1) Right opinions, avoiding harm, doing good, or being ever so pious, none of these are true religion. True Christianity is nothing less than having the mind that was in Christ, having the image of God stamped on the heart, having peace with God, and having joy in the Holy Spirit.2) The only way to this religion is to repent and believe the good news of Jesus Christ.3) Through this faith, God by grace sets us again in right relationship with him.4) Being thus “justified” we get a taste of heaven in this life and feel the joy and happiness that is to come, and we find fear and sin have no power over us.
And then there was this commentary by Pastor Meunier:
I am struck by how much energy we spend on the very things Wesley says are not religion. We argue at great length over right opinions. We turn “do no harm,” “do good,” and “stay in love with God” into a program and mantra. We launch new efforts to increase piety through renewed sacramentalism or establishing prayer resources. But all of these things – Wesley said time and again – are not true religion. We can have all these things. We can be pious, merciful, diligent, right-thinking, and worship-loving people and still have no more true religion than a stone. It all comes down to the state of our hearts. Does Christ dwell within us fully? Do we have the image of God stamped on our hearts? Does the Holy Spirit fill and overfill our inner lives so that its power shows forth in every aspect of our outer life? This – only this – is true religion, according to Wesley.It is not something that we earn or gain by effort and diligence. Setting aside our own effort, merit, and work is the primary purpose [of] repenting. Coming to understand that we cannot do what only God can do for us is to repent. Or, as Wesley said, we cannot rely on the merits of Christ until we learn to set aside reliance on our own merits.
Yes, I did just about reproduce the whole post--the italics are mine, added for emphasis.
What I especially like about this post is the reaffirmation that salvation is by grace, by the grace of God. Our own efforts will not get us there. Intellectual assent will not get us there. Being really good will not get us there. "Doin' church" will not get us there. The state of our hearts towards God and Jesus Christ, now that is what counts. As long as we have not approached God in a spirit of humility with true sorrow for our sins and broken due to our pride in trying to do salvation ourselves we do not have a right heart and a right relationship with God. This, to me, is the very heart of the life changing Gospel of Christ.
After a person gets this, and bends the knee and admits the need for a savior and honestly admits, first, responsibility for sin, second, sorrow for sin, and third accepts the work of Christ on the Cross for salvation, then the Holy Spirit comes into play, working in the new Christian with power to align the Christian's heart with Christ's heart. That is the power that overcomes the world, gives that "taste of heaven", the joy and the release of the power of fear and sin.
You know, earlier, on another blog we were talking about how the median age of people in the United Methodist Church was, well, kind of old. And I commented that, in general, 20-somethings are not going to church. Someone else posited that 20-somethings are going to places like IHOP and that conservative churches seem to do better with the young set. That makes me want to say that if we want the young set, it might behoove all churches to look to preaching the simple saving Gospel of Christ, and then, teaching and loving all the new baby Christians like crazy. I think that kind of church would attract the searching 20-somethings.
And probably a few other age groups too.