¶620 GENUINE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER
Christians have a new relationship with God and a new life in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In new Christians, the joy of this new life in Christ may for a time obscure the need for growing up in Christ. People who have been Christians for some time can sometimes become complacent. Therefore, every Christian must ultimately choose between growth and decline (II Peter 1:3-8).
How does genuine Christian character develop? This section draws upon the scriptures and classic descriptions of the Christian life that have been written through the centuries. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote comparable descriptions such as A Plain Account of Genuine Christianity and The Character of a Methodist. Christian character begins with life in the Spirit, and is nourished by the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life which Methodists refer to as “Means of Grace.” For John Wesley, the Means of Grace consisted of Acts of Piety and Acts of Mercy. He taught that both were necessary for healthy spiritual development.
This section describes some of these Acts of Piety (prayer, study of the scriptures, life in the church) and Acts of Mercy (service and ministry, love of others). Through the exercise of these and other Means of Grace, growing Christians will be guided by the Holy Spirit, in harmony with the Scriptures, to love God, others and themselves. Growing Christians learn to be alert to the Spirit’s directives, so that they may resist temptation and respond to God’s call to live in the way of Jesus in the world.