A Tree and Its Fruit
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
For John Wesley, good works are a response to God's grace received. This is the journey of sanctification. It is through the process of receiving God's grace and responding in good works, throughout the course of normal daily living, that God makes Christians holy. This process of sanctification became the hallmark of the Methodist movement. The Class Meeting provided the context for sanctification. It served as the soil from which the branches of obedience could bring forth the fruit of good work. Salvation and sanctification, as Wesley saw it, was intensely practical. It is the journey toward holiness, lived out in everyday life. The test of faith, then, is not what you know, but how you live.
Wesley described what a Methodist looks like and what a Methodist does in The Character of a Methodist. “And whosoever is what I preach, (let him be called what he will, for names change not the nature of things), he is a Christian, not in name only, but in heart and in life. He is inwardly and outwardly conformed to the will of God, as revealed in the written word. He thinks, speaks, and lives, according to the method laid down in the revelation of Jesus Christ. His soul is renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and in all true holiness. And having the mind that was in Christ, he so walks as Christ also walked.”
Wesley was fond of calling Christianity "practical divinity.” The Christian faith in the heart produces actual and true holiness. This holiness is not just in the inward life of the believer, but in the outward life as well. Wesley believed holiness is a universal love that fills the heart and governs the life. As we grow in holiness, we grow in our likeness of Christ both in his heart and in his actions. That seems a lofty goal for many of us, to actually reach the true likeness of Christ. And indeed we will fail in our attempts to get there. But I think the point is not to attempt to get there, but rather to move toward Christ in our heart and our actions. It is not so much about trying, but about being and doing.
Do you find your heart becoming more like the heart of Christ? Do you find yourself behaving more like Christ? What can you take from Wesley’s “methods” that might help you grow in your “being” and “doing” like Christ?
Holy God, let me discover anew your means of grace. Let me participate in the flow of your grace each day. May I receive grace and share grace with those around me. Make me an instrument of your grace in the world. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.