CASUAL CHRISTIAN DESTRUCTION

Jn.3:35,36 – “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Ever hear about the frog in boiling water. You know the story, the water gets hotter and hotter gradually until its too late. I kinda feel like that is where a lot of the so called church is today. They have thrown out the more offensive doctrines so not to be offensive. Guess what? The Bible has always been offensive to the natural mind. The church has shed much of what gives the church its power. What am I talking about? Well, stuff like repentance, the blood of Jesus, the wrath of God, the power of His presence; these topics have been gradually abandoned and weakened the church until it is at the place of being something other than His church. R.C. Sprole speaks powerfully about this tragedy.

“Paul is astonished here with the thinking of his contemporaries, and if he were around today he would say, “Have you people lost your mind, that you have no room in your theology for the wrath of God? Do you think there is no judgment—that everybody gets a free pass?” That is the secret hope of every impenitent person in this world. “I’m fifteen . . . I’m eighteen . . . I’m twenty-five . . . I’m forty-five . . . I’m seventy-five, and I have not been judged thus far. I have not experienced the wrath of God yet. All that stuff about the wrath of God is just scare tactics that the preachers use to keep us in line and manipulate us with guilt. I do not have anything to fear from the judgment of God because a good judge, a loving judge, would never punish anybody. He hates the sin, but he loves the sinner, and he loves him unconditionally.”

You see the problem is reinventing of God in our own image. We envision a God with all mercy and no hatred of sin. If God is merciful yet also holy and just, sin demands punishment. The judgement of God was the whole purpose of the cross. The Son of God became a man to take God’s righteous anger against sin on our behalf. That is the ultimate good news, Jesus took my place, He suffered the just penalty of my sin. What do I receive? I receive the mercy of God.

CHANGE OF HEART

Jn.3:7,8 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

 

As usual Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter. Man’s problem lies at the very foundation of who he is. Without something radically happening to us we have no way to change who we are. That’s what the issue is, not what we do but who we are. Have you been born again? What does that question mean to you? It is more than ‘repeat this prayer after me’ or ‘you need to come to our church’; it is way more than any of that. Our nature is flawed and without an infusion of life from God we stay dead in our sins, unable to improve or reform our lives. It is the breath of God coming into our very nature than produces what Jesus called being born again. Here is Spurgeon on today’s verse.

 

 

“Regeneration is a subject which lies at the very basis of salvation, and we should be very diligent to take heed that we really are born again, for there are many who fancy they are, who are not….Nevertheless, it is a change which is known and felt: known by works of holiness, and felt by a gracious experience. This great work is supernatural. It is not an operation which a man performs for himself: a new principle is infused, which works in the heart, renews the soul, and affects the entire man. It is not a change of my name, but a renewal of my nature, so that I am not the man I used to be, but a new man in Christ Jesus. To wash and dress a corpse is a far different thing from making it alive: man can do the one, God alone can do the other.”

How do you know when that happens? The best way for me to see it in my life was to see the change in the things I loved. Rather than loving weed and alcohol there was a desire to read my Bible and go to church. You can’t fake the desire or will thing, that only comes by a true change of heart.

THE MYSTERY OF THE WIND

Jn.3:8 – The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

This picture of the Holy Spirit painted by the Lord Himself portrays the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminded us that every part of creation points to the Master Artist, all of His works point to Him. The wind reminds us of the mystique that the Holy Spirit embodies. Notice something Jesus said in this verse “so is everyone who is born of the Spirit”. Is He saying what I think He is saying? It sounds like some of the mystery of the Wind actually gets on us. We too begin to carry the supernatural mystery of the other world on us; that’s why we don’t quite fit in and are called peculiar. We love different things and we have different priorities and goals than the people of the world, the wind seems to take us into a different way of life. Here is how Maclaren describes it.

“The world does not know where that Christian life comes from. If you are a Christian, you ought to bear in your character a certain indefinable something that will suggest to the people round you that the secret power of your life is other than the power which moulds theirs. You may be naturalized, and you may speak fairly well the language of the country in which you are a sojourner, but there ought to be something in your accent which tells where you come from, and betrays the foreigner. We ought to move amongst men, having about us that which cannot be explained by what is enough to explain their lives. A Christian life should be the manifestation to the world of the supernatural. They ‘know not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth.’”

It was the anointing of the Spirit that separated the early church from the world. It’s hard to put a label on it (they still try really hard) but the supernatural nature of the Spirit in our lives just makes us stand out. To some it is attractive, to others it is repulsive and offensive. Once we have come under the influence of the Wind of God it becomes nearly impossible to go back to the other world.

ETERNAL LIFE

John 3:7 – “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

Jesus is actually blowing this Pharisee’s mind. ‘Born again! Absurd!’, Nicodemus must have thought. Nicodemus responded with the lame response, ‘How can one enter back into his mother’s womb?’. This Pharisee had no idea of what Jesus was really talking about, Nicodemus didn’t understand this spiritual birth. Jesus is telling this teacher that there is a whole new life he is unfamiliar with. Actually, true life begins with this new birth. Jesus is the way into life itself, life that come from God. The life is the very life that Jesus Himself has enjoyed with His Father from eternity. Barclay tells us about this life Jesus is offering in this famous discourse.

“Now let us take eternal life. It is far better to speak of eternal life than to speak of everlasting life. The main idea behind eternal life is not simply that of duration. It is quite clear that a life which went on for ever could just as easily be hell as heaven. The idea behind eternal life is the idea of a certain quality of life. What kind? There is only one person who can properly be described by this adjective eternal and that one person is God. Eternal life is the kind of life that God lives; it is God’s life. To enter into eternal life is to enter into possession of that kind of life which is the life of God. It is to be lifted up above merely human, transient things into that joy and peace which belong only to God. Clearly a man can enter into this close fellowship with God only when he renders to him that love, that reverence, that devotion, that obedience which truly bring him into fellowship with him.”

The amazing thing about this scene between Jesus and Nicodemus is this, spending eternity in heaven is wonderful because of Jesus. Nicodemus had a belief in spiritual things, he had never seen or tasted the reality of those things. The very source and joy of eternal life is the very One Who was calling out to Nicodemus. You must be born again; not repeat a prayer, not be water baptized, not answer an altar call, or not attend a certain church. So I have to ask you, have you been born again?

SNAKE ON A POLE

Jn.3:14,15 – As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

What a strange picture of Christ we see in this story of the snakes taken from the book of Numbers. The children of Israel were complaining against the Lord because of the length of the journey (are we there yet?) when the Lord sent poisonous snakes among them. The only way to overcome the snake bite was to look at the image of a snake that Moses had lifted up on a pole. Jesus compared this to Him being lifted up on the cross. If you haven’t figured it out yet the snake bite is like the poison of sin that is killing us and the snake is a picture of sin itself that is the source of all of our trouble. What was the solution? Jesus had to become sin for us (2 COR.5:21). He took the curse of sin upon Himself at the cross. All that look to Him on the cross by faith are healed from the bite of sin; all that refuse to look to the cross perish not only in their sins but actually perish because of their sin. Here is how John Calvin describes it.

“The simple meaning of the words therefore is, that, by the preaching of the Gospel, Christ was to be raised on high, like a standard to which the eyes of all would be directed, as Isaiah had foretold. As a type of this lifting up, he refers to the brazen serpent, which was erected by Moses, the sight of which was a salutary remedy to those who had been wounded by the deadly bite of serpents. The history of that transaction is well known, and is detailed in Numbers 21:9. Christ introduces it in this passage, in order to show that he must be placed before the eyes of all by the doctrine of the Gospel, that all who look at him by faith may obtain salvation…..as Paul tells us that a lively portrait of Christ with his cross is exhibited, when he is truly preached.”

So all of us are snake-bit, just not all of us know it. This picture makes redemption very clear, Christ took our ugliness, the ugliness of sin, on Himself. The results, the beauty of Christ comes upon us. Christ is the serpent on a pole, all that look to Him will be healed of the disease of sin.

WIND OF GOD

Jn.3:8 – “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus gives us a glimpse into the unseen world of the Spirit in this passage. He said the Holy Spirit, and the new birth, are like the wind. Jesus was talking to an expert Bible scholar when He made this statement. Nicodemus new about the “Wind of God”. The Hebrew word for wind (ruach) is the same as the word for spirit or breath. Jesus is pointing this Pharisee closer and closer to the edge of eternity. I’m sure Nicodemus could feel the breath of God in the words of Jesus. As the Lord went on to share the most powerful of all passages, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”, Nicodemus found Himself caught up in the breath of heaven. Here is how

J.C. Ryle describes it.

“There is much about the wind that is mysterious and inexplicable. “You can not tell,” says our Lord, “whence it comes and where it goes.” We cannot handle it with our hands, or see it with our eyes. When the wind blows, we cannot point out the exact spot where its breath first began to be felt, and the exact distance to which its influence shall extend. But we do not on that account deny its presence. It is just the same with the operations of the Spirit, in the new birth of man. They may be mysterious, sovereign, and incomprehensible to us in many ways. But it is foolish to stumble at them because there is much about those who we cannot explain. But whatever mystery there may be about the wind, its presence may always be known by its sound and effects. “You hear the sound thereof,” says our Lord. When our ears hear it whistling in the windows, and our eyes see the clouds driving before it, we do not hesitate to say, “There is wind.”

Just as the Lord breathed into the lifeless body of Adam at his creation, He also breaths into us. When His breath, the Wind of God, blows on us; we are suddenly awakened into life.

THE WEAKNESS OF CHRISTMAS

Image result for mary and josephJohn 3:13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

Can you imagine the thoughts Mary and Joseph had looking at their newborn Son in the manger in Bethlehem? Joseph knew he wasn’t the biological father, Mary knew the father was the Father in heaven. What were they thinking? Did they know that their baby was God? I think they came to that conclusion from their Jewish upbringing. To be called God’s Son would be to make Him equal to God. That was the very reasoning the Jewish leaders would use thirty three years later to crucify Him. They came to the conclusion that if He claimed to be God’s Son then Jesus was making a claim to deity. Deity and humanity in a man, that is past our ability to comprehend. Jesus shared some of this mystery in today’s verse talking to one of the Jewish leaders. Here are Augustine’s comments on today’s verse.

“And He goes on: “And no man hath ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” Behold, He was here, and was also in heaven; was here in His flesh, in heaven by His divinity; yea, everywhere by His divinity. Born of a mother, not quitting the Father. Two nativities of Christ are understood: one divine, the other human: one, that by which we were to be made; the other, that by which we were to be made anew: both marvelous; that without mother, this without father. But because He had taken a body of Adam, — for Mary was of Adam, — and was about to raise that same body again, it was an earthly thing He had said in saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But this was a heavenly thing, when He said, “Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not see the kingdom of God.”

The mystery that is Christmas has the fragrance of this miracle enmeshed within it. The humanity and deity wrapped in swaddling clothes in an animal stable. Deity cloaked in a human baby, sovereignty concealed in submission, omnipotence shrouded with the weakness of an infant, and omniscience hidden by the crying of a baby. Don’t let the noise of the age crowd out the miracle of Christmas, its more amazing than any of us can begin to know.

THE WRATH OF GOD

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John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

This is one of those subjects that most people, including Christians and preachers, want to avoid at all costs; the wrath of God. We love the gentle, loving Jesus; we love the doctrines of the love and grace of God. No one wants to hear about justice or holiness. God is full of mercy and His grace endures forever but He is also holy and just. All sin demands justice if God is just. What is the answer, how does grace make peace with justice and wrath? That is what the cross is all about. God poured out His anger against sin on Jesus as the representative of mankind. Because justice was satisfied by the cross, His offer of grace comes to all those who believe on His Son. His mercy and grace are unthinkable, so is His wrath. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes the wrath of God in sermon, SINNERS IN THE HAND OF AN ANGRY GOD.

“So that thus it is, that natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold ’em up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out; and they have no interest in any mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.”
Edwards is speaking about all of those who are outside of Christ, everyone who has rejected God’s grace offered as a gift through the death of His Son. Just as His grace is sure, so is His justice. So the question is begging to be asked, how is it with your soul today?

CHRISTMAS LOVE

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God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

You ever wonder why people follow Jesus? I can really only speak for myself but I think most people follow Him for similar reasons. For me it wasn’t the church building or the liturgy of the service. I didn’t come because of good preaching or teaching or because of the powerful music being offered. It wasn’t the kid’s programs or even small groups and friendship. What got me was really simple, I had never been loved the way Jesus loved me. How can I explain being loved to someone? It’s kind of like falling in love and knowing the other person actually loves you back. Love is that intangible that you know is real. God’s love is like that and more. His love is seen in Christ and becomes real to us by His Spirit that comes to dwell in us. Here are some thoughts from John Piper on this precious love.
“The God who absolutely is loves. He loves. Of all the things you might say about God, be sure to say this: he loves. The same writer also says “God is love.” Which I take to mean at least this: giving what’s good and serving the benefit of others is closer to the essence of God than getting and being served. God is without needs. God inclines to meet needs. God is a giver. God is love…..He loved such “that he gave his only Son.” And we know that “this giving was a giving up to rejection and death. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him”. Instead they killed him. And Jesus said of all this, “I glorified you [Father] on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do”. So when the Father gave his only begotten Son, he gave him to die. That’s the kind of love the Father has. It is a giving love. It gives his most precious treasure—his Son.”
It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the craziness that the Christmas season brings on all of us. Memories and shattered dreams can be brutal. If you are struggling this Christmas season look to Jesus and drink of His love. You can find Him in the book, at your church, or maybe in the quiet as you simply wait for Him.

God Wants Your Heart

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 everlasting life.

The most amazing of all treasures cannot be bought with vast sums of money, cannot be brokered by political or business deals, or cannot be acquired by great accomplishments in life. The most valuable of all possessions comes as a gift. The only way to obtain this gift is by faith. It’s not a reward for religious exercises or from long seasons of study, meditation, or religious duties. Salvation is the gift and it has been purchased by the death of God’s only Son. As Jesus said you must be born again. Receiving Christ into your heart is God’s plan of salvation, He is the greatest of all treasures available to man. Here is how Martin Luther describes this gift of faith.
“To whom does God give his beloved Son? God gives him to the world—the lost multitude who never deserved it. They could only expect to remain lost and condemned without him. God gave his Son to the lost so that they might be saved. Then what should you do for this loving God in return? Nothing! Don’t go on pilgrimages. Don’t do this or that good work. Instead, simply believe in Christ alone. Then you will be able to get rid of your old nature and cling to him. Your faith, of course, should be the kind that produces good works. You cannot take hold of this gift—the Son of God—with your hand… He is grasped only with the heart and by faith. When this gift comes into your heart, when you believe in Christ with your whole heart, then you won’t be the same person. Even if you once were a thief, an adulterer, or a murderer, you will become a new person, for you have the Light in your heart.”
Today’s verse is the summation of the entire Bible. The Bible is the story of redemption, the greatest love story of all. Mankind had severed his relationship with God, the ramifications of that rebellion placed man in the most precarious position imaginable. Created in the image of God but separated from Him for eternity because of our sin. God refused to loose His greatest treasure, He became a man Himself to represent our race by His death on the cross. He didn’t have to but He did. Today, this free gift is available for all of us. If you have never given your heart to Jesus, today would be a good day to do it. Ask Him for forgiveness for your sins and ask Him to come into your life. This will be the greatest moment of your life.
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