Thursday, August 26, 2010

What? Born Again? - August 26, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Hope you are up early today, because here comes the devotional!

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God." John 3:3

Nicodemus brilliant first question... does not get asked. Jesus gives him an answer before Nicodemus even gets a question spoken! Just after listening to what is more than the usual polite greeting, Jesus doesn't give a polite response or even an acknowledgement. Instead, Jesus gets right to the truth, and right into the matters of importance. "I tell you the truth..." Right then we know through reading, and Nicodemus knew because he was there, that Jesus is saying something both timeless and that we need to know. We need to know the truth, and Jesus is going to spell it out for Nicodemus and everyone who reads his words. "...unless you are born again..." What? Beyond the obvious physical limitations, how does this work? Here is an example of believing in Jesus or not believing in Jesus. If you choose to not believe, then you are going to stumble over this small phrase. An intellectual will know that a person cannot be born again. A learned person will scoff at such nonsense. A person obviously can't be reborn from his mother! However, Jesus spoke only the truth and that is what he said, we must be born again. What is the problem with that? If we are not born again, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we cannot see Heaven, or the Kingdom of God.

Nicodemus didn't even ask the question, but received what is perhaps the most stunning answer in all of history. Even a person who refuses to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that the Bible is the very Word of God, will have trouble with this statement made by Jesus. That he began with, "I tell you the truth..." leaves us no wiggle room in our choosing. As C.S. Lewis noticed many years ago, you must believe in Jesus as the Truth, call him a liar, or write him off as crazy. We can see that in that choice there are two negative possibilities. This shows that the wrong choice is always much easier than the right one. Once you decide to believe in Jesus, and this verse is certainly the place to start making that stand, Jesus tells you what must happen for your salvation. You and I must be born again to see the Kingdom of God! How can this happen? We cannot tell from this one verse.

Although every verse is important in the Bible and all scripture has value for our Christian education, one verse alone does not usually hold the answer we seek. However, there is one verse, another statement by Jesus, that does hold the answer to this question of being born again. For now, we will just have to wait, and wonder, with Nicodemus as he tries to figure out the answer to a question he never got the chance to ask. This shows us something else of Jesus - his time was valuable during his earthly ministry. Jesus does not seem to be one to dwell on pleasant flattery or even genuine compliments, whichever Nicodemus meant in this case. Without waiting for Nicodemus to start asking questions of him, Jesus states the heart of the matter. "Nicodemus, if you want to go to Heaven, you must be born again." to add a little paraphrasing of my own there. That sounds like starting over in life. How in the world can we do that? Is Jesus leaving Nicodemus, and us, with no hope at all? Certainly there have been times that you or I may have looked at our lives and thought that starting over would be a good beginning, but of course we know that isn't possible. However, that seems to be just what Jesus has told Nicodemus is of critical importance. What is the answer to this conundrum? Nicodemus isn't slow or stupid; tomorrow we will see the very questions that any of us would have in the same situation.

Have a wonderful new day, even at this early hour, in Christ Jesus!

Bucky

3 comments:

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Bucky,

Regeneration in John 3

These different ways of talking about being "born again" describe effects of baptism, which Christ speaks of in John 3:5 as being "born of water and the Spirit."

In Greek, this phrase is, literally, "born of water and Spirit," indicating one birth of water-and-Spirit, rather than "born of water and of the Spirit," as though it meant two different births—one birth of water and one birth of the Spirit.

In the water-and-Spirit rebirth that takes place at baptism, the repentant sinner is transformed from a state of sin to the state of grace.

Peter mentioned this transformation from sin to grace when he exhorted people to "be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Bucky said...

Michael,
Thank you for the clarification. I apologize that it took me two months to see your comment. Jesus continues to send me new insight and learning through His word and comments such as yours. One day, probably when I meet Jesus face to face, I figure that I'll have learned everything I can from this life. Until then, keep on sending those comments, and I'll keep on working out my salvation!

Love in Christ,
Bucky

Michael Gormley said...

ABIDE IN ME, AND I IN YOU...

Jesus said:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."
(John 15:1-7)

Wow! In those seven verses, the word ABIDE is mentioned seven times. The context of those verses provides us with a lot of light as to what is required of us by GOD for our eternal salvation.

Jesus said:
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)

So we must not only ABIDE in Him but we must also strive to enter by the narrow gate. If we do not ABIDE in Him, then it is obvious that we are not on the path to the narrow gate of salvation, but on the path to the wide gate and to eternal destruction.

So Jesus said that if we do not ABIDE in Him (the Vine) then we will be taken away from the Vine by the Father, and will be cast off only to wither, to be gathered, and then to be thrown into the fire and burned.

Now that I have your attention, shouldn't we now find the meaning of the word ABIDE?

The theological meaning of ABIDE is to dwell within. Jesus would come and dwell in us and we likewise in Him. So as long as we do what Jesus requests of us then we are on the path to the narrow gate to salvation.

So to assure that we are on right path, Jesus has commanded that we must ABIDE in Him.

What is required in order to have Jesus ABIDE in us and we in Him?

Can we do it:

1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior ?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

2. By the grace of GOD only? Sola Gracias?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

3. By faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

It is simple common sense that since He commanded that we must do something, then doesn't it stand to reason that He would also tell us how to do it?

Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

Jesus left this command for us in John 6:53-57:

53 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56 HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD ABIDES IN ME, AND I IN HIM.

57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."