The Church of the Nazarene was birthed out of the Holiness Revival of the late 1800s that swept through large parts of North America. Many of the first Nazarenes were revived Methodists. As a result of these roots in Methodism, John Wesley and his teaching have always been an important part of our Church’s theology. Wesley was the key founder of the Methodist Church.
Wesley and Holy Living
One of the strengths of John Wesley’s teaching was his teaching on practical holiness in the life of the Christian and the church community. Wesley framed Christian holiness in relational terms. In his writings and preaching, he emphasized the provision that God has made possible through the Gospel to live with pure hearts.
In Wesley’s mind, a very important Scripture passage in defining the essence of Christian holiness was Mathew 22:34-40. In this passage, Jesus is asked by a Jewish expert in the Law what was the greatest commandment in the Torah. Jesus responded that it all had to do with our relationship with the Lord and with others.
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mathew 22:37). Jesus went to say in verse 39 that the second most important commandment was “Love your neighbour as yourself.” He said this commandment was like the first, probably meaning that faithfulness to God is all about relationship. That is, living with a pure, self-giving heart toward the Lord and others.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus defined holiness in relational terms. We believe in a personal God who desires to be known and can be known by human beings. Humans are created in God’s image according to Genesis 1:26. Among other things, this means that we have the capacity to relate to our Maker in personal and intimate ways.
God and His Covenants
in the Bible, God always enter relationship with His people on the basis of covenant, whether it is with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis15) , Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19), or David and his sons (2Samuel 7). The Christian Church has always believed that God’s promises to His people in these covenants were fulfilled in the New Covenant through Messiah Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross (Luke 22:14-22).
Wesley focused on the work of the indwelling Spirit in the depths of a believer’s heart to cleanse it and to empower the Christian to faithfully love God and others with a pure heart.
The new covenant was promised in Jeremiah 31;31-34 and Ezekiel 11:19,29 & 36:24-28. Especially in the Ezekiel passages, the role of God’s Spirit is emphasized. The promise is for the Spirit to inwardly circumcise or cut away the carnal aspects of the believer’s heart, enabling he/she to live in covenant faithfulness with God.
This promise is fulfilled in the New Covenant. In Colossians 2:11,12 we read these words:
In (Christ) you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by the Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him in the power of God who raised him from the dead.
Through Christ, we can experience an ongoing cleansing and renewing work of God’s Spirit, as we yield to God by faith on an ongoing basis.
Wesley was very strong on his teaching of how God has provided for the Christian to live a holy life through Christ’s work and by the indwelling Spirit. One of the ways this has manifested in the life of the Nazarene Church is a commitment to compassionate ministries. Christian holiness means giving oneself to the most needy, especially the widow, orphans and aliens in our midst and around the world (Psalm 68:4-6, James 1:27).
QOTD: Are you experiencing the work of the indwelling Spirit of God to enable you to love God and others with a pure heart (i.e. whole-hearted devotion)?