Tag: salvation

Nothing more important.

33305178-3F1D-4E0E-A778-276CF16390EF

No man can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for him —The ransom for a life is costly,
No payment is ever enough—
that he should live on forever and not see decay.
– Psalm 49:7-9

But God will redeem my life from the grave;
He will surely take me to himself.
– Psalm 49:15

It’s been weeks now since I found myself stuck on John 3:3 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe the reason I kept coming back to this verse is because being born again is the most important thing of all. For each and every one of us. There is not, there can never be, anything more important. Our lives on this earth will be over before we know it — it is our eternity that matters most. Where will we spend it? It is one of the three most important questions anyone can ask themselves: 1) How did I get here? 2) What is my purpose? and  3) What happens to me after I die?

So, painfully slowly, over the past few weeks I’ve tried to glean from Scripture the basic points of being born again:

  • What does it mean to be born again?
  • Why do I need to be “saved”? Saved from what?
  • I’m a moral person. Why can’t I just do good deeds and make things right with God?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What is Jesus?
  • How can one man pay for the sin of everyone who ever lived?

And the truth is, I’m overwhelmed. After all, I’m just a secretary. I’m not a biblical scholar, I’m no one special, and certainly not someone others ever listen to about anything important. People far more educated than I am have devoted volumes on these topics; people who know the Bible backward and forward. I have to Google most verses that come to my mind because I can never remember what book or chapter they were in. 

But then I remember that this is not about me. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing more important than being saved. Than being washed clean by the blood of Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross. I know who and what I am without Christ, and I don’t like that person very much. I also know who and what I am IN Christ, and that nothing is better or more fulfilling and beautiful than belonging to Him. Governments come and go, fads come and go, but Jesus is forever. He said, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:58)

I am also overwhelmed with how to write out these points, because the Bible is a bottomless well of information and it is all about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, every verse in one way or another tells its portion of the greater story of Jesus, our Lord. 

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

– Psalm 46:1-7

Only God knows if anybody even reads this, but if you do my prayer is that you will be encouraged if you are a believer in Christ, and that you will come to know him and be made alive in him if you are not. There is nothing more important.

So from here on out, until I’m done with the nagging issues that John 3:3 put on my heart, I will basically just write out Bible verses that I found on the various topics. Please read them and ask God to show you if they are true. No matter what religion you are, or even if you are an atheist, if you ask the God who created the universe to guide you to truth, you WILL find what is true. For it is written:

“ASK and it will be given to you; SEEK and you will find; KNOCK and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Jesus said those words. He also said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear
And put their trust in the LORD.

– Psalm 40:1-3

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible.

Born Again? Why?

John 3:3: Jesus said: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 

My last four journal entries were just reprinting the book of Ruth. It’s a good story, and I wanted anyone who might not have access to a Bible, or who might not take the time to go look it up, to be able to read it in its entirety. In it we see people who were lost and then were found, who were as good as dead and then made alive again, who were empty and then made full. And, overall, it is a story about love. That in a nutshell is the story of the entire Bible.

Jesus said no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. He describes that further in John 3:5: No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Okay, so it makes sense that flesh gives birth to flesh. We came from our parents, they came from their parents, and so it goes back through the millennia until the very beginning. What happened then?

According to Genesis, all human beings on the planet are descended from the same two people, Adam and Eve. (Adam means “man” and Eve probably means “living”, according to my NIV text notes.) So if flesh gives birth to flesh, then we are all in a sense born of Adam. So far, so good. So why do we need to be born again?

Genesis chapter 3 describes how man sinned against God and the world fell. Everything that was made beautiful and perfect and eternal, was now under a curse and the penalty was death. 

Eve sinned first, but Adam is held to blame. I’ve heard different takes on this, but the most reasonable reason is that, as the head of the house, he could have stopped Eve but didn’t. He could have ordered the serpent to be quiet, for he was given authority over all the animals (Genesis 1:28), but didn’t. He listened. The serpent (Satan) tempted him with the same temptation that led to the devil’s own fall, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5), which echoes Satan in Isaiah 14:14, “I will make myself like the Most High.”  

For whatever reason, the first man thought it was a good idea to want to be like God himself. He wasn’t content with living in a breathtakingly beautiful, fruitful, peaceful, happy place as long as he had to be subject to God. He wanted to take God’s place, even if he didn’t fully understand at the time exactly what he was doing. (Maybe he did? I don’t know. Scripture gives us the bare facts here, not the inner workings of Adam’s mind.) 

But on that day, instead of becoming a god himself, man became cut off from God because of sin. Physically, he began the process of dying that day, and since he was a spirit being as well as a physical being, then apparently his spirit was as dead as his body. That became his nature. And since we all descended from him, we all inherited that nature. If we just take a look at the world around us, or take an honest look into our own hearts, we can see how painfully true that is. The desire to dominate others (in essence, be a god over them), has infected every government that has ever been on this planet, from the ancient Mesopotamians until today.

Galatians 5:19-21 says: 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.  If any one of us has indulged in any one of these, even if just for a moment and in our own minds, then we have demonstrated that we have the sin nature we inherited from Adam. And, therefore, we are cut off from God, in our spirits as well as our decaying bodies. God is perfect. In his kingdom is not even the slightest hint of imperfection or sin. If he allowed one speck in, then what would stop his kingdom from becoming the cesspool that we have turned planet Earth into? We are cut off from God; there is an unbreachable chasm between us and God. Read the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31: “…between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” – Luke 16:26.  I take one of the meanings of that to be that no amount of good deed-doing can ever bridge that chasm, since it says NO ONE can cross it.

That leaves us dead, lost, forsaken. Hopeless. We’re cut off from God. We sin and we can’t stop sinning no matter how much we want to. We can’t make it right. We deserve to die and we deserve to be right where the rich man found himself after death.

BUT WAIT . . . God said to the serpent in the garden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15).  Hmmm, interesting! Adam isn’t a part of this scenario, it is between Eve and the snake. Her seed will be bruised, but will crush the head of the serpent. That means to kill it, to defeat it. How can Eve have a seed that doesn’t come from Adam?

… And that is where Jesus comes into the picture. 

… “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” What’s that all about?

I love this stuff! The greatest story ever told, for sure. And it is OUR story. See you next time!

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

Good Bible/Bible Study Resources (English language):

educatingourworld.com

answersingenesis.org

blueletterbible.org

biblegateway.com

My vote for #1 [human] Biblical total dream-guy heartthrob

B1838730-E767-4203-ADA4-75F084B7C4A5
Closest picture I have to Ruth in the barley field. I call it “Baylee in the knapweed patch.”

THE STORY CONTINUES! AS PROMISED! When we last saw Ruth and Naomi, the two widows left Moab and went back to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem. Destitute, barren, with nothing in the world except each other, how will they survive?
Ruth Chapter 2
(American Standard Version)
Apologies for the Elizabethan English, but if I use a copyrighted version I could get my heinie sued.
1 And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech, and his name was Boaz.
2 And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter.
3 And she went, and came and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and she happened to light on the portion of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.
4 And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, the LORD be with you. And they answered him, the LORD bless thee.
5 Then said Boaz unto his servant that was set over the reapers, Whose damsel is this?
6 And the servant that was set over the reapers answered and said, It is the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab:
7And she said, Let me glean, I pray you, and gather after the reapers among the sheaves. So she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, save that she tarried a little in the house.
8 Then said Boaz unto Ruth, Hearest thou not, my daughter? Go not to glean in another field, neither pass from hence, but abide here fast by my maidens.
9Let thine eyes be on the field that they do reap, and go thou after them: have I not charged the young men that they shall not touch thee? and when thou art athirst, go unto the vessels, and drink of that which the young men have drawn.
10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found favor in thy sight, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a foreigner?
11 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband; and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people that thou knewest not heretofore.
12 The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to take refuge.
13 Then she said, Let me find favor in thy sight, my lord, for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken kindly unto thy handmaid, though I be not as one of thy handmaidens.
14 And at meal-time Boaz said unto her, Come hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers, and they reached her parched grain, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left thereof.
15 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not.
16 And also pull out some for her from the bundles, and leave it, and let her glean, and rebuke her not.
17 So she gleaned in the field until even; and she beat out that which she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.
18 And she took it up, and went into the city; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned: and she brought forth and gave to her that which she had left after she was sufficed.
19 And her mother-in-law said unto her, Where hast thou gleaned to-day? and where hast thou wrought? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she showed her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said, The man’s name with whom I wrought to-day is Boaz.
20 And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is nigh of kin unto us, one of our near kinsmen.
21 And Ruth the Moabitess said, Yea, he said unto me, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.
22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, and that they meet thee not in any other field.
23 So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz, to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.
…Does Ruth make a success of gleaning?
…Are sparks flying between her and Boaz?
…Could Naomi have a scheme or two up her sleeve?
STAY TUNED FOR PART THREE AND FIND OUT!

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

“Born again?” What’s that?

A68C8597-AE45-4C1C-9C7C-23388963C85C
Ruth by Susan R. Hummel (an awesome artist and also my sister)

After mulling it over for days, it occurred to me this morning why I haven’t been able to get past John 3:3, “…no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The reason is that this is the most important thing of all. Nothing is more important than being born again. No matter who you are or where you are from, it is the most important thing in your life. All the concerns of this world will pass away; each and every one of us will pass away. Where will we spend eternity? We can either spend it with God, worshipping and enjoying him and all he provides us, or we can spend it in Hell where we will live in eternal torment with only our worst memories and thoughts to keep us company. The choice is ours to make.

For me, looking at it from the point of view of an outsider, that raises the following questions:

  1. What does it mean to be born again?
  2. Why is Jesus the only way?
  3. How do I know Jesus is trustworthy?
  4. I’m a good person, why do I need a redeemer?
  5. How can Jesus save everybody who ever lived when he is just one person?
  6. How do I become born again?

It raises many more questions, too, but those are the basics. That is one of the exciting things about really studying the Bible; when you read one passage, so many other questions and things leap to mind. It’s why it takes me forever to get through a book, because I keep going back and searching out other passages and issues that come up while I’m reading. 

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is telling just one story. And it is a love story. A love story about God and mankind, a broken relationship, and how it got fixed. If it were a novel and you were analyzing it for your literature class, you would see all the elements of good storytelling: Introduction, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Resolution. It’s an amazing feat, especially considering it is a collection of 66 smaller books written by dozens of authors in different languages and cultures over a 1,500-year time span.

So, anyway, to get to the point of what being born again means, a good place to start is the book of Ruth. Ruth is the eighth book of the Old Testament. It is a love story—not just a romance, but a love story on several levels. In many ways it is like the entire Bible in miniature. 

It is very short, just four chapters. I am going to reprint it here, one chapter a day, for the next four days. My text comes from the American Standard Version, which I am using because it is in the public domain. For full disclosure, I did change the original text’s “Jehovah” to “the LORD,” (which most modern English translations use) to avoid any confusion that this might refer to the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), which it does not. I also changed two or three archaic words to their modern equivalents.

Take some time to ponder this lovely little story, and Enjoy! 

The Book of Ruth
Chapter 1

1 And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.  2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. 3 And Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.  4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth: and they dwelt there about ten years. 

5 And Mahlon and Chilion died both of them; and the woman was left without her two children and her husband. 6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread. 7 And she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah. 

8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters-in-law, Go, return each of you to her mother’s house: May the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. 9 May the LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voice, and wept. 

10 And they said unto her, Nay, but we will return with thee unto thy people. 11 And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should even have a husband to-night, and should also bear sons; 13 would ye therefore tarry till they were grown? would ye therefore stay from having husbands? nay, my daughters, for it grieves me much for your sakes, for the hand of the LORD is gone forth against me. 

14 And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 And she said, Behold, thy sister-in-law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law. 16 And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; 17 where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part thee and me. 18 And when she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking unto her. 

19 So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and [the women] said, Is this Naomi? 20 And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty; why call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me? 22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, who returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley harvest.

…Chapter 2 coming tomorrow.

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