The first time I had the pleasure of being in company with the Rev. John Wesley was in the year 1783. I asked him what must be done to keep Methodism alive when he was dead: to which he immediately answered,
"The Methodists must take heed to their doctrine, their experience, their practice, and their discipline. If they attend to their doctrines only, they will make the people antinomians; if to the experimental part of religion only, they will make them enthusiasts; if to the practical part only, they will make them Pharisees; and if they do not attend to their discipline, they will be like persons who bestow much pains in cultivating their garden, and put no fence round it, to save it from the wild boar of the forest."
Rupert Davies, A. Raymond George, Gordon Rupp, eds, A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain (London: Epworth Press, 1998), 4:194.
I am convinced that many evangelicals are not truly and soundly converted. Among the evangelicals it is entirely possible to come into membership, to ooze in by osmosis, to leak through the cells of the church and never know what it means to be born of the Spirit and washed in the blood. A great deal that passes for the deeper life is nothing more or less than basic Christianity. There is nothing deeper about it, and it is where we should have been from the start. We should have been happy, joyous, victorious Christians walking in the Holy Spirit and not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. Instead we have been chasing each other around the perpetual mountain.
What we need is what the old Methodists called a sound conversion. There is a difference between conversion and a sound conversion. People who have never been soundly converted do not have the Spirit to enlighten them. When they read the Sermon on the Mount or the teaching passages of the epistles that tell them how to live or the doctrinal passages that tell how they can live, they are unaffected. The Spirit who wrote them is not witnessing in their hearts because they have not been born of the Spirit. That often happens.
People clean up, throw away their pipes, start to pay their bills and live right and then say, "I want to join the church." So we question them, "Do you believe that Christ is the Son of God?"
"Yes," they reply.
"Do you believe He rose from the dead?
"Do you believe He is coming again?"
"Yes, I do."
Well, so does the devil and he trembles.
People get into the church who are not converted at all. We are so tenderhearted, sentimental and eager that we get them on any grounds at all, if they just say the right words for us. But maybe some of these people have never been converted in the first place.
A. W. Tozer, Ruin, Rot or Revival (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992).