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Born Again vs Religious: John Wesley
Portrait of The Reverend John Wesley
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Wesley's Childhood & Early Upbringing
The story of John Wesley's journey to faith illustrates the difference between being religious and being born again.
John was the fifteenth child of The Reverend Samuel Wesley, Rector of Epworth in Lincolnshire, England and his wife Susanna. He and his siblings, including brother Charles (the famous hymn writer), were brought up in the Christian faith by their godly mother Susanna. He was sent to boarding school and then went up to Oxford University, where he continued to be religious and to encourage others to be so.
Oxford University & The Holy Club: Sincerely Religious
At Oxford John and his brother Charles joined with others to form "The Holy Club", whose aim was to obey the Ten Commandments and observe the religious rituals of the Anglican Church. His father encouraged him to go into the ministry, and in 1730 he began visiting prisons and engaging in good works.
Missionary to the American Indians, Georgia 1735-38
John's religious zeal resulted in his being sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) to evangelise the American Indians in Savannah, Georgia. But his attempts to convert the Indians were a disaster. He later said that he went to Georgia to convert the Indians and discovered that he himself was unconverted!
Wesley's Conversion Experience, 24th May, 1738
Back in England John and Charles came under the influence of a Moravian called Peter Bohler, who emphasised the truth of Scripture and the need for a personal experience of the work of the Holy Spirit. The breakthrough came on Wednesday, 24th May, 1738. Here are Wesley's words:
" In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, London, where someone 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 of a person through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in 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. "
Q1 What did John Wesley try to do to earn his way to heaven?
Why was this a complete failure?
Q2 What happened that changed John Wesley from being sincerely religious to being a Christian?