John Wesley’s Sermon #42 – “Satan’s Devices”
We are given the firstfruits of the kingdom of God: joy, peace, and righteousness from the moment we repent and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15). From the very moment we accept Jesus, we receive these gifts. Yet, in this sermon, Wesley points out that Satan will try to remove or lessen the joy, peace, and righteousness we experience in God through certain tactics. We will begin to doubt the work God has the ability to do in us because we’ll dwell heavily on our sinful and unholy ways. These are tactics of the evil one that lead us to turn from our God, the one who never lies and who promises to be faithful to us always. Yet, we fall victim to these tactics as we doubt ourselves and our inadequacies and shortcomings. How have you experienced your joy, peace, or righteousness being taken away by doubt or fear? Do you ever think that God cannot transform your life because of your sinfulness?
While we may often get caught up in our faults and the ways that we are unholy, Wesley encourages us to celebrate all that God has done in us and through us, even through our sinfulness. If we are unholy, that’s worth rejoicing in because it means that we can be confident in all of the transformational work God will do in us. We believe that our God is a God of transformation and change, creating us to be made in God’s image. We should think about it this way, he says: the more change that needs to be brought about in our souls for us to be more like God, the more we should rejoice in God, who has already done such great things in our lives and will continue to do much greater things in our lives. Friends, we are to rejoice because we know and love our God, and our God has work to do in us. Rather than letting our joy be stolen from us because of imperfections and doubts, how can we celebrate both the work God has done in our lives and the work God still has to do in each of our lives?
In this sermon, Wesley refers to the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) in a couple different places in his sermon on Satan’s Devices. He makes the point that we are given gifts and resources to serve God, recognizing that we have these gifts and resources within us. Sometimes we don’t take advantage of the resources we have received, and we hide our gifts rather than using them today to their full capacity. We are unsure of what will happen tomorrow or unsure that God will really be able to use us, so we decide to not work to use our gifts. Rather than worrying about tomorrow, we are called to use what God has given us today. How might we overcome the doubt and fears that crowd our minds and deter us from doing the work that brings about God’s kingdom on earth? How does being a part of a faith community help keep us accountable to using the gifts and graces we’ve been given by God, rather than hiding them?