Tag Archives: missions

Saved! Rescued from God, by God, and for God! (Epilogue: Loathed)

Friends: This is the epilogue of a short book I wrote a couple of years ago. Comments welcome!

Epilogue: Loathed

“We are not simply dealing with matters of life and death. We are dealing with matters of eternal life and eternal death.” (Bill Hybels)

“I’m afraid that in the United States of America today the prevailing doctrine of justification is not justification by faith alone. It is not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in our culture today is justification by death. All one has to do to be received into the everlasting arms of God is to die.” (R.C. Sproul, Saved from What?)

If we have truly been rescued from God, by God, and for God, then there is no greater joy in life than in serving Him. Whatever that means.

Being rescued from God reminds us of the rightful, eternal judgment that awaited us upon death if our sins were not taken care of. John 3:36 says that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” The Bible teaches that we come into this world as sinners, as those who are under the wrath of God. And the only way to get that wrath removed from us is to believe in His Son. Those who reject the Son won’t get eternal life, but eternal judgment. They will not see life. Why not? Because “God’s wrath remains on them.”

Some today bristle at the idea of God’s wrath. They not only hate Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” their perspective twists that sermon into “GOD in the Hands of Angry SINNERS!” Being rescued from God means being rescued from His wrath.

But we have also seen that our rescue from God was accomplished by God. Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Divine Trinity, paid our debt that we might be


righteously forgiven. Only one who is fully divine could pay that debt. The centrality of the deity of the Lord Jesus is a doctrine rejected by many in our culture. What they do not realize is that a non- divine Jesus can’t save anyone.

The story is told of a liberal minister who was being tried for heresy by his denomination. “We understand that you deny the deity of Jesus,” the council said to him. “Is this true?” The minister replied, “Deny the deity of Jesus? Deny the deity of Jesus?!”, he replied. “I haven’t denied the deity of any of us!”

The central theme of the Bible is that God loved man so much that the Son of God volunteered to become human (without giving up His deity) for the express purpose of coming to this earth to die for man’s wrong-doings. To deny the deity of Jesus completely obliterates the meaning of His atoning work on the cross.

We have been rescued from God, by God, and for God. The burden of this book has not been to simply talk about how nice it is to be saved. Instead, we have looked at several implications of salvation. We have seen that our lostness has been taken care of. The work of salvation was done out of the love of God paying the debt we could never pay. We were lured into becoming fellow men-catchers with Jesus. We also saw that we have embarked on a life of learning in which Jesus Himself is our curriculum and He puts us to work. Because He is now our life, we are not devastated when we are labeled, but do our utmost to speak to the intellectuals of our day the Good News about Jesus, even if we are thought to be mental airheads in the process! There is now a glorious liberty to those who are the Sons and Daughters of God, and nothing should entice us to give up our


freedom in Jesus. With all these blessings, we also discovered that we have been launched into a mission for the Son of God and need to get to it.

But not all will believe. Not all will be saved. In fact, some will resist this message and will go to their graves passively ignoring or actively opposing Jesus and His atoning work. What about them?

Yes, what about those who die without Jesus? Those who refuse to see their own lostness, mock the love of God, steadfastly resist His attempt to lure them into the family of God — what about them? What about those who insist on not enrolling in Jesus University, who are content with the myths of this world and will not become learners of God’s grace? What about those who give no reason to be labeled as “little Christs,” and turn away from the liberty that God promises to His redeemed children? What about those who couldn’t care less about His mission and launch themselves into their own orbits of self- absorption? What about them?

Limits to God’s Love?

Some would say that the unredeemed, those who refuse to be saved, will still be loved eternally by God, even as they are separated from Him and the family of God. After all, isn’t the love of God everlasting? There can’t be limits to God’s love, can there?

But what does the Bible itself say about those who die without Jesus? We read in Matthew 25: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (v. 41). To be in the category of the “cursed” does not sound like they are objects of God’s love. Earlier in this chapter of Matthew we read of a worthless servant. The master tells the


faithful servants to “. . . throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 30). At the end of Matthew 25 Jesus gives us a summary conclusion of the sheep and goats’ analogy: “Then they [the goats] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous [the sheep] to eternal life.” (v. 46)

The fate of those who die outside of Christ is explained as their being thrown out of His presence, a place of eternal fire originally prepared for the devil and his angels, a destiny described as eternal punishment where there will be everlasting weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The book of Revelation tells us that “A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, 10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.’” (ch. 14).

We read in Revelation 16 of those who experience a foretaste of God’s wrath: “They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.” (v. 9). This seems to contradict those who say that a moment’s experience of God’s wrath will immediately convert a person to faith.

In Revelation 20, we read of the punishment of the evil trinity: Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. We


read: “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (v. 10). Two verses later we read about the fate of all human beings outside of Christ: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (vv. 12-15).

There is no way that anyone could read such verses and conclude that the lost are still objects of God’s love. They are, instead, objects of His eternal wrath.

A Shocking Resurrection

But the idea of God’s righteous hatred of the wicked is not just taught in the last book of the Bible. We read in Daniel 12:2 an amazing end-times’ statement: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

The Bible teaches that there will be a resurrection of the wicked, for they will receive indestructible bodies which will undergo God’s wrath eternally. We do not rejoice in such a doctrine, but must recognize that, apart from God’s grace in our lives, we would merit the same. And that’s one major reason why those of us who are saved must get the Good New about Jesus out to a lost world. A.W. Tozer said, “The vague and tenuous


hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.”11 May those of us who by His grace know Him not succumb to such a doctrinal drug.

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Posted by on November 28, 2021 in saved


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Saved! Rescued from God, by God, and for God! (Chapter Seven: Launched!)

Friends: This is the seventh chapter of a short book I wrote a couple of years ago. Comments welcome! Subsequent chapters to follow!

Saved!  Chapter Seven: LAUNCHED!

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to set foot on the moon. Aldrin later suffered an emotional breakdown, followed by a slow, painful recovery. One writer asked what caused the breakdown. Aldrin said it resulted from the terrible disillusionment he felt after working so hard, achieving every goal set before him, and then finding it empty when it was over. His dreams, fantastic though they were, were not lasting enough. After accomplishing that great goal in his life — walking on the moon — he was left with no purpose or meaning.

What is your mission in life? George Bernard Shaw once said, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

I believe Shaw’s quote could be easily adapted to describe many Christians today. They haven’t found the true joy in life even though they’ve found Jesus. They don’t view their lives as being used for a mighty purpose. And, if the truth be told, they each seem to give every appearance of being a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances who complain that the church will not devote itself to making them happy!

How wonderful to be found when one was once lost, to be loved by an eternal God, to be lured into the joy of the gospel, to begin a life of learning eternal truths, to experience a bit of suffering by being labeled by those who oppose Jesus, and to be set free — liberated — to serve the living and true God! All these blessings are truly amazing, but we were never intended


to sit in the corner of our church and, as the old song says, just “count your blessings, name them one by one . . .” We discover in this chapter that we have been launched, sent out on the grandest of all missions!

We learn about this sending out in the passage of Scripture known as the Great Commission:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt.28)

Before the Great Commission

Before we look at this passage in detail, let’s notice what has happened before the giving of this Great Commission. In Matthew 28 we have the story of the two Marys visiting the tomb of the Lord Jesus. A violent earthquake takes place, and an angel of the Lord comes down from heaven and rolls away the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb and sits on it. The guards at the tomb are overcome with terror, shake violently, and “became like dead men.” The angel calms the women and announces that Jesus has risen just as He said. He invites the women to inspect the empty tomb, then to go quickly and tell His disciples that Jesus would meet them in Galilee.


The women hurry away from the tomb, “afraid yet filled with joy,” to run and tell His disciples. Suddenly Jesus Himself meets them and greets them. They grab onto His feet and worship Him. He tells them not to be afraid but to tell “my brothers” to go to Galilee and “there they will see me.”

Matthew 28 also tells us about the lie the chief priests and the elders convince the guards to spread, that Jesus’ disciples had come during the night and stolen the body of Jesus. With an appropriate bribe their deception is purchased. Then we read our text on what transpires in Galilee.

Grand Hoax or . . .
Before we move on, let’s think about what one writer said about the resurrection of Jesus. He wrote, “The resurrection of Jesus is the most wicked, vicious hoax ever foisted upon the minds of man, or it is the most fantastic fact in history.” As we learn in I Corinthians 15, the rising from the dead of the Lord Jesus is either true or false. If He did not rise from the dead, He is not the Savior and does not merit our allegiance. The person who says, “I’ll live the Christian life anyway, even if He didn’t rise from the dead. It’s a better way to live life!” is not an object of admiration in I Corinthians 15, but an object of condescending pity. “If only in this life we have hope in Christ,” Paul says, “we are of all men most to be pitied.”

Occasionally, as a theologian I have shared some of my research in a professional meeting of other theologians. The act is called “presenting a paper” and often involves very heavy, sometimes esoteric, topics which can instantly cure anyone’s insomnia. A number of years ago I did an in-depth research of I Corinthians 15 and called the paper “Paul’s Consequent


Nihilism in I Corinthians 15.” There. Now, don’t you feel your eyes getting heavy?

The point of the paper was the centrality of Christ’s resurrection, especially as seen in verse 32 where Paul says if Christ has not been raised, then “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Nihilism as a philosophical term refers to an extreme form of skepticism which rejects all values, challenges one’s belief in existence itself, and even doubts the possibility of communication. Essentially, nihilism refers to living as one chooses, living it up, not caring about consequences. My point in my paper was hopefully Paul’s point: that if Jesus is still dead in the grave somewhere, it doesn’t matter how we live. We should “party hearty!”

But because He has risen from the dead, we have every reason to expend our lives for His cause. After giving several strong lines of evidence for Christ’s resurrection, Paul concludes his chapter by writing, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (v. 58).

Because Jesus Christ kept His word — He predicted His own resurrection — no sacrifice for Him can be too great. He is the risen Savior, the Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, and what He commands, we must do. The Christian faith is not faith in faith (meaning that we believe because we have to believe something), but faith in the truth about a living Jesus who will one day judge the living and the dead.

Sent on Mission
If He has indeed risen, then we must take with utmost seriousness His marching orders to us which we find


here in Matthew 28: “. . . go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We have been launched; we have been sent on mission, and nothing should deter us from fulfilling our assignment! If we are convinced that the gospel is true, and we see that we have been sent on mission, nothing should hinder us from doing our part in fulfilling that Great Commission.

In one of my seminary courses this past semester I required students to select, read, and critique a book which I described as one which would “boil your blood before you get past the preface.” What I meant was that often we Christians only read what we agree with. We need to know the strongest arguments against our faith firsthand, and that involves reading such books. I do not recommend that new believers read such books, but this assignment was given to graduate-level, seminary students.

Most of my students read their books (from a list I recommended) and did a superb job of evaluating and critiquing the various challenges they were seeing to biblical Christianity.

One student emailed the following to me when I asked him where his “Boiling Book” review was. “Dr. Dixon,” he wrote, “I did not complete a ‘Boiling Book’ review because I could not find a book that makes my blood boil. I do not entertain peoples’ opinion concerning scriptures; I spend enough energy trying to keep up with my own thoughts.” I wrote him back and said we should have discussed his perspective earlier in the


semester because this assignment was worth 20% of his final grade!

But what was this student really saying? I had given the class a list of “Boiling Blood” books, so he did not have to “find” such a book. Was he saying that he had more than enough to do and didn’t need to waste time reading a book he knew he would disagree with? Was he saying the assignment was unreasonable, that it was not at all conducive to what he was trying to accomplish in the course? Could he have been saying that nothing could make his blood boil as a Christian? I certainly hope not, for that would indicate that nothing could outrage him, could anger his Christian sensibilities, could provoke him to respond rationally to the arguments hurled against his Jesus. I can agree to some extent with his sentiment that “I spend enough energy trying to keep up with my own thoughts.” He should wait until he’s my age when the challenge is remembering what one’s thoughts were!

I don’t pretend to know the exact meaning of my student’s email or his inner motivation for not doing that assignment, but I do know this: If I am sent on a mission for Jesus, it will require the full complement of my emotions to sustain me in my role in that mission. And if I really care about lost people, I will expose myself to their best reasons for not believing the gospel. And I should expend my very best energy to respond to their opposition so they can move from the category of enemies of God to the category of His fellow-workers.

The risen Jesus appears to His eleven disciples (Judas, the betrayer, had hanged himself) in Galilee. When the disciples see the Lord, they worship Him, but there were some who still doubted. There always are. We do


not read that Jesus rebukes those who are doubting, but He simply issues the Great Commission.

Jesus’ Authority

He begins the Great Commission with a declaration of His own authority: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” He says (v. 18).

Christians believe, for good reasons, that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Divine Trinity. So when we read, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” the thinking follower of Jesus should react, “Wait a minute! He’s God the Son. What does that expression mean, ‘All authority has been given to me’?!” The answer, we believe, is that He is making this statement as the incarnate Son of God, the One who became flesh (Jn. 1:14) and dwelt among us. As God- become-man the Son is given all authority. Theologians, who get paid big bucks to try to figure out such matters, suggest that certain things became true of the Son of God when He became human, things that were not true before He took on Himself our likeness. For example, it is impossible for God to die. But Jesus died, didn’t He? He had to become human to die for our sins. Similarly, the Son of God temporarily gave up His position in heaven as He descended to earth (Phil. 2:6-8), but has now been exalted to the right hand of the Father (Phil. 2:9-11). As God-become-man Jesus could give the Great Commission to the disciples because God the Father had commissioned Him!

In considering the Great Commission, we must focus on the Person of the Lord Jesus. If He was truly God- become-man, then He has the authority to command us to do anything! Someone has said, “Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong about Jesus.” That certainly applies to those who have not yet believed the gospel,


but it also applies to us who have. We dare not minimize the authority of the Lord Jesus as He gives us our marching orders.

Our Calling to Disciplize

Let’s look at the words of Jesus carefully. He says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .” (v. 19).

Most translations of the New Testament translate this verse as we have it in the New International Version: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .” There are some interesting renditions, such as The Message which says, “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near . . .” The Wycliffe Bible has, “Therefore go ye, and teach all folks . . .” [We don’t use the word “folks” enough, do we?]. I prefer Young’s Literal Translation which says, “having gone, then, disciple all the nations . . .”

A little Greek is a dangerous thing, but the verse does indicate that the emphasis is not on the going but on the disciplizing. The “going” part is actually a past participle which could be translated “after having gone.” The main verb, then, is “disciple” or “make disciples.”

One immediate and obvious observation is that we are not told to go out and make converts. What?! We are told to go out and “make disciples.” Now, the New Testament teaches that one can’t be a disciple without first becoming converted. Conversion occurs when one repents of one’s sins and believes the good news about Jesus. At that point one moves out of the category of spiritual death and into the category of spiritual life, out of the kingdom of Satan and into the kingdom of God. At conversion one begins the process of becoming like Jesus, sometimes called sanctification


(which means to be set apart). The normal Christian life is a process of becoming more and more like Jesus and that’s a pretty good definition of discipleship. The word “disciple” actually comes from a verb meaning “a learner.”

We were never sent out simply to make converts. We were and are sent out to make Jesus-followers, learners, disciples.

A Geography Lesson

So our text reads, “Therefore go and make disciples . . .” The implication may well be, “You can’t stay where you are comfortable. You must move out and communicate this message to all people everywhere.” This is what Christians refer to as “missions.” In many churches missions seems to be an afterthought, a minor item on the church’s agenda, a footnote in their annual budget. But from Matthew 28 it appears to be the believer’s defining purpose: we are to go and make disciples of all the nations.

Pastor John Piper, a man whom I greatly admire, puts it this way: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Worldwide missions is the believer’s effort to bring as many as possible into a worshipping condition before the God of the Bible.

For many, this will involve leaving their home country, learning a next-to-impossible language and culture, and moving to a location where people eat what people were never intended to eat. Why? So that those who have not heard the good news about Jesus can hear it, believe it, and become worshippers of this missionary God.


My wife Linda and I were missionaries in Germany back in the 1970’s. Although we were part of only a two- year team to West Berlin, we did our best to learn the German language and culture so we could effectively share the gospel with lost people. [We began our two- year term down in Munich and were present when the Israeli athletes were massacred at the 1972 Olympics].

German is a challenging language, but not as difficult as some others. I remember doing door-to-door evangelism in Berlin and using my new language. The old lady who answered the door first had to be assured by me that we were neither Jehovah’s Witnesses nor Mormons (these two cults had covered Berlin at least twice in their “evangelism” efforts). I then wanted to say to her, “I’m sorry to bother you, but we are inviting you to watch a Billy Graham crusade on TV this week.” The word “disturb” in German is stoeren. However, like many languages, prefixes can be added to words and can radically change the meaning of the simple verb. I actually used the word zerstoeren with her which meant that I said, “I am sorry to have to DESTROY you, but . . .” This was not an example of good evangelistic method!

Missions is not meant to destroy people or cultures, but to introduce people to Jesus.

Glub. Glub.
Another part of our disciplizing commission involves baptizing new believers. Baptism is a symbolic act in which the new disciple identifies himself with the dead, buried, and risen Jesus, proclaiming to all who witness the baptism, “I’m a new person in Christ!” The Bible does not specify the mode of baptism: some churches sprinkle, some dunk, some dunk three times, and some pour. The meaning of baptism is much more important, it seems to me, than the mode of baptism.


I’ve always thought that one should immerse the candidate for baptism and as he or she is brought up out of water, the baptizer could ask, “Will you tithe 10% to the Lord?” If they say nothing, they should be dunked again and then asked, “Did you say you will tithe 20% to the Lord?” [I’m kidding].

There are various interesting views about water baptism among Christians. For some churches, a “waiting period” is required to make sure the new convert is really that — converted! Some have an extensive baptism class (lasting hours) that is probably more like a “Christianity 101” course. I guess they want to make sure that they are not baptizing those who don’t realize the step they are taking.

It seems to me that the baptisms in the New Testament were done so close to conversion that the two events are virtually identical. I get the impression that one hardly gets out the words “I believe” before they are saying, “Glub, glub, glub” (a sound some people make when they are immersed in water).

I have friends who hold to infant baptism, and I defend their right to hold that view, as long as they don’t teach that an infant is saved by being baptized.

When we lived in Canada, there was a church that was between pastors. They would sometimes have me come and preach. Once they invited me to baptize one of their college students. I remembered my pastoral theology class in Bible college when I was a student. We were taught how to properly immerse a baptismal candidate. Positioning yourself and the one being baptized in the baptismal tank was important, because you didn’t want to whack the person’s head on the side of the tank when you took them under.


The college student I was to baptize was quite tall, so I positioned us at one end of the tank, asked him to give a testimony to his faith in Christ, and missed whacking his head by an inch or two. However, it was obvious to all that I didn’t take him completely under the water. His head stayed above water, and everyone noticed it. Some of my friends kidded me and said, “You baptized all of him — except for his mind!”

Baptism is not an Evangelical option. It is one of two ordinances commanded by the Lord Jesus. It is to be done “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (v. 19). This clear Trinitarian reference reminds us that this new disciple is now in a redemptive relationship with the Divine Trinity.

Our Pedagogical Privilege

The Great Commission, our being launched into the mission of God, involves educating the new disciple in the truths of Jesus Christ. Jesus commands that we are to teach them “to obey everything I have commanded you.” (v. 20).

Again, we are not commissioned to create conversions but to develop disciples, and disciples — learners — must be taught! Please notice, however, that the purpose of teaching these disciples is so that they will “obey everything I have commanded you.” God’s truth is not meant to puff us up, but to grow us up.

I heard about a police officer who interrogated a teacher about a murder suspect. “Is it true that this man was your student?” The teacher replied, “He might have attended my lectures, but he was never my student.”


When a person becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ, there is a learning process which begins. It is not a learning curve. It is a brand new highway on which he or she will travel the rest of their days! Becoming a serious follower of Jesus Christ is not a correspondence course or a do-it-yourself project. It involves a life-long educative process.

We noticed in our fourth chapter about “Learning” the quote from Flannery O’Connor who said that, “The high- school English teacher will be fulfilling his responsibility if he furnishes the student a guided opportunity, through the best writing of the past, to come, in time, to an understanding of the best writing of the present. And if the student finds that this is not to his taste? Well, that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed.”

Christians on the mission of Jesus are not consulting tastes. They are, by God’s grace, forming them. Feeding on God’s Word becomes a holy habit, but Christians were never meant to enter God’s restaurant with the words, “Table for one, please!” No. We are meant to learn in community, to be discipled by older believers.

Jesus’ Promised Presence

The last part of the Great Commission is Jesus’ promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Let’s think about Jesus’ “being with” us as we go out on mission.

What does it mean to say that Jesus will be “with” us? If God is everywhere present (what theologians call the “omnipresence” of God), then is Jesus somehow more present with His disciples who are engaged in disciplizing?


In my theology class in seminary, I try to explain this concept by talking about the fact that God is not spacially limited in any way. As one fellow theologian puts it, “Wherever there is a where, God is there!” I talk a bit about Psalm 139 (a great text on God’s omnipresence) and then I ask my class, “Are you all with me?” Those awake will respond, “Yes!” I then ask, “No, are you really with me?”

Some give me a strange look as if to say, “Dr. Dixon, you’re repeating yourself again. Have you considered retirement?” I then explain the difference between being somewhere spatially and being somewhere relationally. We can physically be in someone’s presence, but not be tracking with them, not connecting with what they are saying, not in fellowship with them. Are you with me?

When Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” this is not mere physical presence. [Although, when you think about it, to have the “mere” physical presence of Jesus with us is about the best gift anyone could ever have!]. It is far more than geographical proximity. He is with us in our quest to fulfill the mission He has given us. He is with us in language-acquisition; He is with us in culture-learning; He is with us when we are persecuted, slandered, ignored, ridiculed, beaten, or rejected. He is with us. Do we believe His promise, or do we act like we’ve been abandoned, forsaken in our potentially life-threatening response to His marching orders?

Those who are followers of Jesus Christ have been launched.

Confession time. I am particularly weak in my grasp of the Old Testament. But there is so much truth in the Old Testament that I need to know. I think of the evil king Sennacherib’s message to Hezekiah when he said,


“Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says . . .” (2 Ki. 19:9).

When the God we depend on says He will be with us in our mission — we can take Him at His word. For we have been launched.



If we see ourselves as having been saved, we have much for which we must be thankful. He did not leave us in a lost condition, but found us and all heaven rejoiced in our being found. He has loved us with an everlasting love, even to the extent of showing us that salvation must be received as a gift, not earned by our goodness.

Something brought you and me to a realization of our need of Christ. And He lured us into His family so that He could catch men and women through us.

Those who are saved are now enrolled in what I call Jesus University. We are to learn of Him and our learning ought to give us a soul rest which strengthens us for our labor for Him.

Although we can offer no part of the price for our salvation, there will be a price to our living for the Lord Jesus. Some will consider us a stench in their nostrils. Others will label us intellectual airheads. But such rejection should be expected for those who have been saved.

Jesus gives a freedom to all who trust in Him, and that liberty should not be bargained away for anything. He wants us free! Free to serve Him, free to enjoy the abundant life, free to trust in His grace alone.

Such freedom is not to be enjoyed as an end in itself, but as the foundation for our being launched into the world for him. We are to be on mission, looking to establish not merely converts, but disciples.

Being rescued from God’s wrath is a wonderful thing, accomplished by the Son of God. There is no one else apart from the Second Person of the Trinity who could have secured our salvation. But God wants His house


filled. And we are called to become like the Lord Jesus, and to seek the last, the least, and the lost.

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Posted by on November 26, 2021 in saved


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Pope says, if you try to convert an unbeliever, you are “not a disciple of Jesus”

First, Pope Francis was quoted as saying “There is no Hell.” Later, he reportedly denied the deity of Christ, saying that while Jesus lived on earth he was a virtuous man but “not at all a God.” Then, the Pope reportedly said that His death, Christ appeared as a spirit, as opposed to the bodily resurrection of Christ. Now he has said that those who try to “proselytize” an unbeliever are “not a disciple of Jesus.”

The other times the man who is said to be the custodian of the Christian faith reportedly said something that seemed to deny a central tenet of Christianity were in the context of a discussion with his atheist friend, the Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari. The Vatican insisted that the journalist was not accurate in his reporting. This time Pope Francis was talking to a group of high school students in Rome, responding to a question about how to deal with atheists and people of other religions.

Here is what he said:

In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak. I have to live consistent with my faith. And it will be my testimony to awaken the curiosity of the other who says: “But why do you do this?” And yes, I can speak then. But listen: Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing. If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus. Proselytism is not done, the church does not grow by proselytism. Pope Benedict had said it, it grows by attraction, by testimony. Football teams proselytize, this can be done. Political parties, can be done there. But with faith there is no proselytism. And if someone says to me: “But why?” Read, read, read the Gospel, this is my faith. But without pressure.

To be sure, “proselytize” has the connotation of evangelizing in the wrong way–high pressure, canned presentations, being manipulative, etc.–though simply telling people about Jesus is often branded as proselytizing. This is how it is taken in the growing number of countries with anti-proselytizing laws, which are often being used today to persecute Christians, something the Pope should be sensitive to.

But setting that aside, the Pope’s answer suggests what might be a useful tactic in evangelism: Wait to be asked. Instead of trying to convince your Muslim, Jewish, and atheist friends to become Christians–which might create big trouble for a contemporary European teenager–live out your faith so that they become curious and ask you about it. Then you can speak.

Fair enough. The problem, though, is that the Pope puts his prohibition about not trying to convince unbelievers and not proselytizing so strongly. Those who do so are not just well-intentioned but ineffective, or wrong-headed and naive. “They are not a disciple of Jesus.” Is he saying that if you try to convert someone to Christianity, you yourself are not a Christian?

Evangelical Christians are well-known for evangelizing, for “witnessing” to others about their faith, giving their “testimony” about their own coming to faith in the course of “sharing the Gospel.” In their recent ecumenical zeal, Catholics have finally accepted Protestants as Christians, though as “separated brethren.” But does the Pope believe that evangelicals and Pentecostals who try to win others to their faith “are not disciples of Jesus”?

But here is the biggest problem. On the first Pentecost, St. Peter faced a diverse, multicultural Jewish audience “from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). He preached to them about Jesus, called on them to repent and be baptized, and “with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them” (Acts 2: 40). As a result, “about three thousand souls” became Christians (Acts 2:41). Later, St. Peter won converts by preaching to the crowd at Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3). Still later, St. Peter presided over the conversion of a Roman centurion named Cornelius (Acts 10).

How does this align with what Pope Francis said? “In front of an unbeliever the last thing I have to do is try to convince him. Never. The last thing I have to do is speak.” Didn’t St. Peter speak first and try to convince his audience? These people already had a religion, whether Judaism or Roman paganism. So wasn’t St. Peter trying to get them to change their religion? Couldn’t this be seen as proselytizing? The Pope said, “Never, never bring the gospel by proselytizing. If someone says they are a disciple of Jesus and comes to you with proselytism, they are not a disciple of Jesus.” Would the Pope say that St. Peter, whose office he claims to hold, is “not a disciple of Jesus”? But St. Peter was, literally, a disciple of Jesus.

St. Peter and the other Twelve Disciples, along with other Apostles like St. Paul, spread Christianity throughout the Greco-Roman world, from India to Spain. None of them seem to have followed the contemporary ecumenical approach, sometimes expressed by Pope Francis, that “If you follow your own religion faithfully–whether you worship Zeus, Jupiter, or any other deity represented in the Roman Pantheon–you will be saved.” Instead, they said things like, put away your idols and turn to the living God (cf. Acts 14:15).

The subsequent generations of the Early Church also convinced multitudes of unbelievers from still more religions. A large number of the saints venerated in the Catholic Church were missionaries, apologists, and martyr witnesses. And some, arguably, were proselytizers. Does the Pope really believe that these saints of the church are not disciples of Christ? If so, is he going to de-canonize them?

I know quite a few people who have become Catholics. They say that the Catholic Church gives them certainty, that having a living oracle from God in the papacy protects the church from change and from liberal theology, ensuring a living tradition that is continuous from century to century. Recent popes, like St. John Paul II and Benedict VI, played that role. But Pope Francis does not.

That he is continually undermining not just historic Catholicism but historic Christianity in favor of beliefs that interest him more, such as environmentalism and ecumenism, undermines the office of the papacy itself. Orthodox Catholics, whose conservative theology has always manifested itself in allegiance to the Pope, are put in the position of having to resist what the Pope teaches. For non-Catholics, the papacy and thus the church that he rules lose all credibility.

To be sure, Pope Francis is still pro-life, though remarkably tolerant of Catholic politicians who are not. He still believes in the supernatural, unlike some liberal theologians, to the point of recognizing demonic possession and promoting exorcisms. And maybe all of these controversial statements are just misunderstandings or mistranslations.

For Lutherans, the Popes of history have not, contrary to the claim, been the custodians of historic Christianity. Rather, they have been a means of making changes in Christianity, adding innovations such as Purgatory, indulgences, saint worship, relic veneration, ritualism, legalism, and the consequent effacing of the Gospel itself. Pope Francis makes clearer what Lutherans have always professed about the office of the papacy, that it is not of Christ but Antichrist, not as the dispensationalist end times bogeyman but as a usurper of Christ within the church (2 Thess 2:3-4). If you want an objective guardian of the faith that never changes, look to God’s Word, not to a fallible human being who claims to be infallible.

Patheos article by Gene Veith January 3, 2020


Posted by on February 3, 2020 in evangelism


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My Time in Africa — Teaching in Ethiopia!

Friends: I’m back in the States after almost a month in Africa! If you prayed for me, thank you! I met some fantastic believers, tried some ethnic food, and thoroughly enjoyed working with church leaders in both Zambia and Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, my class of 20-25 consisted of church leaders and we covered my book DocTALK. The students willingly broke into small groups to discuss how the doctrines of the Christian faith apply to their situations.

Our plan is to return in August (Linda will teach some English to these students in the afternoon) and then a third time in the future. I was humbled at the quality of these leaders and am grateful to Mulu and his vision for the gospel in Addis Ababa and surrounding areas.

I was overwhelmed with the amount of people in Addis, the capital. I would love to invite any of you who wish to financially contribute to the good work they are doing. Donations may be sent to:CMML, Inc. P.O. Box 13 Spring Lake, NJ 07762-0013. There are so many needs at this important school. Mark your donation attention to the principle Mulugeta Ashagre (email: I am more than happy to answer any questions you have.

Again, blessings on you all for lifting me up in prayer! Here’s a short video clip of some of the children in Ethiopia clapping for me!

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Posted by on November 14, 2019 in Africa


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My Time in Africa — Teaching a Master’s Class in Zambia!

I arrived at the Lusaka airport in Zambia on October 19th. I was picked up by a couple of brothers from the Ambassador International University. An hour and a half later we were way out in the bush at the school. The school, sponsored by Gospelink, has about 90 buildings and I was housed at a nice “visitors’ lodge” with a private room and bath.

My class consisted of eight Master’s level students. They were a joy as we went through three books that I had written: When Temptation Strikes (on the doctrine of temptation and sin), The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit (not yet published), and Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. These men tackled the content and we had wonderful discussions about the implications for their ministry in Zambia.

To any of you who prayed for my time in Zambia, thank you! I will shortly write a brief report of the 2nd half of my trip, teaching in Ethiopia!

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Posted by on November 11, 2019 in Africa


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A Brief Report on My Trip to Zambia (Oct. 18-27, 2019)

First of all, friends, thank you for praying! I am presently (Oct. 30) in Ethiopia teaching a course to pastors and Christian workers.

My course in Zambia went quite well. I had eight Masters-level students and they were a great encouragement to me as we talked about three areas: temptation and sin, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and friendship evangelism. I used my book When Temptation Strikes for the 1st area, my just-published book Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World for the third area. And I recently finished a short manuscript entitled The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit. Whew!

The Gospel Link campus for Ambassador International University is quite impressive, but extremely remote. My accommodations were in a fine newer building called “The Lodge.” It was my joy to serve that school and those students! Above is a picture of the class.

One of the meals I tried ! Please lift me up prayer for my next week and a half here in Ethiopia.  Thanks!

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Posted by on November 1, 2019 in Zambia


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Please Pray for My Time in Zambia: October 20-26!

Friends: I will be teaching at Ambassador International University in Zambia, Africa. I’ve developed the following course to teach a small cohort of graduate-level national students. Here’s a copy of my syllabus:

I’ve recently finished writing a short book on God the Holy Spirit. And I get to take these students through that draft manuscript.

I would deeply appreciate your praying for me during this upcoming week of study with these students!  Thank you!



Posted by on October 20, 2019 in Zambia


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What Does the Lord Have for Me in 2019?

Some of you are faithful readers of this blog.A few of you have stumbled on it by accident.  I appreciate each of you and want to take today’s post to ask for your prayer for me and this new year!  I’m so thankful that the Lord is using me in various ministries and you might want to know about a few upcoming events for which you can pray.  Please let me know how I can pray for you.

Specific kinds of activities:

1. Writing projects:There seems to be good indication that I will have one (and possibly two) writing contracts for this year.  Unlike Jesus: One Area in Which Jesus-Followers Excel is something I’ve worked on for a while. We need to become friends of sinners, like Jesus, don’t we? Another book, tentatively entitled With Friends Like These, will challenge us to develop deeper relationships with other believers as well as with those who don’t know the Lord.  (I’ll announce on this blog when either of these contracts is nailed down).  Please pray for clarity of thought and a clear guidance of God the Holy Spirit as I work on these two projects.

2. Speaking Opportunities: I am so grateful for the times I get to preach God’s Word or conduct serious study sessions on various theological topics.  I’m hoping to present one or two workshops at the annual “Iron Sharpens Iron” conference at Emmaus Bible College in May. I’ve suggested several possible topics (the titles with brief descriptions are: “Learning to Be a Friend of Sinners Without Becoming a Friend of the World” Jesus’ being a friend of sinners (Mt. 11:19) and the command for us not to be a friend of the world (James 4:4) are often confused. How is it many of us need a refresher in Friendship 101? What is a biblical definition of the “world” and our place in it? “Theological Opposition: Where Should We Do Battle — and Why?” This is not the day for spiritual pacifists. As Chuck Colson used to say, “The battle is raging today all around, but many are perishing because we Christians have failed to engage the enemy at the point of attack. We not only flinch; for the most part we are not even looking in the right direction.” (Who Speaks for God?). Biblical guidelines for fighting false teaching will be discussed. “Battlin’ Brethren: Silly Squabbles Between the Saints” Learning to distinguish between the essentials of the faith and our own distinctives is crucial. The adage “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things charity” was sadly violated by J.N. Darby and his compatriots in the early days of the Brethren Movement. Their legacy, unfortunately, continues. Some recommendations for reversing the trend will be given. “A Discussion of Greg Koukl’s Book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions” In an increasingly hostile world, this book provides practical steps in sharing the gospel without becoming obnoxious or defensive. Tactics such as the Columbo Method, Steamrolling, and the Rhodes Scholar are explained by this prominent apologist from Stand to Reason).

3. Ministry/Missions Opportunities:  Apart from several trips to work with the believers at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel in New Jersey, I’ll be speaking in a Chinese church on Easter Sunday (in English, of course!). There is a strong possibility that Linda and I will travel to Ethiopia to teach in a small Bible school there for a couple of weeks!

There will also be some opportunities to edit book manuscripts for others, plenty of tennis with my friends (some who are not yet “in Christ”), some Bible conferences, etc.

I appreciate you, my friend.  And I deeply covet your prayers for me for this New Year!



Posted by on December 31, 2018 in ministry


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Guess Who’s Going to PALESTINE!?

An organization called the “American Federation of Ramallah Palestine” has invited me on a cultural trip to Palestine April 5-13, all expenses paid! Wow!

This is a non-profit educational organization. Its purpose is to “perpetuate and promote the rich heritage of the Ramallah family and their descendants in the diaspora.” As their brochure states, “This program hopes to foster an educational bond between the United States and Palestine by providing opportunities to help propel cultural and social interaction.”

I will have the opportunity to see such cities as Jaffa, Haifa, Nazareth, and Capernaum. A trip to Jerusalem will include the famous sites of the Temple Mount, the Church of the Pater Noster, and the Garden of Gethsemane.

We will also tour refugee camps, surrounding villages, and meet with the mayor of Ramallah and other city officials.

Would you consider praying for me as I will be (perhaps) the only Evangelical Christian in the group of eight or so? I’ll give a report when I return home.


Posted by on April 3, 2018 in Palestine


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Ministry Update — Sure Appreciate Your Prayers!

Some of you faithful readers might be interested in my ministry schedule for the next few months. The old word “covet” comes to mind. I’d sure covet your prayers for these upcoming opportunities:

Dec. 28 through Jan. 8
— Linda and I will be in NJ visiting her 91-year-old Mom. I’ll be preaching at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel on those two Sundays. I’m looking forward to working with their leadership over the next few months. I’ll meet with their leadership team on Tuesday Jan. 2 to discuss a position paper on Marriage and Divorce, lead a midweek Bible study on Acts on Wednesday, Jan. 3, speak at a men’s breakfast there on Jan. 6, teach a Sunday School class on I-III John on Sunday, Jan. 7, then preach that Sunday’s message! Please pray that we work well together during that week and for my next scheduled visit to them (April 15-22).

The New Year: I will be working on developing two online courses for Emmaus Bible College. They are both on areas of theology and I am looking forward to contributing to their program. Please pray for clarity and wisdom as I work on these.  I’m also quite excited to work with Biblical Eldership Resources in March and will be presenting two sermons on the preacher and the Holy Spirit!

Missions:  I’m looking forward to teaching at South East Asia Bible College and Seminary in Myanmar (Burma) in August.  We’ve not yet finalized the date.  Please pray for that wonderful opportunity for me to contribute to their ministry and the education of their students.  Their website is found at:

Writing:  My retirement is giving me time to work on several projects.  I’ve just finished my little booklet Ten Specific Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!  Send me a check for five bucks and I’ll get one right out to you.  Send me a note via snail mail telling me what you like about my blog and I’ll send you one for free!  Address: Dr. Larry Dixon, 117 Norse Way, Columbia, SC 29229

I’m working on other projects which I’ll probably inflict on (I mean share with) you in a later post.

Theology Matters Conferences:  I’ve developed a brochure on these weekend conferences.  Topics include “Unlike Jesus:  One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel”; “Insight from a Blind Man: A Study of John 9”; “Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die!  A Study of John 11”; etc.  Drop me an email (with a post office address) if you want some brochures to pass on to your church’s leadership team.

Again, thank you for reading my blog.  May the Lord encourage you in your projects!


Posted by on December 21, 2017 in ministry


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