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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Forgiven, but Still Lost

“The Savior is working mightily among men, every day He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching. Can anyone, in the face of all this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life?” St. Athanasius (AD 298 – 373), from his treatise "On the Incarnation"

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

As important as favorable words from human judges are, the words "forgiven" and "lost" have infinitely more meaning when spoken by the Judge of all Mankind (John 5:23-30; Rev 20:11-15). He will say "forgiven" to some; "Your debt is paid" or "The stain of your iniquity has been washed white as snow." He will declare, "You are lost" to others; "You did not take hold of such great salvation as was offered to you."

Many think of the word "lost" as the condition of the natural, unconverted soul. However, in regard to human experience "lost" speaks of facing God's final judgment. "Lost" speaks of being under condemnation for sin; losing hope of Heaven and fear of eternity separation from God, our Life and source of all joy. That is to be condemned to the eternal prison of hell. Not a popular message these days.

The term "lost" in the spiritual sense has even greater significance. When we would lift our eyes to the infinite God, we understand how the individual can be "forgiven, but still lost. The Creator created all things for the Creator's purposes. God used substantial things to perform the Divine will because that is what matter was created for in the beginning. He used stone. Stone jars at Cana. Stone door rolled away in Bethany. An empty stone tomb.

He used servants to fill the stone jars. Servants to roll away the stone. Servants to hear the angelic declaration: "He is risen. Go tell his disciples..."

When humanity fell into disobedience, we not only lost our privileges as being in the image of God, but God also lost our service; our spiritual duty to Him. Until one is reconciled to God, man's service for God is lost.

When Christians remain immature in character and spiritual development, they are lost to God in His design. Maturity manifests itself when people consistently rely solely upon the Lord as revealed in His Word. Only then can they know God's counsel. Without living according to God's counsel, even the forgiven are lost in fulfilling God's purposes. Their usefulness is lost.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, expressed this in these words: "The Word called us into being, but we turn away from the Creator and demonstrating little regard for the grace we have received, we defile our being by the invention of other gods and we have lost apprehension of God as it is experienced in innocence."

The human race was wasting; God's image was being effaced, the Maker's work was spiraling into ruin and death reigned supreme. Mortal flesh, the nature of which is dust turning to dust, was unable to escape the curse of sin and death. But the Creator has a plan! It is called reconciliation.

In God's program of reconciliation, service occupies a central place (2 Cor 5:15, 19). In Christ's work he not only provided forgiveness, but callings and spiritual gifts to enable us for service. These gifts are to build up (edify) the Church (Eph 4:7, 8, 12; Romans 12:4-8). However, the gifts must be used, the individual must grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ or, as with the Corinthian Church, selfish exercise of gifts will divide the Church (1 Cor 1:7, 10, 11; 3:1-5).

Further, immature Christians may even become Satan's tools to cause confusion and misdirection in the Church (2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:11-18; Eph 4:14; 1 Cor 14:20). He seduces them to draw upon the world system which is filled with deceit and false appearances (1 John 2:14–17).  Therefore, many who are forgiven are lost to God's design for them. They do not experience the joys of fruitful service in world evangelism (Mark 16:15); in victorious spiritual warfare (2 Cor 10:4–5); in the building up of the Church (Eph 4:11–12); in defending the faith/Christian apologetics (Titus 1:9–11; Jude 1:3); and in giving heavenly testimony (Eph 3:9–11).

Being lost to fulfilling God's calling results in eternal loss at Christ's Judgment Seat. (1 Cor 3:12-15) How much better would it be to hear the Savior declare: "Well done, good and faithful servant; . . . Enter into the joy of your lord.'" Matthew 25:21

It is a serious matter to be lost in usefulness to God, even though forgiven. Why not become a committed disciple instead?

Related reading: God's Forgiveness Must Bring Forth FruitSee What God Can Do; Discipleship and Church Mission Statements; Forgiveness and Restoration

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