John Meunier captures the heart of Methodism well in a recent post: “How is your heart today?”
[You should really go read the whole thing. Actually, you should just go ahead and subscribe to him. He’s on the money pretty much all of the time.]
I’ll quote his whole ending, which is particularly good:
We confuse ourselves for generic American evangelicals because we use much of the same language. But the Methodist accent often falls on different notes than the Baptist or Calvinist or non-denominational versions of the faith. Justification or “being saved” or “born again” is but the first dawning of Christianity in the soul of a person. It is important, but only as a starting point. If it is not the beginning of a new life and growing holiness of heart and life, then it loses its value. We can unmake ourselves and be unborn. The old self that dies in Christ is a vampire. It will rise again if we allow it.
For many Christians, the key question is something like “When were you saved?” For the Methodist, the key question is always “How is it with your heart?” Our “once saved, always saved” brothers and sisters often speak as if the most important thing in our faith is something that happened in the past. Methodists believe the most important thing in our faith is what we are doing today, right now.
So, I ask myself and ask you: “Do you feel the love of God in your heart?”
Did you catch that? “Methodists believe the most important thing in our faith is what we are doing today, right now.” This is about a life-long journey. The starting point (i.e. conversion) is important, but we miss the whole point if we think that’s all there is to it.
C.S. Lewis made a similar point in the conclusion to the last book in his Chronicles of Narnia series:
All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
Though he was attempting a [suitable] comparison between this life and the after-life, I think a similar comparison can be made between conversion and ongoing Christian life.