Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Thoughts About Our Rebirth

Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” – John 3:5-7

As we were flying back from Illinois, I closed my eyes and thoughts about Rebirth literally scrolled through my mind. It was rather strange to be honest, almost like a vision. I hesitate to use that phrase for fear that you might think me being dramatic. Having said that, I do think it is important for Christians to understand and be ready to articulate what the Bible says about spiritual rebirth. Knowing that most who read anything on Facebook or on a BLOG prefer short writings, I caution you that this is lengthy. I am not writing “ex cathedra” (a Latin phrase which means “from the chair.” It refers to binding and infallible papal teachings which are promulgated by the pope when he officially teaches in his capacity of the universal shepherd of the Church a doctrine on a matter of faith or morals and addresses it to the entire world.) but sharing a synthesis of scripture that we should be familiar with, in a progressive order. 

1. There is a difference between being religious and being a Christian.

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” John 3:1-3,10

The purpose of this story about Nicodemus was to tell us that it does not matter how much religious education you have – how often you go to church – what religious holidays you celebrate – to have eternal life requires spiritual birth. Nicodemus thought that he was doing what was necessary – but Jesus said he was lacking something. Spiritual rebirth. Whenever I hear someone say I am a “fill in the denomination” and not a Christian, I think of Nicodemus. 

2. There is a difference between doing good things and being a Christian.

Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ –  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. -   The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” – Matthew 19:16-17,20 -22

The young man believed that if he did good things that would be sufficient for God to let him into heaven.  But Jesus said “No”, it is not enough.  There can be no room in your heart for anything but love and devotion to God for you to have eternal life – to be born again.  Everything else– how you live and love and treat others – flows out of that love. What you possess is inconsequential – spiritually speaking. The fact was – the young man loved money more than God.  Jesus saw his heart.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was (read Matthew 22:37-39) he said – love God above all and then love people more than you love yourself.  I suspect that the young man was more than willing to give out of his excess but not out of what he thought he needed for himself.  The problem, the young man trusted in himself, and the world more than he trusted God.

3. Spiritual truth cannot be understood apart from personal spiritual revelation.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:13-14

Both Nicodemus and the young man understood that what they believed to be the way to heaven was not, according to Jesus.  But they could not understand the truth of what Jesus said and what they needed to do in response without the conviction of the Spirit of God. You cannot argue someone into heaven.  They must come under the conviction of the Spirit of God and yield their hearts to that conviction.  Very often, a struggle ensues.  That struggle is between our old nature – sinful – rebellious – self dependent – independent of God and the spiritual revelation that comes from the Spirit of God. 

4. We can share the Good News with people, but we can’t save them – they must come under the conviction of their sin which only the Holy Spirit can do.

And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” – John 16:8

5. Once we surrender to that conviction by faith – God, the Father – seals us with the Holy Spirit who then dwells in each Believer. 

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” –  Ephesians 1:13

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

6. The only way to be born again is by confession in Jesus by faith – having a change of heart.

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” –  Romans 8:9-10

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  – Ephesians 2:4-10

And that is the vision I had – that I was writing these verses and thoughts down to make it plain to Christians and perhaps to be used by the Spirit of God to those who do not believe.  While on the plane, I noticed the lead stewardess wore a cross on her necklace.  When I had the opportunity, I asked he if she was a Believer. She looked surprised at first then looked down at her necklace, touched it with her hand nervously, looked at me and said, “Yes, I am.” I told her that her necklace was a silent witness to her faith. 

Now for the “rest of the story”. In my vision, I saw only the order of the verses and then that I was sharing this with many people – groups of people who do not believe.  I don’t know what that means –  yet. Perhaps it is simply my sharing it with you and you sharing it with others, as opportunity presents itself. 

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

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