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GreaterGloryAll week we have been talking about this idea of the Second Birth and it has been rich. I know they are not “quick reads” but they are full of scripture and hopefully bring some deep concepts up to the surface so you can get your mind – and heart – around them.

Today I want to sum it up with a look at a passage in Ezekiel, which looks forward to this second birth and gives us an idea of what it would look like on a person.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. - Ezekiel 36:25-27

Oh how I love this picture.

When you come to Christ, the very first thing He does is sprinkle clean water on you and makes you clean. I have heard men tell me many times, I am going to clean myself up and then I will come back to God.

It can’t be done – You can’t wash your when you're standing in a cesspool. No amount of soap can cleanse a man standing in filth. [Tweet This]

And the only soap that is any good for cleaning the stains you have from the sin stew you have been living in is the blood of Jesus. Revelation 1:5 tells us that we are washed in His blood. Zechariah 13:1 tells us of a fountain where we will be washed from our sin and impurity, and as the old hymn so beautifully says, “there is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins.”

The next thing we learn about this new condition is that God will give us a new heart:

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

The problem with a stone heart is that nothing can penetrate it without shattering it.

God will write His law on the fleshy tablets of your heart, and give you His Spirit to give you the power to walk in all His ways.

The law that God wrote on tablets of stone for Moses and Israel was unkeepable – impossible. The law of love that God writes on our new heart would be unkeepable too, if our heart was stone, but He gives us His heart and His Holy Spirit, not to mention His righteousness, and suddenly, we become lovers.

Isn’t that a great picture!

Lord, I am so thankful that you have given me a heart with the capacity to love, a heart that is free from all that junk that held me back. Help me today to use this love organ to demonstrate Your heart for this world You so dearly love.

Thanks so much for coming by.

Ben NelsonI am not sure I am done with this, but for now…

Go love somebody.

Ben

4

GreaterGlory

That’s the question Nicodemus asked Jesus when Jesus said this:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. - John 3:3

And again when He reiterates it in verse 7

Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' - John 3:7

Today, I am going to draw together from a number of places in the Bible what it says about how you can be Born Again.

First, let me be clear. The phrase Born Again has been used as though a Born Again Christian was a particular flavor of Christian, but that is not the case.

Born Again is just one of the ways Jesus and the Bible describes becoming a Christian. You can’t be a Christian and not be Born Again.

Some of the other terms for those who are Born Again in the Bible are:

  • Christians
  • Believers
  • Followers of the Way
  • The Body of Christ
  • The Bride of Christ
  • Followers of Jesus
  • The Flock of God
  • Redeemed
  • Saved
  • Sheep
  • Laborers in the Kingdom
  • Friends of Jesus
  • New Creations
  • Children of God
  • The Church
  • The saints

Becoming a Christian is sometimes referred to as entering the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.

So I will start with what Jesus says right here in John 3 when describing how to be born again to Nicodemus, but we will expand it a bit to include some of the things Jesus said about following Him, and some of what Paul said about the Christian too.

Paul is a really good source for this information since most of his writings were addressed to the Church (the community of Born Again people) specifically.

Back to John 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus.

In the midst of this conversation, Jesus uses the word “believe” three times and then John comes back and repeats it at the end of the chapter just in case we missed it above.

The key verse of John 3, and perhaps the most familiar bible reference in the word, John 3:16 has oft been called the gospel in a nutshell.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Right on its heals, Jesus lays out this staggering contrast.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. – John 3:18

And John finishes up the subject at the end of the page with his own contrast.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. – John 3: 36

Please notice in these last two verses we go back to the fact we have mentioned before, a man without Christ is both under condemnation and the living in the wrath of God.

Also notice in verse 36 the contrasting word to believe is ‘not obey.’ In the Greek it is apeitheō – where we get the word apathy. John contrasts believing and just doing nothing. Hear this, the wrath of God abides on those who hear the Word of God and just do nothing. This is why over and over in His preaching Jesus talks about those who hear and do, and James exhorts us to be doers of the word.

[Sorry – I am starting to preach – that was not the plan here]

So – the first thing we learn about HOW to be Born Again is to believe – trust in – obey Jesus.

Is there anything else to it?

Check this out:

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:14-15

When talking to Nicodemus it was just believe, but here we have another element.

Repent.

I have written and taught extensively on repentance and its wonderful power to bring us victory over sin, but let me here give a simple explanation of repentance.

The word simply means to change your mind, but Paul lays down some instruction on how to allow this change of mind actually transform your life.

Remember in Romans 12:2 that Paul exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so repentance, or changing our mind, is the key to moving from the wishy-washy worldling you once were into the image of Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 Paul tells us exactly how to repent:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. - 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

Repentance is not tears at the altar it is a passion for purity wrought over time until your body, mind and soul are free of that which once enslaved you. [Tweet this] Glory to God!!!

So we have repent and believe, is there more to being Born Again?

Let’s look at Romans 10. When I was a kid, a young man at the time taught me a simple way to remember this verse. He said it was dynamite! Spiritual TNT – Romans Ten:Nine & Ten (TNT)

…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. - Romans 10:9-10 (now that’s dynamite!)

This confess is not the same as telling someone you sinned. What is meant by confess here is simply tell someone you believe in Jesus.

This is why when we baptize folks we ask them to give their testimony before they go under the water. They need to confess with their mouth that Jesus is their Lord and believe in their heart  - in what? – in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Now we have Repent – Confess – Believe.

So Ben, are you telling me that if I DO these things I am automatically a Christian.

I could try really hard, even get passionate about beating my sin.

I could tell people about the fact that I am a Christian.

I believe all the things they tell me about Jesus, and for sure I believe He rose from the dead. Am I a Christian now?

Strangely enough – even though we talk about what you must do to be saved, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms, that it is not about things you can do.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9

You can’t by your own effort be born again, just as you had nothing to do with your first birth. You could not make it happen and you could not stop it.

You do get to choose to believe – to trust – but that is the extent of what you can do.

There are bunches more places we could go to look at this topic, but that is all I have time for today.

Tomorrow I am going to take one good long look at what this salvation is. And let me tell you, it’s a BIG DEAL.

Thanks for coming by today.

If you have never known Christ in this way, and want to, it’s not difficult, and you don’t have to wait till you get your act together (because that day will never come – I promise)

Today, if while reading this you felt a tug somewhere inside – that was the Spirit of the Living God inviting you to come – inviting you to be Born Again.

God is not willing that any should perish (die without Him) but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Repent today – start by telling Him you’re sorry for anything He brings to mind that has offended Him, then follow Him through that repentance. Put your trust in Him today, and tell somebody about it. (I would love to hear about it – either below or via email  - ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com)

Ben NelsonThanks for reading. I know these are fairly long posts, and I appreciate you taking the time to read all the way to the end.

Walk in the light today.

Ben

2

GreaterGlory

Today, in our study of the Second Birth we are going to look at where 'natural' went wrong.

Thus far we have looked at where the idea of the Second birth originated, and the contrast between a life walking after the flesh and a life walking in the Spirit.

The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that every one of us has a sin problem.

All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. - Isaiah 53:6

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. - Psalms 51:5

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- - Romans 5:12

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, - Romans 3:23

So let’s dig in and find out how we got so broken.

Clearly, when God created man and pronounced him ‘very good’ man did not have a sin nature. He did however have a free will and the ability to choose between walking in relationship with God and going his own way.

Jesus said it this way:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. - John 14:15

The keeping of commandments is not like jumping through hoops to prove to God that we are good enough for His kingdom. Not at all!

The keeping of God’s commands is a demonstration of our trust in Him. It says to God, in more than simple lip service, that we believe He 1) knows best and 2) has our best in view as He leads us.

He is not looking for robots, God is looking for companions. [Tweet this]

As David said in Psalm 103:14, “For He Himself knows our frame,” and so He knows how best to live this life.

Yet Adam sinned in the Garden and with Adam’s sin all mankind took on his sin nature. Paul said it this way:

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. - 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

You see God told Adam that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. Of course you and I look at death as that moment when your brain stops functioning and your heart stops pumping and your lungs stop drinking in oxygen, but that is not the death God was talking about.

Adam, like Christ was born with a connection to God. They were able to communicate. He was spiritually alive. Think of it like a pair of lungs. When your lungs stop working, your body can’t gather the oxygen you need to live. When you are spiritually dead, your spirit can’t connect to the Spirit of God and supply you with the source of spiritual life.

When Adam chose not to follow – not to trust – God and rather to go after his own way – try things out for himself – he, Adam, broke that connection with God and died spiritually.

Every man and woman since Adam was born without the capacity to connect with God, without spiritual lungs, so to speak.

That is why Paul tells us:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17

This word creature has the sense of species. We are no longer a being with no spiritual lungs. When you are born again, you are born with new parts – spiritual parts – parts that have the ability to connect you to the Father.

This is why every man and woman must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. You can’t be part of His kingdom without the ability to connect with Him.

Boy, looking at these wonderful scriptures is doing me good!

Tomorrow we will finish up with the most important part; How can we be born again?

Don’t miss it.

Lord, I thank you that today I can breath in Your Spirit through the wonderful spiritual lungs you have given me.

Ben NelsonThanks much for coming this far. God’s word is so rich!

See you again tomorrow.

Ben

7

GreaterGlory

Yesterday we started looking at the Second Birth. You can catch up here.

Now let’s spend a little time talking about WHY there is a problem with just being born once. Why do we need a second birth?

For starters lets press into the difference between flesh and spirit a bit. For this we will turn to the chapter that is at the very top of my “most important chapters in the Bible” list, Romans 8.

Let’s jump in right at the top.

If you will allow it, I would like to step right through the first 9 verses a verse at a time.

Hope you have your swimmies on, because the water is about to get deep.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. - Romans 8:1

Ok – we love to hear this, don’t we? No Condemnation! No Condemnation! You bet – I sure love this too, but I can’t take it as a stand-alone verse. We must look at the context to understand how Paul can possibly say there is no condemnation, when Jesus himself says that anyone who does not believe in Him is condemned already. (see John 3:18)

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. - Romans 8:2

Paul is getting ready to contrast two laws: The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus and the law of sin and death.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, - Romans 8:3a

In verse 3 Paul basically tells us that the Law, that greatest of gifts that God ever gave the Jews (until Jesus), that verbal depiction of His nature and Character, the very thing all Jewish culture revolved around, was flawed. The Law was incapable of solving man’s one great problem.

The Law could not restore man’s relationship with God.

But the Law’s weakness was not inherent in the Law, but its problem was that it was dependant on man’s flesh, man’s basic nature, in order to allow relationship with God.

The Law could form a path to God, but the flesh could not stay on it. [Tweet this]

...God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:3b

I love that – what the law could not do – God did! Hallelujah!!

And how? He sent Jesus. Jesus first took on flesh – lived a sinless life, though tempted in the same way every man is tempted, then on the cross, he became sin, and God condemned Him. He, Jesus, drank the cup of God’s wrath described in Jeremiah 25:15-29.

He solved our ‘flesh’ problem on the cross.

so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. - Romans 8:4

Here we see that the only way to solve our flesh problem is to walk (aka live) according to the Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. - Romans 8:5

Next Paul makes it perfectly clear. What does it look like to live in the flesh? It means to live with your mind consumed by the things of the flesh.

What is a mind consumed by the flesh? Well, perhaps you are thinking of some sex crazed person who is always pursuing hedonistic pleasures. But that is not what it means to have a mind constantly on the flesh. The mind on the flesh, is the mind on the natural.

Jesus said it like this –

"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' - Matthew 6:31

The one who has his mind consumed by the natural world, in effect constantly consumed with themselves, is the person Paul is addressing here.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, - Romans 8:6

This flesh or self filled mind, this worrying mind, this self-absorbed mind, is death.

The mind set on the Spirit, the mind pursuing God, the mind that is actively pressing in to hear the voice of the lord, and know the mind of the Spirit, this is leads to a life marked by peace.

because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, - Romans 8:7

Paul gets serious here. This word hostile is really aggressive. It might be better to say ‘actively hostile.’ The carnal or fleshly mind – the natural mind – is in open hostility toward God. It is at war with God.

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. - Romans 8:8

And so it follows – if you are at war with God, and His good purposes toward you, you can not please God. It is impossible to please God when you are actively undermining all that He is trying to do in your life.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. - Romans 8:9

Ah – finally some good news! You are not in the flesh if the Spirit of God dwells in you! So how can we get the Spirit of God on the inside?

That brings us back to the Second birth.

Remember we said yesterday, that we must be born of God, in the same way the Holy Spirit was in Christ from conception, so you must become a dwelling place for the Spirit of God. As we saw yesterday:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:12-13

I believe tomorrow we will finish up on the question “Why do we need to be born again?” Don’t miss it.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Walk in the Spirit!

Ben

6

GreaterGlory

I am currently co-teaching a “Foundations” class in our Sunday school program at Church. We are actually working through our Church’s statement of faith, and this week I am going to be teaching on the Second Birth. Because I am a lazy sort, I thought I would share parts of the teaching in narrative form here on my blog. As always when I start digging around in the familiar scriptures my heart is thrilled at the great and awesome Savior we serve.

So here goes -

Today we are going to look at the fourth declaration in our statement of faith.

We believe in the sinful nature of all people and in being born again in Jesus Christ. Romans 5:12; Romans 3:23; John 3:3 and 16-18

To do this, I thought we would entertain four questions.

  1. Where does the concept of second birth or being born again come from?
  2. What does it mean to be born again?
  3. Why do we need to be born again?
  4. How can we be born again?

We will answer each from the Bible in detail. So let’s jump in.

Where does the concept of Second Birth or being Born Again come from?

Jesus, in a conversation with a religious leader, said:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3 NASB

This idea confused Nicodemus, the religious leader with whom He was speaking and so Jesus took some time to explain it more thoroughly.

What does it mean to be born again?

The phrase ‘born again’ is a physical metaphor for a spiritual reality.

We hear this metaphor borrowed all the time in our culture to speak of people who have started over, who have ‘turned over a new leaf.’

Let’s read the a little more of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"

Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into 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 be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." - John 3:4-8 NASB

Though we have latched onto the term born again, the true description of what is needed in any man who would enter the ‘kingdom of God’ is a spiritual birth.

John actually broached this subject right in the first Chapter. Last week we looked at the first few verses of Chapter 1 regarding Jesus’ divinity and His part in creation. Today we will jump in at verse 9 where John begins to describe Jesus' mission and ministry. As with some of the verses we looked at last week, and as you will find throughout the Bible, God packs volumes into few words.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:9-13 NASB

I hope you begin to see how the Word is connecting some dots for us here. In John 3 we have the phrase ‘born again’ and Jesus describes it more fully as being ‘born of the Spirit.’ He tells us there that this is the only way to enter ‘the kingdom of God.’ Here we have a description of Christ’s ministry, that He came to His own, in hopes of being ‘received.’

His own refers to the Jews in the context. God sent Jesus to His own chosen people and by and large His own people rejected Him.

But then we see this wonderful offer extended. As many as ‘receive’ Him have the right to become the children of God.

Next, we see another description of this ‘born again’ idea.

“…born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man”

This sounds a lot like the birth of Jesus doesn’t it? Jesus did not come as a result of Mary’s relations with Joseph, nor was He a product of their desire to have sex, and He was not the result of Mary’s plan to start her family.

He was born as a direct result of the will of the Father. He was indeed ‘born of God.’ As we studied last week, Mary was a virgin and the man Jesus had no earthly father. His Father was God. Therefore Jesus did not need to be ‘born again’ since He was quite literally ‘born of God.’

And for tomorrow…

Now let’s spend a little time talking about WHY there is a problem with just being born once. Why do we need a second birth?

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon

Ben

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