Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 15 June 2014
For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
At one time, the crowds around Jesus became so large that he left them on the shore of a lake to preach to them from a boat that was floating before them. (I wonder whether, instead of wandering on the platform, he had his disciples row up and down the beach.)
Mark 4:1: Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.
This was a powerful time and he explained the kingdom of God.
Mark 4:34: … But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
He made his disciples understand about the word of God taking hold of a person and in some people producing fruit as much as hundred times of what was sown. He informed them that Satan, trouble or persecution, the worries of life and worldly desires all come against the word of God (Mark 4:2-20) but it will prevail and the kingdom of God would exceed all other kingdoms. Just as a mustard seed was the smallest seed but became the biggest plant, so would the kingdom of God be (Mark 4:30-32).
Jesus taught much – with purpose and power – all day; then evening came:
Mark 4:35-37: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Isn’t this typical? Can you put yourself into the shoes of the disciples? You are still on the high of an amazing church service – an amazing church conference – (even if you are not a Christian it can be inspirational) – Jesus preaching from a boat to thousands on the seashore – there is powerful preaching and testimonies – but on the way home – that evening – you are battling with all sorts of issues – flat tyres, sickness, depressing news – and, in the case of the disciples, they were fighting for their lives – literally. They sat in a tiny boat in the middle of a storm – (“a furious squall came up” out of nowhere) – and the tiny boat was getting swamped and was sinking. What now?
The disciples forgot everything. Jesus had been preaching all day – they had been travelling with him – they had some sort of commitment to him – but, in an instant, they forgot every positive piece of information about God. Preaching was preaching but now they were going to drown and nothing was giving them any comfort. During the day, they were bathing in Jesus’ glow – his authority and teaching – (they belonged to him) – but, at this point in the evening, they only had one emotion left: fear. They were afraid of the storm, afraid of the wind and the waves, afraid of not making it.
And you don’t have to be very religious to be afraid of storms. (In this regard, the disciples were nothing special. You can be afraid of storms without ever having heard of Jesus.) Most people are. We just give it different names such as “decline in consumer confidence” – we remain afraid of global financial crises – and “climate change” – which is a neutral word masking our fear of a decline in climate quality (more or less catastrophic “global warming”). Then, there are countless personal fears from worrying about our appearance to problems at work and health issues. There are so many storms and – while Jesus is going tell his disciples off for being afraid – I think that if you cannot trust in God, the next best reaction is to become afraid. This is far better than swashbuckling bravado – self-confidence that is misplaced. Don’t think that you can fix something that only God can.
The disciples forgot everything good about the day and panicked in the storm – at night – when they finally remembered that Jesus was actually with them in the boat and Jesus did not share any of their fears. On the contrary, he was at peace – he was enjoying complete rest – being sound asleep at the back of the boat (with his head on a nice cushion). Finally, the disciples woke him up – a last resort attempt (!) – and they did so with a question which is familiar to us:
Mark 4:38: Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus had been talking to them all day. He had been with them and was still in the boat with them (shared their fate, had said to them that they would cross over the lake) but, in a time of crisis, somehow nothing of Jesus’ heart toward them seemed to register any more. All the disciples could see was the storm and how dangerous it was and that it was not going away; therefore they made this assumption: Jesus does not care. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Show 2 pictures which display modern reactions against a supposedly uncaring God
It would have been nice, if the disciples – in the face of imminent drowning – had become humble and sorted out their lives – repented before God – but they challenged Jesus which was not evidence for spiritual maturity. [Why not pray: “Jesus, I am a sinner and – with my track-record of disobedience and rebellion – you don’t owe me anything but – please – help me. Let me survive this storm.”]
Yet, Jesus did not challenge the disciples’ attitudes. He neither argued nor delayed but saved them:
Mark 4:39: He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
This stunned the disciples and kept them on an emotional roller-coaster which – from a distance – is rather funny. They asked Jesus for help because they were afraid of the storm but – when Jesus did precisely what they had asked of him – when he took authority over the storm – they became afraid of him. They had come to him as a last resort. Jesus looked harmless and powerless on his cushion at the back of the boat. He was asleep. He did not seem to care but he rose up and fixed everything and it was easy for him and he declared that there had never been any reason to be afraid in the first place:
Mark 4:40: He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
This – to use a modern word – completely freaked out the disciples:
Mark 4:41: They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
The disciples should have been more spiritually mature from the beginning. With Jesus in the boat, they should not have become afraid of the storm but they did (as we do many a time). They should not have questioned the care of Jesus but they did (as we do many a time). When Jesus rose up, they should not have been surprised by his power over the storm but they were. Finally, they should not have become afraid of Jesus but they did. If this was a test, the disciples hardly deserved to get full marks but – I think – they still did better than many people today. At least, they became afraid of the storm and did not think that human strength and ingenuity can handle everything. A storm made them cry out to God while – so far – not even the worst news about climate change brings our current world to its knees.
Almost exactly one year after Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. eastern seaboard, the strongest typhoon in recorded history has slammed into the Philippines. That’s two superstorms in two years. It's the new normal, folks — and climate change is likely to blame … “Super Typhoon” Haiyan swept through the Philippines last night (8/11/13) … It’s the most powerful tropical typhoon to have ever reached land — and the numbers are absolutely staggering. According to the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Haiyan produced sustained winds of 167 mph (269 km/h) with gusts reaching 201 mph (324 km/h).
Then, they were also smart to become afraid of Jesus. If you neither trust Jesus nor expect much of him (if you think that he does not care) but he helps you – powerfully stilling the storm – powerfully intervening in your life – then the best thing that you can do is to let your attitude be shaken up. It’s clear that you don’t understand him and it is human – it is prudent and cautious – to be afraid of what we don’t understand. Who is this Jesus? How can he be so powerful and I never knew? The disciples could have simply rejoiced over their rescue and not thought too much about Jesus’ saving actions but this would not have been smart. What was going on?
Before you have faith, it is healthy to become afraid and this happened to a lot of people around Jesus:
Mark 5:1-18: They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
[Everyone knew that this man had demons. They had often chained him but no chains could hold him. This man could not be subdued which was scary in a way but they became really afraid when Jesus took authority over the demons and healed the man. It was smart to recognize that something extraordinary had been happening but it was not so smart to push Jesus to the side rather than draw closer to him.]
Luke 5:1-11: One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
[Jesus did not still a storm or save Peter from another danger but he performed a miracle which Peter recognized as a miracle – his futile fishing became abundance with Jesus. His smart reaction was to become afraid and realize that he was not in the same league as Jesus. Whatever was on Jesus was not on him. He said: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” I wish that more people would respond to miracles in this way (Luke 10:13) because fear makes us pay attention to Jesus and then listen to what comes next – his offer of peace. Outward peace as the storm is being stilled and inward peace because Jesus saves on all levels – including providing eternal peace with God.]
This morning – if you are in church and you know that you are not that close to Jesus, can I encourage you? Before faith comes, it is smart to feel a little unease – to feel a bit of fear because God is in this place and you are not close to him yet. If you have been here a while (and you may have experienced the same in other places), you have seen Jesus do things: people get prayed for in Jesus’ name and many of them fall under God’s power (not a bad experience but neither was the stilling of the storm); there is gold dust on people’s skin (a miracle that only God can do); there are other miracles such as supernatural wind in the building, oil manifesting on people’s finger tips, holy joy (holy laughter), the glory cloud, gem stones, (three weeks ago Carl Humphrey and Anatole Lukashenok had a supernatural taste of honey in their mouths), etc; occasionally a demon(s) manifests (for instance, four weeks ago in Portland – many a time, in the Jesus Tent); the miracle of finances in this place (paying off our loans amazingly – two weeks ago Hutty shared that one week after prayer in church he received an offer for his farm and sold it at the price that he wanted); etc.
It is possible to come here and experience what is happening and then go home unchanged – or even a little hostile because any evidence of God can be challenging – but this is not really smart. If God is real and you don’t know him, it is wise to become a little anxious about how you connect with him. Are you okay with Jesus? Is he okay with you?
John Wesley was a preacher – dedicated and disciplined – praying lots and just living for God – but storms also sorted him out. Crossing over from England to New England (later the United States of America) – with his ship being belted by storms – he – the preacher – was afraid while others were not. He was asking himself: “What happened to my faith in Jesus? Is it actually there?”
1735 … Sun. 23 At night I was awaked by the tossing of the ship and roaring of the wind, and plainly showed I was unfit, for I was unwilling, to die ... Sat. 17 … At seven in the evening they were quieted by a storm. It rose higher and higher … I lay down in the great cabin, and in a short time fell asleep, though very uncertain whether I should wake alive, and much ashamed of my unwillingness to die. O how pure in heart must he be, who would rejoice to appear before God at a moment’s warning … Fri. 23. — In the evening another storm began. In the morning it increased, so that they were forced to let the ship drive. I could not but say to myself, “How is it that thou hast no faith?” being still unwilling to die …
Sun. 25. — At noon our third storm began. At four it was more violent than before … We spent two or three hours after prayers, in conversing suitably to the occasion, confirming one another in a calm submission to the wise, holy, gracious will of God … At seven I went to the Germans … In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the main-sail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. A terrible screaming began among the English; The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, “Were you not afraid?” He answered, “I thank God, no.” I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?” He replied, mildly, “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.” From them I went to their crying, trembling neighbours, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial, between him that feareth God, and him that feareth him not. At twelve the wind fell. This was the most glorious day which I have hitherto seen.
Like the disciples, he was afraid in the storm and, when he witnessed how Jesus comforted others, he also became afraid of his own state before God. (He observed the miracle that Jesus stilled the storm of fear in others.) How come that he was stressing so much? (According to everything that he knew about God,) this was wrong and it was his unease that set him on a journey which was challenging but finally dealt with both – his fear of storms and his fear of Jesus. In time, he came to a place where fear was replaced by complete peace in God – in whatever circumstances – and he would not have reached this place without fear and facing his fear of dying in storms.
Sat. 7 ... Mr. Spangenberg, one of the Pastors of the Germans. I soon found what spirit he was of; and asked his advice with regard to my own conduct. He said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God? [Romans 8:16: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God”] “I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused, and said, “I know he is the Saviour of the world.” “True,” replied he; “but do you know he has saved you?” I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.” but I fear they were vain words ...
Tues. 24 ... “I went to America, to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of unbelief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near: But let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, ‘To die is gain!’ I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun My last thread, I shall perish on the shore! “I think, verily, if the Gospel be true, I am safe: For I not only have given, and do give, all my goods to feed the poor; I not only give my body to be burned, drowned, or whatever God shall appoint for me; but I follow after charity, (though not as I ought, yet as I can,) if haply I may attain it.
I now believe the Gospel is true. ‘I show my faith by my works,’ by staking my all upon it. I would do so again and again a thousand times, if the choice were still to make. Whoever sees me, sees I would be a Christian. Therefore ‘are my ways not like other men’s ways.’ Therefore I have been, I am, I am content to be, ‘a by-word, a proverb of reproach.’ But in a storm I think, ‘What if the Gospel be not true? Then thou art of all men most foolish. For what hast thou given thy goods, thy ease, thy friends, thy reputation, thy country, thy life? For what art thou wandering over the face of the earth?’ — A dream, ‘a cunningly-devised fable!’ O! Who will deliver me from this fear of death? What shall I do? Where shall I flee from it? Should I fight against it by thinking, or by not thinking of it?
If it be said, that I have faith, (for many such things have I heard, from many miserable comforters,) I answer, So have the devils, — a sort of faith; but still they are strangers to the covenant of promise. So the apostles had even at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus first “manifested forth his glory;” even then they, in a sort, “believed on him;” but they had not then “the faith that overcometh the world.” The faith I want is, “a sure trust and confidence in God, that, through the merits of Christ, my sins are forgiven, and I reconciled to the favour of God.” I want that faith which St. Paul recommends to all the world, especially in his Epistle to the Romans: That faith which enables every one that hath it to cry out, “I live not; but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” [Galatians 2:20]. I want that faith which none can have without knowing that he hath it; (though many imagine they have it, who have it not;) for whosoever hath it, is “freed from sin, the” whole “body of sin is destroyed” in him: [Romans 6:6: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that we should no longer serve sin.”] He is freed from fear, “having, peace with God through Christ, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.” [Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”] And he is freed from doubt, “having the love of God shed abroad in his heart, through the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;” [Romans 5:5: “… God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”] which “Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God” [Romans 8:16] ...
... Peter Bohler, whom God prepared for me as soon as I came to London, affirmed of true faith in Christ ... that it had those two fruits inseparably attending it, ‘Dominion over sin, and constant Peace from a sense of forgiveness,’ I was quite amazed ...
... I met Peter Bohler again who now amazed me more and more, by the account he gave of the fruits of living faith, — the holiness and happiness which he affirmed to attend it ...
... I met Peter Bohler once more. I had now no objection to what he said of the nature of faith; namely, that it is (to use the words of our Church) ‘a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that through the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God.’ Neither could I deny either the happiness or holiness which he described, as fruits of this living faith. ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God,’ And, ‘He that believeth hath the witness in himself,’ fully convinced me of the former: As, ‘Whatsoever is born of God, doth not commit sin;’ and, ‘whosoever believeth is born of God,’ did of the latter.
Fear made John Wesley confront the truth that there was something wrong in his relationship with God. Most people – especially his colleagues – thought that he was on the wrong track. (In fact, they were upset that such a godly man claimed to be without faith. What was that saying about them?) However, it is healthy (and not a bad regular practice) to face discomfort and unease for the sake of what can be gained from Jesus. Where do you stand with Jesus?
From John Wesley’s Journals, October 1738: This, however, with a sentence in the Evening Lesson, put me upon considering my own state more deeply. And what then occurred to me was as follows: —
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” [2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?”] Now the surest test whereby we can examine ourselves, whether we be indeed in the faith, is that given by St. Paul: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” [2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”]
First: His Judgments are new: His judgment of himself, of happiness, of holiness. He judges himself to be altogether fallen short of the glorious image of God: To have no good thing abiding in him; but all that is corrupt and abominable: In a word, to be wholly earthly, sensual, and devilish; — a motley mixture of beast and devil. Thus, by the grace of God in Christ, I judge of myself. Therefore I am, in this respect, a new creature.
Again: His judgment concerning happiness is new. He would as soon expect to dig it out of the earth, as to find it in riches, honour, pleasure, (so called,) or indeed in the enjoyment of any creature: He knows there can be no happiness on earth, but in the enjoyment of God, and in the foretaste of those “rivers of pleasure which flow at his right hand for evermore.” Thus, by the grace of God in Christ, I judge of happiness. Therefore I am, in this respect, a new creature.
Yet again: His judgment concerning holiness is new. He no longer judges it to be an outward thing: To consist either in doing no harm, in doing good, or in using the ordinances of God. He sees it is the life of God in the soul; the image of God fresh stamped on the heart; an entire renewal of the mind in every temper and thought, after the likeness of Him that created it. Thus, by the grace of God in Christ, I judge of holiness. Therefore I am, in this respect, a new creature.
Secondly: His Designs are new. It is the design of his life, not to heap up treasures upon earth, not to gain the praise of men, not to indulge the desires of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life; but to regain the image of God; to have the life of God again planted in his soul; and to be “renewed after his likeness, in righteousness and true holiness.” This, by the grace of God in Christ, is the design of my life. Therefore I am, in this respect, a new creature.
Thirdly: His Desires are new; and, indeed, the whole train of his passions and inclinations. They are no longer fixed on earthly things. They are now set on the things of heaven. His love, and joy, and hope, his sorrow, and fear, have all respect to things above. They all point heavenward. Where his treasure is, there is his heart also. I dare not say I am a new creature in this respect. For other desires often arise in my heart; but they do not reign. I put them all under my feet, “through Christ which strengthens me.” Therefore I believe he is creating me anew in this also; and that he has begun, though not finished, his work.
Fourthly: His Conversation is new. It is always “seasoned with salt,” and fit to “minister grace to the hearers.” So is mine, by the grace of God in Christ. Therefore, in this respect, I am a new creature.
Fifthly: His Actions are new. The tenor of his life singly points at the glory of God. All his substance and time are devoted thereto. Whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he does, it either springs from, or leads to, the love of God and man. Such, by the grace of God in Christ, is the tenor of my life. Therefore, in this respect, I am a new creature.
But St. Paul tells us elsewhere, that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance.” Now although, by the grace of God in Christ, I find a measure of some of these in myself; namely, of peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance; yet others I find not. I cannot find in myself the love of God, or of Christ. Hence my deadness and wanderings in public prayer: Hence it is, that even in the Holy Communion I have frequently no more than a cold attention.
Again: I have not that joy in the Holy Ghost; no settled, lasting joy. Nor have I such a peace as excludes the possibility either of fear or doubt. When holy men have told me I had no faith, I have often doubted whether I had or no. And those doubts have made me very uneasy, till I was relieved by prayer and the Holy Scriptures.
Yet, upon the whole, although I have not yet that joy in the Holy Ghost, nor the full assurance of faith, much less am I, in the full sense of the words, “in Christ a new creature:” I nevertheless trust that I have a measure of faith, and am “accepted in the Beloved:” I trust “the hand-writing that was against me is blotted out;” and that I am “reconciled to God” through his Son.
Being afraid in a storm is not difficult – it comes natural – but becoming afraid of Jesus is a gift which leads to enjoying peace with Jesus in any storm. In John Wesley’s journals, there is also a testimony where God reversed the process for a man. He experienced God’s peace first; then his eyes were opened to the fear of not being right with Jesus. Maybe – this morning – this could be your journey:
From John Wesley’s Journals: Tues. [JANUARY 1, 1751]. — About this time I received a remarkable letter; part of which ran as follows: —
“When George Whitefield first preached on Kennington-Common, curiosity drew me to hear him frequently. I admired his zeal in calling sinners to repentance, but did not see myself to be one of that number; having had a religious education, even in spiritual religion, such as was not to be found in other societies.
“As soon as the Foundery was taken, I went thither constantly, morning as well as evening. But I had no desire of being acquainted with any of the society, much less of joining therein; being strongly resolved never to turn my back on the profession I was educated in.
“The next year I furnished myself with the books which John and Charles Wesley had printed. I compared them with Robert Barclay’s ‘Apology,’ and with the Bible; and of many things I was convinced: But what they said of Justification I could not comprehend; and I did not much concern myself about it, being but slightly convinced of sin.
“It was my custom to rise some hours before the family, and spend that time in reading. One Sunday morning I was just going to open my Bible, when a voice (whether inward or outward I cannot tell) seemed to say very loud, ‘God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven thee.’ I started up, took the candle and searched all about, to see if anyone was near; but there was none. I then sat down, with such peace and joy in my soul as cannot be described. While I vas musing what it could mean, I heard it again, saying, ‘Go in peace, thy sins are forgiven thee.’ I trembled exceedingly, not with fear, but such an emotion as I cannot express. Yet I got up the second time, and opened the door, to see if it was any human voice. Soon after it was repeated the third time, still louder; which drove me on my knees to prayer, being, overwhelmed with the love of God, and, for the time, utterly incapable of doubt or fear.
“I now saw the New Testament in a different light than I had ever done before. All the day I was comforted with promises from it, either read or brought to my mind. Yet the thought, ‘May not all this be a delusion?’ frequently darted into me; but it as often drove me to prayer; upon which all doubt presently vanished away.
“I was immediately changed in my dress, conversation, and whole deportment; which brought on me the ridicule of all my acquaintance: But nothing moved me. I wondered what the Cross meant; for whatever appeared to be the will of God, I ran cheerfully to do, without a moment’s hesitation. I felt no temptation to anger, pride, or any other evil. Though often provoked, I was not ruffled in the least. God seemed to reign in my heart alone. He was all my desire, all my hope: And this light lasted about three months, without any cloud at all.
“But after this it pleased God to remove all at once the veil which, till then, covered my heart; though I do not remember that any disobedience preceded; for I feared sin more than death or hell. Yet in a moment such a scene was opened to me, that if I had not felt the hand of God underneath me, I should certainly have gone distracted. The infernal regions were represented to my view, day and night. At the same time I saw what I was by nature, and what I had deserved from God for all my sins. O how did Satan then strive to tear away my shield; and what a burden of sin did I feel! It is impossible to describe it. If I looked from God a moment, I was full of horror. I often feared I should lose my senses; but had no thought of death, nor fear concerning it. Yet hell appeared to me without a covering, and I seemed surrounded with devils, sleeping and waking. But I still holden this fast, ‘Thou hast forgiven me, O my God; and I will not let thee go.’
“All this time I constantly attended the preaching; and, having a strong desire to know whether friend Wesleys lived the Gospel, as well as preached it, I got acquainted with one who lived at the Foundery. I frequently sat and worked with her, and made all possible inquiries into the most minute circumstances of their behaviour. This afterwards proved a great blessing to me; for when I heard any idle report, (and I heard not a few,) I could answer peremptorily, ‘I know the contrary.’
“Their preaching now took deeper hold of me than ever, and searched every corner of my heart. I saw I had nothing to bring to God, and was indeed vile in my own eyes. When my friends sometimes told me, how good I had been, their words were as sharp swords. I found I had nothing to trust in, but the atoning blood. But this trust kept my soul in constant peace.
“Thus I went on a considerable time, before I admitted any serious reflections concerning the ordinances; which indeed I did not care to think of at all, till one day reading in the third chapter of St. John’s Gospel, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God:’ The words struck me to the heart; I began to read over again, with all attention, what was written on both sides of the question. But this gave me no satisfaction; so I tried another way, giving myself up to earnest prayer, that God would guide me by his word and Spirit, into all that he required of me.
“However, these thoughts died away, and I was quite easy about it, till one Sunday, at Devonshire-Square meeting, it was brought to my mind in such a manner, that I believe the seat shook under me. I then plainly saw it was my duty, and determined to delay no longer: For that purpose I went to Cowley two or three days after. But all the night before it was to be done, I was in deep distress. I spent all the hours in weeping and prayer; and yet, as the morning drew on, my trouble increased, with strong terror, as if I was just going to execution. But I remained fixed in my purpose: And as soon as I was baptized, all the clouds dispersed, and I rejoiced more than ever in God my Saviour.”
Did you notice the importance of baptism? The sacraments are precious. Another person received peace at Holy Communion:
From John Wesley’s Journals (September 1739): Thur. 20. — Mrs. C——, being in deep heaviness, had desired me to meet her this afternoon. She had long earnestly desired to receive the holy communion, having an unaccountably strong persuasion, that God would manifest himself to her therein, and give rest to her soul. But her heaviness being now greatly increased, Mr. D——e gave her that fatal advice, — Not to communicate till she had living faith. This still added to her perplexity.
Yet at length she resolved to obey God rather than man. And “he was made known unto” her “in breaking of bread.” In that moment she felt her load removed, she knew she was accepted in the Beloved; and all the time I was expounding at Mr. B——’s, was full of that peace which cannot be uttered.
I hope that everything that you have heard is not too confronting for you or discouraging you in any way. The disciples thought that Jesus expected too much of them – handle storms by themselves. They asked him: “Don’t you care?” Yet, he did care and he cares for you. By himself, he endured the biggest storm of death on a cross – the punishment for all of our sins and the world’s corruption was placed on his shoulders on a cross – so that – on his account – we would receive forgiveness and peace with God – this treasure and gift – for ever. There is peace that is stronger than death and it is available to you. Simply ask him for it and have faith. Amen.
[You may be in a storm and come to Jesus as your last resort. When he helps you, do not ignore the help or take it for granted but maybe become a little uneasy. It is smart to become unsure in the presence and power of God. Be unsettled and come to him for everlasting peace. Amen.]
Romans 5:1-11: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
From John Wesley’s Journals [January 1738]: It is now two years and almost four months since I left my native country, in order to teach the Georgian Indians the nature of Christianity: But what have I learned myself in the mean time? Why, (what I the least of all suspected,) that I who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God.
“I am not mad,” though I thus speak; but “I speak the words of truth and soberness;” if haply some of those who still dream may awake, and see, that as I am, so are they.
Are they read in philosophy? So was I. In ancient or modern tongues? So was I also. Are they versed in the science of divinity? I too have studied it many years. Can they talk fluently upon spiritual things? The very same could I do. Are they plenteous in alms? Behold, I gave all my goods to feed the poor. Do they give of their labor as well as of their substance? I have laboured more abundantly than they all. Are they willing to suffer for their brethren? I have thrown up my friends, reputation, ease, country; I have put my life in my hand, wandering into strange lands; I have given my body to be devoured by the deep, parched up with heat, consumed by toil and weariness, or whatsoever God should please to bring upon me. But does all this (be it more or less, it matters not) make me acceptable to God? Does all I ever did or can know, say, give, do, or suffer, justify me in his sight? Yea, or the constant use of all the means of grace? (Which, nevertheless, is meet, right, and our bounden duty.) Or that I know nothing of myself; that I am, as touching outward, moral righteousness blameless? Or (to come closer yet) the having a rational conviction of all the truths of Christianity? Does all this give me a claim to the holy, heavenly, divine character of a Christian? By no means. If the Oracles of God are true, if we are still to abide by “the law and the testimony;” all these things, though, when ennobled by faith in Christ, they are holy and just and good, yet without it are “dung and dross,” meet only to be purged away by “the fire that never shall be quenched.”
This, then, have I learned in the ends of the earth — That I “am fallen short of the glory of God:” That my whole heart is “altogether corrupt and abominable;” and, consequently, my whole life; (seeing it cannot be, that an “evil tree” should “bring forth good fruit:”) That “alienated” as I am from the life of God,” I am “a child of wrath”, 16 an heir of hell: That my own works, my own sufferings, my own righteousness, are so far from reconciling me to an offended God, so far from making any atonement for the least of those sins, which “are more in number than the hairs of my head,” that the most specious of them need an atonement themselves, or they cannot abide his righteous Judgment; that “having the sentence of death” in my heart, and having nothing in or of myself to plead, I have no hope, but that of being justified freely, “through the redemption that is in Jesus:” I have no hope, but that if I seek I shall find Christ, and “be found in him not having my own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9.)
If it be said, that I have faith, (for many such things have I heard, from many miserable comforters,) I answer, So have the devils, — a sort of faith; but still they are strangers to the covenant of promise. So the apostles had even at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus first “manifested forth his glory;” even then they, in a sort, “believed on him;” but they had not then “the faith that overcometh the world.” The faith I want is, “a sure trust and confidence in God, that, through the merits of Christ, my sins are forgiven, and I reconciled to the favor of God.” I want that faith which St. Paul recommends to all the world, especially in his Epistle to the Romans: That faith which enables every one that hath it to cry out, “I live not; but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I want that faith which none can have without knowing that he hath it; (though many imagine they have it, who have it not;) for whosoever hath it, is “freed from sin, the” whole “body of sin is destroyed” in him: He is freed from fear, “having, peace with God through Christ, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.”
And he is freed from doubt, “having the love of God shed abroad in his heart, through the Holy Ghost which is given unto him;” which “Spirit itself beareth witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God.”
From John Wesley’s Journals, July 1738: miles from Marienborne,) where is also a small company of those who seek the Lord Jesus in sincerity. Wednesday, 12, was one of the conferences for strangers; where one of Frankfort proposing the question, — Can a man be justified, and not know it? the Count [Zinzendorf] spoke largely and scripturally upon it, to this effect: —
l. Justification is the forgiveness of sins. / 2. The moment a man flies to Christ he is justified; / 3. And has peace with God; but not always joy: / 4. Nor perhaps may he know he is justified, till long after. / 5. For the assurance of it is distinct from justification itself. / 6. But others may know he is justified by his power over sin, by his seriousness, his love of the brethren, and his “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” which alone prove the spiritual life to be begun. / 7. To be justified is the same thing, as to be born of God. (Not so.) / 8. When a man is awakened, he is begotten of God, and his fear and sorrow, and sense of the wrath of God, are the pangs of the new birth.
I then recollected what Peter Bohler had often said upon this head, which was to this effect: —
1 When a man has living faith in Christ, then is he justified: / 2. This is always given in a moment; / 3. And in that moment he has peace with God; / 4 Which he cannot have without knowing that he has it: / 5. And being born of God, he sinneth not: / 6. Which deliverance from sin he cannot have without knowing that he has it.
From John Wesley’s Journals: On Sunday, [October 9 1748], she went, with one more, to see the condemned malefactors in Newgate. They inquired for John Lancaster, in particular, who had sent to desire their coming. He asked them to go into his cell, which they willingly did; although some dissuaded them from it, because the gaol distemper (a kind of pestilential fever) raged much among the prisoners. They desired he would call together as many of the prisoners as were willing to come. Six or seven of those who were under sentence of death came. They sung a hymn, read a portion of Scripture, and prayed.
Their little audience were all in tears. Most of them appeared deeply convinced of their lost estate. From this time her labors were unwearied among them; praying with them and for them night and day.
John Lancaster said, “When I used to come to the Foundery every morning, which I continued to do for some time, I little thought of ever coming to this place. I then often felt the love of God, and thought I should never commit sin more. But after a while, I left off coming to the preaching: Then my good desires died away. I fell again into the diversions I had laid aside, and the company I had left off. As I was one day playing at skittles with some of these, a young man, with whom I was now much acquainted, gave me a part of the money which he had just been receiving for some stolen goods. This, with his frequent persuasion, so wrought upon me, that at last I agreed to go partners with him. Yet I had often strong convictions; but I stifled them as well as I could.
We continued in this course till August last. As we were then going home from Bartholomew Fair, one morning about two o’clock, it came into my mind to go and steal the branches out of the Foundery. I climbed over the wall, and brought two of them away; though I trembled and shook, and made so great a noise, that I thought all the family must be dead, or else they could not but hear me. Within a few days after, I stole the velvet; for which I was taken up, tried, and condemned.”
Some being of opinion it would not be difficult to procure a pardon for him, S. Peters, though she never mentioned this to him, resolved to leave no means unattempted. She procured several petitions to be drawn, and went herself to Westminster, to Kensington, and to every part of the Town where any one lived who might possibly assist therein. In the mean time, she went constantly to Newgate, sometimes alone, sometimes with one or two others, visited all that were condemned in their cells, exhorted them, prayed with them, and had the comfort of finding them, every time, more athirst for God than before; and of being followed, whenever she went away, with abundance of prayers and blessings.
After a time, she and her companions believed it would be of use to examine each closely, as to the state of his soul. They spoke to John Lancaster first. He lifted up his eyes and hands, and, after pausing awhile, said, “I thank God, I do feel that He has forgiven me my sins: I do know it.” They asked how, and when, he knew it first. He replied, “I was in great fear and heaviness, till the very morning you came hither first. That morning I was in earnest prayer; and just as St. Paul’s clock struck five, the Lord poured into my soul such peace as I had never felt; so that I was scarce able to bear it. From that hour I have never been afraid to die; for I know, and am sure, as soon as my soul departs from the body, the Lord Jesus will stand ready to carry it into glory.”
From John Wesley’s Journals: I received a letter about this time from Ireland, a part of which follows: — “DEAR SIR, Tyrrel’s Pass, July 24, 1749
MANY have found a sense of the pardoning love of God at Athlone since you left it; and the society in general are on the stretch for the kingdom of God. The Lord has kindled a fire in Aghrim likewise. The last time but one that I was there, several were struck with deep convictions, which continued till I came again. While I was meeting the society there, the Governess of Mr. S——’s children was struck to the ground, and in a short time filled with ‘peace and joy in the Ho]y Ghost.’ The next morning his Steward was cut to the heart, and fell upon his knees in the midst of the sermon; as did Mr. S—— himself, together with his wife, and great part of the congregation. The Steward went home full of peace and love. This has set the whole society on fire; so that now every one is crying out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’
“The same fire is kindled at Portarlington. I went there the next Sunday after you. One then found a sense of God’s learning love; and last Saturday in the society some cried out, and some fell to the ground, three of whom found peace to their souls.
“I was at Mount Mellick likewise the next Sunday after you, and the power of God was present to heal. Two that were heavy laden, found rest that night. The next time we met, we scarce knew how to part. We continued singing and praying till five persons received a clear manifestation of the love of God. Another found the same blessing while I was preaching this morning. We spent some time afterwards at James Moss’s house, in praying with some that were under deep convictions; and two of them went home rejoicing in God their Savior. I was now informed of two more that were rejoicing in God; so that in Mount Mellick twelve persons, in all, have found the ‘peace that passeth all understanding,’ since you left that place.
“I preached at Rahew likewise the week after you was there. The man of the house had fetched his mother from a considerable distance; she had never heard a Methodist Preacher before. She was soon cut to the heart, and cried out aloud. One behind her bid her fall upon her knees, which she presently did, and the whole house was as in one cry. I broke off my discourse, and began to pray, which I continued till I was so spent I could hardly speak. I went out to take a little breath, and came in again. She was crying out, ‘I am dropping, dropping into hell; its mouth is open, ready to swallow me up.’ I went to prayer again; and before we had done, God spoke peace to her soul. She was filled with joy unspeakable, and could but just say, ‘I am in a new world! I am in a new world!’
“From the whole, I cannot but observe two things:
1. What a blessing it is, when any who finds that peace, declares it openly before all the people, that we may break off and praise God. If this was always done, it would be good for many souls. The first that found it on Sunday evening, spoke before all; and we praised God. The moment she spoke, another, and then another, found peace; and each of them spoke aloud, and made the fire run through the whole congregation. I would observe,
2. The woman at Rahew had never before seen anyone in the like trouble. Therefore she could not cry out because she had heard others do it; but because she could not help it; because she felt the word of God ‘sharper than a two-edged sword:’ And generally, the sharper the convictions are, the sooner they are over. “This is from your son in the Gospel,