Reopening Old Wells

  •   The writer of Ecclesiastes says "There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under Heaven," Eccl 3:1. The challenge that each generation faces is to discover the significance of the times in which we live and to answer the question, "What is this the time for?"
  • In several ways over the last ten years God has been speaking to us in the Free Methodist Church about the need to reopen old wells.

In 1971 when we first established the work of the Free Methodist Church in England, we believed that God had called us to take a stand to preserve the vision and values of John Wesley and the founders of the Methodist church.

As the years have gone by we have become more and more convinced that it is not enough for us simply to stand where Wesley stood - we need to experience what Wesley saw.

So we believe God is speaking to us about the need to reopen old wells.

  • Whenever God speaks to us, it is important for us to understand exactly what He means. We do this in part by asking the question, "Do these words appear in the Scriptures? What did they mean then, what do they mean now?"
  • Read Genesis 26 1-6, 12-33

In verse 18 we read that "Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham and he gave them the same names his father had given them."

Isaac was approaching 100 years old at the time he reopened these wells. We know this because at the end of this chapter v 34, Esau is 40 when he gets married and Isaac was 60 years old when Esau was born v 26.

These wells had been dug in the years immediately preceding Isaac’s birth when his father Abraham visited this area, see Genesis 20.

These wells were still flowing when Isaac was a young boy. They had been neglected by God’s people and filled in by the Philistines.

  • We believe that we, like Isaac, live in a land that has experienced open wells in the past.

The United Kingdom has witnessed revivals in England in the days of the Wesley’s and Whitfield, in Wales in the days of Evan Roberts and in the Hebrides in the days of Duncan Campbell.

  • We, like Isaac, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, are living at a time of drought where the land is parched. It is true that in certain areas, mercy-drops of God’s grace are falling but generally speaking, there is "famine in the land." This is why we believe that God is calling us and others to reopen old wells.
  • There are three reasons why we believe that the well John Wesley discovered is worth reopening today:

1. We need to re-open this well because it is a deep well, not just a new stream.

  • During the last forty years, many new streams or groups of churches have come into being.
  • The well around which the Free Methodist Church is established, however, is a deep well, not just a new stream.

Our spiritual heritage dates back not just to 1971 when the Free Methodist Church was formed in England, nor to 1860 when the Free Methodist Church was established in the United States of America nor even just to the ministry of John and Charles Wesley and others in the 18th century. We say this because the epitaph written in 1791 at the time of John Wesley’s death and recorded on his grave at City Road, London, reads;

"Here lies the mortal remains of the venerable apostolic Wesley. This great light arose by the singular providence of God to enlighten these nations and to revive, enforce and defend the pure apostolical doctrines and practice of the primitive church."

  • It is clear that Wesley’s contemporaries believed him to be an apostolic leader who wanted to establish New Testament values in the century which he lived. Wesley’s ministry looked back to the Acts of the Apostles and the promise that God would pour out His spirit upon all flesh and to the ministry of Jesus who said "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink and whoever believes in Me, springs of living water will flow from within him."

We can go back even further to the original creation when a river that watered the garden flowed from Eden.  We believe the well is a deep well because it has an eternal source.

2. We need to reopen this well because it is a productive well and it has an abundant flow.

  • Wesley believed that its flow was wide enough to reach all people. Both John Calvin and John Wesley believed that because of original sin no one can save themselves. He believed, however, that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross provided a universal atonement, that Jesus died for all, not just for some. Flowing from that atonement, Wesley believed, was prevenient grace, the grace that goes before, the grace that reaches out to all, the grace that is wide enough to reach all people. 

    Wesley also believed that its flow was deep enough to deal with all sin.

The gospel he preached was not just a gospel of justification by faith and the forgiveness of sins but a message of holiness and the possibility of living in victory over sin today through the grace of God.

A favourite scripture often used by Wesley comes from Titus 2 v 11.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled and upright and godly lives in this present age."

Wesley believed that the Methodists were raised up "to reform the nations and in particular the church; to spread scriptural holiness over the land."

Six months before his death, in a letter to one of his preachers he wrote, "Full sanctification is the grand deposit which God has lodged with the people called Methodists and for the sake of propagating this chiefly He appeared to have raised us up."

  • Not only is the flow from this well wide enough to reach all people and deep enough to deal with all sin, it is also strong enough to last for all time.

The Old Testament prophet Zechariah tells that, "On that day, Living Water will flow out of Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the Western sea, Zechariah 14 v 8.

The prophet Ezekiel paints a picture of, "Living water flowing from the temple and where the river flows, everything will live," Ezekiel 34 v 9.

The apostle John in his great Revelation, in the final chapter describes a scene where "The angel showed me the river of the water of life as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb." Revelation 22 v 1.

This is the flow of living water for which we are to thirst.

3. We need to reopen this well, not just because it is a deep well or because it has been a productive well but because it is a blocked well.

  • The truth is that Methodists, Nazarenes, Wesleyans and Free Methodists are not enjoying the flow of the Living Water as we should be. Each week in our services, we gather around the well and we lower the bucket but fail to draw Living Water. We say this "Because wherever Living Water flows, everything will live."

In Wesley’s day, the effects of that Living Water were a deep conviction of sin, a serious desire for holiness, a testimony to a heart-warming experience, the establishment of discipleship groups, the gospel that reached out to the poor and a vision which saw the world as his parish.

  • We believe that the prophet Jeremiah has something to say to Christians in the 21st century, "My people have committed two sins," he wrote, "They have forsaken me, the spring of Living Water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water," Jeremiah 2 v13.
  • We in the 21st century western church have developed our programmes and our plans and have forsaken the source of Living Water. We need to turn again, unblock the well and receive this life-giving flow.

In the hymn Jesus, Lover of my Soul, Charles Wesley describes it like this:

Thou O Christ art all I want, more than all in Thee I find.
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name, I am all unrighteousness.
False and full of sin I am, Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin.
Let the healing streams abound, make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee,
Spring Thou up within my heart, rise to all eternity. 

CONCLUSION

We believe that God is calling others to work with the Free Methodist Church, to reopen old wells and each of those groups bring with them experience and expertise that God wants to use along with the Free Methodist Church.

We believe God is calling us to work together to reopen old wells. How do we begin to reopen old wells? We do what Isaac did in Genesis 26.

a) We need to humble ourselves and admit that we are thirsty. In the words of Peter we need to "Repent and turn to God so that our sins may be blotted out, and times of refreshing may come from the Lord," Acts 3 v 19.

b) We need to begin to value the work of past generations. When Isaac redug the wells of his father Abraham, he gave them the same names, Gen 26 v 18. Recently, one of the members of our Church said that God had spoken to her to tell me not to forsake the old paths. We believe that is right.

c) We need to undertake careful research as to where the wells were originally located by reading, studying, praying and listening to God.

d) We need to ask God to show us the rubble which blocks the well and restricts the flow of God’s spirit. These blockages must be removed.

e) We need to persevere until we can say as Isaac’s servant said, "We have found water," Gen 26 v 23.


Isaiah 55 v 1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters." 


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