DISCIPLESHIP CLASS NO 5
Here we are at our fifth class already!
I trust that the fellowship being shared, has been proving helpful, encouraging and strength-giving.
GIVING AS WELL AS RECEIVING
During this time, we have covered much of the subject of discipleship, from that first decision to follow the Lord as His disciple, right through different aspects, up to the last lesson's re-print of the leaflet on 'giving'. We realised, that it reflects how much the Lord means to us, and how we cannot have a one-way relationship with God, expecting Him to give liberally to us, while we give grudgingly and stintingly in return - a bit like the person who uses God as an emergency telephone number when in trouble, expecting an immediate response, while at other times, they want nothing to do with the Lord!
I would however
stress, that what you were asked to consider, was in essence the next stage in
discipleship. Simply the Bible's guidelines of what, and how we should give - and was in no way
meant to reflect
any duress or
pressure from myself or the Salvation Army. It was part of the overall package of
true discipleship, as taught in the Bible - after all, who would dare for a moment, to suggest that we can only take the bits of Scripture
that are acceptable and easy to bear?
If we are to be true disciples, then we must be like the disciples in Matthew 21:6, where it says, "And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them." (Also see 1st John 2:3)
The 'taking up of our cross' in order to be a disciple, is never promised as an easy option - quite the opposite!
I think it is now time to consider, individually, where the Lord wants us to go from here, in our walk with Him. We mentioned last class, how important it is for the Christian to get into a church fellowship of like minded Christians, which would help and strengthen them in their walk of discipleship.
For some of you, this will mean Salvation Army soldiership - for others it may not - at this time. Incidentally, it is worth mentioning, that there are many, fully fledged Salvation Army soldiers, who do not wear uniform. The uniform is a wonderful witness, and opens endless opportunities, but because someone decides to become a soldier, in no way means they must go into uniform.!
There is of course the option of people becoming Adherents, which is just like a 'church member' of the Army, with no real commitment involved. (Someone can be an adherent, without even being converted.) It just means that person looks to the Salvation Army as their church, and the officer as their minister.
To be a soldier, the commitment is a much deeper one, in which solemn vows are taken to the Lord, through the signing of the Articles of War.
So seriously was it taken in the early years of the Army, that many actually SIGNED IN THEIR OWN BLOOD.
The Articles of
War, contain firstly personal testimony, that we have received Christ as our
personal Saviour, and then the doctrines of the Salvation Army, which are also printed
in the back of the song book.
Although there isn't much strange or startling about them, they must be understood, and accepted as Biblical truth.
Someone said to me, "I don't believe in doctrine!" I said, "Are you saved?" He said, "Yes!" I said, "You believe in doctrine!"
You see, doctrine, is simply a statement of what we believe, and what we are convinced the Bible teaches - and of course, it's not up to much, and it's not very convincing, if it's not backed by experience!
There is very little difference between our doctrines, and other evangelical churches. After all, we sprang under the Rev. William Booth, (later General) from the Methodist Church, and it was in no way due to any doctrinal differences.
There are two main branches of evangelical Christianity, separated by their teaching on 'ETERNAL SECURITY' or 'ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAVED' (also known as Calvinism). The alternative is to be 'SAVED AND LOST AGAIN' (also known as Arminianism)
Both can be extreme and fanatical in their views!
One can say, "GET SAVED TODAY, GO AND SIN AND CURSE GOD TOMORROW - YOU DON'T NEED TO REPENT - YOU'RE SURE OF HEAVEN!"
The other can say, "YES I'M SAVED JUST NOW, BUT IF I HAVE AN EVIL THOUGHT, I'M LOST AGAIN - UNTIL I REPENT - AND IF I DIE BEFORE I REPENT, I'LL BE IN HELL!"
As you can see, there's not a lot of common ground between them -
ONE HAS SALVATION WITHOUT A NEW BIRTH!
Now as we looked at
in detail in the beginning of our classes, there is NO SALVATION UNLESS A PERSON
HAS BECOME A 'NEW CREATURE
IN CHRIST', with new desires, and a
totally new direction in their lives.
Did not Jesus say in Matthew 7:20, "By their fruits ye shall know them."
makes a cheap meaningless decision, without the transformation of the new birth
- in no way makes them sure of heaven!
Such hypocrisy is only worthy of Hell.
THE OTHER HAS A VERY TEMPORARY SALVATION, COMPLETELY DEPENDENT ON THE SPIRITUAL TIGHTROPE THEY WALK, WHICH IS THEIR OWN WORKS!
If our own works figured as some kind of merit for being saved, Jesus would never have had to bear the agony of Calvary. He did that because the best that we could muster in our own righteousness, was as the prophet Isaiah says in chapter 64:6, "FILTHY RAGS" in God's sight.
As Paul put it in Ephesians 2:8-9, Salvation "does not depend on anything you have achieved, it is the free gift of God; and because it is not earned no man can boast about it." (Phillips) SO IT IS VERY EASY TO SEE, THAT NEITHER EXTREME COULD BE REMOTELY CORRECT.
We believe implicitly in the TRANSFORMING POWER OF CHRIST FOR ALL WHO TRULY SEEK HIM! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
It is never impossible for the Christian to fall - indeed the Scripture warns, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12)
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1st John 1:8-9)
OUR SALVATION IS TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE - and NOT ON WHAT WE DO! As the song we often sing in our meetings says, "that we may be saved by the works He has done, and not by the works that we do."
The thought that we can be saved/lost/saved/lost... a hundred times a day, is a mockery of God's plan of Salvation in Christ. He died to save us! It is on His merit alone!
After all, how many times can you be born again?
How many times can you become a new creature in Christ. It makes no sense that this can be a recurring experience day after day!!
OF COURSE OUR CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE MUST BE MAINTAINED!
OF COURSE SIN MUST BE REPENTED OF!
But if we have truly entered into a love relationship with Christ, these things will be the natural outcome of that relationship!!
THIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD IS A VERY PERMANENT AND DEPENDABLE THING - THERE IS NOTHING TEMPORARY ABOUT IT! HALLELUJAH!!
BUT LET US NOT FOOL OURSELVES FOR A MOMENT THAT SOMEONE IS SAVED IF THE EVIDENCE OF TRANSFORMATION IS NOT SEEN IN THEIR LIVES!!
The Apostle Paul tells in Acts 26:20 of his charge to new believers. He says, "I preached that men should repent and turn to God and live lives to prove their change of heart." (Phillips Translation) Or to put it another way, "Faith, if it hath not works - is dead." (James 2:17)