Faith in Crisis

Scriptures: Song of Solomon 2: 8-13 & Romans 4: 3-5; 5:1-2b

Pastor Clyde’s August 30, 2015 Sermon

Song of Solomon 2: 8-13

(8) Listen! My beloved!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.

(9) My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice.

(10) My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.

(11) See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.

(12) Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.

(13) The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”

Romans 4:3-5; 5:1-2b

(3) What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

(4 )Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. (5 )However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

1. This week was wedding anniversary time for Lela and me. I told her that I loved her more now than I did when we got married.

2. She said that she had spent ten of the happiest years of her life married to me. I said, “But we have been married for 21 years.” “Exactly.”

3. I got a little huffy. I said, “Well, I was a fool when I married you.” She said, “I know that now but I didn’t then.”

4. No, it was the best decision that I ever made.

5. We have been talking about John Wesley and the revival movement that he started in England that moved to America.

6. It was responsible for starting over 40,000 churches in America.

7. We have said that perhaps the ideas that were used to start that revival might be helpful in starting another revival in America.

8. We started with Wesley’s childhood in Epworth and moved to his time at Oxford.

9. This week we are going to look at what happened to him in London.

10. If you remember, last week we said that John Wesley had agreed to lead and mentor a small group of students that were led by his brother, Charles.

11. They tried to live as holy as possible—loving God and their fellow man.

12. They met weekly to read the classics, pray for each other, and examine each other’s conscience.

13. They had communion weekly and fasted twice a week.

14. Because of these efforts to be holy in all that they did, they had been labeled “The Holy Club” and other derogatory names.

15. The name that stuck was “Methodists” because they were very methodical in their approach to living in a holy manner.

16. As Wesley lived out this life of holiness, he soon discovered that there was one problem that he could not overcome.

17. This life of holiness was certainly great; it produced much fruit and it was exemplary.

18. You were a good person if you lived like this.

19. But a life like this could drive you crazy.

20. Perhaps you have known people like this; the New Testament had people like this—they were called Pharisees.

21. If you do not watch out, you become obsessed with living the letter of the law; you become self-righteous, condescending, and even mean.

22. What Wesley had failed to take into consideration was GRACE.

23. You need to have an understanding of grace—God’s unmerited favor. God already loves us and has already worked to save us through Jesus Christ.

24. We do not need to work to save ourselves—as a matter of fact, we cannot.

25. If we do not start with an understanding of God’s favor toward us, we wind up thinking that we have to make God love us through our works and we judge ourselves and everyone else harshly.

26. Paul had a similar problem. He tried to follow the law and discovered that he was always coming up short.

27. Only when he came to realize that he was justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works did he find peace. Then he could work with all his might for Christ because he was free of an obligation to work.

28. Martin Luther was driven to be the perfect monk in order to win favor with God. He confessed so much to his superiors that one told him not to come back until he committed a real sin.

29. He went to Rome and went up the steps to St. Peter’s basilica on his knees. He slept naked on the cold floors of the castle.

30. Luther tried to earn the favor of God instead of accepting his grace but the Reformation came when he realized that it is by faith that we are saved and not by works.

31. Wesley was going down the same path. One of his friends even told him that he was driving himself and his followers too hard and he wrote that his friend was obviously wrong.

32. But no matter what he did, Wesley still was not sure of his salvation.

33. I would say to you that if your faith is built on shame, rules, or making God love you, then you are missing out on the great idea of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

34. We can work hard enough or try hard enough to earn God’s love; he already loves us.

35. Wesley’s crisis of faith came to a head when James Oglethorpe went to the king and asked to start a colony in the New World.

36. There were many people in England in Debtor’s Prison. He proposed to start a new colony using those prisoners and name it after King George—Georgia.

37. He had visited the area and brought back Indians and asked for a missionary to the Indians.

38. John Wesley volunteered to go with him to Georgia as a missionary to the Indians.

39. As he sailed, he wrote in his journal that he went to save his soul by suffering—not the Indians.

40. John got seasick easily and it was a three month voyage. They had three bad storms and in one storm, Wesley famously was afraid that he would die.

41. He saw Moravians singing hymns while he huddled in fear. He wondered why he did not have that much faith.

42. When they arrived in Savannah in February 1736, Wesley gathered them all in prayer. He had the rum poured out that had been brought for celebration—not a good start.

43. He started instituting some of the severe holiness that he had in his Holy Club. He had daily 5 am prayer service.

44. Amazingly, some people came. But he went wrong when he said that you could not have communion on Sunday if you did not come.

45. He soon faced severe opposition.

46. Then he met a girl, Sophey Hopkey. She was 17 and he was 32.

47. He was hired to be her spiritual mentor and there seems to be little doubt that her father was trying to marry her off to the suave Methodist minister.

48. Actually, there seems to have been some sincere affection between the two but Wesley wanted to stay pure for the gospel.

49. At first, Sophey agreed and Wesley was happy.

50. Then Sophey began to date behind his back—even though there was no real agreement.

51. Her mother or aunt soon told Wesley that she was going to be married in three days unless he talked to her.

52. He did not say a word and she married. He was shocked and despondent.

53. Then he tells her that she cannot have communion unless she publicly repents of lying to him by dating behind his back.

54. She marches to front of church and he refuses her communion.

55. Her uncles files charges of defamation of character and he is arrested.

56. He gets out but it is evident that his congregation is deserting him; he has not done a thing with the Indians; he is a failure.

57. He sneaks across the border to South Carolina at night and takes ship to England.

58. Wesley
a. Doubted his faith on the ship in the storm.
b. Had people reject him as pastor.
c. Had his heart broken by a woman.
d. Was arrested and thrown in jail.
e. Had to flee the country under the cover of darkness.
f. How would you feel? He was a failure!
g. But God will often take over if we let him.
h. If we will not blame others or give up, God can work through our failures.
i. If Wesley had been a success, he might have had a strong little church in Savannah. As a failure he would be responsible for over 40,000 churches in America and more in England.
59. I have told this story before about the time I was teaching at Baylor.

60. The head of the department called me in one Friday right after I started and wanted to talk to me.

61. I was ready for him to tell me that I was doing a fantastic job and he started by saying that two girls from one of my classes had come to talk to him.

62. I was waiting for the compliments and he said they told him I was boring. I was crushed. He went on to give me some advice but my head was spinning.

63. The worst thing was that I had the whole weekend to think about it. I tried to figure out who it was and ways to fail them.

64. But finally I had to admit that maybe it was true. I had started out well but had fallen into the “professor” mode.

65. I was trying too hard to be like the well-prepared professor and not like myself. I resolved to just be myself and let things go the way they would go.

66. Any success I have had as a speaker since then has been the result of those girls.

67. May 24, 1738—Wesley had been around London for a while and had gone to some meetings of religious groups.

68. On that date, he had been invited to a religious society meeting by the Moravians on Aldersgate Street.

69. In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. 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.
70. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart.
71. After this, Wesley’s faith moved from his head to his heart.

72. He understood that Christ had already done all that needed to be done to bring God’s favor to him.

73. It changed Wesley’s life.

74. From this point on, he preached and proclaimed this grace that he found.

75. Do you know this grace of God?

76. These two points. Do you realize that God can take whatever failures you see in your life and redeem them and use them for good?

77. Do you understand that grace through Christ covers all of your mistakes? You cannot earn salvation because you do not need to earn it.

78. Once you accept grace you can work for God because it is no longer a burden but a joy.