Edward F. Lundwall Jr.
That God requires more than just forgiveness is found in the history of Israel and the structure of the Law system. The Old Testament records the many times that Israel had experienced forgiveness, but consistently fell back into sin and discord with God. Idolatry with its appalling practices most persistently attracted them until the severe chastening of the Babylonian captivity. Then, under the ministry of the Ezra, Israel began to think in terms of observing God’s Law. However, they turned their self life to making God’s Law null by replacing it with their own (rabbinical) interpretive opinions. When the legalism of self righteousness became entrenched as it was at the time that Jesus came, it resulted in the Jewish rejection of Christ.
The Lord has always wanted human beings to have a personal dependence upon Him. The requirements for the maintenance of loving trust rested upon a faith that would translate into obedience. Indeed, it was this character commitment that the New Testament purposes to produce in believers: “Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Rom 16:25, 26).
The Lord Jesus put it simply in the Parable of the Sower; the seed, God’s Word, must find fertile heart soil to grow until it bears fruit. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, you must be born again.” (John 3:7). “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; (practice as a life style) for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9) “. . . We pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). The exhortation to continue in, to abide, and daily put into practice one’s faith is repeated in Scripture many times.
- “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
- “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation…” (Hebrews 2:3).
- “For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
- “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure:” (2 Peter 1:10).
- “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life;” (John 10:27, 28).
- “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
A person must give all of himself and life to God and receive the new life Christ offers (Luke 9:23-25). The assumption that all professions of faith immediately give regeneration is so prevalent that few Churches even plan grounding those come seeking forgiveness. Even when many will give literature to new converts, there is little attempt to make disciples of them. This is in spite of the fact that the Lord Jesus said that true believers stay in His word until they have overcoming lives and become “truly His disciples.” “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, “We are Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how say you, you shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Whosoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abides not in the house for ever: but the Son abides ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:31‑36).
Indeed, Jesus commanded making disciples with all authority in heaven and on earth! (Matthew 28:18-19). So, anyone who would truly seek forgiveness must also be willing to become a changed person through finding a mature believer to whom they can apply this verse; “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). All must move forward to experience the forgiveness, grace and empowerment of abiding in an intimate relationship with God through Christ, delving deeply into God’s Word, with intentional willingness to follow its precepts through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This is best done under the tutelage and in the fellowship of those who have also made the commitment to be a true disciple!