May 24th is known across the Methodist/Wesleyan family as “Wesley Day.” It marks the day when John Wesley got the order of salvation right. Prior to May 24, 1738, he believed that one must be sanctified before one could be justified. In other words, he thought he had to make himself acceptable to God before God could forgive his sins.
While reluctantly attending a Moravian society meeting, not long after his return from Georgia and the disappointing conclusion of his career as a missionary, Wesley listening to someone read the preface to Luther’s commentary on Romans, he realized that justification, the forgiveness of his sins, is a free gift from God. It cannot be earned. We don’t deserve it. It is God’s pure gift to humankind by virtue of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ did all the work for us. He reconciled us to God. Our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God by grace through faith. Pure gift!
By this gift we are set free from sin and death. We are set free to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love those whom God loves, as God loves them.
In honor of the day, and to acknowledge that Charles Wesley had a similar “heart warming” experience three days earlier, on Pentecost, May 21, I encourage you to read and contemplate one of the hymns he composed to mark the occasion. This hymn is #342 in The United Methodist Hymnal,
Where Shall My Wandering Soul Begin
Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire,
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great Deliverer’s praise?
O how shall I the goodness tell,
Father, which Thou to me hast showed?
That I, a child of wrath and hell,
I should be called a child of God,
Should know, should feel my sins forgiven,
Blessed with this antepast of Heaven!
And shall I slight my Father’s love?
Or basely fear His gifts to own?
Unmindful of His favors prove?
Shall I, the hallowed cross to shun,
Refuse His righteousness to impart,
By hiding it within my heart?
No! though the ancient dragon rage,
And call forth all his host to war,
Though earth’s self-righteous sons engage
Them and their god alike I dare;
Jesus, the sinner’s friend, proclaim;
Jesus, to sinners still the same.
Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves!
He spreads His arms to embrace you all;
Sinners alone His grace receives;
No need of Him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save.
Come, O my guilty brethren, come,
Groaning beneath your load of sin,
His bleeding heart shall make you room,
His open side shall take you in;
He calls you now, invites you home;
Come, O my guilty brethren, come!
For you the purple current flowed
In pardons from His wounded side,
Languished for you the eternal God,
For you the Prince of glory died:
Believe, and all your sin’s forgiven;
Only believe, and yours is Heaven!