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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Blessed Nativity Feast!




Beholding the condescension of God,
all the earth rejoices.
Wise Men bring gifts to the Holy Child.
The heavens proclaim His Kingdom come,
and Angels declare His peace below.
Shepherds living in the fields rejoice to see
the manger, like a fiery throne, holding the Promised One.
Seeing these things, the Blessed Mother rejoices
and we with her and all the saints.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Before the Throne of God





Hebrews 2:15: “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”

Father, I praise you and give you and thanks for deliverance from the fear of death. Because by Your Son’s blood the Throne of Judgement has been turned into the great place of fellowship, praise and acceptance.

Matthew 19:28: Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Twelve and all who have put their trust in Jesus Christ will see that day of deliverance and renewal.

Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Oh, how beautiful is that place of joy! For there the fruit of the victory of the Cross and the glory of His resurrection have exposed Satan’s seducing power once and for all. There we will behold the infinite display of Your power and glory. Through Jesus’ death for my sins, you have gloriously triumphed over death and delivered captives out of slavery. Hallelujah!




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Served by Angels





“For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendants [the line] of Abraham.” Hebrews 2:16

Father, I give You praise and thanksgiving for You exalt those who trust You, after the example of Abraham. You have made those who trust in You through the Lord Jesus' propitiation to be served by angels. Even as we struggle against sin and Satan’s forces, You make the glorious angels to serve and aid us. By this faith union with Jesus Christ, You have made us to partake in His exaltation. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Do you know what message the angels most often deliver to people in the Bible? It is this: "Fear not." In this time of national crisis, Islamic extremism, and the threat of terrorism, what better word could we hear from the Father Almighty?




Monday, December 7, 2015

Repentance unto Life




Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The Christian life is characterized by transformation. This requires recognition of one's unworthiness before God's grace and true repentance or turning away from sin to Life in Jesus Christ.

Acts 11:18 speaks of how there is to be repentance unto life and that this is required of all people. "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

To continue in sin is to tolerate what keeps us in bondage. The Gospel proclaims liberation from bondage to sin and death through Jesus Christ. Consider these words from 1 John 1:3-9:
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Being Christ’s disciple means also to abide in His Word, that is, to “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32b).

Religious people often don’t recognize their “imperfections” as sin. Sin is excused as "just natural" or "just the way he/she is..."  Some people think their church activities grant them special spiritual status. Jews didn’t think they needed to be made free from sin because they claimed special status as the children of Abraham.

John 8:31-34 tells us that some Jews recognized Jesus as Messiah and believed in Him. Others rejected Him, claiming that they did not need the freedom He offers.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." They answered him, "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?" Jesus answered them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth [Greek: practices] sin is the servant of sin."
Repentance unto life involves receiving the free gift of grace through the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul explains how when the believer keeps contemplating the treasures in Christ, the Holy Spirit does the work of transforming our character into the likeness of Christ:
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18; also Romans 8:28, 29).
There is no salvation through attempting to follow religious laws and adhering to religious practices, as the Judaizers were encouraging the Galatians to do, as the Apostle Paul testified. He wrote: "know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).

Repentance unto life is changes the way we think and feel because we are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:4).

Related reading: All Need to Repent; Evidence of Rebirth; Forgiveness and Restoration


Friday, November 27, 2015

Who Am I in Christ? (Part 2)




Edward F. Lundwall.Jr.


Who am I when I receive Christ?

I am one who "puts on" Christ's righteousness.

In baptism, I am one who dies in Christ and rises in Christ.

Receiving Christ, I also receive spiritual authority and sonship.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power [authority] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” John 1:12

I am the recipient of God's gift of eternal life.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:11– 13

In Jesus Christ, I am blessed "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 1:3)

I am being transformed into the Christ's image.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18


Related reading: On Holy Baptism and Discipleship; Who Am I in Christ? (Part 1) 

Monday, November 23, 2015

This Thanksgiving


“…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:19b-21


Dear Lord, I thank You:


For rest and comfort of each night,

For morning sun at dawn’s first light;

For water at my tap to drink;

For family love and friendship’s link;

For food upon the table spread;

The fragrances of fresh-baked bread;

For clothes, for shelter overhead,

For every kind word fitly said;

For seasons’ changing, one on one,

For sorrow’s grief, laughter and fun;

The sum of every day’s felt needs,

For work; and harmony that feeds

Our purposes for living life;

For bearing well both joy and strife;

For life abundant, salvation free,

A gift from Christ who died for me;

For all the fabric of my days

I lift my voice in thanks and praise. Amen.



(Poem first written November 9, 2013 by Ethelene Dyer Jones)


Monday, November 16, 2015

Does Islam have a Savior, or only a Sword?




"Such is the double-edged sword of jihad. All Islamic governments, regimes, and kingdoms must always try to direct this potent instrument of war against enemies or neutral targets — preferably ones far away from their borders (Afghanistan, America, etc.). For they know that the longer the jihad waxes in strength and goes uncontained, the more it becomes like an all-consuming fire indiscriminately scorching all in its path." --Raymond Ibrahim (From here.)


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The Iranian man I sat next to on the plane was quiet and generally withdrawn, but I made friendly conversation by asking where he was coming from. He said he was traveling from Iowa and to Southern California where he was employed. I sympathized with him that the state’s football team had been defeated in a bowl game in the last week. He had informed me that he had graduated from that University. I then asked where he was employed since he had a college degree. He said that he was working for an airline. At this point, I felt familiar enough to introduce myself since we were going to be spending a considerable time together on this flight. I gave him my first name and he gave me an ordinary American type name that didn’t fit his physical profile.

I asked him more about his job. We talked about the unsettled conditions of the country and world, especially about airlines. After that, I observed that much of the unsettled conditions affecting the airlines concerned religious affairs, adding all religions had moral standards, although they differed in ceremonial practices. He agreed and volunteered that he personally did not practice any religion although he did believe in God.

Then, I observed that most all religions believed in some kind of life after death and some kind of blessedness or judgment. However, that only one world religion professed to have a savior who did something to save those less than perfect. All but one left their people with an uncertain eternal future. The man acknowledged this reasoning that no one could be certain if he had done enough good things to compensate for his bad acts. This was especially so since their god might not give the same value to what they had done that they would.

I agreed that all religions, except biblical Christianity, did not profess to have a savior in their religions, and, that without a savior, a person’s eternal future was in doubt or that perhaps the religion did not have a firm standard of right and wrong if a savior was not thought to be necessary. After all, punishments in this life were not equal to the terrible things some have done. Therefore, a just god would have to give punishment in the life after death if justice was to be done. Failing this, that kind of god didn’t even have a sense of justice that men have and that whatever good after death (salvation) people might expect must come from a god who would be one’s savior. With an earned or merited salvation, sinful man would be his own savior. Further, this would not honor his god, but man making inadequate man to be an inadequate savior giving a doubtful salvation.

The suspicion logically comes that this religion comes from man and not the Creator since man must be his own savior. My seatmate acknowledged that my logic had some merit.

I continued by observing since the Creator God is the sovereign over his creation, in the final analysis, He was the judge of it all also. Furthermore, only the Creator Judge could in some way be the Savior, especially since when humankind sins, it is ultimately against Him. For as Creator, He determines what is compatible within his creation. Therefore, He must also determine what is necessary to reconcile an offender. The problem is that violating what is acceptable to Him is violating Him. Since He is infinite, the forgiveness must have a corresponding worth. Since man is finite, he cannot make a restitution of infinite worth. Therefore, the Creator must somehow do the saving of the offender, since only He is infinite.

I observed that no world religion offered any savior, let alone one of infinite power to compensate for one sin let alone that of all mankind. The ONLY EXCEPTION is the Savior revealed in the Bible, that is, Jesus Christ. I further observed that Islam honored Jesus as a genuine prophet, but that their leaders alleged that Jesus’ teachings were unreliably preserved. I went on to assert that this didn’t present a good picture of the Islamic God that sent Jesus with a revelation if he couldn’t preserve the message given the prophet Jesus.

I reminded him that all human beings that have lived long enough, know they do things contrary to the innate moral standards that the Creator instills in them. My Iranian acquaintance assented to this agreeing that men need a savior, because the best men can do to atone for personal sin is at best uncertain. All men have the inbuilt need for certainty, especially when the issue is an eternal state in Hell or Heaven.

Creator God, on the basis of responsible love, has provided all that man needs. These are man’s stewardship to use in the world in harmony with God’s design. In making man in the image of God, He not only gave man the responsibility of choice, but decreed Himself to be the payment for man’s redemption from before the foundation of the World, as God’s sacrificial lamb. This, Jesus did in His death, burial and resurrection. Even non-Christian literature testifies that early believers preached this message from the very beginning. These provisions come from love, but each man must receive them by faith.

On the other hand, Islam requires meritorious works without certain promise of eternal life except through violent Jihad. The slightest violation by an Islamic, whether in act or attitude will endanger or destine the individual to death or Hell, and the only sure way to Heaven is to die in a violent Jihad. Redemption by faithfully observing the requirements of the Qur’an and the Five Pillars gives no certainty or promise. Allah performs no act of redemption for his people’s or other’s sin. It offers no savior.

In contrast, the God of the Bible asks the opposite of meritorious works, i.e., faith. The mindset from which saving faith grows is: “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33 KJV). And, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:10–12 KJV).

Jesus’ assertion to be a part of the Creator God cannot logically be rejected because since man was created in the image of God, all men are more than just material. Even Islam speaks of the real identity of man is to go to Heaven or Hell when his body dies. This means that there are at least two parts to all men, physical and spiritual. Further, since angels who are spiritual beings can have physical appearances, how can Islamic teachers assert that a part of God cannot assume a physical existence? Also, if God is all powerful and sovereign, why can’t He take on a human expression? All this is what the reliable Bible portrays Jesus to be. The Old Testament prophecies in the Bible, confirm what the New Testament says about Jesus. I pointed out a study I made of the Old Testament prophecies about the person, work and even the timing of Messiah’s coming, all of which has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus.

As the airliner was landing in Los Angeles, I asked him if he wanted me to lead him in calling upon the Lord Jesus to be his personal Savior. He consented and I prayed. I gave him my name and address so that he could write me for answers to any questions that he had. I warned him that family members would oppose him, but that God would be with him.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

True Disciples Watch for Christ's Return




Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Jesus said that true believers will be watching for His return:

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)

“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12:40)

In 1 John 2:28, the Apostle exhorts all: “. . .when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”

Today we live in a society which does not except the return of Christ. This lack of belief in a key doctrine surrounding Messiah was already evident in the Apostolic times (2 Peter 3:4).

Even then some Jews believed. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” (John 8:31)


Notable signs that we are living in the "end times" include:

1. Reestablishment and eventual turning of Israel to Messiah

“The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.” (In Zechariah 12:7,8)

The surviving nation of Israel will be converted:

In verse 10, Zechariah prophecies: “. . . they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”


2. Worship of self

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” (2 Tim 3:2) They will have "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (2 Tim 3:5). Paul tells Timothy to "avoid such people."

This in contrast to a true disciples who takes up the cross to exchange his nature for Christ's nature. Luke 9:23–25.


3. Times will be difficult

Writing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul said, "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come." (2 Timothy 3:1)

We are to take courage, however, because "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8) and "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son." (Colossians 1:13)

True disciples will face demonically-inspired challenges. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons..." (1 Timothy 4:1)


4. Lukewarm, nominal Christians

There are many who call themselves"Christians" who are lukewarm in following the things that produce real salvation and godliness. Many fall away after making professions of faith. The word “Christian” was used only 3 times in the NT, but disciple is used 372 times. Jesus' true disciples stay faithful even when other disciples stop following Christ. (John 6:66–69)

How many of Christ's disciples are versed well enough in the Scriptures to refute the errors of the cults?

There is no Christian discipleship without the adoption of the disciple’s self concept. This involves confessing himself to be a disciple of Christ (John 9:27, 28; Matt 10:32, 42; Acts 9:26).

The true disciple seeks to learn the ways of Christ's holiness. He has an aggressive attitude to learn and abide in Christ's teaching (Matt 13:11, 12, 23; 28:19, 20).

A true disciple maintains an abiding relationship with the Lord Jesus by faith (John 15:1–16) and the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13, 14).

A truly committed disciple serves in a local Church that functions as a fellowship of disciples (Acts 11:26; 13:1–3).

A true disciple seeks to bring others to Christ, knowing that the days are evil and the age is coming to an end.

Related reading: Rabbi Kaduri on the Identity of the Messiah; Spiritual Warfare; Call to the Discerning and Wise


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Praying Hebrews 2:9-11


9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren...


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

I give the following prayer of praise and thanksgiving for this picture of You as the caretaker of the True Vine, the Lord Jesus, and then You make us His branches. For as You brought Him to completion as Emmanuel, He becomes our substitutionary and reconciling sacrifice. And He, our Great High Priest, administers Himself as our propitiation. I praise You that by this we are set apart through His blood and You make us one with Christ. Thereby, we are brothers with Him so You are not ashamed to confess us as Your own with joy.

Therefore, I encourage myself, and others, not only not to be ashamed to identify ourselves as belonging to Him, but to share every occasion to confess Him and speak of the greatness of how He takes every repentant sinner to praise Him. In doing so, we also bear testimony before even the heavenly beings of His great work to those who will commit themselves to You through Him. In this way, we contribute towards bringing sinners to what is eternally, not only worthwhile, but supremely blessed. We show “. . that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb 11:6).


Related reading: Praying Hebrews - Part 1; Praying Hebrews - Part 2; Praying Hebrews - Part 3


Sunday, October 25, 2015

On Holy Baptism and Discipleship




Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Christ commands us to be baptized into identification or union with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Trinity was made manifest at Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan.

A. T. Robertson in his Grammar says that “baptizing” and “teaching” are modal circumstantial participles. These are methods to make disciples. This is the uniform practice of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus (John 4:1, 2) in the Gospels, and of the early Church. Baptism is not a rite of initiation into a temporal holy club. It pertains to the mystical household of faith.

This is a matter of identity. Believers who were openly committed to Christ came into the fellowship of the local Church  by baptism and were then identified as disciples (Acts 9:18, 26).

One becomes a saved person by grace through faith without meritorious or necessarily prerequisite works (Eph 2:8, 9). When one becomes a committed disciple, he accepts a disciplined life to make every effort to live that identity. Discipleship, most simply put, is a lifestyle of following Christ according to His Word by faith so that He lives through us as the vine does through its branches (John 15:1–16). The seal of abiding in Christ as a disciple is one’s bearing “much fruit” (v 8).

Baptism embodies the attitude of the committed disciple’s life (Matt 10:38, 39; Rom 6:3–5). As discipleship has definiteness about it, so has the act of baptism. Baptism, as a simple and definite act, is a fitting point of departure to begin life as a disciple. For the attitude of loss of the old identity and the dedication towards a new one is acted out visibly (Luke 9:23–25).

The baptismal formula involves water and the naming of the baptized as one belonging to Christ. The meaning in Greek is more accurately, that this soul is brought “into union with "God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This captures the idea of motion towards God, the source of life.

This is the beginning of identification as a witness to Christ (Matt 5:11–16; Acts 1: 8). It is the unspeakable privilege of the people of God that as others see what they do and how they live, that the unsaved world thinks of God. God has placed His Name upon us (Acts 15:17). We have become identified with Him intimately and all we do or fail to do brings glory or dishonor to Him. What a challenge this is! What a serious responsibility!

Therefore, the New Testament takes baptism much more seriously that we do today. Too few Churches teach the doctrine and function of baptism so that those preparing value it as more than a proof of sincerity. The candidate for baptism is to “count the cost” of becoming Jesus’ disciple (Luke 14:27–35). For we will all give an account to Him as to what we have done with what He has given us (Luke 19:11–27; 1 Cor 3:9–15).

In such passages as Matthew 18:6 and John 1:12, “identified with” shows this kind of faith as the mark of one who trusts in the Person of Christ and His righteousness. Christ is the focus of the faith to which one is committed in baptism a He is also our redemption and promise of eternal life.

Related reading: How to Build a Disciple-making Church; Who Am I in Christ?


Monday, October 19, 2015

Divine Authority is a Gift


Jesus' ascension to heaven
 Painting by 
John Singleton Copley, 1775

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Matthew 28:18


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Jesus Christ's human nature was such that He participated as God in His glory. This was necessary as He would become our Great High Priest, offering intercessions before the Father on our behalf. His incarnation was necessary so that He might understand human frailty, emotions and temptations (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:14 –16).  What confidence and assurance the saint receives when he views by faith the glorified Savior winning the combat with Satan, the archenemy of souls. In confronting Satan, Jesus reveals the fullness of the Godhead, and His authority exercised by virtue of the cross, His victory over the grave, and His glorious ascension. These should be viewed as a precious gift to be received with joy.

“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9–11)

“Given to me ..." The word order emphasizes that Jesus received all authority. It subordinates the gift to the Person, just as a kingdom is not meaningful without a King, or a dynasty without an heir.

According to Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus, the fully human and fully divine Son of God, was given the position that belonged to Him, the Word, from eternity past. As such He was coequal with the Father in deity and the essential form of being God (v 6). The giving of this position is not to His deity, for all this belonged to Him in the reality of his eternal divine nature. However, the human part of Him was “given” participation also in the position and privileges that belong to His deity. What divine condescension that His deity was “veiled” in flesh (Heb. 10:20)!

He could not die as God, except that He took within His own identity a human nature subject to death (Heb. 2:9, 14, 18), and by His death Jesus Himself became the reconciliation of lost men (II Cor. 5:10–21).

His name is not merely another name among many human names. It is the one name given that is above all names.  This is confirmed by the fact that God’s name in the baptismal formula is shared by the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is a full declaration of Jesus’ deity, even though He is still man and therefore Emmanuel, God with us!

Note the emphatic word order in Greek: “given to Me (is) all authority in heaven and concerning earth. . .” which places Christ’s exalted Person before His exalted role. Many rulers and priests may be exalted by worldly standards, but none can fulfill the unique role of Jesus, the Son of God. The Person of Christ is the One to whom the Father gives the authority to rule, and Jesus rules perfectly.

Authority is in itself morally neutral. It may be used for good or evil; to bless or to curse, to aid or to frustrate. What a joy it is to know that Jesus Christ is none other than the One Who created the universe, conquered sin and death, and has the power to make all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to this purpose (Rom. 8:28, 29; Eph. 1:10, 11).

Related reading: The Special Meeting in Galilee

Friday, October 9, 2015

Strengthening the Case for Firstborn Stars


October 1, 2015
By Dr. Hugh Ross

In a previous article, I described how a key feature of the biblically predicted big bang creation model is its deduction that the firstborn stars will initially be comprised of just three elements: 76 percent hydrogen, 24 percent helium, and a trace amount of lithium. The failure of astronomers to detect such metal-free stars is often cited, especially by young-earth creationists, as proof that the big bang creation model has been invalidated.

As I explained in my previous article, in the context of the big bang creation model, pristine firstborn stars must be at least 13.4 billion light-years away. Currently, no operating telescope possesses the power to image individual stars at this vast distance. I then described the discovery of three very old stars that are so extremely lacking in metals that astronomers established that they must be firstborn stars. Over the course of their 13-billion-year-plus history, these formerly metal-free stars have had their atmospheres very lightly polluted by the interstellar medium, which aligns with big bang creation model predictions.

Now, a different team of astronomers has revealed further observational evidence for firstborn stars that shows them exhibiting characteristics consistent with the big bang creation model. In a recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal, a team of nine European astronomers reported on their spectroscopic measurements on a faint, very distant Lyman-alpha emitter.1 Lyman-alpha emitters are very young, typically low-mass galaxies that are aggressively forming massive stars. The high formation rate of massive stars results in the emission of a strong Lyman-alpha spectral line (1215.67 angstroms) that, because of the great distances of Lyman-alpha emitters, is redshifted into the visible part of the spectrum.

The team targeted the Lyman-alpha emitter known as Cosmos Redshift 7 (CR7). Its redshift of 6.604 places it 12.96 billion light-years away. Using spectral instruments on the Keck telescopes and the Very Large Telescope, the team determined that CR7 possessed two distinct stellar populations. The spectra on the two populations were consistent with one being made of Pop III stars (firstborn stars) and the other of Pop II stars (second-generation stars). Using the Hubble Space Telescope, the team demonstrated that the two populations in CR7 were spatially separated from one another. The team concluded that the spatial separation in the two populations was “consistent with theoretical predictions of a Pop III wave, with Pop III star formation migrating away from the original sites of star formation.”2

This second, independent confirmation of the existence of firstborn stars—manifesting the characteristics predicted in the big bang creation model—should satisfy big bang critics who have insisted that astronomers’ failure to detect such stars falsifies all big bang models. The truth is that big bang creation models have passed every achievable test that has been thrown at them. These recent discoveries of Pop III stars count as one more trial that big bang models have overcome. That the Bible predicted the essential features of big bang cosmology thousands of years before any astronomer even hinted that the universe might possess such features firmly establishes the predictive power of the Bible and consequently its divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority.

Resources
For more information on the Bible’s description of the big bang creation model, please read chapter 13 of my book A Matter of Days.
 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Special Meeting in Galilee

Sea of Galilee


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.


Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16, 17)
The Lord Jesus Christ told His closest disciples to meet Him in Galilee after His resurrection. He stressed this before His death (Matt 26:32) and reaffirmed it at least twice after His resurrection (Matt 28:7,10; Mark 16:7). This gathering of the Lord with his closest followers was a special arrangement and obviously had high priority.The other post-resurrection meetings described in Mark, Luke and John were unexpected appearances for the revival of the Apostles' deflated faith. The Lord's glorious ascension (Acts 1) marked the beginning of something new: the sending of the Holy Spirit by which His people would be guided and strengthened in the Lord's physical absence.

As evidence that the Lord put special emphasis on the meeting of Matthew 28:16–20, Paul reports that over 500 followers saw the resurrected Lord at one time (1 Cor 15:6). I believe that this was that occasion. Perhaps this is why He repeatedly told His closest associates to meet Him there.

Imagine yourself living at that time and place. Is there any who would not have given his eye teeth to have seen the resurrected Lord Jesus? God does not do things without purpose. For the Lord not only said He would appear, but emphasized to His disciples to be sure to be there. He must have had some special purpose. This meeting is not like when He appeared unannounced.


The Importance of the Scene

While God is not limited to locations to do what He considers important, yet the fact that the meeting was on a mountain at an appointed time would give a sense of urgency to the Jewish mind. Moses had prophesied that the Messiah would be a "prophet like unto me." (Deut 18:15; Acts 3:22). The Lord had commanded Moses to go to Mount Sinai for the giving of the Covenant of the Law. Since Jesus was the prophet like unto Moses, would not these Jewish believers have had a great feeling of expectancy when Jesus directed them to meet Him on a mountain, as Moses had with their forefathers? For Moses gave the Covenant of the Law upon a mountain.

The Lord Jesus told them that He was establishing the New Covenant when He instituted communion. He also expounded the prophecies by Moses and the Prophets before and after His resurrection. The air must have been filled with expectancy. There is no record that the Lord had told them what He was going to do there. But whatever it was, the Lord had made this time and this place special for something important to Him. Their minds could only wonder what great thing might happen (Acts 1:6).

Their longing eyes saw the Lord appear and then heard Him begin with these awe inspiring words: "All power (authority) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." I don't know about you, but the hair on the back of my neck would have just stood up. I would feel that the air of Heaven was invading Earth. There would be such an super heavenly feeling. The scene caused most of them to involuntarily worship Him. But others just couldn't believe the sight of the crucified, living Lord was real. To them it was "just too good to be true," so they doubted for a while. This implies that more disciples were there than the eleven and their close associates, because the Lord had restored their faith through His unannounced appearances. As we go further into Matthew 28, the priority and urgency to disciple just increases more and more by concepts that call for accountability to Christ.

The question must be asked why did the Holy Spirit only mentioned the eleven disciples as being present? In the first place, He wanted to make it plain that they were restored to leadership after they had despaired after Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. Secondly, in doing so during succeeding generations this indicated that mature leadership bore the responsibility for discipling, on an individual basis and in leading group discipling. This applies whether in the Local Church or in missionary activity.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Call to the Discerning and Wise


The Bible uses colorful images to describe Israel’s apostasy: "a rebellious ox, a prostitute, a wild vine, and a stain that will not wash off."



Ethelene Dyer Jones

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” –Hosea 14:9 (ESV)



Hosea prophesied in the eighth century B.C., but his message is a clarion call for our day. He deals with apostasy—turning away from the teachings of God; with rebellion of the people who follow their own way and break the covenant and laws of God. We can apply his prophecy to our own day—even our own country—and find that the themes he treats are still apparent in the behavior and pursuits of godlessness and rebellion.

Hosea holds forth hope, and that hope is to the discerning and wise who will turn from the temptations so prevalent and recognize that “the ways of the Lord are right.” Moreover, the upright will disregard the pull of the false gods—the Baals and all the practices that lead away from the Lord’s ways. They will know that transgressors stumble in the false ways, but the upright, despite the temptation to turn aside, will hold steadfastly to what thy know is God’s way and God’s plan.

He speaks for the importance of wise choice. Whether individually or nationally, discernment about what is right precedes moral action. “Whoever is wise” is a call to take notice and change ways. Rather than to go pell-mell into destruction and punishment for evil ways, recognize the covenant way of the Lord and walk therein. Like the prophet Hosea who pled so earnestly with his people in the eighth century BC, so there are those today who call for us to be discerning and wise.

Will we hear? Will we be serious about changing our course? What difference can one person make among so many? When we remember that we have an advocate in heaven, our high priest, the Lord Jesus who makes intercession for us, we can feel strengthened and determined that the wisdom and discernment of even the few who will remain faithful makes a difference. “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)


Monday, September 21, 2015

Pastors Need to Disciple and Honor Vocations

Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, discusses how the Church can transform communities by connecting faith to peoples' daily work. Pastors, learn more at Made to Flourish.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Clarifying Search of the Scriptures



Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.


The question: At the time of initial profession of faith, do regeneration, spiritual rebirth, and forgiveness happen at the same time?

The impression one received from evangelistic campaigns in many churches is that there is a once and done event. More often than not, repentance is assumed and not dealt with and the absolute need for a moral and spiritual life is not placed on the consciousness of the professed convert. The results are legendary.

Some years ago, Elmer Towns reported about the experiences of the Churches with the largest numbers in their Sunday Schools and Church attendances. In my study of this report, I found that it took six professions of faith to increase attendance by one. One Church reported 500 professions of faith, but experienced an attendance loss of 100!

In contrast, First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas, reported that they made contact with those who professed faith in an effort to bring them into the ongoing fellowship of their Church. As a result, of six professions, they only lost one!

I attended a seminar held by the First Baptist Church in Modesto, California on imperatives for Church life. Their Church grew in attendance from about 300 to nearly 2000 in ten years. Their Pastor was both very evangelistic, and promoted a strong ministry of discipleship. Behind the platform of the Church were small rooms where professors of conversion were taken and given basic instructions, but were also enlisted in a 10 session Discovery Class to further ground them in the faith. And, for those who desired further growth, there were growth classes held in the homes which lasted for about 26 weeks. This philosophy was a reflection of what Scripture teaches.

For those who promote the idea that “once saved, always saved. . .” Or, “once a tearful profession is made following ‘the altar call is always saved from hell” the conditional statement by Peter “if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” should make them nervous enough to look at the Scriptures more carefully as to whether initial forgiveness includes regeneration or not!

“...giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;” (2 Peter 1:5).

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4).

A true conversion is demonstrated by applying God’s promises in Christ. It is exemplified by an exchanged life delivered from worldly corruption. Peter exhorts the addition of a progressively transformed life of godly purity. But to some he adds that this kind of transforming life is necessary for he writes:

“But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (2 Peter 1:9, 10).

In Scripture, as in a number of notable experiences, regeneration seems to happen at the same time forgiveness is experienced. The conversion of the Apostle Paul seems to be one where his conversion, regeneration, and call to apostleship happened all at once. A good number of other greatly used men seem to have gotten forgiveness and regeneration at the same time also. Men like D. L, Moody, and Lee Robertson. But spiritual service, even greatly used, does not necessarily indicate regeneration. Judging from the outcomes of evangelistic meetings, these men represent a great exception. Indeed, the Lord Jesus cautioned about initial professions of faith in the Parable of the Sower:

“And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matt 13:20-22 NASB).

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt 7:21-23).

For these reasons, the Lord Jesus didn’t initially give new believers assurance of salvation, even though He accepted their faith.

“As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” (John 8:30, 31).

Regeneration or being born again is a process of becoming the sons of God in character. This starts with the gift of forgiveness that gives a conditional reconciliation with God. This must be maintained by avoiding sin, confession for forgiveness when sin recurs, and continuing exposure to the ministry of the Word.

Related reading:  What it Means to be Saved; Are We Losing Our Young People?


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Our Common Confession





"The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats." Isaiah 1:11

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are explicit that sacrifices offered through priests cannot take away sins.

“And every priest stands daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:11, 12).

With Christ’s propitiating death, all righteousness is fulfilled and there is no other way to the Father but through Jesus Christ. He's priesthood is unique in that He is both priest and sacrifice.

Even circumcision, which was essential to the identity of the Jew, is not salvific in and of itself. Unless there is a heart commitment of faith to God it accomplishes nothing. Instead it can become a boast, an expression of self righteousness.

But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Rom 2:29).

Faith in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be substituted with ritual and ceremony, though these can be used of the Holy Spirit to draw us closer to God and to deepen our understanding of God's love.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14)

Saints throughout the ages have made this common confession: That Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners. All must repent and put their trust in Him alone. In Jesus Christ is hidden the great mystery of godliness. (1 Timothy 3:16)


Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Great Commission: Amplified Translation



Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Amplified Translation:

Then the eleven disciples journeyed into Galilee, to a mountain which Jesus had assigned to them. And when they beheld Him, they worshiped him: but some doubted. And upon arriving, Jesus said to them, saying given to Me (is) all authority (based upon my person and position) in Heaven and concerning Earth. Upon being led, therefore (you are commanded) make disciples of all the peoples, (by) baptizing them into (identification with) the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; (by) teaching (appealing to the will and understanding) them to fulfill (and protect from corruption) all (things) whatsoever I have commanded you, and be sure to notice (with others), I am with you all the days unto the end of the age. Matthew 28:16–20 Amplified


The Special Meeting (Matthew 28:16, 17)

The Lord expressed His priority for this meeting with His closest disciples by urging them to meet Him in Galilee after His resurrection. He stressed this BEFORE His death (Matt 26:32) and reaffirmed it at least twice AFTER His resurrection (Matt 28:7, 10; Mark 16:7). The other post resurrection meetings in Mark, Luke and John were unexpected appearances for the revival of the Apostles' deflated faith, except for when He went to Heaven in the clouds (Acts 1).

As evidence that the Lord put special emphasis on the meeting of Matthew 28:16–20, Paul reports that over 500 followers saw their resurrected Lord at one time (1 Cor 15:6). I believe that this was that occasion. Put yourself back into that time. Is there ANY ONE of you who would not have given his eye teeth to have been there and SEEN the resurrected Jesus? Especially when He repeatedly told His closest associates to meet Him there. God does not do things without purpose. For the Lord not only said He would appear, but emphasized to His disciples to be sure to be there, He must have had some special purpose above those where He appeared unannounced.


The Importance of the Scene

While God is not limited to locations to do what He considers important, yet the fact that the meeting was on a mountain at an appointed time would give a sense of urgency to the Jewish mind. Moses had prophesied that the Messiah would be a "prophet like unto me." (Deut 18:15; Acts 3:22). The Lord had commanded Moses to go to Mount Sinai for the giving of the Covenant of the Law. Since Jesus was THE prophet like unto Moses, would not these Jewish believers have had a great feeling of expectancy when Jesus directed them to meet Him on a mountain, as Moses had with their forefathers? For Moses gave the Covenant of the Law upon a mountain.

The Lord Jesus told them that He was establishing the New Covenant when He instituted communion. He also expounded the prophecies by Moses and the Prophets before and after His resurrection. The air must have been filled with expectancy. There is no record that the Lord had told them what He was going to do there. But whatever it was, the Lord had made this time and this place special for something important to Him. Their minds could only wonder what great thing might happen (Acts 1:6).

When their longing eyes saw the Lord appear and then heard Him begin with these awe inspiring words: "All power (authority) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." I don't know about you, but the hair on the back of my neck would have just stood up. I would feel that the air of Heaven was invading Earth. There would be such an super heavenly feeling. The scene caused most of them to involuntarily worship Him. But others just couldn't believe the sight of the crucified, living Lord was real. To them it was "just too good to be true," so they doubted for a while. This implies that more disciples were there than the eleven and their close associates, because the Lord had restored their faith through His unannounced appearances. As we go further into Matthew 28, the priority and urgency to disciple just increases more and more by concepts that call for accountability to Christ.

The question must be asked why did the Holy Spirit only mentioned the eleven disciples as being present? In the first place, He wanted to make it plain that they were restored to leadership after they had despaired after Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. Secondly, in doing so during succeeding generations this indicated that mature leadership bore the responsibility for discipling, on an individual basis and in leading group discipling. This applies whether in the Local Church or in missionary activity.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Great Commission: An Amplified Translation and the Exegetical Basis




Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

This essay could benefit diligent students and spiritual leaders who are dedicated to applying all that the Lord Jesus commanded and instructed in the Great Commission. For did He not say: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded ...”?

Great dependence has been put upon translations because most people cannot read and understand Koine Greek in which the New Testament was written. Unfortunately, I know of no translation that brings out the full meaning. In the case of the Great Commission: inadequacies, errors, and mistranslations are found in most translations. The reasons come from the bias of the translators, the Churches, or agencies that sponsored the translation, and the motivation of the publishers to appeal to the widest market.

We will look at the Exegetical Basis, the Amplified Translation and the Importance of the Scene, in three separate bog posts. Part One is below.

Part One: The Exegetical Basis
There are many translations of the Great Commission, yet an amplified translation that brings out all that is in the Greek original is needed. So I have made this attempt. Since the Great Commission is the major premise and focal point of our Lord’s operational plan for the Church, it is important that it be well understood. Further, because most translations generally use the word-for-word principal, the full meaning and feeling of the original Greek is not brought out. On the whole the word for word rendering is satisfactory for the largest public usage. However, there are several words and constructions in the Greek grammar usage, technology and syntax that are not brought out in any translation I have read. One of the rules that I have adopted in this translation is that amplified renderings must reflect all the seed thoughts of that word or grammar, especially when also seen elsewhere in the New Testament revelation.

With all my limited ability and objectivity, I will give an amplified translation. This will be done with the intent of bringing out all the grammatical and syntactical elements of the original Greek. Most translations modify accuracy to ensure readability to the average reader. In this amplified translation, I will sacrifice easy readability to ensure a full rendering of the Greek meanings, grammar, and syntax.

It is hoped that the reader will be moved to implement the Great Commission in his ministry, that great fruit for Christ will result and words of commendation from our Savior be forthcoming.

Related reading:  The Great Commission and Things Unwritten; The Great Commission: Our Mission

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Great Commission, Our Mission


And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

Ethelene Dyer Jones

What we call the “Great Commission” was given to disciples on a mountain in Galilee. By appointment Jesus, the resurrected Christ, had asked them to meet Him there (see Matthew 28:16). Matthew does not write about the ascension in his gospel. He ends the account of Jesus on earth by giving the Lord’s great commission, our mission: “Go, make disciples of all nations.” In the command He also gives a promise, “I am with you always.”

Rev. James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), evangelical missionary from England who founded the China Inland Mission wrote: “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered. It is a command to be obeyed.” In a letter dated February 14, 1860 Taylor wrote to his sister, “If I had a thousand lives, China should have them—No! Not China, but Christ! Can we do enough for such a precious Savior?”

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 has given the call, motivation and incentive for missionaries through the ages to “go and tell.” Moreover, it has inspired Christians to share the message of the Lord Jesus Christ wherever they are.

Because it is the command from One who has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” we are also authorized to go out in His power. We go with Christ’s purpose in mind, “to make disciples.” The zone of ministry is the world, beginning in our own “Jerusalem,” or where we live, and then reaching out to all the world. Disciple-making involves teaching persons about Jesus, and when they have confessed Him, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in obedience to His command. His presence is promised those who go and tell: “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Another faithful missionary, David Livingstone, said of the Great Commission, our Mission: “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”

Let us be faithful to the Great Commission, our mission, and even more so as we see “the Day of the Lord” approaching. 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Great Commission and Things Unwritten


Alice C. Linsley

The "Great Commission" of Christians is the instruction of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples that they should spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. The term is not found in the Bible. It was first used by James Hudson Taylor, a British missionary to China. The idea of commissioning is familiar to people in the military and the term is appropriately applied to the Church Militant.

Jesus' teachings reflect His righteous rule. His teachings are true. They are given by the One is is Truth. That is why the Great Commission is attached to the authority of Jesus Christ. Note the wording of Matthew 28:18-20:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus has "all authority" and in that authority we are to make disciples, baptizing them according to the Trinitarian Formula. teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded. It is a big job! However, we are not alone in this labor. The Lord Jesus promises to be with us always.

Did Jesus Disciples take this commissioning seriously? Yes, they did. Within less than a century, they had "turned the world upside down" (Act 17:6). The Disciples did tell others what Jesus said and did because John 30:30-31 notes that "Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which art not recorded in this book [agrapha - Greek for "unwritten things"]. John's Gospel was written between 80 and 90 AD, and includes material found in Mark's Gospel (c. 64 AD) and Luke's Gospel (c. 75 AD), but also has material that is not found in the other Gospels. By John's time, other saying of Jesus had circulated rather widely. 

Examples of agrapha are found in the writings of the early Church Fathers.  Here are some examples:

Justin Martyr (AD 100-165): "Wherefore also our Lord Jesus Christ said, 'In whatsoever things I apprehend you, in those I shall judge you." (Dialogue 47)

Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215): "For ask, he says for the great things, and the small shall be added to you." (Stom. I, 24, 158)

Origen of Alexandria (A 185-254): "But the Savior himself saith; 'He who is near me tis near the fire; he who is far from me, is far from the kingdom." (Homil. in Jer., XX.3)

That these sayings of Jesus and many others spread far and wide by 200 AD tells us that his followers were doing what he asked them to do. Jesus Christ's followers were and are still spreading the Gospel in obedience to His Divine Directive.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Forgiveness: Against "easy believeism"


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

“Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Matthew 7:21 NASU

One member of the Church’s staff, told the Pastor of that great evangelistic church, “You’ve got more of your converts in jail than any other pastor I know!” That staff member then started a rescue mission.

Why is it that so many professed converts don’t show up in regular attendance? Years ago, I studied Elmer Towns’ survey of the 100 largest Sunday Schools. I was surprised to see that on the average it took 6 professions to improve Sunday School attendance by one.

One Church reported 500 professions, but in that same year saw an attendance loss of 100!

Why is this happening?

A person who responds to the “altar call” and listens to some form of the plan of salvation such as the Romans Road or the Four Spiritual Laws, and then prays the sinner’s prayer, i.e. calling upon the name of the Lord, and claiming Romans 10:13, is told, “You’re born again!” It is that easy. Or is it?

The problem lays in idealism and lack of understanding. Idealism is defined as “thought . . . of things as one wishes them to be . .” Everyone desires that those who respond to the “alter call” for forgiveness and salvation experience being “ saved from the wrath of God . .” (Rom 5:9; Rev 20:11-15). 

Idealism hinders reality by a presumption that like just saying an “I do!” is all that is necessary for a happy marriage! Indeed, in Ephesians 5:22-6:2, marriage pictures the salvation experience. Hearing the gospel message is comparable to romance. Interest grows out of a sense of inward needs and becoming aware of possible fulfillment. Just as marriages fail when lacks of understanding of the relationship are neglected, so this is true in the forgiveness. Idealism attempts to get fulfillment before understanding and attendant responsibilities.

The need for additional understanding of forgiveness is spiritual life and forgiveness have progressive levels of experience.

By meditating on not only the introductory verse of this essay and on the Old Testament, it
becomes clear that more than an initial relationship is required for eternal salvation to be experienced. The answer is in God’s promise of a New Covenant (or Testament) to backsliding Israel. Thereby, the promises to the Patriarchs and the eternal Kingdom can be fulfilled and be a blessed and harmonious experience. This is the stump of salvation for the Gentiles are to be grafted into.


Repentance
Along with many other Scripture passages, the certainty of “being born again” in the last times makes it all the more needful to understand the nature of levels of forgiveness as the “. . repentance unto life . .”. 1 John was written to give assurance of possessing eternal life by describing what the life and lifestyle of “the born again” is like.”

For our times, the Scriptures have prophecies that there will be much confusion in religion. The Lord Jesus said that in the end times of this age, there would be not only be false prophets (Matt 24:10ff), but spiritual laxness because of material prosperity.

The Apostle Peter also wrote: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words;” (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Further, in these last times of post modernism, there will be religion and assault on the truth of God to the place that whatever pleases people or is politically correct will be generally accepted (2 Tim 4:3, 4). When this occurs, God will give up on them and will give them over to a reprobate mind:
“. . . to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Rom 1:26, 27).

It is amazing to see how quickly homosexuality has become accepted in so great a part of the world starting from the pronouncements of President Obama and now the US Supreme Court! None of them realize that in doing so that they are being judged with a mediate judgement leading to the final condemnation before God’s Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-14).

With a number of the traditional Christian denominations accepting this political correctness, it is even more important to pay attention to our Lord’s warning in Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” 

Therefore, it is so necessary of look again at the Scriptures, because we are living in the confusion and apostasy of the last days whereby “. . the time . . when they will not endure sound doctrine . .” (2 Tim 4:3

In the prophecies of the last days, material prosperity will have a prominent place. As with Israel spiritual vitality will suffer. People will occupy themselves with just enjoying themselves and neglect their spiritual relationship. Thereby, discernment will become dull and precision in discerning doctrine disappears. Pleasure always looks for greater experiences, so people will become more concerned with appearances than realities. Therefore, the Lord gives this stern warning (Matt 7:21- 27) not to neglect Him and His commandments. For we are living in the time of the Laodician Church of lukewarmness in which appearances are more important than realities (Rev 3:14-22).


Forgiveness 

Forgiveness is something that people are able to experience at any time and in any place. At times, people will feel the need of forgiveness, the relief of feelings of guilt. To this end many will go to psychiatrists to get relief. If evangelical Churches are not careful, and satisfy inquires with just a profession of faith, saying: “Lord, Lord.” This “easy believeism” is a false hope. It will be an experience as the Lord warns in Matthew 7:21.

He admonishes all against idealistic salvation: “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt 7:14). Far too often soul winners assume that people who pray the sinner’s prayer to get forgiveness are really repenting of what they want forgiveness for.

God thought it necessary to use John the Baptist to prepare people to experience a real and enduring forgiveness in receiving Christ. Without a definite and full repentance from know sin, salvation is not experienced as seen in Matthew 7:22, 23.

In the parable of the sower, the Lord warned potential believers against a salvation that is not an enduring and fruitful experience. The Apostle Paul made a distinction between carnal, immature believers: those who profess to be believers: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; . .” (2 Cor 13:5). And: “I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” (Gal 4:11).

And he is just as concerned that spiritual earnestness not become a self reliant system of legalism: “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal 5:4 ).

There are three levels of forgiveness in the Scriptures. They are: 

1. Forgiveness that must be maintained: “When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die.” (Ezek 33:13).

This was the general system in the Old Testament with Israel, when a person sinned, that one had to get forgiveness by repentance and sin offerings. It was considered that if one maintained this lifestyle, he was righteous. Therefore, the leaving this lifestyle would be the specific thing for him to be considered leaving his state of being “righteous.” However, in certain instances of sin, the Law required the sinner who committed this type of sin to be “cut off from his people” (Ex 30:34).

The state of “righteousness” spoken here is not just a genial thing of “being a good guy.” To be considered “righteous,” he must be in a covenant relationship with God. In the Old Testament, this included: a commitment to keep God’s Law, beginning with circumcision, forgiveness through sin offerings, worship of God, and faith dependence upon God. This was a lifestyle and if abandoned, the individual loses his status of being “righteous” before God.

Parallel to this in the New Testament, and especially with the stony ground believer recorded in Jesus Parable of the Sower.

“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Matt 13:20-22).

There are many parallel passages that teach that continuance in this level of faith is necessary to maintain a forgiven state.

In John 8:30-35, The Lord Jesus told His new believers to make sure that they were truly disciples of His by staying in the ministry of His Word until they knew the truth and were changed so that they were delivered from the power of sin. 1 John 3:9 states: “No one who is born of God practices sin, . .” Therefore, it is wrongful to tell new converts that they are born again with initial faith.

Soul winners should follow the Lord’s practice and admonish them to prove to themselves and the Lord that they are truly His disciples by staying in the ministry of God’s Word until it changes them. For it is through God’s Word about Jesus that people are born again. “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23. Compare 2 Peter 1:4 with the literal rendering of Romans 10:17).

2. The second type of forgiveness is that which accompanies becoming God’s child. In 2 Samuel 7:14, the LORD promises David that Solomon who was to inherit David’s kingdom was to have a permanent relationship with God as His son. As such the forgiveness given him would be permanent in spite of whether he sinned or not:

"I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My loving-kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Sam 7:14, 15).
This permanent forgiven condition of sonship is called: “the sure mercies of David”. This is the stated purpose for those who receive Jesus in a personal relationship that changes them (John 1:12). “. . as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”
(John 1:12). 

The Greek word for “in” of “in His name” means “into union with His Name.” “In” is often interpreted as believing “about” His name rather than a believing trust and identification change of character that harmonizes with the character of His name: “. . you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matt 1:21). To do so they must follow the Lord’s command to abide in His Word (John 8:31-35). This is the purpose in the process of abiding in the ministry of His Word that He commanded new believers to do (John 8:31-35). 

Meditation and application of God’s Word was how the Psalms were to be treated. Psalm 1 as the introduction to the book of Psalms, it spelled out how the reader would benefit from using them. 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows how God’s Spirit takes their concepts to transform the reader’s character: “. . we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

In 2 Peter 1:4, abiding in Christ’s Words requires the knowledge and application of “. . His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, . .” (NASU). Hebrews 12:5-11 describes the child training of chastening when necessary because of the event of unforsaken sin that was described concerning Solomon (2 Sam 7:14).

3. The third level of forgiveness is that necessary to maintain fellowship with the Lord as a member of His family. As seen in the life of David, when his unrepentant attitude is repented of. This most notably was seen in his sin with Bathsheba and when he pridefully numbered his troops, He needed forgiveness. His felt fellowship with the Lord was broken and the joys of being in the Lord’s presence are lost. David prayed: “Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Ps 51:9-12).

The tragedy of the experience of far to many of today’s believers is that their walk with the Lord is so “lukewarm” that they seldom miss the absence of the wonder of lost fellowship with their Savior! For when the obedient believer has real fellowship, he will have frequent periods of: “Whom having not seen , ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1 Peter 1:8 KJV).

Because: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps 16:11).

Instead, far too many believers are satisfied with just attending Church services and not becoming drowsy when the preacher goes on too long! And, they feel great that they tithe fairly regularly. And, instead of witnessing to cults that come to their door, they simply say: “I’m saved so, I don’t need to listen to you! . . .” For they haven’t memorized enough Scripture to give a forceful witness. Neither do they meet people with the prayer that the Apostle Paul asked for himself in meeting others: “. . pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,” (Eph 6:19).

A person in full fellowship with the Lord will have the attitude that the Apostle Paul exhorted the believers to have: “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12-14).

Therefore, the third level of forgiveness is to seek forgiveness whenever that one’s fellowship with the Lord has grown cold or some sin has occurred in which the fruit of the spirit is lost.


Conclusion

The Lord Jesus didn’t give assurance of an immediate regeneration, instead He told converts to prove to themselves and to Him that they “are truly disciples of Mine;”! He said that they needed to abide in the ministry of His Word until it changed them and they were freed from a lifestyle of sin!

In Matthew, Jesus’ Word is described as “seed” that will change the one who will let it deeply root in his life until the Word finds expression in a life that harmonizes with God’s character. 1 John 3:9 strongly describes the change that Jesus states is necessary and will happen when new believers will abide in the ministry of His Word: “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

When forgiveness is maintained to the third level, then sweet fellowship both with God and a peaceful attitude with others as Ephesian 4:30-32 becomes a way of life!


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Celebration and a Prayer Request


Ed Lundwall's hat
Retired Combat Chaplain

Distinctive Discipleship, the blog of retired Army Chaplain Edward F. Lundwall, Jr., celebrates a two-year anniversary. That's no small feat! The average lifespan of the top U.S. blogs is 33.8 months, according to this 2006 report. Distinctive Discipleship is just getting started!

He and his late wife, Marionette, have three children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. They were missionaries for nine years. 

Ed pastored Disciple Baptist Church in Chattannooga, Tennessee, a laboratory effort to study Biblical discipleship and how to apply it to the Church. He holds a B.S., a M.RE, and a M.Div degree and is a freelance writer specializing in discipleship.

This blog contains a great deal of helpful information on discipleship, edifying devotions, and excellent Bible studies. You can find something you might need by using the INDEX.

Thanks for reading, folks!

Please pray for Edward who has been having some heart problem recently.


Related reading: Launching a Blog About Discipleship


Sunday, July 26, 2015

What it Means to Be Saved



Jesus said, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." John 10:9-15


Edward F. Lundwall Jr.


     “I’m Saved!”

“What do you mean?”

     “I went forward at the invitation!”

     “I prayed the sinner’s prayer!”

     “I asked the Lord Jesus into my heart!”


But did you leave your heart’s door open long enough for Him to come in? Are you letting Him establish Himself as your Great Shepherd in your life?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” John 10:27

“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:17

Are you letting Him speak and lead you in your life’s choices?

By seeking His will: “Teach me thy way , O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: . .” Psalm 86:11

By faith not reasoning: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5, 6

Does your spiritual life come from His Word?

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." 1 Peter 1:23

Do you treasure His directions to keep from doing things that displease Him?

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes." Psalm 119:11, 12

Do you consider the Bible His love letter and His manual for the abundant life Jesus offers? 

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim 17).

Which of His promises do you depend upon for forgiveness and eternal life? 

If you cannot think of three, how can you say that you have treasured His Word in your heart? If you cannot recall one and show how it applies to your life, who are you depending upon? God’s Word, or the creed of your religious organization, or the philosophy of the world’s “good man upstairs?”

The Bible says: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:13

How are you applying the Lord Jesus’ invitation and warning?

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke/Galatians

If you would like a fellowship that shepherds people to be definite in applying God’s promises (Matt 28:20a), let them show you how, starting from where you are. Too many Churches only give piecemeal insights into Scripture. Are they structuring their discipleship training to achieve spiritual completeness?

“A disciple is not above his teacher , but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:

Related reading: Sheep Cotes as Sacred Places; Psalm 23: Daily Living With the Good Shepherd