John Wesley was miserable.
If anyone should have been confident about their “religion” it was Wesley. After all, he had been a missionary to the Indians; he was an Anglican priest; he had done open air evangelism; he had been involved in prison ministry. He was an Oxford scholar. His personal spiritual habits included reading the Bible and regular prayer. He was sensitive to sin and tried to do what was right and holy.
However, none of these activities or positions had given him peace about his own destiny. Was he right with God? Was he saved? Was he going to heaven? All of these questions plagued him.
He had spent considerable time praying, studying the Bible and reading various books during his dilemma. He had sought counsel from other preachers and friends. All to no avail.
On a now historic night he was invited to a meeting where all of this changed:
That evening he reluctantly attended a meeting in Aldersgate. Someone read from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans. About 8:45 p.m. “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.” (excerpt from http://www.umcworship.org).
After this night Wesley’s doubts faded. He had peace about his destiny and salvation. Although he might have experienced some doubt’s later, his writing and speaking was never again full of agony about this issue.
Notice from his own words what brought this peace, “…I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins,…” It was faith in Christ that brought an end to Wesley’s doubts.
Notice that is wasn’t his religious activity. It wasn’t his:
- Missionary service
- Pastoral position
- Service for God
- Or Oxford Scholarship
His conversion also sounds different from some of the calls for salvation we hear today…
- “Get right with God”
- “Ask Jesus into your heart”
- “Give your life to Jesus”
- “Give your heart to Jesus”
- “Come forward and pray to get saved”
- “Turn your life over to God”
- “Confess all your sins”
- “Join the church”
- “Get the second blessing”
Wesley doesn’t indicate any of these things were a part of his salvation or assurance. In fact, he had done many of these! But they didn’t bring him peace. Only the firm confidence and belief that Christ had paid for his sins did.
Not much has changed in almost 300 years. In fact, it hasn’t changed since the time of Christ or even before. Salvation comes from faith in Christ not from being religious, moral, or working for brownie points with God.
Jesus sums it up best:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47