Spiritual Warfare: Preparation for Our Destiny

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Authorized by Christ

…to Take Down the Kingdom of Darkness

In our last exercise, Spiritual Warfare: A Question of Authority, we were introduced to the concept of Dominion; and, as part of that introduction, we learned that our Destiny, as God’s Children, is to one-day rule alongside of Christ in His Coming Kingdom.  In anticipation of and preparation for that Destiny, God gifted the first Man and Woman with the Authority that they (and we) would need to rule over His Earthly Creation.

Unfortunately, this Authority was lost—handed over to Satan, in fact—when Adam and Eve succumbed to his temptation to disobey God in order to become “gods” on their own terms—that is, apart from God and through their own wisdom and works.  Of course, it didn’t take long for them to realize what a foolish decision that was; for, not only did they immediately lose their (and our) Authority to rule, but both they and we became slaves to Satan, sin, and death in the process.

Thankfully, God already had a plan in place—a plan in which His Son, Jesus, would come to the Earth as a Man, live and die as a Man; and then, through His sacrificial and atoning death on the Cross, He would recover Man’s lost estate—which included the forfeited Right to Rule over the Earth.  It was this Authority that Jesus, upon the successful completion of His mission, restored to His Disciples, and to all who would later come to Faith in God through Him.

He May Have Lost His Authority but He Still Has His Teeth

If We’ve Already Won, Why Fight?

When we say that Jesus, through His Victorious Death and Resurrection, won back our lost Authority, we do not mean to imply that He divested Satan of any of his power.  That’s because, in spite of the often-interchangeable use of these words, Authority and Power are two different things.  As Dutch Sheets explains…

…authority and power are not the same.  Power is the ‘strength or force’ needed to rule; authority is the ‘right’ to do so.  They are governmental twins and must operate in tandem; authority without the power to enforce it is meaningless; power exercised without authority—the right to use that power—is usurpation and is morally wrong.

Satan didn’t gain any power at the fall and didn’t lose any at the cross.  His power or ability didn’t change at either event; his authority, or the right to use that power, did.  In fact, though Christians often state otherwise, Scripture nowhere says that Christ delivered us from or dealt with Satan’s power at Calvary.  He dealt with Satan’s authority.[1]

This difference is important for us to grasp because it will help us understand the Apostle Peter’s warning to…

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

It is also an important distinction to be made because…

If Jesus stripped Satan of his power, as some teach, then we longer need to concern ourselves with him—he becomes a nonissue.  Or if we Christians have been delivered from Satan’s power, as some teach, then he can no longer affect or control us.  We would be able to ignore him completely, which is precisely what many Christians do.

If on the other hand, Jesus dealt with Satan’s authority—the right to use his power or abilities—then we would need to deal with him as a usurper, a rebel, a thief that has no right to steal, kill, and destroy but will if not stopped (see John 10:10).  If we have been delivered from Satan’s authority and given a higher authority in Christ’s name, then we must exercise that authority over the devil’s works and power.  When we do, God’s awesome power will back up our authority.[2]

Since we know that Jesus has dealt with Satan’s authority, and we have been delivered from his authority and given a higher one in Christ’s name, we must use what we have been given to stop the works of the Satanic Usurper so that the Kingdom of Heaven can come to the Earth—just as God has always intended it to do.

For although Satan knows what Christ did to him at Calvary and through the Resurrection, and realizes that as a part of Christ the believer is his master, he still carries on a guerilla warfare against the Church through the use of subterfuge, deception, and bluff.  While guerilla warfare is illegal, it is still warfare and must be faced and overcome.  God could put Satan completely away, but He has chosen to use him to give the Church ‘on-the-job’ training in overcoming.  Otherwise, there would be no more warfare of any kind.

We are in apprenticeship for our place with Christ on the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  The crown belongs to the conqueror—and without an adversary there could be no practice in overcoming.[3]

Crown of Righteousness

Is There a Crown in Your Future?

An Apprenticeship in Overcoming

By definition, to overcome means to…

  • to get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat: as in, to overcome the enemy; or,
  • to prevail over (opposition, a debility, temptations, etc.); surmount: as in, to overcome one’s weaknesses.[4]

I don’t know about you but the thought of all this effort holds little to no appeal for me; as someone with a serious aversion to confrontation and conflict, it sounds like a lot more hostility and hardship than I want to sign up for.  Given my “druthers,” my flesh—that is, my body and soul—would prefer to coast along through life with as few physical challenges and emotional hassles as possible.  However, this just isn’t going to happen, is it?  As most of us can already attest to, life seems to be one series of obstacles after another; between which, if we are fortunate, we find brief periods of rest and relief.  So, in light of this, what should our attitude toward these obstacles be?

The Apostle Paul answers that question for us in Philippians 2:5, when he challenges us to…

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…

…a challenge which then begs the question, what kind of mind did Jesus have?  Having previously reviewed some of the humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction that Jesus encountered on His way to the Cross in our last exercise, and considering how He triumphed over every obstacle that stood between Him and the completion of His mission—a mission which ultimately ended with His victory over death itself—I think we can safely say that the mind of Christ was one of an Overcomer.

I bet you didn’t realize it at the time but, when you trusted Christ as your Savior, you also became an overcomer, just like Him.  That’s because, before you could even come to faith in Him, you had to overcome three really big obstacles; or, the things that the Bible refers to as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”   This means that on your way to the Cross, you had to overcome the downward pull of the world and its culture, the inward pull of your sinful human nature, plus all of the obstacles that were placed in your path by the devil solely for the purpose of keeping you away from Jesus.  And, since all of this was being accomplished over the course of time, you probably had no idea at all that this was what you were actually doing.

Overcomer

We Can Do All Things Through Christ

The truth is, that as distasteful as the thought of overcoming may be to our flesh, once we are Born Again through Christ, it becomes part of our spiritual makeup—that is, as these verses attest to, part of our Spiritual DNA…

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them [opposing spirits], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

Overcoming, then, is the process by which we, as the Church, learn to take authority over the obstacles and the enemies that are trying to keep God’s Will and Kingdom from coming to the Earth.  It is imperative that we become adept at this because, as the Bride of God’s Son, we will one-day be ruling with Him over this very same Kingdom.  As the Apostle Paul explains it…

…do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)

Therefore, in preparation for its glorious Destiny, the Church—the Bride of Christ…

…must learn the art of spiritual warfare, of overcoming evil forces in preparation for her assumption of the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  To enable her to learn the technique of overcoming, God devised the scheme of prayer.  To give her ‘on-the-job’ training, God delegated to her the authority to enforce His will right here on earth.  In order to enable her to acquire the character and the ‘know how’ she will need as co-sovereign, He has place upon her the responsibility and authority to enforce God’s will and administer His decisions in the affairs of earth.[5]

We’re in the Army Now!

God's Army

Our Faithful Service for Christ will bring us Eternal Rewards

Although they may be unaware of it at the time, when New Believers come to Christ for Salvation, in addition to being Born Again spiritually and adopted into the Family of God, they are also automatically inducted into the Armed Forces of God.  Make no mistake about it, this is by no means a Volunteer Army; for, everyone who is raised to New Life in Christ is immediately conscripted into it as one of His Soldiers.

Unfortunately, some of these Believers, due to a lack of adequate Discipleship Training, remain woefully ignorant of the Spiritual War that is raging around them and of their responsibility to do battle in it—so they never even report for Service.  Some others, when they are made aware of the conflict, acknowledge the reality of the situation but then refuse to become involved; leaving others to do the fighting for them, while they assume positions as Conscientious Objectors.  And, still others, when informed of the War and their status as Soldiers in it, flatly refuse to believe that it is real and go AWOL, choosing to live out their lives in a perpetual state of Spiritual Denial.

But, let’s not be counted among these!  Not only does their absence on the Spiritual Battlefield hurt the cause of Christ and hinder the coming of His Kingdom, but it also robs them of the rewards they may have otherwise received in that Kingdom.

Instead, let’s keep in mind that…

…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10); and,

…whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward (Colossians 3:23-24).

Then, we can…

…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14); being…

…fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21).

 

 

Mandisa reminds us that each of us is an “Overcomer” through Christ …

 

[1] Dutch Sheets, Authority in Prayer: Praying with Power and Purpose (Bethany House: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2006), 20.

[2] Sheets, Authority in Prayer, 21.

[3] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 91.

[4] overcome. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/overcome (accessed: August 27, 2017).

[5] Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, 49.

Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through the Word of God

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A well-worn Bible
We really stretched our spiritual muscles in our last exercise—Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Prayeras we learned how the Holy Spirit teaches us to talk to our Heavenly Father through prayer, and how He uses those prayers to…

Make us One with the Father in His Person; and,
Make us One with the Father in His Purpose.

 Additionally, through these prayers He opens up an emotional “love-line” between God and us; creating a place where we are free to express our deepest feelings and concerns without censure; and where, as our spirits and hearts become united with God’s over time, we are able to absorb and share in the things which are nearest and dearest to His heart.

Prayer, however, isn’t the only tool that the Holy Spirit uses in the restoration of our souls; He also relies on the Word of God to instruct us on how to listen to God, and to discern His will.  In much the same way that the Spirit employs prayer to bring our hearts into one accord with the Father’s, He uses the Word to transform our minds from ones programmed for evil by the world, our flesh, and the devil, into ones which have been rewired for righteousness by God—that is, ones having been brought into alignment with the very mind of Christ. 

Mind Under Construction

Mind Under Construction

For some insight into this mind, we need look no further than Philippians 2:5-8, where the Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonishes us to…

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient, to the point of death, even death on the cross. 

This sort of humble, selfless mindset certainly doesn’t resemble the ones we brought with us into our new relationships with God; rather, ours was more like the one described in Ephesians 4:17-18…

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 

To put it another way, while they were in their unregenerate states…

…our minds served no useful purpose as far as God and His kingdom were concerned;
…our mind’s ability to grasp or comprehend the Truth of the Gospel was clouded over;
…our minds were estranged from and even hostile to God;
…our minds were uneducated or untaught in the ways of God; all because…
…our hearts were rigidly firm in their will and purpose, and not easily penetrated by the Truth of God’s Word…

 …conditions which were due to the fact that…

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). 

All of this changed, however, when we were Born Again and the Holy Spirit moved in with us, beginning the transformation of our once darkened minds into ones filled with the light and life of Christ—and, ones in complete agreement with the will and purpose of God our Father.  A change as radical as this, though, isn’t something that takes place very quickly or easily.  It can only be brought about as we, who were previously uneducated and untaught in the ways of God, begin to learn…

Who God really is;
What His purposes are for mankind;
What His plans are for the earth; and,
The means He uses to see that these plans and purposes are achieved. 

Since this kind of information is not and has never been available to the minds of natural men, in order for us to obtain it, we must trust the Holy Spirit for its provision; for, it is He who…

…searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?

So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Holy Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:10-13).

And, it is these spiritual truths which He has made available to us is the Bible, the Spirit-inspired training manual on God and His Ways—and, the book also known to us as the Word of God.

Truth is


The Bible as the Word of God 

Although we often hear it spoken of as such, what do we really mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?  Well, in checking the dictionary for the meaning of the word “Word,” we find it formally defined as…

…a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning…[1]

…which is just a fancy way of saying that a word is the spoken or written representation of a person’s thoughts—a definition wholly consistent with the way it is used in John 1:1-4—where, the Word spoken of is a Person, who is none other than Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In this passage, the Greek term used for Word is logos which, roughly translated, means collected thought and wisdom and, in this case, refers to the collected thought and wisdom of God.  That is, in describing Jesus as the logos of God, John is saying that Jesus is the embodiment of the collected thought and wisdom of God, who was spoken into the world, not only during its creation and throughout all human history, but also in His Incarnation—something which he makes clear later in John 1:14, where he tells us that…

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In essence, he is saying that everything God thought about truth, righteousness, holiness, love, compassion, humility, mercy, grace, integrity, strength, perseverance, selflessness, and so much more, was expressed to us in Jesus.  And, not only that, everything that God intended for mankind to be was manifested in the flesh for us by Jesus.  As the righteous and obedient Son who came to carry out His Father’s will on the earth, He was, is, and always will be the Divine Template for what a Child of God should be like; and, He will be the One against whom we will all be measured—that is, as we all…

…attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:13-15).

It is this Word, then—this collected thought and wisdom of God made visible to us in the Person of Jesus—that the Holy Spirit has scribed, or written down, in a book called the Bible.


What We Need to Know about the Bible

When we speak of the Bible, what we are actually referring to is the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.  The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, which is a diminutive of biblos—the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos, or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts:  the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order—and, with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” were introduced, and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as “will,” the Hebrew for it is translated as “covenant.”  Therefore, when we speak of the “Old” and “New” Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.

Now, in order to add to our knowledge about and to enhance our study of the Bible, there are a few more things that we need to understand about it—the first being, it is unlike any other book that has ever been written.  It is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation to mankind—that exists in the world.  Actually, the Bible is not just one book but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, the Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.  Only the One who is able to declare that…

…I the Lord do not change… (Mal. 3:6), and …I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done (Is. 46: 9-10)…

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine inspiration, or through the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men, and then He guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing, as well as the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s; words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

Scribes at work on the Word

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was…

… breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

This breathing out by God means that the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God, an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from, or our rejections of, that truth.  As the only real source of truth in the world, the Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—that is, to live like Jesus—in the here and now, it also instructs him on how he can obtain eternal life, or the life in the hereafter, which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him through faith in Jesus.

Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.  This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, for every person who has ever lived, and that its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them; meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

The Bible is about Jesus

Some of the other things about it that we need to know are…

The Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth.  By that, I mean that it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people, who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, we also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for all of mankind, for the earth, and for His enemies, and learn about the person and character of God, as well.

The Bible is consistent in its method of teaching.  Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see, which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see, because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  And, toward this end, He purposefully incorporated things in His creation which He could use for His divine illustrations.

The Bible is ALL about Jesus.  He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of His Person is hidden within the pictures or types that were created by the lives of the Old Testament characters; and, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, though, He is seen overtly or openly, making His appearance in the flesh as the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types—and, as the physical manifestation to us of the collective thought and wisdom of God!  And, it is through His application of this thought and wisdom, which permeates every page of the Bible, that the Holy Spirit is able to transform our minds from the carnal to the spiritual, to restore our souls to their original function as mediators, and to teach us how to…

…prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).

Restoring the Mind and Emotions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2Instead of our usual musical selection, and to add to our understanding of the Bible we have been talking about, here is the video, “The Bible:  The Story Behind the Story,”  which is also available for viewing in our Video Vault…

 

 

 

[1] word. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/word (accessed: June 04, 2016).

Next Stop…New Birth!

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rain stationT

Leaving Salvation Station

Now that everyone is back on board the train, it’s time for us to leave the Salvation Station; the place where we introduced to God’s wonderful plan for saving sinners from death and destruction while, at the same time, adopting them as His very own children; in the process, giving them a hope in this life, as well as a glorious future in the next.

What we didn’t learn here, though, is just how we can appropriate this salvation that God has so graciously provided for us.  With that as our immediate goal, then, let’s make our way to the next stop on our tour, the New Birth Station; where we will not only discover what the New Birth is, but for those who have never been this way before, they will learn how they, too, can participate in the New Birth experience and be “born again.”

While some may consider the “head” knowledge of God’s salvation which we gained at our first stop to be sufficient for any venture into the world of the Word, for the purposes of this journey, that mere intellectual knowledge will prove to be woefully inadequate when it comes to providing us with access to all of the places listed on our itinerary.  That’s because, on this trip, we will actually be traveling from one land into another; going from the darkened land of the natural, where we live every day, into the illumined land of the spiritual, where God dwells eternally—and without an experiential knowledge of salvation, should we even make it into the Word, we would be at a loss to understand the language, the laws, and the culture of that land once we had arrived there.

I should also point out that there is a heavily guarded border which separates these two lands and, since it runs right through the  New Birth Station, before we can go any farther on our tour, we will have to stop there and make our way through Customs, before being allowed to cross the border.  The purpose of this processing is to help insure that all of us will have the “experiential” knowledge of salvation that it will take to make the rest of our trip truly enjoyable and productive.  And, once that has been done, we will be provided with the Passports that we will need for our further travel.

Customs Desk

“Anything to Declare?”

Well, what do you know—we’re here at the station already!  Quickly, before you leave the train, let me give you some instructions which should help to facilitate your processing through Customs.  As soon as you disembark, you will see two signs overhead:  one saying, “Something to Declare,” and the other saying, “Nothing to Declare.”  For those who are traveling in Group #1—those who have already experienced the New Birth—please proceed to the “Something to Declare” counter, where, when asked, you will declare “Salvation by the Blood of the Lamb,” be handed your passport, and then be escorted back to the comfort of the train.  However, those who are traveling in Groups #2 and #3 (and possibly some in Group #1 who are not certain that you’ve experienced the New Birth), will need to proceed to the “Nothing to Declare” counter, where you will begin your processing through Customs in the following order:

  • First, you will visit Room 1, where you will learn about the mandate for the New Birth;
  • Next, you will proceed to Room 2, where you will learn about the spiritual dynamics of the New Birth;
  • Then, you will go to Room 3, where you will learn about the legal reasons for the New Birth; and,
  • Finally, you will go to Room 4, where you can share in the experience the New Birth for yourself.

Once you have completed the process, you will also be escorted to the “Something to Declare” counter where, when asked, you too will have the opportunity to declare, “Salvation by the Blood of the Lamb,” be handed your passport, and then be escorted back to the comfort of the train.

Room 1…

Jesus and Nicodemus

Jesus Explaining the New Birth to Nicodemus

Here, you will learn what Jesus had to say about the New Birth, as you witness a scene taking place between Him and one of the religious leaders of His day.  This scene, as recorded for us in John 3:1-14, takes place one night as Nicodemus seeks out Jesus, for reasons which are never really made clear to us.  That’s because, before Nicodemus is able let us in on the motivation for this visit, Jesus, knowing the real need of his heart, tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (V.3).”  Thinking like a true natural man, Nicodemus tries to rationalize how he could go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time.  To this, Jesus responds, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and 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.  Do not be amazed that I said unto you, You must be born again’ (vv. 5-7).”

During the course of this interchange, Jesus makes it very clear that there is a fixed gulf between our fleshly beings and our spirits; and that, while everyone born into this world will be initially born into a fleshly or physical state, only those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God will be born into life in the Spirit.  Here, then, is the mandate, given by Jesus Himself, stating that anyone who hopes to see God and participate in His kingdom must be born again.  But, what isn’t given here are the answers to the questions of why is this necessary, and how does one go about being born again?  So, in pursuit of those answers, you will go on to… 

Room 2…

…where you will learn about the dynamics involved in the New Birth; dynamics which have everything to do with regeneration.  Since our DOT for regeneration is—the act of bringing something into existence again—that is, to form again, or to be made new—for us, regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God.  You may be wondering, though, just why is this necessary?

Adam, Eve, and Serpent

It Only Takes One Sin to Separate a Person from a Holy God

In order for us to answer that question, we will need to go back to the beginning of human history, back to the time when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God; the time when their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died because sin caused them to be separated or cut off from God.  What this means is that every human being who has been born since then, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has been born spiritually dead—or, with a spirit that has been cut off from its source of life in God.

As Watchman Nee explains in his book, The Spiritual Man, “…when we say the spirit is dead it does not imply there is no more spirit; we simply mean the spirit has lost its sensitivity towards God and thus is dead to Him.  The exact situation is that the spirit is incapacitated, unable to communicate with God…it remains in a coma as if non-existent.”  And, as a result of this death, no descendant of Adam has ever been able to have a relationship with God while remaining in his or her natural or fleshly state.

The New Birth, then, is what occurs when God’s Spirit brings a man’s spirit back to life, restoring that man’s lost relationship to God, and making it possible for him to communicate with God once again.  But—and this is a very BIG BUT—before this can happen, certain legalities will have to be taken care of; legalities which will be discussed in…

Room 3…

…legalities involving our repeated violations of God’s laws.  As we learned back at the Salvation Station, each of us has, throughout our lives, offended God by violating His laws, or His codes of acceptable moral and spiritual conduct.  In the process, we have unwittingly erected a barrier between Him and us, a wall of offense which makes any relationship between us impossible.  Until such a time as we confess our faults—that is, we agree with God about what we have done wrong, and seek His forgiveness—we will continue to be “cut off” from Him, losing whatever opportunities we may have had to get to know Him and to love Him.  Thus, the elimination of our offenses against God, along with the removal of the wall which those offenses created, is what the New Birth is all about.

Unfortunately, because most of us have no concept of what God’s righteous requirements for relationship with Him are, we don’t know what we have done to offend Him.  Most of us have lived our lives according to the codes of conduct that we acquired from our parents, picked up from our friends and associates, or created for ourselves in response to the ever-changing circumstances of life.  Unlike God’s immutable standard of holiness, our concepts of what constitutes right and wrong have been derived from very human and fallible sources and, as a result, tend to have very nebulous boundaries.  Consequently, the principles by which we live are often adapted to the situations in which we find ourselves at any given moment, with what is true and right in one situation differing from that in another.  With backgrounds steeped in such a relativistic system of ethics, how are we to know for sure what God’s requirements are; how can we understand what our offenses against Him have been?

The only way we can know how we have missed God’s “mark” for acceptable behavior (and sin is defined as “missing the mark” of God) is through His Word, where God has set forth His standard of righteousness, or right living, in Exodus 20: 1-17; a standard we know today as the Ten Commandments.  There, He makes it clear that in order for us to have a spiritual relationship with Him, we must meet certain conditions:

  1. We can have no gods other than Him; ours is to be a personal and an exclusive relationship;
  2. We cannot make an idol, or anything in the form of a person, or an object from the natural or spiritual world, which we worship in His place; so, no person, possession, position, pleasure, power or money can be substituted for Him;
  3. We cannot take His name in vain—that is, use His name in a disrespectful or dishonest manner.  We are not to use God’s name as a swear word, or to legitimatize or authorize any activity which He has not sanctioned;
  4. We are to remember the Sabbath day, or one day in seven as a day of rest and worship, and keep it holy, or set apart for Him;
  5. We are to honor our parents, respecting them as God’s appointed authorities in our lives;
  6. We are not to murder; or, according to Jesus in an expanded version found in Matthew 5: 22, to even harbor hatred in our hearts toward another person;
  7. We cannot steal—that is, take anything which is not ours, including money, property, an employer’s time, a person’s reputation, or the affection of someone who belongs to another;
  8. We cannot commit adultery, or any sexual sin, either by thinking about it or actually doing it (see Matthew 5: 28 for another amplified rendition);
  9. We cannot bear false witness or lie about anyone else; and,
  10. We are not to covet, or want for our own, anything that belongs to another person; this includes his or her spouse, children, positions, possessions, personalities, looks, or money. 

Of course, we have all violated these laws at one time or another; so, how is it possible for us, as naturally unrighteous people, to meet God’s demands for righteousness, and enter into a relationship with Him?  In all honesty, we can’t—at least, not on our own.  We must have the help of Someone who can meet these demands on our behalf; Someone who can bridge the gap between God’s holiness and our sinful condition, thereby making a relationship between God and us possible–Someone you will learn more about in…

Man's Bridge to God

The Cross is Man’s Only Bridge to God

Room 4…

Since God is the only One who completely understands the strict demands of His law, and man’s total inability to meet those demands, He took it upon Himself to create a plan by which Someone, namely Jesus, could bring God and man together.  In order to understand how His plan works, here is what we need to know:

  • First, we need to understand that God is so holy that anyone who comes into His presence must be free from any and all impurities, or else he will die.  When God told Adam that if he ate from the forbidden tree he would die, He was making clear to him the principle that “…the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23)” and that “the person who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:20).”
  • Since the law of God’s holiness requires that sin’s offenses be paid for by death, this means that the one who has offended must die to satisfy the judgment imposed upon him by the law.
  • However, God in His grace, also stipulated in His law that a substitution could be made for the offender—that is, the sinner could avoid paying the penalty for his own violations of God’s law if he could find Someone else who was willing to die in his place.
  • But, in order to qualify as such a substitution, this Someone could not be a person who was himself a sinner—he would have to be Someone without guilt in order to satisfy every one of God’s specific rules for holiness.  The only Person who has ever lived who could meet these demands was Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
  • Therefore, God sent Jesus into the world to live a life of sinless perfection; a life which would fulfill all of the righteous demands of the law. Then Jesus died an agonizing death on the cross—a death which paid sin’s penalty, and one which could be substituted for the death required of each and every sinner who would ever live.
  • In addition to paying the price for everyone’s sin through His substitutionary death, Jesus also conquered the power of death once and for all when He was raised from the dead to live again forever.
  • Although Jesus’ death paid the price for everyone’s sin, the payment for any individual’s penalty will not automatically be credited to him.
    –  First, he must come humbly before God, acknowledging that he has violated the laws of God and is unable to meet God’s demands for righteousness on his own, in order to receive, by faith, what Christ has done on his behalf.
    – He can then exchange his sin for the gift of salvation that God has graciously made available to him through Christ’s sacrificial death.
    – It is with this transaction that his spirit becomes “born again”; and it is at this time that God’s Spirit comes to live within him and begins teaching how to live like a son of God.
Thank You, Jesus

After All He has Done for Us, What Else is There to Say But…

This, then, is God’s plan for providing us with a New Birth.  If you aren’t sure if you have ever experienced it, then let me urge you to go to God, acknowledging the offenses which have kept you spiritually dead and alienated from Him, and ask Him, for Jesus’ sake, to remove them.  When you do, the Holy Spirit will come to live within your spirit, and you will be “born again!”


Take as much time as you need at this station, and I will meet you back at the train whenever you are ready to travel again.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

You can rejoice along with Third Day because you are “Born Again”…