Going on to Perfection

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Towards the end of his life, John Wesley was asked about Methodism, the movement that he and his brother Charles has been so instrumental in forming and leading. His response was that Christian perfection “is the essential heart of Methodism and the chief thing for which it stands.” This doctrine is the “grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodist; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly He appeared to have raised us up.”

 

“There is scarce any expression in holy writ, which has given more offense than this. The word perfect is what many cannot bear. The very sound of it is an abomination to them; and whosoever preaches perfection (as the phrase is), that is, asserts that it is attainable in this life, runs great hazard of being accounted by them worse than a heathen man or a publican.”

 

So begins John Wesley’s sermon on Christian Perfection. The “offending” scripture is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians (3:12): “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” It was clear to all reasonable Christians of his age that perfection was impossible, but Wesley valued scripture too highly to just dismiss those verses that called for disciples to be perfect. Indeed, this calling to perfection is found on the lips of Jesus himself, at the apex of his Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

 

My doctoral work was in looking at how we can help people today “go on to perfection” in their faith and love. Towards that end, there is a fullness of the gospel that we try to include in every worship experience and time of serving others that includes:

1. Seeking completion in Christ, to become fully human

2. Expecting God to be present in our lives

3. Recognizing how Christ has made God manifest through his teachings and life

4. Working to build a community of reconciliation and restoration reflecting the self-giving nature of Christ’s love

5. Identifying how Christ’s death and resurrection can lead to victories in our lives and the lives of our neighbors

6. An increasing confidence to rely upon the Holy Spirit for holy living as our response to God’s grace

 

In the Wesleyan tradition, we have “three simple rules” for our daily living to help us walk this path to perfection; and these rules lead to “three profound commitments.”

 

Three Simple Rules

1. Do no harm

2. Do good

3. Stay in love with God

Three Profound Commitments

1. Depend on God

2. Conform to Christ

3. Have Confidence in the Holy Spirit

 

I invite you to come on this journey with us, as we seek to live out our discipleship in the name of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God! – Nick