By Rev. Glenn Martin
Editor’s note: Second in a series
In the first article in this series we focused on scripture as our authority and source book for Christian preaching and teaching. It is God’s way of giving us His written word through Moses and the prophets and ultimately through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is our authority for living and serving God. Any reference to Methodist heritage must recognize our origin as in the New Testament church and by means of the Wesleys and their Bible. This source book clearly defines our need for and God’s gift of a perfect savior.
In recent years terms like “diversity” and “inclusiveness” and “all God’s children” have emerged and become of frequent use, especially by many church leaders. I may be slow to learn, but we need definitions which help us relate to the language of our leaders. When we hear our goals suggesting we reach more people, more diverse people and more young people, several questions emerge:
• Do we seek people of certain ages and lifestyles?
•Why do we want to reach more people?
•Is it to support a church bureaucracy, to pay those apportionments?
•Do we really believe that there are lost souls who are both diverse and young?
•What is our real motive?
•How do we reach these people?
•What do we mean by reach?
•What did Jesus mean by, “I have come to seek and to save the lost?”
•What did John Wesley have in mind when he told his preachers, “You have nothing to do but save souls”?
There are multitudes of people living in neighborhoods near churches who are laden with guilt, fear, addictions, loneliness, anger and in desperate need of a savior who can forgive and save and abide within on a daily and permanent basis. Jesus came “to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus’ mother said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” An angel said to Joseph, “Do not fear to take Mary your wife ... she shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
This whole concept of sin and salvation and savior is the most basic doctrine of the Bible. God’s love is supremely expressed on a cross where a savior died for us. He is the Lamb of God who takes our sin upon Himself and offers us forgiveness and a life in the spirit that frees us from our bondage of sin and separation from God.
This is not a universal declaration of salvation for everyone. While offered to “whosoever will,” there is a well defined event and process that must take place between the sinner and the savior. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.”
When Peter preached at Pentecost, the hearers were “cut to the heart and said, ‘Brethren,what shall we do?’” Peter answered “Repent, and be baptized every one of you for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This action is affirmed many times by many witnesses in the New Testament.
Neither Peter nor any other biblical writer said, “God loves you and that assures you are His child.” Jesus did not die for a show. He died for a cause. He made a clear distinction between sheep and goats. About 3000 souls were added to the church on the day of Pentecost.
“And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” “To all who received Him, He gave power to become the children of God.” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
How many of our great hymns proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Read the firstverse of There Is a Fountain, the third verse of How Great Thou Art, the fourth verse of O, For a Thousand Tongues and all of O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done. Repent, believe and join with Mary “my soul doth magnify the Lord “ and “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
People need a savior, and God has provided one at great cost to Himself. We are invited to repent, believe, receive, and live forever. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...”(Rev. 3:20) It is our mission to invite, encourage and even compel people to open the door and let the savior in! Souls will then be added to the church as at Pentecost and thereafter.
Martin is a retired clergy member of the Mississippi Conference.