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Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Importance of Follow-up in Discipleship

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Follow- up has long been a part of serious evangelistic efforts. Follow-up is considered necessary to preserve the “fruit of evangelism.” Most frequently this means to add the converts to Church life. Many reports have said that there a great number of converts that do not show the reality of conversion they initially profess. Their hearts are really just not changed.

The Lord’s parable of the sower forcibly speaks about the essential need for professed believers to examine their response to the Gospel beyond profession. It has been observed that real faith must be strong enough to endure persecution and reproach (Matt 7:21; 10:33; 13:20, 21). The third result of the sowing to God’s Word has been debated from several aspects (Matt 13:22). Fruit is the symbol of what a person cultivates in his life. A proper relationship with Christ produces what the nature of Christ’s life as the True Vine would produce (John 15:1–8). Some would interpret that these believers, while unfruitful, yet are still reconciled because they do not wilt and remain. However, life produces life-styles in accord to what the character of that life is. If the Lord Jesus’ Words have been taken into the recipient's soul it will impart its character (Matt 7:16–24). 

This is how the Lord Jesus characterizes those who have truly received Him and have become His people (John 10:10, 27; 1 Peter 1:23). The primary fruit is faith that appreciates Christ’s saving and redeeming work so that one loves Christ. Without this salvation as regeneration does not exist (1 Cor 16:22). The Lord Jesus said that the love for Him is evidenced by 1) possessing His Word (has my commandments), and 2) by keeping those commands. (John 14:21). Victory comes from focusing on the realm of the Holy Spirit and crucifying the sinful nature (Luke 9:23–25; Romans 8:1–9; Galatians 5:16). 

"But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 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 3:14-18 NASU). 

 Considering all these provisions, thorny ground hearers of the message of the Gospel that live in the spiritually gray area of certainty. They are either not born again or be thought of as those will be ashamed before the Judgement Seat of Christ and would seek the dark places of Heaven (Luke 19:20–27; 1 Cor 3:5–15; 2 Tim 2:15).

Also, the Lord’s instruction to new believers is to remain in the ministry of His Word so that their faith relationship will develop freedom from the ignorance and domination of sin (John 8:31–36). Further, being born again is described as coming from God’s Word to impart eternal life (1 Peter 1:23). The evidence of regeneration is the application of God’s promises to the place that the believer is delivered from the “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4 KJV).
Jeremiah the Prophet received a prophecy about the New Covenant (Jer 31:31, 32). Jeremiah has been called the weeping prophet because he had to prophecy so much against Israel and its people’s sins and moral backsliding and God’s coming judgements. According to this prophecy, God’s solution to Israel’s continual backsliding was that God would write His Law into their hearts and minds. This corresponds to the Lord Jesus rebuking Nicodemus for his ignorance of the necessity of the Old Testament’s teaching of the requirement of a spiritual rebirth (John 3:1–10) to understand and experience the Kingdom of God.

Becoming a son of God was not a prominent thing in the Old Testament period, but The LORD promised David that Solomon would have the status of being God’s son (2 Sam 7:12--15). The special benefit was that God’s mercy would not be taken from him in spite of the occasion of his sins (v 15). The ordinary Israelite under the Law had a conditional relationship of abiding in a righteous state (Ezekiel 33:12–15). For the Israelite, righteousness was maintained by faith and repentance, especially as appropriating atonement as found in the sacrificial system. His attitude of fear towards God is his expression of faith. This fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Ps 111:10; Prov 9:10). The confirmation of this faith was the prophetic fulfillment of Old Testament shadows and symbolism in its prophecies and sacrificial systems (Heb 8:3–5; 10:1–10). This sacrificial system looked forward to the redemption that Christ accomplished in His death, burial, resurrection and heavenly intercessory ministries (1 Cor 15:1–4; Heb 7:25). The relationship of sonship to God was only granted to a very few in the Old Testament. 

Further, because the Israelites were pron to backslide from their righteousness, the Lord gave the promise of a New Covenant that would find its full application to Israel when Christ returns to reign, not only over Israel, but the world (Zech 12:10–14). Because when Christ first came, the Jews through their leaders, as a nation refused to believe, the New Covenant or Testament and the saving benefits was focused upon the Gentiles (Acts 28:23–28; Rom 11:19–21).

The nature of the New Covenant is spelled out in Jeremiah’s prophecy and confirmed in the New Testament:

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:31–33).

And in the New Testament: 

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Heb 12:22–24).

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt 26:27-28).

“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).

Related reading: Being Born Again

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