By: Rev. Dr. J. C. Park (President of World Methodist Council)
People called Methodists all around the world are celebrating the 280th anniversary of the Aldersgate experience of John Wesley. Strictly speaking, it was not his conversion from his unbelief or atheism but his personal experience of the assurance of faith in Jesus Christ. Wesley had a form of faith called ‘assent’ to the doctrine of salvation of the Anglican Church. But he lacked the saving faith as ‘a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.’ (Martin Luther)
He wrote in his journal, “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 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.” (May 24th, 1738)
First, notice that it was not so much a conversion of his heart as a conversion of his leg. He went unwillingly to the prayer meeting. How many times we should have willingly joined our brothers and sisters for solidarity! But in reality we missed the God-given moment to change our story so that we failed to transform history. We need to use passionately the means of grace such as reading the Bible, attending the worship, visiting the sick, and fighting for the poor. Move your leg despite your unwilling stubborn heart.
Second, be aware that not my story but the story of Jesus Christ has the power to convert atheists speculative or practical. “This is my story, this is my song.” Whose story and whose song are you talking about? Of course, it must not be my self-inflating words seeking vain glory. But it has to be His story of dying for me, even for me a sinner. “I do believe and I now believe that Jesus died for me!” (Charles Wesley)
Third, not a sophisticated and arrogant reason but a sincere and contrite heart matters. What we need most is not the circumcision of the mind but that of the heart. The former brings about the deadly brainwash to produce terrorists or racists. The latter gives birth to new men and women warmhearted and humane. The circumcision of the heart is not a matter of the ability to think but a matter of the ability to love. We cannot become loving persons unless our hearts are circumcised by the burning heart of Jesus Christ. Only when our hearts are strangely warmed by the Holy Spirit of the crucified God, only then our minds are able to understand Jesus died for us. Are your hearts burning in the flames of holy love? Then you will understand how to love joyfully all beings in the world not for your sake but for the sake of God who died for you. “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me!”