Born Again Part 2

What Being “Born Again” Means

Last week we talked about Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We said that Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Today we are going to talk about why Nicodemus didn’t understand and what being “born again” means.

Now many people think that Jesus was narrow minded and exclusionary in this statement to Nicodemus. These people think that there are many ways to heaven. But Jesus tells the hard truth. He says there is ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN — and that’s to be ‘born again

The expression, being “born again”, is full of meaning. Ephesians 2:1 teaches that people in sin are dead.

“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.”

This passage says being dead is caused by disobedience and sin. God warned Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed Him (meaning – if they sinned) they would die. God was talking about spiritual death which is separation from Him forever in hell. So, sinners are dead people, and dead people can’t go to heaven, because heaven is a place of eternal life. Something has to happen to change these people. They have to be rejuvenated – they have to be made alive, and that’s what Jesus means when He says they have to be “born again”.

Unfortunately, Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus was saying. He said, “What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Nicodemus was thinking literally. He was accustomed to a works based system for achieving salvation. Nicodemus was a self-righteous Pharisee. He believed he could be righteous by what he did. However, Jesus said that his approach was wrong, and the only way to get to heaven was to be “born again”. Jesus said, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”

Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what He meant by this statement. Nicodemus was a teacher of the Old Testament, and he should have been familiar with the terms, “water and the Spirit”. These terms were used in the Old Testament to symbolize renewal and cleansing. For example, let’s look at Isaiah 44:3-4.

“For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields (that means to give life). And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.”

Let’s also look at perhaps the most compelling OT passage which uses these terms — Ezekiel 36:24-27.

“For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. ‘Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean (same idea as Isaiah). Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.’”

There are other passages in the Old Testament which say the same thing, so, what Jesus told Nicodemus should have been clear. People have to be cleansed of their sins, and they need the Holy Spirit to change them and empower them follow God’s commands.

Jesus continued with His dialogue with Nicodemus. He said “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” Jesus is talking about HOW we are “born again”. It’s not done physically by human effort. It’s done spiritually by the Holy Spirit. Jesus illustrated this by saying, “So, don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.’”

Jesus says being “born again” is like the wind. You can’t see the wind, but you can feel it, and you can see its effects. So, the spiritual rebirth process is not visible — but its effects are visible. People who are born again are visibly different from the way they were before.

Well Nicodemus was still confused. He simply didn’t believe. Next week we will talk about the problem of unbelief.

Until then, have a good week …

Husbands and Wives Part 3

HUSBANDS AND WIVES PART 3

Ephesians 5:30 says we are all members of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is another name for the church, and all Christians are members. This is a picture of solidarity. Jesus is one with His church, and the church is one with Him. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6:15-17.

Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, ‘The two are united into one.’ But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.”

In Ephesians 5:31-33 Paul says,

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”
32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
33 So, again, I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Paul says the relationship of Christ to His church is a picture of the relationship between the husband and wife. In verse 31 Paul emphasized this by quoting Genesis 2:24, which I repeat:

“As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’”

This passage articulates God’s standard for marriage, and this standard has not changed from the moment God initiated it with Adam and Eve.

Jesus reaffirmed this in Matthew 19:3-6.

“Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: ‘Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read the Scriptures?’ Jesus replied. ‘They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.‘ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.’”

So, we can see that Jesus confirmed the sanctity of marriage. He says it’s God ordained, and it’s a relationship where a man and woman become one, and IT MUST NOT BE SPLIT APART.

So, back to the Ephesians 5:31-33 passage. Paul says the analogy of marriage and the church is a mystery. A mystery is a theological truth that was not known in Old Testament times but has been revealed in New Testament times. That makes sense because the church didn’t exist in Old Testament times. It started when Jesus came to establish it.

In verse 33 Paul concluded his discussion by using the word, “so”. Whenever we see the word, “so”, that means a summary is about to follow. Here’s the summary:

• Husbands must love their wives as they love themselves.
• Wives must respect their husbands.

Notice wives are not commanded to love their husbands, but they are commanded to respect them. This has been a controversial passage since the time Paul wrote it, and there have been many interpretations. The most common interpretation is that a man’s primary need is to be respected — whereas a woman’s primary need is to be loved. Now it’s true that men and women actually need both, but love is primary for the woman and respect is primary for the man. Paul says these needs can be met in the marriage relationship. However, to do that, husbands and wives MUST SUBMIT TO EACH OTHER. This has been the underlying theme of our three blogs on husbands and wives.

Now, this idea of submitting to one another always raises a question. How do we consistently do that?

That’s what we’ll talk about next week …

Husbands and Wives Part 2

HUSBANDS AND WIVES PART 2

Last week we talked about what God says about the role of wives in marriage. Today we are going to talk about what God has to say about the role of husbands in marriage.

Ephesians 5:21 says, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Jesus.”

Ephesians 5:25 expands on this concept for husbands. It says, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”

This raises a question — how much did Jesus love the church? The answer is He loved the church so much that He died for it. His decision to do that was not based on the attractiveness or worth of the people in the church, because they had none to offer. Jesus loved the church, because it’s His nature to love, and because they NEEDED to be loved.

Husbands are commanded to love their wives in this same way. It’s not a matter of choice. It’s a mandate. When God issues a mandate, He always provides the necessary resources to meet it. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9.

“But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another.”

God is the Teacher, so husbands are without excuse. Now it’s true God created men and women, He intended for husbands to be attracted to their wives. God intended for men to be drawn to the feminine form as well as the feminine mystic. We are talking about chemistry. However, chemistry is not to be the basis for love. Eventually chemistry will wane, but the husband is still under obligation to love his wife. The husband must put aside his own likes, desires, and preferences to love his wife and meet her needs. The Bible says the husband must “die to self” in order to live for his wife.

Ephesians 5:26-27 explains why Jesus loved the church.

“To make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.”

There is a lot of truth in this passage, so let’s unpack it.

In verse 25 we saw that Jesus gave His life for the church. He did that to pay for sin — so sin could be removed – so the Holy Spirit could come and indwell all who believe. As a result, believers are forgiven of all their sins. BUT they are still defective. They still have a sin nature — they still screw up — and that has to change. That’s the primary job of the Holy Spirit. This passage says that the Holy Spirit changes us through the Word of God. It says we are washed by the cleansing of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit does that by changing the way we think. He replaces our evil thoughts with God’s thoughts. Eventually we start thinking like God, and that changes our behavior.

Jesus wants the church to be holy and pure. In the same way, husbands must love their wives with a purifying love. This kind of love never condemns – it never finds fault – it only seeks to cleanse and restore. This kind of love wants the best for the one it loves. Husbands must protect their wives from defilement, and they must protect their holiness and virtue. On the other hand, if a man says he loves a woman, and wants her to compromise her purity at the same time — that’s not purifying love. That’s defilement.

Ephesians 5:29 says, “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

In keeping with the analogy of Christ loving the church — the husband nourishes and cherishes his wife — just as he nourishes and cherishes his own body. The wife is much more than just a cook or a house keeper or a nanny or a sex partner. The wife is a God given mate to be loved and cared for and cherished by her husband.

Paul has more to say about the role of the husband in Ephesians 5:30-33. Next week we will talk about it.

Until then have a great week…

Husbands and Wives

HUSBANDS AND WIVES

In Ephesians 5:1 Paul tells us to imitate God in everything we do. That’s pretty hard to do, since God is an infinite being. However, throughout the Book of Ephesians Paul gives advice on how to approach doing that. He says, “Live a life filled with love.” He says “Live in the light as God is in the light.” He says, “Walk in wisdom”. He says, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit”. And then he says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”.

In today’s blog we are going to talk about submitting to one another. Specifically, we will talk about doing this in the marriage relationship.

Let’s begin with how the marriage relationship got started. It was first established by God. After God created the first man, Adam, He said it was not good for man to be alone – so He created Eve. This is described in Genesis 2:21-24.

“So, the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. ‘At last!’ the man exclaimed. ‘This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called woman, because she was taken from man.’ This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”

We can see that God planned for men and woman to join together and become one. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve contaminated that arrangement by committing the first sin. That brought about problems in the marriage relationship, as well as in everything else that God created. Today we are still experiencing its effects. For example, today there is rampant infidelity, homosexuality, abortion, open marriage, and divorce. Materialism and the pursuit of the “good life” have become a preoccupation. Many people are choosing to live together rather than make the commitment of marriage. The number of single parent families is increasing at an alarming rate.

In addition, children are being raised in permissive environments, and are not being taught how to make moral decisions or how to govern themselves. The result is moral decline, and role of the Lord in marriage and family has been deemed irrelevant.

Fortunately, Paul provides solutions to these problems by defining the roles of the husband and wife. Let’s start with what he says about the role of the wife in Ephesians 5:22-24.

“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.”

After reading these verses, many people believe that Paul was a chauvinist, because he tells wives to submit to their husbands in EVERYTHING. He doesn’t qualify his statement. He doesn’t say, “Only if the husband is a good leader”. Or, “Only if the husband is a caring and loving person”. Or whatever. He simply says submit without qualification. So many believe Paul felt women were inferior to men. However, that’s contrary to what he said in Galatians 3:28.

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So, what is Paul talking about in Ephesians 5:22-24?

Well, he is talking about the organizational structure of the family unit. In any organization there has to be someone in charge. If there is not a designated leader, there will be anarchy. This is true in the marriage relationship. It has nothing to do with men being superior to women or vice versa.

Paul says wives are to function under the LEADERSHIP of the husband. In this role husbands are to love and protect and provide for their wives, which Paul talks about later. Paul says husbands are not to treat their wives as servants or as children or as otherwise inferior persons.

In the first marriage God created Eve to be Adam’s helper and companion. Unfortunately, neither one fulfilled their God ordained roles. Eve acted independently from her husband and ate the forbidden fruit. Adam didn’t exercise his God given authority, and he also ate the forbidden fruit. From that point on the marriage relationship became corrupted. And down through time feminism — chauvinism — complementarianism — egalitarianism and many other “isms” have emerged. And the battle of the sexes is heating up.

Paul says that wives submit to their husbands –AS TO THE LORD. That means they must do it as an act of obedience to God. It’s a command. And whenever God commands something, He always provides necessary resources to meet the command. In this case He provides the Holy Spirit — Who enables the wife to submit to the leadership of her husband — notwithstanding the fact that her husband may be a lousy leader.

That’s all Paul has to say about the role of the wife. It’s very concise. However, he has a lot to say about the role of the husband.

We will get into that next week….

Enjoying Life in the New Year Part 3

ENJOYING LIFE IN THE NEW YEAR PART 3

 In today’s blog I would like to talk about one more important purpose for our lives — and that is to get ready for heaven. I think God’s plans for us are much bigger — than just the plans that He has for us here on earth. I think His plans extend into eternity. After all, that’s where we will live forever.

Have you ever wondered what we will be doing there? I don’t have any idea, but I am sure God has it all figured out. And I’m sure that it’s far beyond what we can think or imagine.

In heaven, we will be in a state of ultimate existence. That’s because we will be perfect. We will be like God.
Obviously, we won’t be God, but we will be like Him. Our minds will be expanded. We will know all things.
We will have perfect bodies that will never deteriorate. We will never have a bad day. Life will be a series of continuous and exhilarating events.

So how does one get ready for such a place? Well, God is the only One Who can do it. He starts the moment we are “born again”. At that point God begins making us perfect. The process is called sanctification. In sanctification God progressively makes us more and more like Jesus. Galatians 5:22-23 describes what He does.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

These fruits describe the character of Jesus. The Holy Spirit produces these fruits through our daily circumstances. For example, if we are in a situation where we must be loving, He will produce the fruit of love.
If we need to be joyful, or peaceful or patient depending on the circumstances, He will produce the required fruit. As He does this he makes us more and more like Jesus.

However, throughout this process, the Holy Spirit has to compete with our sin natures. Our sin natures naturally oppose what the Holy Spirit wants to do — and sometimes they prevail. Let’s look at Galatians 5:16.

“So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

So, what is our part to play in this process? Very simply WE MUST COOPERATE with the Holy Spirit in the sanctification process. And since sanctification occurs through our circumstances, we must be constantly aware of them, and when we need His fruit. That means no more “auto pilot”. We have to be aware of what’s happening to us moment by moment. We must be aware of when we encounter situations that need the fruit of the Spirit, and when we recognize that we need this fruit, we must ask God to produce it right then and there.
That’s how we cooperate. I have included a sample prayer to show you how to do this:

Dear Lord, I am faced with the following situation ___________. I believe I need the fruit of ______________ to handle this situation in the way You would. Please produce this fruit in me as well as any other fruit You feel is necessary. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Let me close by asking you several questions.

A) Are you “born again”?

B) If you aren’t, what are you plans to become “born again”?

C) What are your plans to find out your spiritual gifts?

D) What are your plans to use your spiritual gifts to do the good works God has planned for you long ago?

E) What are your plans to let the Holy Spirit produce the “Fruit of the Spirit” in you through your circumstances?

We’ve got a whole New Year in front of us. Are you going to be any different at the end of this new year — than you have been in the past? Are you just going to repeat the same year you’ve always had? No change, no difference, no significance, no purpose? I sincerely hope not. I pray that you will take this message to heart and put it into practice.

Let’s close in prayer:

Father, we are not in the dark. Thank You that You have given us Your Word which tells us what we must do with our lives. Forgive us for thinking that other things will bring fulfillment and enjoyment. Lord, I realize today that my life is not an accident — that You put me on earth for a reason. I don’t want to waste another second of whatever life I’ve got left. I want to make it count. I want to live life as You meant me to live it.

So, as I begin this New Year, I want to make a fresh start and begin building my life around finding out my gifts and using them. And I want You to build in me Christ like character throughout this year.
At the end of this year I want Your mission for my life to be clearer than ever before. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying to make this all possible. I pray this in Your name. Amen.

Enjoying Life in the New Year Part 2

ENJOYING LIFE IN THE NEW YEAR PART 2

An essential part of enjoying life in the new year is finding out and using our spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are special talents, skills and abilities that people didn’t have BEFORE they were “born again”. They are given by the Holy Spirit to each person at the moment they become believers.

Romans 12:6-8 talks about this.

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So, if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 is a companion passage which also talks about this.

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.”

So, how do we find out our spiritual gifts? We have a self-test that can help you find out. It’s called, “How God Has Formed Me”. If you want a copy, send us an email, and we will send it to you.

Once you have completed the test, you will have a reasonable idea of how God has gifted you, and you can start using your gifts. The best way to do that is by simply trying things out. It’s basically a trial and error system.

For example, if you think you have the gift of teaching, find opportunities to teach, and then go ahead and do it.
If you think you have the gift of encouragement, find people to encourage. It’s not that hard to find them.
If you are successful in using your gifts — and it seems easy to do — chances are they are legitimate gifts — and that will show you the kind of works that you will most enjoy doing.

It’s important to understand that as we step out in faith and use our gifts — we will not always use them perfectly. The reason is because we are not perfect – even though God’s gifts are perfect. We still have sin natures, and our sin natures influence our efforts. However, we must not let this discourage us. God wants us to use our gifts, and He wants us to keep on using them. He will strengthen us and empower us as we do. In Philippians 4:13 Paul says, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

One day we’re going to stand before God to give an account of how of how we lived our lives. The first question God may ask us is, “Are you ‘born again’”? “Did you let me create you anew in Christ Jesus?” “Did you develop a relationship with Him and get to know Him?”

A second question God may ask is, “What did you do with the spiritual gifts I gave you?” “Did you ignore them, or did you find out what they are?” “Did you use them, or did you get discouraged and quit?” “Did you say, ‘I’m not good at this, or I’m not as good as that person over there,’ so you stopped.” “Or did you depend on my power to use them anyway.” These are important questions, and we must be ready to answer them …

Enjoying Life in the New Year

ENJOYING LIFE IN THE NEW YEAR

Ecclesiastes 11:9 says, “Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.”

It’s clear that God wants us to enjoy life. That’s what He says, BUT notice He gives us an important condition.
We must be able to substantiate everything we do to God, and depending on what we do, that could be a problem.

So, how can we be sure that what we do will be acceptable to God? Well, fortunately, the Scriptures give us some guidance. For example, let’s look at Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT

The passage starts by saying we are God’s masterpiece. A masterpiece is an original creation by an expert artist. It’s unique and has unusual beauty and application. Masterpieces are designed to be seen and appreciated. Unfortunately, many of us don’t see ourselves as masterpieces – even though that’s what God says we are. Instead many of us are unhappy with the way we are, and we often complain about it to God. Paul talked about this situation in Romans 9:20-21.

“No, don’t say that (Paul was talking to the Romans about questioning God). Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?”

Paul never minced words, and he always went right to the point. Here he’s talking about functions that God has designed each of us to perform. He’s not talking about our personal value. That’s already established by God. Remember we are masterpieces created by God. That’s true whether we are the President of the United States or a garbage man.

The Ephesians’ passage also says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus”. That’s the essential part of being God’s masterpiece. Being “created anew” means being “born again”. Being “born again” means being saved by God. It means accepting Jesus’ payment for our sins — so they can be removed. It means having the Holy Spirit come into our lives — so He can transform us into the image of God. That’s transformative work, and that’s why God says we are His masterpieces, because He is recreating us to be like Jesus.

God is doing this for a specific reason. He’s doing it so we can do good works. Notice the word “so” in the passage. It says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, SO we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” In other words, God says we have to be “born again” to do the good works that He wants us to do.

We can see from this passage that God’s purposes for us are interrelated. His first purpose is to make us masterpieces. God wants us to be like Jesus. And as He changes us into the image of Christ — He puts us on display for all to see. God’s second purpose for us is to be “born again”. He wants to equip us to do the good works — which He has wanted us to do for all eternity. So being “born again” is central — to becoming a masterpiece — as well as being equipped to good works.

The question is how do we find out the work God wants us to do? There is only one way – we need to find out our spiritual gifts. Next week we will talk about how to do that. Until then, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Problem of Idleness

THE PROBLEM OF IDLENESS

In 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 Paul discusses the problem of idleness in the church. Let’s look at what he says.

6 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us.
7 For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you.
8 We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you.
9 We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.
10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”
11 Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business.
12 We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living.
13 As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.
14 Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed.
15 Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.

In this passage Paul provides several incentives for people to go to work.

In verse 6 Paul states the first incentive is to AVOID BEING OSTRACIZED.

Paul tells believers (in the name of the Lord Jesus) to stay away from people who refuse to work. This is not a suggestion – it’s an order.

Matthew 18 provides steps for implementing church discipline in cases where there is disobedience to God’s commands. The first step is to confront the sinning believer privately. If that doesn’t work, step two is to confront the sinning believer with two or three witnesses. If that doesn’t work — step three is to bring the offense to the congregation and ask the sinning believer to repent. If that doesn’t work step four is to remove the sinning believer from fellowship in the church altogether.

It appears that Paul is at step four in this process, which means that the first three steps had already been taken.
He is now going to step 4 which is to ostracize the sinning believer. So, Paul’s message to believers who refuse to work is — “Rather than being kicked out of the church – go to work!”

In verses 7-9 Paul gives a second incentive to work, which is to FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE.

Paul says, “You ought to imitate us”. He backs up his statement by saying, “we were not idle when we were with you”. He said he and his team worked hard to pay for their food. They did not rely on the Thessalonians, even though they had the right to do so. He’s telling the Thessalonians that he is the model, and they must follow it.

In verse 10 Paul provides a third incentive for working – he says IT PROVIDES RESOURCES TO PAY FOR NECESSITIES.

Paul says “those unwilling to work will not get to eat”.

Notice Paul addresses those who are “UNWILLING to work”. He is not talking to those who are unable to work, because they are infirmed or are otherwise unable to work. Actually, the church has a responsibility to help these individuals.

In verses 11-13 Paul points out a fourth incentive for working — IT HELPS AVOID THE PROBLEM OF MEDDLING.

In this passage Paul is using a play on words. He says they were not BUSY (meaning they didn’t work) – instead they were BUSY BODIES (meaning they were meddlers). These people used their unoccupied time to interfere in the lives of others. They became irritants – causing disunity and discord – and that affected harmony in the church. Paul’s solution was for them to settle down and earn their own living. Settling down simply means – “live an ordered life”. It means stop causing unrest and dissention. It means focusing on one’s own affairs and not the affairs of others.

Finally, in verses 14-15 Paul provides the ultimate reason for not associating with an idle believer.

He says, “so they will be ashamed”. The reason was to make them feel shame, so they would be motivated to go to work. Paul was interested in correcting the problem. His ultimate goal was restoration.

These four incentives still apply to us today. From time to time we will encounter individuals who are “unwilling to work”. We must deal with them. Paul provides the biblical solutions to do that. It’s incumbent upon us to follow them …

Born Again

BORN AGAIN

There is an old spiritual song entitled, “Everybody Talkin’ ‘Bout Heaven Ain’t Goin’ There”. If you are interested, you can listen to it on YouTube.

Unfortunately, this song accurately describes many people in the church today. These are people who identify with Christ, but in fact haven’t made a genuine profession of faith. They say they are Christians, but they don’t produce any fruit.

I think one of the main reasons these people are confused about this is the proliferation of false gospels that are being preached in many churches today. These gospels are often called “feel good” gospels. They are based on emotionalism and subjective thinking and have no connection to Scripture. In many cases they teach that any profession of faith is OK, as long as the individual thinks it’s right.

This is in stark contrast to what Jesus taught. Jesus never compromised the truth or gave anyone false hope. He always spoke the hard truth. Unfortunately, in many cases – it was not well received. A good example is the story of the rich young man who was seeking the Kingdom of God, which is in Matthew 19:16-26.

“Someone came to Jesus with this question: ‘Teacher, what good deed must I DO to have eternal life?’ ‘Why ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only one who is good (meaning there is only one good thing to do). But to answer your question—if YOU want to receive eternal life (in other words do it yourself), keep the commandments.’ ‘Which ones?’ the man asked. And Jesus replied: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘I’ve obeyed all these commandments,’ the young man replied. ‘What else must I DO?’ Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard this, he went away very sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!’”

In this story the young man who came to Jesus wanted to know what HE MUST DO to get into heaven. He was talking about personal performance. So, Jesus told him what he needed to DO – “YOU have to keep the commandments”.

But nobody can do that – not even this young man, who thought he could. He was in serious denial, so Jesus told Him the hard truth. The only way to get into heaven is to be perfect, and the only way to be perfect is to follow Jesus. Jesus told him that he needed to start by getting rid of his distractions, which in this case, was his wealth. Unfortunately, the man couldn’t do that, and he went away sad.

In today’s blog we are going to look at another story about someone who came to Jesus and wanted to know how to get to heaven. It’s the story about a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Let’s look at the story.

1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee.
2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.
6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.
7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’
8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9″How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things?

Let’s break this story down.

Verse 2 says that Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night. He was a Pharisee which was a sect of Judaism. There were several sects of Judaism in those days, and the Pharisee comprised one of them. Nicodemus was also a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, which was the ruling body of Israel.

Nicodemus had become interested in Jesus. He thought Jesus was an exceptional Rabbi (teacher) — with the possibility that He might be even more than that. So, he went to Jesus to find out, but he didn’t want his fellow Pharisees to know what he was doing. Jesus was becoming very popular with the people, and most of the Pharisees viewed Him as a blasphemer and a threat to their position as religious leaders. So, Nicodemus decided to visit Jesus under the cover of night.

Jesus could see into men’s hearts, so, He knew what Nicodemus was seeking — even though Nicodemus wasn’t sure himself. Let’s look at what Nicodemus said.

“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus was not interested in discussing His miracles, or His pedigree for that matter. He went straight to the issue, and He answered Nicodemus’ unasked question. He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus didn’t understand, and unfortunately that’s where we are going to leave off today.

Not to worry – I won’t leave you hanging. Next week we will talk about why he didn’t understand and what Jesus was trying to tell him. Until then, have a good week …

Learning To Be Like God

Learning To Be Like God

God created man in His own image. That means God intended for us to be just like Him. Obviously, that doesn’t mean we will be divine beings with supernatural powers, but it does mean that God wants us to have His characteristics.

Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve sinned, that all changed. Adam and Eve acquired a sin nature which has been passed on to us. The sin nature is a defect of character, and it prevents us from being like God.

However, God is gracious, and He has a plan to correct this problem. It’s called salvation. God sent Jesus into the world to pay for all the sins of mankind. That enables God to forgive men. However, men have to agree that they are sinners in need of forgiveness, and they have to accept God’s offer of forgiveness. When they do, God comes into their lives and begins to make them just like Him – which was His original plan before Adam and Eve sinned.

One of the characteristics that God works on is love. God wants us to love like He loves. His love is unselfish and unconditional. It ALWAYS wants the best for others, and it always leads to patient endurance.

People often tell me that they want to be more patient. I have even said that on many occasions, because I am not the most patient person. So, here’s the way to learn patience — it’s to love like God loves, and the only way to do that is to let Him teach us.

Galatians 5:22-23 says,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The expression, “No law against these things”, means these behaviors cannot be legislated. You can’t pass a law that says love others or be joyful, or be patient or whatever.

Notice the first fruit is love. That’s God’s love – the kind of love we have been talking about. The passage says the Holy Spirit produces it, and He does it through our circumstances. So, when we are in a situation where we are called to love like God — we HAVE to ask Him to produce that kind of love in us — and we have to do it right then and there.

I recently had a situation where I had to do that. One of my extended family members decided to visit us. Unexpectedly. He called the day before and asked us to pick him up at the airport at 5:00 AM the next day. Needless to say, I was not pleased. So, I asked the Holy Spirit to produce in me love, so I could love him like He (the Holy Spirit) loves him. I found myself being courteous and gracious the entire time he was with us.

We have only talked about letting the Holy Spirit teach us how to love like God. However, we can ask Him to do the same for all the qualities listed in the Galatians 5:22-23 passage. That’s joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As we allow Him to produce these fruits through the circumstances of our daily lives, we will become more and more like God. However, it’s a process. That means it takes time and diligence. However, it’s worth it.

If you haven’t yet done it — I strongly recommend that you give it a try …