“I hear that you preach to a great number of people every night and every morning. Pray what would you do to them? Whither would you lead them? What religion do you preach? What is it good for? “
What is unique about these questions?
1.They are tough for a preacher to answer.
2.They are written with unusual words; in today’s vernacular we hardly ever begin a sentence with “pray” or use the word “whither”.
I don’t know how many of you have bought the book Hearing God, but if you have, you will know that these words are from a questioner living in the 18th century and the questions are addressed to John Wesley, the “founder” of the United Methodist Church.
Why start the blog today with these?
Well, the questions are about the topic of the day, the fact that they are addressed to John Wesley is unique and asking the questions gives me a chance to write about Wesley’s superb answers.
Dr. Willard writes about the underlying themes of his book and the fact that none of his ideas will make sense unless you understand the context of the Christian life.
Just getting words from God is a less meaningless activity if the words are just for our use. We all have problems and if God is used as a way to solve our problems and that is all, the words of God are really not worth that much.
God intends his believers to live a life that exemplifies His existence. Dr. Willard says “We exist to stand up with God and count for something in His world.”
We don’t just live; we exist in God’s kingdom.
“ And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
We must know our place in this world.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”
It is up to us to know our role in this life. Our sustenance comes from God, not ourselves, and certainly not from some other source. The fruit we bear is for the glory of the Lord.
How does God’s speaking to us fit in? How does that relate to our context, our role in the Kingdom of God? God’s speaking will always be a part of this, “to the extent and manner God deems suitable” [Willard, 211].
God’s words “will come without threat, to the full participation of the redeemed self, as a unique individual, in the work of God.” My life is mine but it also belongs to God. If I do good, it is not I that instigate that good; it is God.
This is the context of the Christian life. It is what Willard calls a “life beyond” and yet “inclusive of” His guiding word.
At this point, I want to quote John Wesley’s answers to the questions posed above. I know Wesley was a brilliant man and I can see him coming back with solid answers to the questions.
“I do preach to as many as desire to hear, every night and every morning. You ask, what I would do with them: I would make them virtuous and happy, easy in themselves and useful to others. Whither would I lead them? To heaven, to God the Judge, the lover of all, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant. What religion do I preach? The religion of love; the law of kindness brought to light by the gospel. What is this good for? To make all who receive it enjoy God and themselves: to make them all like God; lovers of all; contented in their lives; and crying out at their death, in calm assurance, ‘O Grace, where is thy victory! Thanks be unto God, who giveth me the victory through my Lord Jesus Christ.’”
All I can write is wow, what answers!
Dr. Willard faces the same questions as a believer, as we all do. Why follow the Lord? Why turn to Jesus as our guide? Why give our lives over to this power?
Because it is the best way to live a life here on earth.
James 10: 10
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
God’s “supremacy lies in the greatness of the life He gives to us” [Willard, 212].
This is our place in the world, our context. This is our gift from God. His words along the road of life are so helpful from time to time but the overall picture is so much more than words.
A life with Christ is a life well-lived…