Sunday, March 15, 2015, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Lifted Our Burdens.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 3:1-21 (ESV).
Unless Born Again
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.”
Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus about spiritual birth. Nicodemus could not comprehend what Jesus was telling him. He thought he was talking in the physical realm, not in the spiritual realm. Jesus responded to him by letting him know that we have to be born physically AND spiritually in order to enter the kingdom of God. He let him know that there is a distinction to be made between physical birth and spiritual birth. We must have both, but one is not to be confused with the other. When someone is born physically (of water), we can see with our eyes where the baby comes from. Not so with the Spirit. We can experience this spiritual birth, and we can witness its results in our lives, or in the lives of others, and we can feel it in our spirit, but we can’t physically see the birth take place.
So, what was Jesus really telling him? What does it mean to be born again? It is a phrase that is often loosely thrown around these days, and not just within Christian circles, either. I believe Jesus was telling him that he had to be born anew, not physically but spiritually, of the Spirit of God. So, what does that look like?
When we are born physically from within our mother’s wombs, we are born with sin natures due to the fall of Adam. We are separated from God, without hope, and doomed to spend eternity in hell. Nonetheless, I do believe that scriptures seem to teach that small children, who have not yet reached the age where they can discern truth from error, and wrong from right, are in heaven with Jesus should they die before they reach the age of accountability. I believe that is one reason why Jesus used small children as examples of those who have come to him with child-like faith, as those who have the promise of eternal life in heaven (See: Matt. 19:14). Unless we come to him like little children, we will not see heaven.
All of us have sinned against God and have fallen short of receiving God’s acceptance and approval. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our salvation or to gain heaven. No amount of good works will ever achieve for us eternal life with God. The punishment for sin is eternal separation from God, slavery to sin throughout our lives, and eternal damnation in the pit of hell. So, God sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins so that through faith in Jesus we might have eternal life. When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, we die with Christ to our old lives of living for sin and self, we are born anew of the Spirit of God to living new lives in Christ, and we are set free to now walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and no longer according to our fleshly sin natures.
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.
Nicodemus was dull of hearing. He still didn’t get it. Jesus chided him because Nicodemus was schooled in the Word of God, and he was a teacher of scripture, and yet he still didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Jesus’ indication back to Nicodemus was to tell him that the problem was not that Nicodemus lacked understanding (knowledge), but rather that he (and many of his fellow Jews) would not accept (receive) the testimony of Jesus. This word “receive” literally means: “actively lay hold of to take or receive;” “to lay hold by aggressively (actively) accepting what is available (offered); “accept with initiative” – “emphasizes the assertiveness of the receiver” – http://biblehub.com/greek/2983.htm .
I believe there are many people like Nicodemus yet today who have studied the scriptures, and who have even taught the scriptures, but they have never come to Christ like a small child, with child-like faith, and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. They have never received Christ in the sense of actively laying hold of him and what he has for us. They have never truly repented of their sins and submitted to the cross of Christ, willingly dying with Christ to their old lives of living for sin and self, and allowing Christ to transform them in heart and mind of the Spirit of God. They are still operating in the flesh, and not in the Spirit, because they have not truly been born of the Spirit. They may give off the impression that they are saved, and may even perform well and try to appear righteous, as did many of the Pharisees, but they never let go of their sin, and thus they never surrendered their lives to the working of the Spirit of God within them.
Light Has Come
“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.”
Then, Jesus went on to explain what this new birth is really all about. Because of Adam’s sin against God, all of humankind has been under a curse. Adam, before the fall, walked in perfect fellowship and harmony with God, because he had not yet sinned. When he sinned, that fellowship with God was broken, and thus we, as humans, who have been born in Adam, are separated from God. So, because of that, and because of God’s great love for us, God the Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to take on human flesh, to suffer as we suffer, and then to die on a cross, taking upon himself the sins of the entire world.
When he died, our sins died with him, and when he was resurrected from the dead, he conquered sin, death, hell and Satan on our behalf. He took upon himself the punishment of our sin so we could go free from having to spend eternity in hell, so we could have the hope of heaven, and so we could be set free from slavery to sin and have the hope of eternal life with God beginning right now while we live on this earth. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us. He died so we could now walk daily with him in his righteousness and holiness, and no longer according to the flesh. In fact, his grace that brings us salvation teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his soon return. He died so he might “redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (See: Tit. 2:11-14; cf. Luke 9:23-25; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1-5).
Jesus Christ is the Light. Light is truth. It is holiness and righteousness. It is the opposite of darkness, which is evil and wickedness. The Light brings salvation. Darkness leaves us without hope and without God, doomed to sin and hell. The Light brings healing for our souls. Darkness leaves our souls oozing with sin and decay. The Light brings purpose and direction to our lives. Darkness leaves us wandering around, seeking self-pleasure, and trying to find happiness in broken cisterns which can never satisfy our God-void. The Light brings peace. Darkness is devoid of peace. Jesus told Paul that he was to open the eyes of the blind and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Act. 26:16-18), which is the essence of the gospel (cf. Isaiah 61).
The problem is that our human sinful natures prefer the darkness to the light. Many who have rejected the Light continue in darkness, even among many who profess to be in the Light. They do so because their deeds are evil and they want to hold on to their sin, and they are not willing to give it up. So, they will hate the Light, i.e. they will hate the truth and will resist it with all their might, because to come into the Light means that their evil deeds will be exposed, and they want to protect themselves from exposure so that they can continue to walk in darkness. Yet, those who love the truth and who choose to live by the truth, will come into the Light. They will humble themselves before God, will repent of their sins, and will not fear having their sins brought into the Light, because they want to be cleansed of their sins and to walk in the Light and in fellowship with God. It will then be obvious that the life they now live is not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit – all praise, honor and glory to God, and to Him alone!
He Lifted Our Burdens / An Original Work / February 15, 2014
Based off Isaiah 9:2-7
People walk in darkness.
They abide in their sin.
It has power o’er them.
True belief escapes them.
Jesus Christ came to save them.
He gave His life up for them;
Crucified; died for our sin,
So we might be forgiven,
And have life up in heaven.
Many come to know Him.
God’s love now o’erflows them.
They rejoice in vict’ry.
Their sin is but hist’ry.
We were once bound in slav’ry.
Jesus lifted our burdens;
Set us now free from Satan,
So we now walk in freedom.
Sin has no more dominion.
Praise be to our Savior!
He showed us His favor.
He took all our burdens;
Cast them all upon Him.
He is our mediator;
The Light which shines in darkness.
Counselor in our troubles;
He gives peace now in our hearts;
Joy which is everlasting.