STILL MUSING ON JOHN 3:3 – “YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.”
Sorry this is late. I’ve been on vacation, escaping the smoke to go someplace where there was slightly less smoke. When you can’t breathe, “slightly less smoke” is a gift straight from Heaven. We’ve had a lot of rain since I’ve been back, so everything is perfectly lovely and clear again. Thank You, Jesus! My lungs and I are extremely grateful.
On my September 6 blog I was reading through different Bible verses pertaining to original sin, going back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3. If you’ve ever read the Bible straight through, you see how generally depraved people have been from the very beginning and will continue to be straight through to the bitter end. No character in scripture apart from Christ is flawless. The closest we see is Daniel; we aren’t told any of his character flaws but we do see him confessing his own sin in Daniel 9:4-6. I don’t have to search my own conscience very deeply to know that I am a sinner. How many times in my life have I lied, cheated, stolen, raged, slandered, gossiped, etc.? More than I could ever count. Every time I hear someone say something like, “I’m a good person! I don’t need any saving, thank you very much,” I want to laugh in their face. I know they’re lying, I know THEY know they’re lying, and I know that THEY know that I know that they’re lying, so why do they bother?
Because we don’t want to be accountable to anyone. Because we know in our heart of hearts that we don’t have an excuse. Every rotten thing we’ve ever done or said or even just thought is piling up on our souls like Jacob Marley’s chains.* And we don’t want to face it. Pretend God isn’t there and He’ll go away, right?
But the day of reckoning is coming. Each and every one of us will have to stand before the Lord God Almighty and give an account for our lives. Do any of us really think we have any merit at all? That it is one big cosmic scale and our so-called “good deeds” are going to outweigh our bad?
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28. — Whoah! If even our own private, fleeting thoughts make us sinners, who then who of us could be saved? We’re screwed!
Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. – Isaiah 45:23
As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. – Romans 14:11-12
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes. – Romans 3:10-18 (quoting various OT passages).
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21. OUCH! TOO CLOSE TO HOME!
Okay, I think now I understand what Jesus was getting at when he told Nicodemus that we must be born again. The first birth is the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. No matter how much we want to be good, or how hard we try, we keep falling flat on our faces. Like Sisyphus in the old Greek story, we are doomed to keep pushing a rock up a hill; a rock that always gets away from us and rolls away before we reach the top. No matter how hard we try, we can never get to the top.
In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that there is an eternal chasm fixed between heaven and hell, and no one can cross it. (Luke 16:26). We are trapped in our sinful nature and we cannot and will not ever get out of it by our own power. A man going down for the third time can’t save himself from drowning even if he is a good swimmer. A woman falling to her death from a cliff can’t save herself even if she is the best rock climber in the world. We cannot escape the sin nature we’ve had since the moment we were conceived. We are on a one-way trip to hell and eternal punishment AND, if we are honest with ourselves, we know we deserve it. We’re not the innocent victims of Adam’s original sin. We sin and we like it. It feels good to get our own back on someone we hate. It’s fun to have sex even if we’re not married. Who doesn’t secretly enjoy a good meltdown fit of rage? Who hasn’t said we deserve it, it should be ours, as we nick something that belongs to someone else?
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob doesn’t send people to hell on a whim based on his own capriciousness. We walk there all by ourselves. What God does is offer us a way OUT. A new nature, free from sin—no more pushing an endless rock up an endless hill. He offers us a restored relationship with Himself. That is what being born again means.
The bad news and the good news: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:27-28
Next time: HOW DOES GOD SAVE US? WHY CAN’T HE JUST FORGIVE US AND BE DONE WITH IT?
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13
*Jacob Marley was the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.