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, 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.
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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…
GUNFIRE ERUPTS AT MALL…

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!”
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