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SEPTEMBER 2008

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How can we be “born again?”

1 Peter 1:23

Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible (seed that does not die), through the word of God which lives and abides forever.

The Lord told a very good man by the name of Nicodemus that he needed to be born again. He then says that we all MUST be born again to be part of His kingdom (John 3: 3, 7). This "born again" business confused Nicodemus and it confuses us when we first hear the Lord speak about it. Nicodemus thought he had to enter the second time into his mother's womb to be born again (John 3:4). Even as a Christian, I had trouble sorting out the truth of this concept. I am going to share with you some of my thoughts on the subject.

Some people who are not familiar with their Bibles and who cannot remember being being born again have told me that we who preach the Gospel make too much of the new birth. However, we cannot make too much of the new birth. In addition to John chapter 3, the new birth is explained in John 1:13. John also mentions it several times in his letters. Peter writes about it in 1 Peter 1:23. James uses the concept in James 1:18. Apparently, this was a concept with which the new testament writers were familiar. The new birth is an absolute necessity if we are going to be in heaven when we leave this world behind.

Not only must we be born again but we must also be saved (Acts 4:12). Salvation and the new birth are both deliverances and are referring to the same thing but from different points of view. We must be saved since Romans 3:23 says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The glory of God refers to God's beauty and standard of perfection. The new birth and salvation both refer to that time in our lives when by simple faith, we trusted in the truth that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). The new birth is deliverance for a new life in Christ and is all about a new relationship with the Lord built on trust. Salvation is deliverance from the penalty that we deserve because of our sins and is all about God's love, justice and mercy for those who trust the Lord. Those who are born again are saved for a home in heaven and are saved from eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire.

Many people that I talk to believe that they have been born again because they "believe in God". However, they usually think that they have always believed in God and so they do not know when they were born again. They think it may have been when they were baptized or confirmed . However, the new birth is not brought about by something we do or by something that is done for us by others according to John 1:13. Others tell me that the new birth happened to them in such a way that they didn't realize that it had happened to them. However, I am convinced that if we are born again, we will remember the events that gave us this new life and the peace that came with believing in Christ. We may have always believed that there is a God, but the Bible says that we need a time in our lives when we trust in the work of Christ at the cross and are born again.

John 1:11-13 states that this new life is obtained when we receive Christ. This passage also says that we receive Christ by believing or trusting in His name or authority. Peter states that that the Word of God is the seed that produces this new life. When the Lord explains the new birth to Nicodemus, He says that this birth is a spiritual birth. We all had a natural birth and now we all need a spiritual birth. In verse 5 where the Lord says we must be born of water and of the Spirit, the Lord is contrasting the natural and the spiritual birth. A baby's natural birth involves the water of the womb while the new birth is a work of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to convince us that we need to be saved and that Christ died to save us.

The new birth occurs the moment we can honestly say that we know that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That faith will not be based on something we have done or said, it will be based on what Christ has done and said. When a person has trusted Christ, they will be able to go to the Word of God to assure themselves that what they believe is in fact the very Truth of God. We believe people by believing the words that they say and the promises that they make. We believe in the Lord the same way.

The Lord says, YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN." Since He says it, it must be important. We should not assume that this happened sometime when we weren't paying attention. A birth is a joyous occasion when it happens naturally and we mark those dates on the calendar. We may not be able to remember the exact date when we were born again, but we should remember finding out that we were sinners on our way to a lost eternity. We should also be able to remember the joy that came when we found out that Christ died to save us.

Trusting Christ gives us a new life, a new Friend, and a new eternal destiny. It gives us peace with God. I know I am born again by the word of God which lives and abides forever. I hope that all of you who read this meditation know that as well.

Meditation for the week of September 7, 2008

Truth that can be depended on

 

John 17:17, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

 

The Lord didn't make His promises with his fingers crossed behind his back. We used to do that as kids so that our promises didn't really count as promises. The Lord keeps His promises and tells the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. When Pilate asked gWhat is truth? (John 18:38)h, he had the truth right in front of him. Jesus had said to his disciples in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.h Of course, Pilate didn't believe that.

Some people think that truth changes. Truth doesn't change but what we think is true often changes. The law of gravity will never change. Things that go up must come down. They will never go the other way until the rapture of the church. Black and white will always be black and white as long as the sun rises in the east and the sun will always rise in the east until this world is destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10).

People often tell us that what we believe is gtrue for youh. That makes it sound like truth is relative and that humans have the final say as to what truth is. Unfortunately, that not only isn't true, it isn't even good reasoning. If the Bible says that the Lake of Fire exists, either it is true or it is not. My believing it is true will not cause it to exist and my not believing it is true will not keep it from existing. The truth does not change over time or from one individual to another.

We can know that there is a God through Creation. But the only way we can really know God is when He talks to us and tells us about himself. He did that verbally through prophets and he has done that through the writing down of the prophetic message for us in the Bible today. Communicating truth to us is so important that in John 1 the Lord is presented as the Word. He not only is the messenger with a message, He is the message itself. He conveys the Truth to us.

Truth is what sets the Christian apart or sanctifies them. Since words are powerful motivators, those who trust in the Lord reverence His Word. We study it, memorize it and try to understand it. We try to let the Bible guide the way we live. Christians don't always understand the Truth, but we will defend it and we will always trust it. The truth of Scripture is what convinces us that there is a heaven and a hell. It assures us that Christ died for us and it is because we are confident in the promises of the Scriptures that w e can say that we know we have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

A Christian would never pick and choose what they want to believe in the Bible. We know that the old testament illustrates new testament Truth so we don't feel the need to offer animal sacrifices or to keep the Feasts of the old testament. But we believe that those ceremonies were given by God to Israel and that they teach us Spiritual Truth today.

I know people who claim to be saved or born again, and when I ask them what promise of Scripture gives them a sense of peace on that issue, they haven't even thought about it. They couldn't have trusted in the promises of God because they don't know what they are. People are saved only if they gbelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31)h and we believe on Him when we trust Him and His promises.

Our attitude toward the Word of God is what sanctifies or sets a true disciple of Christ apart from the rest of the world. The truth will make us different.

 

Meditation for the week of September 14, 2008

Don't Quit

 

1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

 

Sometimes I want to quit. Life would be so much easier if I had never set out to serve the Lord after I was saved back on that late November afternoon in 1963.

I remember what it was like to be lost and to know that I was not saved and I remember the wonder that came with finding out that "God said I was saved." From that time on I wanted to know what pleased Him and to tell others that Christ had died for them as well. There was just one problem. I was told that everything would change the moment I was saved and that I would have no more desire to sin. However, I found out that I still did have a desire to sin. And then I began reading my Bible and found out that I had been misled. Christians shouldn't sin, but Christians do sin. Some get drunk at the Lord's table. Some sin so badly that sometimes they have to be socially ostracized, sometimes they have to be silenced, and sometimes they have to be rebuked. I found out that the new testament letters were written to sinning Christians so that they would quit sinning (1 John 2:1). Somehow finding out that I was not alone gave me a sense of peace and made me realize that while sin was wrong, the Lord had ways to deal with it and keep using me. And the wonder of the Lord loving me and dying for me and then using a saved imperfect sinner in His work has reminded me that I shouldn't quit.

After I got saved, I thought all Christians had a desire to know and to do God's will. One of my greatest discouragements has been to realize that because of my convictions I am going to live a lonely live if I continue to try to practice what I believe. One of the things I believe is that every man women and child born into this world can be saved. The blood of Christ has sufficient value and power to satisfy God on everyone's behalf. But I also believe that there are few that are truly saved (Luke 13:23-28). But because the Gospel changes our destinies for eternity, I do worry about those who have made professions of faith without actually getting their eye off of themselves and on to the Lord. I can't quit preaching that we must "repent and believe" and that what we do with that message will seal our destinies for eternity.

Whenever I am involved in a Scriptural project for the Lord, it seems that all the forces of evil are unleashed against me and my family and those with whom I work. Recently, we handed out free cookies and free Gospel literature at a local fair. While we were stuffing the packets with Gospel literature, we found out that I had made a mistake on the web site address and phone number used on a contact card. We had printed 1800 of them and had 800 in the packets when we saw the mistake. There were other issues and difficulties but finally we got to our booth to find out that we were put across from a display by a ski club that included a life-size demon. It almost seemed like Satan was taunting us. I just wanted to quit. Encouragement came from an unexpected source. A man who was working a booth next to ours approached us one evening and told us how much he appreciated what we were doing. He commended us for not being pushy. Hearing him say that was like hearing the voice of the Lord saying, "Your labor is not in vain or futile."

Yes, sometimes I want to quit, but I haven't because I can't. But I still need to be reminded from time to time that "our labor in the Lord is not in vain." If you are doing a work for the Lord, I am sure that you need to reminded as well.

 

Meditation for the week of September 21, 2008

Praying Without Ceasing

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

 

I suppose there have been times in history when the world has seemed as out of control as it does today. However for those of us who can only see things from the perspective of the last sixty to eighty years, we have never known a time when things have gone wrong like they have this summer. On Memorial day weekend a terrible tornado went through Parkersburg, Iowa, and continued East for at least sixty miles wrecking havoc and destruction. Parkersburg looked like a war zone and it all happened within a very few minutes. A few weeks later, we started to have the worst floods we have ever seen in the area. People compared the devastation to the destruction in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina destroyed that area. Then the current hurricane season started and Ike recently destroyed Galveston, Texas. In addition, we are now facing the biggest financial crisis since the great depression. The war in Iraq has become a military nightmare. Iran is gearing up to be a nuclear power. Russia is now becoming aggressive again. If natural disasters don't destroy us, then Wall Street greed might. And if that doesn't do us all in, war will.

For those who don't believe in God and don't believe in divine intervention, the present situation must seem hopeless. Many people do not want to bring children into the world as we now know it. Politics can't bring us a solution. It is fairly obvious that neither Republicans or Democrats are going to be able find the necessary resources to fix the financial crisis without bankrupting our country. Neither Republicans or Democrats are going to be able to get Iran and Iraq to live together in peace with each other or with Israel. The kinds of problems that we have today will require divine intervention if they are going to be solved, and if there is no divine intervention available, then there is no hope.

Those of us who believe in God do not know how all these events are going to play out but we are reminded that God knew all about the year 2008 in an eternity past. He isn't sitting on His throne wringing His hands because there is no solution. He is the solution. But we need to "pray without ceasing". We are told to pray for our leaders by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. I am a person who would rather do something about a problem than pray about it. I confess my fault on this issue. It is not that I don't pray, it is just that I have more confidence in my ability to do something about a problem than I do in the ability of prayer to do something about a problem.

Praying without ceasing probably doesn't mean that we pray every moment of every day but it does mean that we should keep on praying even when it seems that praying is not helping. If we really prayed instead of just saying prayers we would be rejoicing and giving thanks instead of wringing our hands and staying awake nights because we can't sleep. I am convinced of it.

Pray without ceasing. This is a simple but novel approach to all of our problems. Let's do it.

 

Meditation for the week of September 28, 2008