Born Again Believers

It is essential for every believer in Jesus to be “born from above” in order to come under God’s rule as part of the Kingdom of His dear Son: “Jesus answered and said unto (Nicodemus), Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)

Consider what is involved in the “new birth:”

1. It involves a simultaneous renewal of the inner man and a coming forth to a new lifestyle from immersion in water: “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 3:5). It is being born again “with the word of truth” (James 1:18). It is a washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).  

Peter expressed it in a different manner:  “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Peter 1:22-25). Those who responded by attending to Jesus’ teaching and following His example in baptism are part of God’s family. John wrote, “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 (John 1:12-13). Those who believed in Christ were given direction on how to come into His kingdom (see Acts 2:36-47).

2. Those who are born again have a wonderful future: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:3-4). Those who “obey the gospel” will receive rest when Jesus returns (II Thess. 1:6-9).

3. Those who are born again have a clear path for how to live: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (I John 3:9). Jesus calls us to live godly (Titus 2:11-14).

4. Those who are born again have a loving spirit: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him (1 John 5:1).  Those who are born again love God, His word, worship and work and His creatures.

Jesus is Lord

Every child of God has experienced the moment where they’ve recognized that Jesus is Lord.

The designation as “Lord” is the Greek word kurios (κύριος), “an adjective, signifying “having power or authority,” and is used of kings; or one who owns or has the disposal of anything; or one to whom service is due on any ground (Vine’s Complete Expos. Dict.).

Peter proclaimed in the first gospel sermon: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). Paul praised Jesus as “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (I Tim. 6:15).

Jesus is deserving of this title, because He is:

  • Lord by Creation (all things were made by Him, John 1:3; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3); and
  • Lord by Calvary (He became human so He could die as our substitute to redeem us from sin, John 1:14, 29; Rom. 14:9; I Peter 1:19).

Jesus holds all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). Our faith is founded on the truth that “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11). Our mission is to represent “Christ Jesus the Lord” (II Cor. 4:5).

Hudson Taylor pointed out that “Christ is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all.” Take a moment to reflect on this question: Does Jesus have ownership and control of every area of my life?

We Choose the Path

One of the earliest non-inspired Christian writings was The Didache. Compiled around A.D. 100 to 130, it was designed as a how-to guide on becoming and being a Christian, written in Old Testament fashion for New Testament believers. The New Testament is compiled in a recognized literary style – epistolary, in which we read the entire collection and then reconstruct the character, plot and story through assimilation to gather the complete message. The Didache was an attempt to condense and compile the New Testament’s teachings into black-letter form.

Here are it’s opening words:  “THERE are two paths, one of life and one of death, and the difference is great between the two paths.”

What a powerful yet simple statement. 

Many people spend their lives focusing on matters other than their relationship with God. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matt. 7:13-14). That’s a bold statement, too. Ignoring God does not change the fact He exists.

Consider a half dozen reasons every person must reflect on his relationship with God:

1.  The Mortality Factor:  I won’t live forever. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Heb. 9:27).

2. The Morality Factor: I can’t do enough good things to ensure I’ll live forever. “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” (Titus 3:5).

3. The Meaning Factor: I need purpose in life. “For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?” (Eccl. 6:12).

4.  The Management Factor:  I need guidance. “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” (Prov. 30:13).

5.  The Messiah Factor: Jesus gave His life on Calvary for me. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” (John 12:32-33).

6.  The Mercy Factor:  I need peace of mind from anxiety, guilt and fear. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

A Dozen Ways to Sleep Better at Night

Rest and recovery is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. So how can we improve the quality of our sleep and get more Vitamin Zzz? Here are a dozen ways to rest easier at night:

1) Don’t sleep too much during the day.

Solomon points out that one of the problems of the habitually lazy person is he is getting far too much sleep while the sun is up.

Proverbs 6:9-11: “How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.”

2) Get more active during the day.

Move more. Get some exercise. Find something productive to do. Break a sweat!

Ecclesiastes 5:12: “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.”

3) Unplug at bedtime.

Yes, this means that when it’s time for sleep, set down the smartphone or the tablet. Aside from the lighting, the over-sensitization will made it more difficult to relax. Notice how Paul urges a transition to a quieter lifestyle:

1 Thessalonians 4:11: “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”

2 Thessalonians 3:12: “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

4) Get ready for the next day, then put it away.

The verse from the earlier point about working hard ends with pointing out what can interrupt sleep – preoccupation with all that needs to be done – Ecclesiastes 5:12: “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.”

The last part of that verse could be referring to how greed can be infectious and disrupting (see I Tim. 6:6-10). But it also, in its best light, points out the heavier burdens of those who are in charge of a lot of responsibilities. If that’s the case, prepare for what’s important for the next day, then put it aside and get some rest.

5) Jot down anything that is on your mind that is Urgent or Important. 

Can’t you identify with this explanation for how a soldier lost a prisoner: 1 Kings 20:40a: “And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”

Our restlessness could be because there was something we needed to do or remember to do, and we feel as if we’ve forgotten it.

Develop your own system for keeping track of what needs attention. When it occurs to you, “I’ve got to remember to….” Or, “I need to pick up….” Or you catch yourself telling someone, “Don’t let me forget too…..” THOSE are probably the moments when you should add that item to a list or calendar that you use to keep track of all those urgent or important matters. Write it out, put it down, and get some rest.

6) Listen to music.

This worked for King Saul in the Old Testament:

1 Samuel 16:15-16: “And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. 16 Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on a harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well.”

7) Pray and meditate.

Prayer is when we say something to God; meditation is when we think about what God has said to us.

Psalm 4:8: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.”

8) How’s your diet?

It is well-documented that caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine interfere with nightly sleep. For example: Six Ways Coffee, Cigarettes, and Booze Can Affect Your Sleep

Take care of the temple (I Cor. 6:19).

9) Keep a clear conscience.

If regret or remorse is gnawing at your spirit, take steps to clear up your conscience about the matter.

Isaiah 48:22: “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.”

10) Be a congruent Christian. Live out what you know to be right.

Don’t try to lead a double life. Let your lifestyle be consistent with what you truly believe and know to be right. When we’re doing the good and right thing for you and me and others, for now and the future, we can rest easier:

Proverbs 3:21, 24: “My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:… When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.”

11) Count your blessings.

Counting sheep? Maybe. Reflecting on all the good and joyful things from the day that have passed through your life? Yes!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ASV):  “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.”

12) Get right with God.

All our best efforts to find rest are truly incomplete until we have found God’s love and our love for Him:

Psalm 127:2: “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”

Super-focused Faith

After the Dallas Cowboys won the 1993 Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills by a landslide (52-17), a reporter asked Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson what he had told his players before the big game. 

“I kind of told them a story that you have a two-by-four,” he said, “and you lay the two-by-four across the room and most everybody in the room — and I did say there were probably a couple of players that couldn’t do it — but most everybody in the room could walk across that two-by-four and not fall, because their focus was that they were going to walk that two-by-four.

“But you take that same two-by-four and put it up 10 stories high between two buildings, then there’ll only be a few of us that’ll make it. We’ll be stumbling and grabbing on and holding on and going back to the start, because our focus is going to be on falling. The negative thoughts will be so strong that we’ll be thinking about falling rather than thinking about what the job is at hand.” (New York Times, “Johnson Goes to Great Heights to Get Point Across,” January 25, 1993).

Johnson explained that he told the team not to focus on the possibility of failing against the Bills, but to approach every play as if it was a practice session.

That approach can help us in every facet of life. Every one of us struggles with being distracted by failure, or falling, or things that can hurt us, to the point our life may not be as fulfilling as God intended. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Needless anxiety robs us of that.

Someone said, “Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat…worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.”

The Bible teaches us to overcome worry by replacing it with faith in eternal, unconquerable things. Here are some of those things we are encouraged to focus upon:

1. The passionate Savior: Jesus Christ

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2)(emphasis added in bold).

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:6-7). Set your sights on Christ.

2. The positive side: Good things

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things(Phil. 4:8). Are you looking for the bright side, or focusing on the shadows?

3. The perfect salvation: Heaven

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). No one is a failure who reaches heaven.

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).

 

Fired-up Faith

The daily duties and challenges of living for God can sap our energy.  We are called upon to muster enough strength to keep going through the same tests and to keep doing the same things over and over again.  Satan wants serving God to be drudgery.

It’s kind of like a dairy farmer said, “The hardest thing about milking cows is that they don’t stay milked.”

The ancient Israelites’ faith in God had grown so thin that they dreaded the trip to the Temple to offer sacrifices to Him. Malachi rebuked them:

“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. 12 But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. 13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.” (Malachi 1:11-13).

Jesus told His disciples to forgive endlessly. The disciples said, if that’s what we’re going to do to serve Him, “Lord, increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5).

Paul encouraged the churches of Galatia, who were wondering whether doing good things for God was worth it:

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:9-10).

The lifestyle God expects us to lead requires trust in Him. Here are some practical ways to strengthen our faith:

1. Dig deeper into God’s word. Our faith grows with greater knowledge and love for God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). 

2. Put the little difficulties in perspective. The devil attacks us with a steady stream of small inconveniences. Faith is our protection under this barrage, but a weak faith will mean less security. Paul wrote, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Eph. 6:16). In the long run, the little stuff won’t matter (see Rom. 8:18).

3. Feed your spirit. The struggle: “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:1-3). The solution: “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” (verses 16-17).

4. Hang with a better crowd. Peter’s weaknesses were magnified when he tried to fit in with the wrong group (see Luke 22:54-62). Use times of fellowship to strengthen – and be strengthened by – others.

5. Pray, and express the specifics about your weakness to the Lord. Jesus can help us (see, e.g., Luke 17:5).

6. Think about the goal. God will not forget us (see Gal. 6:7-8). Eternal life awaits those who lead a life of faith (Heb. 11).

Let us pray

When we are feeling weak spiritually, we can pray and the Lord will strengthen us (2 Cor. 12:9).  Here is an overview of why and how we should pray, as presented in the Bible:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

“Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:14-15).

“He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer” (Psalm 102:17).

“The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. 19 He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them” (Psalm 145:18-19).

“The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Prov. 15:29).

“And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:11-13).

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matt. 6:6-13).

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8).

“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matt. 21:22).

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

The Gospel of the Axhead

If we “search the Scriptures,” we will find passages in the Old Testament that typify the saving message of Jesus Christ (see John 5:39). In II Kings 6, we read about something that was lost, and how it was found:

And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us. “Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go.” Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it. II Kings 6:1-7, NKJV 

The recovery of the lost iron axehead illustrates the gospel of Christ in at least three ways:

First, the lost are found. One of students in the “school of the prophets” had explained to Elisha that the number of pupils had increased to the point they needed more dormitory space. It is proposed that they build the additional space using modest materials, such as trees they would hew themselves from a nearby significant area along the Jordan River. While they were working, the student who had asked Elisha’s approval for the project lost the iron head to an axe. This would not have been inexpensive. And he also would have difficulty returning it – he had to beg a neighbor to borrow it. In the moment of despair, Elisha miraculously retrieves the axhead. In a similar way, the gospel contains divine power to save the lost (Rom. 1:16; read also Luke 15).

Second, the fallen are raised. The iron piece dropped like an anchor to the bottom of the fast-flowing river. Elisha tosses a small tree into the water and it instantly changes the elements of the axehead and it rises and is retrieved. Similarly, those who come to Christ are changed, and raised up to a new life (John 3:3-5; Rom. 6:3-5; Col 3:1-7).

Third, servants are used. When the iron piece floated to the surface, Elisha directed the student to reach in and pick it up. The passage would seem to abruptly end, unless we focus on the significance of this instruction: God called the prophet-in-training to do for himself what he was capable of doing. Instead of the axehead levitating from the bottom of the river, to the surface and into the servant’s hands, he is told to take it himself. This is a principle that runs throughout Scripture, that is sometimes referred to as the “Law of Divine Parsimony,” which means that God will not do supernaturally what is capable of being done through non-supernatural (that is, natural) means (see II Kings 4:3-4; 5:10; John 9:7; 11:39). 

What We were Meant to be

If we aren’t experiencing joy in our spiritual lives, perhaps we may need to get on track with what we were meant to be. The path of spiritual development described for us in Scripture has several distinct features:
Establishment: We are meant to create a relationship with Jesus on the terms He outlines in the New Testament (Rom. 6:16-18; I Peter 1:22-23). These include hearing His word (Rom. 10:17); believing in Him with the whole heart (Rom. 10:9); repentance (Rom. 2:4); confession of faith (Rom. 10:10); and being baptized into Him (Rom. 6:3-5). Have you you completed these steps?
Engagement: We are meant to be a part of a group of other Christians, designed along the lines given to us in the New Testament, in which we worship and build relationships with one another (I Cor. 12:13). Are you recognized as a member of the local body? (Acts 2:47; 9:26; Rom. 12:4-5). There’s no such thing as a “Christian-at-large.”
Equipment: We are meant to increase our knowledge and skill in the practices and virtues of Christianity (II Tim. 2:15).
Enlargement: We are meant to grow (II Peter 3:18; Heb. 5:12-14), and should be continually improving in a broad range of areas, such as faith, love, peace, courage, patience, kindness and self-discipline (see Gal. 5:22-23; II Peter 1:5-10).
Employment: We are meant to be workers for the Lord (Eph. 2:10), and to use what we are acquiring – material and immaterial – in service to Jesus (I Tim. 6:6-19), with the goal of both glorifying Him and compelling others to seek Him (Matt. 5:13-16).
Enjoyment: We are meant to experience gladness and peace of mind through Christ. Jesus means for us to have an abundant life (John 10:10). Of course, this doesn’t mean flawless (I John 1:6-10) nor easy (Job 14:1), but it can be joyful (Phil. 4:4; I Thess. 5:16-18). Who could be sad knowing heaven awaits us? (Matt. 5:12; John 11:25; 16:33; II Tim. 4:6-8).