Be Born in Us Today
By Pastor Tom Olson
Volume 29 Winter 2014 Issue 6
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
If you saw the movie God’s Not Dead, you remember the scene where the atheist college professor was hit by a car and dying. The pastor in the scene had one concern in the middle of the pouring rain. It was for the salvation of that professor’s soul. The same is true in Liberia where my wife served for eleven years as a missionary. Ebola is killing thousands, and the primary issue of utmost importance, more than stopping the spread of the virus, is the salvation of the dying souls.
When I was a lost teen, I could not sleep for fear of dying and going to hell. The one pressing issue for me at that time was the salvation of my lost soul. Jesus Christ came to this earth to give us a great gift—the gift of eternal life with the assurance of our salvation.
WHY WE NEED THAT GIFT SO DESPERATELY
Paul speaks clearly to this issue in Ephesians 2:1, where we see that apart from Christ we are spiritually dead because of sin: “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”
Before I got saved, I was physically alive but spiritually dead. This was evident by my fear of death and terror of hell. We get insight from the book of Genesis. In chapter one we see all things were created by the Word of God. But man is different. In chapter two we see that God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him, and Adam became a “living soul.” Man’s creation was more than simply physical life; it included righteousness, holiness and true knowledge of God (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10). This is called the image of God. But Adam and Eve lost this life in the fall, and their bodies began to die physically once the spiritual life of God was gone. This is the condition of “Adam’s poor helpless race” (Wesley).
TRYING TO GIFT OURSELVES DOES NOT WORK
When I was unsaved, I desired a way to earn my salvation, but I did not understand or desire Christ. I was dead. The harder I tried to be good, the more miserable I became. Galatians 3:10: “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do EVERYTHING written in the book of the law.’”
Trying to save myself by being good was the most futile and exhausting activity I have ever done. My junior confirmation pastor was very nice but treated us all as if we were saved. And I still was miserable. Then after our congregation called a new pastor from the mission field, he tried to convince us we were lost, and this was my first glimpse of truth and hope. In a strange way, it was a relief to find out I was lost.
Ephesians 2:2-3 show us that our lives reflect the condition of our hearts: “In which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
If you came to know Jesus later in life, you can remember the time when the deadness of your heart was reflected in your life. You didn’t factor Christ into your choices. You followed the ways of this world. Some of you were given over to sinful passions. Others were driven to succeed, while all of us were ultimately serving the devil.
Ephesians 6:12 declares, “For our struggle is ...against spiritual forces of evil.” One thing that is common in all people with dead hearts is that there is no joy and no peace. I was desperately looking for peace, I even looked in the church, but I was miserable and empty and afraid.
THANK GOD HE DOES NOT GIVE UP ON US!
Thankfully God did not leave me in despair. Ephesians 2:4-5 give us the great news that God’s love for us is greater than our sins: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.”
Jesus didn’t die on the cross because we were so loveable or even valuable. Romans 5 tells us that we were “sinners” and “enemies” of God when Christ died for us. He died for us “because of His great love.”
In the Greek New Testament, John 3:16 starts with the word “so.” Greek uses word order for emphasis. I believe this means that John 3:16 is meant to emphasize the amount of love God has for this lost world. So much did God love the world that He sent His only begotten Son... Love is God’s primary attribute. His love found a way to satisfy His justice and righteousness.
I think Charles Wesley put it well: “He left His Father’s throne above, so free, so infinite His grace! Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s poor helpless race.”
GRACE THAT IS GREATER THAN ALL OUR SIN
I once visited a true believer in Jesus Christ at a Wisconsin nursing home. His family was pre-disposed to clinical depression, so in a fit of depression he slit his wrists and attempted to take his life. After Owen “came to his senses,” he had great remorse and said to me, “Pastor, I must go to hell because of my great sin.” I asked Owen, “Do you believe you are a sinner?” He gave an emphatic “yes.” I asked, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world?” He gave a sincere “yes.” Then I declared an impromptu absolution and said, “On the basis of the Word of God, I declare to you that you are forgiven, saved and on your way to heaven, no matter what your feelings are telling you.” Owen found relief in the gospel.
The love of God is greater than any sin. When Jesus came into my heart with salvation, I became a new person. Ephesians 2:6-7 says that Christ’s redemption makes us into spiritual beings: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness.”
BEHOLD, ALL THINGS BECOME NEW
We have to be spiritual beings, indwelt by the Holy Spirit in order to go to God’s home in heaven. This transformation happens when Christ comes into our lives. In Genesis 2, Adam became “a living soul.” In Genesis 3, his spirit died. In John 20:22, the resurrected Christ appeared to the disciples and did something I never could understand— “And with that He BREATHED ON THEM and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit....’” Again, in Acts 2 a wind came and the holy “breath of God” filled thousands. I believe what was happening was the restoration of the “living soul” or the “image of God.” This makes us totally new in a spiritual way, as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has GONE, the NEW HAS COME!”
When Christ saved me I was finally free from the horrible burden of trying to be good enough to save myself. I can see why people who follow religions of works become crabby or driven or even terrorists. It is a miserable system to be under, and it drives you to despair. But when Christ came into my heart, He brought the breath of God and gave me the assurance that I was saved by His grace and on my way to heaven. This brought me great joy and peace that has never left me.
Ephesians 2:8-9 make it clear that we are saved by grace alone and not by works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
BE BORN IN US
Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. Jesus came to this earth in a stable in Bethlehem without our request or permission. He came to save us. He came willingly. He went to the cross to be punished for my sin. He was innocent and I am guilty. It was His choice almost 2,000 years before I was even born.
A church membership committee got disturbed when a candidate for membership told them that he contributed to his salvation. They asked him, “What did you contribute to your salvation?” He said, “I contributed the sin, and Jesus contributed the forgiveness.” His “works” were the sins that condemned him. Christ’s work was the sacrifice of holy blood on the cross of Calvary that saved him.
I tried so hard to be good enough to be saved but never got peace until I cast myself upon the grace and mercy of Christ. Today can be your day to stop striving and rest in the finished work of Jesus for you.
YOU CAN KNOW FOR CERTAIN THAT YOUR NAME IS INSCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE
Jesus invites you to come to Him in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened [Is that you?] 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.”
God has a wonderful gift for you this Christmas. It is the same gift He gave me forty years ago in my senior confirmation class with a minister who pointed out my sin and my Savior. That gift is the assurance of salvation through the sacrificial death of God’s spotless lamb, born in Bethlehem’s stable, perhaps in the same stable where the lambs for the temple were born. A simple prayer helped me, and I will share it with you:
Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I am a lost sinner. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and forgive me. Please take me to heaven when I die by your grace. Thank you for saving my soul. Amen.
Whether it be a dying atheist professor, thousands of Ebola victims in Liberia, a frightened confirmation student in 1974 or a reader of this article today, there is nothing more important for a lost soul than receiving God’s free gift of eternal salvation. That is why Jesus came. Receive Him today!