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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Conforming the Mind to Scripture

"We must bend our minds and conform them to the teaching of Holy Scripture, or men will end in bending Holy Scripture to their own minds, and when it will not bend, will part with it."-- Edward Bouverie Pusey

"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. 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."--St. Paul (Romans 12:1,2)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Importance of Follow-up in Discipleship

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

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

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

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

"But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:14-18 NASU). 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in the New Testament: 

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

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

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4).

Related reading: Being Born Again

Friday, June 12, 2015

You shall be fishers of men

Here is an excellent example of how disciples are fishers of men.  Note the importance of serious Bible study and intentional discipleship.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

All Need to Repent

Edward F. Lundwall Jr

The Evangelist pleads with those in his audience that they must find forgiveness if they expect of go to Heaven after they die. Many with a guilty conscience will respond. Many are confused, many have been disturbed by the sermon so that they are convinced of the need forgiveness. Somehow their conscience remembers actions been awakened to burdened them by feelings of guilt. Their consciences have been awakened and convicted of their sins which compels them to respond to the altar call.

Very frequently a personal worker will talk with them giving a short outline of the Gospel and lead them in what we call the sinner’s prayer. Their name and address are recorded on a decision card and handed to the pastor. He then asks them something about what they have come forward about and what they have done by coming forward. Then, often in independent fundamental Baptist Churches, they are immediately baptized.

Most frequently they are told that they are born-again into a salvation that they can never lose! Often when they inquire whether there are lifestyle changes that they must make to make their salvation real, they are told no, because the Scriptures say that it is not by works of righteousness that we do, but according to God’s mercies He has saved us!

A missionary friend told me of an experience he had with a lady in Mexico. After he and his fellow missionary had led her to make a profession of faith and pray the sinner's prayer, she felt that she would have to give up her business to really be saved. They told her no, because salvation is faith without works (Ephesians 2: 8, 9). Then they asked what her business was. She said her business was running a house of prostitution!

They were so surprised that they didn't know what to say, except come to Church. She came for while and then stopped. These missionaries neglected an important truth: Jesus came to save the repentant. His ministry was prepared by the ministry of John the Baptist who preached the necessity of repentance. Jesus also preached this message: "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent , ye shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:5). As did the Apostles and the early Church conditioned repentance as a necessary part of faith that saves (Acts 2: 38; 26:20; Acts 11:18; Rom 1:5; 2 Cor 7:10). 

This problem in the evangelistic work with both Church and mass evangelistic meetings resulted in great concern that a great many converts do not have a change of life, nor continue in their profession! There has been much written lamenting this phenomena.

Years ago after observing the instability in their professed converts, the Billy Graham evangelistic organization invited the Navigators to help remedy this situation. They began training counselors before the evangelistic meetings to counsel those making professions of faith. My wife and I had the privilege of being counselors in one of Billy Graham's crusades at Washington DC in 1954. I have gotten the impression from a number of sources that the results of this effort has been minimal.

Historic theologies have been constructed to both explain and resolve this problem in those professing faith.

In liturgical traditons, faith was mediated through being a member in that particular Church and participation in the sacraments. These churches include Roman Catholic, Anglican, Coptic, Eastern Orthodox and many of the oriental Catholic churches.

For Calvinists only those predestined to be saved would persevere in faith and righteousness. These are the "elect" of God. Their salvation is assured. In reaction to John Calvin, the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) asserted the freedom of the human will and rejected Calvin's interpretation of predestination.

In John Wesley’s theology, repentance is prior to receiving forgiveness and new life in Christ. In his sermon “The Way to the Kingdom,” Wesley identifies the steps toward becoming a citizen of the eternal Kingdom. He begins with repentance: “And first, repent, that is, know yourselves. This is the first repentance, previous to faith, even conviction, or self-knowledge.”

For Wesley, self-knowledge involves recognition of the seriousness of the infection of original sin and how this has spread into the life of the individual. This goes beyond identifying moral failures. Repentance shines a spotlight on the corruption of the inner man that brings moral failures and broken relationships. Most importantly, the grace to see ourselves as God sees us makes us humble and humility is one mark of the repentant soul.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Importance of Teaching for Discipleship

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

The first instruction and exhortation the Lord Jesus gives to new believers is to prove and use their commitment of faith to Him by: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31, 32)

The basic resource for discipling is its teaching relationship between teachers and disciples. Disciples recognize the teacher as having knowledge or skills that they want to acquire. The teaching relationship is a situation whereby the teacher can transmit his knowledge or skill to his disciples. Lecturing is only one of the available means of the learning situation. Because of the teacher’s knowledge the learning situation must be under his authority. This presumes that the teacher knows the maturity of his disciples so that they can integrate the lesson into their frames of reference.

Experiencing fulfillment, then, is like growing leaves and fruit by irrigating the tree. This first question's answer: "I am a disciple." plants the tree. The second response ("As a disciple, I will do ....") draws upon the soil of his relationship to his mentor and his small group.

1 Timothy 3:15 reveals that the organized Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. The Lord choose 12 disciples to train for future leadership (Mark 3:14, 15) and three of them for more intimate relationships. These He trained through continually being with Him. He also used small discipling groups that He only occasionally met with and others that were discipled by working with Him and the Twelve (Mark 15:41). These were some of the first illustrations of group discipling for the Church.

After Pentecost, while the disciples often worshiped in the Temple, they instructed thousands by meeting in homes. Since the homes only had room for relatively small groups, this demonstrated that small groups are a biblical method of discipling. In Acts, seven different small groups with different functions can be identified. In most of them there is a leader who trains disciples that assist in training less mature disciples. Examples include the Apostle Paul with Timothy, Mark, Luke, Titus, Philemon, Aquila and Priscilla.

Further, Paul directed Timothy to continue the practice as seen in his team relationships. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul suggests that there are to be different teaching roles within the small groups. This is also seen in 1 Corinthians 14 and Hebrews 10:24, 25. So, when organized properly, small groups function as primary resources for growth.

Small groups are a contributing part of the self-edifying Church. They should never be independent and competing factions. One of the best ways, is to have the leadership of the Church to have master plans for spiritual education using the small groups to meet specific phases. In the New Testament, a disciple found a part of his identity, his self concept, in the group known as ‘His disciples” (John 8:31).