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Born Again

In the third chapter of the book of John we see a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night seeking answers as to who He was. Nicodemus recognized Jesus was from God but wanted to know more. Jesus then startled Nicodemus with a statement he had difficulty understanding. Jesus said in John 3:3 to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus not understanding Jesus statement asked in the next verse, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus then answered in verses five and six, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

At first Jesus said unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Then Jesus said, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. I believe Jesus was basically making the same statement, but rewording it a little for Nicodemus to better understand.

If we are alive today we were delivered from the water from the flesh as flesh. In other words we were conceived and formed into flesh in our mother’s womb and thus we were born. If we are born again we have been born of the Spirit of God. If we are not born of the Spirit of God we cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God.

The question that is now before us is, “How do I become born again?” The simple answer is, we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior by believing in who He is and the works He has done on the cross to purchase redemption. By grace we are saved by faith and not by works. (Ephesians 2:9-10).

Paul said in Romans 5:20, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” In other words, regardless of how much sin we have had in our lives, God has more grace. Therefore, all our sins, regardless of how much, will be washed away if we place our faith in Jesus.

Paul then asks in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” Since God has more grace than we have sin should we just keep on sinning so God’s grace can increase? If we ever see yelling in writing we see it in Romans 6:2 when Paul said, “May it never be!” He then goes on to explain through the remainder of this chapter that those who are in Christ are dead to sin. They have died and have been buried with Christ.

For one to be born again he must first die; not physically but spiritually. One must die to his flesh, his hopes, his dreams, his goals, his ways, his ideas, his thoughts, and basically everything that has made him, him. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus said that the requirement of following Him was denying yourself and taking up your cross. Remember that the cross is an instrument of death.

Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Paul’s hopes, dreams, goals, ways, ideas, thoughts, and everything that made Paul, Paul was no longer about him, for he denied himself, it was about Jesus. He was born again. He died to Paul and came alive to Jesus. How did he do this? He explained how in the second part of Galatians 2:20 where he wrote, “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Far too many people have a fire insurance type of faith. They don’t want to go to hell but they don’t want to live for Jesus either. They are unwilling to turn from their sinful, fleshly, self-centered, and self-serving ways to truly live for Jesus. Remember, Jesus said, unless you are born again you cannot see, nor enter, the kingdom of Heaven.

To be born again we must die to the flesh and come alive to Jesus. Paul saw the love that Jesus had for him and the actions of the cross that demonstrated His love. With this in mind Paul said in Colossians 3:8, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul realized that he, Paul, was not worthy to live for, but Christ was more than worthy.

Have you been born again? Jesus died for you to give you life. He gave up all so you could have all; all that matters anyway. Have you died to you and come alive to Jesus, or do you simply have a fire insurance policy? Romans 8:12-13 says, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Proclaiming the Gospel is an Act of Love

The ultimate act of love is seen in the act of God so love the world. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God didn’t wait for us to change our wicked ways and then turn to Him. Apart from the power of the blood of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit we can’t turn to God. Apart from the work of God we would never even want too. Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

We did not choose to love God, He chose to love us. I John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” He chose to love us despite the fact that we were living in rebellion against Him. He loved us enough to pay the price for our sins on the cross of Calvary, suffering greatly in humiliation and anguish knowing that His sacrifice would purchase redemption of sin and reconcile us into a right relationship with Him. We love the Lord today because He first loved us.

Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus demonstrated His love towards us by laying down His life. As a result of the cross God also requires us to lay down our lives. Not as a dead sacrifice, but as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Because of the mercies of God, which is the act of Jesus on the cross, we are urged to give our lives as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.

Jesus told us to preach the gospel to all creation. In order to do this we must sacrifice. We will sacrifice our time, our energy, and sometimes our money. We may think that the world is wicked and cruel and therefore is not worthy of my sacrifice. But, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we worthy of Jesus sacrifice?” Absolutely not! Fortunately for us, God didn’t give us what we deserve; instead, He gave us grace and mercy-because of His love. We to are called to demonstrate grace, mercy, and love to a hostile and often rejecting world. We as Jesus did, are to overlook the hostility and rejection of the world in love, hoping to win a few for the Lord.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God loves the world and everyone in it. Does He love their ways? Of course not. This is why He sent His Son to die on the cross and save them from their sins empowering them to repent and live for Him. Paul writes in Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” The feet of those who carry the gospel to the unsaved are beautiful to God. They are carrying the good news of Jesus salvation to the world in which God loves so they can hear, and therefore believe. But how will they hear unless we love them enough to go and tell. By telling we carry on the ultimate act of love-God’s sacrificial love.

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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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The Gospel Must be Communicated

Have you ever heard someone say “I allow my life to be my witness?” Clearly the bible teaches we should do good works. Titus 3:8 says, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” Jesus Himself said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). Godly living and good works should go hand in hand. However, good works alone is an insufficient witness.

Clearly we want the unreached world to see our good works so our Father who is in heaven will be glorified. However, good works alone can be dangerously misleading. The bible clearly states that we are not saved by our good works and that we are only saved by placing our faith in the works of Christ. (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”

If we fail to communicate the gospel, which is the works of Christ that lead to salvation, we can lead the lost world into believing that their good life and good works are sufficient to save them. They will think they simply have to be a good person and perform good works to get to heaven. Paul said of those who teach this perverted form of the gospel, which is really no gospel at all, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospelcontrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to beaccursed!” (Galatians 1:8, 9). This is usually not the intention of the one who desires his life to be a witness. However, this is the danger of living a good life and doing good works without communicating the gospel.

True biblical evangelism consists of communication. Jesus said in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” One cannot preach without communication. The word preach means to proclaim. We are commanded to proclaim the gospel to all creation. We are called to be witnesses of Jesus and his teachings to the whole world starting where we are at. (Acts 1:8).

In the Word of God we find two distinct calls to preach. Paul tells Timothy, who is the pastor of Ephesus, in II Timothy 4:2, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” This type of preaching is pastoral preaching. It is preaching directed to the church with instruction that leads to godly living.

The other type of preaching is what Jesus commanded in Mark 16:15-preach the gospel. It is evangelistic preaching, or proclaiming. It is preaching directed to the lost with instruction of how to be saved. The Greek word used here is euaggelizesthai. It means, to evangelize. To evangelize is to share, preach, proclaim the gospel. Euaggelizesthai is a verb. It is a word that demands action. This word is used fifty two times in the New Testament.

Preaching is God’s choice of the communication of His gospel message. I Corinthians 1:21 says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Whether we are proclaiming to the masses or sharing with individuals we must communicate, preach, proclaim the clear message of the gospel. Every Christian is called to this task.

In the Word of God we find two ways that the gospel can, and should be, communicated. Clearly the first way is verbal. Acts 14:1 says of Paul and Barnabus, “In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.” The spoken word is the most prominent form of communicating the gospel in the New Testament. However, it is not the only form of communicating the gospel.

John said in I John 5:8, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Luke also stated his purpose in writing the book of Luke in Luke 1:3, 4 where he wrote, “it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” A quick read through the book of Romans will show you that it is the greatest gospel tract ever written. Writing isn’t preaching, but it is a wonderful form of communication that God has given to us to share His gospel message.

Whether we choose to preach, proclaim, share the gospel through the spoken word or the written word we must clearly communicate it. We are called and should be compelled to proclaim the gospel with the lost with every available opportunity we have. Apart from the proclamation of the gospel the lost world stands condemned to an eternal hell. When we proclaim the gospel they may chose to reject. Regardless of their decision, we have given them an opportunity to make a decision by communicating the gospel. If we however reject the call to proclaim, we not only stand in rebellion against God, we also have to ask, how then will they ever have the opportunity to make the choice?

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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Devotional

 

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Fasting and the Work of the Church Go Hand in Hand

“Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Acts 13:1-3 NASB

I often hear pastors and minister fuss that they can’t get their congregation to move out of the pews and into the community for the sake of the gospel. I must admit I have grumbled those same complaints more than a time or two myself. However, we often fail to realize the fact that we are in a spiritual battle and not a physical one. We are only effective in winning a spiritual battle if we fight the battle with spiritual weapons of warfare. Fasting and praying is one of the greatest spiritual tools God has given to us.

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. As we look out into our world it doesn’t take long to understand just how plentifully full the fields are with the lost who need to be harvested with the power of the gospel. Yet, we are often left disappointed when we see so few doing the work of the Lord. God has clearly called all Christians to share the gospel.  Unfortunately most Christians have never shared the gospel with anyone. Jesus said that we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send workers into the field, in other words, Jesus is telling us to fight this battle with spiritual weapon of prayer.

We see in this text of scripture the church at Antioch praying and fasting. While they were praying and fasting the bible says that “the Holy Spirit said.” It isn’t coincidental that the church was seeking God through prayer and fasting and then heard from Him. In fact this should be the norm, just as the church seeking God through prayer and fasting should be the norm.

When the Holy Spirit spoke He told them to, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” They prayed to the Lord of the harvest and God answered by sending out workers into the harvest field. God was calling Barnabas and Saul, (Paul), to go out into the world and preach the gospel to the lost.

Before sending Barnabas and Saul into the mission field the church at Antioch prayed and fasted once again for their newly appointed missionaries. Notice that they didn’t send them out into the fields of spiritual war to fight the battle alone. Although Barnabas and Saul were sent out and the others remained, the church was spiritually in the mission field fighting the spiritual battle as partners in the trenches of spiritual war with them. The church continued to fight the fight with them by praying and fasting. Through the power of prayer and fasting we can stand alongside missionaries, pastors, and evangelists all over the world; even if they are on the opposite side of the world at the time-far it is a spiritual battle.

When Paul went out into the mission field and preached the gospel, many were saved. He formed churches and trained leaders who would help lead the church so he could go into other cities and do the same. The new believers needed a church to help them grow in their walk with the Lord. At the same time there were still many lost people in those cities that needed to hear the gospel. These cities were now the spiritual responsibility of the new churches.

Paul knew what an enormous task the churches had in reaching their community and training new believers. He also knew the power of prayer and fasting. Acts 14:23 says, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

Are we reaching our communities, cities, counties, states, and nation with the gospel? Are we praying? Are we fasting? Lost people are not simply caught up in a philosophical thought that is contrary to the gospel; they are in spiritual bondage. Before we can change their philosophical view, we need to call upon the Lord of the harvest to transform and change their spiritual condition through the power of the gospel. Once they have accepted the gospel they are spiritually teachable and ready for the church to teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded. It begins with prayer and fasting, it continues with prayer and fasting, and it ends with prayer and fasting.

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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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In Pursuit of God’s Righteousness

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1 NASB

In the previous chapter Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). Now we find here Jesus saying, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men.” However the emphasis is, “to be noticed by them.” If our heart is the applause and the approval of men then we have received our reward in full. What reward is that? The applause and the approval of men.

Clearly God wants us to live out a righteous life as a walking witness to His wondrous love and grace. However, we must ask ourselves, “Are we living a life that points other to Jesus or are we living a life that points others to ourselves?” If we are seeking glory for ourselves we dishonor God and have no reward. We must remember Lucifer was cast out of heaven for trying to steal God’s glory, and that God has clearly said, “I will not share My glory with another.” However, if we chose to live a life of righteousness in light of God’s mercy and grace for the purpose of pointing others to Him, our eternal reward will be great. Paul said in II Timothy 4:8, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

We must also remember that when we live a life in pursuit of God the world will often reject us and possibly persecute us. We do not intentionally try to stand in contrast to the world for the sake of provoking it, for that is another form of self-righteousness. In reality no one is attracted to self righteousness and everyone will reject it. It is probably one of the greatest stumbling blocks to the Christian world today. We are to live a life in accordance to God’s standards. God’s ways are not our ways and therefore will contradict the ways of the world. I am a sinner saved by grace therefore the righteousness that I pursues is not my own, I have none; it is God’s, and God’s alone. God has called me to holiness because He is holy and I simply invite the world to join me in my pursuit of Him.  Will you join me?

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A Sweet Aroma

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” II Corinthians 2:14-16 NASB

This scripture reminds us of the fact that when we follow Jesus, God, “always leads us in triumph in Christ.” Regardless of what we face in this life we will always have victory. This scripture doesn’t teach us that bad things will never happen to those who follow Christ. Rather, it teaches us that God will get us through whatever life throws at us and allow us to have the victory. However, the victory only comes through a whole hearted pursuit of Jesus within our lives. On the other hand, pursuing our own plans, goals, and desires will certainly lead to disaster.

When we live for Christ, not only are we blessed and led to triumph, God manifests the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ through us. This sweet fragrance first becomes a fragrance to God. When we come to know Christ as our Savior and then led into triumph through Christ it manifests a sweet fragrance before the very throne of God and blesses God Himself. Heaven rejoices when a sinner is saved and led to victory in Christ. (Luke 15:7). God our Father, who loves us and has sacrificed for us, certainly rejoices.

Not only are we a pleasing fragrance unto God, we are a sweet aroma of the knowledge of Christ to those who are being saved through accepting the gospel message of Christ and therefore give their lives to Him, and to those who are perishing because they have rejected the gospel. We are not responsible for those who reject or those who accept. That is a personal decision on their part. However, we are fully responsible as to whether or not we will live in pursuit of Jesus where the sweet aroma of Christ will then be manifest from within us so that the world can have the opportunity to inhale that sweet aroma and therefore have the opportunity to make the choice. How then do you choose to smell in the stench of this world today? I chose to smell like Christ.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Reflcetions of Glory

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” II Corinthians 3:18 NASB

Paul reminded the church of Corinth of Moses who caught a glimpse of the glory of God. The reflection of God’s glory caused Moses face to shine. Because of the hardness of the peoples heart Moses had to wear a veil over his face to hide the glory of God illuming from him. Paul also said that this veil remains in the hearts of men to this day and is only removed whenever a person turns to the Lord.

As Christians we are to be living reflectors of the glory of God. We are not to veil or hide the glory of God within us. Nor are we to use the Lord to bring glory to ourselves. We are to let His light shine from within us for the world to see and therefore be drawn to the Him.

In order for us to be a clear and bright reflection of God’s glory we need to be transformed from the fleshly man to the spiritual man. When we walk more in the flesh and less in the Spirit we are dim and dull reflectors of God’s glory. However, when we are full of the Spirit and have denied the flesh God’s glory shines bright. We should desire the glory of God to shine so bright within us it blinds the world from all else.

How then are we to be transformed into His image from glory to glory? The Word of God promises us if we seek God we will find Him. God has given to us several methods of seeking Him and finding Him such as, the bible, prayer, church, and service. All of these are wonderful ways God has given to us to discover His person, fall in love with Him, and then become like Him. These tools are not tools for salvation; they are tools for those who are already saved to seek Jesus all the more. The only means of salvation is to repent of your sins, and trust in the Lord by faith to save you from and forgive you of your sins. Once we are saved we use these tools to grow in our walk with Him, to draw closer to Him and more like Him.

Every believer should spend time daily in God’s Word, and in prayer, and to take every opportunity to be active in the church and in service unto the Lord. However, we need to be careful in not allowing these spiritual acts to become fleshly. When these acts become tedious acts of legalistic works that we do because we feel as though we have to, they are meaningless and far less beneficial. However, when we spend time in the bible, in prayer, and in church for the singular purpose of seeking God our service of Him will then be anointed with the glory of God. Our love and passion for Him will grow immensely and our service of Him will be as natural as breathing. Then the world will not see us and be greatly disappointed; they will see the glory of God and be very satisfied.

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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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