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There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.  (John 3:1-21)

In this reading, a religious leader came to Jesus seeking understanding.  Jesus revealed to him that, in spite of all his religious knowledge, there was one thing in particular he lacked. There were things Nicodemus would never be able to understand without a spiritual new birth. People may see the results of that new birth in the lives of those who have it, but they can’t understand how and where those results come from.  Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was working miracles, and knew it must be by the power of God. But he didn’t recognize Jesus as more than a teacher come from God.

Jesus came to give new life. He came to deal with SIN.  Sin leaves people spiritually dead and separated from God. Jesus came to give us new life… spiritual life, free from sin, reconciled to God. That life is imparted to us when we repent (turn from our sin with true godly sorrow and seek God and His will with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength), confess (acknowledge to God that we have sinned against Him and are in need of His forgiveness), and believe (in Him as our Lord, worthy of our honor and obedience, and as our Saviour, with power to save us from both the penalty and the power of sin). When we meet those conditions, He will make a change in us. He will change our hearts and enable us to do the will of God in a miraculous way.

Jesus went on to say that He didn’t come to condemn us. While in our sin and unbelief, we were already condemned. But He came to give us light and life. However, we must love light to get the life! If we love our sin, we will not come to the light. We will love darkness, and will remain in the death of sin. Darkness makes excuse for sin. It will tell you that you can’t be free from sin, but will be a sinner all your days. Darkness will call itself light, and will call light darkness. It will tell you that the laws of God do nothing but make you feel guilty. Well, if the laws of God reveal our true condition as a sinner, than we should feel guilty! But we don’t have to stay there!

Jesus came to deliver us from sin. Do you recognize yourself as a sinner? Do you want to be delivered from your sins and be enabled to live a life pleasing to God? It may seem impossible to you.  In your own strength, it is impossible; but with God, nothing is impossible.new birth

Here is the way:  Repent…confess… believe… and let the power of God work in you.  The old life will pass away, and all things become new.

A new birth, a new life!

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What God Did For Me

God’s way is best. God keeps His promises. God never fails. How do I know these statements to be true? Personal experience. What a wonderful thing!

There was a time of terrible trouble in my life. My marriage had failed and financially, I was a mess. I was unsure how I would put food on our table or pay our bills. I was broke and broken. In that moment of desperation, I cried out, “Oh, God! What am I going to do?”

I don’t think I consciously addressed my question to God; it was probably more of a slang “Oh god”, than “Oh God”, but, GOD answered! He answered me with a question of His own. “Are you ready now to do things My way?”

Wow! What a question! What clarity! In a moment, I realized and acknowledged that I had been going my own way; and my own way had not produced what I had hoped. What a mess! And with that realization, God spoke again. He said, “If you will do things my way, I will take care of you.” What a wonderful promise! What a wonderful hope! What an assurance and peace!

My heart said, “Yes! I don’t know what God would have me do, but… YES!”
And from that moment, things began to happen! The blessings began to pour in, one at a time. God began to supply our needs. But He didn’t stop with just supplying our physical needs, like food, child care, a car, a job promotion, etc. He got the message of Salvation to me. My greatest need was deliverance from sin. I knew about the doctrine of “Forgiveness”, but knew nothing about deliverance, although my heart had been crying out for it for years!

God led me to some people who took time to study with me out of the Bible. We studied about “Repentance”, which I learned meant to turn from my own ways with real godly sorrow and turn to God, willing to quit all that I knew was wrong. We studied about “Justification”, the work that God does in our soul when we truly repent. He forgives us, and washes away all the guilty stains, and we start over with a new beginning and a new clean heart and mind. We studied about holiness, and I learned from the Word of God that holiness is necessary, made possible by the grace of God working in us. The foundation of truth was being presented to me, and all that remained was for my faith to take hold of it.

I remember one night in our Bible Study realizing that there was such a thing as “Salvation”, and I didn’t have it. I immediately asked, “What do I need to do to be saved?” The answer was really very simple. Confess, repent, and believe the Gospel.

“Confess”: Acknowledge that I was a sinner. No problem there! I knew I was a sinner. There was no denying that!

“Repent”: Turn from my sins and seek to know and do God’s will. No problem there! I had made that determination way back when God spoke to me, asking if I was ready to do things His way.

What more? I knew I wasn’t yet saved!

“Believe”: Now that was the difficult part! To believe I could be changed and enabled to live a holy life — The Word of God declared it to be possible, and that it was God’s will and His plan — And oh how I wanted it to be true! But, to believe He would forgive me of all I had done wrong, that was the hardest to believe.

I was encouraged to pray; to plead the blood of Christ that was shed for that very purpose; to plead the promises of God given to “whosever will”; and to believe that God, who cannot lie, would keep His promise to me. I kneeled right there in that living room with those dear friends and prayed, seeking salvation. I prayed again later that night at my own home, asking God to give me an assurance that salvation was real, and that I could be saved. I still felt so guilty and unworthy.

The next evening, during the church service, the men’s quartet sang the song, “The Prodigal Son.” As they were singing, God gave me such a vision of myself as that son, Prodigal Son Fatherreturning home seeking only to be a servant. Yet there was the Father, watching and waiting, hoping and praying for that lost son (daughter, in my case) to return! Thank God! The final piece of the puzzle fell into place!

“Believe.” My faith took hold! The work was done! As my faith reached out to take hold of the promises of God, the Father reached His hand to me and did the work in my soul that no other power could do. It was real that day so long ago, and it is still real today!

God’s way is best, He keeps His promises, and He never ever fails!Prodigal Son Returns

Here is a link to a YouTube video of the Cathedrals singing The Prodigal Son:  https://youtu.be/EqIXhZNwzg8

God Sees

God sees pictureProverbs 5:21 …the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth his goings.
2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.
Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
Jeremiah 16:17 …mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.
Jeremiah 32:19 …thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Hebrews 4:12-1-2, 9-13 Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. …There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Psalm 34:11-22 Come ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

Today I began a study from a series of lesson plans developed by a woman I had opportunity to meet, a former missionary in Cuba, by the name of Phyllis Martin Griffin. These lessons were the curriculum used in a Bible School to train gospel ministers from among the Cuban people, covering basic and necessary Bible doctrines.  The first lesson was on the topic of The Scriptures, The Word of God.

I will share some of my thoughts from the first scripture she cited in the lesson.

Psalm 1:1-6  Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Happiness comes from following God’s advice.  The ungodly, those who are living their lives without or contrary to the will of God, are like the chaff, blown and driven by the winds of this temporary world. They seek for those things that satisfy the flesh and mind, neglecting what will reconcile them to God and God’s plan for their lives here and for eternity. But those who take pleasure in knowing and doing the will of God are steady, stable, satisfied in those things that are right and true, pure and lovely. The ungodly are unable to abide judgment, God’s declaration of right and wrong.  Nor are they comfortable among the righteous. The true judgments of God shine light on all that is right or wrong, holy or unholy.  That light shines whether the truth is spoken, or whether it is displayed in the day to day fruitful life of a true and righteous child of God.

Jesus let us know that the fruit is an important indicator of where we stand with God.

Matthew 7:16-23  Ye shall know them by their fruits… every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit… Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire… Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

And the Apostle Paul identifies the types of fruit people bear, depending on whether or not they are following the influence of the Spirit of God, which always leads according to the Word of God.

Galatians 5:19-24  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

It is the Word of God that reveals our true condition, and God’s true will for our lives. And that light of truth and understanding is available to all.

Psalm 119:130  The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

It is available to all who choose to seek and follow it.

Psalm 119:30  I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.

All Scripture is given for our benefit:

2 Timothy 3:16-17  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

 

Reference:  Link for full Bible School lessons

Matthew 6:10  (Jesus told us to pray in this manner:) Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

This is quite a high standard of life, to do the will of God as well here on earth, in our earthly bodies, as do those living in heaven!  Jesus instructed us to pray that we would live to that standard.

And He prayed for us, also, that by the influence of God, we would be able to live to that standard.

John 17:15  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

He did even more than pray for us; He gave His life for that purpose:

Galatians 1:4  (Jesus) gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.

The Bible defines and gives good instruction concerning “the world”:

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

This is speaking of those things that excite our fleshly appetites, or draw our attention and affections towards things that are not pure, or appeal to our desire for the praise of men rather than the approval of God.  All of these things belong only to this temporal world, and will have no place in the eternal realm.  We are instructed to “love not” those things.  Elsewhere, we are instructed to “set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”

 

We can look to God to lead us, establish us, and keep us in a life of holiness.

2 Thessalonians 3:3  But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

Temptations will come, but we have this assurance:

2 Peter 2:9  The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.

The Bible lets us know that all have sinned; but Jesus made it possible for us to be delivered from sin, born again to a new life of holiness.  When we confess our sins (acknowledge that we are guilty) and look to Jesus as Saviour, He will forgive us and cleanse us from all our sin.  Jesus, when here on Earth, told sinners to “Repent” and “to go and sin no more.”  He said, “Ye must be born again.”  It takes a work of God in our hearts to change us from a sinner to a saint; from a child of the devil to a child of God.  The work of salvation is a work of God that raises us from spiritual death in sin to a life of holiness in Christ.

1 John 5:18-19  We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.  And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

Recently I witnessed a professing Christian deliberately entering into temptation, and I thought, “Well, they certainly must not be praying in all honesty and sincerity that God would lead them not into temptation!”

Jesus instructed us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation. He told us to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” From this scripture we can identify that the reason many people enter into temptation is either their spirit is not willing, and they really desire to gratify their fleshly desires more than to know and do the will of God, or their flesh is weak because they have not availed themselves of the grace of God to empower them to avoid or resist the temptation.

1 Cor 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.

If we truly want to serve God faithfully, we must by faith know and take hold of the promises and grace of God to actively and successfully resist temptation.

Proverbs 1:10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.

Proverbs 4:14 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.

Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.

Read 2 Peter 2 which gives us much instruction and warning: Vs 9-10 These verses let us know that God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, but those that walk after the flesh, refusing to be governed, will yield to unrighteousness, and will face the judgment of God. And Vs 19-20 warns us of people who may talk about “liberty”, yet they are overcome by their own fleshly desires and have returned to or have never been delivered from sin. Be very careful who you are listening to. We must take heed to the Word of God, because that is the only truth that will stand now and on the day of final Judgment.

Because God is merciful, He many times gives much time and opportunity for people to have a change of mind and heart to really turn to Him. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is… longsuffering… not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance.

But we must take the admonition… 2 Peter 3:17 beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness… 2 Peter 3:11 Seeing… what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness… 2 Peter 3:14 be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

flight-into-egypt-958701-printNot long after Jesus’ birth, Herod attempted to destroy Him.  When the wise men came to Jerusalem seeking Jesus, they inadvertently alerted Herod of His birth.  Herod instructed the wise men to return to him and let him know where Jesus was, so that he might “come and worship Him also.”  Herod had no desire to worship Him.  His desire was to destroy Him.  However, the wise men were warned by God in a dream to return home another way, rather than returning to Herod.  And God intervened also to warn Joseph.  The account of the family’s departure and return is filled with prophecies fulfilled:

Prophecy:

Hosea 11:1  When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

Fulfillment:

Matthew 2:13-14, 19-20   And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.  When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:  and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son… But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel…

Prophecy:

Jeremiah 31:15  Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

Fulfillment:

Matthew 2:15-18  Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,  In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Prophecy:

Isaiah 9:1-2   Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.  The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Fulfillment:

Matthew 2:19-22   But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.  And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee.

Matthew 4:12-16  …he (Jesus) departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, he dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

Prophecy:

Judges 13:3-5  And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.  Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:  For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

Fulfillment:

Matthew 2:23  And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth:  that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Judges 13:5 is many times referenced in relation to Matthew 2:23.  The similarity can be recognized when we see how, at the time referenced in Judges 13, because of their sins against Him, God had allowed the children of Israel to be brought into bondage to the Philistines.  Then, He raised up a deliverer in the man Samson, to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Because of Jesus:

Luke 1:68-75    Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:  that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.