Last night I had a dream about someone I use to know as a friend. Past-tense, because several years back we had a falling out, since then our ways have parted and I have been told he blames me and wants nothing to do with me. That saddens me. I liked this friend. And he is probably right, my self-absorption, floundering and preoccupation with other things than being a friend are probably to blame for the source of our falling out. When I woke up from my dream, I sadly wondered, does he know the Lord? I failed here as a friend, but how about the bigger concern of eternity? I thought back and knew he knew "OF" God. He was married in a church, in his youth he even went to a seminary for awhile, I am sure if I asked him if he believed in God, in Jesus, he would say, yes, and wonder why I asked.
As I became more fully awake I realized what a horrendous error and harm I have done, if I missed this one thing with my friend, any friend! If I spend all my time chatting or blogging about knitting patterns, and children's discipline, and posting pretty pictures, sharing gardening tips, talking about adoption struggles and momma challenges, even about God and Bible study and hope, yet miss this one thing, it is all a total waste.
What one thing? The one thing of how to put your faith in Jesus.
The other day, another mom asked me what kind of church I go to. In the conversation, trying to understand, she asked "it is not one of those "BORN AGAIN" churches, is it?" And I said, well yes it is, and then made my feeble attempt of explaining "born again" based on the verse in the book of John (John 3:3) that uses that phrase:
In John chapter 3, the Bible shares about a religious man who came to Jesus at night, perhaps at night to be hidden? So those who knew of his religious standing as a Pharisee, would not know of his going to Jesus to ask about things spiritual, after all the church of that day did not embrace Jesus and his message. This religious man declared that he knew Jesus came from God, at which Jesus jumped to the heart of the matter, stripped away all the religious trappings and came down to that one thing as he replied: "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
The man, not understanding, asked Jesus how a man can be born again....and Jesus said how we are born of the flesh (ie physically), but that we also must be born of the spirit, (made alive spiritually).
The spiritual leader goes on and asks Jesus, "How can this be?"
And Jesus, first asks him how he can be a teacher of Israel (a spiritual leader) and not know this.
He then tells him " God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
That is being born again. Believing God when He sent his son Jesus and believing that Jesus is the way to be saved from an eternity of separation from God and all that is good and saved from a here and now that is without purpose or hope.
So yes, I go to a "Born Again" church and I would pray that all Christian churches, whether Catholic, Protestant or non-denominational are "born again" churches. But sadly I know that is not the case. And sadly I know, in every church, even those that preach clearly the message of Jesus shared in John chapter 3, there are those who are missing the message, and like the Pharisee are clothed in all things religious or spiritual, but do not know how to be alive spiritually and will miss the most important thing of their entire lives.
I struggle with this.
How can we have so many churches, so many Bibles, so many books and sharing and the message all over the place, and so many many people missing this one thing....being made alive spiritually? Being born again? And due to the mishaps and mannerisms of man, this term be used often in disdain to describe something or someone that is bizarre or abnormal when it is truly the heart of Christ and church and the Bible?
The heart of our lives.
It was missed in Jesus time here on earth and it is missed now. Jesus said few would find it.
Matt 7:13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." He is that narrow gate.
There are still many with the wrappings of religion, that are missing the heart of the message. Jesus said there are and will be those who call him "Lord", that say they are his, but do not know him...
Matt 7: 21-23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Amazing that someone who did things in the name of Christianity, would be called an evildoer. But, just like in Jesus' day, it is evil to wrap people in the trappings of religion and not give them the heart of the message. It is not just believing there is a God or even that their is a Jesus. It is believing Jesus is who He says he is. The will of the Father is accepting his Son and through that being born again spiritually and following Him. In James 2:19, the brother of Jesus stated "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. " Jame 2:19
So it saddens me to know there are so many people in our world, who if asked, would say, Yes I believe there is a God, I believe Jesus is the son of God, yet have never had their spirits made alive, have never understood how to be born again.
As much as I struggle, and often stumble, I have truly found my help and hope and joy in God. In following Him, learning at his feet, being loved by God and finding that one thing in life that makes my life work. He came to set us free from an upside down way of living and thinking, to give us freedom and hope and to heal our broken hearts.
When Jesus was in the temple, the religious men of that day asked him to read from the ancient scrolls of the prophets. (Luke 4:16-20) Jesus read from Isaiah 61: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." When he was done, he told them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
And it is still being fulfilled today. Jesus is the one thing. And he has asked us, who believe him to teach others not just who He is but to make others disciples and teach them how to follow Him. (Matt 28:19.20) It all starts with a spiritual birth.
That is the one thing....all else is less.
(A side note: I have often, mentally, excused myself from sharing about what it truly means to be a Christian and how to become one, with the reasoning that "God gave me the gift of discipleship, bot evangelism". Well first, if this is true, I am such an ineffective disciple, such a poor example, all wrapped up in MY lesser concerns, as people I truly care about walk on in their lives with their entire eternity (not to mention their here and now) set to be lost and separated from God and all that is good. Second, it all starts (and ends) with Jesus...so who of us that truly are followers and believers of Jesus are NOT called to share this?)