One of the most helpful things I have done in life over the years is to take heart from the devotion of the great ones for Jesus. I found it to be true in my personal life and as a psychologist in my observations of people that living as a disciple of Jesus solves all of our problems, of course this is not always in the way we want or when we want. What is clear to me is that the best life, the life of love, joy, and peace, is found only as we learn to bring our whole life into God’s kingdom.
John Wesley is one of the masters of devotion to Jesus. He got that way, in large part, by taking heart from great ones before him. He discipled himself to Jesus, studied the Bible, and earnestly sought to love God and his neighbor. God used him to change the lives of countless people, organizations, institutions, even whole countries — in his day and even to today nearly 300 years later!
The Beginning of John Wesley’s Devotion to the Lord
Here’s his story from his article, “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.” Read it slowly, prayerfully, and take heart for God — it may set your whole life on a far better course!
In the year 1725, beginning in the twenty-third year of my age, I met with Bishop Taylor’s Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying… I was exceedingly affected… to purity of intention. Instantly I resolved to dedicate all my life to God, all my thoughts, and words, and actions, being thoroughly convinced, there was no medium; but that every part of my life (not some only) must either be a sacrifice to God, or myself, that is, in effect, to the devil…
In the year 1726, I met with Kempis’ Christian Pattern. The nature and extent of Inward Religion, the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in a stronger light than ever it had before… I saw that “simplicity of intention, and purity of affection,” one design in all we speak or do, and one desire ruling all our tempers, are indeed “the wings of the soul,” without which she can never ascend to the mount of God.
A year or two after, Mr. Law’s Christian Perfection and Serious Call were put into my hands. These convinced me more than ever of the absolute impossibility of being half a Christian. And I determined thro’ his grace (the absolute necessity of which I was deeply sensible of) to be all-devoted to God, to give him all my soul, my body, and my substance.
Will any considerate [person] say that this is carrying matters too far? or that anything less is due to [Christ] who has given himself for us…?
In the year 1729 [at the age of 27], I began not only to read, but to study the Bible, as the one, the only standard of truth, and the only model of pure religion. Hence I saw, in a clearer and clearer light, the indispensable necessity of having the mind which was in Christ, and of walking as Christ also walked…in all things… Nor was I afraid of anything more than of bending this rule to the experience of myself, or of other [people], of allowing myself in any the least disconformity to our grand Exemplar.
On January 1, 1733 [at the age of 35], I preached before the University, in St. Mary’s Church, on the circumcision of the heart… that habitual disposition of the soul… termed holiness…
In the same sermon I observed: ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law… In this is perfection, and glory, and happiness… One happiness shall ye propose to your souls… having fellowship with the Father and the Son… the enjoyment of God in time and eternity… Let every affection, and thought, and word, and action, be subordinate to this… your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being…
John Wesley’s Heart was Strangely Warmed
In 1735 John Wesley travelled by ship to the colonies in America and got caught in a life-threatening story. He and the other Englishmen panicked, but the Moravians calmly sang hymns and prayed. He admired the depth of their inner strength in Christ and learned all he could from their “pietistic” life of devotion to Christ.
Then in 1738 at the age of 40, back in England, he was at a Moravian prayer meeting and had his famous “Aldersgate experience.” He heard a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle of Romans and reported, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.”
John Wesley wrote a prayer of consecration that has inspired many other hearts to be strangely warmed by the love of God being manifest to them:
O Lord, may nothing dwell in my soul
But your pure love alone.
Till my every thought, word, and act be love.
Yes Lord, may your love posses me whole;
You’re my joy, my treasure, my crown!
(“A Plain Account of Christian Perfection” by John Wesley.
Paraphrased by Bill Gaultiere.)
A Prayer Response
This prayer lived in John Wesley’s heart the rest of his life. He said, “Is this not this the language, not only of every believer, but of every one that is truly awakened?”
O Spirit of God, warm our hearts with the love of God and of Christ that we might be awakened to our opportunity to give our best to worship and serve you today and everyday. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.