Posted in back to basics, born again

“You must be born again” What does it mean to be born again?

By Elizabeth Prata

I came to faith in Jesus at age 43. In my youth and in adult life I never was exposed much to church or Born Again believers or the things of Jesus. As an adult in New England, which is rife with false religions and atheists, I never bumped elbows with “Jesus freaks” as they are known up there.

That said, there is a vocabulary associated with Christianity that a person hears at some point in their lives just from listening to news clips or seeing movies or television. “You have to be born again,” or “He’s saved” are examples. I never knew what they meant. I do now. I’ll do my best to explain them. Continue reading ““You must be born again” What does it mean to be born again?”

Posted in back to basics, bible, bible study

Back to Basics: How to Study Your Bible

EPrata photo

The Bible is one book but it is actually a library of 66 books. These books are written in a variety of genres. Your own bookcase at home contains fiction with sub-genres such as novels, science fiction, romance, or poetry. Alongside those might be books on your shelves of non-fiction with sub-genres such as biographies, history, textbooks, cookbooks, or how-to. You see how many genres of literature there are!

Your library of the books of the Bible is just the same. Inside the one book are 66 books containing different genres. You would not read a history book from David McCullough in the same way as you would a romance novel from LaVyrle Spencer. You would not read a cookbook written by Rachael Ray in the same way as you would a book of poetry Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

My life’s work as both profession and hobby has been to involve myself in literacy. Professionally, I help teach children how to read. When five-year-olds begin to learn how to read, we start with books that contain predictable language. They hear “Once upon a time…” and it finishes with “They lived happily ever after. The end.” If I begin reading aloud to them “Once upon a…” and stop, the children will know what comes next. When they see two words on the last page, “The end” they know what those words say. This is because narrative stories have a familiar story arc and a predictable schema that remains the same from book to book.

When children reach around third grade they begin reading in the content areas. Gone are the familiar, predictable stories where they can use the context to help fill in an unknown word. Gone are the story arcs where their comprehension of the text is supported by familiarity and predictability. New to them are passages that contain a lot of facts about Magellan, the planets, or magnets. There is no predictability in these passages, nothing to hang their mental hook on to help support the brain’s search for meaning of that unknown word or concept. We teach children different reading strategies for comprehension of non-fiction passages.

When a child reaches 6th grade or so, we hope that the years of reading have instilled in them a wealth of strategies for comprehension of both fictional works and non-fiction that are so familiar to them that they aren’t even aware of the fact that they are using strategies, nor hopefully are they aware that they are switching strategies based on which type of literature they are reading.

Photo from Unsplash, free to use

We adults are no different. When I approach a historical passage like Ezra I read differently than I do when I read a Psalm or a narrative like Mark. Even within the different genres of books of the Bible, I read differently than if I have set a goal. During the summer when I’m off work I read the New Testament straight through at least once. I want a bird’s eye view, a skim and a scan, I do not stop and I do not study. I just read.

When I read a densely historical book like Ezra, I read slowly and I use maps and pictures. I am a visual person and I need maps to show me where these people are, have been, and are going. When lots of animals are named I stop and I look at pictures of them so I can picture in my head what is going on. If you are not visual you might not need to do that.

Reading Ezra with all the kings in their respective countries for me is like a third grader suddenly having to remember all the Explorer’s names and their different travels. The difficult Hebrew names sometimes trip me up so I either decide to read relieve myself of the task of reading them perfectly, or I go to an audio reading (Max McLean) and let him pronounce it for me. So my goals and strategies differ, depending on the level of difficulty and the type of text that is before me.

Here are the different kinds of literature in the Bible. Not everybody classifies them the same way. Some classify Esther as History, others classify the book as Narrative. Some lists do not contain the genre of Narrative at all, others do. Some place the Gospel under their own category and others put them under Narrative along with Acts. Some split the genre of Prophecy and Apocalyptic literature, others put them together. Just as long as you begin to see each book of the Bible as its own kind of literature, and approach reading it from that perspective, you will be on your way to a solid beginning interpretation.

Here are a couple of visuals to help you see the Bible in the way it needs to be seen, as a bookshelf of various genres. You can view several different arrangements here at this blog.


Please note that the arrangement of the Prophetic books into “Major Prophets” and “Minor Prophets” is not a statement of the worth of the book’s content. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16 that ALL scripture is valuable. It simply means that the minor prophets’ books are shorter.

Another visual arrangement of the books of the Bible is like a periodic table, in a visual theology developed by Tim Challies. You can obtain a free, large-scale, high-resolution image of this chart at Challies’ site.

The Bible is one, unified book testifying all about Jesus Christ. (Luke 24:27). It cannot be broken. (John 10:35). And yet, we can segment the books of the Bible into their proper genres and approach reading and studying them in the ways they need to be studied or read, without harm. The Bible is astonishing in its breadth and depth and insight. Of course it is! It is the word of God. We are blessed to be living in a time where there is NOT a famine of the Word, but have access to it day and night, written and audio, large text or small, Old Testament or New.

However you decide to approach your study and your reading (they are two separate things), the point is, make an orderly approach. Make decisions ahead of time. Understand the text you’re absorbing and its different literature genre requirements.

The most important thing of all is to pray. The Holy Spirit indwells you for the purpose of illuminating the scriptures to you. When you’ve made some orderly decisions ahead of time you have prepared your brain, and then as you pray for illumination, the Spirit will impress what He wants on your mind and heart. Not that you have to do it this way, but being an orderly, praying disciple of Jesus as you read about Him can’t hurt, right?


Further reading:

GotQuestions: Genres of the Bible

Institute for Creation Research: Scripture Cannot Be Broken

Bible Gateway: Tour of the Bible, part 1

Grace To You: How to Study Your Bible

Posted in back to basics

Back to Basics: What is Justification?

There are three-parts to being united with Christ. They are justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Let’s talk about Justification.

Justification is not a process, it is an event. It’s a one-time, momentary declaration, momentary meaning it takes a moment for it to happen but it has an eternal expiration date. Which means, it will never expire.

Justification is the doctrine that God pardons, accepts, and declares a sinner to be “just” on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (Rom 3:24-26; 4:25; 5:15-21) which results in God’s peace (Rom 5:1), His Spirit (Rom 8:4), and salvation. Justification is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from all works and merit of the sinner (cf. Rom 1:18-3:28).

Justification is a legal act, wherein God deems the sinner righteous on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. Unlike Sanctification, Justification is not a process, but is a one-time act, complete and definitive.

God’s act of justification may be seen to involve a double imputation. On the one hand, the sin and guilt of the believer are imputed to Christ. On the other hand, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer, whereby he is declared righteous. (source)

Then we have is regeneration, forgiveness, grace, adoption, (not necessarily in that order or maybe all at once, let’s not argue!), sanctification (the process of the Spirit polishing off our sin nature and increasing our likeness of Christ), and then glorification (made perfect after death at the resurrection, no sin nature in our flesh at all).

Our sins prevent us from going to heaven. Since Adam, we all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:21). Before the moment of justification, we are ‘in Adam.’

When we are declared justified, we are ‘in Christ’, Who is perfect in His righteousness. That means when God looks at us, He sees Christ and His righteousness.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You might notice the word “just” in justification. It is the legal theme of justice, justify, to render a verdict. God is the Judge. The penalty for all sinners is hell. However, those He declares as righteous, (through Christ, not our own righteousness!) He allows into heaven. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22).

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

US Supreme Court. CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

I like courtroom dramas. I love the intricacies of the law, the back and forth of the defense and plaintiff arguments, how a judge makes a verdict, or a jury if it is a jury trial. The legal process is long and drawn out, and even TV programs or movies show this. And then comes the climactic moment! All rise! The jury stands, the accused stands, all stand…to hear the verdict. All the work of the previous year or years rides on this one short moment.

When the jury delivers its verdict and then the judge says “You have been declared not guilty. You are free to go” almost uniformly, the actor looks around in shock and confusion. That’s it? Just like that? I can walk out of here with these clothes on my back, into the sunshine, and have a life?

Yes. Just like that.

“We the jury find the defendant not guilty.”
“The defendant is discharged. Good luck Mr Lewis. Thank you ladies and gentlemen.”

And then they can go. Amazing.

Here is a ‘not guilty’ verdict in a movie, with a lengthy celebration the judge never would allow. But instead, let’s imagine when one sinner is declared righteous by faith alone, through grace alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9). Once we are justified and repent, we understand our sin and what it does to God. If we really knew the import of it at the moment of justification, we ourselves would be celebrating like this defendant. The angels do. Just imagine the celebration in heaven when one more sinner is justified and repents!

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)


Further Reading

The Riches of Divine Grace, part 2: Justification (S. Lewis Johnson)

The Two Adams (Phil Johnson)

Why is justification by faith such an important doctrine? (Got Questions)

Justification and sanctification: how do they differ? (JC Ryle)

The Great Exchange (Pyromaniacs- Phil Johnson)

Posted in back to basics, blood

Back to Basics: What is "The Lamb"?

Hindrick S

During this Christmas season just past, we often hear of ‘The Lamb’. Most Christians know what that means, no matter if you’re a babe in the faith or mature in the faith. However, the practice of study (in my opinion) means constantly asking questions. I ask myself, ‘what does this mean?’ ‘How can I go deeper?’ ‘What does the Greek say?’ ‘Why is this reference here, at this moment in the narrative, and not earlier in the chapter or later?’ Isn’t this the fifth time this particular reference has been made…so why is that?’ What did the Lord want us to know here?’

Never assume you know the full answer, because we don’t. Never assume we can’t learn more, because God is infinite. He always has things to teach us. So what is “The Lamb”? For many of us in this industrialized world, we may never see a lamb or a grown sheep. We are not agricultural and the metaphors that were immediately understood by the agrarian society in which Jesus preached are lost to us today in terms of daily experience. So we study it.

We are introduced to Jesus as the Lamb when John the Baptist saw Him arrive at the banks of the Jordan. This moment was the one God intended for Jesus to be baptized and begin His earthly ministry as the God-Man.

John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).


Going back in time now, God had told the Israelites that they must sacrifice a year-old lamb twice a day. (Numbers 28:3-4). This act was to shed the blood of a young, perfect animal so that the person’s sins would be atoned for. It goes without explanation that we understand every person on earth is born with a sin nature, and is an enemy of the Lord, at war with Him, and in need of reconciliation. Without atonement, we cannot commune with God.

The sacrifice of the lambs were a temporary covering of those sins that must be repented of and atoned for. A person’s sins are so deep and so tall that a blood covering from one lamb one time certainly would not fulfill the debt to the Lord that the sin’s existence created. People wrongly think, “I lied once, but that’s over and I haven’t lied since, so my sin is gone.” The lie is an offense against God, and that offense remains forever reverberating in the strings of the Milky Way, as a clang against His holy being in the harmonious temple, and as a blight in His sight for all His days. It stays. This stain can never be removed. A sin doesn’t vanish into thin air. You may have forgotten it, but God has not.

Therefore, any sin has an eternal existence and so would need an eternal sacrifice to atone for it. So God set it up that the Law would be delivered at Mt. Sinai, and He ordained that the blood from twice-daily slaughtered lambs would be the covering. Though God made known the Law to the Israelites, the blood covering had been ordained since Genesis 4:4 when Abel brought the first fatlings of his flock as a sacrifice to the LORD.

What about lambs, and sheep in general? What are they like?

Ferran Jorda

Well, when shepherds brought their flocks together to the troughs to drink, the sheep all mixed and mingled. How would the shepherds ever get them sorted out?! Sheep are not branded like cows are. It’s easy- the shepherd calls them. Sheep know the voice of the one who cares for them, and they follow him without making a mistake.

When Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27) his hearers knew exactly what He was talking about. And the lambs followed the mother sheep, who followed the shepherd.

Sheep are not fighters. They may struggle for a moment when caught for shearing, but when they sense they are held firmly in the grip of the shepherd, they give up entirely and become docile.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7; Mark 15:5).

This is true of sheep and lambs even if they are headed to the slaughter and not just for shearing.

Sheep are flocking animals and have a natural tendency to follow a dominant one to greener pastures.

“The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3)

Chris Gin

“I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:14)

Lambs are prey animals (grown sheep are too). Wolves stalk them. Lions do too. Jesus was surrounded by wolves many times:

“And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.” (Luke 4:29).

Jesus sent the disciples, saying “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Luke 10:3).

These disciple lambs were innocent, vulnerable, put amidst the cruel schemes of malicious men, just as Jesus was. Some indeed were slaughtered. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is thick.

Jesus was the prototype for that innocent, gentle obedience that He told us to employ now, as His flock.

His death on the cross was as a silent lamb to the heinous slaughter. But His blood is eternal. His perfect life and His holy blood was the fulfillment of the payment to God for the wrath He held against sin and sinners.


Lambs are gentle, vulnerable-looking innocent, and obedient. Make no mistake, the babe grew up. As far as unbelievers go, the lamb was slain. The one who is coming the second time is not the Lamb but is the Holy Righteous One, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, full of wrath and meting it out in perfect precision unto every sinner on the earth.

Yet, for the believer, the Lamb is still the Lamb. It is one aspect of His work on earth that will never be diminished or forgotten. (Revelation 5:13)

The Lamb is in heaven, with God:

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6a)

The Lamb opens the scroll containing the seals. Lo, He judges:

“Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”” (Revelation 6:1)

And the Lamb becomes the Shepherd!

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)

Jesus was and is and is to come. He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

photo credit: Hindrik S via photopin cc
photo credit: EssjayNZ via photopin cc
photo credit: Ferran. via photopin cc
photo credit: Chris Gin via photopin cc

Posted in back to basics, discernment

Back to Basics: What discernment is

We in the body of Christ are not to judge those outside the church, (1 Cor 5:12). That is because, as Barnes Notes explains, “I have no authority over them; and can exercise no jurisdiction over them. All my rules, therefore, must have reference only to those who are within the church.” However, we inside the church are to judge for ourselves whether a teaching is true or not. (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).

Romans 12:9; 1 Cor 14:29; 1 John 4:1 also reminds us that we are to judge, discern, test, etc., the teachings we  receive. The Bereans searched whether Paul’s teaching was consistent with the bible, and tested what they heard against it. Paul applauded them for that. Given what we see from Christians today, even if they DO go so far as to test it out, if they find the teaching failed the test, they then remain silent so as to pursue a sense of unity. This is a wrong-headed approach. Any unity arising by silent believers suffering under a teaching they know to be false is a false unity. We are not told so many times in those verses above to test out the teachings we receive just so we can stay quiet about the false ones. We are to speak up.

We don’t use the heart to judge a teaching. Just because someone says their teaching is “from their heart” or it looks to us that it is heartfelt, or it touches our heart, we are liable to hear Jesus chastise us through His word, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (John 7:24). Anyone can look sincere. Joel Osteen looks very heartfelt, his speeches come across as being from his heart. But are they consistent with what the bible says? No. Being discerning means looking deeper.

We are being gullible if we fall for the old “from the heart” standard. Why? Because the “heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). The heart is the WORST standard to judge anything. Joseph Smith’s teaching is from the heart and his religion consigned many millions to darkness (Mormonism). Muhammad’s teaching is from the heart and many millions following Allah are likewise consigned to darkness. Oprah is teaching New Age ecumenism from the heart and also many who follow it will end up in eternal darkness. Being heartfelt has nothing to do with whether a teaching is right.

If a person’s standard to determine if a false teaching is

–from the heart
–the teacher seems like a religious person
–they are prospering so it means God is blessing them, so it must be good

then I submit that person is dangerously misled as to what biblical discernment is.

Those standards are exactly the opposite of what we should be using as a barometer for determining if a teacher is true or false. Discernment is not a “nudge from the Spirit,” because that calls for subjective decisions and as per the verse about the heart, subjective assessments on any given situation are not valid. The only way to practice discernment is to test against the bible. (1 Thess 5:21).

Tim Challies wrote a book about Discernment. He defines it this way:

” ‘Discernment is the ability to think biblically about all areas of life.’ A longer, more thorough definition might be something like this: ‘Spiritual discernment is the God-given, Spirit-empowered ability to understand and interpret truth, so that we can apply truth to our lives, thus bringing glory to God and furthering our enjoyment of Him.”

“The Hebrew word for discernment is used 247 times in the Old Testament. The word has been translated variously as understand, discern, and distinguish. The Greek word is used similarly in the New Testament. It too refers to a process of separating or discriminating whereby truth may be set apart in relief from that which is false. In short, discernment is a filtering process by which a person distinguishes and separates good from the bad, right from wrong, and truth from error.” (source: Tim Challies, “Defining Discernment” )

If a person does that, they are being led by the Holy Spirit. I pray you come to this understanding as well, and be unafraid to discern a good teaching from a bad, and to speak up about both. Praise good teaching, point out false teaching, and as always, pray ceaselessly. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Don’t fall prey to one of them. Be discerning.

Posted in back to basics, bible, jesus, salvation

What’s "The Gospel"?

I watched a good movie called Time Changer this summer. It was stodgy and slow, but I like stodgy and slow. It was set in 1900 and was about a junior seminary professor who writes a book saying that in some cases it is all right to preach living a good life without using Jesus as a moral absolute. A senior professor of the seminary objects to that section in the book and urges the young seminarian to use his secret time machine to go 100 years into the future to see where his beliefs will lead. He arrives in 2000 horrified to experience the cold and pale thing Christianity has become.

What I liked about the end was a scene where he is getting ready to return to the past. He says goodbye to a laundromat caretaker he had met, and gives him a bible. He says the following to the laundromat guy, named Eddie:

“Jesus is coming back soon to set up His earthly kingdom. The requirement, though, to enter this kingdom, is that we must be absolutely perfect, without sin.

Well, that leaves me out of that party.

No one is without sin, Eddie. Not one! All of us face eternal judgment and separation from God. This is why we must accept Jesus Christ into our life as Lord. He is the only one who lived a perfect life, and thus became the substitute for our sins.

For me, too?

Yes, for you too Eddie. He rose from the dead, proving He was God. And He wants to save us from the penalty of our sins, and give us eternal life. But we must first individually receive Him. This is what it means to believe in Jesus.

I never heard it explained so simple, preacher.

God wants us to be reconciled to Himself. So much so that He gave His only so to die for us. It’s all in the bible. I pray that you will consider what I’m saying.”

That is the Gospel. Here are some few scriptures that are proof texts for this Gospel:

Jesus and His kingdom: Revelation 20:4, Daniel 7:13-14, Zechariah 14:8-11
Requirements for entry: John 3:5, John 3:3, Titus 3:5
No one is without sin: Romans 3:10
We all face judgment: 2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 9:27, Romans 2:16, Acts 10:42
Jesus is sinless: 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5, Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus is our substitute: Isaiah 53:4-6
He died for all: John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” and John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” 1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
Jesus’ resurrection: Acts 13:33, Romans 1:4
Believe and you shall be saved: Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9
It’s all in the bible: 2 Timothy 3:16

Why was a sacrifice necessary? Why was it necessary that blood had to have been shed? The Gospel is that we believe Jesus the son of God is fully God and fully man, manifested in the flesh, who came to earth to seek and save the lost. He died on the cross, shedding His blood as the perfect, sinless sacrifice. He was buried and resurrected by the power of God three days later. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

 Leviticus 17:11 says “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ ” Hebrews 9:22 says “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

I do not know why God set it up that the blood is the life, and is the mechanism for atonement, but it is so because we are told that by His word. God had to pour out His wrath for sin upon Jesus, whose shed blood was payment for the sins of the world. There had to be a sacrifice and it had to be pure. Jesus is sinless, and was therefore acceptable to God as that sacrifice. Jesus took on all the sins of the world AND all God’s wrath for it. He took our place so we do not have to endure God’s wrath, unless a person rejects Jesus. Then they are subject to wrath! Forever!!

That’s the Gospel. Please believe it. Your soul depends on it.

Posted in back to basics, born again

What does it mean to be born again?

I came to faith in Jesus at age 43. In my youth and in adult life I never was exposed much to church or Born Again believers or the things of Jesus. A few minimal run-ins, a week or two at a bible camp in some dank church basement here or there and that’s about it. As an adult in New England, which is rife with false religions and atheists, I never bumped elbows with “Jesus freaks” as they are known up there.

That said, there is a vocabulary associated with Christianity that a person hears at some point in their lives just from listening to news clips or seeing movies or television. “You have to be born again,” or “He’s saved” are examples. I never knew what they meant. I do now. I’ll do my best to explain them.

According to the definition using scriptures at Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry, “Born Again” means “The term Born Again refers to new birth enjoyed by Christians upon conversion and regeneration. It is a work of the Holy Spirit within a believer. It is related to faith in Christ and Him crucified (John 3:3-5). It means that the person is no longer dead in sins (Eph. 2:1), no longer spiritually blind (1 Cor. 2:14), and is now a new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17).”

Why do we need to have a new birth in Christ? Well, we’re all sinners. Sinning means we all do, think, and say wrong things. No one likes to hear that they are born sinful. They say, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I am not a murderer. I’m not like Hitler! I live a good life. Babies aren’t sinners!” But the fact is, we are born with a nature that is permeated with badness. If you ever saw a child willfully throw their peas to the floor you are witnessing sin. If you ever had a two year old throw a tantrum because they didn’t get their way, you are witnessing sin.

This was brought home to me in this video. In it, a small child is shown to be throwing a tantrum. Now, most people think that children do this simply because they are too young to control their emotions and their internal desires get the better of them. And that is true! But the video also shows by example that children even as young as this one know what they are doing when they rebel. He has his tantrum only when his mother is in eye view, he cries only when his mother is in sight, and he repeatedly positions himself to rebel purposely and for maximum effect.

We have a sin nature. From birth.

Now, Jesus came to take the penalty for God’s wrath for all this sin. He is Holy and the Judge. If we commit crimes against Him, he can’t just let it go, can He? A judge in a court on earth would not do that. You do the crime, you pay.

Being born again happens when a person recognizes their sin nature, that they are a sinner, and that this sin is separating them from God. It is very, very, very hard to do this, because our sin blinds us to this fact. You might ask, if sin is so pervasive and blinds us to the degree of our own position before God, what hope is there to ever get out of it?

Jesus! And the Holy Spirit! And God! John 6:44 says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”

It’s the Holy Spirit that brings understanding of our position before God as sinners, through the reading and hearing of God’s Word, being burdened with thoughts and guilt of the bad things we do, hearing the Gospel and His free pardon to us. He enlightens us and reveals to us who Jesus really is and what He has done for all mankind. We may know about Him, as I did for 43 years, but we will not know Him and His lovingkindness toward us unless we first understand that we sin.

Once we are born again, a one-time event, He then sends the Spirit inside us to help us grow away from our sinful nature and become more Christlike. We will never be completely away from our sinful nature until we are in heaven. At that time the transformation process of cleansing sin from our literal body, begun at the new birth, is completed. He gives us a new body! No more sin! And we can finally be with Him, the Sinless and Holy One, in heaven.

It is really simple. We do bad things, and they aren’t just murders and rapes and robberies, but even gossip and slander and lust in the heart or lust through the eyes is sin. Everyone who was ever born on earth is a sinner- except Jesus. So by definition no one on earth can go to heaven. Here is what Jesus said on the matter:

“The New Birth

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 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? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ” (John 3:1-17).

That’s kind of hard to understand, and impossible to understand if you are not a Chrisitan saved by Jesus. But essentially it means, we’re born sinners, we won’t go to heaven when we die, we’ll go to hell. To save us from hell, Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice required to pay the price of His wrath for sin. Jesus was resurrected on the third day and ascended to heaven. Anyone who believes this Gospel by faith will be born again. He sends the Spirit into you and the Spirit changes you from the inside out. You’re a new creation! Born again!

Born a second time, from sinner to believer growing in Christlikeness. You’re qualified for heaven, and will be with Jesus for all eternity instead of your default destination: hell.

Being born again is wonderful. I’m just sorry I wasted all the prior years, but Jesus’ timing is perfect and His plans are accomplished right on schedule.

Posted in back to basics, born again, holy spirit, regeneration, sanctification

Hello, Holy Spirit!!

I’d mentioned that I had wanted to get back to basics and do some blog entries on the foundational things. The Holy Spirit is near and dear to me, and I pray to Him daily. But He is often overlooked in the Trinity, in favor of prayers to Almighty God and to Lord Jesus. But the Holy Spirit has an important ministry we’ll take a look at in this essay. We’ll also see how He is prophesied to minister in the last of the last days and in the Tribulation.

The last days are the entire Church Age. They began at Pentecost and they will end at the Rapture. So Paul was in the last days. Martin Luther was in the last days. Charles Spurgeon was in the last days. We are in the last days. But I believe we are in the last of the last days, the moments remaining perhaps but few. However the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been with us since Genesis 1:2 where we’re told “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Don’t you visualize Him as a dove, his wings outstretched and fluttering over the waters almost hugging the world as it was being formed? He is referred to again in Genesis 1:26 when God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Therefore we can conclude the Holy Spirit is God.

He has a personality. In Genesis 1:2 and Job 33:4 we read that He creates life. He directs where to preach and where not to preach. Remember Paul’s seeking of direction for where to go next in his mission fields? The Spirit stopped him from going north, then south, and eventually directed Paul to go to Greece, blessedly bringing the Gospel from the Middle East to Europe. (Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19-20; Acts 16:6-7).

He comforts (Acts 9:31) and He teaches (John 14:26). He imparts the love of God to the saints and joy too. He maintains the church in edification (Acts 9:31). There is so much more I could write about the Spirit, books have been written, but turn to this one,

“Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:23). He is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding! (Isaiah 11:2). And we need Him for that, desperately. Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

God reveals the things God wants us to know and to have by His Spirit. That is huge. God revealed Himself to us in creation, then He revealed Himself to us in Jesus on earth as His Son, now He reveals Himself to us through His Spirit bringing understanding of the Word, which is Jesus. Kind of circular, you say? Yes, that is the Trinity. They are God but they each are a Person distinct from the other, with different ministries, which are harmonized perfectly and completely in holiness in One. If you don’t understand that, it’s OK, I don’t either! It is one of the mysteries of God that He can be three in one…

His ministry in some ways remains the same and some ways changes throughout the course of the covenants. In most cases in the Old Testament, the Spirit “came upon”, He did not indwell. John the Baptist is an exception. John the Baptist is considered an Old Testament prophet because he died before the cross. Nevertheless, John was filled with the Spirit in the womb. Another example of God filling someone with the Spirit prior to the cross is Exodus 31:1-2, filling Bezalel to know how to build the temple. But normally, the Spirit came upon them for the period necessary to fulfill the task set before them (2 Chron 24:20, Judges 3:24).

God could and did take away the Spirit. The Spirit came upon Saul as King (1 Sam 10:6) but God removed it when Saul rebelled (1 Sam 16:14). David begged God not to take away the Spirit in his rebellion with Bathsheba. (Psalm 51:11).

When Jesus told the Disciples that He was going away but He would send a Comforter, it was the Spirit He was referring to. The Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, filling them. (Acts 2). However that portion of the Spirit’s ministry changed, He now indwells us permanently. He is the deposit of guarantee of our inheritance and His seal of ownership on us. (Ephesians 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22). If we confess our sins and believe by faith Jesus is Lord, He sends the Spirit into us and we can never lose Him (John 10:29). This doctrine is called “Once Saved, Always Saved” and I believe in it. If we could lose the Spirit as in OT days then there would be no guarantee, would there? If God sends the Spirit to indwell but takes it away, He breaks His own seal, doesn’t He? No, it cannot be so!

But remember the Tribulation is actually a return to the Old Testament days, finishing up those last decreed 7 years as punishment of the Jews and the world for unrighteousness (Daniel 9:24). Therefore the way I read it, the Spirit will return to the ministry of ‘coming upon’ but not indwelling. It is why they will sacrifice in the Tribulation, also.

Jack Kelley explained it this way:

“The only passage that describes the requirements of Tribulation believers is that they obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (Rev. 14:12). It means they will have to keep the commandments as best as they can, trusting the blood of Jesus to cover them when they fall short. Old Testament standards were essentially the same, except they didn’t know the name of their Savior. Except for taking the mark of the Beast, the Bible doesn’t identify any red lines beyond which salvation would be revoked, but based on what it does say more weight will be given to maintaining their faith than anything else.”

One ministry the Spirit inhabits is the restraining ministry, and it is that one that I’ll finish with. In Genesis 6 we read that God tell us that “My spirit will not strive with man forever…” This is the chapter of the conditions leading up to the worldwide judgment of the Flood. It seems to be telling us that at a certain point, He removes the restraining ministry from man when sin has reached a certain point, or that he removes Him prior to a worldwide judgment. However, He never removes His Spirit from the earth completely because how would we be drawn to the cross, otherwise? The verse goes on to say ‘nevertheness his days are 120 years’.

We know He is the restrainer of lawlessness because Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8.

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

He restrains Lawlessness. The Greek word is defined “lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin”. He restrains sin.

Doesn’t it seem like things are getting worse and worse in terms of morality, crime, greed, apostasy? I’m 51 years old (well, I will be in three weeks 🙂 and I look back and think on the formative images I saw on the news during the 1960s and 1970s. I saw the riots, the homosexual agenda, political upheaval, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Viet Nam war. Women’s rights and abortion and Planned Parenthood and the Pill came in too. When I saw the Democratic National Convention riots, I thought the world was coming to an end, literally. It seemed to my young eyes and heart that everything was crashing down. It looks to me now from the vantage point of half a century on earth, that each new generation was exponentially worse than the previous one, and that lawlessness is compounding.

I believe America in the early to mid 1960s there was an influx of demonic activity. I believe that was allowed to happen because the Restrainer was slowly lifting His hand.

Now, this idea of the Restrainer being removed is biblical, Gen 6 and 2 Thess speaks of it. But I have no clue if He is lifting His hand fast or slow. I do not know at what rate the restraint is being removed. But my opinion is that the sudden change in society in the 1960s is evidence that He had lifted it some, because such a flood of lawlessness came in all at once. I believe that 9/11 was another indicator that He had lifted His hand some more. And in the last year, the cravenness of apostasy and false doctrine in the church is another indicator to me that His hand is going up, faster and faster now. Just look at the headlines on Drudge this Black Friday morning:

Woman pepper sprays other Black Friday shoppers ‘to gain an upper hand’…
‘Competitive shopping’ turns into chaos…
VIDEO: Mayhem over $2 waffle maker…
Woman shot, robbed in SC after midnight shopping trip to WALMART…
NC police use pepper spray to break up melee…

And these persistent commercials of the blond woman training for Black Friday are off the charts gross.

I think the worldwide judgment is very close, and one of the reasons I believe so is that the lawlessness (sin) has increased to such a degree, and that is because the Restrainer is restraining less and less until the moment in 2 Thessalonians He does not restrain at all. The Thessalonians verse says the antichrist will not be revealed until the Restrainer is removed, and that is in the middle of the Tribulation, but if things are this bad now, you can get a clue as to how much worse they will be then.

And also, this shows us how bad and destructive sin is. One little sin is the first gangrenous cell in your body desiring to contaminate every other cell near it and march up every limb you have and turn it black from putrefaction. That is how the world will be at the revealing of the antichrist, iniquity having been made full. (Dan 9:24). You can avoid being on earth, and be purified and refreshed if you appeal to Jesus. It is the Spirit that brought you here to read this, He draws one and all to the cross, and then convicts you of your sins. Read Galatians 3:1-5, and this commentary says of it, “The two are linked: the cross opens the door for the Spirit, and the experience of the Spirit is the result of faith in the message of the cross of Christ.” Kind of circular you say? That’s the Trinity, of which the Spirit is a part!

If you are an unbeliever, appeal to Jesus for your sins to be forgiven. This is repentance. You’re sorry for your wrong things you do and you understand that they are crimes against Jesus. He will forgive you if you are sincere, and then He will send the Spirit to come inside you and help you resist more sinning. This is called regeneration, literally being born again as a new creation.

You can never escape sinning but when you do (and we all do, Christians too) appeal to the Spirit for help resisting them and apologize to Jesus for them. We repent after we are saved, too. As you submit more deeply to the Holy Spirit’s ministry, though, you will find that you want to sin less and less. The Spirit is making you a new creation, in His likeness and in holiness. This is sanctification.

So when you share all this with someone and they say, “Man, you’re not crazy, you’re possessed!” you can proudly say yes, “I boast in the Spirit that is in me! Praise Jesus!”