From Here to Eternity

When you hear the gospel message often it can become one of those “Ho-Hum Sundays” when your pastor preaches on what you’ve ‘already got covered’.  You flop your Bible in your lap and get out a pen to keep focused, scrabbling down notes that gradually turn into caricatures of fellow church members as time wears on.  Thoughts wander… which you quickly ‘take captive’ with a scowl to yourself that has your neighbor wondering what hidden sin you are being convicted of, hoping it will turn up under the church bulletin prayer requests so she’ll know.  The gospel never grows old, you tell yourself, concentrating hard on outlining the word JOHN with your escaping pencil.  You just can’t seem to keep your mind on the sermon, no matter how hard you try. 

It’s sad, but it’s true:  and the devil would love nothing better than to have people forgetting what Christ did.  Even when they are reminded of it, he would love to have them yawning and doodling throughout the retelling — and while he isn’t present in the church, he’s probably doing a regular happy dance on the stoop. 

We shouldn’t give him the chance to dance.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of what Christ did for us so that we do not grow cold or hardened to the sacrifice.  We can begin to take for granted the life He lived, and the death He died.  Worse yet, we can forget how and why we were saved, and thus are unable to give an explanation to those who do not have Him as their Savior.

In John chapter three Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus to ask Him some questions.  There were essentially two:  the first was, “Why do we need to be born again?” and the second, “How can we be born again?”  As Christians, we probably don’t ask those questions anymore.  We are saved, and that’s that.  But ‘that’s’ not all there is to it.  When someone gives you something precious, like a wedding ring, you don’t cherish it for a time and then forget it.  You keep it near you — in this case, on your finger — as a constant reminder of the love of the one who gave it to you.  Our salvation is the same way.

So why do we need to be born again?  Jesus said in John 3:3:  “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  And also in John 3:5:  “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  Not only can we not even see God’s kingdom in our sinful state, but we most certainly can not enter it.  We are all born in our sinful natures, passed down through Adam from the beginning.  This is the reason for evil in the world. 

Our fleshly nature, our human self, is spiritually dead.  It is also spiritually bankrupt. 1 Corinthians 15:15 says:  “…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”  In our own natures nothing we do has ‘kingdom value’.  We need a new life.

How are we born again?  Being ‘born again’ means to be born with a new nature;  to be awakened to a new life.  Just as we are born into this life as a child, we are born into spiritual life as a child of God — but only if we make that choice.  We can remain in the darkness of the womb of the world, or we can journey out into the light of God’s love and law, where we will grow to full maturity. 

I watched The Matrix last night and it fits very well with this sermon.  For those of you who have seen it, you will know that when Neo is awakened from his stupor, he finds himself to be not the free person he thought he was (which he was in his mind) but simply a pale, naked, weak creature dependent on a machine for sustenance.  The lost are like this.  In their minds they are free, but in reality, their souls are in bondage to sin — only to be freed when they make the choice to remove themselves from the womb of their former life and be born into the new. 

Christians may no longer be in the fetal state that the lost are in, but many choose to remain in a stage of infancy when it comes to their spiritual life.  Rather than growing up, and taking to heart hard words about sin, they prefer to be coddled and fed the milk of ‘a loving God’ without challenge or consequence.  They never mature, but remain a weak, toddling baby as long as they refuse to let go of the umbilical cord they have left uncut from their former life.

For those who choose be born again, they are led by the Spirit of God and are changed by Him.  They grow and mature and are used greatly for His glory.  They are our leaders, and they are very few — but there can be more.  It just takes more people to stop doodling and take seriously what their salvation is, from here to eternity.  Will you be one of them?

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