Tag Archives: Discipleship

Once Saved by Maxie Dunnam

Search

  

Once Saved by Maxie Dunnam

Share the post:

In my last three articles I have discussed assurance and sanctification. These aspects of salvation lead us to think about what separates a Methodist understanding from those who believe in eternal security. Once saved, always saved was a theme I was asked often about in the first churches I served in rural Mississippi.

We Methodist Wesleyans believe that it is possible to return to sin in our lives to the point that we forfeit our salvation. According to Wesley, this is not easy to do, but it is possible.

We must not allow the question to be centered on whether God is able to keep us from falling. Of course God is able! It is a matter of whether we are vigilant in responding to God’s grace. If we cultivate and stay alive to the Holy Spirit we can be aware when the temptation to fall back into old patterns of sin is gaining power. We also recognize and not allow the seeds of “new sins” to germinate and spring up in our lives.

Being always saved depends on whether we continually listen to God’s voice and not allow that divine love to grow cold within us.

For further reflection, I make the case by coming at it from a different direction. There are two widely held notions about sin in the believer that are different in the way Wesley thought and taught. One thought is that, “Yes, sin continues in the life of the believer, but it is not possible for sin to separate a person eternally from God. One may backslide, but still be saved – if ever saved in the first place.” The “if ever saved in the first place” is a common escape hatch. I’ve never had a discussion about the issue where the conclusion, “The person was never saved anyway!” did not sound. How can we make that judgment?

The second thought is that in our justification, and certainly in our sanctification, sin is completely eradicated from the believer’s life. The error in this position is that it treats sin as a “thing” we do. Sin is a relation. The question is not one of removal of sin from our lives, but of reconciliation with God which overcomes the estrangement of sin.

Separated from God by our sin, justifying grace brings us together again. Grace continues to work, sanctifying us, restoring us, until we are so at one in relationship with God. In that at-one in relationship with God our intentions are centered on doing God’s will, and our love is perfected to love as Christ loves.

Once saved, always saved? Oh! The discussion will continue. If we are a part of the discussion it is helpful to remember we may “fall from grace” and forfeit our justification, but we don’t have to. Whether we can or can’t fall is not as important a question as whether we do or don’t.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

Holiness Of Heart and Life by Maxie Dunnam

  

Holiness Of Heart and Life by Maxie Dunnam

Share the post:

In an earlier article, we reflected on Wesley’s insistence on perfection being an essential dimension of our going on to salvation. He came from his Aldersgate experience convinced that all could be saved, and all could be saved to the uttermost. Thus assurance and perfection became essential in his understanding of grace working for our full salvation.

As I wrote in my last article, for Wesley, the terms Christian perfection, sanctification, and holiness carried the same meaning. Holiness is not optional for Christians. Jesus was forthright: “You shall be perfect, your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48 NJKV). The Holy Spirit, through Inspiration given to Peter, confirms the call: “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:15 NKJV)

Wesley’s concern about holiness/perfection did not begin at Aldersgate. He preached a sermon on it, using the verse, “Real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal,” as the text for the  sermon, “Circumcision of the heart,” which he preached at Oxford University on January 1, 1733. This is the only sermon Wesley preached before his conversion at Aldersgate in 1738 that he kept in its original form and used throughout his life in teaching Methodists. This consistency underscores a distinctively Wesleyan view of the Christian way: holiness of the heart and life, or personal and social holiness.

In 1725 he had a conversion to the ideal of holy living. He never abandoned that ideal, though it was cast in a different framework after his Aldersgate conversion.

Between 1725 and his Aldersgate experience in 1738, he consistently misplaced holiness. He was driven by the idea that one must be holy in order to be justified. That was the futile process which drove Wesley to the deep despondency that eventually brought him to Aldersgate. One of the decisive shifts that came in his conversion at Aldersgate was a reversal of the order of salvation-justification preceded holiness, not vice versa.

Howard Snyder reminds us that a part of Wesley’s genius, under God, lay in developing and maintaining a synthesis in doctrine and practice that kept biblical paradoxes paired and powerful. He held together faith and works, doctrine and experience, the individual and the social, the concerns of time and eternity.  So is the synthesis of personal and social holiness, holiness of heart and life (Howard A. Snyder, The Radical Wesley, p. 143).

It is important to keep a perspective on at least a skeletal outline of Wesley’s thought, especially about our need for salvation. For Wesley, it was a matter of the circumcision of the heart which was issued in love of God and love of neighbor-holiness of heart and life.

This was captured clearly and succinctly at the formal establishment of Methodism in America at the 1784 Christmas Conference in Baltimore. The question was asked, “What can we rightly expect to be the task of Methodists in America?” The answer came clear and strong: “To reform a continent and spread scriptural holiness across the land.” That’s personal and social holiness.

But what does all this mean? Simply put, it means that we as Christians are to be holy as God is holy, that the church is to be that demonstration plot of holiness set down in an unholy world. Jesus said it means that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. And Paul said it means that faith without works is dead, and the work of faith is love.

Wesley would affirm this as the sum of Christian perfection – loving God, and loving our neighbor. He spoke of “inward holiness,”that is love of God and the assurance of God’s love for us. And he spoke of “outward holiness,” that is, love of neighbor and deeds of kindness. He was fond of speaking of persons being “happy and holy.” For him the two experiences were not opposites, but actually one reality.

“Why are not you happy?” Wesley frequently asked. Then he would answer, “Other circumstances may concur, but the main reason is because you are not holy.”

That’s enough for us to go on. I want to be happy and holy, don’t you?

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

Someone To Take The Place of Jesus: Companion by Maxie Dunnam

  

Someone To Take The Place of Jesus: Companion by Maxie Dunnam

Share the post:

The Holy Spirit is certainly one of the most common and most important issues of faith and doctrine in the Church. We use the term and talk about the subject assuming that people know what we are talking about — when, at most, their understanding is limited and vague, and at best, they don’t have the faintest notion of what you’re talking about.

In Chapters 14, 15, and 16 of John’s Gospel, there are telling and descriptive words of Jesus about the Spirit, the nature and ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is significant that this is in the context of his announcement to his disciples that he is going to leave them. He is preparing them for his crucifixion and resurrection, and he promises that he is going to send someone to take his place.

Contemplate that for a moment. Someone to take the place of Jesus. Remember the setting. It is Jesus’ last week with his disciples. He knows the cross is coming. He knows that he must physically leave the earth, having accomplished God’s great mission of redemption through the cross and the resurrection. So, he promises his presence beyond the grave; the Holy Spirit will come to take his place.

Remember Jesus was limited to time and space. He was confined by human limitations. The coming of the Spirit, following his death and resurrection, was the fulfillment of the promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Mt. 28:29)

In this series of articles, we will consider the different expressions of the One who is to take the place of Jesus. I urge you to read Chapters 14 and 15 as our Scriptural content and foundation.  

Different translations express the dynamic of this presence in different ways. The King James Version translates John 14:16 in this fashion: “And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another comforter, that He may abide with you forever.”

In terms of our current use of the word comfort, that is not a good translation. We think of comfort basically in terms of sorrow and sadness. The Greek word is parakletos, and it literally means, “someone who is called to help.” So the Phillips translation is a very good one, “I shall ask the Father to give you someone else to stand by you, to be with you always.”  Isn’t that beautiful…and encouraging?  Let it settle in your mind..someone to stand by you, to be with you always.

Never in my lifetime has there been an occasion when we needed more desperately to claim this promise of someone to stand by us, to always be with us. The experience of the coronavirus was tough, complex, and challenging enough. A confounding, mysterious virus impacting the world. Then wham! the death of George Floyd, a public lynching with people looking on. Overlaying the mysterious pandemic, we had a social justice struggle more vividly felt than anything like it since the initial launching of the Civil Rights Movement sixty years ago. Following this are profound economic hurdles rising through inflation, massive migrations, and harrowing reports of war from Myanmar, Ukraine, Sudan, the Maghreb, Gaza … How long, O Lord! 

We are not a long way from the disciples when Jesus gave them his promise of companionship and comfort. They were bewildered and grief-stricken. Their minds were caught on the paralyzing thought that they were going to lose Jesus. It was hard, almost impossible, for them to even hear Jesus when He told them that he was going away physically, but that that was going to be the best for them. He was going to send someone to take his place, someone to be with them forever. 

The Holy Spirit which drove them onto the streets crying out in strange languages on Pentecost is the same Holy Spirit which still proclaims the good news of God’s presence today.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

Sinner or Saint? by Tim Johnson

  

Sinner or Saint? by Tim Johnson

Share the post:

For the Good News to truly be “good news,” we must be able to lose our sin nature and exchange it for something radically different.

Can you imagine if the song went like this?

“Oh, when the sinners go marchin’ in,

Oh, when the sinners go marchin’ in,

Lord, I want to be in that number

When the sinners go marchin’ in.”

Can you imagine if Jesus’ famous statement to Nicodemus in John 3 went something like this?

Jesus:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again and stays a sinner, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Can you imagine the impact of Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery in John 8 if it went something like this?

Straightening up, Jesus told her, “Woman, where are they?  Did no one condemn you?”

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said, “And neither do I condemn you. Now, go. And keep sinning if you must.

As an evangelist at heart, I have long celebrated and shared the beautiful benefits of salvation: peace with God, being filled with the Spirit of God, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, the hope of the resurrection in Christ Jesus.

But one glaring benefit I think we miss in our evangelistic efforts is the awe-inspiring truth that we literally go from sinner to saint upon conversion.

Our sin nature, inherited from the first Adam, is now dead and gone, according to Romans.  And now we have received the nature of our second Adam, Jesus Christ.  And His nature is certainly not of sin, but one of righteousness.

So how can we still consider ourselves “only sinners saved by grace” even after our sin nature has been canceled, removed, and washed away by the royal blood of Jesus?

Too often, we live below the bar that Jesus has set for us by claiming we are still sinners.

But the repeated truth of Scripture is that as Christians, we are so united in Christ that it transforms our very nature.  Christians are called by lots of names in Scripture after conversion: beloved, faithful, holy, children, and yes, saints.  But never are we referred to as sinners after we are born again.

It would certainly not be good news to be born again…still a sinner.

It’s been said, “There are no sinners in heaven, and there are no saints in hell.”

Can saints still sin? Unfortunately, of course. But that does not mean we still possess our sin nature. We must stop dumbing down the full work accomplished at the cross and share this miraculous news as part of our evangelism.

No doubt, there is an identity crisis in the world today. But there shouldn’t be one in the Body of Christ. The DNA of sinner has been changed to the DNA of a saint once we have embraced the Person and the Power of Jesus Christ.

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, we are either a sinner or a saint; we can’t be both.

And that is Good News for us!

So, when those saints do go marching in, I really do want to be in that number!

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

Forgiving Others and Yourself by Maxie Dunnam

  

Forgiving Others and Yourself by Maxie Dunnam

Share the post:

In my previous article, I made the claim that saying yes to forgiveness is the clearest claim that we are Christian. One of my heroes, Clarence Jordan, was my primary witness to that claim. 

Clarence was a farmer and a New Testament Greek scholar. He wrote the Cotton Patch Paraphrase of the New Testament. He speaks throughout of how the segregated world of his day could be one in Christ. Yes,”God was in Christ, putting his arms around the world and hugging it to Himself.” (Jordan, 2 Cor. 5:19)

Saying yes to forgiveness is our clearest witness to the fact that we are Christian.

In this fourth article on Saying Yes to Forgiveness, we focus on forgiveness by forgiving ourselves. 

The ongoing hazard each of us face in trying to be Christian is a double one. One side of it is to become so self-absorbed that our righteousness turns into self-righteousness. Persons can become so self-absorbed with their own righteousness that they allow it to turn into self-righteousness, and all of us know a few people like that.

The other side of the hazard is to slip into self-condemnation. It may be even easier to slip into self-condemnation than it is to slip into self-righteousness.

Norman Vincent Peale tells of a time when he was a young minister, in his first church. He was still in Seminary and was disenchanted with his work and also with himself. One day he was groaning and moaning over the state of affairs to a man in his congregation. The man had little formal education, but was blunt and honest. He also possessed a great deal of native insight. As young Peale went on and on with his complaints, the craggy man suddenly made an impatient gesture and almost shouted, “Stop it! Stop all that defeatist, negative talk! Remember this, Norman, and remember it always: Never build a case against yourself!” (Guideposts, 10-85, pp. 32-33).

That’s very good advice, but we are always doing it, aren’t we – slipping into self- condemnation, building a case against ourselves. We need to say yes to forgiveness by forgiving ourselves.

Amazingly, Saying yes to forgiveness offers freedom to the other – and claims freedom for yourself. Now get that. It’s very important. Saying yes to forgiveness offers freedom to another, and claims freedom for yourself.

There is a sense in which your enmity and estrangement from another hold both of you in bondage.

Let me underscore this point by addressing a particular issue – the issue of conflict in marriage.  A family without conflict is not always a very healthy family. One writer has declared, “Show me a family that does not quarrel, and I will show you a family that will eventually fall apart.” I doubt we can be that dogmatic. Statistics, however, do show that most couples on the verge of divorce do not engage enough in open conflict – that is, they do not confront the issues with which they are dealing because they are afraid of conflict.

Saying yes to forgiveness offers freedom to the other – and claims freedom for yourself. 

Rodney Dangerfield, that zany comedian, commented once, “My wife and I sleep in separate rooms, we never eat dinner together, we take individual vacations, and we are doing all we can to keep our marriage together.”

Well, some people think that the perfect marriage is one that is unmarred by conflict – one in which there are no arguments, no expression of differences – no sign of confrontation and estrangement. In fact there are some who believe that you are truly Christian when you always have your feelings under control, never raise your voice, never lose your temper, never take a person to task or do battle. That just isn’t so. Jesus didn’t teach it. Conflict is going to arise anywhere there is an intimate relationship. So the sign of health in a marriage and in a home is not the absence of conflict – the sign of health in a marriage and in a home is forgiveness.

We can’t live together intimately without hurting each other – but, we can’t keep on hurting each other and survive a relationship without forgiveness. If we remain separated from another, you hold both yourself and the other in bondage. Saying yes to forgiveness offers freedom to the other person and claims freedom for yourself.

In this series of articles on SAYING YES TO FORGIVENESS, I’ve said four things:

One, saying yes to forgiveness is saying yes to God.

Two, we are most like Christ when we are saying yes to forgiveness.

Three, saying yes to forgiveness is our clearest witness to the fact that we are Christian.

Four, in saying yes to forgiveness we offer freedom to another and we claim freedom for ourselves.

Ours is a time of great conflict. Conflicts can be resolved through the grace of God working between us. We do not need to let the evil and destruction of alienation and brokenness overcome us, ruin our lives, and rob us from the joy and wholeness of love. We can overcome by saying yes to forgiveness.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

   

When We Are Most Like Christ by Maxie Dunnam

  

When We Are Most Like Christ by Maxie Dunnam

Share the Post:

In my previous article I made the claim saying yes to forgiveness is saying yes to God. I underscore that claim: We are most like Christ when we are doing what he did in his extravagant gift of love on Calvary…forgiving.

I have a friend, Mary, a former Roman Catholic nun, who works as a program director for a Methodist Church. Her testimony of Christ’s love for each and for all is powerful. Her father left her mother with 14 children when Mary was only 5 years old. You can imagine what that would do to a little girl – feeling abandoned, unloved, unwanted.

She entered the Convent when she was young. Two sisters had done so before her.

She told me her story late one night over coffee after I had preached in her church. I was so moved I asked her to record her testimony on tape. She did – a powerful witness. I had it transcribed. My best to you is to let her tell the story here.

“I entered the Convent for two reasons. One, I felt the Lord calling me to a closer life with Him; and two, I was such a scrupulous individual, and needed direction in the depths of my spirit because I did not really understand that this closer walk with the Lord was meant for me; I was of the mind that I had to make up for my sins. And so, as a teenager in the middle fifties faced with a time when it came time to do something with my life, I was of the opinion that it would be difficult for me to love one person to the exclusion of all others, and marriage therefore seemed out of the question even though I felt that was a stronger personal desire than going into the Convent, but I needed to make up for my sins, and so, I thought God must be calling me into the Convent. Two of my sisters had entered the Convent before me, and I was definitely of a mind that I had to do something to make up for my sins. And, having been let into the Convent, I was blessed.”

“I found the Lord in a most beautifully intimate way. But I also found community life, and it was very threatening, and five years later I ran away because it was too difficult for me in the sense that I was in too much inner turmoil.”

“I wasn’t really a person who shared what was going on inside of her; I didn’t know you could do that and be respected for it. So I left the Convent. Because I hadn’t been counseled properly I went right into another depression and thought, well, God, now I’ve really blown it – I’ve divorced the Lord – and I’m never going to get to heaven. So I went back into my wounded position and cried and wept and prayed, and felt that God moved heaven and earth and Rome, and I was finally accepted back into the Convent. And again I was blessed.”

 “This time I had a little more help in finding out what was really the source of the problem.”

“The word of the Lord came to me through a priest to whom I had admitted having entered the Convent, among other reasons, for the sake of making up for my sins. When he heard this, he literally wept. And then he said, “Oh, my God, didn’t anyone ever tell you Jesus did that. You don’t have to do that. You can’t do that. Just receive His forgiveness.”

“Well, at that time I was almost 30 years old and I had just heard the Good News and praised God.  I received Jesus’ love – it was from a Catholic Priest.”

In deep gratitude for an honest, faithful witness, Mary tells us of a sensitive priest who shared the heart of Christ’s loving ministry – forgiveness.

So when are we most like Christ? We are most like Christ when we are doing what He did in his extravagant gift of love on Calvary — forgiving. 

This post is part II in Maxie’s series on Saying Yes to Forgiveness.  Join us next week as we learn more about how forgiveness is the Clearest Witness That We Are Christian.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Saying Yes to Forgiveness by Maxie Dunnam

  

Saying Yes to Forgiveness by Maxie Dunnam

Share the Post:

Recently This Week magazine reported an amazing story of a Pakistani election commissioner admitting that he had participated in what he called the “rigging” of a parliamentary election. “We converted losers into winners,” said Liaquat. He confessed that he couldn’t sleep after what he called “stabbing the country in the back.” He resigned and was arrested. (March 1,2024, p. 9) 

It was an intriguing story, climaxing with two rival political parties planning to govern in coalition.

It certainly doesn’t always happen this way, but when I read that story, a passage of Scripture grabbed my mind and clamored for attention, 2 Cor. 5:11-21. Here is the “heart” of it’s clamor and challenge:

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. 

Let’s begin with this core truth: Saying yes to forgiveness is saying yes to God. Get that now: Saying yes to forgiveness is saying yes to God. Clement of Alexandria, one of the early church fathers, said all Christians should “practice being God.” When I first read that, it shocked me. Me? Practice being God? But the more I thought about it, the more palatable and gripping the idea became and challenging it became. Practice being God.

Now don’t close your mind, thinking I’m irreverent when I ask, “How do I practice being God?” Focus on this word of Paul, “From now on, therefore, we regard none from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer.” He was talking about practicing being God – not viewing persons from a human point of view, but from a God perspective. And when we have that perspective, the ministry of reconciliation follows.

Come at it from a slightly different way. When are we most like God? We are most like God when we are most like Christ. And when are we most like Christ? We find our answer in the verses quoted above. Read again verses 14 and 15: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And He died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.

Instead of saying, “the love of Christ controls us”, the King James Version says “the love of God constraineth us.” In either translation, it’s powerfully challenging. The love of Christ constrains or controls. Why? Because we are convinced that Christ died for all.

What an encompassing statement! “We are convinced that (Christ) has died for all.” That means that since He has died for all He has died for each. Yes…the whole world!  

Reconciliation… that’s the ministry to which all Christians are called. It’s an action we take as we are obedient to God in our Christian journey. The dynamic of reconciliation is forgiveness. Saying yes to forgiveness is saying yes to God.

This post is part I in Maxie’s series on Saying Yes to Forgiveness.  Join us next week as we learn more about how Saying Yes to Forgiveness is When We are Most Like Christ. 

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Hurry Slowly by Maxie Dunnam

  

Hurry Slowly by Maxie Dunnam

Share the Post:

Years ago I came across a phrase that grabbed my attention. It was a season of my life when I was paying close attention to my own “spiritual state,” and as a result, seeking to develop particular spiritual disciplines. The phrase, a long obedience in the same direction, comes from Friedrich Nietzsche. This was his statement: The essential thing in heaven and earth is… that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; thereby, results, and is always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” (Beyond Good and Evil, translated, Helen Zimmern, London, 1908, Section 188, pp. 106-109).

Just recently I came across a Latin expression, festina lente, which renews the initial impact of Nietzsche’s long obedience word. The expression means “hurry slowly.” I stumbled upon the expression this past Lenten season when reflecting on the last week of Jesus’ life. The Cross is looming ominously on the horizon. Jesus prays that He might be spared this terrible ordeal. In fact, the scripture says He prayed so intensely that He sweated drops of blood. But then, listen to what Jesus said, “Father, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not my will but thine be done!”

When I became aware my newly discovered phrase, lente, sounds remarkably like Lent, I was forced to both broaden and deepen my Lenten reflection. For what am I living and how am I pursuing it? Am I practicing a long obedience in the same direction? Am I hurrying slowly, or am I a part of the popular rat race of assuming that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once? No one else is slowing down; why should I?

I’m 89, I don’t have the time I had when I was 70, and wondered, “how much time do I have?” I’m dealing with that question more intently now. I know my time is limited. I must hurry but I want to hurry slowly. I must not move in a way that the evidence of mature discipleship is not being seen in my life. I want to continue what has been a slow but long apprenticeship in holiness. When everyone else is in a hurry, I don’t want to be seduced by today’s passion for the newest human potential, faith-healing, Zen, parapsychology, successful-living program, trying anything until something else comes along. Everyone is in a hurry, and I want to hurry too, but not for the immediate and the casual. I want to discover and practice disciplines that deepen my long obedience in the same direction. At every intersection of my life I want to pray earnestly, “O faithful Lord, Not my will, but yours be done.”

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

Victory Over Death by Maxie Dunnam

  

Victory Over Death by Maxie Dunnam

Share the Post:

There is no if about death. The question is more accurately put, “When a person dies, shall he or she live again?” 

Not one line of the New Testament was written… not one sentence was penned apart from the conviction that He of whom these things were being written had conquered death and was alive forever. Death is inevitable, and nowhere is the fact put more starkly than by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “It is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Yet, in the Christian faith and experience, death is not the victor, and death is not the end. Someone has put it cryptically, The difference between life and death is more than a tombstone. The difference is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Through his resurrection, Jesus conquered death. Paul reminded his young friend, Timothy, that “Christ [has] abolished death” (2 Timothy 1:10). He taught the Corinthians that death is “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). This is the way he expressed it:

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death,where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:54d-57 

Paul is talking not only about physical death but also about spiritual death. Spiritual death is the result of sin, which separates us from God.

The Christian faith asserts that, in Christ, God has triumphed. Our claim is that Christ has beaten the great enemy, death!  In Christ, our lives begin to make a difference because we are free to live as those who share in his victory over death. Our lives have significance not in their duration but in their fidelity to the one who has taken the sting out of our dying. 

The follower of Christ holds the good news to that fateful question about death, “We can live again and we can live now in the power of the resurrected Jesus!”

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free

   

What Happens When Everyone Stops Sinning by Maxie Dunnam

  

What Happens When Everyone Stops Sinning by Maxie Dunnam

Share the Post:

The preaching must have been powerful. In a recent cartoon, as he leads his parents from worship, Dennis the Menace confronts the preacher. “What happens when everyone stops sinning? What will you do?”

While we are not strangers to sin, Dennis stuns us with his  statement and questions. We may not reflect or talk much about it. Yet, the great majority of theologians talk a lot about it. Often they use the term original sin, contending it is the root of all human problems. The truth is, there is nothing original about sin. It is a center piece in the Genesis story of the creation. Adam and Eve are not alive in the Garden long before they eat the “fruit” which was the one thing God told them not to eat.

Since that time, in every generation, if reflective and honest, all persons could join Paul in expressing our feelings,

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. … Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it… (Rom. 7:19-20)

As he continues his confession, Paul screams,”What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?” He then, with a deep breath of relief, concludes in confidence, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord. (vs. 25-26)”

We are all infected by it. Some Wesleyan scholars have expressed the expansive nature of it in what we refer to as the “four alls”: All have sinned and need to be saved; all can be saved; all can know they are saved, and all can be saved to the utmost.

I wrote earlier here in Wesleyan Accent about salvation as Wesley’s prevailing emphasis. The “four alls” were implicit in that entire discussion. In reflection, I am aware that not enough was said about the last two of the “four alls,” all can know they are saved, and all can be saved to the utmost. 

Assurance and perfection are cardinal dimensions of Wesley’s teaching. The teaching was grounded in his own experience. He was a man desperately seeking salvation and assurance of his salvation. In a despondent mood because his struggles were providing no peace, he went to a prayer meeting and had the watershed experience that gave him the assurance of salvation. Naturally, this became a part of his teaching.

Assurance is the privilege of every Christian; all persons can know they are saved, and they can be saved to the uttermost.

Share the Post:

Subscribe

Get articles about mission, evangelism, leadership, discipleship and prayer delivered directly to your inbox – for free