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Saturday, March 1, 2014

God's Forgiveness Must Bring Forth Fruit

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

Forgiveness, Not Enough! Part II 

Forgiveness is not enough for natural man to have an eternal, harmonious relationship with God. His nature must be change. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is at enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” King Saul of the Old Testament illustrates this well. After he sinned, he sought forgiveness both from God and David. After he made a peace with David, he kept going back to his old attitude of trying to kill David! Although he regretted what he had done and asked to be forgiven, forgiveness was not enough. There was not lasting change or true desire to eliminate conflict.

Since God is perfect, it is sinful people that must change. Unless a man’s character changes to harmonize with God, even heaven would not be a happy place. God’s conflict with Satan and his fallen angels exemplify this. They caused war in heaven and battling on earth (Eph. 6:12). When man’s first parents were persuaded to believe Satan’s gospel of trusting their personal desires and human reasoning, they adopted the lifestyle of rebel gods (Gen. 3:1-5). This gave natural man a nature that has become increasingly rebellious, corrupt, and stubborn through generations as described in Ephesians 2:2 and 3. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

The history of Israel gives abundant testimony. The story of their exodus from Egyptian slavery reveals constant repetition of self willed conflict between that generation and God through Mosaic leadership. Peace and blessing came only with a new generation surrendered to God and His ways. It took a generation to get Egypt out of Israel and God into her character. Forty years in the wilderness forged their rebellious attitude of slaves towards any authority to the submissive, dependent children of God.

Among evangelical groups and fundamental churches, the impression is often given that anyone who responds to “the altar call” to find forgiveness of sins, is not only forgiven, but assured of one’s place in Heaven. They are given the impression that all that is needed is a public, verbal profession of faith in Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Workers assure them that this response is all that is needed. Perhaps either their faith began with such a simple beginning and/or they have known of notable Christian leaders that were known to have been “saved” that way. Yet, of the majority of cases of those who seek forgiveness and salvation this way, few live changed lives! They continue to live as they have been, feeling comfortable with just having negotiated an “eternal life insurance” policy.

Some years ago, Eternity magazine reported the statistics of 100 churches who had the largest Sunday Schools. These churches increased their attendance by only one out of every six professions of faith! One church reported 500 professions, but lost 100 in their spiritual education class (Sunday School) attendance.

Another surprising statistic concerned those who professed to be “saved” in Billy Graham evangelistic campaigns. After a period of time, only 3% gave evidence of being “saved” or born again. Still another alarming statistic was announced in my fundamental, gospel preaching Church. From the pulpit, the pastor said according to a trustworthy survey, that 75% of Christian young people that went to secular colleges lose or deny their faith. Later, in the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, several leaders reported that 89-90% of Southern Baptist youth lost their faith in secular colleges. For years, it has been a notable thing that youth attendance dropped off after the elementary school age level.

Is this something peculiar to recent times? What is the key to experiencing forgiveness that leads to Christ-like living? Jesus instructed his disciples to spread the gospel with the intention of reproducing themselves…making other disciples, willing to be and do whatever God willed in both spirit and in reality. Does such faithfulness lead to spiritual fruitfulness? What does the Scripture have to inform us? (Watch for Part III.)

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