2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 19 Saturday 25 December 2021

The Birth Of Christ – Homily by St John Chrysostom – Part 2

What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend. Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored.

O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption.

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness. 

For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me. 

Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back.

To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 18 Friday 24 December 2021

The Birth Of Christ – Homily by St John Chrysostom – Part 1

Now let us again turn to one of the most famous Christmas homilies delivered by one of the early church fathers. His name is St John Chrysostom. That sermon has been preached and read by Christians all over the world for many generations.

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He, man, nor through increase became He, God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.  

For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works. 

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 17 Thursday 23 December 2021

Who is this Jesus Christ?

Reflection

Even though John Wesley never published any sermon on Christmas in particular, his brother Charles Wesley wrote one of the most beloved Christmas Hymns called “Hark the Herald Angels sing”. This hymn is littered with who Christ Jesus is:

  • He is a newborn King. He does not later become King. He is king at his birth.
  • He brings peace on earth and he reconciled God and sinners.
  • Christ is God in heaven adored. He is the everlasting Lord. Again he does not become Lord and God after birth. He was God and Lord at his birth.
  • He is the Word becoming flesh. He is God incarnate.
  • He is the Emmanuel. He is God condescending and living among us.
  • He is the Prince of peace.
  • He is the Sun of righteousness as mentioned in Malachi 4:2.
  • His birth is to redeem us by given us a second birth. A new birth in Christ and to give us everlasting life.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly father, thanks for given us Jesus Christ. One who is fully God and fully human to save us sinners and given us hope for a new life. An everlasting life with you. Amen.esus Christ.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 16 Wednesday 22 December 2021

God is with us to the end

Reflection: Journal of John Wesley February 24, 1791

John Wesley lived to a good old age of 88. The following account was written by Betsy Ritchie, one of the saints of early Methodism:

On Sunday morning, with a little of Mr Bradford’s help, Mr Wesley got up, took a cup of tea and seemed much better. Many of our friends were all hopes: yet Dr Whitehead said he was not out of danger from his present complaints.

Tuesday, March 1, after a very restless night (though when asked whether he was in pain, he generally answered “no”, and never complained through his whole illness, except once) he began singing: “All glory to God in the sky, and peace upon earth be restored.” Having sung two verses his strength failed but after lying still awhile he called on Mr Bradford to give him a pen and ink; “I want to write” but “ I cannot”. Mr Bradford said, “Let me write for you, sir tell me what you would say.

“Nothing,” he said, “but that God is with us”.

When his thigs were getting ready, he broke out in a manner which, considering his extreme weakness, astonished us all, in those blessed words:

     I’ll praise my Maker while I have breath

         And when my voice is lost in death,

     Praise shall employ my nobler powers

         My days of praise shall never be past,

    While life, and thought, and being last,

         Or immortality endures.

……… His speech failed; and those lips which used to feed many were no longer able to convey their accustomed sounds…… Finding we could not understand what he said, he paused a little and then with all the remaining strength he had, cried out, “The best of all is, God is with us”, and then, as if to assert the faithfulness of our promise keeping Jehovah and comfort the hears of his weeping friends, lifting up his dying arm in token of victory and raising his feeble voice with a holy triumph not to be expressed, again repeated the heart reviving words, “THE BEST OF ALL IS, GOD IS WITH US!”

Prayer

Echoing the prayer of St Bernard of Clairvaux, “We remember the first coming of Christ, he comes to redeem us sinners and given us new birth. We long for his second coming to fully manifest his glory and redeem us from all our pain and sufferings on this earth. In all the while, living in this world with its many trials and temptations, sufferings and pains, He promised to be our rest and our consolation. He promised to be with us till our dying breath. The best of all is, God is with us. O come, O Come Emmanuel. Amen.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 15 Tuesday 21 December 2021

Faith in Christ. Trust him and him alone for our salvation.

Reflection: John Wesley was transformed inwardly on May 24th 1738 when he attended the Aldersgate society when the Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans was read out

Here is the summary of Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans:

  • This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel.
  • You satisfy the demands of the law with works, whether your heart is in it or not. God judges what is in the depths of the heart. Therefore his law also makes demands on the depths of the heart and doesn’t let the heart rest content in works;
  • Everyone finds inside himself an aversion to good and a craving for evil. Where there is no free desire for good, there the heart has not set itself on God’s law. There also sin is surely to be found and the deserved wrath of God, whether a lot of good works and an honorable life appear outwardly or not.
  • The works of the law are everything that a person does or can do of his own free will and by his own powers to obey the law. But because in doing such works the heart abhors the law and yet is forced to obey it, the works are a total loss and are completely useless.
  • But to fulfill the law means to do its work eagerly, lovingly and freely, without the constraint of the law; it means to live well and in a manner pleasing to God, as though there were no law or punishment.
  • It is the Holy Spirit, however, who puts such eagerness of unconstrained love into the heart.
  • That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law; faith it is that brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ. The Spirit, in turn, renders the heart glad and free, as the law demands. Then good works proceed from faith itself.
  • Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God. It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good.

Application

May you receive during this season of Advent the greatest gift of all that is, Jesus Christ. Don’t ask how do I have this faith? Come to the manger, the place where our Lord Jesus is born and trust in him with all your heart, mind, strength and soul and He will work his power in you to bring you a birth anew. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. May all glory and honour be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 14 Monday 20 December 2021

For those who have Christ in their hearts, they have inner joy and peace in all circumstances

Reflection: Journal of John Wesley dated May 24th 1738

[John Wesley was almost in despair. He did not have the faith to continue to preach. When death stared him in the face, he was fearful and found little comfort in his religion. To Peter Böhler, a Moravian friend, he confessed his growing misery and decision to give up the ministry. Böhler counseled otherwise. “Preach faith till you have it,” he advised. “And then because you have it, you will preach faith.”]

I asked P Bohler again whether I ought not to refrain from teaching others. He said, “No; do not hide in the earth the talent God hath given you.”

Friday 19:  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I had continual sorrow and heaviness in my heart.

Wednesday 24: In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to The Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ. I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust I Christ. Christ Alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will.

After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away and They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.

Application

For many, this year does not represent Joy and Peace. It is more a year full of calamities and chaos. John Wesley’s experience above reminded us that the devil will use this to bring us down and to tell us that there is no faith in us. Do not despair. Trust in Christ and him alone for our salvation. And we will have peace and victory over sins. This joy sometimes will be manifested outwardly and sometimes it will not. God gives and withholds them according to the counsels of His own will.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 13 Friday 17 December 2021

On Working Out our own Salvation –  Part 4 (Final)(Philippians 2:12-13)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

Reflection

Q: If it is God that worked in us both to will and to act, what need is there of our working? Does not his working thus supersede the necessity of our working at all? Does it not render our working impracticable, as well as unnecessary?

A. Not at all. If we consider the matter more deeply. We shall then see there is no opposition between these, “God works; therefore, do we work;” First, God works; therefore you can work. Secondly, God works, therefore you must work.

Q: What does it mean by God works, therefore you CAN work?

A: It is impossible for any man, for any that is born of a woman, unless God work in him. Seeing all men are by nature not only sick, but “dead in trespasses and sins,” it is not possible for them to do anything well till God raises them from the dead. It was impossible for Lazarus to come forth, till the Lord had given him life. Therefore inasmuch as God works in you, you are now able to work out your own salvation. Since he worketh in you of his own good pleasure, without any merit of yours, both to will and to do, it is possible for you to fulfil all righteousness. It is possible for you to “love God, because he hath first loved us;” and to “walk in love,” after the pattern of our great Master.

Q: What does it mean by God works, therefore you MUST work? A:  You must be “workers together with him,” (they are the very words of the Apostle,) otherwise he will cease working. Even St. Augustine, who is generally supposed to favour the contrary doctrine, makes that just remark, Qui fecit nos sine nobis, non salvabit nos sine nobis:+ “He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.” He will not save us unless we “save ourselves from this untoward generation;” unless we ourselves “fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life; “unless we “agonize to enter in at the straight gate,” “deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily,” and labour by every possible means to “make our own calling and election sure.”

Prayer

Say with our blessed Lord, though in a somewhat different sense, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” In consideration that he still worketh in you, be never “weary of well-doing.”

Go on, in virtue of the grace of God, preventing, accompanying, and following you, in “the work of faith, in the patience of hope, and in the labour of love.” “Be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” And “the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep,” (Jesus,) “make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you what is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever!” AMEN.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 12 Thursday 16 December 2021

On Working Out our own Salvation –  Part 3 (Philippians 2:12-13)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

Reflection

Q:  How are we to work out this salvation?

A: The Apostle answers, “With fear and trembling.” In singleness of heart; with a single eye to the will and providence of God; “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” doing whatever they do as the will of God, and, therefore, with their might. (Eph. 6:5.)  The Apostle clearly imply two things: First, that everything be done with the utmost earnestness of spirit, and with all care and caution. Secondly, that it be done with the utmost diligence, speed, punctuality, and exactness.

Q: What are the practical ways for us to work out this salvation?

A:

  • The Prophet Isaiah gives us a general answer, touching the first steps which we are to take: “Cease to do evil; learn to do well.” By the grace already given, fly from all sin as from the face of a serpent; carefully avoid every evil word and work; yea, abstain from all appearance of evil.
  • And “learn to do well:” Be zealous of good works, of works of piety, as well as works of mercy; family prayer, and crying to God in secret. Fast in secret, and “your Father which sees in secret, he will reward you openly.”
  • “Read the Scriptures:” Hear them in public, read them in private, and meditate therein.
  • At every opportunity, be a partaker of the Lord’s Supper. “Do this in remembrance of him: and he will meet you at his own table.
  • As you have time, do good unto all men; to their souls and to their bodies. And herein “be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” It then only remains that ye deny yourselves and take up your cross daily.
  • Deny yourselves every pleasure which does not prepare you for taking pleasure in God, and willingly embrace every means of drawing near to God, though it be a cross, though it be grievous to flesh and blood.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly father, during this season of advent, help me to reach out to my friends and families who are in need. Help me to have the strength to see to it that I am there to support them in all the ways I can. Help me to be zealous of good works, of works of piety, as well as works of mercy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 11
Wednesday 15 December 2021

On Working Out our own Salvation –  Part 2 (Philippians 2:12-13)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

Reflection


Q: What is the meaning of the phrase “to work out your own salvation”?

A: “Work out”, implies the doing a thing thoroughly.

“Your own”; for you yourselves must do this, or it will be left undone forever.

“Your own salvation”:

  • Prevenient Grace: Salvation begins with what is usually termed (and very properly) preventing grace; including the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him. All these imply some tendency toward life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God.
  • Convincing Grace: Salvation is carried on by convincing grace, usually in Scripture termed repentance; which brings a larger measure of self-knowledge, and a farther deliverance from the heart of stone.
  • Saving Grace: Afterwards we experience the proper Christian salvation; whereby, through grace, we “are saved by faith;” consisting of those two grand branches, justification and sanctification. By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favour of God; by sanctification we are saved from the power and root of sin, and restored to the image of God. All experience, as well as Scripture, shows this salvation to be both instantaneous and gradual. It begins the moment we are justified, in the holy, humble, gentle, patient love of God and man. It gradually increases from that moment, as “a grain of mustard-seed, which, at first, is the least of all seeds,” but afterwards puts forth large branches, and becomes a great tree; till, in another instant, the heart is cleansed, from all sin, and filled with pure love to God and man.

Meditation

Let’s spend a bit of time to reflect back on your salvation. How God has brought you into his fold through his prevenient grace, convincing grace and saving grace. Dear Lord, thanks for bestowing us your grace upon grace.

2021 Advent Reading – Hope for the World: Advent with John Wesley

Day 10 Tuesday 14 December 2021

On Working Out our own Salvation –  Part 1 (Philippians 2:12-13)

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.

Reflection

Many Christians wrongfully believed once they have accepted Christ, there is nothing more they need to do. Christ has purchased for them the salvation by being a propitiations for their sins. There is nothing more they need to do. John Wesley denounced this type of thinking and through this Epistle of Paul, he exhorted us to be a person who “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”

Q: Therefore, who is actually the one working in us, God or ourselves?

A: It is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose. The meaning of these words may be made more plain by a small transposition of them: “It is God, in order to fulfil his good purpose, works in you both to will and to act.” This position of the words, connecting the phrase, “of his good purpose”, with the word “works”, removes all imagination of merit from man, and gives God the whole glory of his own work. Otherwise, we might have had some room for boasting, as if it were our own merit, some goodness in us, or some good thing done by us, which first moved God to work. But this expression cuts off all such vain conceits, and clearly shows his motive to work lay wholly in himself-in his, own mere grace, in his unmerited mercy.

Q: How does he work in us?

A: He works in us to will and to act. Here, “to will”, implies put in our heart every good desire and “to act”, whatever outward results flowing from the good desire. In summary, God breathes into us every good desire, and brings every good desire to good effect.

Q: How should we treat all such good desire and blessings from God?

A: If we know and feel that the very first motion of good is from above, as well as the power which conducts it to the end; if it is God that not only infuses every good desire, but that accompanies and follows it, else it vanishes away; then it evidently follows, that he who glories must glory in the Lord.

Meditate

During this season of Advent, let’s take a moment to reflect on this truth and pray and give thanks for all the good desires and acts that we do. May we learn to give all glory to God.