermon, “The Witness of the Spirit, I.” In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Witness of Our Own Spirit.” 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 conclude. Christian joy is joy in obedience – joy in loving God and keeping his commandments. And yet not in keeping them as if we were thereby to fulfil the terms of the covenant of works; as if by any works of righteousness of ours we were to procure pardon and acceptance with God. Not so: we are already pardoned and accepted through the mercy of God in Christ Jesus – not as if we were by our own obedience to procure life, life from the death of sin. This also we have already through the grace of God. ‘Us hath he quickened, who were dead in sin.’ And now we are ‘alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord’. But we rejoice in walking according to the covenant of grace, in holy love and happy obedience. We rejoice in knowing that ‘being justified through his grace’, we have ‘not received that grace of God in vain’; that God having freely (not for the sake of our willing or running, but through the blood of the Lamb) reconciled us to himself, we run in the strength which he hath given us the way of his commandments. He hath ‘girded us with strength unto the war’, and we gladly ‘fight the good fight of faith’. We rejoice, through him who liveth in our hearts by faith, to ‘lay hold of eternal life’. This is our rejoicing; that as our ‘Father worketh hitherto’, so (not by our own might or wisdom, but through the power of his Spirit freely given in Christ Jesus) we also work the works of God. And may he work in us whatsoever is well-pleasing in his sight, to whom be the praise for ever and ever! [20]


One sentence summary:  

The Christian’s joy comes from that happy peace, calm satisfaction of spirit, which arises from the testimony of his own conscience that he is a child of God.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” – 2 Corinthians 1:12 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Witness of Our Own Spirit”

1. Such is the voice of every true believer in Christ, so long as they abide in faith and love.
2. What is the nature and ground of a Christian’s joy?
3. What are we to understand by conscience?
4. By ‘man is a conscious being’ is meant people have inward perception of things present and past relating to themselves, their own tempers, and outward behavior.
5. According to St. Paul, conscience is a faculty or power of perceiving right or wrong in individual’s hearts and lives.
6. What is the rule by which people judge right or wrong? The Word of God – this alone.
7. To have a good conscience toward God we must have a right understanding of the Word of God and a true knowledge of ourselves. Then, an argument of our heart and lives with the Word of God. Finally, an inward perception of this agreement with our rule.
8. A good conscience must be built on the right foundation – faith in Jesus Christ. Heart and life produce good fruit – i.e., conformity to the rule of God’s commandments.
9. This includes every notion of our heart, tongue, hands, and bodily members.
10. This world is thoroughly impregnated by the evil spirit it continually breathes.
11. We need simplicity – singly fixed on God, aimed at God alone.
12. And sincerity – simplicity is the intention sincerity is the execution of it.
13. Difference between Godly sincerity and the sincerity of the heathens.
14. This does not come through any power of our own that we naturally possess.
15. It comes through the power of the Holy Ghost which works in us to will and do his good pleasure.
16. This is the ground of the Christian’s joy.
17. This is not a natural joy.
18. The joy of a Christian does not arise from blindness of conscience, from not being able to discern good from evil.
19. The joy of a Christian does not arise from any dullness or callousness of conscience.
20. Christian joy is joy in obedience – in loving God and keeping his commandments.


Resources:

Read “The Witness of Our Own Spirit” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first ten 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

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!


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 “The Witness of the Spirit, I”: A Brief Summary

John Wesley, Justification by Faith


This is the 10th 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 linked below, 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.

“The Witness of the Spirit, I” is the tenth sermon of the Wesleyan Standard Sermons and one of many sermons addressing this topic. In hopes of sparking interest in Wesley’s sermons and Methodism’s doctrinal heritage, here is my very short summary of “The Witness of the Spirit, I.” 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: 

The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly ‘witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God’; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God. [I.7]

The Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption that while it is present to the soul he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship than he can doubt of the shining of the sun while he stands in the full blaze of his beams. [I.12]


One sentence summary:  

God confirms adoption of Christians as sons and daughters through a direct witness of the Holy Spirit with their spirits that they are sons or daughters of God.


Scripture passage for the sermon:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” – Romans 8:16 (KJV)


Concise outline of “The Witness of the Spirit, I”

1. How many people have misunderstood this Scripture? The danger of mistaking the voice of our imagination for the true witness of the Spirit addressed.
2. The opposite error is imagining that the witness of the Spirit is not the privilege of ordinary Christians.
3. Is there not a middle way between these two extremes?
In hopes of finding this middle way, the sermon will:
First, define the witness of the Spirit.
Second, clarify how the witness of the Spirit is different from the presumption of the natural mind and the delusion of the devil.

I. What Is the Witness of the Spirit?

1. “There is in every believer both the testimony of God’s Spirit, and the testimony of his own, that he is a child of God.”
2. We can know that we are children of God based on whether we are led by the Spirit of God in our lives.
3. Wesley gives examples of Scripture passages in 1 John.
4. Those who have the marks identified in Scripture are children of God.
5. This appears to ourselves with direct immediacy.
6. There is a consciousness of having received the tempers mentioned in Scripture by the Spirit.
7. The testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God.
8. The testimony of the Spirit comes before the testimony of our own spirits.
9. Then, and not till then, we love God because he first loved us and for his sake we love our brother also.
10. He does not in any way intend to exclude the operation of the Spirit of God.
11. The testimony of our spirit is beyond all reasonable doubt evidence of the reality of our sonship.
12. Wesley does not claim to explain how the Spirit witnesses to our spirits. But this testimony is so strong he can no more doubt it than he can doubt the shining of the son while he is standing in the full blaze of its beams.

II. How is the Witness of the Spirit Different from the Presumption of the Natural Mind and the Delusion of the Devil?

1. This is a very important question.
2. How is this testimony distinguished from the presumption of the natural mind?
3. The Scriptures abound with marks for distinguishing one from the other.
4. Repentance and conviction of sin always precede this witness.
5. Scripture describes being born again as a vast and mighty change.
6. Is joy in the Lord humble and self-abasing?
7. One who has received the witness of the Spirit will keep God’s commandments.
8. If you lack any of the previous and say you have the witness of the Spirit, you are deceiving yourself.
9. The real thing is distinguished from the false immediately and directly by our spiritual senses, if our spiritual senses are rightly disposed.
10. The direct immediacy of spiritual experience is valid epistemologically.
11. One who has spiritual senses will struggle to express or explain to one who has not.
12. Test the inward and outward fruit.
13. By the same fruit you shall distinguish the voice of God from any delusion of the devil.
14. If you have this, give thanks to God, “cleanse thyself from all filthiness of flesh and Spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; and let all thy thoughts words, and works be a spiritual sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!”


Resources:

Read “The Witness of the Spirit, I” in its entirety.

Check out my brief summaries of the first nine 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

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!


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.