On July 25, 1741, John Wesley preached his sermon “The Almost Christian” before St. Mary’s at Oxford. His sermons starts off by listing the noble and good traits of the almost Christian. They are honest, help each other, is dutiful to not break the laws of the Gospel, has self-control in his emotions and in what he consumes, works diligently to help others, is involved in the religious life through the means of grace, and is dutiful in family prayer, are sincere in their faith, and they want to do God’s will. What separated this almost Christian from an altogether Christian was the love of God, the love of neighbor, a firm faith that purifies the heart from sin. At the point of describing the altogether Christian, it would sound like he was simultaneously extolling the virtues of his audience while seeking to encourage them to come into the fullness of the Gospel. But, then Wesley asks people to reflect on their own lives to see if they even match up to the almost Christian, which he follows up with saying:
Are not many of you conscious, that you never came thus far; that you have not been even almost a Christian; that you have not come up to the standard of heathen honesty; at least, not to the form of Christian godliness?—Much less hath God seen sincerity in you, a real design of pleasing him in all things. You never so much as intended to devote all your words and works, your business, studies, diversions, to his glory. You never even designed or desired, that whatsoever you did should be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and as such should be “a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God through Christ.”1
Wesley’s sermon goes from the appearances of exhorting people to simply perfect their religious life with love and faith to saying they didn’t even have the religious life of an almost Christian. Some might have responded that they thought they had good intentions, but Wesley reminds them of the saying “Hell is paved with good intentions” and calls them not to the religious life of the almost Christians, but rather towards the love of God, the love of brother and even of enemy, and faith in Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. Wesley doesn’t try to fix their sins and injustices, but calls them to the love and faith that would purify them of their sins.
There are some points of exegetical and theology that Wesley’s sermon got wrong; most particuarly that faith for the New Testament was directed towards the atonement of Christ rather than the resurrection of Christ. Nevertheless, Wesley sermon hit on something: not only were the crowds of religious people not dutiful in their religion: they did not have have the love of God or neighbor nor the form of faith that purifies from sin. Whatever their religion was, it wasn’t a religion that had God and people at the center through faith in the Incarnate Jesus Christ who died on behalf of our sins.
It is time to say something similar today. In the United States, evangelicals as a whole today are not saved. Their lives are not lived by the grace of God through the love of God and neighbor and faith in the crucified-and-resurrected Christ. Their lives are controlled by two things: power and morality. Supposing their “faith” has saved them, many had the wrong type of fiath and were never purifed of their sins. As a result, their flesh cries out for control, for dominance, for war, for fighting, for the very deeds of the flesh. They never knew the Savior, even as they say to Him “Lord, Lord.” Rather, they used the words of God and religion as a cloak for the unpurified sins that remains deep in their hearts. As a result, they worship people who seduce them by their sense of power and morality, all while cloaking it in the sheep’s clothing of Christian language and religion. They love Trump more than Jesus, because Trump promises them what they want while Jesus refuses to give to them the sinful desires of their evil, idolatrous hearts. Becaues God has given them over to the lusts of their heart, they worship someone who will give them what they want rather than the God who is redeeming from sin. They would rather live in their sin and evil. It is evident in the fact that what they fear isn’t sin or evil, but “liberals.” They care nothing for God’s will, but they are motived by a hatred of those on the different side of the political spectrum.
It is time for evangelicals in this modern day to be saved. It is time for them to come to Jesus Christ with a faith from a sincere heart, rather than being people with a faith of ulterior motives to whom Jesus does not entrust Himself to (John 2.23-25), or face the eternal judgment they have warned others of.
In the past, being evangelical used to mean something about people’s holy faith in Jesus Christ. But that is not the case today. It has become a tool used for something else. No doubt, there are many faithful followers of Jesus who call themselves evangelical. But, there were also many faithful followers of Jesus among Catholicism before the Protestant Reformation, but the new movement did not remain Catholic. There were many faithful followers of Jesus in the Church of England before the Wesleyan revival, but the world-wide Wesleyan revival was not attached to an Anglican identity. But we have to make a choice, do we love God and people more or the names and institutions more? If we love people more, we must seek clarity so that people can hear the word of Jesus Christ undistored by the lies of the devil that has evily appropriated the form of godliness. We must find a new social identity so that we will not be confused with the idol worshippers of modern, American evangelicals and to say to them, “You need Jesus, not Trump and you can not worship Jesus and Trump at the same time. Choose today who your Savior will be!”