The Day of Pentecost and “Aldersgate Day” are on the same Sunday this year. As many know all about Pentecost, I want to share some of what “Aldersgate Day” means for us as United Methodists.
John Wesley was one of those great souls who spent much of his life looking for assurance or what Hebrews might call the “things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Wesley searched scripture, church history, the doctrines of the church, and the minds and hearts of all he respected. Yet, the peace and inner calm he sought continued to elude him. Finally, as Methodist lore tells the story, Wesley found that peace of mind in the assurance of God’s love at a little church on Aldersgate Street. He listened to someone read Luther’s preface to the commentary on the book of Romans. As the United Methodist Book of Worship puts it: “On Wednesday, May 24, 1738, John Wesley experienced his “heart strangely warmed.” This Aldersgate experience was crucial for his own life and became a touchstone for the Wesleyan movement (United Methodist Publishing House, 1992, p. 439).
Generally the feeling of assurance is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Some people get it immediately upon conversion; while others like Wesley, search for it for many years. My guess is that assurance is like the missing remote control for the television. About the time we stop looking for it, then it finds us.
Assurance is the calmness that people sense and feel when they know that God has sent Jesus to save us and redeem us. Assurance is an inner testimony by the Holy Spirit that God loves us and offers salvation in Jesus. But assurance is not like knowledge. Rather assurance is more like a promise that we wholly and fully believe, accept, and trust. This “faith” then gives us the confidence to lead lives that befit the gospel. As Paul himself says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).