Even though John Wesley was deeply religious, raised by deeply religious parents, fanatically determined to live a “good Christian life,” it was only after hitting rock bottom spiritually that he began to critically explore the true basis of his faith. What he learned is that, in the midst of all of his “religiosity” he was not, in fact, living by faith in Christ. He was living by faith in John Wesley to be good at “doing religion.”

          Upon his return to England, after a disastrous mission effort among the Indians of the New World, he became depressed, disillusioned, and utterly defeated. It turns out that this is exactly where God needed him to be in order to conquer John Wesley with His grace. 

          On his way over to the New World he had encountered a group of people called the Moravian Brethren. He was impressed by their faith – they were able to maintain their composure even in the face of deadly storms at sea. None of the other “Christians” on board were able to do that. But, theologically, he scoffed at their beliefs. He was too educated, too well-trained in theology, too religious to believe that simply trusting Christ was enough.

            But, back in England, depressed, defeated, and no longer able to keep up the charade of external religiosity, John Wesley went to a meeting of the Moravian Brethren in London. There he heard some words of Martin Luther – from the preface to Luther’s Commentary on Romans. He realized that Martin Luther had had a similar experience with religiosity as he had. He listened to the words describing a faith that entailed a complete and unconditional trust in the atoning death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and he says later, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” It was there, for the first time, that John Wesley realized that human redemption is not about us (our proper response, our proper beliefs, our correct understanding of the church and its structure, etc.) but, rather, it is about what God has accomplished through His Son, Jesus Christ!

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