Last week, we began looking at John Wesley’s little book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.
The term “perfection” may be a stumbling block at first, but in was a term in use in Wesley’s day. So, he did not invent it, but he embraced it and became the movement organizer who worked it out into practical ministry through a multi-tiered small group system (described well and accessibly in Kevin Watson’s Blueprint for Discipleship).
Part of Wesley’s journey included several influential books he read as he sought to understand and practice the life demanded by the gospel. In article 2, he speaks of the “Importance of Complete Dedication,” having read Bishop Jeremy Taylor’s Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying.
I love the way he introduces the book: “[I]n the twenty-third year of my age, I met with Bishop Taylor’s Rules and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying.” Some books offer us such an encounter with Christ along our journey of faith that they are not merely read; they are met.
Indeed, Wesley confesses, “I was exceedingly affected.” I’ve had that experience too, and I’m thankful for it.
What affected him so?
…that part in particular which relates to purity of intention. Instantly I resolved to dedicate all my life to God, all my thoughts and words, and actions; being thoroughly convinced, there was no medium; but that every part of my life (not some only) must either be a sacrifice to God, or myself, that is, in effect, to the devil.
There was no middle ground for Wesley. I think he would like the line in the hymn, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe.” Reserving some parts of his life for himself was as good as giving them to the devil. Perhaps this “no medium” view sounds extreme.
But it does sound remarkably like Jesus in Matthew 6:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:21, 24 NIV)
Wesley puts the question to the reader, that is, to us: “Can any serious person doubt of this, or find a medium between serving God and serving the devil?”