To Be Born Again

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How Do You Approach Jesus?

One of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time came to him to converse. This guy was named Nicodemus and he was part of the ruling body of Israel. He was more than curious about Jesus. He thought Jesus might just be right and all that Nicodemus had believed might be wrong. He was a skeptic, not a critic. Jesus welcomed skeptics, but rebutted critics. When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he was floored by what Jesus had to say.  He told Nicodemus he must be born again. “How can a man enter into his mother’s womb a second time?” Nicodemus asked. I have to give the man his due; his mind was open to possibilities.

You may be wondering just like Nicodemus what it means to be born again. You were born the first time since you are reading this. To which you probably said, “Duh!” Okay, is that enough to get you to heaven? Not if you have to be born again. If the current state you are in is not enough, what is that state? It is a state of spiritual deadness. Your body is alive, but your spirit is dead. There is more to the human condition than this, but I am trying to keep it simple. When your spirit becomes alive again, you are re-born or born again. (see another blog – Being Fully Human). This happens when you realize that you cannot create this rebirth (being born again or saved as some call it). However, Jesus can.

The Spiritual Condition

We all start out spiritually dead because of a condition called sin. God is a holy God and when we as a human race fail to be holy like Him, it is sin. It started with Adam and Eve and continues today. This state of spiritual deadness and sin keeps us separated from God. We deserve to be punished for our sin. That punishment was poured out on Jesus when He went to the cross. He paid the sin-debt that we deserved to give us an opportunity to regain our relationship with God.

The Mission of Jesus

Too often people mistakenly believe Jesus came to earth to make bad people good. No, He came to earth to make dead people alive. Once our spirit is alive, we then can live lives of good. This is a simplistic attempt to explain how we can be born again. You may find it fantastic or even be skeptical. That is okay. I, or someone would be glad to speak with you about it. We won’t try to talk you into anything. If we were successful, it won’t help. You wouldn’t have changed your spiritual condition because you must be born again.

You can contact me at tj@thesaltyeclectic.com or call 1-888-Need Him to speak with someone further. We would be glad to talk with you.

The First Christmas Gifts

NativityIn the book of John we are told right out of the shoot what Jesus would bring into the world at His coming. Though John explains the origin and mission of Jesus, he lists the eight gifts that God presented to the world that first Christmas. The coming and birth of Christ brought forth the culmination of thousands of years of promises.

The first gift was full knowledge. John says of Jesus that He was the Word. The translation here is logos which was the Greek word of the time for knowledge. This knowledge was considered all knowledge. It didn’t simply mean to know something intellectually. Rather, it encompassed all the being, using all our faculties to experience it; to know it intimately. Jesus knew the Father intimately and now He was here to share that knowledge.

The world was full of death. God had created the world. Adam and Eve introduced sin into it and now it was suffering from that sin. The creation and all that was in it was dying. Jesus brought life. Creation was His. He created it, now He was here to re-created it and give it new life. Though He was here to redeem man, that redemption didn’t stop with man. It was for all creation. The birth of Christ set all this in motion.

Mankind was spiritually dark. Jesus brought and is the Light. Man left unto himself will self-destruct. The entire world had come to a place of a spiritual Dark Age. The light in the darkness was now here and man had a way to see through that darkness. The darkness could not extinguish or even diminish the light. The Bethlehem star was representative of the light that now shines if men will only see by it.

What hope did man have of saving himself? Paul puts it plainly: there is no hope aside from God. Man is a spiritually dead creature without the saving power of Christ. I have often said, “Jesus did not come to earth to make bad people good. No, He came to earth to make dead people alive.” We are dead in our sins without Christ. He gives us new life and a new hope in Him.

Jesus brought us adoption into the family of God. Many say that we are all in the family of God. He created us after all. Jesus said quite the opposite. He stated in John 8:44 of those who do evil that they are of their father the devil. All throughout the New Testament people are divided into two categories: children of light, the Father, God, etc. and children of darkness, the devil, dark kingdom, etc. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, since being dead we cannot save ourselves, we are adopted into the Family of God. That adoption can never be revoked. See John 10:28.

Jesus brought a relationship with God. No man has seen God and lived the bible states; however we can see Him in Jesus. He is His Father’s Son. Jesus explained to His disciples toward the last days He was on earth that they had seen the Father, because they had seen Jesus. They had known Jesus intimately. What they had experienced with Jesus they had experienced with God for He was (and is) God now in flesh. This gift we can now experience with the Holy Spirit within us: that relationship with God. Jesus opened up that door through His sacrifice on the cross. See Romans 5:1-5.

Mercy and Grace; Jesus brought us both. One cannot exist without the other. Romans 5:1-5 tells us that we were enemies of the God of the universe. As enemies we deserved to not only be punished, we deserved to be destroyed. However, God is a God of love and He extended that love toward us through His Son (John 3:16). We stood condemned before God (John 3:17-18), but God demonstrated His love for us through Christ. The Christ baby in the manager was the full embodiment of that love. God extended to us mercy by not bringing the full justified punishment for our wrongdoing upon us. That was his mercy. He went further by not only forgiving us, but blessing us even more, by giving us more than we deserve. Jesus opened the door for those blessings of God to be given to us.

The lies of Satan through men had reached a climax. It enslaved mankind. Now Truth was on the scene and the lies could not stand it. Satan must have thought things were rocking along pretty good, then Jesus shows up to expose the deception for what it was. I can just see the light bulb come on as one by one people experienced the “ah ha” moment of their spiritual condition and how they could correct it. Indeed the Truth was given and it had set them free.

All these gifts given to the world that blessed Christmas day were given also to us. The basis of all these gifts is God’s love; the greatest gift. Like any other gift we must receive them. Could you imagine someone giving a gift to someone who didn’t want it? Would you force a gift on someone? “Here! I bought this for you. You must take it! Take it!” No, God does not operate that way. He sent His Son to offer these gifts. They are there for the receiving anytime, not just at Christmas. The choice to receive is up to you. Merry Christmas from God and His Son Jesus.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

20151206_214902The question here is: what does it really matter? On one side I hear people attempting to defend the cause to keep Christ in Christmas and on the other side, why should non-Christians have a belief forced on them. I ask, why do either? When you say happy holidays, which holidays are included? Is this for just the big three: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s? Or does it include Halloween, Hanukah, and Ramadan? We don’t generally lump other holidays that are near each other into a holiday greeting. Should we say happy holidays for Valentine’s Day, Martin Luther King’s birthday, and Presidents’ Day?

I don’t really have a problem with someone wishing me a happy holiday. It would work for any holiday I guess. I do have a problem when a person is prohibited from being able to wish me a Merry Christmas if that is their belief. I have also have a problem with someone being forced to say Merry Christmas because that is not their belief. Jesus never forced Himself or His beliefs on anyone and as Christians we do not have that right either. What good is it to wish someone a Merry Christmas when that person is going without food for the holidays or if they are in want of some other need or if we offend them?

To get offended because someone offers any greeting other than what we think they should  is straining on a gnat and swallowing a camel. This was the same problem Jesus faced in His day with the religious rather than the righteous. They too argued over religious rules. Jesus accused them of adhering to their traditons of men more than the righteousness of God. Yes, we as Christians need to stand for what is right, but you show me where it says in Holy Scripture that Merry Christmas is more correct than Happy Holidays. I just don’t get why people get bent out of shape over it.

People are more receptive during the Christmas time of the year, that’s true. There are also many who are hurting and don’t understand why their Christmas or Holiday is not like the ones on T.V. or in the movies. Theirs is not necessarily a wonderful life and when you offer either greeting it cuts deep. When we are more concerned about preserving the traditions of men rather than the needs of the unredeemed and expressing the love of Christ, we have missed the mark.

Too many people who are engaged in the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays debate don’t even know the facts around Christmas. For example, no one really knows when Jesus was born. Many scholars place the time of Jesus’ birth more near the summer time rather than the winter, so are we arguing over a tradition or a teaching of God? Christmas was first celebrated in 336 A.D. because Emperor Constantine said so. Jesus wasn’t even in the manager when the magi/wise men showed up. He was in a house. He was probably around two years old at the time. There may have been more than three wise men. Only three gifts are mentioned, not the number of magi. The stable was probably a cave and the manager was probably carved out of stone. Not everyone saw the Bethlehem star.

Christians should use the Christmas season to build relationships and to reach out to those who do not know Jesus for who He is. People are more apt to express a friendliness toward you when you offer a season’s greeting to them. We need to seize the opportunity to touch their lives with the love of God. We can’t do that when we snub them with a “Merry Christmas” because we were offended by their “Happy Holidays”.