As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. ” (Matthew 3:11 NASV)
One of the places, perhaps “The place” I wanted to see on our Wesley Heritage tour was Aldersgate Street, and in particular the place where Wesley had his heart “strangely warmed”. I mean, let’s face it, if you’re from a Wesleyan Heritage that’s the spot isn’t it? The true birthplace of the Methodist movement began truly when John Wesley had his heart warmed and realized he was loved by God.
Sadly it’s not there. Well Aldersgate Street is still there, but the room in which Wesley had that encounter with the Holy Spirit no longer exists. While much of our Methodist heritage in London survived the bombings during World War 2, sadly Aldersgate, and that little room did not. The street has been routed, new buildings built out of the rubble.
All is not lost, however. While you won’t find a preserved room on that spot you will find the London Museum. Outside of the museum doors in the, as far as we know, spot where John Wesley had his heartwarming experience there is a huge monument commemorating the moment. You can see it below
Take a moment to look at the monument. You’ll notice it’s in the shape of a flame, not unlike the flame in the United Methodist denomination’s symbol. Fire, a flame, A heart warmed, The Holy Spirit.
In the Scripture at the top of our blog we are reminded that Jesus came to Baptize us with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. Notice it’s a both and. Jesus came to baptize us, pour over us, drench us in the Holy Spirit and in fire.
As Wesley discovered, fire warms us. And the closer to the fire we are the warmer we get. We cannot have our hearts warmed while keeping Jesus and the Holy Spirit at arm’s length. How tragic is the Christian who will spend time reading and studying about Jesus yet refuse to embrace Him.
Fire changes things. It burns and turns things to ash. When something is touched by a fire there is an actual chemical change that happens inside. When someone is set ablaze with the Holy Spirit there will be change. Our old way of viewing the world changes. Sin loses it’s grip on our lives. hope and joy spring from our hearts.
Fire hurts. While getting warmed by a fire is pleasant, falling into the fire is painful. Jesus came not to get us close to the fire, but to Baptize us in it. Our spiritual formation is not always intended to be a pain free experience. Having the chaff in our lives burned away causes us to make decisions and live in a way the world may not understand. This can be painful. The Fire of the Holy Spirit reveals the image of Christ within us. And the more we look like Jesus, the more the world treats us like Jesus.
Fire spreads. When I was in early High School one of the praise songs we sang was “Pass It On”. It’s now in the hymnal. You know you are getting older when your praise songs find their way into the hymnal. But the song begins “it only takes a spark to get a fire going”. When a heart is set on fire with the Holy Spirit it spreads. People notice a fire and are drawn to it. Renewal and revival will not come to our churches through a program. God has never changed lives by a program. But when God’s people are willing to be set on fire? When the Holy Spirit touches the dry tinder of the hearts of this world? God touched the hearts of John Charles Wesley. And through them millions have come to Jesus. What could He do with your heart?
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><