Vitality of the Christian Faith

On July 2, 1789, John Wesley wrote a sermon called, “Causes Of The Inefficacy Of Christianity”. Click here for the full sermon.

This is a powerful, convicting, sermon on how Christianity can be more transformative in our world. Here is a summary and application for this important sermon:

Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity

Jeremiah 8:22 “Is there no balm in Gilead: is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”

​“Why has Christianity done so little good in the world?” Why does John Wesley begin this way? He notices a “failing” of the people who call themselves Christians to bring about real and lasting change in the world. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of the deep corruption of human nature. Humanity is flawed and fallen, so this means there is a vast amount of work to do in the world.

Even with the reality of so much brokenness, all around us, Wesley says Christianity was supposed to be the remedy from our Creator. But he also laments because it is not known well and the Christian faith cannot do good where it is not known. He can say this because of the vast amount of Christians who do not seem to be doing their part to be part of the transformation of the world. The lack of “action”, to Wesley, is an indicator that few Christians know what Christianity means and are ignorant of how they are supposed to live out their faith.

But Wesley also notes there are some people who understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. They have laid their lives down to “deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus” This is the key, according to Wesley. Followers of Jesus Christ should pay attention to how their lives are lived so the glory of God will be demonstrated and revealed in the world.

All parts of our life, especially what we do with our money, should serve the kingdom of God. Wesley emphasizes how Christians should be gathered, in community, for worship. He also said how important it is to practice and deepen their faith through prayer and fasting. This, for Wesley, is what it means to be a Bible Christian.

Relevancy For Today

Now we get to the question, “Has Christianity done good in the world today? In some areas, yes. But there are still many issues all around us. According to Wesley, if all Christians lived out their faith, as it says in scripture, we would be able to see and live in a more peaceful place where there are no poor, or problems.

As in Wesley’s time, there seems to be a disconnect between faith and practice. Christianity is more than a status symbol, it is about life transformation. The transformation of one’s life happens when we deny ourselves, meaning we think of other’s interests above our own and we put the work of God ahead of everything else. Even in our day to day jobs, we still do everything for the glory of Christ by doing our best in all we do.

What’s interesting is that the same things Wesley says were the “failures” of Christians as well as how Christians should live, is the same principle that applies today. It seems as if we still have to guard against the notion of Christian being a status symbol to get a certain position. Instead, we should view our lives as humble, obedient servants willing to do everything necessary to be a sigh of relief to a hurting and broken world in separate need of God’s forgiving and healing touch. Christians would need to know this personal presence of God, on a deeper level so we can be his instruments in the world.

Yes, God is big enough (and smart enough) to find ways for his work to go on in the world; but there is so much that we Christians can miss out on by living solely for ourselves, or solely for what “rewards” we’ll receive “in the end.” There is great joy, hope, peace, and love we can experience here and now because of the presence of God working in us and through us. We can bring the healing and the presence of the kingdom of God wherever we go and in whatever we do. But it all begins with taking heed to the commands and guidance of Jesus.

So what should we do today? We should not neglect meeting together for worship. We should be involved in prayer and fasting. We should “earn all we can, save all we can, and give all we can” so we do not allow money to become a god in our life. Above all, we should practice what we preach. Then we just might see a change in this world.

Identity

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Galatians 2:19-21 19 I died to the Law through the Law, so that I could live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I don’t ignore the grace of God, because if we become righteous through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose.

We often go through life, through our day, it seems we get more preoccupied with what we are able to accomplish than our reason for doing what we do. Our to-do lists fill out day with stuff to do that we can easily forget who we are. We can also be so adamant about following rules that we forget to be in relationship with other people. This means that we identify ourselves with what we are able to accomplish rather than who we really are.

If I were to ask you who you are, how would you answer? Would your first response be to say what you do for a living? If you are a Christian would you say you are a Christian ____(profession)  ? The challenge everyday is to remember not only the reason we do what we do, but who we really are. Our real identity is not in what we do. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ.

We can also begin to remember our past and what we have done. Then we may say that I am a “thief, liar, cheater, loser, hypocrite, uneducated, etc.” These are not who we are. If we identify with how we used to live, then we can keep ourselves down and allow our past to control and define us rather than the One who lives in us.

Now we get to today’s text. This has been an important passage (more specifically Galatians 2:20) in my life and reminding me who I am and who/what I live for.

Paul is teaching that he died to the Law. What does this mean? The Law (found in the first five books of the Bible) is basically a “check-off list” (to put it into today’s terms) that people followed so they can prove and show they want to be forgiven or have God bless and not curse them. Living with an attitude to try and make God do things because we do certain things can create a superstitious thinking. We can also become “slaves” to the Law and allow our actions to be so routine that we can forget the real meaning behind them.

Though Paul remained Jewish, he did not let the Law define how he would connect to God. We shouldn’t either. He then says that he has been “crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” He knew that he was being transformed into the image of Christ more and more each day. It was made clear that Christ’s dreams were Paul’s dreams. Christ’s thoughts were Paul’s thoughts. Christ’s motivations were Paul’s motivations. So did Paul lose his individual identity? Absolutely not! He became more and more human as God intended from the beginning. Now Paul is free from the Law and is free to live as Christ did (and does in us when we allow him in).

Living with this kind of faith can help us love people more, reach out to those hurting or in need (physical and spiritual need), telling people about the Kingdom of God around us. This is incredible freedom because we are not bound to what people think about us and we do not let material items or “check-off” lists define us.

You can have this incredible gift of freedom too! As we continue in the book of Galatians we will continue to unpack the idea of freedom in Christ.

Tomorrow we begin Galatians 3.

#LiveFreeInChrist