Posts Tagged 'born again'

Panic Podcast: The Son of God in John’s Gospel, Part 2

Good morning all!   As you can see, it’s a gorgeous day in my neck of the woods, and the leaves are hanging on for dear life!  Today we’re going to be studying John 3, which contains some of the most significant and life-changing teachings in the Gospels.  So, without further ado….let’s get started!

 

The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Part 4

img_0520

The story of Jesus’ meeting with a Pharisee known as Nicodemus is, perhaps, one the most famous encounters in history. It is certainly a favorite of preachers and Sunday School teachers. And it’s a classic story. Here was man, whose very soul was in darkness, who came to Jesus in the dark of night to talk about spiritual realities. It was during this encounter that the well-known phrase, “you must be born again” is seen for the first time.

A private meeting

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. (John 3:1 | TNIV)

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, whose name means “conqueror of the people.” His name is in stark contrast to his seemingly timid character. John adds that Nicodemus was also a member of Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. He was a teacher and interpreter of the Scriptures. That he was a Pharisee shouldn’t be held against Nicodemus. Not all members of that group were hypocrites. Here was one who took his faith seriously.

And this man had everything: prestige, respect, power, and position. All that, yet he felt the need to visit Jesus under the cover of darkness.

He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2 | TNIV)

It’s noteworthy that his first word to Jesus was “Rabbi.” Jesus wasn’t formally trained; He didn’t attend Rabbi College. But Nicodemus heard enough of what Jesus had been teaching and seen enough of His ministry to know that God was a part of everything this Rabbi was doing. The compliment that he paid Jesus was genuine, and apparently he wasn’t the only Pharisee that could tell there was something different about this itinerant rabbi.

Nicodemus cites the “signs” or “miracles” Jesus was performing as indisputable proof that Jesus was a man from God. What’s really interesting about that single sentence is that the people of that time, including the Pharisees, didn’t doubt the miracles of our Lord. As Dr McGee noted, you have to be a professor in a seminary today to do that. Neither the friends of Jesus or His enemies doubted His miracles.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again. ” (John 3:3 | TNIV)

When you read that verse, it seems like Jesus is talking to somebody else. Nicodemus came to Jesus and, so far, just paid Him a compliment. So why did Jesus say what He said here in verse 3? The key to this, and in fact the key to chapter 3, is something John wrote back in chapter 2:

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need human testimony about them, for he knew what was in them. (John 2:24, 25 | TNIV)

Nobody knows any man like Jesus does. John made the observation in chapter 2, and in chapter 3 He gives Nicodemus as His example; His “Exhibit A.” He knew exactly why Nicodemus came to Him, even though Nicodemus himself wasn’t sure.

It should also be noted that what applies to Nicodemus applies to all people. The word John used in both 2:25 and 3:1 (translated as “people” and “man”) is anthropos, a general, all encompasing word. So what is said about this anthropos Nicodemus is said of all anthropos. This is just one of several “universalizations” that can be found in John’s Gospel. Salvation is for “whosoever” (3:16), but all people are in need of being “born again,” or “born from above.” But this isn’t something only John wrote about:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23, 24 | TNIV)

Nicodemus was pretty sure Jesus came from God, but with a single sentence Jesus informed Nicodemus that only He (and no human being) can see God without being “born from above,” which was really God’s goal for Nicodemus and remains so for all human beings. Westcott made this observation:

Without this new birth – this introduction into a vital connection with a new order of being, without a corresponding endowment of faculties – no man can see – can outwardly comprehend – the kingdom of God. Our natural powers cannot realize that which is essentially spiritual. A new vision is required for the objects of the new order.

That statement from Bishop Westcott sheds a light on this exchange:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. (John 14:8 – 11 | TNIV)

This is exactly what was happening this night with Nicodemus. The theologian whose natural eyes were unable to see God were able to see Jesus, and that brought him one step closer to the Kingdom of God. But in order to get this man into the Kingdom necessitated a “born again” experience. That phrase comes from the Greek anothen, a word that has several meanings, including “from above,” and “again.” However it’s translated, what Jesus meant couldn’t have been more clear. If a person – Nicodemus in particular but all people in general – is to have eternal life, that life must come into that person. Put another way, we receive our biological life from our earthly parents and that life enables us to live in this world, but God’s life can only come from Him and it’s a “new life” from “above.”

An explanation

Nicodemus seemed to understand Jesus’ admonition as being “born again,” as his response indicates:
“How can anyone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4 | TNIV)

The learned Nicodemus, for all his theological education and knowledge of the Scriptures, could not grasp what our Lord was getting at. Paul was somebody who would have understood exactly what was happening between the Pharisee and Son of God:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19 | TNIV)

In order for Nicodemus to pass from being one of “those who are perishing” into one who is “saved,” he would have to experience this new birth Jesus was talking about, and at that moment, his spiritual eyes would pop open. But for now, what Jesus had said was, as Paul noted, simply “foolishness.” Nicodemus had no way to understand what spiritual rebirth was all about. He, like all unbelievers, didn’t have the capacity to comprehend it.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5 – 8 | TNIV)

These verses are a restatement and explanation of what Jesus had just said. You can’t read verse 5 without wondering what in the world Jesus meant by the phrase, “being born of the water and the Spirit.” The “Spirit” bit is easy. Obviously Jesus is referring to spiritual rebirth – a regeneration initiated by the work of the Holy Spirit. But “being born of water” is a little more difficult to understand. It could be that our Lord is referencing water baptism, especially since the Pharisees understood water baptism and were familiar with John the Baptist’s baptism, a baptism of repentance. Or it may be that Jesus was talking about physical birth, contrasting it with being born of the Spirit.
We’ll likely have to wait to ask Him personally to get His intended meaning, but what is clear is that every human being must, at some point in his life, be born of the Spirit if he wants to enter into the Kingdom of God. Some kind of “conversion experience” needs to occur; our spirits need to be set free and our flesh brought into submission to the Holy Spirit. Again, Paul helps us understand why this must happen:

The sinful mind (the flesh) is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature (flesh) cannot please God. (Romans 8:7, 8 | TNIV)

There is no future for our flesh, that is, our old and sinful nature. God has no plan to fix it or improve it. That old nature must be done away with because it cannot get into the Kingdom of God.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:6, 7 | TNIV)

That’s what Jesus was trying to tell Nicodemus. And He used an illustration about the wind blowing. You can’t see the wind, but you can certainly tell when it’s blowing: You can feel it against your skin and you can see it moving tree tops and flags and so on, and you can hear it. What you can’t tell is where it started out from or where it will eventually end up. That’s Jesus’ way of saying nobody can control the wind; you can’t make it do what you want it to do, and you can’t really explain it or its behavior. The wind, as it were, has a mind of its own.

There’s a clever play on words here. The word Jesus used for “wind” here is pneuma, which also means “spirit!” The fact of wind is undeniable – even though you can’t see it or control it, you know it’s there. But there is also an element of mystery to the wind – there are things about it nobody can explain – yet that doesn’t stop people from noticing it or commenting on it or even making use of it, like in sailing a boat, for example. That also applies to the Spirit. Sure, it’s hard for anybody, even Jesus, to adequately explain the Spirit or things of the Spirit so that a sinful man may understand it. But that shouldn’t stop that same sinful man from experiencing what the Spirit can do for him. As one scholar noted:

The great mystery of religion is not the punishment, but the forgiveness of sin: not the natural permanence of character, but spiritual regeneration.

Your Amazing Faith, Part 3

image

How amazing is your faith? It’s so amazing only you and other Christians possess it. No unbeliever has faith. Only Christians have faith because faith comes with a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. No unbeliever has a relationship with God. Granted, an unbeliever may say he believes in God – and he may mentally assent to the existence of God – but believing in God isn’t the same thing as being in a relationship with Him. I believe that Kim Kardashian exists, but I don’t have a relationship with her. This is the essence of Romans 10:17 –

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 | NIV84)

So, faith comes from hearing the Word of God; the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you couple that verse with another one, you’ll understand why unbelievers don’t possess faith:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 | NIV84)

That’s why faith comes from the Word of God. And that’s why the unbeliever doesn’t have it; he doesn’t have the Word and therefore he can’t have faith.

Faith also has nothing to do with what you think or feel. Nor does it have anything to do with the circumstances you may find yourself in. Faith exists outside of your mind, emotions, feelings, and circumstances. Paul discovered that –

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. (Acts 27:25 | NIV84)

Paul, in the midst of a life-threatening storm at sea, was able to say that because his faith wasn’t in the sailors or the ship he was on or in his hope that the weather would change; his faith was in God. Too many Christians haven’t figured this aspect of their amazing faith out. They foolishly think that their circumstances indicate how much faith they have. Or, they allow their feelings to dictate how much faith they have. So when times are good, they “feel” like they have a lot of faith but during bad times, they “feel” like they have less faith. That’s crazy thinking. Our amazing faith has everything to do with God, not us or our circumstances. Our faith is objective, not subjective. And the Object of our faith is God.

That brings us to the third aspect of our amazing faith, and it’s found in Galatians 2:20 –

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 | KJV)

This single verse is the most significant theological statement on the new birth in the Bible. Let’s take a look at why Paul wrote it in the first place. The reason behind the verse makes it even more profound.

The old switch and bait

It all started back in Galatians 1:10 –

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 | NIV84)

Not only the Galatian Christians, but those in other churches of the day had been accusing the apostle of sacrificing the truth of God or of sugar-coating the Gospel so that he might win more people over to his way of thinking. In other words, Paul was being accused of lowering the standards of the Gospel of salvation; of making it too easy for Gentiles to become Christians.

The fact was, at one time Paul really did try to “please men,” particularly when he was running around persecuting Christians. But he stopped that when he became a servant of Christ. After his conversion, his concern was pleasing God, not man.

The essence of Paul’s preaching was freedom from sin – salvation by grace. Sinful man is freed from the clutches of this evil world by the power of Christ alone. You’d think people would be clamoring to hear a message like that. Some were, but many wanted him to shut up and keep his grace and freedom to himself. They did that by lying about what he was saying.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12 | NIV84)

That’s his defense, and it’s a simple one. Not only was Paul not trying to please man in his preaching, but his sermons didn’t come from any other man’s notes and he didn’t learn it in school. His sermons – his message of grace and freedom in Christ – came directly from the Source: Jesus Christ. Beginning on that dusty road to Damascus and continuing through three years of seclusion in the Arabian desert (Galatians 1:17, 18). Paul was in no way a bandwagon preacher, glomming onto the popular ideas of the times and incorporating them into his preaching and writing, as happens so often today.

Now, he wasn’t the Lone Ranger evangelist, either.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother. (Galatians 1:18-19 | NIV84)

So Paul made it clear that while he wasn’t a loose canon, but his preaching wasn’t influenced by anybody or anything, either. He preached Christ and Christ alone. His credentials – his apostleship – didn’t descend from the mother church back in Jerusalem. He was called to preach by Jesus Christ. For Paul, Christ was truly was his all-in-all.

Peter’s problem

But not all the apostles were like that. Take the case of Peter. Paul certainly did and he raked his friend over the coals.

Once, on a visit to the church’s headquarters in Jerusalem to justify his ministry among the Gentiles, Paul dragged poor Titus along as an illustration of the kind of preaching he engaged in:

Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. ˻This matter arose˼ because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. (Galatians 2:3-4 | NIV84)

And herein was the problem. These false brothers – Jewish troublemakers – thought that Paul should have been preaching elements of Judaism along with Christ to the Gentiles. These people – false brothers – believed that while law-keeping didn’t save a sinner and wasn’t necessary, it did bring about a higher state of perfection. That’s the point behind this verse in Galatians 3:3 –

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:3 | NIV84)

This was a big problem in the early church and the Judaizers, the false brothers by name, could have ruined the fledgling church by intimidating its members and it’s preachers into caving into their demands to introduce elements of Judaism, particularly circumcision, thereby making Christianity just another sect of Judaism.

Sounds crazy, right? Who’d be foolish enough to go along with that? Remember the aforementioned Peter? He was one who was intimidated by these Judaizers. Here’s how Paul dealt with Peter’s problem:

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Galatians 2:11-13 | NIV84)

Paul opposed Peter in his unseemly behavior. I’d love to have been a fly on the way when that happened! Here was Peter, one of those closest to Jesus, the one so brash and rash in the early days of his faith, now cowering in the face of these false brothers. It’s astounding that a such a minority of people could wield such influence over so many. But that’s the way it’s always been with false teaching and certainly it’s the way it is today.

That’s the background in behind the verse that opened this message:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 | NIV84)

Paul’s perspective

Here’s the thing. Unlike Peter, Paul never gave into these Judaizers for a second. Paul’s perspective was the right one. He had a new life under Christ. He wasn’t that man that persecuted Christians years ago. This new life in Christ set Paul free from the hindrances of the law – that law that encouraged him to persecute Christians; the same law that insisted Gentiles be circumcised or obey other stipulations of Judaism!

That first phrase, “I have been crucified with Christ” sets the foundation for Paul’s perspective. When a person becomes a Christian, he is identified with Christ – His life and His death. This isn’t a clever turn of phrase, it’s a statement of faith. By faith, a sinner makes Christ’s death his own. What that means is profound. In the future sense, it means that a redeemed sinner will never face eternal death for his sins. Somehow, when Christ died on then Cross, so did the sinner. This spiritual fact is something we take on faith.

The present benefit is astounding. The power of sin is broken in the believer’s life because he died to sin with Christ. As Christ died to the world around Him, so we died to world around us. Our old, inner self, hopelessly addicted to sin and depraved by sin, doesn’t exist anymore. That’s an objective truth that must also be taken by faith because more often than not it feels like our old self is still alive and kicking. It isn’t. But sin still is and it’s up to us to live in such a way as to put truth to the spiritual fact that our old self is dead and gone.

The counterpart to dying with Christ is the second phrase: “Christ lives in me.” Paul and all believers are living a new life.

just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4 | NIV84)

Death to sin – death to the world around us – opens the door to this new life in Christ. The Greek is far more emphatic than our English translations. Here’s how one Bible scholar paraphrased what Paul was trying to get across:

I live no longer as I once did, but in a new way – no longer I. Now Christ lives in me – He is the Lord of my life.

I like that. Paul wasn’t the same man he was before he fell off that donkey on the road to Damascus. He was different; he was different because he was no longer running his life. Christ was now in charge of Paul the apostle.

In spite of that, he still needed faith. This wonderful new life in Christ is lived in the here-and-now, or “in the body,” as Paul put it. And to live a life worthy of Christ takes faith. Paul was justified by faith and now he must live by faith in Christ. Think about what that means. First, everything in the believer’s life comes from Christ. He is the source. In fact, His love for sinners caused Him to die for them. But secondly, Paul discovered that while salvation was free and and the result of God’s amazing grace, living the Christian life was entirely up to him. He couldn’t’ afford to attempt to live righteously by simply obeying a bunch of man-made rules or regulations. He wouldn’t do it, and he wouldn’t tell others to do it. Paul had discovered something every believer in Jesus Christ must: we live by faith in Jesus Christ and in what He did on the Cross.

Our Glorious Salvation, 4

BeFunky_growing-up.jpg

The Benefits of Salvation

Aside from the obvious one – going to heaven and not going to hell – we Christians are the fortunate recipients of certain benefits the come along with God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  But these benefits aren’t noticed all at once.  Becoming a Christian may happen in a moment, but being a Christian is a definite growing process.  That’s the reason for well-known phrases like these:  “babe in Christ,” which describes a new believer and “spiritual father or mother,” describing a more mature believer who may have had a positive impact on your development as a Christian.  Even the conversion experience was called “being born again” by our Lord!

Many of the benefits of salvation come with maturity.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and makes us part of God’s family immediately, but from that moment on, our growth from “babes in Christ” to mature believers is a gradual, lifelong process that depends as much on our co-operation with the Spirit as it does on the work of the Spirit Himself in us.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits of salvation.

We are made children of God 

John 1:12 – 13 

But as many as received him, to them gave he  power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  (JKV) 

That phrase, “as many as” when paired with “to them” is awkward English but was a very common way of speaking in Aramaic.  While the Jews by and large rejected Jesus, there were others who accepted Him as Savior.  Those who accepted Jesus, whether they were Jews or Gentiles it didn’t matter, received the greatest of all spiritual benefits.   For the most part, the Jew failed to realize that in the Kingdom, established spiritually by Jesus at His first coming, there are no “special privileges” based on nationality or sex.  That’s why John used that Aramaic expression, which amounted to:  “Whoever received Jesus became sons of God.”  How that single statement, so precious to us today, must have galled the proud, nationalist Jew of John’s day!

John says a lot in these two verses, so I’ll stay out of the tall theological grass to focus on a single aspect:  transformation.  In an instant out of eternity, one is transformed into a son – a child – of God.  And yet, it is also a gradual process.  In the physical world, a baby born is a child, yet remains a child for years as it grows and matures into adulthood.  The principle is the same in the spiritual world.  We become a child of God the instant life from above enters the soul.  But many of the benefits of this new relationship won’t be realized for years to come, or even until we are set free from the bonds of the flesh.  This notion squares with what John wrote, years later, in his first epistle:

Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is.  (1 John 3:2  TLB)

Romans 8:14 – 17 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.”  For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are God’s children.  And since we are his children, we will share his treasures—for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.  (TLB) 

In Romans 8, the word “Spirit” is seen some 20 times.  This fact prompted John Knox to write:

The Spirit is the theme of this culminating section of the argument which began at 6:1 with the question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” 

The only true and lasting solution to man’s sinfulness is not anything a man can do to help himself, but the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  That doesn’t absolve us of some responsibility, though.

So, dear brothers, you have no obligations whatever to your old sinful nature to do what it begs you to do.  For if you keep on following it you are lost and will perish, but if through the power of the Holy Spirit you crush it and its evil deeds, you shall live.  (Romans 8:12, 13  TLB)

We used to be obliged to follow our sinful nature, but now that the Holy Spirit is in us, our obligation is to follow the Spirit.  That obedience is the debt we owe the Holy Spirit.  This is sanctification in action; a gradual process of righteous living.  As Oswald Chambers was fond of saying:

We are to sacrifice the natural for the sake of the spiritual.

But, as we honor our obligation to follow the way of the Spirit, we don’t have to be fearful or scared, even of the occasional failure.  Fact is we have been adopted into God’s very own family, and the occasional mess-up on our part can’t change that.  Under grace, we have this close a relationship with God – it’s a familial relationship.  All this happened because of what Jesus did for us.  Because of Christ’s work, we are able to call God by the most personal name of all:  Abba.  How close is our new relationship with God?  Irenaeus put it best:

Jesus became what we are that we might become what He is. 

Jesus is the Son of God by nature, we by adoption.  R.C. Sproul noted:

Nobody is born into this world a child of the family of God.  We are born as children of wrath.  The only way we enter into the family of God is by adoption, and that adoption occurs when we are united to God’s only begotten Son by faith. 

1 Peter 2:9, 10 

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.  (NKJV) 

Peter is saying some remarkable things about Christians here.  We move from the notion of Christians as the adopted “children of God” to a different way of viewing them:  by way of their citizenship.  We have been adopted into God’s family and our citizenship has necessarily changed!  Peter was writing to fellow Jews who had become believers, so what he wrote about “a holy nation,” for example, may hold a more special meaning to them, but as God’s adopted children, it should mean something to us too!  We are as much His people as the children of Abraham are!

Think about these things:

  • A chosen generation.  Another way of saying it could be, “an elect race.” That may have reference to the Jews, but remember this:  we have been chosen, too.  He has chosen us.  We think we chose Christ, but the truth is He chose us first.
  • A royal priesthood.  This has reference to the Jewish priesthood.  But in Christ, we are all “ministers” because we can all minister to God and we can all enter into His presence.  And we can minister for God as we take His message to the lost.
  • A holy nation.  Well, we would have to concede that the nation of Israel has never been holy in terms of their conduct.  But the same could be said of the Church!  And yet, because of our relationship to God, we are holy because Christ has become our righteousness.
  • A special people.  In the KJV the word is “peculiar,” and maybe that describes you better than does “special.”  However you want to word it, what it means is this:  God acquired us and we are now His possession; we belong to God.

These verses tell us a lot about what God sees when He looks at this world we are living in.  There is a new nation here.  There are new people here.  The old order of things is slowly disintegrating but the new order is growing and growing.  You and I became part of this new order because God called us.  It wasn’t our idea to join it.  God called us and we responded.

We are declared righteous 

Romans 4:4 – 8  

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…  (Romans 4:5, 6  NKJV)

The contrast between “as grace” and “as debt” can teach us a lot.  “Works” and “wages” go together as correlatives, while “faith” and “grace” go together.  Paul’s argument is logical:  If Abraham had righteousness counted to him, then works had nothing to do with it. Therefore it must have been an act of grace.   It follows that to be justified by grace through faith is to be given a righteousness which one doesn’t deserve.  Abraham, with his checkered history certainly didn’t deserve to be called righteous, but then neither do we.  That simple sentence is scandalous to works-based religions, of which there are plenty.  When God “justifies the ungodly,” God acquits the guilty sinner for reasons of His own mercy apart from any human merit, worthiness, or even need.  Justification is an act of God’s grace, plain and simple.

No wonder Martin Luther called this kind of righteousness “alien righteousness.”  He wrote:

Everything is outside us and in Christ.

That’s a good way to look at it.  It’s such a simple concept, this justification by faith, that it escapes so many people.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 19  NKJV)

These oft-quoted verses are stunning in their implications.  New converts quote them  all the time and preachers love to recite them during altar calls.  What do they mean, though?  When we are born again, at that very moment we are re-created.  We become a “new species of being that never existed before.”  Think about this for a moment.  As a Christian, you are NOT the same person you were before.  You may look the same and talk the same, but you are definitely NOT the same.  You are no longer associated with Adam, you are identified with Christ.   The fact that you may not feel different is irrelevant.  Nor can you base your new status on your salvation experience.  You are a new creation because God says so.

You, as a believer, have been reconciled to God.  This is God’s call to all lost men.  That’s what the “ministry of reconciliation” is all about:  God calling sinners to Himself.  Reconciliation is not salvation.  Reconciliation is all about changes; changes in relationships and changes within us.  Just about the only thing that doesn’t change in this ministry of reconciliation is God, because He never changes.  He changes us and He allows us to enter into a close relationship with Him.  Paul puts it another way in Colossians:

It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him—all things in heaven and on earth—for Christ’s death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood.  This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies and hated him and were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends.  He has done this through the death on the cross of his own human body, and now as a result Christ has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are standing there before him with nothing left against you—nothing left that he could even chide you for…  (Colossians 1:20 – 22  TLB) 

Through this great work of God’s, we have been reconciled to Him.  He has not been reconciled to us.  Remember, God can’t change.  We’re the ones that needed to change, and God makes those changes possible.

 


Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 285,749 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 279 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket