Hope for Transformation

100_3618 It is not only a deliverance from doubts and fears, but from sin; from all inward as well as outward sin; from evil desires and evil tempers, as well as from evil words and works. Yea, and it is not only a negative blessing, a deliverance from all evil dispositions implied in that expression, “I will circumcise thy heart;” but a positive one likewise; even the planting all good dispositions in their place; clearly implied in that other expression, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.” – John Wesley, Sermon 110, “On the Discoveries of Faith.”

I love when Wesley writes things like this. It gives me hope.

I’ve noticed that when Wesley discusses regeneration or the new birth he says things like he did here. Wesley believed that justification wasn’t just a matter of outward appearance, but there was  a real literal change in one’s life. Here he says there is a deliverance from sin, inward as well as outward sin. He even goes as far to say that this deliverance even transforms our tempers. Not only is one delivered, but God plants good dispositions in their place!

I’ve been a United Methodist for 40 years (Since there was a UMC). I’ve been a pastor for about 20 years. I’ve graduated seminary, have been to numerous annual conferences, conference and district meetings and have spent countless hours with UM clergy and laity. However, if we agree with Wesley and believe that God really does what Wesley says God does, I don’t see reflected in our churches, conferences, pastors or laity.

I’ve heard people explain why all kinds of ‘ungodly’ things happen in our churches. I’ve heard people talk a lot about God’s grace, love, forgiveness and justification. Yet, I haven’t heard many people preach on (myself included) or talk about this belief of Wesley’s that ‘real’ Christianity means a transformation of our tempers and dispositions. Instead it seems like this point is ignored. The tendency is to assume, here on earth, we will have sin, it will be a battle, and we will loose…that’s why Jesus died after all.

I’m not sure we should move too quickly away from what Wesley says though. Maybe it would be good to read what he says about the new birth and literal transformation of dispositions and tempers. Because if God really does this in the new birth…wouldn’t that be wonderful? Wouldn’t it be awesome? To have our dispositions transformed and changed from unholy to holy would be a true miracle. To be able to love God and love others, not because I’m trying to live out some commitment or ideal, but because God has changed me in a way that loving Him and others flows from new dispositions and tempers is a truly hopeful thought.

I’m convinced that Wesley believed in real transformation of individuals. A transformation so great, that they were literally new people with new tempers and dispositions able to really love God and others. I wonder if those in the UMC still believe this. To be honest…I’m beginning to believe and it gives me hope.

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