1. Why is it important as people of faith to find the middle way between enthusiasm and doubt when discerning the truth of the witness of the Spirit?
There is a danger in being overly confident that the spirit is witnessing to us. But, there is also a danger in assuming that the Spirit personally communicating with us is a thing of the past. Wesley identifies these as two ends of the spectrum for Methodists. On the one hand, people who have an experience with the Spirit may be said to have a “wildness of enthusiasm,” which may lead others to perceive a person’s spiritual experience as somewhat unbelievable. The other extreme is to get caught thinking that the Spirit doesn’t communicate with our spirit in unique and extraordinary ways. Wesley insists that we, as Methodists, must find a middle method for discerning the activity of the Spirit – something between enthusiasm and doubt. Why is it important as people of faith to find the middle way between enthusiasm and doubt when discerning the truth of the witness of the Spirit?
2. How do you know you can trust the direct witness of the Holy Spirit?
In Wesley’s time there was great controversy about the witness or testimony of the Spirit, especially when people claimed they had received direct revelation. People were certainly aware of God’s indirect revelation throughout history, including through scripture. Yet, claims to direct witness seemed more suspect. While we may not say it is a controversy today, we are certainly still skeptical of people when they claim that they received direct revelation or witness from the Holy Spirit. For Wesley, it was important that everyone had an experience of direct revelation. He believed we could test whether the direct witness we experienced was from the Holy Spirit by asking 1) am I a child of God and 2) did that witness or experience lead me to bear more fruits of the Spirit? If the direct revelation doesn’t make us more like God, bearing God’s image and good fruit, then it is most likely not the Holy Spirit that we’ve had an encounter with. How do you know you can trust the direct witness of the Holy Spirit?
3. What evidence have you seen in your own life that you are a child of God?
John Wesley wrote two sermons on the Witness of the Spirit, with a specific focus on Romans 8:16, “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.” Thus, the witness or the truth of the Spirit is that each one of us are children of God. We know this because the Holy Spirit communicates this with our spirit. We demonstrate our faithfulness to God as God’s children when we bear the fruit of the Spirit. Can you think of a moment or experience in your own life when you were filled with a deep knowing that you are a child of God? Has there been a time in your life when you have been exhilarated by the possibilities and responsibilities of being a child of God?