“Making Salvation an Every Day Thing” John 3:5,6; Titus 3:5,6; John 11:43,44 4/15/12 Identity, Quickening, Church.
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ (John 3:5,6)
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5,6).
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:43,44)
The little boy was talking to his mother and said, “Today I am going to be a fireman.” She said “Okay, but always remember you will always be my boy.” The next day the same boy told his mother, “Today I am going to be a doctor.” The mother said, “Okay, but always remember- you will always be my boy.” The next day the boy said, “Today I am going to be president- but Mom- when I’m president that doesn’t mean you can keep telling me what to do, does it?” There are some things that change every day. But there are some things that never change. Being able to know what things ought to change and adapt and what things are more important and worth keeping all of life is one of the keys to living a productive, fruitful life.
One of the things that should never change is remembering that we are God’s. If we believe in God, we are His- whether we are young, old, rich, poor, move far away or stay close at home. It is a hurtful and shameful thing to disown God just as it is a hurtful and shameful thing to disown your family. There are some families from whom we should distance ourselves. But God’s family isn’t one of them. Remember who you are and whose you are. Remember to whom you are born- and that you were born again into God’s family. It is the Spirit of God that puts us there. The Spirit gives us our identity, our life, and our church family. This happens when we are regenerated.
We should not change who we are only when we are in church. It is a sad thing when someone is living a double life – living one way in church and another way at school/work/home. The police officerwho is taking drug money will have a hard time doing both of those for very long. I saw a documentary this past week about the double agent spy who was the basis for the real 007- his name was Dusan Popov. Popov met Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond books, when he was a double agent for both the Germans and the British. But Popov had to escape the Germans because they about discovered his duplicity. Even the master double agent could only do it for so long. You cannot serve God and the devil, Jesus said. But many try to serve both sides. Their goal is to be worldly Christians. Trying to conform to the world- fitting in to our culture, and trying to be true and faithful and holy for God. Nut these two ways of life eventually conflict. You cannot be half pregnant. If my child comes to me and says, “Dad I think I’m a little bit pregnant” I would smile. But neither can you be half born-again. You cannot be half resurrected. You are either alive to God or you are not. Too many are made alive to Christ and then they want to go back into the tomb because it was cool in there, there are lots and lots of dead people- some of whom were great friends of theirs, and they stand out like a sore thumb when they are alive. Can you see Lazarus saying, “Wow this is really neat to experience this resurrection. But now everybody will think I’m different. Maybe I should just go back and be like all the other people who die and stay dead.” Or could you see Lazarus say, “I’ll come out of the tomb on Sunday but go back in Monday through Saturday.” Yet that is what many purposefully try to do with their lives. We do not need to be a Christian on Sunday and a heathen the rest of the week. If the world sees this, they will probably just say, “That’s weird. If you are born again- regenerated- awakened to Christ- then you want to be alive to Him all the time- every day. It is hard to serve Him. But it is even harder to be a double agent.
The Holy Spirit is the One who takes this old faith and makes it alive. He “quickens” us- makes us alive to God. He makes these old words live in our hearts. Not everyone who hears these words responds to them. Two people can hear the same scripture read. One will say that is old fashioned and boring and the other will say- “Man that is amazing!” The difference is the Spirit. It is amazing to me how two people can sit in the same class- hear the same teacher talk- and one will get it and another will not. For one person the light bulb comes on- and the other it looks very dark in there- in between the two ears. But the Christian faith is not just about education- or enlightenment. It is about the Holy Spirit enabling us to hear. You can be someone who has a second grade education and be a stronger Christian than the greatest theologian in the biggest seminary. Never does the scripture say “You have to be educated.” In fact, in Jesus day, the Pharisees and scribes were well trained about religion and the thought of the day. Perhaps if anything- from a human perspective has to happen it is that we humble ourselves enough to let God work, and we simply trust in Him after He begins to lead us (and even this is a gift from the Spirit). You know the first time I ever went water skiing I was nervous and scared. But I had to learn that the person driving the boat was going to help me and come back to me if I sank. I just needed to trust and hang on. When the rope gets slack and the wake gets high- it is not time to let go- it is time to hang on, bend a little- let the driver pull you through it.
The Holy Spirit renews us- calls us out like Jesus called out Lazarus, and we respond. He says, “Come Out!” and we come. Similarly, Jesus told the little girl who was dead “Talitha Koum” – rise up- and she did. Theologians call this regeneration. It is a word like “rebirth” or “being born again.” Regeneration means that God makes us alive to Him when we could not make ourselves alive. Titus says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost.” We have this image that we earn our way toward God- but God’s image is that we were dead and He made us alive. It is like Ezekiel being brought to a valley of dry bones- and is asked, “Can these bones live?” The Spirit gives us life. The sign in front of our church says, “He is alive and offers life.” A dead man cannot offer life. A dead philosopher cannot offer life. A dead surgeon cannot operate on you. But Jesus is alive and His Spirit- the Spirit of Christ- the Holy Spirit- quickens us. He opens the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind to the reality of God all around us. But when the Spirit calls us- this is called “Effectual Calling” and “regeneration” is a part of it.
The Spirit CALLS US TO CHURCH. He places us in a family for support and to support. When the Spirit calls us we do not need to come out and then keep our old grave clothes on. Part of the duty of the church is to come and take our grave clothes off. Don’t go back to those who want to stay in the tomb. Go to those who want life. Let the church come and help peel away the things that bind you. The grave clothes back in those days weren’t a nice suit and a nice dress. But they were similar to what you have seen as mummy wrap. They would put a cloth over your face, wrap you, but perfumes and spices and wrap you again. Now it was almost impossible to walk with these things binding together your feet and legs. It was like you were tied down. So Christ is telling the church around him- “Take off his grave clothes and let him go.” He knew Lazarus- and knew old Lazarus wouldn’t head back into the tomb- but would be a witness for Him. Lazarus was alive but he still needed some help. Part of what it means to be the church is to help people to begin their walk- their new life.
The Mega Millions Lottery reached unprecedented record levels- the biggest lottery winnings in history- $656 million. The winning prize numbers were 2-4-23-38-46 and three tickets with those numbers were purchased in Kansas, Illinois, and Maryland. The Maryland winners did not come forward for about ten days. One lady in Maryland claimed she had the ticket and lost it. She did not. The stunning thing about this unprecedented lottery is that the people who had the ticket for a long time didn’t seem to want to claim it. The good news for them is that they finally came forward. Last year a half billion went unclaimed in lottery prizes. We need to claim our prize, and not let it just sit there. Too many know about Christ and heaven but do not claim it. We claim it by responding to the Holy Spirit who enables us to hear it. If you can hear, if you can respond, it is by the Holy Spirit who is calling you. We have a greater gift than $656 million. I wouldn’t trade all the money in this world for a minute in exchange for heaven forever. The invaluable gift is for each of us. Part of claiming the ticket for us is publicly saying you believe- and becoming part of the church.
When God calls us we need to respond- claim the ticket- and not let anything get in the way. Christ calls us to be born again. He calls us to the church. The Christian truth that God calls us is not just an academic exercise. It is not a matter of religious trivia. Christian truth is for application and life. The call of God is a call to be a concrete part of a concrete, touchable, visible body- the church. Part of joining a church is making a commitment to have some people come and help you, and maybe you can help someone else on their faith journey. Christianity is not meant to be lived solo. It is a religion of love- where we are able to love and help and where others love and help us. Becoming a member of a church – is not saying that the church is perfect, it is just simply plugging in. It is claiming what is yours- not just the faith, but also the family. For we are born again not into a vacuum, but into a family by the Holy Spirit.