Sermon Thirty Two Fanaticism, an evil influence

john                                            audio clip

Wesley begins this sermon in a defence of Christians born of the Spirit who were called enthusiastic in his day. His introductory paragraphs are not really an introduction to his main points, more like a side address. The world calls us mad when we talk about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Basically the world doesn’t mind us when we feed them or clothe them, so don’t even mind if we pray for them but if we begin to talk about the changes wrought in our lives in any sense inwardly then we are called mad and this rings true today as it ever did before.

Wesley’s main thrust though is not about enthusiasm per se but fanaticism. He considers fanatics dangerous because it undermines the very real efforts of ordinary Christians to bring people to Christ. Now he doesn’t mince words in this sermon, he talks of madness and delusions. People who were workers of miracles, prophets and charismatic leaders all came under scrutiny by him.

He has sound advice for anyone who thinks God is telling them to do something, study the Bible. Ask yourself where will I be most holy, do the most good and be the most use for God?

Being useful in God’s service is particularly important to him. And that is key really. If we have a dream or a vision that God is calling us to do something, especially if it something which is going to turn your life upside down. We have to be sure we can be useful in that situation. For example I would love God to direct me to go to Lanzarote and minister to the people there. But I know that is not his plan for me, I like sunshine, I have mates there, I would enjoy myself thoroughly. But I am of more use going on a train to Dublin to spend two hours with someone in crisis, I am of more use when after fourteen hours with someone they are refreshed and able to continue on, I am of more use sitting on the floor with someone who has no hope for however long they need me. Does it intrude in my life? Am I uncomfortable? It is a part of my life, my family adjusts, yes sometimes it is cringingly uncomfortable, but I am of use so I don’t run.

It is like mid study – a phone call that lasts more than an hour, study time lost – yes but listening to someone in need is what God wants me to do. And he wants us all to do that. We are a people who listen. We are a people who are there for other people and for each other. We are a people who are not mad, or fanatical, but we are a compassionate people, a people who care.

John Wesley cared for all these people he called fanatics, he so wanted them to come to know “true religion” that of the transformed heart. He loved his fellow believers, the waverers, the barely there and the unbelievers. He was scathing – but to get a response. We need to respond to God’s call not fanatically but with love, grace and mercy, just as Jesus did.


What goes on on our surface quite often isn’t what is really happening inside. Like a pond, calm on the surface but underneath teeming with life. Our minds on the surface, get us through the day, reminding us of directions, time to refuel, time to rest. I was reminded of this last night, I had intended to do some editing and hopefully add the “male” story to the “Tattered Affair” I had an inkling of what I wanted to do with it: Empathetic treatment of the male character. Settling down to write after everyone was in slumberland, I couldn’t focus, all my intentions gone and in it’s place giant yawns that were so tremendous my eyes leaked. So I trotted off to bed and slept for a couple of hours, refreshed I got back to it but didn’t finish what I intended, instead drew BrainChain (above)

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6 (NIV)


My brain was reminding me that sometimes it is important to rest. Imagine all the synapses that take place in the head for the yawn to begin. The linking of a nerve to nerve to reflex. A brain is a powerful organ, how many of us prefer to watch the vagarities of situations play out on our television screens about characters that don’t exist rather than vagaries of our own minds.

As Christians our minds and hearts are linked spiritually in a beautiful wonderful way that allows our minds to expand, our thirst to know Christ more, to know but more than know to feel and know. There are no brain synapses and nerve responses to be in this place, no physiological reminders to be with God, to study his word, to burst out singing in praise, to pray, to just be quiet in his presence.

When we have this thirst for Christ, we don’t need the reminders because we just do it, we want to do it, we need to do it, to be immersed in his love. The outside part maybe going through the motions of daily life, travelling to work, getting kids ready, spending time with partners but inside there’s a whole gamut of teeming life. The balance of this, balancing daily chores with spending time with the Lord, what balance. Because that’s the beauty of the Lord. He is with us all the time, he is there when we are jumping for joy and when we face into cleaning the bathroom, he is there when we grieve and he’s there when we are laughing in fellowship. He is there.

If he is there all the time, what a waste to remain like a mill pond, the image I keep getting is that of someone bursting through the water surface and grabbing a huge gulp of air. Let the life that is teeming under the surface burst into the air, show the world the changes God has made in us, when we let ourselves tentatively do this, we can’t stop, the joy we feel is palpable, we can’t hide it, it is obvious and real. I may not have written an empathetically ‘male’ narrative but I learned a bit more about brain activity, links and chains.