Rules for Living the Christian Life
John Wesley (1703-1791) was used by the Lord to reform England. He was one of the founders of the Methodist Church which was an offshoot of the Anglican Church of England. Wesley’s Methodist followers became a national force. He rode around England preaching the gospel to all who would listen. John Wesley wanted everyone to know Jesus as their Savior. And wherever he preached, lives were changed.
In 1739 a group of Wesley’s followers came to him and asked that he give them some rules about how a Christian should live. Wesley taught his followers to live a Spirit filled life and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide them and to pray and read the Bible. But they begged him for some simple rules to follow. So John Wesley came up with what he called the “General Rules.” And here they are: 1) Do no harm. 2) Do good of every sort. 3) Stay in love with God.
These rules sound simple enough but watch out because they are not always so easy to follow. And John Wesley’s rules agree with what Jesus had to say about how we are to live our lives. When Jesus was asked what God’s Law calls on us to do, He also kept it short and simple and answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength, and all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
John Wesley’s “General Rules” for living are really similar to Jesus’ simple rules. If we love our neighbor as our self we will do him/her no harm. And when we love God first of all and our neighbors as ourselves, our great love will fill our hearts to overflowing and drive us to do good of every sort everywhere we go.
Wesley’s first rule, 1) “Do no harm” is probably the hardest rule to keep. We are to do no harm to ourselves or to our neighbors or to the people who do harm to us! There are so many ways to do harm. Cutting a person off in traffic or not speaking to a person. Being rude or making an unkind remark. Gossiping and passing on destructive rumors and listening to negative gossip. Being passive in a destructive relationship. Insulting or making fun of another person or persons. Lying about others. Robbing another of their possessions or their reputation or their life. Tearing apart a family by committing adultery. Dishonoring one’s parents. The list goes on and on. We need to keep track of ourselves to see that we are doing no harm. To love others, even our enemies. God will help us do this. If we can’t say something good to say nothing at all. Pray that God will show us where we are sinning and where we need to change.
Actions speak louder than words. If you want to lead people to Jesus but you are un-kind towards some, your witness for your Lord will be a poor one, if you have any witness at all. Some Christian groups today are so constantly mean spirited and critical of our nations’ leaders at the same time that they are insisting that they know Jesus that I fear they drive people away – people who are searching for God. It’s heartbreaking to watch!
We are called to be fishers of men. (Mark 1:17) To bring people to Christ. Many people are looking for the right way. They have a void in their lives that only Christ can fill. These people go to church and find that the Christian folk who can lead them to Christ and show them the Way are also the same folks who are doing harm to others! These Christians who have the light have hidden their light under a bushel. Their anger and hate have covered up the light they have.
People will notice when they can trust you to do no harm. They are searching for what is right and good, searching for light in a dark world. And Jesus is the Way and the Light. And if we believe in Jesus we have His light in us. Jesus calls us to hold our light up high and let it shine for all to see. To not hide our light under a bushel. Scripture says: “Let your light so shine before other people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) This Scripture in Matthew 25 goes on to tell us what Jesus warned would happen to those who refused to feed the hungry and help the poor. One of the ways we can let our light shine for Jesus is to be a person who does no harm to others.
The second of Wesley’s general rules is: 2) “Do good of every sort.” Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, take in the stranger (immigrant), visit the sick and the prisoners, give to the poor, and help the hurting. He says that when we do these things we are doing it to Him. (Matthew 25:35-40) When we help others we enliven our own faith. And we will be blessed too. To have faith but to not put it into practice is to not have much of a faith at all. Scripture says: “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26) Let’s not have a dead faith!
We can do good in small ways, as well as large ones. A smile, a kind word, a helping hand. I believe that our Father in heaven will multiply the good that we do. That’s the kind of heavenly Father we have! We serve a loving, forgiving, generous and merciful God! With God our good deeds will increase and expand and bear interest in ways that we may never imagine. It’s exciting to serve such an amazing God! Yes, one of the ways we can let our light shine for Jesus is to do good of every sort.
John Wesley’s third general rule for living the Christian life is to: 3) “Stay in love with God.” In any relationship, in order to keep the flame burning brightly we need to be faithful and work at it. And it is the same in our relationship with our heavenly Father. Scripture says: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) We will be drawn to God by the Holy Spirit. But we need to do our part and keep our faith in Him active.
By staying close to God we need to guard our precious faith and never let anyone water it down or take it away. Stay away from those false
teachings and build up your faith by believing God’s Word, the Bible. Staying in love with God means recommitting ourselves to Him each day. Obeying Him. Confessing our sins and turning from them. Staying in communion with God. Praying, singing praises to God, worshipping Him, studying the Bible and joining a group of fellow believers. Our faith and joy in the Lord will grow by getting involved. We need to find a loving, Bible believing church and then join it. Help support it with financial gifts or teach a class, usher or sweep floors. Each believer has something to offer
. When we are in love with God we will hear His Voice. There will be a cross to carry but we will also have a life of joy and adventure. We will hold our light up high and our light will shine brightly for all to see when we always keep staying in love with God.