Posted by: pastortomvabeach | August 29, 2018

Thought for the Week September 2, 2018

Can you believe that it is already September? My wife and I got a taste of what is coming last week as we got to enjoy a cruise from Seattle to three ports in Alaska. The daytime temperatures averaged in the mid-50’s which was a pleasant reprieve from the 90’s we have been experiencing in Virginia. We got to catch some salmon, see whales diving for food, and take a ride on an historical train, but the best part was being at sea on a ship. There is nothing that quite compares to looking out over vast stretches of blue water, no land in sight, and sea breeze washing over your face. If you ever have the chance, go for it.

Pastor Doug wrote last week about making wise use of our very brief time here on earth and ended by asking if you have made Jesus your Savior and Lord. I wanted to follow that up by trying to explain what that means. What does it mean to believe in Jesus and be saved? How do I know if I have done that?

Jesus explained it to Nicodemus this way, I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3), and I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. (John 3:5-6). Jesus is explaining the human predicament here. Just being alive physically does not fit one for entrance into His eternal kingdom.

Paul explained it further in Ephesians and Romans. In Romans 3:23, he concluded, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. In Ephesians 2:1-3, he pictured what our spirits look like in that condition: you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. What Paul is saying is that due to our human nature, which has been passed on to us by our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, our very nature is to be sinners who follow only sinful passions and deserve God’s wrath. He said much the same in Romans 6:23, The wages of sin is death.

The Bible tells us that all of mankind exists in a fallen state, apart from God, without the capacity to have a relationship with Him. If we depart this earth without changing that condition, we cannot enter into His eternal kingdom, as Jesus said. So since the way we are born (our nature) can’t get us into heaven, we need to be “born again” of the Spirit. Each of our individual spirits is dead and needs to be resurrected in order to have fellowship with God.

The good news is that Jesus Christ came and offered Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins so that we can be forgiven and be born again from above by the Spirit. Paul tells us that this all happens by faith. Romans 10:9-10, If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Also Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. This conversion, salvation, is a gift of God’s grace. We can’t do anything to earn it, religious rituals don’t confer it, and money can’t buy it. He offers it freely and all we have to do is believe. Does that seem too simple? It really does.

So how do you know if you’ve done it, if you’ve been born again? The Scripture also gives us direction here. Just like there is evidence that we have a sin nature (all the obvious sin that controls our lives and seems to come naturally), there is evidence that we have trusted in Christ. It’s not enough to say, “I believe.” The kind of faith illustrated over and over in the Bible is a faith that makes such a huge difference in one’s life and that is also obvious.

Paul says, also in Ephesians, we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (2:10). In II Corinthians 5:17, he tells us, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God.  When I put my faith in Christ, something supernatural happens in my spirit. God takes out the dead spirit and replaces it with a completely new spirit (heart) that no longer sins by nature. The result is that my desires change and along with that my conduct begins to look more like someone who is called God’s child.

It’s not that I won’t or can’t sin but that I will no longer want to sin. It’s like before trusting in Christ I chased after selfish pleasure and sin but once He came into my life I began to chase after what pleases God and run from sin. In Romans 7, where Paul talks about the struggle against sin he says, I delight in the law of God, in my inner being (7:22). So my heart is changed to want what God wants and the result is that my conduct begins to reflect that.

For me there were drastic changes. I no longer used profanity, literally by a miracle; I left behind a growing problem with alcohol; and I suddenly wanted to know all I could about God’s Word and what He promised in Christ. People who knew me said that I was a new person. That is what happens when you are born again.

So, like Pastor Doug did last week, let me leave you with a question, or three. Are you born again? Has your faith in Jesus made any difference in your desires and conduct? Can you say that you are a new creation and show evidence that is true? Let me know if this leaves you with thoughts to ponder or if you have any questions about what faith in Christ means.

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