Sermon 34 The Original, Nature, Property, and Use of the Law

“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just,  and good.”

Rom. 7:12

John Wesley makes some excellent points in this sermon that are relevant today. We live in a world that is not interested in keeping laws, we are very good at pointing to others and where they are not keeping to the law but as for us – sure we keep “the important ones.”

If I were to quote from the Bible about “The Law” I would use Psalm 119 and its little sibling Psalm 19. I would talk of light and lamp, of perfection and God’s will. But Wesley covering four huge topics in one sermon starts in Romans and stays for the main firmly in the New Testament.

There are churches who never use the Old Testament, a friend of mine in the States, (we are bound by George) and whom I actually physically know, I have cried in her parlour, buckets, one day. She left our church to go to a “Bible believing church” but she never reads the Old Testament, she has thrown it out of the window with the bath water and is not concerned with the Law of old.

Today I must take a photo of “Covenant” for a UMC/ Rethink church project and as I am known as the “Rainbow Girl” I of course thought of rainbows and moonbows. But God’s covenant is now so much more than a spectrum in the sky, it is in the blood shed by Christ.

Don’t get me wrong I am not leaving the signs and wonders God has strewn across the sky just for me, and I will see more of that I am sure. But as we grow, as aim for Christlikeness the life we had is gone and the new is here and each day we grow, we move closer to the Lord, we come more and more under his discipline. We embrace the Law!

Embrace the Law! What am I talking about?

Wesley argues that God’s Law is as old as his nature. He contends that we  cannot know God’s Law merely by learning it by rote, or hearing it over and over again we cannot comprehend the height and depth, and length, and breadth of it. God alone can reveal this by his Spirit. Do you hear the undertone here?

What word is coming to you now?

Is it LAW?

Why had God given us the Law?

If we look at the law of God from another angle; it is supreme, unchangeable reason; it is unalterable rectitude, it is the everlasting fitness of all things that are or ever were created.

The law of God is a copy or image of the eternal mind, a transcript of His divine nature:  it is a child of the everlasting Father, the brightest outpouring of his essential wisdom, the visible beauty of the Most high. It is the delight and wonder of cherubim and seraphim, and all the company of heaven, and the glory and joy of every wise believer. It is chaste, spotless, eternally and essentially holy, and it leads us to pure, clean, unpolluted worship of God.

We need the Law to help us resolve our sin, but not just the Law, the fulfilment of the Law, we need Jesus in our lives to transform us daily, to do this thing we call Christianity in the ordinary everydayness of our lives and allow his super-extra-ordinariness to transform us.

We are called to not only be transformed by a renewing of our mind but by a transformation of spirit and melting of heart. And we can not do this in our own strength.

It is only through the work of the Spirit and our openness to that work in us that we can embrace the Law.

Because to embrace the Law is to embrace life and to embrace love. I was listening to a video (I know the word is watch but I didn’t watch it I only listened to it) about Why is Christlikeness important, the speakers were church leaders from various denominations and they were clear it is a call placed on our lives to be more and more like Jesus BUT not one person said anything about the Bible, the Law or the Fruit of the Spirit.

To me these are some of the essential ingredients in growth. First Scripture – we must read, meditate, think, listen with our hearts daily the word of God. Secondly the Spirit convicts us on our faith journey in his own time about areas of our life that need more work, this conviction is using the Law to show us our sin and thirdly if we are becoming more and more like Christ – the evidence is in the Fruit of the Spirit in our everydayness, our ordinariness, our normal.

Wesley concludes his sermon by looking briefly at the uses of the Law:

  • to convince the world of sin – quick and powerful, full of life and energy, “and sharper than any two edged sword.”
  • to slay the sinner – to help a person see themselves as they truly are – “wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.”
  • to love us – It is the spirit of love which, by this painful means, tears away our confidence in the flesh, which leaves us no broken reed whereon to trust, and so constrains the sinner, stripped of all, to cry out in the bitterness of his soul, or groan in the depth of his heart,
    I give up every plea beside, —
    Lord, I am damn’d; but Thou hast died.
  • to keep us alive – we are to be alive in Christ and Christ alive in us but if we are actively sinning we are on the broad path that leads to perdition
  • to keep us growing – “O what love have I unto thy law! all the day long is my study in it;” he sees daily, in that divine mirror, more and more of his own sinfulness. He sees more and more clearly, that he is still a sinner in all things, — that neither his heart nor his ways are right before  God; and that every moment sends him to Christ.

Wesley is all about new believers but more than that he is all about discipling people. It is about growth in everyone not just the new believer but those who are a long time in the faith, those who teach and pastor, those in leadership;

Closer and closer let us cleave
To his beloved Embrace;
Expect his fullness to receive,
And grace to answer grace.

hands on bible

Sermon 32~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 12

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Matt. 7:15–20

Another short conversation by John Wesley which hits home in no uncertain way. One of the reasons for its brevity is that it follows on from the broad and narrow gates and as such is tied very much together. Wesley maintains that “wolves” can lead people to the broad much easier than “sheep” can lead to the narrow.

What shall be done if they point out, as the way to eternal life, what is in truth the way to eternal death; and exhort others to walk, as they do themselves, in the broad, not the narrow way?

The problem we have as believers is discerning good, solid, doctrinely sound teaching from wishy washy, please like me, look at me I am a star, lukewarm, people pleasing diatribe. But when we put it like that it is easy, isn’t it.

If someone stood and said, “The message I have for you today will please you and it is wishy washy with no substance to it at all,” then we would know where we stood. But they don’t these people who stand on nothing more than marshmallow clouds and they don’t even know it. That is the crux of the teaching today from John Wesley and although he would love to tell us not to listen to these deluded folk. He says, no, stay, hear it


hear it for what it is, false teaching, the message they are teaching is as Wesley states:

when they who are commissioned to teach men the way to heaven do in fact teach them the way to hell!

To give an example John Wesley says that an effective

sermon is the way of lowliness, mourning, meekness, and holy desire, love of God and of our neighbour, doing good, and suffering evil for Christ’s sake. They are, therefore, false prophets, who teach, as the way to heaven, any other way than this.

If we are told the way to heaven is through any other way then it is false teaching.

And the false teachers and prophets of our day do not come with three heads and horns sticking out, no they come

“in the most mild, inoffensive manner, without any mark or token of enmity. Who can imagine that these quiet creatures would do any hurt to any one?”

They assure you, it is out of mere zeal for God, that they are making God a liar.

They will make large professions of their good-will, of their concern for the danger you are in, and of their earnest desire to preserve you from error, from being entangled in new and mischievous doctrines.

and most troublingly:

Therefore it is that they advise you to keep still, in the plain middle way; and to beware of “being righteous overmuch,” lest you should “destroy yourself.”

Have you heard that? I know I have, many times.

“Don’t rock the boat,”

We are not born again, made new to sit in the middle of the highway, we have been given a zeal to share the gospel, a zeal to help people till we are empty, a zeal to know Jesus more, a zeal to go to the ends of the earth sharing the good news and doing good works.

Not as a reward in itself, not to BIG ourselves up, or sell ourselves but because there is an inner compulsion to do so. When I say God first, family second and church third, I mean that because of my personal relationship with God I cannot stop doing all those things for him first, secondly I take care of my little nest of folk and third I do the “churchy” things of fellowship and work.

Sometimes the zeal I have for something is so great I worry it is not of God and that is when I stop, I check in with a heart & faith check. I could spend all day centreing and going into myself in introspection but that isn’t the main compulsion. That is for times of rest.

Some people will look and say we are doing too much, we will get ill, this is keeping us contained and in the middle ground, keeping our wings clipped when we could be soaring.

Richard Rohr said of the prophets of old: “The Hebrew prophets were free to love their tradition and to criticize it at the same time, which is a very rare art form.”

We cannot be doing church right if people are walking away. We have made people less accountable by watering down liturgy and God’s message. We mix up Christianity with a whole bunch of other things and each time we do it we dilute it that little bit more.

When will Christianity as a whole be on the broad path?

But Wesley says and I concur, we shouldn’t shy away from false prophets, we should hear their message and then use the discernment given to us to determine the God in it.

Only “take heed how you hear:” Beware of them and of their doctrine. Hear with fear and trembling, lest you should be deceived, and given up, like them, to a strong delusion. As they continually mingle truth and lies, how easily may you take in both together!

Wesley concludes his sermon with no doubt a vitriolic, spittle hurling rhetoric to those who are leading people astray, so church leaders, ministers and pastors take heed of this warning:

O ye false prophets! O ye dry bones! hear ye, for once, the word of the Lord! How long will ye lie in the name of God, saying, “God hath spoken;” and God hath not spoken by you? How long will ye pervert the right ways of the Lord, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness? How long will ye teach the way of death, and call it the way of life? How long will ye deliver to Satan the souls whom ye profess to bring unto God?

Always walk on the narrow path of life…and look to the fruit>>> there you will see a good tree.

Sermon 31~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 11

Enter ye at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in therat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

John Wesley in this short conversation alludes to the various ways we can be walking the broad way and the one way we can walk the narrow way.

it is a thousand times broader; since there is only one way of keeping the commandment; for we do not properly keep it, unless both the thing done, the manner of doing it, and all the other circumstances, are right: But there are a thousand ways of breaking every commandment; so that this gate is wide indeed.

When we look, really look into the hows, whys and wherefores of being on the broad trail, who of us can say we constantly, every second walk the narrow?

What would it look like if we did?

What would our neighbourhoods, our communities look like if we did?

It is not about law keeping>>> It is about embracing the fulfilment of the Law, Jesus Christ.

What our churches be like if we all were on the narrow way?

reimagine church, reimagine life >>> life in ABUNDANCE.

There are people even in church communities who will try and lead us onto the broad road, and we let them because it is easier, it is our natural inclination.


going deep, deep into scripture and deep into ourselves, seeking out the dark corners of our minds, renewing our minds all the time, revitalising our hearts. We can do this individually  but we can also do this as community>>>

A community of believers living a life of abundance. So our faith can be tangibly felt by others, so the love of God can be tangibly seen in our lives.

Are we athirst for God? And panting after a renewal of his likeness?

In Luke’s gospel that gives an account of the wide and narrow gate, he uses the phrase strive to enter in.

23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,

24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

Strive in the King James version has been changed to make every effort in the NIV. But it means something more like to endeavour with strenuous zeal, to agonise. When Paul writes to Timothy he says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept my faith.” The fought in that quote is the same as strive. To stay on the narrow path involves a fight, a spiritual battle as we love to say, and moreso, a very real heart and mind battle between our natural state and holiness.

There is agony in some of decisions we have to make. There are times when the narrow way is just too darn hard and we yearn for the green pastures of the broad way. But, weighing it up rationally>>> broad = death, narrow = life. Perspective restored.

We must strive with all fervour and zeal, pray without ceasing; at all times, in all places, lifting our hearts to the Lord.

Wesley ends this conversation with:

To conclude. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate,” not only by this agony of soul, of conviction, of sorrow, of shame, of desire, of fear, of unceasing prayer; but likewise by ordering thy conversation aright, by walking with all thy strength in all the ways of God, the way of innocence, of piety, and of mercy. Abstain from all appearance of evil: Do all possible good to all men: Deny thyself, thy own will, in all things, and take up thy cross daily. Be ready to cut off thy right hand, to pluck out thy right eye and cast it from thee; to suffer the loss of goods, friends, health, all things on earth, so thou mayst enter into the kingdom of heaven!

And no amount of modern, slang or vernacular language can improve on this.

It is Lent.

If we only kept this paragraph with us as we journey through Lent>>> what a difference it would make in our lives and the lives of those in our communities.

We are loved.

Let’s share it around …narrow gate

Sermon 29~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 9

“‘No man can serve two masters; For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. “‘Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye
shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: For they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of
little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. “‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow: For the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’”

Matt. 6:24–34

Wesley quotes from 2 Kings 17:33 before asking

“How nearly does the practice of most modern Christians resemble this of the ancient Heathens! “They fear the Lord;” they also perform an outward service to him, and hereby show they have some fear of God; but they likewise “serve their own gods.”

And is it possible that today also, that there may be Christians whose practice of Christianity, practice of worshipping the Lord resembles that of non-believing folk?

Yes it is, our churches are full of people who worship for an hour on a Sunday but go back to their own lives, serving the gods of money, celebrity, status, stature, size, self, family, pets … at some point during Sunday lunch.

I am not talking about church, and doing churchy stuff. I am talking about a living faith and a living breathing walk with the Lord that consumes our entire life. It is the first day of Lent and I am trying to encourage others to do something for God for 40 days in the spirit of generosity or contemplation or maybe both. When we are generous from the bottom of our heart, from the bottom of the bank of time & energy, from the bottom of our wallets we are showing God’s love in a very practical way. A way that could bring another to the foot of the Cross. Not in an attractional sense but in a very real heartfelt way. There is nothing attractive in scooping a girls hair out of her eyes as she pukes into a doorway on a Saturday night, nor do we need attractive visible uniforms to do this act of kindness: if the fruit of the Spirit is evidenced in our lives this sort of generosity should be instinctive. It shouldn’t be because we are part of a project, or because a friend is watching and we will grow in their esteem, it should just be an act of love.

A couple of weeks ago I heard this story from “the guy” of a market town Saturday night. He was weaving his way home in the early hours of the morning when he came across a young girl of about eighteen, very much the worse for wear. But him being “the guy” thought it inappropriate to come to her aid. A few yards thence he met with the ‘Snotty Sisters,’ who as far as the town was concerned would rather eat dirt than be seen to talk to the common folk. He approached them and told them of the wee lass. The sisters collected the girl, took her home, dealt with the puke, bathed her, dried her hair and put her to bed, ringing her, no doubt, worried parents in the process. In the morning they drove her home after tea and toast. No reproach, no judgement just invisible kindness.

If all Christians acted in this manner – what a different world this would be.

A world of compassion – not greed

A world of love – not hate

What we need is to share the outrageous grace and mercy of the Lord to all we meet.

Let us stop worrying about the clothes on our back and money in the bank and live in the present, live in the day that has been provided to us.


Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. But think of the gift we have in this day, how are we going to share Jesus today?

Sermon 28~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 8

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Matt. 6:19–23.

Rich people love to point out that this isn’t about them, poor people scoff and say “well it isn’t about us.”

Amazing that! Because it is about all of us. We are all capable of hoarding and cluttering our lives, it could be pictures on the wall or boxes of collectables gathering dust in the attic, it could be a tablecloth from every vacation location or it could be money in the bank.

A cluttered home, a cluttered life takes our focus of what is important. If we fill our lives with clutter be it crystal or books or photographic memories it takes our eye off the Lord. The eye of our soul should be fixed solely and purely on the Lord.

Wesley’s sermon could be lifted off 200+ year old paper and preached today, it clearly shows us a way of generosity that is so relevant in this time of Lent (tomorrow) but also it is not just about a project it is about a way of life.

If we are seeking to be Christ-like then surely storing up here on earth is futile and creating barriers to our aim. Cluttering our lives with unnecessary things that just distract us, making us prideful of collections, making us covetous of others wealth, blocking a true relationship with the Living God.

One way of discovering where our thoughts and hearts are is to ask: what would you save from a burning home – after family, what are the next five things you would save.

So what are we not asked by the Lord? We are to take care of our households but after that everything else is to be given away. This is a deeply difficult way of living and not everyone in a household may concur.

To live simply, to be debt free, to give generously not just to the nice people but also the people we don’t want to give to. People will come up with excuses like “they will just waste it,” “they don’t know what to do with it,” “they don’t deserve it,” etc. But how do we know? Past experience, similar experience? We are to give, not with codecils, not with our judgement but showing mercy, grace and love.

Sermon 27~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 7

“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their
reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in
secret, shall reward thee openly.”

Matthew 6:16–18

Why do we fast? As we get real close to Lent, why do we abstain from something? Wesley outlines the biblical background to fasting looking at Moses, Jehosophat, Daniel and Nehemiah in the Old Testament and of course the example of Jesus in the New Testament. He looks at the traditions of the gentiles and Jews with regard fasting

He then looks at the reasons that people of his day chose to fast and of Christians throughout the ages. Do we abstain to look good in the eyes of others? Do we abstain for selfish reasons? And for how long do we abstain or fast?

I was speaking to a guy on Thursday who was taking part in a sponsored slim during Lent for his health. Is there a significance in attaching it to Lent? What is Lent for in the church calendar in this post modern society? Is there still a place for a few weeks of abstinence?

Some people choose to eat particularly plain food during Lent, sustenance  for the body but not for the tastebuds. People throughout the ages have thrust their idea of plain diet on those under their control whether sailors on ships, children in orphanages or those incarcerated and they have done it in the name of religion.

When we approach a fast we have to look at our motives. Are we being directed by God to do this? Some people should think carefully about beginning a period of abstinence due to health reasons.

There are some of us who due to our past relationship with food must be extremely cautious before engaging in a fast of any length lest past obsessions rise up. This year there are a whole gamut of studies to follow that encourage generosity rather than abstinence. This suits the world in which we live, where to do without is seen as unacceptable.

So in considering a fast – it should be done prayerfully, seeking the Lord’s guidance. It should be done sensibly so as our health is not adversely affected and thirdly we should consider our motives – is it to seek a thin place or is it vanity? And whatever we decide we are to do it above all in secret.


Sermon 26~~~Upon our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount~~~Discourse 6

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: Otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: And thy Father, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: For they love to pray standing in the
synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret, he shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the Heathen do: For they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before you ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be
thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:1-15

Wesley doesn’t often use illustrations, he just expounds the verses one by one. This is a refreshing form of sermon. So often today we have to listen to endless stories that a preacher might find funny or witty. Some of them like to give us knowledge that has less to do with the text than how intelligent they are. As a writer I like “the Word became flesh,” because that is kind of what in writing we hope for; that our characters take on flesh and blood. But when God became flesh it was so much more than a character in a book being imagined into life: it was and is real.

How disappointing therefore to get a translation of logos as not meaning word at all but something like “I declare.” But then the knowledgeable person after dashing my simple understanding built me back up, literally, because he said the root of logos was lego. Lego is my favourite game to play, I love to create abstract structures out of a pile of miscellaneous rainbow coloured bricks trying to create uniqueness whilst maintaining enough balance that they don’t tumble down. So although I can no longer go word-flesh, I can go lego-flesh-body built.

Wesley did explain each phrase in this passage and applied to to our lives in a very simple manner.  The first two sections cover generosity and prayer and how we are told to wherever and whenever possible to do both in secret. Wesley points out that there are times when we think we must do it in public to show God’s glory but he warns (most verily) that we must in those cases look carefully at our motives, does anyone except God need to know?

I love his exposition of the Lord’s prayer, it could be lifted off the page and preached in this time:

It consists of three parts, — the preface, the petitions, and the doxology, or conclusion. The preface, “our Father which art in heaven,” lays a general foundation for prayer; comprising
what we must first know of God, before we can pray in confidence of being heard. It likewise points out to us all those tempers with which we are to approach to God, which are most essentially requisite, if we desire either our prayers or our lives should find acceptance with him.

He ends his discourse with a hymn which is sung to alfreton or a long meter tune. This is intended to be a paraphrase of The Lord’s Prayer. There is a beautiful hymn by Rev. Adolphus Clemens Good that is also a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer:

Father of all, who dwell’st above,
Of boundless power, and boundless love;
From world to world, diffusing free,
the tide of life and jubilee.

Jubilee, to live debt free in every sense of the word, it is life and it is worth living with the Living God.