Christian Perfection – 04: Giving Our Heart To God
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
(Wesley’s writings are in bold)
In our last Chapter, we stated that there was another very important step in our journey to Christian perfection, and that is giving our heart to God. This is the step that Moses instructed the people to follow before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 6:5):
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The Hebrew meaning of “might” means all that we are as individuals and all that we possess. And Jesus amplified this meaning by adding the word “mind” (Mark 12:30) to help us understand that if our mind is cluttered with concerns and worry about ourselves and what we own and our work and anything else, we cannot give our full attention to God, for our “love” is divided.
John Wesley came to this understanding when he was twenty-four years old. He wrote in the third part of “A Plain Account Of Christian Perfection”:
In the year 1726 I met with Kempis’s Christian’s Pattern. The nature and extent of inward religion, the religion of the heart, now appeared to me in a stronger light than ever it had done before. I saw that giving even all my life to God (supposing it possible to do this, and go no further) would profit me nothing unless I gave my heart, yea, all my heart to him.
I saw that “simplicity of intention and purity of affection,” one design in all we speak or do, and one desire ruling all our tempers, are indeed “the wings of the soul,” without which she can never ascend to the mount of God.
Wesley uses the Old English word “met” to describe the enlightened awareness of a spiritual truth and of his encounter with the message of the book he was reading.
I don’t believe we can fully love God unless we love His whole creation (humans, non-humans, and the environment). As an example, if our grandmother lovingly knitted us a sweater for Christmas, and we threw it down on the entranceway of our home to use as a door mat, we would be showing disdain for our Grandmother’s love, and saying that we don’t really love her. If we abuse or harm or cause suffering to any part of God’s creation, we are in essence doing the same to God. I believe that this is part of what Wesley means by “simplicity of intention and purity of affection”, the giving of our whole heart to God.
It is this undivided love that gives flight to “the wings of our soul” which allows us to ascend to the mount of God, and to our being re-conformed back into the image of God, as God originally created us.
We were discussing being conformed back into the image of God on the Internet and Neville Fowler (Wales, UK) responded with the following statement:
“Thank you Frank for saying: “The only way we regain the perfect is to be conformed back into the image of God.” That is a work that God does in us if we cooperate with Him though I have never yet seen this work completed in the lifetime of any man or woman – those who get closest to God are perhaps the most conscious of their failings. So there must still be a completion of the work to be accomplished by God after this life is finished – in my belief at the resurrection when not only the remaining corruption of our character is removed but also we will be given incorruptible bodies; as Paul says “This corruptible must put on incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:53). And then there is still the physical world with all its problems (earthquakes, hurricanes etc.) and the world of nature with all its cruelty and suffering. All must be changed by God in that new age when the sons of God are manifested (Romans 8:19), when “Many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake . . . and those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3).
So yes, to be turned to Righteousness ourselves, and to turn many others to Righteousness, is why we are here. And the Righteousness is Christ.