Wednesday, March 9, 2016, 12:00 noon – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Your Servant Witness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 3:1-21 (ESV). Born of The Spirit (vv. 1-8) Now 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 him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, 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.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” If we want to have the promise of heaven when we die, have eternal life with God both now and forevermore, enter into his eternal kingdom, be delivered out of slavery to sin, and escape eternal damnation, as well as have a vital and personal relationship with Almighty God, we must be born again. So, what does it mean to be born again? When we are born into this world, we are born of the flesh, of a woman. That is physical birth, which is of water. When we are born physically, we are born with sin natures, separate from God, and destined for hell. We come up short of attaining God’s divine approval because of our sin. Nothing we can do in our flesh can ever gain us heaven or salvation from sin or eternal life with God. We can’t earn our own salvation nor can we ever do anything that would make us deserving of heaven. Our good will never outweigh our bad. And, we can never keep all the law with 100% perfection. So, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to the earth to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might be delivered out of sin and have eternal life. When he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death. Through his death and resurrection, he provided the way for us to delivered out of slavery to sin, from the curse of sin, and from eternal damnation, and he freed us to now walk in his holiness and righteousness. By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we no longer have to pay the penalty of our sin, for Jesus paid what we owed with his blood. Through faith in Jesus Christ we now have the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to our accounts, so we are now free from sin, and we have been given new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. This, described above, is new birth. This is what it means to be born again, of the Spirit. God the Father draws us to Jesus Christ, we are convicted of our sin and of our need of the Savior, and so we choose to believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives. The Lord grants us repentance and the faith to believe, and so we turn away from our former lives of living for sin and self, and we turn to follow Jesus Christ with our lives, in obedience to what he teaches us through his Word. When we believe in Jesus, we are crucified with Christ, of the Spirit, in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The old has gone. The new has come. We are now born again, not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. Do You Not Understand? (vv. 9-15) Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Although the gospel message is quite clear, and it was well articulated by Jesus Christ, and by his New Testament apostles, and even though many ministers of the gospel have studied the scriptures, and should know what it means to be born again, still many of them do not adhere to the full gospel message, but they teach what is pleasing to itching ears. They teach a half-truth or a diluted gospel message which requires no repentance, no turning from sin, and no obedience to Christ’s teachings. In other words, they ignore a large majority of scriptural teaching on the gospel, because it does not fit with their lifestyles. They do not teach the crucified life of death to sin and living to righteousness. Their idea of belief in Jesus Christ sounds more like a mere intellectual assent to what he did for us in dying for our sins, or an emotional response to the hope of escaping hell, and having the promise of heaven when we die, yet based on a mere profession of faith. Yet, being “born again” is not a mere escape from hell and promise of heaven when we die. Being born again means we are being given new life, a transformed life of the Spirit of God. We don’t add Jesus Christ on to our old lives and expect that we can just slowly change a little at a time according to our own timetable, and according to what suits us and our lifestyles. Paul said that when we believe in Jesus Christ that our old lives of sin are done away with so that we can live our new lives in the Spirit. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Paul said that Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. He said that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. Being “born again” means we don’t live like we lived before. We now live in the Spirit, not according to our sinful flesh. Whoever Believes (vv. 16-21) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” When I was a child, I memorized John 3:16, as well as many other key scripture verses related to our eternal salvation, most of which were taken out of context, which in some cases did not provide full understanding of the message intended. Many people claim that if they just “believe” in Jesus Christ that they now have the promise of heaven guaranteed, no matter what they do from this moment on, no matter how they conduct their lives, and even if they would choose later on to not believe. But, is that what is intended here? And, what do they really mean by “believe” when they present a gospel message that results in no spiritual transformation and no new birth of the Spirit in someone’s life? If all we do is say we believe, or we repeat after someone certain words, and then someone congratulates us on having just received eternal salvation, is that true belief? Are we truly born again? Or, is this all smoke and mirrors? If we look at the Greek tense of the word “believe,” we will learn that the word is present tense and should be translated, “whoever believing in him…” What this means is that we have to believe today, and tomorrow, and continue believing until we die, or until Jesus returns if we want to have eternal life. Eternal life is not promised on the basis of past belief, only on present belief. Also, if I claim to believe in something or someone, it means I put my trust in them. Remember that James said that even the demons believe, and they shudder. Many who claim to know Jesus have no fear of God at all. And, their belief is surface level only, as they are just looking to escape punishment. They are not looking to honor and worship and serve the Living God. As well, if I truly believe Jesus died so that I could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so I can walk daily in his righteousness, which is what scripture teaches as the reason he died, then I am not going to continue to live a sinful lifestyle. If I do, then scripture says my profession of faith is a lie, and that I don’t really know God. It teaches that I will die, not live with God for eternity. When I come before God one day, he will tell me that he never knew me, even though I tell him that I “prayed the prayer,” and was told I had heaven guaranteed. So, I better know what scripture teaches, and I had better stop listening to all these liars and deceivers, i.e. these wolves in sheep’s clothing who are convincing so many, many people that they can “believe” and go to heaven when they die, but that they don’t have to turn from their sins, and they don’t have to obey Christ’s teachings. Ok, now back to what I said previously about taking scriptures out of context. Look and see how this passage of scripture describes one who truly believes in Jesus, versus those who do not believe. The one who does not believe hates the light (truth, righteousness), because his deeds are evil, so he will not come into the light. These would be those who say they don’t have to repent, i.e. that they don’t have to turn away from their sins and they don’t have to obey Jesus Christ, and that God is pleased with them no matter what they do. But, the one who truly believes comes into the light, and embraces the light, and desires to live by and walk by the light of Christ, i.e. by his righteousness and holiness, and his deeds bear witness to this fact. This would be one who is truly “born again,” because his life would reflect that he no longer walks in the darkness, but he now walks in the Light. Amen! Your Servant Witness / An Original Work / March 13, 2012 Humbly I bow, Lord, before You, Bringing my requests to You. May I listen; hear You speaking. May I follow You in truth. Gently lead me in Your service. Guide my steps and strengthen me. Fill me with Your love and mercy. May I live for Thee! Let me be Your servant witness, Telling others of Your grace. May I always share the gospel With those I meet face to face. May I show the love of Jesus, Caring for the needs of men; Be Your servant witness always For my Lord, Amen! My desire to be like Jesus, Living for Him ev’ry day. May I obey all His teachings Given me, so I’ll not stray. Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master. You are the King of my heart; Follow You where’er You lead me; Not from You depart!