Friday, August 15, 2014

Are You Born Again?

All scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3  "...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." But what does it mean to be "born again?" Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, was taken to task by the Lord because he didn't seem to understand what the Lord was talking about. He asked the Lord in John 3:4, "...How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" After the Lord expounded on the need of being born again to be able to see or enter the Kingdom of God, Nicodemus asked, "How can these things be?  Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" It would seem apparent that Nicodemus, being a ruler of the Jews, should have known these things. In His following discourse the Lord Jesus made that famous statement of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

So what does it mean to be born again? There are many who profess a born again experience. I remember years ago when Jimmie Carter was running for President of the U.S. that he ran in part on being a "born again" Christian. My late brother thought that it was about time that we had someone in the White House that openly professed Christianity. I wasn't so sure. I have held to the position of the United Pentecostal Church that the born again experience is briefly comprehended in what Apostle Peter said in Acts 2:38."...Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Don't get me wrong, I don't believe for a minute that everyone who is baptized in Jesus name is automatically saved. I think about Simon (the Sorcerer) in Acts 8:13  where the Bible says, "then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done." Simon, the Bible says, believed and was baptized in Jesus name along with the other Samaritans. But his heart was not right for when Peter and John came to Samaria in Acts 8:17-23 they, "laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."

You see that Apostles Peter and John, while they were empowered to preach repentance from sin and baptism in Jesus name for the remission of sin, could not fill anybody with the Holy Ghost. They could lay hands on the Samaritans but only God could give the Holy Ghost. The Apostle Paul said in 1st Corinthians 3:6-7, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." Jesus had commanded his apostles and followers in Acts 1:4-5, "... that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." The Bible says in  Isaiah 48:11, "For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another." (See also Isaiah 42:8) God would not give His glory to the apostles and much less will He give it to any 21st Century preacher, no matter how big their reputation may be.

The Apostle Paul said in 2nd Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." So what does it mean to be born again? It is not good enough to say that following a prescribed doctrine such as Acts 2:38 is all one needs to do to be born again. The Bible says in Act 15:18, "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." Anyone can claim a born again experience but only God can perform it in a person's life. I would say to you my readers and friends, "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (See Isaiah 55:6-9) God loves you and will save you but you must be born again!

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