*Having a Form of Godliness
Having a form of godliness but denying its power.
2 Timothy 3:5 NIV
Those who have a form of godliness do not merely abstain from all outward evil, doing all possible good. They also use the means of grace at all opportunities, especially by attending the house of God as frequently as possible. Nor do they come in looking gaudy and acting impertinent, gazing about with careless indifference. They do not sleep or recline in sleeping posture; nor do they act as though God is asleep, talking with one another or merely seeming to use a prayer to God for His blessing.
No; they behave with seriousness and attention in every part of the solemn service, especially during the Lord’s Supper. Theirs is not a careless behavior; but a deportment which says only, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
If they are heads of families they practice family prayer, and they set aside times for private addresses to God.
Those who have the form of godliness, being almost Christians, have also a real, inward principle of religion, a sincerity, from which those outward actions flow. Indeed, without sincerity, one does not have even primitive honesty, for even pagans make a difference between those who avoided sin from fear of punishment and those who did so from a love of virtue. Without the inward principle of sincerity, one is not even almost a Christian. He is, rather, only a hypocrite altogether!
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this forty-sixth lesson on prayer, Wesley shows that those who exhibit a form of godliness, even though not yet Christians, are working out of a sincerity of heart that identifies them on their way to salvation. Isn’t this often the case when God’s prevenient grace is at work in a person’s heart? Isn’t it true that before the power of God through the Holy Spirit initiates New Birth, that those on the journey are sincere in their determination to be birthed?
When a couple discovers they are pregnant, a seed of hope is planted in their hearts. They begin preparing, in true sincerity, that the baby will arrive. They prepare the nursery, start assembling furniture, clothes, wipes and diapers; everything they will need when the fulness of time comes. They have no idea the full power of that appearing, but they move toward it in blissful abandon. The preparation is not wasted time or effort. All they have prepared will be used. Their sincerity is rewarded when that new life appears.
Wesley consistently talks of the means of grace. The means of grace are not the grace itself, but a pipeline through which the grace is distributed. Many evangelicals have placed so much emphasis on the “sinner’s prayer” that they miss altogether how God has led a person to Himself without the formulas and programs of the church. Many have come to Christ without knowing the very day and hour it happened.
Romans 8:14-25 says, “14For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ” Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (NASB).
Could it be the Spirit Himself testifying with our spirit that we are children of God is the power that cannot be denied?
2 thoughts on “John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 46”
I love your comparison of prevenient grace to an expecting couple. There is so much hope in grace and so many people need it right now!
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