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Sunday, January 22, 2023

Salvation is Not an Event

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Salvation through faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ involves sanctification. Sanctification is the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Some who say they are saved do not exhibit the graces of the Holy Spirit.

Though there may be a moment of conscious commitment, salvation is not an event such as this:

“I’m saved!”

“What do you mean?”

“I went forward at the pastor's invitation in church, and I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus into my heart.”

"Did you leave your heart open long enough for Him to come in? Are you letting Him establish Himself as the Lord of your life? Are you living a crucified lifestyle?

Churches that fail to make disciples create conditions in which "saved" people become disillusioned. Without discipleship training, the fruits of the Spirit and the joy of service are lacking. Christ's presence in the life of the individual is not evident.

What must disciple-making churches do to overcome this problem?

1. Teach that salvation is about being justified by faith in the Son of God, and justification involves obedience.

2. Teach the Bible from cover to cover and encourage daily Bible reading and memorization. The disciple is to be formed and informed by the Bible.

3. Connect new believers to mature believers with whom they can fellowship and grow in the Faith.

4. Remind new believers that repentance is an on-going attitude of the heart. For "godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation..." (2 Cor. 7:10)

5. Do not place legalistic burdens upon the new believer. Instead, emphasize that the life of the disciple is characterized by purity, humility, generosity, steadfastness, patience, and service.

6. Teach a crucified lifestyle. The crucified lifestyle is not another legalistic work, but the exchange of the corrupting ways of the old life for the life of the Spirit that dwells within. 

7. Teach that the disciple's life is grounded in prayer.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Why Jesus' Disciples Didn't Recognize Him as Messiah


Why didn't Jesus' closest disciples recognize that He is the fulfillment of the Messianic expectation of their Hebrew ancestors? Here are some possible explanations:

1. The Lord’s working with His first disciples was a progressive revelation of who and what He is. His glory is such that we are granted glimpses until such a day that we are ready for His eternal kingdom. A.W. Tozer explained, "God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which he must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

Hebrews 1 speaks of this: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.”

2. Jesus did not fit what the disciples expected of a Messiah who would liberate the Jews from Roman rule. The zealots of their day perpetuated a hope of a military leader who would throw off Roman domination and restore the glory of Israel under the Davidic Dynasty.

3. The Disciples were self-absorbed. Their preoccupations kept them from seeing the truth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us. Again, self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.”

4. The teachings of the rabbis had obfuscated the faith of their early Hebrew ancestors who expected one of their own to be conceived by divine overshadowing, to die and rise on the third day, and to be God incarnate. Instead, the rabbis focused on the Jewish narrative which diminished belief in the Son of God. This is why Jesus posed the riddle of Psalm 110:1 - "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Jesus called on Psalm 110:1 as His Witness: “If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:45)

5. Some aspects of Jesus' life and ministry were purposely hidden. The Gospel of Mark attempts to keep Jesus’ identity as Messiah and the Son of God a secret. This so-called “Markan mystery” is about the hidden Son, who commanded his followers to keep silent about his identity. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus' identity is recognized in the ancient island city of Tyre, not on a mountain as in Matthew's Gospel. For Mark, the Messiah’s appearing means the beginning of the restoration of Paradise. Perhaps the evangelist was thinking of this passage from Ezekiel 28 – “Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created."

The theme of the hidden is expressed in the Seder. The three matzahs are enveloped and the middle one is broken and hidden from the others. It is found after a search and returned to its natural group. The three matzahs are called the Unity, but we might as appropriately refer to the unity as Three in One, or a Trinity.

Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.) believed that the writers of scripture practiced a "prophetic and venerable system of concealment." He explained: "For many reasons the scriptures conceal their meaning; primarily, with the aim of making us diligent and unresting in our study of the words of salvation and, secondly, because it is not in the province of all men to examine their meaning, lest they should receive hurt through a mistaken interpretation.” (Clement of Alexandria by R.B. Tollinton. 1914. Volume II, p. 302.)

The curious seek to know. They investigate what is veiled. The Creator invites us to draw closer to the mysteries hidden in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:26; Ephesians 3:6). The pattern of hidden sons in Scripture points to Jesus Christ, the Son hidden in the Father's bosom from before the ages. He inherits the kingdom that is not of this world and of his kingdom there will be no end.

5. The disciples had not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit to illumine them and to give them the courage to proclaim the Gospel.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

For Unto Us a Son is Given


This early Nativity scene dates to about 390 AD and was found on the Island of Naxos in the South Aegean. The capital city of Naxos is Hora.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Friday, November 4, 2022

How Do You React to Adverse Circumstances?


Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

Some call being uncomfortably cold an intolerable circumstance, while others stand up to threatening situations. Some curse the adverse situation, and even God, yet others pray and trust God. I have observed both as an Army chaplain and a church pastor.

My brother-in-law saw the liberation of the Philippines Islands in WWII. He had been buried alive in a tunnel collapsed by enemy fire. His response was to commit himself to the Lord's service. He entered the Christian ministry.

Through prayer, the Lord saved my life by causing the enemy to destroy its own assault force. In reasoning with God, I got peace when I prayed that if I could glorify Him more by living than by dying that He would deliver me and our unit. Again, in desperate life-or-death circumstances, my former executive officer committed himself to God. He trusted Christ as his Savior and as a church pastor he has taught God’s Word for decades.

Critical circumstances are opportunities to trust God and receive blessings in one's spiritual life. The Apostle Paul wrote: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2–4).

However, for those who resist God’s dealing with them and refuse to let adverse circumstances be a door to spiritual life and salvation, adverse circumstances often bring sickness, death, and eternal loss. “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” (2 Corinthians 6:1– 2).

While our battalion was on location near Tay Nin, Viet Nam, the monsoon rains soaked us. One man came back with his buddies to the battalion fire support base, after a night on an ambush cite, chilled to the bone. I met him trying to get warm beside a fire in a sump, a bomb crater. Several other men were there, then Charlie Company commander sent another man and ordered us away because he said that sump fires can be dangerous. It was known that some lazy soldiers would throw mortar and artillery left over explosive charges in with the trash instead of burning them by safe procedures. I obeyed and walked away, but others stayed. After I had walked halfway across the fire support base, a huge blast erupted from the sump fire. I rushed back and found several men killed and wounded.

One particular man was laying on the side of the sump, both legs broken looking like a rag doll; his left arm was worse, with bones exposed, even so he was still conscious. I bent down and asked him if I could pray for him. He almost sat up and emphatically said: “NO!” I learned later that he had been taught that Protestant clergy were not to be trusted.

Later, one of his friends told me that just before he went to the sump fire, the man had railed at God for not stopping "this silly old rain and this silly old war!” Four days later, after both legs and his left arm were amputated, he died. He should have sought the Lord, for: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:” (Isaiah 55:6). For “. . . the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man . . .” (Genesis 6:3a).

Edward Lundwall Jr. is a retired Army Chaplain, endorsed by the GARBC, who first served as a home missionary with FBHM and then served as Chaplain 1967–1973. He now is a freelance writer. His books deal especially on Discipleship and the Local Church.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Rejoice While We Await His Return

Psalm 96:13 speaks of all creation rejoicing at the coming judgement. The idea of rejoicing and judgement are not usually connected in our minds, but they should be.

Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

God is a just Judge who will set all things right. The enemies of God will be put under the feet of the Son of God. The dawning of the kingdom will bring a cessation of crime, wars, plagues, oppression, arrogant boasting, famine, poverty, false religion, false prophets, antichrists, mental illness, demonic activity, and aberrant behaviors.

Before His majesty all the earth will remain silent. 

Angels will bow and declare His holiness.

The living and the dead will receive the rewards of their deeds.

For the one who trusts in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ the coming judgement is not to be feared. By His Blood we are cleansed from unrighteousness and reconciled to God. The judgement promises peace!

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it…" (Isaiah 25:8-9)

That judgement is coming is certain. Christians are warned “in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3). Yet no amount of opposition to the Gospel can thwart the saving power of God.

We are not to dwell on this or to become entangled in speculation about the events of the last days. We have work to do until that Great Day of the Lord. We are to abide daily in God's Word and serve Him in obedience. 

We are to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

We are to "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

We are to discern the true Light and be diligent in testing the spirits. “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist. (I John 4:2-3)

We are to love, especially those who have proven to belong to the Household of Faith. 

"Because of the multiplication of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved." (Matthew 24:12-13)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Meditation on the Holy Cross


Alice C. Linsley

On this day we honor or venerate the Holy Cross. Those who attend the liturgy will doubtless hear a sermon about how God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us. That is true.

Probably you will hear about the cross as an especially excruciating form of execution invented by the Romans. That is true. However, the efficacy of the Blood of Jesus does not rely on the existence of the Roman empire.

You may not hear about the power of the blood of Jesus to redeem, restore, heal, and reconcile. Sermons on the Blood of Jesus are now rarely heard in many liturgical churches.

Before he died at age 108, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri left a signed note indicating Messiah's identity: Yeshua - Jesus. A few months before, Kaduri had surprised his followers when he told them that he met the Messiah in dreams and visions. Kaduri's manuscripts, written in his own hand, have crosses drawn all over the pages. You probably won't hear about that in a sermon either.

There is also the fact that humans buried their dead in red ocher dust, a symbolic blood covering, for over 100,000 years. Blood and the hope of life after dead were clearly linked in the minds of those "primitive" peoples.

The typical pulpit narrative makes it sound as if the Blood of Jesus Messiah had no power to redeem until the Roman empire came into existence. Not so with the Church Fathers who considered Eden's Tree of Life a prefiguring of the Cross. No so among the early Hebrew who anticipated Messiah's death and third day resurrection.

Not so upon a closer reading of the Scriptures! The cross symbol and its significance predate the Romans by thousands of years. 

What is the cross? It is two bars crossed. Most images of the Cross show a horizontal bar and a vertical bar. Where have we read of that in the Hebrew Scriptures, in texts from long before the Romans?

The blood of the Passover associated with Moses has a parallel in the blood symbolism of the scarlet cord associated with Rahab. The blood smeared horizontally on the doors brought salvation to Jacob's house. The cord hanging vertically from Rahab's window brought salvation to her house.  

Consider then that the cross invented by the Romans was no surprise to the Eternal God.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Four Dimensions of Christian Ministry


“And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The individual Christian and the Body of Christ experience growth through an attitude of ministry. Ministry is the privileged work of the Church. It involves:

1. Proclamation, initiation by baptism, and formation in the fundamentals of the Faith.

2. Discipleship that encourages Bible study, prayer, regular attendance at worship, and endurance in the face of conflict, persecution, and worldly pressures.

3. Protection of and provision for the world's needy: orphans, prisoners, the poor, the sick, the abandoned, etc.

4. All ministry should be motivated by the sinner's love of Jesus Christ who died for all. There is no place for ego, personal kingdom building, or exhibitionism.

Focus on these four areas of ministry builds up the individual and the Body of Christ. Clergy and church councils should make these a priority.