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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Disciple's Self Concept, Conclusion

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Why The Disciple's Self Concept Motivates Achievement

1. Becoming a Disciple Is God's Will. 
“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

While there are many good reasons for other self concepts, the disciple's self concept has the compelling force of being God's will. When accepted as a no option conviction, no other self concept has a greater priority. Consequently, a functioning disciple's self concept thrusts the disciple through every door the Lord opens.

2. A Ruling Self Concept
In actuality, people have many self concepts. They have them in regard to their education, occupation, family, sexuality, social status, etc. Since self concepts are roles in their life contexts, they can be contradictory one to another. It has often been observed that many live one way in Church and quite another in their business, school or social circles. These roles can to be separate compartments for motivation and conduct, each having its own expectations: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do!"

Since consistency has the virtue of generating trust with those we must relate to, the question must be asked: What can create consistency? What can keep a person from temporary conformity, "going with the flow?" Or being as a leaf in the wind, responding to whatever circumstances may be stronger. The answer comes from the authority that a person responds to, thereby establishing a self concept. If a person has only the authority of whatever circumstance he is in, then the role he plays will vary according to the circumstance. If the authority extends over many circumstances, that is how far the directing self concept will go, and no farther. 
When a person receives a God given self concept, he will be as consistent as long as he keeps asking: "What must I do to be as God wants me?" The disciple's self concept goes one step further, it calls for constant study to develop with the help of God given teachers. So accepting the Christian disciple's self concept as God’s command will continually motivate maturing the regenerated life God gives (Matt 10:38, 39; John 8:31–36). If the disciple accepts the fact of the Lord as being present everywhere, and the supreme authority, then his disciple’s self concept rules over every other. Then the disciple’s self concept becomes a ruling self concept.

3. Fulfillment Comes From God's Resources And The Disciple's Stewardship

So, the power to become a progressing disciple comes by relying upon the power of God. I can answer the question: "Who am I?" with: "I am a disciple by the power of God!" With this foundational perspective, the disciple can have confidence to respond to all that God has provided to promote spiritual growth, especially the disciple's life style. 
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21

a. The Resource of the Holy Spirit
“. . we all, with open face beholding as in a glass 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 3:18

This verse specifically speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit as the effectual resource for making the character change of making us bear the image and likeness of Christ (Rom 8:28, 29). The condition is that the believer “with open face” (a full open mindedness) to “behold . . . the glory (obvious worthiness) of the Lord. . .” This in turn leads to how does he behold God’s glory?

Since the Lord commanded discipling as His method of engendering His revelation into believers (Matt 28:18–20), His disciple can expect the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. For His Spirit effects the changes acted upon by obedience of faith (Rom 1:5). 

In the Lord Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, He said: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) While we like to think of His teaching ministry as some thing personal in our spirit’s functions of communion, conscience and intuition, yet in God’s ways and the unity of the Body of Christ works through the spiritually gifted (Eph 4:11–16). These people disciple the immature not only by the knowledge that they have learned, but by the character they model (Heb 5:12; 13:7, 17). 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How an Adopted Self Concept Functions

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

As a frame of reference, one's self concept functions to measure progress. What one adopts as his self concept determines what he is and by anticipation what he is becoming as long as one holds that self concept. The nature of the choice of self concept whether of a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, sinner or disciple is like the double choice of ship and voyage. The nature of the ship determines the capabilities of the voyage. Yet, the ship must go according to a route plotted on the map for the voyage to be made. By consciously embracing a self concept, a motivating and measuring meditation begins an ongoing inventory by continually asking:

"Am I progressing as the doctor, lawyer, etc, that I have chosen to picture myself?"

"Am I making grades according to the kind of student I consider acceptable for me?"

"Am I growing as the disciple that is acceptable to Christ?"

First Question

How do you answer the question "Who am I?" Your answer determines your role, how you live, how you relate to others, etc. 

If I have the self concept of a doctor, I must perform the role of a doctor. For that is my frame of reference. The reality upon which spiritual self concepts are built are God's promises and commandments. So contrary to natural self concepts built upon visible things, spiritual life is built upon the realms of faith. The things that are not, begin their existence as faith reckons: "I am Christ’s disciple as the will of God. Therefore, I am oriented to act as His disciple."

Of first priority, the disciple's self concept affects one's moral life in the nature of one's world view. Christ’s disciple’s citizenship is in Heaven as a subject in God's Kingdom (Col 3:1–4). Satan controls the World system (Eph 2:1–3), so as Jesus disciple, he must consider himself to be an alien (1 Peter 2:11). God's purpose for Christians in the World is to be witnesses and missionaries in God's program of calling out a people for His Name. Since the committed disciple is saved and in the World, but must consider the world system to be a seducing enemy (1 John 2:15–17). As a spiritual Christian his self concept rejects the temptations of the World and the flesh. A spiritual self concept orients the disciple to seek for spiritual stimulation and to refuse to be occupied with sinful excitement (Rom 8:2–5; Ps 1:1–3). Further, this self concept also vitally affects the development of spiritual service. Similarly, a conservative Republican seeks resources to strengthen his orientation, and has no interest in the solicitations of Communist and liberal recruiters.

Further, an adopted self concepts remain healthy, if they are adopted with a view to being developed (answering the second question). Without understanding that a self concept has the purpose of motivating development, progress becomes frustrated. Sadly, many identify themselves with spiritual men and their ministries without distinguishing themselves from those with whom they identify. If these spiritual leaders have adopted discipling methods, they will help their followers to adopt self concepts to know their spiritual levels and condition.

Spiritual leaders need to know whether those, who look to them, need discipling as beginners, or are mature enough to learn in serving as Faithfuls or Timothies (Timothy 2:2). They also need to understand what their spiritual adjustment needs are. Both the discipler and the disciple need to understand whether their motivations are edifying or to compensate for maladjustment. For instance, some might want to become discipling workers because they are trying to compensate for poor self acceptance, or for a guilty conscience, or to gain "the right kind of friends," or for business contacts, etc.
The Corinthian Church furnishes many illustrations. They had arrogant carnality (1 Cor 3:1-8). This spiritual condition neglected basic orientations. For they became proud over, not so much their own accomplishments, but by identifying themselves with Paul, Apollos or Peter. They drew their sense of self worth by identification with these leaders and by discounting others. They were like children bragging about whose father was the best fighter. They stopped progressing themselves, if they made much perceived progress, they became embroiled in artificially generated conflicts. As a discipling teacher, the Apostle Paul led them to know themselves, i.e. what their spiritual condition was. Along with this, he pictured what their goals as believing disciples SHOULD BE.

If a self concept does not generate directional goals, much frustration, conflict, irrationality, failure and despair will result. Yet frustration can press one's self concept either to adjust itself or to adopt goals to relieve the pain or abandon that self concept. Therefore, a disciple's self concept motivates learning realism, goals and relationships with discipling teachers to find fulfillment and relieve or avoid frustration.

Second Question

From the time of adopting a self concept, the individual asks himself: "What must I do to be as I contemplate myself?" This question works out of the first and defining question. This second question implements the demands of the first of "Who am I?" This question motivates the disciple to continually achieve more and greater fulfillment. Thereby, God's commands and resources become blessed helps of direction. They both answer and direct effort to effect answers to both questions. However, if I am just adopting the self concept of a doctor, I must look for a medical school or a if I have finished my schooling, I must look for a practice. As a disciple, I must look for a mentor to disciple me, and in this relationship I must learn as an apprentice (a synonym of disciple).

The believer saying to oneself: "I am a disciple!" continually must speak to himself, "As a disciple, I count it a privilege to do what God says disciples do." So then the disciple must meditate upon God's standards, promises and resources. For if a person doesn't have a mobilizing self concept as a disciple, God's standards and resources will not be used effectively. Then, they will be thorns of self reproach instead of blessed helps to find fulfillment in God's commands.

The second question really is asking: "What must I do to be as I count myself to be?" Therefore, this principle is at the very heart of discipling (Matt 28:18-20; Eph 4:1). For this creates the basic drive that motivates him to be faithful, available and teachable. These qualities give life to the teacher-disciple relationship. For the teacher's ministry becomes effective in those who accept it as a part of their disciple's frame of reference. Then he receives the full benefit of the teaching. For the discipling teacher can more efficiently add his greater knowledge and coaching to help his disciple apply the Word. By receiving teaching to observe all that Christ commanded, the disciple progresses in the disciple's calling of experiencing the new life (Luke 9:23, 24) and of reproducing disciples. He becomes the person which he aspired to become when he embraced the disciple's self concept.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Disciple's Self Concept, Part 2

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

"You'll have to show me more than your marriage certificate!"

From the lack of life style change, the questioner perceived that the lady has not changed her self concept. Being a wife has not yet become the way she thinks of herself. How many marriages have failed because the partners have not adopted self concepts from God's Word?

As a changed self concept is crucial to marriage, so it is critical to becoming a progressing disciple. The purpose of making disciples is to change lives (Matt 28:20; 10:1--3, 39). Without growing in the soil of a disciple's self concept, will one's life produce, abundant mature fruit (John 15:1–8) or only a few green apples (Luke 8:14)?

A teacher of a well, known disciple making organization interrupted his lecture with a confession. He confessed that he didn't understand why many of his students did not sign up for sequential courses. They said that they benefit from his basic course! Further discussion indicated that he had neglected leading his students to adopt a disciple's self concept. He had enriched them spiritually, but had not motivated them to live as disciples.

The formation and function of a self concept come from a life person's context by choice or by inherent necessity. For instance, we CAN CHOOSE Christ and conceive of ourselves as Christ’s disciple. We must accept ourselves as residents of our country. One is a deliberate choice. The latter is simply recognition. The former choice was a deliberate act of faith. In spite of opposition or reluctance, we will make these decisions from pressure, from status, from desire or from God's promises.

Self concept depends more upon the internal environment a person CHOOSES, i.e. what role does he choose to play on their physical and social stage. Because a person frequently lives life in several subcultures such as home, work, school, political parties, social associations and religion, that one usually has several self concepts. Some of these may contradict each other, but one may govern the others. A person's governing self concept is his orientation over his combined areas of living.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Disciple's Self Concept, Part 1

Edward F. Lundwall Jr.

"Six months after you got married; and you haven't changed your name or address yet?!"

"You'll have to show me more than your marriage certificate!"

From the lack of life style change, the questioner perceived that the lady has not changed her self concept. Being a wife has not yet become the way she thinks of herself. In her thinking patterns she was still single. How many marriages have failed because the partners have not adopted self concepts from God's Word. They just don't know how to picture themselves in this role.

As a changed self concept is crucial to marriage, so it is critical to becoming a progressing disciple. The purpose of making disciples is to change disciples' lives (Matt 28:20; 10:1--3, 39). Why is the disciple's self concept so important? How does it function in changing one's life? Self concept assumes its importance by internalizing motivation. Therefore, it is a critical priority in discipling relationships. Can SUSTAINED CHANGE occur without embracing the disciple's self concept? Without growing in the soil of a disciple's self concept, will one's life produce, abundant mature fruit (John 15:1–8) or only a few green apples (Luke 8:14)?

A teacher of a well, known disciple making organization interrupted his lecture with a confession. He confessed that he didn't understand why many of his students did not sign up for sequential courses. They said that they benefitted from his basic course! Further discussion indicated that he had neglected leading his students to adopt a disciple's self concept. He had enriched them spiritually, but had not motivated them to live as disciples. Like the new bride's husband, he hadn't led them to change their self concept. Their class was like a passionate kiss without culminating in a working marriage.

Definition: What, then, is a self concept? 
A person's self concept is WHAT he thinks of himself in his life's roles, i.e. his self portrait in the center of his circumstances.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ten Commandments for Abundant Living

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10

1.   Prayer is not a "spare tire" 
that you pull out when in trouble, 
but it is a "steering wheel" 
that directs the right path throughout.

2. Why a car's windshield is so large
and the rear view mirror is so small? 
For our past is not as important as our future. 
So, look ahead and move on.

3.  Friendship is like a book. 
It takes a few seconds to burn,
but takes years to write.

4.  All things in life are temporary. 
If going well, enjoy it, 
they will not last forever. 
If going wrong, don't worry, 
they can't last long either.

5. Old friends are gold! 
New friends are diamonds!
If you get a diamond, don’t forget the gold!
For a diamond needs a setting of gold!

6. Often when we lose hope 
and think this is the end, 
God smiles from above and says, 
"Relax sweet heart, it's just a bend not the end!

7.  When GOD solves your problems,
you have faith in His abilities; 
when God doesn't solve your problems 
HE has faith in your abilities.

8. A blind person asked St. Anthony: 
"Can there be anything worse 
than losing eyesight?" 
His reply: "Yes, losing your vision!"

9. When you pray for others,
God listens to you and blesses them. 
Sometimes, when you are safe and happy, 
remember that someone prayed for you.

10. Worrying does not take away tomorrow's troubles, 
it takes away today's peace.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The War That Builds The Temple

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

What a joy the people of Israel will have when God defeats the hordes of Israel's enemies drawn up against them. There'll be a time of rejoicing much like when God destroyed the Egyptian armies trying to recapture them. For the first time in hundreds of years they will have no fear of taking down the Mosque of Omar on the Temple Mount. For their enemies have no strength left against them.

As Moses and Miriam led the people of Israel in rejoicing over the greatness of their deliverance from the Egyptian armies (Exodus 51:1-21), so shall the whole nation of Israel rejoice as they contemplate how great a deliverance the Lord has given them. As they bury the enemy bodies with praise, they will build the Temple with joy. They will lay a stone with praise and place each timber and curtain with wonder. As they install the brazen altar and the brazen laver, they will do it with a mixture of remorse for their sins and enjoy the sense of forgiveness. As they place the Ark of the Covenant into the Holy of Holiest, a great sense of awe and holiness will come upon them. They will pray for God's holiness to fill the Temple. Then as they install the furniture of the holy place, they will relish the thought of a mosaic system of worship about to be restored to them as in the days of old.

Leaders need to have a great need to add a great note of caution to the people. For throughout the history of Israel, after great events have happened to Israel, two things regularly happened:

1. They forgot the dedication to the Law and Prophets because they did not keep them in mind to govern their lives; 
2. Their enemies led by Satan would attack them again.

For in Daniel 9:25, 26, God reveals a prophetic time of 70 weeks of years ". . to bring in everlasting righteousness, . . " (Dan 9:24). These weeks of years are divided into several periods of time. Each set of weeks will have its own events. The first period of time will be concerning the rebuilding of the Temple under Ezra and Nehemiah. The second period deals with the coming and death of Messiah (Dan 9:26a), the third period deals with an evil prince who will cause the oblation and sacrifices to cease and the destruction of Jerusalem (Dan 9:26b, 27). 

In Jeremiah 30:7, the Lord speaks of a future time of Jacob's trouble of extreme difficulty that will precede the eternal state of blessedness. This is also spoken of Zechariah 13 and in chapter 14, the LORD's final deliverance and establishment of the Kingdom age. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Levels of Forgiveness

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

As a person leaves prison, unless he understands the levels of his release, he will live in uncertainty! For there are many levels of prisoners release!

There is the full release because new evidence proves his innocence. In which, he not only knows that everyone can now considers him never to have been guilty! Further, the government may compensate him for the time he spent in prison.

Then, there is release because of a pardon. With a pardon, even though he may have been guilty of a crime, he is restored to a condition of full citizenship. He can live as if he had never been guilty. But if the pardon was granted based upon certain conditions that could possibly void his new freedom.
Then, there is the release of probation. Probation is most often granted because of good conduct and confidence that some how his character has been changed. But this release, is very conditional. The man may have to regularly report to a parole officer. If he does not, he may again be imprisoned, especially if he violates certain conditions, like renewing friendships with criminals or a number of other prohibition.

The release on other grounds may be on several bases, such as a shortening of the length of his sentence. This maybe because of conditions, such as a prisoner release because of over prison crowding and a lack of other prison space. But he will still be considered some kind of convict, which will deprive him of many privileges.

Therefore, a clear understanding of the conditions of his release is necessary for the released man to both know what they are to live as good a life as possible.

The same need is found in spiritual forgiveness. There has been and still is a need to understand the kind of forgiveness people experience or can experience. Over the decades, there has been different degrees of forgiveness people can experience. These are offered by the various world religions and even in the various Christian teachings.

Human beings are created to be religious! Teaching about what is sin and forgiveness in the world’s religions are like a game of bingo, people never know what will be proposed.

Confusion in regard to forgiveness is found even in the midst of those who hold that the Bible is the sole rule of faith and practice. Some teach that forgiveness from eternal punishment is eternal, but others teach that it is conditioned upon maintaining necessary works and faith, others teach that it is a part of a predestined salvation.

The Bible, like God, is not the source of this confusion. One of the chief problems of the spiritual life for God’s people has always been remembering what God has given, especially in times of prosperity. In the Apostolic Church, this is the reason many of the Epistles were written. To meet especially this need, the Epistles of Hebrews and 1 John were written. Besides physical and social prosperity, a number of other factors aggravated confusion or understandings. Far too many let both tradition, poor systems of interpretation, and idealism to muddy clear understandings. There is evidence that even pagan practices have corrupted the teachings and practice of a number of very old denominations. Alexander Hislop exposes much of this in his book, The Two Babylons.

In Scripture, forgiveness is accorded not just to individuals, but to groups such as nations, families, and other groups, such as political parties and social organizations. But of most importance are levels of forgiveness in the overriding experience of seeking salvation.

The effects and application of salvation need to be kept in mind for there are tenses of spiritual salvation:

There is the past tense of salvation focusing on forgiveness of the penalty of sin.
While the present tense of salvation has to do with the overcoming sin as a practice.
Finally, the future tense of salvation is from the presence of sin when the individual passes into eternity.

In understanding forgiveness, there is need to understand that there are levels according to the character of those needing it.

Further, the state of grace and opportunity with the recipient must not be confused with forgiveness. In grace, God frequently does not execute judgement at a given time because He is giving people time to be reconciled to Him. This is seen most pointedly in the cases of those before the Flood and the Canaanites before the Exodus. In regard to the preflood people, He said: “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, . .” (Gen 6:3). And about the Canaanites, He said: “. . the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen 15:16). Even in the New Testament, people are warned not to postpone experiencing personal forgiveness:

“. . now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2).
In the idealism of evangelical outreach, most preach that regeneration, the state of permanent forgiveness, is experienced when a person responds to “the altar call” and/or prays “the sinners prayer.” Romans 10:13 is cited:

“. . for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." Repentance and regenerating faith are presumed, but in the context it is written: “. . for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, . .” (Rom 10:10). It is not emphasized that the “call” must include enough faith to give a progressing transforming experience. Without this many “converts”are disappointed, when they don’t live changed lives. There is wonderment of just what happened and whether salvation and forgiveness can be lost.

Jesus words are neglected when He said: “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. .” (Luke 13:3). And, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, . .” (2 Cor 7:10).

The Lord Jesus made it clear that prayer without a change in life does not save when He said: “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. 22 " 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?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'” (Matt 7:21-23).

To avoid this experience, of vain religious practices, the Lord Jesus instructs the reader that one’s life must be oriented as a disciple who builds his life upon the solid foundation of the precepts of His Word.

In my experience, the Lord Jesus counsel to new believers is seldom, it ever used! He said that assurance of real salvation is dependent upon faith enough to produce victory over one’s practice of sin as a lifestyle:
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 They answered Him, " We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:31-36).
In Romans 7 & 8, the Apostle Paul relates how the experience of full victory over enslavement to sin can be had. He teaches that sin can be overcome by a faith dependant process of trusting in an ongoing dependance on the Lord Jesus. Deliverance comes through attending on the Holy Spirit’s ministry of keeping our minds focused upon the Holy Spirit’s teaching about Christ:

“. . there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Rom 8:2).

The Apostle describes this progressive ministry in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory (i.e., the obvious worthwhileness) of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Forgiveness before regeneration
There is a great need to understand this concept to eliminate so much confusion in professed believer’s experience and in avoiding the shallowness of those who respond to evangelistic appeals.
Christ’s parable of the Sower of God’s Word (Matt 13:3-9, 23-18) teaches four types of experiences in those who in some way are exposed to the Word’s presentation. In three instances, the individuals make responses.

The one has great rejoicing over the experience, but does not endure, He does not let the Word give him strength and character to endure the trials of life.

The next does not keep worldly things from distraction enough to produce fruit. Thereby, they show that they do not have a vital abiding relationship with Christ (John 15:1-16). This is the case of a majority of Christians who can be described as simply having their ears tickled and can only look forward to being rebuked as slothful stewards before Christ’s Judgement Seat (Luke 19:20-26; 1 Cor 3:10-15).

The who let the Word grow in his life produces much fruit in character and service and can look forward to a rejoicing in this life and especially in the life to come!

In the case of the “stony ground” person, his initial rejoicing can be argued that he experienced some kind of forgiveness, for why did he “with joy receive” the Word? Yet did not experience being born again as he “fell away!” For 1 John 3:9, 10, says that spiritual rebirth makes a permanent radical change even “. . does (practices) the will of My Father who is in heaven . .” (Matt 7:21). And, the Lord Jesus requires true disciples to “. . deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, 24).

This concept that there is a forgiveness before regeneration is clearly seen in the Old Testament: “'The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, . .” (Ezek 33:12). For Israelis in general whenever they sinned, repentance and a sin offering must be made.
This agrees with the parable of the Sower.

That there can be forgiveness before regeneration explains the logical contradiction between the view that regeneration happens instantly with initial faith and such admonitions to believers that they need to apply God’s promises: “. . His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, . .” (2 Peter 1:4).

And: “. . be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; . .” (2 Peter 1:10).

And, “. . whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, . .” (Matt 18:6).
That people can have an initial forgiveness and not be born again is clearly stated in 2 Peter 2:20-22:
“For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, " A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."

Notice the wording that indicates an initial forgiven state in: “. . after they have escaped the defilement of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, . .”, but with the words describing their natures as “DOG” and “sow” showing that they had not been born again. For rebirth is:
“. . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor 5:18 NKJV).

And, many other verses used by those who don’t believe in the security of the believer.

Forgiveness in regeneration

This appears most clearly in two passages in the Old Testament. As it was cited earlier concerning a forgiven state without regeneration in Ezekiel 33:12: “'The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, . .” This one is considered in Scripture as “righteous”, i.e., in a state of forgiveness, i.e., . But when he sins his forgiven state must be renewed by repentance and a sin offering.

But when God speaks of Solomon, He speaks of him as “ son” to Himself: “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 kind-ness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, . .”(2 Sam 7:14, 15).

The status as a “son” is a purpose of receiving Christ for New Testament believers (John 1:12). In this state, there is no longer a need for forgiveness for the guilt and punishment of sins. For because Christ’s life in His substitutionary death for sins, paid for sins’ guilt and punishment, forgiveness was complete.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:21).

This is the Gospel, the good news, of full forgiveness of sins: “. . the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, . .” (1 Cor 15:1-5).

His death paid for the wages of sin: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23). Therefore, the Lord Jesus described the true believer’s condition:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24).
The Apostle Paul fully describes the true believers state:

“Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” (Rom 8:33, 34).

So for the born again, since Jesus intercedes there is no way that He will condemn as He will the unforgiven at the last judgement, the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-15).

Forgiveness for the true believer, the born again

The Apostle John wrote his Gospel for the purpose that the reader might know that Jesus is the God sent Messiah for the Jews and the Savior concerning sin for all (John 20:31). He writes in 1 John so that immature believers might know if they have been born again and have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
The question comes concerning the born again, since he will no longer be judged concerning the punishment for the guilt of his sins, how does he need forgiveness for the sins that he occasionally commits?

In 1 John 1, he teaches that believers will only occasionally sin and how through acknowledging and confessing that sin maybe restored to fellowship with God (vs 6-10).

But in other passages, God’s Word relates that in the process of the Christian life, God has a definite sanctifying purpose, that is, to develop our character (Rom 8:28, 29; James 1:2, 3).

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” (Heb 12:7-10).

In conclusion, concerning the levels of forgiveness, the believer that is not yet born again needs forgiveness to maintain a state of righteousness before God and not suffer judgement of eternal punishment. The born again needs forgiveness to maintain fellowship with God and to receive blessing and fruitfulness in his life as a child of God.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

John Stott on Discipleship

John Stott

John Stott's public ministry is well respected worldwide. He mentored the succession of young curates who assisted him at All Souls Church in Central London. Stott was mentored by the Reverend Eric Nash, known affectionately as “Bash” who touched the lives of many young Christian leaders in England.

Mentoring is about making disciples into leaders for the Church. According to Stott, "We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”

He wrote, "Social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbor.”

Stott believes that transformation of the individual is evidence that Jesus Chris is alive. He wrote, "Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection.”

God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?”-- John Stott

Related reading:  Dwight L. Moody on Discipleship; Charles H. Spurgeon on Discipleship; Billy Graham on Discipleship; Oswald Chambers on DiscipleshipEvelyn Underhill on Discipleship; A.W. Tozer on Discipleship; C.S. Lewis on Discipleship; Archbishop Michael Ramsey on Discipleship

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Perfect Benefits of Jesus’ Burial

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

In all the preaching I have heard in the 72 years since I came to faith, extremely little has been expounded concerning the perfect benefits of Jesus’ burial.

While His burial is included in the Gospel message (1 Cor 15:1-4), little more is said about it, except that His burial was a part of the evidence He really died. This was a great concern for the Jewish leaders that His body should stay in the tomb. Better than His followers, they remembered Jesus saying He would rise from the dead. To this end, they not only had an extremely heavy stone put on His tomb’s opening, but sealed it. The seal was to make it a crime to move the stone if the Roman seal was broken. Breaking the seal would be an offense against the authority of Rome, which was a capitol punishment. To make it even doubly certain, they had a Roman guard posted to at keep the body secure until decomposition began. It was a Jewish belief that the soul had not fully departed until then (John 11:39).

His burial was an experience that would always be remembered. Grief and mourning were much more a custom in those days than it is today. They even had professional mourners to help carry on the weeping and whaling for as much as a month. This was especially so, when it was a particularly important person who died! For the disciples and close followers, this was especially so. For they were not persuaded that Jesus mission was primarily to accomplish the propitiation for sins (1 John 2:2). They did not perceive that the establishment of the promised Messianic Kingdom could only come after national spiritual conversion (Acts 3:17-21; Zech 12:10-15).

Their weeping and mourning was not just because they had lost a Person they had loved. But their Kingdom hopes had perished with Him (Luke 24:21). Particularly, the women close to Him grieved. They alone, except for John, had spent hours watching Him die. Especially Mary Magdalene was completely consumed, because He had cast seven devils out of her (Mark 16:9). Jesus had given her emotional and body life, great peace, and hope. Because of this, she had an abundant life. Her life was full of purpose, she had the great satisfaction of helping Jesus in His great ministry. Seeing Him as the promised Person that might bring in the long hoped for and cherished Kingdom of God promised to King David and all Israel. Her great hopes were agonizingly lost as she saw His life drain out of Him on the Cross. With the rest of the lady disciples, now even their hope of caring for His body was gone. The tomb was empty! Her heart and body was so full of despair and grief, it blinded her, even when she saw Him and heard Him ask her why she was weeping, until He called her by name: Mary. Then, she experienced a complete emotional transformation, from absolute grief to unspeakable joy, which none other will ever experience, as a much loved hymn said.

They could never forget those 3 days of despair. It was such a real experience that they could not come out of it, except by handling His body and touching His wounds (John 20:25) even until they watched Him eat some fish and honey comb (Luke 24:42).

Today, when far too many people are more occupied with dying Easter eggs for egg hunts, and family gatherings, than to give much attention to His burial. Few sermons, if any, speak of the blessedness of how His burial can have present benefits. Yet, there is great benefit, if it can be understood to get peace and victory over sin.

As with faith reckoning Jesus death and resurrection can give a transformed spiritual life, so can identifying with His burial give help in experiencing the overcoming life! However, it must be a personal act, as a definite faith reckoning and self identification with His burial! “Likewise you also, reckon (count) yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom 6:11).

And: “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;” (2 Tim 2:11).

So, what are the benefits of His burial that can be ours, if we reckon His burial into our experience. The fundamental benefit is to reckon these cancelled sins were carried into His burial. So this is the place of freedom by faith reckoning for God make it a means of peace.

For some, with a consciousness of deep and multiple sins in their past life, it is a near absolute necessity. I have helped more than two suicidal men to find peace by seeing the greatness of Jesus' death for their overwhelming guilt and defeat.

In the days of much warfare and fighting, many soldiers are haunted by combat experiences. The greatly increased suicide rate of soldiers is proof that remembrances of their violent experiences can torment them to a breaking point. This does not only apply to them, but to those who have gotten forgiveness from God, but are not free from their own terrible memories.

For some have lived a very wicked and violent life before conversion. When they are converted are tormented by just how bad their lives were, they cannot get free of the memories. What they took pleasure in then now, became great evil and tormenting haunting memories. So that they feel compelled to punish themselves, even by trying to commit suicide. Even the Apostle Paul painfully remembered his past evil deeds:

“I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;” (Gal 1:13). Until he found the spiritual secret of the new life in Christ, he had great distress: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24).

These knew forgiveness, but past memories, distressed them greatly. Only when they applied the Gospel in the new living relationship did they find peace: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”(Gal 2:20).

The greatness of God’s forgiveness is described in several places in Scripture: “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”(Ps 103:12).

When conversion is manifested in a new life, these are words of assurance, even in the Old Testament times: “All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.” (Ezek 18:22).

And: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin." (Rom 4:7, 8 NKJV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24).

If believer’s sins are payed for in Jesus death on the cross, what benefit can be experienced from His burial?

In burying a person or thing, the purpose is not to have to have it present, to have to deal with the body or thing. In warfare, where a great number are killed, especially of the enemy, a trench dug by a bulldozer and then pushed the bodies in and covered them up. I saw this in my tour in Vietnam, after a great number of the enemy were kill as they had assaulted our fire support base, Mahone 2. Their bodies were just put into the trench and covered up! There was no ceremony as they were just those who were trying to kill us.

Also, in a video news report about what was found in a liberated concentration camp where the terrible murderous Nazi’s had killed thousands, in this concentration death camp! The Nazis killed many by just letting their prisoners starve to death. There were row after row of the poor victims just laying in the open. There were so many that they had to be buried just to avoid disease, if for no other reason. It tore my heart to see the bodies of these victims just pushed into a huge trench by a bulldozer. Sometimes these mass burials were later exhumed for a better burial in family plots, if there were any of their families left alive.

The basic purpose of burial of anything, especially dead bodies, was to no longer be occupied with it. With the Jews, the body was only left in the tomb until all the flesh rotted away. Then the bones were taken out and put into a stone box. If the dead were prosperous enough, the box was put into a place for family members. In many other countries, after the dead’s family were gone, who cared for the grave cite, the bones were taken up and thrown into an open pit. This was to make room in certain cemeteries for other bodies. For people as a whole, the cemeteries were used for other purposes. I remember seeing this many years ago in Mexico. This was the case with the founder of the US Navy, John Paul Jones. About a century later, Theodore Roosevelt wanted to raise the profile of our Navy by having his body interred at the Naval Academy. Jones’ body was buried in France and was disregarded so much that it was under the pavement of a parking lot. It is a wonder that the French had historical records adequate to find where it was located. The point is, the purpose of burial is to put away something so that it could not to be involved with.

So what spiritual benefit does God have for us to make it listed as a part of the Gospel that has any continuing spiritual benefit in the believer’s life?

For many, Jesus’ burial only reminds people that He really died. After all, after He was crucified even having a spear thrust into His body, how could anyone believe that He could have not died? In our day, it is common knowledge, there is a necessity for medical emergency teams to race to try to keep a severely injured person from breathing one’s last! How could those who have professed that Jesus only went into a coma even propose this idea that He could have survived and lived out a normal life. This is what fiction writers like Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, suggested, even asserted. It grieves me to remember an army medic in my outfit, had lost his faith and was killed. He had read and believed another novel, The Passover Plot. Also, a good number of Muslim Imams have asserted either it was not Jesus who was crucified or that He survived. The wanted to negate the power of the Gospel.

However, as important as validating the reality of Jesus’ death is, what other benefit does God have for the believer? As mentioned earlier, “So, what are the benefits of His burial that can be ours, if we reckon His burial into our experience.”

One of the greatest things about our heavenly Father is His ability to forgive and forget believer’s sins!

When sins are confessed, God’s treatment of Israel furnishes a great illustration.

“O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
22 "I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.” (Isa 44:21c, 22).

Again: “So great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103:11,12).

Since this is true for the forgiven godly, how does Jesus’ burial function as THE PLACE where God’s forgetfulness resides! Jesus’ cross accomplished the payment of sin’s guilt and punishment, but in Jesus’ burial His memory of these canceled sins find their resting place. As it was pointed out, the cross is the instrument of death. When death is accomplished, the results are put into the grave. As the believer trusts Jesus death as payment by faith reckoning, so by faith reckoning, he should identify with Jesus burial as a part of the Gospel. So should he reckon Jesus burial as God’s place of where God no longer deals with the accountability of sin! "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Heb 10:17). So as the believer makes Jesus’ death his payment for sin, so he can make Jesus’ burial his resting place from the memory of his sin’s demands. The reason? Sin finds its home in the sinner’s body by which the memory continually haunts him. This needs to be done even by the know so forgiven, as the Apostle Paul testifies: “. . waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am!” (Rom 7:23-24a).

If the believer will reckoned Christ’s burial as the place where God makes the memory of cancelled sins remain, then the believer NEEDS TO make Jesus burial the burial of his troubling memories stay!

In light of the reports of believers letting sin’s memory even drive them to suicide, this precept can save them. I know this, because I have helped several, considering suicide find peace and an additional reason to lift their troubled hearts in praise to God, who forgets.

Thereby they can enter into new life as Jesus did from His resurrection. Faith reckoning of union with Jesus’ resurrection is making a life style of utilizing our body’s functioning to a new life perspective to: “. . present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Rom 6:13b).

Additional benefits

The lifestyle of living under sin’s solicitation and the resultant struggle not to fulfill them is on the cross and buried in the tomb so that what is right in God’s sight is what we consider and look for. This perspective is seen in Romans 12:1, 2: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5, describes the functioning of this lifestyle perspective: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,”

As burial of anything is an act of making that thing something that is no longer to be dealt with, so can the memory of paid for sins.

Living in this world, there are always things that will tempt any believer. As with the Lord Jesus, when Satan left Him being defeated initially in the desert, Scripture records that this was just for another time: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13).

This is specifically stated when Satan used Peter’s rejection of Jesus’ declaration that He was going to die. In His reproof of Peter’s effort Jesus said: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." (Matt 16:23). After again telling His disciples of His soon coming death, Jesus said: “. . the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” (John 14:30). Even though it is not stated that a part of Jesus’ agonizing prayers to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane to “let this cup pass from Me” (Mt 26:36-39) that Satan was involved. For in Jesus’ death, the prophecy against Satan made reference to Satan’s head being bruised as he would do to Jesus’ heel (Gen 3:15).

When the believe is tempted, he can find victory and peace by remembering that he has reckoned himself to be dead to sin’s lifestyle (Rom 6:11) and even if he gives in, the wages of his sins have been paid for (Heb 10:14). Even the memory of his past failures are in Christ’s burial, the place of God’s forgetfulness. Thereby even in the overwhelming temptation, his past cannot persuade him that temptation will end in failure and despair! He remembers victories, and is not weakened by the prospect of failures.

Through remembering the completeness of the peace of the Gospel, the threat of despair of the threat of the Law’s demands, he does not fear the consequences of the demands of its violations (Rom 3:20; 7:4; Gal 2:19,20). Neither does he need to fear God’s righteousness (Rom 10:4) that was satisfied in the Gospel. All this, as he not only trusts in the enduring forgiveness of the cross, but also in God’s forgetfulness centered in Christ’s burial.

Faith reckoned peace in the adequacy of God’s forgetfulness, found in Christ’s burial, is maintained in the believer’s conscience (Rom 5:1-8; Eph 2:13, 14a; 1 Peter 3:21d, 22).

This peace can also work in the struggle concerning the temptation in fearing defeat by remembering personal guilt of the past: “. . the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Why? The adequacy of God’s forgetfulness of His memory of sins forgiven is found in Christ’s burial.

The appeal of sin can be defeated as the believer remembers Christ’s suffering to get sin forgiven and its memory lost in Jesus’ burial (Rom 7:23-8:9). This is furthered by remembering as the believer rejoices in the memory of accepting God’s view of sin and the peace of forgiveness after confessing and forsaking sin (1 John 1:7-9). He has this by remembering that one’s sin is forever gone in Christ’s death and burial. And, then, the joy of praise for the adequacy of even the passing of forgiven sin’s. The remembrance of this is why many rejoice in singing the chorus: “I’m saved, saved to tell others!” For in Christ’s burial even the memory in God’s remembrance of his sins are gone is perfectly satisfied.

What a treasure to know that because of God’s forgetfulness of one’s sins in Christ’s burial, we have assurance before God’s Throne that Satan’s accusations of our sins fall empty on God’s ears. What peace the believer can have as he contemplates the final judgement before Christ’s White Throne (Rev 20:6) knowing that the believer will not be present, for in Christ’s burial even his sin’s memory is absent.