Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Self Compass and John Wesley

The Self Compass provides a lens through which we can understand Christ's personality, our own personality, and the lives of other Christians who have come before us.

Let's apply the Self Compass to discover the personality dynamics of John Wesley (1703-1789). I'll cite his own words to help us.

John Wesley was an Anglican cleric who introduced Methodism as a highly successful form of evangelism throughout the United Kingdom in the eighteenth century. Wesley's distinctively biblical preaching in country fields and home or church services changed people's lives. He warned people of the spiritual dangers of sin, judgment, and hell, and warmly encouraged them to know Jesus Christ personally.

For forty years he preached about a thousand times a year throughout England, Scotland, and Wales. He traveled on horseback thirty to ninety miles a day, often through snow and rain, averaging about 8,000 miles per year!

I've recently been reading his spiritual journals that cover some of those years. I'm most impressed by the balanced Self Compass swings in his personality and relationships.

First and foremost, John Wesley was a man motivated by love for God, love for the lost, and love for the Christians that he organized into small discipleship groups. But he wasn't stuck on the Love compass point alone. He regularly moved into the Assertion compass point. Wesley never would have survived — let alone pressed forward in the face of intense opposition — without it. He also  exercised the rhythm between Weakness and Strength compass points. He felt humbled by the weakness of occasional doubts and uncertainty, as well as strengthened by confidence in his mission and trust in God.


Wesley's personal conversion to Christ came unexpectedly after years of striving to please God, and being on the verge of “preaching no more.”
Thursday, May 25, 1738: “The moment I awakened, 'Jesus, Master,' was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon Him, and my soul waiting on Him continually. Being at St. Paul's in the afternoon, I could taste the good Word of God in the anthem which began, 'My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord; with my mouth will I ever be showing forth Thy truth from one generation to another.'”
Rev. Whitefield, a passionate teacher of a Calvinist form of Methodism, for a time opposed and criticized John Wesley's Arminian form of Methodism. Very significant, then, was their eventual reconciliation.
Wednesday, November 5, 1755: “Mr. Whitefield called upon me. Disputings are now no more; we love one another, and join hand in hand to promote the cause of our common Master.”
Wesley recognized the heart as the seat of a person's passion and motivation. He aimed his sermons to strike the sinner's heart with God's judgment and love:
It is plain. God begins His work at the heart; then 'the inspiration of the highest giveth understanding.'

Wesley drew the line on misbehavior by confronting a man who had verbally abused him and thrown stones at his family. Yet in his letter to the man, his Assertion was tempered by Love:
Monday, March 4, 1745: “Robert Young, — I expect to see you, between this and Friday, and to hear from you that you are sensible of your fault; otherwise, in pity to your soul, I shall be obliged to inform the magistrates of your assaulting me yesterday in the street. I am, Your Real Friend, John Wesley.”
He asserted himself strongly to preach even when his life was in danger. And he recognized the strong assertion of the Lord to protect him:
Thursday, July 4, 1745: “I never saw before, no, not at Walsal itself, the hand of God so plainly shown as here. Although the hands of perhaps some hundreds of people were lifted up to strike or throw, yet they were one and all stopped in the midway; so that not a man touched me with one of his fingers, neither was anything thrown from first to last; so that I had not even a speck of dirt on my clothes.
Wesley often chose biblical passages that proclaimed God's judgment of sinful lives and behavior, asserting the destiny of heaven or hell depending upon a person's repentance:
 Sunday, August 28, 1748: There is the highest decency in a churchyard or field, when the whole congregation behave and look as if they saw the Judge of all and heard Him speaking from heaven.”

Wesley knew the terror of physical assault, the horror of death threats, and the helplessness of being targeted by people who hated him and all he stood for.
Wednesday, May 23, 1750: “They burned me in effigy near Dant's bridge. The mob was still patrolling the streets, abusing all that were called Methodists, and threatening to murder them and pull down their houses if they did not leave this way.
Like the Psalmist, he discovered how a season of Weakness can redirect our attention to something new the Lord has in mind:
Friday, January 4, 1753: “I began writing Notes on the New Testament, a work I should scarcely ever have attempted had I not been so ill as to be able to travel or preach, and yet so well as to be able to read and write.” (Wesley finished the first draft of Notes on the New Testament on March 19 of that year).
He sought words to capture the wisdom of the Weakness compass point — that place where we all live with anxiety and suspense, and in stress reach out to God for His will to be done:
Sunday, August 8, 1736: “We were to sail, the wind being fair; but as we were going aboard, it turned full east. I find it of great use to be in suspense: it is an excellent means of breaking our will. May we be ready to stay longer on this shore or to launch into eternity.

Wesley understood the delicate interplay of Strength and Weakness, and how, for those who are serving the Lord: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:21).
Thursday, April 16, 1752: “The more I use my strength, the more I have. I am often much tired the first time I preach in a day; a little the second time; but after the third or fourth, I rarely feel either weakness or weariness.”
Wesley credited God for his unusual strength to forgive those who had hurt or wronged him.
Sunday, October 29, 1752: “I cannot but stand amazed at the goodness of God. Others are most assaulted on the weak side of their side of their soul; but with me it is quite otherwise; if I have any strength at all (and I have none but what I have received), it is in forgiving injuries; and on this very side am I assaulted more frequently than on any other.”
At a ripe old age, John Wesley acknowledged the source of his Strength compass point throughout his life journey.
Monday, June 28, 1784: “I am as strong at eighty-one as I was at twenty-one; but abundantly more healthy, being a stranger to the headache, toothache, and other bodily disorders which attended me in my youth. We can only say, 'The Lord reigneth!' While we live, let us live to Him!”
I thank God for John Wesley's life and witness!

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