Last week I presented a question to a very dear friend of mine, who is a pastor, a full-time street evangelist, and a jail minister. He continually immerses himself in the Word of God and prayer, so who better to consult with about this.
Before I share the question, allow me to give a brief background. I lived a godless, wicked life until someone told me about Jesus. After that, I tried hard to do better although I still planned, and pursued wicked things. I clearly was trying to have one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven so to speak – something I have come to call my “sin-sorry-sin-sorry life”.
As it turns out, the message I heard about Jesus was not the true Gospel – I had fallen pray to a combination of a healthy, wealth, and prosperity gospel with easy believe-ism mixed in. I was trying “to do good” for selfish reasons. Then I heard the true Gospel, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth as they say. That’s when everything truly changed, God changed me and gave me 5 years of victory over sin.
Things were going so well in my walk with the Lord that I began to question if I was His; after all, I know the Scripture says the Christian life will be difficult, and things seemed to be going well. So I began praying this to God. After a while of praying this it was as if God said, “OK”, and it is like He removed my ability to resist temptation. This has sent me on a 3-year roller coaster ride that I so desperately want to get off of.
I have learned quite a bit of this 3 years, not the least of which was pride. Pride is a nasty monster! Before I was saved I was prideful about many things, but I have come to realize, slowly in those 5 years when the Lord giving me victory, I became prideful in the victory over sin.
The other possibility for this 3-year skid is prayer. For 2-3 years a friend and I would call each other almost every morning and pray; then one week this started to fade, and ultimately, we weren’t praying together at all – my prayer life suffered dramatically.
So, is the result of this season a lesson from God, pride, diminished prayer, all of it...or am I not His? This brings me to the question.
According to Scripture, 1John 3 is clear, those with God’s seed abiding in them cannot go on sinning. I have read that verse 100+ times and it hit me last week, “Steve, you 'go on sinning', therefore, you’re not born again, how can you look at these last 3 years and conclude that God’s seed abides in you? You can’t; therefore, you must not be born again.”
That’s when I decided; I will call out to God continually to cause me to be born again until He does, or I die and go to hell. After that I texted my friend my conclusion regarding this thing and asked him, “how does one become born again?”
Below is what he sent:
Jesus taught Nicodemus the necessity of being born again: He told him, "You can't even see the kingdom of God unless you are born again!"
John 3:3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus asked a great question:
How can a man be born again?
He wasn't getting it! He went on to say, “surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born.” He was thinking physical & looking in the wrong place; his natural Mom.
John 3:4 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: "I tell you the truth no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Then Jesus expanded; flesh gives birth to flesh, natural birth comes by natural birth. But, the Spirit gives birth to spirit!
He told Nicodemus it has to be a heavenly Spirit birth/change of heart that's needed! JESUS says- you should not be surprised at my saying, you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases, you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going; so it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
John 3:5-8 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus still didn't get it! Jesus was telling him- it's impossible; you don't know when it's going to happen; you don't know. That's God's work!
Jesus also taught this in John 1:11-13- To all who received him, those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. But then he clarifies- Children who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man; it's not of a human ability at all! But, born of God! God has to do it, by Grace, quicken the heart and regenerate. He inclines the dispositions of the mind, emotions and will from evil to good! Then people can, and will, believe in saving way!
John 1:11-13 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Jesus goes on to teach Nicodemus that his responsibility is to have faith. That's what the Bible teaches that humans are responsible to do. So, beg God to change your heart & trust JESUS!
You believe the Gospel! Every human being is responsible to acknowledge their sin and their inability to change their own hearts and lives and to trust Christ and believe the good news turning from trusting themselves. (Repentance) confessing their inabilities and putting their trust in Jesus Christ as their only hope for salvation.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
If you do truly trust, believe, have faith in Jesus and God sending His Son to pay for your sins, trusting Jesus's person, life, death, burial and Resurrection as your only hope for salvation; you will be saved!
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Justified! I.E. Declared both not guilty and righteous in God's sight, through faith in Jesus Christ. And have the absolute sure hope of eternal life to come in the future.
It's that simple! When people search the Scriptures and understand the doctrine of justification by faith alone, they are able to be grounded in their understanding of how and why they're saved and what means through which their hope can be absolute! It's trust in Christ- His obedient righteous life has been credited to my account through faith! My sin has been credited to his account, through Faith. I am declared Saved/Justified, through faith. It's a done deal. Romans 3:21-26 really unpacks this!
Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
In Romans 3:28 it says, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." That's Salvation!
Romans 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
So, How can a man be born again? Answer - He can't; his responsibility is to Trust Jesus Christ with a repentant faith and he will be Saved/Justified! (Gal 2:16)
Galatians 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Someone might ask - how can I know that I am born again? How can I be absolutely sure I have a new heart? I still sin, I still struggle. How can I absolutely know???
Well, the biblical answer might be a little easier than you care to believe! You see, 1John teaches us how you can have assurance or know that you have eternal life! 1John 5:13 teaches us very clearly!
1John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
But, some people misunderstand its message! 1John 1:1 - 2:2 teach us that the Eternal Word has come and been sent by the Father and those who believe in him and walk in the light of this truth have fellowship with God. It goes on to teach that that true faith, is a repentant faith. A true believer confesses his sin and believes that Jesus ever lives to intercede for him personally in his atonement and righteousness. He must confess his sin and believe Jesus paid for it and ever lives to intercede for him. (1Jn 1:1-2:2)
It goes on to teach in 1John 2:3-17 that true Saving Faith brings some fruits of obedience! Mainly- Love for other Believers!
Then John shows us 3 Levels of Sanctification-
1. Children in the Faith that know & Trust that God is their Father & JESUS is their Lord & Savior who died for their sin. (1In 2:12 & 13c)
2. Young men, who have been rooted and grounded in the Word, they understand what the Bible teaches about Satan, his influence and prosecuting attorney status and how they have overcome him through the gospel & through the promises of God. (1John 2:13:b & 14b. 3:8) They are not tossed to and fro with every wind of Doctrine- Like Paul says. (Ephesians 4:14)
And the most mature
3. Fathers in the Faith- Know (Implying Deep Faith) JESUS very Intimately!! (1John 2:13a & 14a. Hebrews 12:2-3. Colossians 3:1-4.) You can't get any more mature in the Christian faith then knowing, trusting and loving Jesus Christ in a deep intimate communion faith-filled way. (1John 2:1-2. Ephesians 3:14-21)
John goes on to share that the True Believer will no longer trust and love the world as his source of knowledge and affection and life satisfaction, but will now love trust and I follow the Word of God; the truth that is in them as their only source of gospel happiness. (1John 2:18-29)
He finishes the section with a powerful exhortation to continue in the faith! That's what it takes to be saved and to be sanctified and to know that you are saved and part of his eternal kingdom. Continue in the faith. (1John 2:28-29)
Another doctrine that might be helpful to understand is that there are degrees of evil. There are degrees of sin in the Bible. In John 19:11 Jesus said, 'he who has handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.' and also in Jeremiah 16:12, Ezekiel 16:47, Matthew 23:14, Amos 5:12 and Matthew 12:31; the scriptures clearly teach degrees of evil.
John 19:11 Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin."
Ezekiel 16:47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways.
Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
Amos 5:12 For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.
Matthew 12:31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
All sin is damnable before God as written in James 2:10.
James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
However, different sins are more belittling to God's glory, harmful towards His creature and dishonoring toward God’s public Justice. 1& 2 Timothy as well as Titus teach us about a leader, it says that he must be blameless or above reproach. Of course, that does not mean sinless; that means his life is not characterized by repetitive heinous willful sin. Like David says in Psalm 19 'forgive my hidden faults; keep your servant also from willful sins may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.'
If you're a True Believer, Jesus paid for all of your sins, past, present and future and ever lives to intercede for you and act as your defense attorney, righteous representation and your infinitely sufficient atonement. Therefore, trust Christ, love him for all that he is in himself and what he's done for you and let that faith and love compel you to obey him. And when you stumble, repent and trust His infinite love! God bless you all dear Saints!
1John 1:1-2:14 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Hebrew 12:2-3 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Colossians 3:1-4 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.