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Monday, June 13, 2022

On God's Terms


Today many people consider all religions to be paths to God and all beliefs to be of equal authority. However, we come to God on God's terms or not at all.

What are those terms?

1. Recognition of our sinfulness and need for redemption.

"For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."  (Romans 3:22b-25)

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:5-9)

People do not want to believe because they do not want to give up sin. They prefer to argue with God in attempts to justify their sin. Yet God has pronounced that the penalty of sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

2. Acceptance of our need for spiritual cleansing and deliverance from slavery to fleshly desires. 

Peter told the crowd to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3)

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)

3. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Baptism represents agreement to God's terms and personal acceptance of a calling to love and serve as Christ loves and serves.

This is the mark of one who has entered into the fellowship of the Apostles who were commissioned to "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." (Matthew 28:19-20)

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

4. A commitment to grow through fellowship with the Faithful, obedience to the Word, and righteous accountability.

The love that pleases the Lord is expressed in obedience to his word. 

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3)

Related reading: Put Handles on Your FaithFormed and Informed by the Bible; God's Provisions for Victory

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Put Handles on Your Faith


Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

The Apostle Paul urges Christians to put on spiritual armor and to take up the sword of the Spirit. The armor passage from Ephesians 6 is familiar to most Christians. Pastor Ed Lundwall wonders if some people are carrying swords without handles?

Image trying to use an ax or a sword without a handle. Handles make those "handy" and effective implements. 

God has provided the Christian with several handles that help us grow in the faith, stand firm against opposition, and defend ourselves against attacks by the evil one.

The first handle is faith that justifies. This sort of faith brings the mind, body, and spirit into harmony through submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the faith that regards God's promises as certain. 1 John 5:4b reminds us that “this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.”

The second handle is the Holy Spirit that directs, encourages, and preserves the follower of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:30 states that we have been sealed for the day of redemption in the Holy Spirit.

The third handle is the Holy Scriptures which instruct, exhort, and correct the person of faith. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Monday, March 28, 2022

Predestination and Choice


Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Since the time of the early Church writers, choice has been upheld in tension with the biblical teaching of predestination. The writings of Augustine inform our understanding of how personal choice and predestination relate to each other. 

Augustine's writings reflect his early spiritual rebellion and conversion. As a youth, he was a Romanized North African “bad boy.” However, his Christian mother constantly prayed for him. Then he was completely “converted” and became one of the leading figures of the early Church. His conversion may be spoken of as predestined, but it still involved choice, in fact, many choices.

Christians who worry about whether they are predestined could learn from Augustine's spiritual journey. Everyone needs to hear an evangelistic message preached to experience conversion, even the predestined. One neighbor, a Primitive Baptist, said that they just spent their time trying to see if they were predestined to be an “elect.”

In his treatise “The City of God” Augustine contends that the nation of Israel sinned away its salvation and lost its covenant blessings, and that all these have been given to the Church. Many Church Fathers held a similar "replacement" or "supersessionist" view.

In the supersessionist view, the people of “the new covenant” (Christians) replace the people of “the old covenant” (Jews) as the people of God. Early texts used to support this view include the Epistle of Barnabas and Hebrews 8.

However, God is anxious that all should be saved and the old covenant versus new covenant dichotomy does not hinder the Holy Spirit from drawing yearning hearts to their Creator and Savior. The author of the book of Hebrews recognizes saints who lived before the Covenant with Israel: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Heb. 11).

Hebrews 11:6 makes this clear: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Noah had a choice to obey, being "warned by God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Heb. 11:6, 7) 

Those who believe God's promises and receive the Holy Spirit, are predestined to adoption through Jesus Christ, "according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5, 6)

Predestination relates to one's status before God. Choice opens the door to blessings and salvation.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Crucified Lifestyle

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Jesus said to his disciples, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

It is one thing to embrace a concept, but it is another to practice it as a lifestyle. Belonging to Christ requires following Him according to His Word (John 10:27) and patterning one's life after his servanthood.

He gave his life for the world, an ultimate act of service. Those who follow Him must also give their lives in service to others. This means setting aside selfish behaviors, denying the impulse to impress others, showing compassion to the suffering, and attending to the material needs of those in want. The crucified lifestyle involves dying to the sinful nature and replacing it with the life Jesus offers. 

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. Paul strikes the contrast: "for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow wickedness, there will be wrath and anger." (Romans 2:8) Galatians 5:21 says "that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Our sinful ways bring much pain if not restrained. Those who come to love Jesus discover that He is the way of life. Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b).

All life finds its expression gradually, from crying for its mother’s milk to becoming an adult. We are continually learning, practicing, and adjusting choices.

Each phase of life has its own functions and desires and must be trained, that is, brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. Our rebellious nature resists replacement by the life Jesus Christ offers. To live the new life requires a crucified experience. The cross brings death in a most humiliating way. 1 Peter 5:6 says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

Lucifer deceives Eve and uses her to make Adam join her in disobedience against God's command. The result is death, for sin brings death. Paul expresses the angst of our condition: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

God in love gives a means of redemption in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Through Him alone we are able to exchange the old life for the new. It is God's will that each “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:23-25)

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Thursday, January 6, 2022

A Call to Renewal

The Christmas star lighted the wise men’s hearts
showing the way to Bethlehem’s stall
to view the newborn King.
They honored Him with their treasures,
gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We honor Him for setting us free from sin.

Let us seek the Eternal One,
His life to receive
that in the joy of His presence
we may worship Him in wonder and praise.

As they of long ago shared the glorious news
that Christ the King has come 
we too rejoice that He will come again.

May the Lord who sent angels 
to humble shepherds in a field
and a star for wise men to guide,
call us at this holy season to behold Jesus anew,
and offer treasures from hearts in which He dwells.

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Epiphany 2022

Friday, December 24, 2021

A Blessed Nativity Feast

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.

May the birth of the Lord Jesus be cause for great celebration. Christ is born. Glorify Him!

Christmas greetings from Ed, Hope and Alice.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Advent and the Second Coming


Alice C. Linsley

The season of Advent prepares us for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Messiah, known as the "Feast of the Nativity." Advent also prepares us for the twelve days of Christmas. The twelve days are not observed as they should be. We are in a hurry to rush on. There is the New Year's revelry to draw our attention away from the long-awaited incarnation of the Son of God.

The Advent Scriptures typically allude to His second coming also. At His nativity, the Son of God comes to earth as a vulnerable infant. However, at His second coming He comes in power to judge the world. John 5:22 says, "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son." 

Jesus will come again to save those who have been eagerly awaiting His return (Hebrews 9:28). Titus 2:13 speaks of the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ as our "blessed hope."

Those who are "in Christ" are eager to be with Him because "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:20)

Many have expectations of events happening in a certain order. There are numerous end times scenarios, some of them escapist fictions. The end times have become an obsession for some Christians, and a distraction from the work we are to be doing until He arrives.

I remember meeting with an anxious child who was afraid that he would be "left behind" when his parents were raptured. His fear was stoked by his parents' obsession with fictional narratives about the rapture, the mark of the beast, and the torment of souls by the Antichrist. Apparently, this anxiety was experienced by the Thessalonians because Paul found it necessary to write this: "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)

Advent, Christmas, and the Second Coming should be taken seriously, but they should not be the cause of fear. Fear is the stock-in-trade of the Devil, not the Lord Jesus. As John reminds us "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear..." (1 John 4:18)

As we approach Christmas, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Let us be the joyful, fearless people He enables us to be.