What is it that prevents a person from fully committing their life to God?  As a pastor that is one of the questions I wrestle with in the course of my work and ministry.  I have observed in my years in ministry, persons who really wanted that close relationship with God that they know is possible, wanting their family to have that deep faith and connection, but were somehow unable or unwilling to commit to the discipline it takes to get there.  You see, like any other relationship, our relationship with God takes time and work.  God is always reaching out to us, desiring a closer walk with us.  But God will not force that relationship.  We must be willing to commit quality time and energy into that relationship if we truly want it to grow stronger and deeper.  But too often our busy lives and schedules, our desire to have it all, gets in the way of our relationship with God.  In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus pleads with the disciples to spend time in prayer so that they would not fall into temptation.  He knew that “the heart is willing, but indeed the flesh is weak” (26:41)

John Wesley (co-founder of the Methodist denomination) scolded his listeners at times for being “false Christians” pointing out that they confessed Jesus with their mouths, but in their hearts had no intention of actually doing the things that Jesus taught. Wesley affirmed that God’s grace is freely offered and is not something that we earn.  But he also believed that we ought not be idle in simply waiting for grace to fall upon us.  We should be actively engaged in Christian practices that God has prescribed as channels through which his grace is made available to the believer.  Wesley divided what he called these ordinary “means of grace” into two categories; “works of piety” and “works of mercy”.  He further divided these practices as things we do individually and things we do as the gathered church.

Works of Piety

Individual Practices – reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others

Communal Practices – regularly share in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study

Works of Mercy

Individual Practices – doing good works, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others

Communal Practices – seeking justice, ending oppression and discrimination (for instance Wesley challenged Methodists to end slavery), and addressing the needs of the poor

If we truly believe that Jesus is Lord, then we ought to do the things that he has called us to do.  It means ordering our lives around our faith, not fitting our faith into our lives.  Personally, I think it has to do with what you truly treasure.  If you treasure the things of this world, then that is where you will spend your time and resources.  Likewise, if your heart is devoted to God, your life will show that as well.  The bible teaches that “where your treasure is there will your heart be also”.  So we are encouraged, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matt 6: 20)  In the end of things that is the only treasure that matters.  It all comes down to choices.  The words of Joshua are a clarion call to all of us, “Choose this day whom you will serve; …as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24: 15)

Pastor Chuck Ireson

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