Last week, as I mentioned in my last post, I had the experience of attending New Room Conference in Franklin, TN. I blogged after the first day and made reference to the words spoken to the Conference by Ed Stetzer and the Hirsch’s. It was a fantastic, moving and inspiring first day, but what was to come after in the remaining two days was nothing short of soul stirring.
The next two days of the conference were spent poring over the greatest qualities of the essence of the Wesleyan movement along with some serious lament as to where the movement has found itself in the latter 20th century and early 21st century world: stale, dry and lost. The truth is that the Wesleyan movement as it is would ensure that mr. Wesley would not recognize it at all if he were to be a part of it. But the conference was not all doom and gloom. In fact it was far from it because the entire purpose of the Conference was to challenge Wesleyan’s to seize their DNA and understand that what we have can stiff be a fantastic redemptive gift to the world.
While all this was going on, the Spirit of the Lord was doing a dramatic work in my soul. I was moved to the place where I actually had no idea what I would preach on Sunday morning. I had made plans to preach on the gifts of the Spirit, but they went out the window as I experienced a sense of surrender to the Lord. This past week, I was able to lay down my thoughts and my plans and take up those of the Holy Spirit.
And it was good.
My confession to the church i preach in, and my confession here in this place is this: I had let my hunger for knowledge and keeping up with my peers in ministry become the identifying and marking factor in my work. I was not taking time to surrender to God daily and seek his ways for what we are doing in this church and what He wants to do in my soul. Don’t get me wrong – I was preaching, teaching, caring, relating and sharing in the name of Christ. And it is clear from the testimony of folks that God has worked through that. But I know, deep down, that I was not engaging with the Holy Spirit in the sense of being surrendered. I was wanting to remain in control. I was wanting to hold on to the vision. I thought I knew what was right for this place and for the flock I am sent to. I…I…I…
The call of Christ is to follow him. It is to leave my net, the desk at which I work, and follow him. The call of Christ is to put my shoulder to the plough and follow him in complete surrender, and to not look back. I have spent the longest time looking back, thinking i am clever and trying to outsmart the Holy Spirit.
But here is the good news. God is not done with me.
The gospel is very simply this: that grace – that undeserved, unmerited gift of God’s love – can meet with any human being, at any time, and take them just as they are and transform them. And not just that. Grace can keep on transforming the human being again and again and again. All of life is grace and the possibilities of grace in the life of humanity are endless. This was the gospel that John Wesley understood, preached and embodied. Every human was of interest to God and every human could be used by God – no matter how far they had fallen or how pride-filled they were.
Today I have read from 1 John chapter 5 and John is writing about obedience being the sign of human love and response to God. No one is beyond the call to obey God. Today I am grateful for the grace of God and I am hungry to continue surrendering my will to that of God for my life.
Come Holy Spirit, this day, and grant me grace to surrender to you, listen for you and act with you and in your strength.