walk in the word
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy caused us to be born again . . .”
1 Peter 1:3
One hundred years from today nobody’s going to be talking about the war in Iraq, the economy, or the election. Nothing else will matter to any of us except one thing—our salvation. Do you have it? If you do, it’s the delight of your life. It’s God’s gift freely given. It’s the theme of the universe: the Creator reaching out to fallen man, extending a nail-pierced hand to pull people to Himself. Those who would accept His offer are changed for eternity through the life and blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. And those who refuse Him plunge permanently head-long into a Christ-less, hope-less eternity.
The Bible calls this salvation a lot of different terms. Romans 5:16 refers to it as “justification”, which means to be legally forgiven by God. Peter said it’s being “redeemed,” (1 Peter 1:18-19) as in “God lovingly buying you back from slavery to sin.” Titus 3:5-6 calls it “regeneration,” as in “internally made alive by God.” Forgiven, bought back, made alive—that’s salvation.
For the next several weeks on the broadcast, we are in a verse-by-verse study through 1 Peter called, Reality Check: Find the Hope when Life is Hardest. The more we learn about God’s design for His children, the more we are strengthened by the facts surrounding our salvation in all its dimensions. First Peter begins our story this way:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy caused us to be born again . . .” (1:3)
God’s mercy is an amazing thing to think about. Bring to mind your most difficult relationship. Remember the last time that person did something or said something that made you squirm? Did you scream inside: “They can’t get away with that! Something’s gotta be done!”
Mercy sees that injustice and withholds the judgment that person deserves. How hard is that?! And that’s just with one person. Now think about what it means for the God of the universe to be willing to withhold from all of us what we truly deserve . . . and then multiply that by all time. No wonder Peter said, “…according to His great mercy He caused us to be born again.”
What exactly does it mean to be born again?
Some have questioned, “Born again—I hear people talking about that all the time. What does it really mean?” Jesus was asked that same thing by a religious ruler who came to Him in the middle of the night. The pharisee Nicodemus was like, “I want to have eternal life!” And Jesus was like, “Well, you’ve got to be born again” (John 3:3). And Nick was like, “Huh?” So Jesus explained the metaphor, “That which is born of water is physical,” (referring to the water in giving birth) “and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Jesus is like, “You have to be born again,” you have to be born two times. Why? Because when you’re born physically, you are spiritually dead. As hard as it is to imagine, every bouncing, beautiful baby is as spiritually dead as a doornail. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “ Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” a second time.
I’ve always remembered this truth this way: “Born once, die twice.” If you’re only born one time, you’re going to die physically and spiritually. But if you’re born twice, physically and spiritually, you’re only going to die once, physically, but you will spiritually live forever! Born once—die twice; born twice—die once.
First Peter 1:3 goes on to say “God…according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope.” Some would say that “living hope” is the forgiveness of sins or it’s going to heaven someday, but in reality it’s much more than that. The key word here is “a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” When you hear that word “resurrection”, think one word: Alive! Jesus is alive, risen from the dead and because He is—we can be eternally alive, too.
Christianity is first and foremost a relationship with the resurrected Jesus Christ. As His followers, we love Him, we believe in Him, and we’re living for our resurrected Savior. That’s what Christianity is all about!
Accept No Substitute.
I could have easily stopped after that last paragraph but I’ve got one more thing to say because I don’t want you to miss any of the joy of our great salvation. There’s a subtle thief in the church today that creeps in when we aren’t careful and steals our focus. The thief is letting good things distract us from the main thing. The main thing that we are to be about as born again, regenerated people is living for Jesus Christ. Remember that. We’re about Christ. Accept none of these substitutes, no matter how godly they look:
Music: In our worship of Christ, sometimes we get caught up in the music. “Oh, I love this song” and “doesn’t she have a great voice?” Forget all that—focus on who’s the music about. Who is it for? In all honesty we could all admit that it’s easy to sing a bunch of songs in church but never give complete attention to who the song is about and for whose glory we sing it—our Living Hope, this Person, Jesus Christ.
Here’s another substitute: Ministry. “I love to roll up my sleeves and serve God!” “I like to usher,” “I’m in children’s ministry” and “I fold bulletins every week. I love to work for God!” But do you love the God for whom you work? Keep this priority in your mind: it’s all about Jesus.
And then there’s Fellowship. Some people are like, “Oh, I can’t wait to get to my small group on Tuesday night. I love those people.” Hey—the body of Christ is not the Rotary Club, OK? We don’t love each other because we’re committed to the same cause; we love Christ in one another! The thing about you that’s praiseworthy and amazing is not you at all; it’s Christ coming out through you—that’s what we love about each other.
God protect us from anything being central in our lives but Jesus Christ, the living hope by the resurrection of Christ. Got it? We are born again to a living hope—born again to proclaim the power of God that is ours in the resurrected, living Person of Christ Jesus. That’s what’s powerful and great about our salvation. It’s all about Him.
We could stay on that page forever—and you know what? We will!
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