September 06, 2020

One Teacher To Another

What does it mean to be born again? I believe it is a real birth. Listen or read to find out why.

Mike Gerhardt, One Teacher to Another, John 3:1-15, 08-30-20. Learning difficulties can be physical (bad eyes, pour motor skills, impaired hearing), intellectual (down syndrome, dyslexia, poor memory, low IQ), emotional (depression, anxiety), and spiritual (religious orientation, arrogance, presuppositions) in nature. Have you ever tried to teach someone who thinks they know everything? There is however a necessity for the new birth for each category of learning disabilities. Religious systems and theological words have so confused about the issue of transformation. Yet simple profound ideas can better serve transformation. Nicodemus represented the best in the nation. He was a teacher, a conservative Pharisee, a member of the political Sanhedrin which was the 70-member ruling council responsible for religious decisions under the Roman civil law. To SEE the Kingdom of God is to understand the necessity of spiritual transformation. Jesus began by telling Nick unless a man is born again, he cannot SEE the Kingdom of God. Jesus repeated himself more directly with YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN! Our first birth begins when a woman’s water breaks. This birth makes us a child of Adam, a human. No amount of education, discipline, religious activity, or reform can change an animal into a human. You must be born human. ALSO, no amount of education, discipline, religious activity, or reform can change your inclination to sin. We naturally disobey God and break His rules, some more often than others but we all sin. We cannot even keep our own rules (think diet and exercise)!! We MUST be born into something different in order to change. Nick did not understand. Was he really asking a question or just stalling? Jesus explained two births: one by the breaking of water and the other from the Holy Spirit. To ENTER the Kingdom of God is to understand the extent of our need for spiritual transformation. Paul describes this Kingdom in Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. When a person is born again, he ENTERS God’s family & God’s Kingdom immediately. He is transformed from darkness to light, & death to life. Rescued from the danger of hell to be placed in the safety of heaven. Born of water & Born of the Spirit. The nature of the new birth is a spiritual birth. READ verses 6-8. In a commercial for Capital One, a couple is making a large purchase. When the clerk tells a woman the interest cost, hordes of barbarians with weapons surround her with a: Now we got you with the interest expression! Of course, she has Capital One. In one scene, the barbarians are running past the perfume counter and the lady there tries to spray them to remove their offending odor. Wondering about the application? Trying to civilize bloodthirsty barbarians with a few squirts of perfume may be a spiritual metaphor for what most religions are trying to do. Religion cannot change the barbarian heart that is in every person. Only a relationship with Jesus the Christ can bring the soul the conversion that changes everything, a sinner into a saint. It is a mysterious birth. The Greek word for wind and spirit is the word pneuma (pneumatic drills use air pressure). Jesus may have been trying to make this point just by using the words side by side. Yet he most likely spoke in Aramaic or Hebrew which also has one word for both wind and spirit RUACH. The wind is hard to predict and so is the work of the Spirit. From flying kites to tracking tornadoes, the wind blows where it wants to – we can’t see the wind, but we do see the effects & the results of its devastation. Ezekiel 37 we find the wind of the Spirit blowing over the dry bones of Israel to bring new life. Janet & I were privileged to use a Sunfish sailboat while in Dallas out on White Rock Lake. First time out, I remember the mast coming quickly around & hitting me in the head. The wind can be strong. John Ortberg: Significant human transformation always involves training not just trying. It involves God and us. I liken it to crossing an ocean. Some try to be good, to be spiritual. That’s like taking a rowboat across the ocean. It is exhausting & unsuccessful. Others throw themselves on God’s grace. They are drifting on a raft. They hope that God will get them somewhere. A better image is the sailboat, which if it moves at all, it is a gift of the wind. We can’t control the wind, but a good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing & adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, we have a part in discerning the winds, in knowing the direction we need to go, and in training our sails to catch the breezes that God provides. That is a true transformation. Verse 8 so, it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John Grisham’s book The Testament paints a portrait of a man’s surrender to God. Nate is a disgraced corporate attorney plagued by alcohol & drug abuse. After two failed marriages, four detox programs, & a bout with dengue fever, Nate acknowledged his need. Quote: With both hands, Nate clenched the pew. He repeated his list of evils & afflictions. In one long glorious acknowledgment of failure, he laid himself bare before God. He unloaded enough burdens to crush three men. Tears filled his eyes. I am sorry he whispered to God. Please help me. As quickly as the fever had left his body, he felt the baggage leave his soul. With one gentle brush of God’s hand, his slate had been wiped clean. The basis of the new birth is Jesus being lifted on the cross. In Numbers 21, God sent venomous snakes to His people who complained & spoke lies about Moses. The snakes bit the people & many died. Moses pled with God to save them. God could have destroyed the snakes, or given the people an antidote, or just sent the snakes away but He didn’t. God had Moses make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole for the people to look & live, while they were being bitten. They needed to have their eyes lifted in order to live. Looking down they would die. Jesus would be lifted on a cross. You can imagine a cross piece on that pole to hold up the bronze snake (similar to the medical symbol - snakes on a staff). The snakes at their feet that brought death were represented in that bronze snake that brought life. Jesus, who knew no sin became sin for us. Jesus took on our sin, the very thing that is killing us. He died in our place so that we could live in his Kingdom. Salvation isn’t just in the looking, but it is definitely in the trusting. Numbers 21. There were a million people being bit by the snakes, many dying all around, but they were told to look and live. Some, I am sure, could not see the bronze snake, only to look in the right direction and trust that it would save. Everyone must trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord to be saved from their sins. Stuff we learned: we must be born again, we must be born of the Spirit of God, we must tell others to look and live.