Prepare for Action

Thursday, June 15, 2017, 9:34 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 1 (Select vv. NASB).

Born Again (vv. 3-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

What does it mean to be born again? First, we are born physically of a mother, and then, because of God’s grace to us, and by faith in Jesus Christ, we are born of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. One is a physical birth. The other is a spiritual birth. So, how are we born again?

Well, first of all Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God) had to die on a cross. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). He put our sins to death on that cross. And, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So, when we believe in him, we are crucified with him in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The old has gone. The new has come. We are born again of the Spirit of God, and Christ now lives in us.

Various Trials (vv. 6-9)

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

So, we rejoice in our salvation and in the hope of eternal life with God. Yet, our hope is not just that one day we will be with our Lord forever, but our hope is in the freedom he has given us to walk (conduct our lives) not after the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Our hope is that we have a Savior, who is our Lord, but who is also our friend, confidant, counselor, guide, helper, strength, healer, comforter, encourager, and teacher, etc. Our hope is that we are in a personal and intimate relationship with our God, which gives us not only future hope, but present and living hope day by day, which is what keeps us going when times get tough.

Our hope, too, is that God created us for a purpose, and he has given meaning to our lives, and purpose and direction, and that even our trials are part of his plan for our lives in order to purify us, to make us holy, and to prepare us for his service. Also, our trials are for the purpose to test our faith, to make it stronger and more resilient. When we suffer, it is for our good, to make us more like Jesus, and to teach us to rely on God and not on ourselves. We, too, learn patience and perseverance through difficult times. And, we grow closer to our Lord, mature in our faith, and increase in our seriousness of our walk of faith, when we respond to our trials with grace, with trust in our Lord, and with submission to his perfect will for our lives.

Prepare Minds (vv. 13-16)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

In our minds we store memories, good and bad. In our minds we think, we believe, we discern, make decisions, and react to our circumstances. In our minds we entertain sinful thoughts or we dwell on heavenly things. Part of God’s saving grace to us is in the renewing of our minds, in the healing of past hurts, and in transforming how we believe and perceive things. Yet, we have a responsibility regarding our minds, in the renewing process, and that is in the putting off of the old, and the putting on of the new; in thinking about things which are pure, right, true, and beneficial, rather than thinking hateful thoughts or impure thoughts.

We also have a responsibility for what we take into our minds, to make sure that we are not feeding our minds with what is garbage, or what is immoral, wicked, and ungodly, etc. If we take garbage into our minds, that is what is going to come out in our words and actions and attitudes. If we entertain our minds with the sinful acts of others, this is what our minds will dwell on, and often our actions and words will follow suit. So, if we are going to prepare our minds for action, we need to keep our minds pure and focused on Jesus Christ and on the truths of his Word. And, we need to take God’s Word seriously and apply its truths to our daily lives.

Conduct Yourselves (vv. 17-19)

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

What does it mean to conduct ourselves in fear? I believe this is speaking here of the fear of the Lord, which is reverence, respect, honor, value, esteem, adoration, worship, obedience and submission to our Lord. Our conduct is the way in which we live, i.e. our daily practice. This is how we should live, day in and day out. Conducting ourselves in fear is also living on this earth as though we truly do not belong here, as though this world and all its stuff is really not our home, but with an eternal focus in mind. We are not here to build kingdoms on this earth, but to help, to work to advance God’s heavenly kingdom while we still live here. We are not here, in other words, to live to please and entertain ourselves, but we are here to give glory to God in all that we do and say and think and are.

It also means that we live holy lives, pleasing to God. Being holy means we are separate (set apart, unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made to be like Jesus. We should no longer be conformed to the ways (patterns, attitudes, values) of this world, but we are to be transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds. Our new lives should not look like our old lives, and only slightly cleaned up to be more presentable. Our new lives should be radically different from our old lives, because we died with Christ to sin, and we were resurrected with him to newness of life, to be lived to him and to his righteousness.

Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be
Norman J. Clayton

Only to be what He wants me to be,
Every moment of every day,
Yielded completely to Jesus alone
Every step of this pilgrim way…

Don’t Mess Around!

Monday, March 27, 2017, 9:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Ear to Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 42 (Select vv. NASB).

The Chosen One (vv. 1-4)

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
“He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
“He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

Jesus Christ, our Messiah, is this chosen servant of God, yet he is also God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Father sent his Son Jesus to the earth to be born of a virgin, conceived of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus walked the face of this earth, he was fully God yet fully human. While in a flesh body, Jesus suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. Although he was God, yet he was also man, so God the Father put his Spirit on Jesus, so that he was also filled with the Spirit of God.

So, how did Jesus or how will Jesus bring forth justice to the nations? Another word for justice is righteousness. Well, first of all he taught the righteousness of God when he was on the earth. He confronted sin in sinful humans, warned of divine judgment, called for repentance, and promised the hope of eternal life with God for the repentant sinner. He also promised the blessings of God for the humble of heart, for those who have grieved over their sins, for those who show his mercy to others, and for the many who yearn after God’s holiness, purity, and uprightness in their lives.

Yet, not only did he teach it, and not only did he live righteously, but he provided the way in which we, also, can be righteous before God. Although Jesus knew no sin, yet he became sin for us when he was crucified on a cross (2 Co. 5:21). So, when he died, our sins died with him and were buried with him. When God the Father resurrected him from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. Thus, by God’s grace, through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, we can be delivered out of bondage (addiction) to sin, be forgiven our sins, relieved (set free) of eternal punishment, and be given the hope of eternal life with God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

Sometime after Jesus was resurrected from the dead, he ascended back to heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He then sent his Holy Spirit to indwell the hearts and lives of his followers. When we believe in Jesus, and we are crucified with him in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life (born again), the Spirit of God comes to live within us to teach, guide, comfort, encourage, train, convict, counsel, strengthen and empower us to walk godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. And, one day Jesus is going to return to the earth to judge all humankind and to take his followers (his saints, his bride) to be with him forever.

Open Blinded Eyes (vv. 5-9)

Thus says God the Lord,

Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it
And spirit to those who walk in it,
“I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
“I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God, but he is God, and he is our creator (See: John 1). He is the giver of life. Not only did he provide the way for us to be made righteous before God, restored to fellowship with HIM, but he called us in righteousness to live righteously (godly, holy, and uprightly in purity and integrity). He, as well, was called of the Father in righteousness. So, although this is primarily speaking of Jesus, our Messiah, yet as his followers, this speaks of us, as well, for we are his body; his temple.

Where he was called to live righteously, so are we. Where he was called to be a light to the nations, so we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and we are to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. Where he was called to open blinded eyes and to deliver the captives out from their prisons, so we are called to rescue people out of darkness, and to snatch them from the fire and to save them. This is what it means to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people. We tell them that Jesus died to set them free from slavery to sin so that they can now live for Christ and walk (in lifestyle) in his holiness.

When we believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, which divinely persuades us as to God’s will for our lives, we are turned away from living for sin and self, and we are turned to Christ to live godly and holy lives pleasing unto him, empowered and strengthened by the Spirit of God now living within us. Our old lives of living to please self are done away with because Jesus put sin to death on a cross. And, we are born anew of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ now under the direction and influence of the Spirit of God. The old has gone. The new has come. Jesus doesn’t slightly clean up our old lives, but he gives us completely new lives!

Give Ear to This (vv. 17-23)

They will be turned back and be utterly put to shame,
Who trust in idols,
Who say to molten images,
“You are our gods.”
Hear, you deaf!
And look, you blind, that you may see.
Who is blind but My servant,
Or so deaf as My messenger whom I send?
Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me,
Or so blind as the servant of the Lord?
You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;
Your ears are open, but none hears.
The Lord was pleased for His righteousness’ sake
To make the law great and glorious.
But this is a people plundered and despoiled;
All of them are trapped in caves,
Or are hidden away in prisons;
They have become a prey with none to deliver them,
And a spoil, with none to say, “Give them back!”
Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will give heed and listen hereafter?

Here, the servant being spoken of is not Jesus, but it is the people of God, i.e. now it is the church. Although coming to Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness, it is possible that believers in Jesus can be led astray from their pure devotion to Christ, and they can get entangled in sin once again (See: Rev. 2-3, for example). There can be a spiritual decline take place within the church when sin is left unchecked and undealt with, and when worldliness begins to take a foothold within the gatherings of the church. And, this is where we are in America.

So, God is now calling out to his church, i.e. to those who are living spiritually adulterated lives in one way or another, and he is, once again, confronting the sins in the church, calling for repentance, warning of judgment, but promising hope, healing and restoration to the repentant. He is pointing out such sins as idolatry, stubborn hearts, willful closing of eyes and ears to the truth, and disobedience to his Word. Although Jesus set us free from slavery to sin, many have allowed themselves to come back under a yoke of slavery (addiction, bondage). And, they have closed their minds to the truth, and have gathered around themselves preachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear, i.e. feel-good messages which do not convict of sin, but which allow them to remain in their sins guilt-free.

So, the Lord is calling his church to listen to him, and to heed what he tells them. God is not pleased with us no matter what we do, no matter who tells you that. He has standards for us. His Word is his standard for our lives, which we must follow. We are not bound by Old Testament laws and regulations, but we are still commanded to obey the Word of Christ, i.e. his instructions to us. He says that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins). But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life. Paul reiterated this message when he said that if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14).

So, don’t mess around. Don’t take God/Jesus or his grace for granted. God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

Give Ear to Jesus / An Original Work
Based off Isaiah 55 / February 16, 2016

Call on your Savior.
Seek the Lord while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way;
Turn to the Lord.
God will have mercy.
He’ll forgive you of your sin.
He will freely pardon you
And give peace within.
Turn from your sin, follow Jesus,
Be cleansed from sin.

Give ear to Jesus.
Come to Him. Your soul will live.
Listen to Him speaking to you:
“Eat what is good.”
If you are thirsty,
Come to Jesus, drink from Him.
Drink His Spirit given to you.
Be born again.
Listen to Him. Do what He says.
Rejoice in Him.

God’s Word, eternal,
Will achieve what He desires.
He is willing none should perish,
Saved by His blood.
Share now the gospel.
Jesus died so we’d go free.
Walk in vict’ry,
Free from your sin, eternally.
Die to sin, and live to Jesus.
In Him believe.

A Roadway of Holiness

Saturday, March 25, 2017, 10:32 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 35 (NASB).

From Darkness to Light (vv. 1-2)

The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.

Do you ever get heavy of heart over this sin-sick world? I do! I especially get burdened for my nation, the USA, and for the church here in America. I grieve and mourn over the spiritual condition of the church, overall, though not necessarily representative of all gatherings of the church in America.

Our nation is an affluent nation. Even some of the poorest of people here have cable TV in their houses, and not only do many of the adults in the household have smart phones, but many of the children do, too. People living on welfare or living in government subsidized housing often seem to be better off than those working for minimum wage. I think the vast majority of Americans have cell phones and cable TV. At least, it seems that way. And, many of them plan their lives around their TV shows, too. And, it seems most people have private (unrestricted) internet connection, too.

Now, I am not against these things, except for in the hands of young children who are being unsupervised by adults, or in the hands of those who are not mature enough or self-disciplined enough to choose good from bad. Yet, I can see where TV, movies, the internet, and private internet access via tablets (I Pads) and smart phones have been a great source of deception, mind control, and of spiritual decline of the church here in America. These devices have sucked in so many Christians and have captivated them to the point to where they take over their lives, and God has often been pushed into a corner and barely noticed. Yet, this is just a small picture of the spiritual wilderness that exists here in America.

Still, the Lord has been encouraging me that he has a plan of action in mind which will deliver his people out of this spiritual wilderness, and which will bring them into a time of great joy and of blossoming spiritually.

Take Courage (vv. 3-4)

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”

Sometimes, when I see all the evil going on all around me, and all the Christians (or professing Christians) living not much different at all from the people of the world, I get disheartened. When I see so much of the church embracing the world of sin in order to connect with the world, and seemingly so few truly seeking after God with all their hearts, it saddens me greatly. When I know that the Word of Truth is going out to the people, and that many are hearing the truth, though many are not, yet they seem to let the truth just go in one ear and out the other, so that they can continue on the same course they have been on, it tears at my heart, and I cry. And, when Christians see Christian fellowship as merely a church social where they eat and play games with each other, I groan inwardly to have true fellowship.

I am torn in my emotions because I want to see the church awakened to all the lies they have been buying into, and I want to see them walking in truth and purity, and serving the Lord with great zeal. But, from what I read in scripture, it does not appear that this is going to happen unless we, as the church in this nation, are put through some enormous time of suffering and great trials. It isn’t as though I long for this time, though, but what I hunger for is to see the church in America revived, and God’s people set on fire for him, and the Word of Truth going out from the revived church to the people in their communities, and people flocking to Jesus Christ (See: Isaiah 2). And, so I need to be reminded to “take courage,” and to trust the Lord, and to believe him to change people’s hearts, all in his perfect timing.

New Birth (vv. 5-7)

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
The scorched land will become a pool
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.

The Bible teaches us that God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness, and that for those of us who have been trained by it, it will yield a harvest of righteousness in our lives. But, this isn’t light stuff here. He uses the terms “scourges” and “reproves,” and he says that the discipline is painful and not pleasant, but it is for our good. Sometimes when things are going too well for us in this life we can lose sight of eternity and we can end up focusing our time and attention on the things of this world rather than on the things that matter for eternity. We end up spending our time on what is going to pass away and on what has no eternal value whatsoever. And, so God has to discipline us in order to refocus our attention on what really matters, and so he can purify us and make us holy unto him.

So, there are times when we need this wake-up call in order to have our blinded eyes (or deceived minds) opened to the truth, so that we do follow the truth and we don’t follow after lies. And, when the church is awakened spiritually, they will be that light of the world and the salt of the earth. They will be sharing the gospel, so that the people of this sinful world will have their spiritually blinded eyes opened, too. Thus, they will be born again of the Spirit of God and be given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived to him and to his righteousness. Where they were once in a spiritual wilderness (desert), now they have springs of living water flowing from within them. They have the Holy Spirit living within them empowering, encouraging, comforting, teaching, strengthening and guiding them into all truth. Amen!

Highway of Holiness (vv. 8-10)

A highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it.
No lion will be there,
Nor will any vicious beast go up on it;
These will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk there,
And the ransomed of the Lord will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

By God’s grace, through God-given faith, we can be saved from our sins and have eternal life with God. This God-given faith, though, is not like human faith. It is divinely convinced (persuaded) as to God’s will for our lives, and so it submits to Jesus Christ, and it chooses to walk in obedience to our Lord and to forsake the old (former) way of living to sin and self. When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives with this kind of faith, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like him in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

The lives we live, we no longer live according to our sinful flesh, but according to the Spirit of God who now lives within us, and who empowers us to live such godly lives. We walk by faith and not by sight. We live to please God in all that we do, or we should. Yet, if we continue living in sin, we don’t know God. If we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), yet we claim to have fellowship with God, we are liars. If we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, and if we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die in our sins. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity.

So, if you want to be on this Highway of Holiness, which leads to eternal life with God, then you need to believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith which yields to Jesus as our Lord, and which submits to his will for our lives, and which cooperates with his work of grace in our lives. While it is true that we do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, and that our salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, that gift means we die with Christ to sin so that we are “born again” of the Spirit of God to live lives no longer for ourselves, but for the one who gave his life up for us. In other words, Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died, not just to forgive us our sins, but to free us from slavery (addiction) to sin.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

By God’s Power

Sunday, February 19, 2017, 11:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Gift of God.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 1:1-5 (ESV).

For Obedience (vv. 1-2)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

This letter is addressed to the “elect” of God. So, who are the elect? They are those chosen by God for salvation and for holiness before the world was created. We were predestined by God to be conformed to the image of his Son (Ro. 8:29). All the days ordained for us were written in God’s book before any of them came into being (See: Ps. 139).

Before we can even come to faith in Jesus Christ, the Father must first draw us to Jesus (Jn. 6:44). Then, he gives us the faith to believe in him, i.e. God divinely persuades us as to his will for our lives, i.e. he convinces us or he moves us to action; to change (Eph. 2:8-10). As well, God grants us repentance, leading us to a knowledge of the truth, so that we might realize the futility of our fleshly lives, and our need of Jesus to deliver us out of slavery to sin, and so we might call on him to save us (Acts 2:21; Acts 5:30,31; Acts 11:17; Ro. 10:13; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Then, when we accept this God-given faith in Jesus Christ to be applied to our lives, and he turns our hearts away from sin and to God, to follow him in obedience and in surrender to his will, we are then born again (spiritually) of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit comes within us to live, and then he teaches, encourages, empowers and strengthens us to live godly and holy lives pleasing to God.

Yet, we are not puppets on a string. We are not possessed of the Spirit of God in the same way someone is demon possessed. One characteristic trait of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. God does not just zap certain people and instantly they are his puppets and they no longer have control over their own minds, will and bodies. This could not be more obvious when we read the books of the New Testament. We do have a choice to believe in him or to not, i.e. to accept or to not accept this gift of faith and to appropriate it to our own lives via submission to Jesus Christ, to the cross of Christ, and to his Word (See: Jn. 3:11; Mk. 4:20; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

Born Again (vv. 3-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Not one of us can be saved of our sins by our own merit. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. It was while we were yet sinners that Jesus Christ died for us. When he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him, and when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. Only by God’s grace, in giving up his Son (himself) to die on a cross for our sins, can any of us be saved from our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God. Yet, we must accept this free gift of salvation, by accepting this free gift of faith, by yielding control of our lives over to God, and via surrendering our lives to his will (See: Ac. 3:19; 26:16-18; Eph. 4:17-24).

So, why did Jesus die on a cross? He died to take upon himself our sin and our punishment for sin so that, by faith in him, we might be delivered out of slavery to sin, no longer condemned to die in our sin, and so we might have eternal life with God beginning now and forevermore. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, and that we might no longer walk (live our lives) according to our sinful flesh but according to the Spirit of God who is at work in our lives in purifying us and in making us holy (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14). If we have believed in Jesus with God-given faith, “our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7).

Not only were we delivered out of slavery to sin, but we have been given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived to his righteousness, free from the control of sin over our lives. That is a “living hope!” It is not living hope if all his grace does for us is frees us from eternity in hell and promises us eternity in heaven when we die. That still leaves us in bondage to sin. So, the real hope is that we have been set free, and we no longer are under the control of Satan or sin, but now we are slaves of Christ’s righteousness. We can walk in freedom! We are not destined to live our lives fighting for survival, regularly feeling defeated by sin, and thus giving in because we feel powerless to say “No.” God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

By God’s power we can resist Satan, flee temptation to sin, i.e. flee sinful desires, and draw near to God in full assurance of faith. This does not mean we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but it means we should no longer be enslaved to sin or feel as though we are powerless to defeat sin in our lives, because Jesus already won this one for us! He already conquered Satan and defeated sin on our behalf, and he has given and will give us all we need to put off the deeds of the flesh daily and to put on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us. He empowers us to live for him, but we have to appropriate (put into practice) what he gives us.

Gift of God / An Original Work / October 25, 2016
Based off Various Scriptures

Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Died for us on a cross;
Conquered death, sin, and hell,
So, with Him, we would dwell.

For, by His grace, we are saved.
He set us free from all sin.
Thanks be to God for His Gift.
Through faith in Him, we’re forgiven.

Holy Spirit of God,
Given to us who believe,
Gives us new life in Christ;
Made to be just like Him.

We died with Christ to our sin.
New lives in Him we begin,
Walking with Christ day by day.
We read His Word, and we pray.

Jesus, He is our Lord.
Follow Him where He leads.
Tell the world of His grace.
We’ll see Christ face to face.

Soon He is coming again.
We’ll be forever with Him.
He’ll wipe our tears all away.
Oh, what a wonderful day!

Because of His Mercy

Saturday, February 11, 2017, 5:34 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Titus 3:1-11 (NIV).

Whatever is Good (vv. 1-2)

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be subject to rulers and those in authority over us, yet we are to never succumb to following after false gods, to compromising our faith and convictions, and to disobeying our Lord. If human authority requires us to disobey God and his Word, then God’s authority always trumps human authority (See examples of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Daniel, Jesus and his NT apostles).

We should always live in obedience to our Lord, though. This is not saying we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but it is saying that our lifestyle, i.e. how we conduct our lives day in and day out should be reflective of those who are committed to obedience to Christ and to his Word. Our goal in life should not be to see how much bad we can get away with and not get caught, but our mission in life should be to do whatever is good by God’s standards, i.e. whatever is wholesome, moral, upright, godly and has the best interest of others in mind. We should not be in the practice of gossiping about others, especially if we tell lies about them in order to cause them harm. And, we should also be patient, fair and reasonable in our dealings with others.

Justified by Grace (vv. 3-8)

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

If we ever get to feeling morally superior to others, thinking to ourselves about how righteous we are, and being proud of it, then we need to read this passage of scripture, for it puts things in the proper perspective for us.

We were all born into this world as sinners. We all came up short of attaining God’s divine approval. Not one of us can earn or deserve our own salvation. We are not saved because of our own righteousness. Only by God’s grace, through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for our sins, can we be forgiven of our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God. We can’t even come to Christ unless the Father draws us, and even the faith to believe in Jesus is a gift from God, i.e. it is his divine persuasion to us of his will for our lives. We don’t believe in Jesus with human belief, but with spiritual faith. Because this faith is of the Spirit, it is in accord with (is persuaded of) God’s perfect will.

Even the ability to repent of our sins and to walk in obedience to our Lord is a gift from God, empowered by his Spirit at work within us. When we exercise this God-given faith, the Spirit of God transforms our lives away from sin and to God, to live to his righteousness. Our spiritually blinded eyes are opened, and we are turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (purified, made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Acts 26:16-18). And, all this is possible because of God’s mercy toward us in delivering us out of slavery to sin so that we can now become bondservants of Christ and of his righteousness. All glory to God. Amen!

A Divisive Person (vv. 9-11)

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

A divisive person is “disposed to form sects, sectarian, heretical, factious.” Literally, a factious person is one who is “specializing in half-truths and misimpressions ‘to win others over’ to their personal opinion (misguided zeal) – while creating harmful divisions (used only in Tit 3:10)” (Source: biblehub.com). If someone is heretical, he is deviating, dissenting, and/or profane (irreverent, abusive and full of contempt regarding what is sacred). And, to deviate means to stray, depart, turn from, or wander, in this case, from the biblical standard for how we should live our lives as followers of Jesus Christ, i.e. it is to be immoral.

We should separate ourselves from those who willfully tell half-truths and who purposefully give misimpressions to win people over to their misguided beliefs and practices, if they have been warned appropriately, and if they have not repented of their sins. We should not be party to what is heretical, i.e. we should not in any way give such people our support. And, what they teach and practice should not be the foundation for our faith in Jesus Christ, either. If they are preaching a half-truth gospel which eliminates the necessity of repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ as part of our God-given faith, i.e. God’s divine persuasion, i.e. the persuasion of his will, then we should reject such teaching. Such teaching gives free license to immorality and to living sinful lifestyles while still promising its adherents the hope of eternal life in heaven with God, and this is deviant from God’s will.

The Word of God teaches us that faith in Jesus Christ involves dying with Christ to sin and being resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24). Scripture teaches us that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us; and he died “to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” His grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:11-14; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14).

Jesus said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life with God. Paul reiterated this message when he said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. He said that if we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh (sin, wickedness) we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness) that we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6). So, we need to seek the Lord and his righteousness and not follow after liars.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

Not of Darkness

Friday, February 3, 2017, 7:18 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Unless You Are Born Again.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NASB).

In the Night (vv. 1-3)

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

I find it particularly interesting that the Lord Jesus saw fit to combine this passage of scripture with the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus (See lyrics to song). Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. He was a Pharisee – a religious leader in the Jewish temple and a teacher of scripture. He made an intellectual assent to who Jesus is, yet Jesus told him he needed to be “born again” if he wanted to see the kingdom of God. Thus, a discussion on that topic ensued between the two of them, but Nicodemus failed to understand what Jesus was talking about. The ultimate conclusion Jesus reached was that Nicodemus didn’t understand, not because he lacked knowledge of the scriptures, but because he (and other Jews) would not accept Jesus’ testimony, and thus they did not believe in Jesus and what he taught.

I believe Nicodemus is an example to us of many people today who are following forms of religion, but who truly are not “born again” of the Spirit of God, even though they profess to believe in Jesus Christ. Thus, they fail to comprehend that which is spiritual, because their minds are still thinking in the natural, because they are still living in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Yet, he is also an example of those not lacking in knowledge of scripture, but of those who refuse to believe what they hear, probably because what they hear doesn’t fit with their theology or with their chosen lifestyles. And, he is an example to us, also, of religious leaders today who are feeding the people false grace messages, promising them heaven when they die, and peace on earth, because the religious leaders refuse to accept Jesus’ testimony and believe his Word. Thus, they are filling people’s minds with a false hope.

These people and their followers live in the darkness, and not in the light, even though some of them claim to be in the light. The truth, though, messes with how they want to live their lives, so they make up their own truth to fit their own lifestyles, and then they drag others into their lies and deceptions and make them disciples of men instead of disciples of Christ.

They convince them that being saved and having eternal life with God involves a mere prayer repeated after someone else, but which is absent of repentance, and that God, in fact, requires nothing of them – no repentance, no obedience and no submission to Christ and his cross. And, they tell them that God is pleased with them no matter what they do, no matter how much sin they willfully involve themselves in each and every day. They tell them, too, that God will never be angry with them, that they won’t have to go through difficult times, and that they will be raptured before anything gets really bad, i.e. they preach messages of “peace and safety.”

But, this is NOT what scripture teaches. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25). Paul reiterated what Jesus said when he said that if we walk (in lifestyle) in the flesh (in sin), we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

One day Jesus is going to return for his bride (his followers), and he is going to judge the world. Those who have bought into the “peace and safety” messages, which tell them they don’t have to repent and obey, that God is pleased with them no matter what they do, and that God will never judge them, are going to be in for a big surprise, but not the good kind. Instead of the heaven they were promised, they will find destruction, and they will not escape. So, don’t buy into the lies, even though they may sound good and may appease your guilty conscience when you do what you know is wrong. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

So, this goes back to what Jesus told Nicodemus. He told him he must be “born again” if he wants to see heaven, and that is what he is telling people today, too. When we are born anew of the Spirit of God we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us; and to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:14).

Of the Night (vv. 4-8)

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.

If we truly are in Christ Jesus, by God’s grace, through genuine faith, we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, so we are not living in darkness. We are “born again” of the Spirit of God and so we walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. So, we have no fear of judgment or of Christ’s return, but we look forward with great anticipation to the day our Lord comes to take us to be with him forever.

And, yet, there is a warning here for us to not allow ourselves to fall asleep spiritually as others do, but for us to remain alert and sober. So, what is this saying? It is possible to be a genuine believer in Jesus Christ and yet to fall back into sin and spiritual slothfulness (laziness). It is possible for us to get caught up in the world and to believe the lies of “peace and safety” and to not be spiritually ready for Christ’s return. So, what does that mean for us? Well, for one, in Revelation 2-3 we read the letters to the seven churches, five of which Jesus chided for something they were doing wrong, warned of divine judgment (discipline), called for repentance, and promised rewards to those who overcame, and did what Jesus said. So, there is the danger of divine discipline (correction, judgment) for the unrepentant church.

Also, there are many scriptures which warn against falling away from God’s grace, and that teach that faith in Jesus Christ is continuous, and that we must continue in the faith we had at first if we want to have the hope of eternal life with God. So, there is the danger we might go back to living in darkness if we do not remain vigilant in our spiritual walks of faith.

As well, there are many people who profess to be Christians who are still walking in darkness, who are only going through the motions of Christianity or forms of religious practice, but their hearts are far from God. They have not turned from their sin nor have they truly turned to Christ to walk in obedience to his commands (his instructions), some of whom don’t because they have been taught they don’t have to, which just makes a mockery of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins whereby we could be set free from sin. They will face the wrath of God if they do not repent and believe Jesus.

Together with Him (vv. 9-11)

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

One of the reasons Jesus died on the cross for our sins was that we might escape the coming wrath of God. This, however, does not preclude divine disciple (correction, judgment) from coming upon us when we need it. He saved us from the pit of hell and promises us heaven when we die if we continue in him in faith until the end. Yet, he also promises us hardships, discipline, correction, and persecution, etc. as part of the process of pruning us and maturing us and conforming us to the likeness of Christ. So, we should not be surprised when trials come, or when we are hated or persecuted severely for our faith in Jesus Christ. These things must happen.

And, yet, the context here appears to be in the form of a warning to true believers in Jesus Christ that they not fall back asleep spiritually, but that they remain spiritually alert, because we have the hope of salvation and the promise of heaven when we die for those who believe (present tense). Therefore, we are to encourage (inspire, hearten and urge) one another with these words, and build up (strengthen, promote the spiritual health) of one another, so that we continue in the faith, steadfast, and don’t fall asleep.

Unless You Are Born Again
An Original Work / November 3, 2013

Based off John 3:1-21

Nicodemus came to Jesus.
He acknowledged God was with Him.
Jesus said, “You can’t see heaven
Unless you are born again.”

“How can a man be born when he’s old?
Can he enter into his mother’s womb?”
Jesus answered, “Flesh is flesh,
So of the Spirit, you must be.”

Jesus said to Nicodemus,
“You’re a teacher, and yet you don’t
Understand of what I tell you,
Because you will not believe.

“For God so loved the world that He gave
His one and His only Son for your sin.
So, whoever believes in Him
Has eternal life in heav’n.

“Light has come into the world,
But human beings love the darkness,
Because their deeds are so evil,
So in truth, they stand condemned.

“Everyone who practices evil
Fears that the Light will expose his sin.
Yet, whoever lives his life by the Light
Does so through his God.”

A Pharisee

Wednesday, December 7, 2016, 9:42 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Unless You Are Born Again.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 26 (Select vv. NIV).

Background (Summary Acts 25:1-26:11)

Paul stood trial before Festus, but he ended up appealing to Caesar when Festus wanted to send him back to Jerusalem to stand trial. Then, Festus was visited by King Agrippa, who wished to hear Paul’s case, so Paul appeared before the king, and he was given permission to speak for himself.

In Paul’s defense, he shared with the king his testimony. He told him how he had formerly lived according to the strictest sect of the Jewish faith, as a Pharisee. And, how he was now on trial because of his hope in what God had promised the Jews, with regard to the coming of their Messiah (Christ). As well, he communicated to him how he had formerly been a fierce opponent and persecutor of followers of Jesus Christ, and how he had put many of them in prison, and had even voted in favor of them being put to death.

So, Paul was a Pharisee. So, what is a Pharisee? In Bible times, a Pharisee was a person of a Jewish sect who was deeply religious, who believed the scriptures, but who also followed many man-made traditions, to which they gave equal authority as they did scripture with regard to obedience. They were represented on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, and a number of them were also priests. The Pharisees were some of Jesus’ fiercest opponents, who were party to his being put to death on a cross.

Jesus often had words with them about their hypocrisy and how they worked hard at looking good on the outside, but how inside they were full of wickedness. They were self-righteous and egotistical, who judged others hypocritically. Jesus said that they honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from him, and that that they worshiped God in vain, because their teachings were man-made rules (See: Matt. 15:1-9). Today the term “Pharisee” is use to describe “a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person” (dictionary.com). But, Jesus met one of these Pharisees on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, and he transformed his life. Amen!

A Divine Appointment (vv. 12-18)

“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and 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 me.’

This passage of scripture, and testimony of Paul’s, not only describes the assignment (commission) given to Paul by God/Jesus, but it also explains what Jesus did in Paul’s life, as well as it defines the essence of the gospel of our salvation. Paul had his blinded eyes opened, not just physically, but spiritually. He was turned away from his former way of life – from his wickedness and the control Satan had over his life – and he was turned to follow the Lord Jesus in obedience to his will for his life. Thus, he received forgiveness of his sins, and he became a follower of Christ, and a member of his body, and God purified his heart and made him a new man.

And, God can do this in the lives of many “Pharisees” today who appear righteous on the outside, but who, inside, are full of wickedness and given over to evil deeds. Yet, they lie to themselves, and convince themselves that they are ok, when their hearts are far from God. They fool themselves, and they fool others, but they can’t fool God. They are good at going through the motions and appearing as though they are followers of God, when truly they are driven by self, and their hearts are given over to fulfilling the desires of their sinful flesh. They will even use God and their religion as a cover-up for evil, when it suits their purposes. They are always performing for the crowd, but God sees what is truly in their hearts. Yet, as God transformed the heart of Paul (formerly Saul), he can change the heart of any “Pharisee.” Amen!

Repent and Turn to God (vv. 19-23)

“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

Paul fulfilled the commission given to him on the road to Damascus. He became a preacher of the Word, and one who taught people that they must forsake their former lives of living for sin and self (repent), and they must turn to God/Jesus in obedience to his will for their lives, thus proving their repentance by their deeds. He not only taught it, but he lived it!

Yet, we are not saved by works. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Our good deeds will never outweigh our bad deeds, no matter how hard we try. We can’t work our way into heaven on our own terms. Yet, faith in Jesus Christ is not absent of works, yet not works of the flesh, but works of the Spirit. In other words, if we say we have been saved from our sins by God’s grace, and yet we continue to conduct our lives in the darkness (in wickedness), the Bible says we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). Paul said that if we conduct our lives according to our flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

In other words, when we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, if our faith is genuine, a spiritual transformation of the Spirit of God takes place in our hearts. We are crucified with Christ 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; cf. Ro. 6:1-23). This is what it means to be “born again” or “born from above.” Jesus didn’t die just to forgive us our sins, but to deliver us out of slavery to sin, and to make us into servants of his righteousness. Yet, we must cooperate with this work of the Spirit in our lives. When we believe in Jesus we don’t become puppets on a string. We have to yield control of our lives over to God, and willingly submit our lives over to doing what he has commanded us to do.

True and Reasonable (vv. 24-29)

At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”

“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”

When we, like Paul, share our testimonies of faith in Jesus Christ, and how God transformed our lives away from sin and to walking in obedience to his commands, and we share, too, that this is what God’s Word teaches we must do, we may, as well, be called ‘crazy’ or out of touch with reality. And, yet, the gospel of Jesus Christ is completely rational and reasonable. If Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24), which is what he did, then it seems reasonable that faith in Him would mean we die to sin and live to righteousness. And, yet, many preachers today are telling people they don’t have to repent of their sins, and they don’t have to obey God, but they can still have their ticket into heaven, and that God requires absolutely nothing of them at all. Oh, how wrong!

And, yet, we should not give up hope that many people will believe in Jesus Christ in the way scripture teaches we must believe. We have to hold out hope that blinded eyes will be opened, and that many will be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ. And, we have to believe that God can change anyone, even our persecutors, and even those who live like Pharisees in pretending they are followers of God, when they are not. He can save even the worst of sinners, because he saved us. Amen!

So, if you have someone in your life for whom you have been praying for salvation and deliverance from sin, don’t give up hope. Keep believing that they, too, will be born again of the Spirit of God, and that they will be transformed from living a life of sin to living a life yielded to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Unless You Are Born Again
An Original Work / November 3, 2013

Based off John 3:1-21

Nicodemus came to Jesus.
He acknowledged God was with Him.
Jesus said, “You can’t see heaven
Unless you are born again.”

“How can a man be born when he’s old?
Can he enter into his mother’s womb?”
Jesus answered, “Flesh is flesh,
So of the Spirit, you must be.”

Jesus said to Nicodemus,
“You’re a teacher, and yet you don’t
Understand of what I tell you,
Because you will not believe.

“For God so loved the world that He gave
His one and His only Son for your sin.
So, whoever believes in Him
Has eternal life in heav’n.

“Light has come into the world,
But human beings love the darkness,
Because their deeds are so evil,
So in truth, they stand condemned.

“Everyone who practices evil
Fears that the Light will expose his sin.
Yet, whoever lives his life by the Light
Does so through his God.”