The New Life In Christ

For March 20, 2022
Nicodemus was a Pharisee.1 He was also a member of the Sanhedrin.2 He yearned to meet Jesus Christ so he could talk privately—and listen. Although the Sanhedrin opposed Jesus, and that such a meeting meant social and political suicide, Nicodemus saw this as an opportunity to answer the questions: “Is what I hear about this Teacher true? Is Jesus our long-awaited Messiah?”

Jesus’ response to his esteemed guest was simple yet comprehensive,

Jesus answered and said to him, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3 (NKJV)

Jesus’ words may seem odd at first glance. Why not speak on world events, Roman domination, the plight of the Jewish Nation, or say something absolutely and utterly profound? Why talk about being Born Again, and why is this topic so crucial?

Scriptures can give us clues to the answer,

    • We, as humans, were created in the image of God. Our unique purpose was to have unbridled, eternal fellowship with our holy God.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God saw all that he had made, and indeed it was very good. Genesis 1:1, 31 (NKJV)

    • Although we were made in God’s image, we disobeyed Him and “Fell” from our holy and happy state. As a result, sin entered the world, and death through sin.

 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 (NIV)

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6-7 (NIV)

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners. Romans 5:19 (NIV)

    • The sinful plight of humanity requires the efficacious work of a Promised Redeemer.

And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. Genesis 3:15 (NLT)

He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6 (NKJV)

    • This Promised Redeemer would shed His blood for the remission of our sins.

 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. Leviticus 17:11 (NKJV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God… Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  Romans 5 1-2, 9 (NIV)

In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22 (NLT)

To illustrate our need for a Redeemer, Jesus relates to Nicodemus the story of the Children of Israel in the wilderness in Numbers 21:4-9. Fiery serpents bit Moses’ rebels, and many of them died. They asked for a remedy, and the Lord instructed Moses to create a brass serpent and raise it on a pole. Those who looked at the brass serpent were miraculously healed.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that He, likewise, would be “lifted up.” Whoever looks to Him by faith would be healed spiritually and given eternal life. Faith is our means of receiving God’s forgiveness and righteousness. This is consistent with two fundamental Old Testament Scriptures:

    • And [Abraham] believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith. Genesis 15:6 (NLT)
    • Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4 (NKJV)

Some have said the distance between Heaven and Hell is twelve to eighteen inches—the distance between the human head and the human heart. We may have the intellectual facts concerning Jesus Christ. But “head knowledge” is not enough. One must have “heart knowledge” through faith in Jesus as the Promised Redeemer as well.

With such a faith, we can experience a dynamic, spiritual transformation (Born Again) that makes us righteous before God and eligible to see and enter the Kingdom of God. We confess our sins before God. Then we repent or turn from the continual practice of sinful behavior. We turn from sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, and His Spirit makes His abode within us. He now can enable us to function according to our original design. Just as 2 Corinthians 5:17 relates, we are now “new creatures” in Christ.

As new creations, loving God and pleasing Him is our all-consuming, lifelong objective. Our new aim is to emulate our Lord and live for Him to the best of our ability for the rest of our lives. We are the “living proof” of God’s marvelous plan of redemption, whereby Jesus Christ can transform a sinful and fallen humanity into the very likeness of Christ to become the Children of God, as John writes,

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12–13 (KJV).

Our faith is in Christ, an everlasting, sure and steadfast hope as this old hymn attests,

My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less3

               Edward Mote (1834)

My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood, Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness, alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.

Chorus
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.

Sinful, fallen, human lives can change drastically in the presence of the Living Christ, and drastically changed lives, or those that are Christ-centered and Spirit-controlled will think, speak, and act in ways that will honor the Lord and benefit others.

Changed, Born Again lives have hearts that delight in the Lord. We love Him and find our truest pleasure and satisfaction—not in the tings of the world—but in being in a loving fellowship with our true and living God.

As we grow in Him. We learn that Christ has everything that can delight us perfectly. Thus, we can find our most fulfilled wishes and deepest abiding joys. And as we love Him and find our delight in Him, His perfect will is desired, as His abiding peace, joy, and tranquility fill our souls. Won’t you give your heart to Jesus and experience New Life, and be Born Again in Him? He can give you eternal peace and satisfaction in this life and the next.

What a Wonderful Savior!

What Could Happen?

For January 30, 2022
Once, a pastor challenged me to work for the Kingdom, which ultimately begged this question, “If I were to give myself to the Lord completely, living according to the Bible, and trusting Him to fulfill His wonderful promises—what could happen for this poor black kid from the projects?

Some would contend that I am a hopeless because of my impoverished past environment, social status, and skin color, I will always be a “victim.” Thus, I must accept a life that is “inferior,” “disadvantaged,” and/or “predisposed to crime and/or failure.”

However, as a youth, I realized two things. First, I saw how my race was not the only one exposed to hatred or prejudice. I also noted how the races expressed hatred toward people within their own race, which I found quite curious. From these experiences, I learned that sin is a universal problem, which causes all people to hate and pre-judge indiscriminately.

Second, I realized that despite how society would classify me, my Everlasting Creator and Redeemer makes no such distinction. He is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34-35), and He loves all His Children—including me—equally. Thus, He gives me the freedom and grace to live a morally responsible life, consistent with His perfect will.

The Lord used my racial, cultural, and societal circumstances to fulfill His excellent work, which far surpassed anything I could have planned for myself. I just needed to trust in Him enough to, as another Christian once told me, “Let go and let God!

Therefore, I differ with those who trivialize the Christian faith as a “pie-in-the-sky” religion. Mine has been a life of abundance (John 10:10), which began the moment I met the Lord and will continue forever. Only He gives my life its purpose and meaning while supplying me with fulfillment and satisfaction.

My life has not been about keeping the rules and rituals associated with a stereotyped religious practice. Instead, I have an intimate, personal relationship with a loving friend and companion.

Thus, I’ve tried to answer the pastor’s question by not depending on my gifts and ability alone. Jesus Christ needs to occupy the center of everything I desire in life, as He orders and delights in every step I take,

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Psalm 37:23-25 (KJV)

Although my being a “good” man has been questionable, He remains loving, patient, kind, and faithful in all things. In John 16:33, the Lord tells us to be of good cheer because He overcame the world’s challenges successfully—including an inhumane death on a Roman cross. Therefore, my victory is in Him. Won’t you give your heart to Christ today and experience His victory, fulfillment, and life?

What a Wonderful Savior!

What They Taught Me

For January 23, 2022
I am concerned about our future leaders. In today’s fast-paced, twenty-first-century world, we give very little consideration to the sound, biblical parenting I received as a child. With absentee fathers and mothers, single-parent homes, blended families, and latchkey kids, no wonder so many children today are growing up with either a non-existent, limited, or skewed spiritual/moral understanding.

The Lord blessed me with Christian parents who expressed their love for me by not merely telling me about the Lord Jesus Christ. We went to church together as a family every Sunday as well. They also showed their love for the Lord by practicing a consistent Christ-likeness before me—although imperfect as with us all—but consistent, nonetheless. Their actions spoke volumes to this youngster.

These extraordinary people introduced me to the Lord Jesus Christ and helped me to understand abundant Kingdom living. Their faith and fidelity helped cultivate a desire to experience and learn about the wonderful God they were showing and telling me consistently. I should also note they were my good friends as well.

We should have more such examples today. As no one should ever trivialize the essential role that loving, nurturing, godly parents play in raising children on the right path, so that and when they are older, they will not leave it as Proverbs 22:6 teaches. There are others who share a similar view,

There is no denying that culture and church play a major role in the developmental life of any person. But the role parents play in their children’s lives far outweighs any other influence. What parents believe and how they live out their beliefs (positively or negatively) has a huge impact on their children.1

My parents encouraged and supported my spiritual growth by taking the time to explain fundamental biblical truths so I could understand and adopt as my own life principles to practice consistently.

They were not alone in my development process. The Lord blessed us to join a church where there were many spiritually mature, biblically astute men and women who recognized the importance of quality, Bible-based Christian education, and discipleship. These men and women were especially adroit at facilitating our comprehension and incorporation of sound, fundamental scriptural nuances, and doctrine critical for our spiritual development. In particular, the solemn reverence they had toward God and His Word captivated me, along with the fervor, anticipation, and vigilance of our Lord’s imminent return.

The Lord used all these influences to help nurture a Christian faith that resonates in me today,

    • We all have a sin problem – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
    • Our righteousness won’t get us into Heaven – We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)
    • Jesus Christ is our solution For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NIV)
    • We must be new inside (Born Again) – Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (NLT)
    • Through Christ, God declares us righteous (or justified) – Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV)
    • We grow spiritually and take on Jesus’ character (or sanctified) – And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (KJV)
    • Our faith in Christ secures our eternal reward in Heaven (or glorified)However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20 (NIV)

Oh that there were more of us Christians teaching the substantive lessons our children (and their children) need, so that they grow into honest, hard-working, responsible, law-abiding, productive members of society. Such training would secure a more promising future for all of us.

What a Wonderful Savior!

You Shall Call His Name Jesus!

For January 16, 2022
A wonderful illustration of our redemption is presented in the Suffering Servant found in Isaiah 53:4-6 (NKJV):

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Matthew Chapter 9 tells the story of a paralyzed man whose friends brought him to Jesus for healing. Jesus makes this statement in verse 2 (NLT):

Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.

Then He makes this declaration in verse 6 (NLT):

So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins. Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home.

No human being can forgive sin. We consider anyone making this claim to be blasphemous, since only God can forgive sin. Yet, Jesus insists that He forgives all our sin—past, present, and future. He claims this because He is the One who satisfies all the statutes of the Old Testament Law as the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

While Mary was carrying Jesus inside her, Joseph, her espoused husband, sought to release her secretly to avoid scandal and humiliation as an unwed mother. She had not known a man, but she would be delivering a child soon. Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying,

Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:20-21 (NIV)

Jesus Christ is the Prophet, whose life and teaching give us moral and spiritual direction as foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-22. We find His Word contained in the Bible, which is our perfect guide to living in this New Testament Age. As we read, study, memorize, and apply its principles to our lives, we grow into His productive people of faith and grace.

Jesus is our King, who governs our hearts and minds through His Holy Spirit (and His Word). We love Him, willingly surrender to Him, and faithfully serve His church and those He describes as the “least of these” (Matthew 25:34-40). He is our Sovereign Lord, and we are subjects of His eternal Kingdom. He is the focal point of our love and gratitude as well as the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

He is our Great High Priest, in whom we have the forgiveness of sin. Hebrews 9:11-12 teaches He redeemed us by paying sin’s price Himself,

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come…Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Jesus’ sacrificial death at Calvary covers our sin because He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

He is fully capable of saving “to the uttermost” all those who come to God by Him, seeing He lives forever to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Give Him your life today so He can forgive your sin and make you a new creature. You won’t regret it!

What a Wonderful Savior!

Our God Of A Second Chance

For January 9, 2022
At the end of forty years in the wilderness’ backside, Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock. As a former candidate to succeed Pharaoh, he would have led a nation—Egypt—with all the glory and splendor that kingdom afforded. Yet he was now in isolation, and wasting time, or so he thought.

Then Moses saw something strange. The flames did not consume a bush burning with fire, and as he approached this miraculous sight, he heard God’s voice,

I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. Exodus 3:7-10 (NIV)

The Lord chose Moses to lead His chosen people from slavery to freedom; to a land “flowing with milk and honey.” Moses failed in an earlier attempt to deliver the Hebrew Nation when he killed an Egyptian.

Yet this humble sheepherder met his Lord in the Sinai Desert and his life would never be the same. Through consecrated and illustrious service, God used this transformed shepherd to be His exemplary model of service and dedication for the next forty years.

We have the ceremonial and judicial principles that influence our religious and social affairs. He exhibited a humility that Numbers 12:3  refers to him as “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

The Lord will restore and use people who are humble, attentive, and willing. They may feel abandoned and isolated in their desolate wilderness experience. But His thoughts towards them are of peace, not evil; to give them an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)

As we trust in Jesus for spiritual transformation, and rely on His Spirit to perfect His wisdom, knowledge, and strength in us, God will disclose our value and eternal purpose,

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Let us wait on the Lord and trust in Him. He is faithful to ensure our glorious and successful outcome.  Won’t you give Him your heart today?

What a wonderful Savior!

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