True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.
A commentary on John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
(Wesley's writings are in bold)
As we continue with the Nineteenth Part of John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, we are going to look at people who claim to be perfected in God’s love.
Question. How should we treat those who think they have attained?
Answer. Examine them candidly, and exhort them to pray fervently, that God would show them all that is in their hearts. The most earnest exhortations to abound in every grace, and the strongest cautions to avoid all evil, are given throughout the New Testament to those who are in the highest state of grace. But this should be done with the utmost tenderness, and without any harshness, sternness, or sourness. We should carefully avoid the very appearance of anger, unkindness, or contempt. Leave it to Satan thus to tempt, and to his children to cry out: 'Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness and prove his patience.' If they are faithful to the grace given, they are in no danger of perishing thereby; no, not if they remain in that mistake till their spirit is returning to God.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must admit that we are not perfect, and that we still need to work ourselves out of some imperfection in our lives. Yet, for one reason or another, some people are not willing to admit that they are imperfect, and seek to pass themselves off as wholly righteous. But in order to do this, they must be inwardly striving to be perfect. It is of these people that Wesley speaks.
These people are not working against God’s will, they are seeking to be perfected in it.
But let us not be confused by the difference between these people and those that claim to be “born again” and filled with the Holy Spirit, and yet cause so much pain and suffering either directly or indirectly through their lifestyle, particularly to the animals who cannot speak for themselves. These are false prophets and hypocrites. And we are concerned that these are the ones who will be saying, “Lord, Lord!”, and He will say, “I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:11-12)
But the question doesn’t end here; the questioner wants to know more about dealing with those who claim to be perfected, even if they are not. Thus, another question is asked.
Question. But what hurt can it do to deal harshly with them?
Answer. Either they are mistaken, or they are not. If they are, it may destroy their souls. This is nothing impossible, no, nor improbable. It may so enrage or so discourage them that they will sink and rise no more. If they are not mistaken, it may grieve those whom God has not grieved, and do much hurt unto our own souls. For undoubtedly he that toucheth them toucheth, as it were, the apple of God's eye. If they are indeed full of his Spirit, to behave unkindly or contemptuously to them is doing no little despite to the Spirit of grace. Hereby, likewise, we feed and increase in ourselves evil surmising and many wrong tempers. To instance only in one: What self-sufficiency is this, to set ourselves up for inquisitors-general, for peremptory judges in these deep things of God? Are we qualified for the office? Can we pronounce, in all cases, how far infirmity reaches? what may, and what may not, be resolved into it? what may in all circumstances, and what may not, consist with perfect love? Can we precisely determine how it will influence the look, the gesture, the tone of voice? If we can, doubtless we are the men, and wisdom shall die with us.
Wesley is cautioning the questioner, and any others who feel the same way, that perfect heavenly love must be at the forefront of our dealing with anyone on this subject or any other, and being harsh is not part of this perfect love. God is the only one who can truly see the intent of the heart.
In our opinion, the best way to deal with such people is to tell them about us, and say for example, "I wish I had your confidence that I've been perfected, but I know that I still have some imperfection in my life that I need to work on and weed out."
This may or may not prompt a response, but if not, we need to cautiously leave such a person in God's hands.
The questioner is still not satisfied with Wesley's answer, and asks...
"Q. But if they are displeased at our not believing them, is not this a full proof against them?
"A. According as that displeasure is: if they are angry, it is a proof against them: if they are grieved, it is not. They ought to be grieved, if we disbelieve a real work of God, and thereby deprive ourselves of the advantage we might have received from it. And we may easily mistake this grief for anger, as the outward expressions of both are much alike.
Just as it is often difficult to determine the difference between grief and anger, it is often difficult to determine the motivation of such a person in claiming that they are perfected, whether or not they really believe it.
We'll continue with this discussion in our next chapter.