Friday, March 7, 2014

Doing the Walk

 Four is the number of freedom.

I recently came across Franklin D Roosevelt's address to Congress on January 6, 1941.
It was called "The Four Freedoms".
From a human standpoint, FDR's words could not have been more sufficient and precise.
Freedom of speech. Freedom to worship God. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear.
The United States, and the whole world for that matter, was faced with a dreadful regime in Germany as Hitler was slowly achieving world dominance. Rolling through one country at a time, Hitler sought to move into the far reaches of Europe in a search of his purpose as the ruler of all.
Roosevelt was one of our country's greatest speech givers. In a time when things seemed their bleakest he found words to encourage and inspire, keeping the hearts and hopes of many alive.

FDR had in front of him was what we refer to as a "quadrilateral".

In geometry, a quadrilateral is a figure with four sides and four angles. 
In Wesleyan thought, the quadrilateral proves itself as a way to help the Christian think things out in a methodical and thoughtful way to understand the will of God.
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, or Methodist Quadrilateral, is a methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement in the late 18th Century. The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist scholar Albert C. Outler. This method involved scripture, tradition, experience, and reason as four different sources of theological or doctrinal development. - taken from the Wikipedia page on The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

When trying to think things out and get the proper perspective on what God's will is for our lives it helps to have a basis of thought to follow. After reading and studying much of Wesley's writings and work Outler saw a pattern to the methodology. Wesley had 4 things he seemed to always cover as he made his point or explained his message. Tradition. Scripture. Reason. Experience. Four areas that came to the forefront and could guide the Christian to understanding how to interpret the Will of God.

We are going to look at some scripture while covering the four sides of the quadrilateral.
As we cover all four sides we'll take some kind of issue or situation and see if the quadrilateral can help us understand what God would want for us.Lets work with the inspiration that comes from the first verse of scripture we are to read.

John 1:37

New International Version (NIV)
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
Disciples are people who follow. Church history would prove that in the presentation of seeing a religious leader with a quest or ideal and encouraging people to follow. When we approach the notion of tradition we must take into account what people would have done historically. This is not a personal examination to see what we ourselves would do. It is not a delving into what our local church has even done historically. Tradition involves the whole of Christianity from a historical perspective. If "following" were our subject to analyze and a scripture like this is laid out before us the first thing we'd want to do is take a long look at what other Christians down through the ages did in the "following".

We would want to take a look at what other Christians have believed and thought and practiced as a result of their following. Where did they go? What did they do? WHOM did they follow? (There's an important point...) What kinds of things were they taught and what did they pass along to the next generation? The ideals and philosophy of our church fathers feeds into what we do and how we do what we do even today. The theology that they taught. The songs they sang. Their charitable nature. Their faith and their trust in what God can and will do. The history goes on and we add to the legacy. Tradition means following the example set before us. Their intentions. Their meaning. We must contemplate all of this as we try to figure out for ourselves what God wants for our lives.

John 2:5

New International Version (NIV)
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 
Seems like a self-explanatory word. Until you see what Webster's has to say.


noun \ˈrē-zən\
: a statement or fact that explains why something is the way it is, why someone does, thinks, or says something, or why someone behaves a certain way
: a fact, condition, or situation that makes it proper or appropriate to do something, feel something
: the power of the mind to think and understand in a logical way

This is my reason for doing this the way I did.
Ah, but it's used as a verb also. It's something we put into motion or action.


: to think in a logical way
: to form (a conclusion or judgment) by thinking logically

See the tie in with tradition. In tradition we want to know what exactly our church fathers would have down historically. IN reason, we want to know the reasoning behind it. In tradition we ask alot of who & whom, the "how", the "when". The one question left out that applies to reason is the "why". Why did they do what they did? Reason isn't just a noun, a stately thing that we posses. It's also used a verb. It's something we use that causes us to go forth and do something. If we understand the reasons behind the motivations of a person, then we understand better what is trying to be accomplished.

If John Doe in your local church is reaching out to the poor and neglected in his community, the question might arise, "Why is spending so much time with those people?" "What is his reason behind it?" "Why does he reason that this thing is so important?"

If a person is cut and bleeding, what do we reason is the right thing to do? That should be a no brainer. We go find a band-aid and cover the wound and help it to heal. If we see a person following God as their forefathers did, we might ask what they are doing and then ask why they are doing it. From that we formulate and reason that maybe we should follow God also. The reason we follow leads into the next point in the formula.

John 5:14

New International Version (NIV)
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
Many of us could tell about what we have been through in life. Experience has to do with what we have felt and gone through. The 19th century revival moment that spilled over into the 20th century was built on experience. If you came down front and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, what you felt after that moment was very important to a person's faith development. Testimonies built off of that movement. People shared their personal experience of going through trials and hard times and then asking Jesus to come into their hearts. It wasn't enough to have mental fortitude and understand doctrine as it was read off a page. A person had to have experience in what knowing Jesus was about.

I will never forget my experience. I grew up in church. I had been baptized at 13 or 14. I had gone though the stately and formal motion of joining the local church, but in looking back there was no moment when I actually invited Jesus into my heart and life. A scripture like Revelation 3.20 can stop a person in their tracks if it become real to them. If Jesus is standing at the door and knocking,is it my heart it wants to enter? Have I ever actually invited him into the center of life? Turned it all over to Him and said, "Take Me". An experience like that can change a person forever. And, so it was for me. In the afternoon of early June day as I lay there trying to get some sleep before I went into work that evening, I tossed and turned. This subject of knowing Jesus and inviting him into my life was going back and forth in my mind. At about 3 o'clock I got up and went out to the sofa and knelt. I wasn't sure what to say or ask. I just asked him to come in. I slept like a baby. I got up and went to work that evening with a big smile on my face. It would take time to explain it and understand what had happened. But, there, at that moment, was the beginning of something life-changing.

John 8:12

New International Version (NIV)

Dispute Over Jesus’ Testimony

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 
Probably the most controversial of all the points and a good one to end with in this quadrilateral.
Some view scripture as inerrant, unshakeable, word for word written by God. Some take a more liberal view seeing scripture as the joint work of a frail human kind in league with the God of the universe. Whether we see scripture as the unmovable Word of God or whether we see it more as inspiration coming from the relationship of God and man, this entire quadrilateral does not work without scripture at the center of it. Our motivation and essence as Christian comes from what we understand about God. And, we find God at the center of the scriptures. This book is about him, not us. This is not a self-help book where we try to find the answers to help us be a better people. What we will experience as we read this book is that God will make us better people. It's not something we can do on our own.

What do the scripture say to us about following God?

Galatians 5:22-23

New International Version (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If we follow God, as our forefathers did, giving up all they had and inviting Jesus into their lives, it stands to reason that we will become the people that God wants us to be. Who's fruit is this in the scripture above? It belongs to the Spirit. The fruit comes from the Spirit being in our lives. It's not something for us to live up to or take on and try to accomplish. What do we have to accomplish. Follow. Do the walk. Drop what we have in our hands as the disciples did that day, as we have seen other do down through history, and just...follow. In following, we find not just purpose, we find that we are who we are supposed to be. Simply, God's child, filled with the fruit of God's promise.

One more thing I would add to this quadrilateral list. Faith. Following this list of 4 thought provoking items will certainly increase your faith.
Your trust and belief in God's will for your life is going to go up. Way up.
Our most important commodity in this Christian life is most certainly our faith.
Understanding God's Will for our lives and following Him is what strengthens that commodity.

Faith is the victory. And, there is a way to make it stronger.

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