Sunday, February 19, 2012

Born Again

"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? 
can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?  
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, 
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."  John 3:3-5

   Christ wastes no time in getting to the heart of man's needs.  "Verily, verily...."  This is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word for truth or fidelity.  Jesus is saying "truly, truly I say unto thee."  What Christ is about to declare to Nicodemus is the timeless truth of God, the answer to man's question concerning the way into eternal life.  "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  The word for again can also mean from above.  It is so translated in Mark 15:38, John 19:23 and James 3:15.  It can also mean again as it is here translated.  Put these two meanings together and you have the idea of "Except a man be born again from above...."  Every person is born into this world with a corrupt sin nature that breeds nothing but death.  If a person is to be saved, they must be changed from the inside out and made a new creature according to II Corinthians 5:17.  Notice that Jesus never mentioned righteousness by works.  Men of all ages have always been bent toward the impossible task of obtaining righteousness by works.  God, knowing this, cuts to the heart of the issue and shows us that our very nature is corrupt and we must be given the divine nature of God through simple faith in the Son of God. 
   Nicodemus, not understanding that salvation is a heart matter and not a head matter, declares his ignorance of spiritual truth by saying, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"  The grammatical structure declares this to be a question that is expecting a negative answer.  In other words, Nicodemus is saying, "A man cannot be born when he is old, can he?  No he can't.  He cannot enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?  No he can't." 
   Jesus reveals to us that He is speaking of spiritual matters and not physical matters by saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."  In a few places, the Word of God is compared to as cleansing water.  Ephesians 5:26 says, "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word...."  Hebrews 10:22 says, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."  Though this verse in Hebrews does not mention the Word specifically, only the Word of God can bring cleansing to a persons life.  Christ Himself declared His word to be a cleanser in John 15:3.  No one is saved apart from the Holy Word of God.  The Word is what brings men to a true knowledge of their sin, it is what declares that God justifies by faith those who place their trust in His Son.  No one has ever been saved or ever will be saved apart from the Word of God.  Christ, the living Word, is preached by the written Word and this water of the Word is that which births the Christian.  Upon belief in Christ through the preaching of the water of the Word, the Holy Spirit comes into the heart and life of a person and regenerates them, making them a new creature in God by the divine presence.  This truth is declared in Titus 2:5-6, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour."  And so, we see from these few verses that salvation is not a head matter but a heart matter.  It hinges not upon works but upon belief in the finished work of Christ.  Man is helpless to save himself and must repent and put child-like faith in the righteousness of God.  Unless by grace through faith we are birthed into the new life by the Word of God and His Spirit, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Discussion by Night

"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 
the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi,
we know that Thou art a teacher come from God:
for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, 
except God be with him." 
John 3:1-2

Nicodemus appears three times in the Scriptures: here, in chapter seven, and and again in chapter nineteen.  Whether or not he was converted to true faith in Christ seems to be a question that only eternity will answer.  The fact that he came to Jesus by night is stressed in this passage.  In John 7:50 and 19:39, he is also referred to as the one who came to Jesus by night.  Doubtless, this was out of fear of the Jews.  Many Christians live their lives like poor Nicodemus.  They want to come and serve Christ by night, not openly for fear of the pressure of disdain that people will show toward them.  To his credit, he was at least humble enough to come to Jesus and admit some things that other Jewish leaders were not willing to admit. 

What Nicodemus says to Christ is very significant.  He admits, "...we know that Thou art a teacher come from God...."  This is not a flippant statement.  He is speaking on behalf of all the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.  He would know exactly how the leadership of the Jews felt because he was one of them.  Nicodemus is boldly declaring that he and all the Jewish leaders are well aware that Christ is from God.  The Jews' rejection of Christ was not out of ignorance or misunderstanding.  They rejected Him as their king while knowing who He was.  How did they know for certain that Jesus is the Christ?  "...for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him."  The signs and miracles that Christ and the apostles performed were for the authentication of the message.  The Bible says that the Jews require a sign (I Co. 1:22).  The Lord demonstrated clearly with His works that His words were true.  And yet, for all this, He was rejected of His own.  We must guard against a hard heart.  Nicodemus openly declares the hardness of his fellow leaders by admitting that they know that Christ is from God.  It is a dangerous thing to reject the working of God in our lives.  It is a dangerous thing to be aware that God is knocking on the door of your heart and yet refuse to let Him enter.  Again, though Nicodemus allowed the fear of man to dictate his actions, he did humble himself enough to come and speak with the Lord.  Pride kept back the other leaders. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superficial Faith

"Now when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.  But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man."  John 2:23-25

   The first verse of this passage would seem to give strong indication that many people had been converted to faith in Christ, but as the passage goes on to declare, man can exercise a superficial belief that is not true faith.  The phrase in verse 24, "did not commit" is the exact same word as "believed" in the preceding verse.  Both verbs are from the same Greek word pisteuo.  Literally, "many believed in Jesus but He did not trust Himself to them."  Why?  The answer is simple, "He knew what was in man."  No one knows the heart but God.  These people were showing an incomplete faith in Christ.  He knew their profession would not hold up under any real strain.  They were looking for Him to be their deliverer from the Roman government and tyranny of the day, but they were not humbly seeking the Messiah who would wash away their sin. 
   The same holds true today.  Many seek God when they think He may be of some physical benefit to them.  They "believe" in Him to some extent, but their wicked hearts remain stiff and unbent toward the Holy One of Israel.  They get a form of religion, but deny the power of it.  They attend church to some degree, and wear their religious garb, but their lives remain truly unchanged and commitment to the things of God is an ever consistent inability in their lives.  Though such people may cause others to believe they are true followers, God is not deceived, and it is only a matter of time before He will set such things in order (Ps. 50:21) before the eyes of these insincere "disciples."