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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jesus and Being Born Again, Conclusion

I didn’t know I needed to be born again; and, frankly, I’m glad I didn’t because I wouldn’t have had a clue how to go about getting the job done.

Guess what? I couldn’t have done anything to get myself born again, any more than I could have been involved in getting myself born the first time. It was God who pursued me and it was God Who set the whole thing up to move me into the position of making that decision to surrender my life to Him. His timing was just perfect!

In the Gospel of John Chapter Six we read:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them… (Verse 44)

The Pharisee, Nicodemus, and I were there for the same reason. Whatever we may have thought we knew or didn’t know, it was God, himself, Who was drawing us to Jesus. The cost for Nicodemus didn’t matter when the draw was so strong. The Greek verb, translated here as “draws” is also used in Acts Chapter Sixteen. This use of the verb paints a picture more in keeping with my own story:

“When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.” (Verse 19)

Yessirree, I didn’t go to that Bible Study skipping down the sidewalk to Rey’s car; I was dragged kicking and screaming, figuratively speaking, of course. Had he not dared me to go, proclaiming me a coward too afraid to go to a Bible Study… I would never have gone. How grateful I have always been for Rey’s perseverance! His cordial invitations needed more of a push to get me there in the end, but it was at that place God revealed Himself to me in a real way. Those kids my own age knew God and I wanted what they had. No one planned some special speech or grabbed me to lay hands on me before I could get away. They just behaved in their normal way and it was this naturalness that gripped my heart. These kids really did know God and I longed to share my life with Father God the way they did. Not even birthday cake and ice cream could pull me away from finding answers from God even one more minute. I fled the party to find God at the foot of the cross that hung on my own living room wall! How personal and individual is the care of our loving Father God, who understands everything about us and loves us enough to step into our own plans and fears. How marvelous that God, through Jesus, has made a way for us to know Him!

And what about Nicodemus? Ah yes, well there is a passage in the Gospel of John that gives us a glimpse into just what Nicodemus’ response was to that middle-of-the-night meeting with Jesus.  Many who have read the Bible can recall that it was Joseph of Arimathea who asked for the body of Jesus, but he was not alone. From John Chapter Nineteen:

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there”. (Verses 38-42)

You can see that it wasn’t only Nicodemus who feared being associated with Jesus; Joseph also believed in secret. Yet, these two wealthy men threw off their concerns for what people would say about them and moved in to care for the body of Jesus as one would for a beloved family member. Talk about being associated with Jesus! No doubt it was the Holy Spirit Who gave them the boldness and grace to do this worshipful act in such a public way.

Yes, there are folks today who believe in secret because of fear for government and religious authorities, but there are also many in the western world who believe in secret out of fear related to their own families. God understands and is not offended by this. Many of these silent saints have given testimony of when the time came for them to step out of the shadow in their worship and declare their belief openly out of love for the Almighty, just as Joseph and Nicodemus. God will give the same grace for each of us when we follow His direction.

Dear Reader, if you’re hearing the message of your need to be born again for the first time today, let your heart be stirred to respond; don’t ignore that gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit. Life with God is just too wonderful to miss. No, it’s not easy to live as a Christian in a world gone mad with the declaration of what unscriptural pleasures you owe yourself, but life is not easy, in any case. The personal relationship that can be enjoyed when one has been born again makes it possible to go through the hard times of life with hope. The truth is that we are not our own gods, regardless of what folks would like us to believe. But, the One Who is God draws us to come be born again so that we can live the life He had in mind when He created each of us, a life of peace, joy and hope. A marvelous life, even amidst trials!

Except a man be born again, he will wish one day he had never been born at all.
J. C. Ryle

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