Monday, April 14, 2014

Is There More?

John 3:1-12

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old?" Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and you do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?"

Haven't we all wondered if there is more to life than what we know? Some might question but because the answer is elusive will let it go believing there is no answer or that it takes too much thought. Others are determined to know the answer. The answer. Yes.

Nicodemus, a religious man, wanted answers. He saw Jesus at work. He knew what Jesus said and did, that He seemed to come from somewhere even beyond his own wisdom. He recognized something different and sought Him out for deeper answers. He sought Jesus by night. In the shroud of darkness. He might have been questioned for his talking with this Man. He might have been ousted from his position. It was dangerous to seek a Man whom other Pharisees would just as soon have disappear for His criticism of their religious ways.

Nicodemus recognized Jesus as having greater wisdom. He admitted He was of God. And out of the blue Jesus answered him by saying without being born again this was not possible. Praise God! We can all have this sort of wisdom...if we seek the answers, seek Jesus, like Nicodemus did.

Jesus gives us the exact answer: we must be born again. Today the phrase born again Christian does not go over too well. I remember someone I worked with, after I became born again and all filled with the initial excitement of knowing I'd met God in a very personal way. She said she had been offended by people in an airport asking if she was born again and what the consequences were if she were not. I remember feeling the same myself.

But Jesus' message won't change, and as often as we reject that message, we reject God. Jesus' answer is simple, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." This is where the meaning differs depending on one's understanding.

Becoming born again is a choice we must make. It's not made for us through infant baptism. While those little babies have no concept of Jesus or much of anything yet, they are God's children. But as we grow and begin to make our own decisions in life, even at an early age, then we are able to make the choice for Jesus. We may not know that this type of decision must be made because such an idea is not promoted in our church. It is just assumed that with our infant baptism we are in Christ.

There's something flawed about this concept. That then means that every thief, murderer, liar, anyone like this, will be in heaven beside us some day. It means almost everyone who attends church or is a good person and was baptized will be part of the kingdom...without any commitment, living just as they wish. Some may even believe everyone will go to heaven. If that's the case, there was no need for Jesus to have been born, live, suffer and die for us. We are all separated from God at birth because of sin. The only way to bridge the gap is through Jesus. Is it right that a person who has no need for God is allowed entrance into heaven?

Being born again is a verbal and spiritual acknowledgment with a change in attitude and thinking. You know it has happened when it does. Something takes place within you, in the Spirit. It takes place when you believe. Believe in what? Believe that Jesus is who He says He is and is able to do what He says He can. It's not just knowing about Him but knowing Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. It's that change that takes place inside. That Holy Spirit only comes when we willing receive Christ.

Sometimes it starts with wanting to know if there is more. I asked that question as a young person. Our pastor yesterday says he still looks at the stars or the clouds and is still amazed that our God created them...and that anyone can see this. I did that as a child. Laid on the front lawn at night, summer and winter, and gazed in wonder knowing that beyond what I could see there were more I couldn't. I was in awe.

I always knew there was something greater and it had to do with God. But I couldn't put my finger on it. Then one day, after many years of His attempts or at least promptings, maybe others' prayers, I suddenly got it. I knew I needed a Savior. And I received Him. None of those people who had planted seeds in my life or literature in my hand even came to mind. He alone was right there. Just He and I and  His Spirit, in a split second, filled me. He was between God and me, my Mediator. I was born the Spirit. And later I gave myself to the same type of baptism as Jesus, total immersion...having my sins washed away, being born again in the Spirit, verbally testifying that I had received Him as my Savior. My old man had gone, my new born again man was put on.

If this religious man had to ask, I think we all need to ask. Maybe we've seen others change and they will not back down; it's become part of their lives. We see it, but do not believe it and because it is a heavenly thing it cannot be comprehended. It's where seeking comes in. Ask God to show you in a way you can understand. Ask Him if He is who He says He is or that He can do what He says, or He can do what I say He did. This is part of the believing. Believing Jesus can change a life, allow His Spirit to enter in to ours, cause us to become born again.

It's for everyone who wants to believe, who wants to know the truth that there is more than this life we live and more after, in Christ alone, through his Spirit.

2Corinthians 5:16-17 - Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 

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