Near the end of his sermon “The Almost Christian,” John Wesley invites the congregation to examine its own heart:
I beseech you, brethren, as in the presence of that God before whom “hell and destruction are without a covering–how much more the hearts of the children of men?” –that each of you would ask his own heart, “Am I of that number? Do I so far practise justice, mercy, and truth, as even the rules of heathen honesty require? If so, have I the very outside of a Christian? the form of godliness? Do I abstain from evil, –from whatsoever is forbidden in the written Word of God? Do I, whatever good my hand findeth to do, do it with my might? Do I seriously use all the ordinances of God at all opportunities? And is all this done with a sincere design and desire to please God in all things?”
These, it should be noted, are the preliminaries. Someone who could give a good answer on all these counts would still be in Wesley’s estimation an “almost Christian.” To be an altogether Christian requires more, something deeper. It requires a new heart.
To gauge the state of our hearts, Wesley presses even more questions upon us:
The great question of all, then, still remains. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Can you cry out, “My God, and my All”? Do you desire nothing but him? Are you happy in God? Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing? And is this commandment written in your heart, “That he who loveth God love his brother also”? Do you then love your neighbour as yourself? Do you love every man, even your enemies, even the enemies of God, as your own soul? as Christ loved you? Yea, dost thou believe that Christ loved thee, and gave himself for thee? Hast thou faith in his blood? Believest thou the Lamb of God hath taken away thy sins, and cast them as a stone into the depth of the sea? that he hath blotted out the handwriting that was against thee, taking it out of the way, nailing it to his cross? Hast thou indeed redemption through his blood, even the remission of thy sins? And doth his Spirit bear witness with thy spirit, that thou art a child of God?
What are your answers? They are all simple questions to answer. Yes or no will do. We want to quibble, as many have. This sounds like it all has to do with feelings. That has been a stumbling block for me, too. A pastor pointed out to me once, though, that you can love someone even when your feelings are not all gushing up like the first swoon of romance. This is not about “feelings” any more than the love of our family is merely about feelings.
Look at the verbs. He is asking us about who we love, what we desire, what we believe, and what we know by the witness of the Spirit.
So the answers are simple: Yes or no?
If the answer is “no,” Wesley has this exhortation for us.
Awake, then, thou that sleepest, and call upon thy God: call in the day when he may be found. Let him not rest, till he make his “goodness to pass before thee;” till he proclaim unto thee the name of the Lord, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Let no man persuade thee, by vain words, to rest short of this prize of thy high calling. But cry unto him day and night, who, “while we were without strength, died for the ungodly,” until thou knowest in whom thou hast believed, and canst say, “My Lord, and my God!” Remember, “always to pray, and not to faint,” till thou also canst lift up thy hand unto heaven, and declare to him that liveth for ever and ever, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
Lord you know all things. You know that I love you.
Can we say that? Or are we still only almost there?