It’s Friday, and typically many of us have plans what with the weekend upon us. Everything is different right now, isn’t it? I encourage you to pray for the people going through great hardship today, especially the sick and those that may be dying. God cares deeply for every person out there, including you. The music today is probably going to be new for our church family, but there are beautiful truths found in these songs. We encourage you to listen and be encouraged:
A Prayer from Pastor Sam:
Father, show us your grace today in all that we do. Help us to use this time in a way that would honor You and be useful to You in our lives and the lives of others. Make your name hallowed in the hearts of many more people. Perhaps you will use this time to have people slow down and listen, cry out to you, hear a sermon or lesson or pick up a Bible for the first time or the first time in a long time. Give grace to the hands that are tending to the lives of others and be with their families as they spend much of their energy. Help us to be calm and confident in You and may Your name be praised today around the world. Be with our brothers and sisters in Christ in great need today. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Born. The term generally means “to cause something to come into existence, primarily through procreation or parturition” (BDAG, Bibleworks). There certainly is a bit of humor in starting off this lesson describing birth that way, because typically the response is couched in deep, familiar emotions and never described in such black and white terms. A mother speaks of the birth of her child even decades later with mixed emotions; the pain of childbirth but even greater, the joy of bringing a child into the world. Sometimes it’s easy for us to forget that God also highly anticipates the spiritual birth of His children, rejoicing at that first instant of newfound faith in Christ. As Jesus spoke of the parable of the lost sheep, he said these words:
“And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. (Matthew 18:13)
Luke records the parable of the lost sheep with these additional words:
“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:6-7)
When we get out of the habit of caring about the souls of other people, or if we’ve never cared, we fail to not only carry that joy in our own hearts, but we also fail to rejoice in that which God Himself rejoices in.
Born also gives us some kind of clue as to the nature of salvation. There is not a person out there who could say, “I chose to be born. I wanted to be conceived and to come into this world and to do this or that.” While many people may at times wish they’d never been born (see Job 3), it’s not something we have control over in being conceived and born, is it? There is certainly an elective nature to the statement that we are born of (the will) of God. Consider two of the various passages relative to this concept:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. John 6:37
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6
Salvation is both active and passive. Active, in that I express real, legitimate faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the acceptance of God; passive in that I am acting in accordance with His predestined plan for me to save me, keep me, work through me and glorify me. When it comes to salvation, God takes center stage for our story; it is because of Him that we respond at all to the message. Were He not the one opening our eyes, convincing our hearts, making us alive, sensitizing us to sin and to righteousness, we would not budge no matter how clear the Gospel message was. We would not respond favorably without His favor being established in eternity past.
Now, let’s consider the three avenues John says people do not become believers through:
1.Not of blood. Salvation is not transferred by family ties. This especially would speak to Jews, having a heritage of being the people of God (v. 11, “He came to His own”). No one ever got a personal exemption from placing their own faith in the Messiah, whether it was faith in the Messiah to come, faith in the Messiah at hand, or faith like we have today, which is in the Christ (Messiah) who came. Belief is non-transferrable and it’s no guarantee that even the godliest parent, alive in Christ, will have children who grow up to follow suit. Evangelism is necessary just as much in the home as it is in the inner cities or jungles of Africa. Familiarity can at times be a great vulnerability overlooked, whether it’s in the home or the church. We have to be careful that we don’t raise people who simply look the part and talk the talk; we want to encourage true faith at the core.
2. Nor of the will of the flesh. The term “sarx” is used here (Greek for “flesh”), and in its usage, actually refers to the source of sexual, physical desire in a person. What this is speaking to is desire or decision for acceptance with God. We hear that terminology a lot in American evangelicalism. D.A. Carson says this:
“another way of describing those who receive the Word is suggested by the ‘children of God’ metaphor: they are children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentary, Leicester: Intervarsity Press 1991), 126.
Interestingly, on the will of the flesh, we can say this: Christians are not born again spiritually because of their desire foundationally. Yes, we respond to a message calling us to believe often with desire, but we are not made alive because of desire. The foundation of belief, therefore, is not that a person wants to be saved, but that God has chosen them to be saved, and at His particular timing, they want it as He works the want in them. You may refer to salvation in this fashion: faith itself does not save you, but you can’t be saved without faith. How can I say that? Faith itself can be placed in any number of people, objects, idols and false gods. That is the reason why sincerity cannot be the guideline for whether or not someone is saved, but rather, the object of their faith. You must entrust your life to Christ in order to be saved, but Christ must fulfill His word to you to be shielded from the wrath to come.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
3. Nor of the will of man. The will of man may at first sight look like a rehashing of the phrase “the will of the flesh”, but they’re not the same. Various commentators will note that we are speaking here of a man-made system. Is there a system whereby we can create believers, perhaps a series of “hoops to jump through” or steps to take to churn out Christians? The answer is no. Even evangelical, Bible-believing Christians need to be careful that they don’t put so much stock in something like a plan of salvation or Roman’s Road that it would be regarded as foolproof. Certainly systems can be of help in laying out a line of logic, but they can’t guarantee a genuine understanding of spiritual truths and they can’t guarantee that a person’s faith is truly in Christ rather than trusting in the system itself. “Did you do X, Y, or Z?” is reason for caution when examining the genuineness of our faith or any other’s for that matter. As was mentioned regarding verse 12 in yesterday’s devotional, belief is not simply a “Have you done?” but a “Do you still?” Do you still believe? Do you still obey? Do you still place your hope in Christ for acceptance with God? (Have you ever?)
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 1 John 5:1-2
Here are some questions to consider for today:
Can you think of at least one missionary today you could pray for right now?
How can this passage be used to bring us to worshiping God?
How does receiving Christ (1:12) relate to being born of God (1:13)?
Let’s finish up with a song of praise of the goodness of God!