Monday, December 12, 2011

Heavenly Rewards

Wesley's list of Prudential Means includes self-denial and cross carrying as disciplines that usually help Christians to grow in grace.  These means of grace are drawn from Matthew 16: 24 (parallels in Luke 9:23 and Mark 8:34), "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  In his comment on this verse, Wesley taught that these disciplines are steps that help us advance towards perfection.  His doctrinal sermon on this topic explains that failure to use these means of grace frequently leads to backsliding.

In a non-doctrinal sermon, Wesley argued that, in heaven, those who denied themselves and took up their crosses will be "more excellent" Christians and will have more stars in their crown than the lower order of Christians who only followed the General Rules.

I have not found anything in the UM doctrinal standards that describe the nature of the heavenly rewards.  Speculating on what the rewards will be is not a preoccupation of UM doctrine.  For Wesley, Rev. 22:12 ("Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every one as his work shall be.") was clear and required no elaboration.

Is the notion that works do not merit salvation but do merit some type of heavenly reward, which will be proportionally (not equally) distributed, intelligible to you?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Judgement Day

After the description of the signs and wonders that will precede the Return of Christ, doctrinal Sermon 15 presents a brief description of the Day of Judgement, and doctrinal sermon 51 provides even more details.  (Another doctrinal standard United Methodists can reference is Article 12 of the Confession of Faith, "The Judgement and the Future State")

As the title of sermon 51 ("The Good Steward") indicates, the judgement will focus on humanity's stewardship of their God-given gifts.  Wesley's sermons suggest that a face-to-face conversation will take place between Christ and each individual at which time Christ will ask everyone such questions as:
How didst thou employ thy soul?
How didst thou employ the body wherewith I entrusted thee?
How didst thou employ the worldly goods which I lodged in thy hands?
Hast thou been a wise and faithful steward with regard to the talents of a mixed nature (i.e., health, strength, time, power, influence, education) which I lent thee?
Above all, wast thou a good steward of my grace?
When all of these interviews are completed, each person's fate will then be decided-- the righteous to eternal life with God and the unrighteous to eternal separation from God.  (See also Notes, Matthew 25)

Wesley's conception of Judgement Day sounds like one long class meeting, or maybe I should say Wesley's practice of class meetings sounds like preparation for the Last Judgement.  Class members were asked how they had employed their souls.  Their answer to that question determined whether they were given an admission ticket to the Methodist Society or were shut out of the society at the next Quarterly Conference.

Methodist accountability pointed towards divine accountability.  What holds you accountable today?