August 1, 2010
Intro: The first gift God gave man is the freedom of choice. He gave that to Adam. Adam was perfect and pure but he was faced with a choice. The choice was to believe God or not. To obey God or not. We know what happened and the consequence thereof. We still have that freedom of choice but that’s what keeps man from coming to God and Christ. Don’t we all want to have our way? Don’t we all want to have the right to choose what we want to believe? Don’t we resists when told what to do? And do we always make the right choices? There is a two letter word in the Bible that gives us this freedom of choice. The word “IF”.
“If” is defined as a conjunction used to indicate the circumstances that would have to exist in order for an event to happen. My definition of “if” is, it is God’s gift of choice given to us, to make decisions according to God’s will that reveals whether we believe God and thus confirms or exposes ones relationship with God.
I now submit to you that even though we have the freedom to choose, but if left on our own to choose the God of the Bible, we will not. The reason is plain, man is spiritually dead because we all have sinned. Until we are born again we cannot understand, believe the truth and then to keep it. Here’s how Paul explains this,
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them for they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2:14
There is a buffet of religions to choose from today. Man will choose what is convenient, fits his lifestyle or stick to what was passed on to us by our parents. But even if our parents are born again Christians, we do not automatically choose the truth. I know many children are practically dragged to church by their parents even though they don’t want to. But wait till they get their freedom and leave home many will stop coming to church, unless they have been born again. Now, let me ask this question, can we choose to be born again? According to the truths we learned from last Sunday’s message, we cannot. Born of God is from God and by God. Born from above. We cannot give birth to our dead spirit.
When Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” could Nicodemus do that by himself? In fact he was perplexed because he did not understand what Jesus meant. His understanding was only earthly, that of going back to his mother’s womb which was impossible. What Jesus said is spiritually discerned.
I did not know about being born again when by the grace of God, Jesus saved me
after I heard the gospel and was convicted by the Holy Spirit of my sin and my need to be saved from hell. The need to be born again was never mentioned because that is not what saved me nor will save anyone. I only learned that I was born again after I was discipled and started reading the Bible myself. I believe Nicodemus came to understand what being born again means after he too got saved after his spirit was made alive, believed in Jesus as his Lord and Savior and did what he did when he and Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus. Here’s where we will focus and find the answers to this question,
“How do I know I have been born again?”
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:1b-3
We will take our source of truth from the gospel of John as spoken by Jesus. There are also “ifs” that Jesus used for himself, for example,
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid…For the very work that the Father has given me to finish and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” John 5:31-32, 36b
The “if’s” we will look into pertains and is addressed to us and determines whether we have been born again or not. Like there are two sides of a coin, and we ought to know which side we are on, the right side or the wrong side.
Here’s the first if in the gospel of John,
“If you knew the the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
Jesus addressed this to a Samaritan woman. Jesus revealed Himself to her by telling her that He is the Messiah. “I who speak to you am he.” Because Jesus revealed Himself to her, she was enlightened by the Holy Spirit and believed. Not only did she believe but she could not help but tell others that resulted in,
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” John 4:39
At another time Jesus calls out and gives this invitation to the people,
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John7:37-38
Who are those who are thirsty and will drink? Those whom the Father gives him.
How do you judge yourself? Do you claim to be without sin? How do you measure yourself compared to others? Do you judge them and are better than them?
“If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
In John’s first letter, he said that “If we claim we have not sinned we make God a liar.”
Then, who are you following? Whose teaching do you keep? Religion or Christ’s?
“If you hold on to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
All of us have followed different religions and observed and kept their teachings. One who is born again and enlightened of the truth will know which and whose teachings they are now following.
Here’s a fact of those who are the true followers of Jesus and hold on to His teachings. They have changed their minds about sin and repented of their beliefs.
“So if the Son has set you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Here’s, what I believe is the first and real evidence that one has been born again.
Jesus said to them, “If God is your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own but he sent me.” John 8:42
How do I know if I love Jesus? Is it because I can feel it? Feeling is not the true measure of loving Jesus because our feelings change just like the weather and also depends on our mood. Here’s the real test and evidence that we love Jesus.
“If you love me, you will obey my commands.” John 14:15
“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” John 14:23
I have heard some professing Christians say, I am struggling with obeying God. They might as well say, I am struggling with loving God. Obedience to the commands and teachings of Jesus is the by product of ones love for Jesus. And if we have not been born again and we do not have the Holy Spirit in us, we cannot love Jesus that is produced by the Holy Spirit and we will not obey Him 100%.
A dead spirit cannot love with the love of God nor have the power to obey. One who is born again knows the purpose why God saved him and will remain in Him.
“If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Remaining in him means we are in fellowship, walking and following Christ. He also warns us what happens to those who will not remain in him?
“If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:6
Does this mean that they have not been born again? I believe they are born again except that they are not fruitful and are likened to a branch that will be cut-off because it has become useless. Unbelievers have never been connected to the vine. Believers who are unfruitful will not experience the abundant life Jesus promised and are living a miserable Christian life. It is like an investment that did not make any profit. It is removed from the market. I believe this is an early physical death.
On the other hand, those who are fruitful because they remain in Christ, growing in their love relationship and obedient to all His command and used by Christ to advance the gospel, here’s what Christ promised to them.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” John 15:7
One who is so in tuned with Christ and closely following Him, our wishes will be right because it comes from Him so that when we ask it will certainly be given.
Again, Jesus repeats what He said earlier.
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:10
And here’s more, we all want to be loved. We know that we are saved because we have experience God’s love. But what is the difference between being loved and remaining in His love?
Can you imagine having the same love relationship that Jesus had with His Father? The good news is we too can have that same love relationship that Jesus had with His Father. The highest and greatest love relationship between man and God is the love relationship the man Christ Jesus had with God His Father. That’s the same love relationship that we can have if we remain and obey all of Christ’s command. Our love for Him will be consistent and constant and we will experience His love to the fullest.
What else comes with being born again that we will surely experience.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That’s why the world hates you.”John 15:18-19.
Who love you most the believers or unbelievers? We are not hated for being bad but because we are becoming like Christ, being conformed to His likeness. The world will hate us because we are light that exposes darkness and sin.
Lastly the Lord gives us the privilege to be a channel of the greatest blessings to those He will save – the salvation of their souls when their sins are forgiven.
“If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John20:23
The Roman Catholic religion uses this passage to give the authority to forgive sins to priests. According to the Bible, only God can forgive. In fact specifically it is only Jesus who can forgive. I am now going to use another passage from Scripture to back this up.
“In him we have redemption through his blood the forgiveness of sins.” Eph. 1:7.
So what did Jesus mean when He said, if you forgive anyone his sins? We have the choice to preach the gospel or not. And when we do, Christ can forgive their sins.
“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47
The last “if” given by Jesus in the gospel of John is not for us to choose or decision to make but according to His will, He decides,
When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:22.
Peter was referring to John. Did John remain alive? No He died boiled in oil in the island of Patmos after he lived a long time and after he was brought up to heaven in his physical body to see what must take place in the near future according to the will and plan of God so he can write Revelation. Is this also true to us? Yes. He knows when He will take us to be with Him but while He keeps us here, what does Christ expects of us, “We must follow Him.” Are we following Him?
Where are you in all the “if’s”? As defined, “if” is a conjunction used to indicate the circumstances that would have to exist in order for an event to happen. But the use of the “if” in the Bible is also the evidence that the event has happened and affirms whether we have been born again or not.
Judge yourself. Do you know if you are born again? Here’s what Paul wrote.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless of course, you fail the test.” 2 Cor. 13:5
Are you a new creation? I believe if you are you know in your heart by the witness of the Holy Spirit and because you are on the right side of the coin.
If you are here today and have come to realize that these “ifs” are not true in your life, because first you have not heard nor responded to the gospel by repenting of your sins and receiving Christ Jesus as the Lord of your life in order to save you.
Then this could be the day the Lord is calling you, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me … streams of living water will flow from within.”
Come to Jesus…
From Julius Aquino at Filipino International Christian Fellowship