The second of John Wesley’s Standard Sermons gets at the question of what it means to be Christian. He looks first at how one may be almost a Christian and then concludes with what it means to be a Christian altogether.
It is important to note that even Wesley lived for many years as “almost a Christian.” He is open to the idea that many who attend worship services and live and think of themselves in many ways as being a Christian are, instead, almost Christian. Wesley does not condemn the almost Christian, but encourages such a person to strive for the faith that makes one “altogether a Christian.”
I don’t know if I am quite altogether a Christian at this point. I certainly desire to be, but at times I feel that I am lacking even in the qualities of an almost Christian. The almost Christian is one whom Wesley says is “having a form of godliness.” The form of godliness is the outward appearance of being in right relationship with God and Christ. One with the form of godliness goes beyond the idea of being honest and committed to justice. There are many people who have no desire to be Christian who are honest, truthful and committed to justice. One needs to actually help other people as long as they are able if one desires to be almost a Christian.
Those in the form of godliness also avoid excesses, seek peace, and honestly seek to help even those who are considered enemies. Though almost Christians help their enemies, they still speak against evil and help those who need assistance in improving their lives. The almost Christian will even encourage others to repent of their sin and turn to God. They continue to have some sincerity of an “inward principle of religion” and a “real design to serve God.”
Wesley calls us to step further in order to be altogether a Christian. Wesley says we need to rejoice only in God our savior. That is, we must do ALL things for the glory of God. We must love God and love our neighbor. We need to love our neighbors, including our enemies, not just when it is convenient. The altogether a Christian is a “servant of all” and “thinketh no evil.” Most importantly, the Christian altogether trusts in God, knows that our sins are forgiven through Christ, and feels the love of God.
John Wesley was very interested in pushing people to turn more closely to Christ and not just play a role. He was not satisfied with being almost a Christian and hoped that all who heard his words would move forward toward being altogether a Christian. I desire this for myself. How are you doing?