John Wesley… the Holy Spirit… UMC

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John Wesley… the Holy Spirit… Less Jesus: “The views and opinions expressed by this lubber do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the crew. Reader discretion be advised.” – Staff

Working For Our Lord Jesus

On the voyage to the colonies John and Charles Wesley came into contact with Moravian settlers. At one point in the voyage a storm came up and broke the mast off the ship. While the English panicked, the Moravians calmly sang hymns and prayed. This experience led Wesley to believe that the Moravians possessed an inner strength which he lacked. Wesley returned to England depressed and beaten.

In comparison to his later success as a leader in the Evangelical Revival, John Wesley’s ministry to Georgia has often been judged to be a failure. Why the difference? Why is one work for the Lord considered a failure and another a resounding success? Let’s look to Wesley’s own journal for the answer.

Working With Our Lord Jesus

On 24 May 1738, at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, a depressed Wesley attended a service in which he heard a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. Wesley recounted his Aldersgate experience in his journal:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Can An Individual Be Saved But Not Filled With The Holy Spirit?

Some claim this is impossible. But if they are correct, then what do we make of the thief on the cross?

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Jesus was crucified at Passover and ascended forty days after his resurrection. The Holy Spirit came fifty days after the resurrection, ten days after the ascension. Were the Eleven plus Matthias lost during those forty-nine days? Doomed to damnation for lack of the Holy Spirit? 

The Book of Acts recounts others who were saved but not filled with the Holy Spirit.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them. They had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-16)

The Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.  Then Ananias, placing his hands on Saul, said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:15-17)

John Wesley… the Holy Spirit… Less Jesus

Was Paul saved at the moment the Holy Spirit came upon him? Though he had encountered the risen Lord and was in prayer, even to the point of having a vision, prior to the arrival of Ananias was Paul still lost? Destined for hell?

Many in the modern church appear to be saved, but working for the Lord, not with the Lord. We cannot know a person’s heart: only Jesus has that insight. But we can judge the fruit of their work and discern if they are harvesting work sown by the Spirit of Jesus of another spirit.

If in our work for the Lord we lack inner strength, feel depressed and beaten down, perhaps the fault lies not in the work, but in the spirit calling us to the work. The enemy dearly loves that we remain busy at any task so long as we are not with the Lord.

Let us do as John Wesley and be filled with the Holy Spirit of God.