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Friday, February 3, 2017, 7:18 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Unless You Are Born Again.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NASB).

In the Night (vv. 1-3)

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

I find it particularly interesting that the Lord Jesus saw fit to combine this passage of scripture with the story of Nicodemus coming to Jesus (See lyrics to song). Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. He was a Pharisee – a religious leader in the Jewish temple and a teacher of scripture. He made an intellectual assent to who Jesus is, yet Jesus told him he needed to be “born again” if he wanted to see the kingdom of God. Thus, a discussion on that topic ensued between the two of them, but Nicodemus failed to understand what Jesus was talking about. The ultimate conclusion Jesus reached was that Nicodemus didn’t understand, not because he lacked knowledge of the scriptures, but because he (and other Jews) would not accept Jesus’ testimony, and thus they did not believe in Jesus and what he taught.

I believe Nicodemus is an example to us of many people today who are following forms of religion, but who truly are not “born again” of the Spirit of God, even though they profess to believe in Jesus Christ. Thus, they fail to comprehend that which is spiritual, because their minds are still thinking in the natural, because they are still living in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Yet, he is also an example of those not lacking in knowledge of scripture, but of those who refuse to believe what they hear, probably because what they hear doesn’t fit with their theology or with their chosen lifestyles. And, he is an example to us, also, of religious leaders today who are feeding the people false grace messages, promising them heaven when they die, and peace on earth, because the religious leaders refuse to accept Jesus’ testimony and believe his Word. Thus, they are filling people’s minds with a false hope.

These people and their followers live in the darkness, and not in the light, even though some of them claim to be in the light. The truth, though, messes with how they want to live their lives, so they make up their own truth to fit their own lifestyles, and then they drag others into their lies and deceptions and make them disciples of men instead of disciples of Christ.

They convince them that being saved and having eternal life with God involves a mere prayer repeated after someone else, but which is absent of repentance, and that God, in fact, requires nothing of them – no repentance, no obedience and no submission to Christ and his cross. And, they tell them that God is pleased with them no matter what they do, no matter how much sin they willfully involve themselves in each and every day. They tell them, too, that God will never be angry with them, that they won’t have to go through difficult times, and that they will be raptured before anything gets really bad, i.e. they preach messages of “peace and safety.”

But, this is NOT what scripture teaches. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25). Paul reiterated what Jesus said when he said that if we walk (in lifestyle) in the flesh (in sin), we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

One day Jesus is going to return for his bride (his followers), and he is going to judge the world. Those who have bought into the “peace and safety” messages, which tell them they don’t have to repent and obey, that God is pleased with them no matter what they do, and that God will never judge them, are going to be in for a big surprise, but not the good kind. Instead of the heaven they were promised, they will find destruction, and they will not escape. So, don’t buy into the lies, even though they may sound good and may appease your guilty conscience when you do what you know is wrong. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

So, this goes back to what Jesus told Nicodemus. He told him he must be “born again” if he wants to see heaven, and that is what he is telling people today, too. When we are born anew of the Spirit of God we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us; and to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:14).

Of the Night (vv. 4-8)

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.

If we truly are in Christ Jesus, by God’s grace, through genuine faith, we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, so we are not living in darkness. We are “born again” of the Spirit of God and so we walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. So, we have no fear of judgment or of Christ’s return, but we look forward with great anticipation to the day our Lord comes to take us to be with him forever.

And, yet, there is a warning here for us to not allow ourselves to fall asleep spiritually as others do, but for us to remain alert and sober. So, what is this saying? It is possible to be a genuine believer in Jesus Christ and yet to fall back into sin and spiritual slothfulness (laziness). It is possible for us to get caught up in the world and to believe the lies of “peace and safety” and to not be spiritually ready for Christ’s return. So, what does that mean for us? Well, for one, in Revelation 2-3 we read the letters to the seven churches, five of which Jesus chided for something they were doing wrong, warned of divine judgment (discipline), called for repentance, and promised rewards to those who overcame, and did what Jesus said. So, there is the danger of divine discipline (correction, judgment) for the unrepentant church.

Also, there are many scriptures which warn against falling away from God’s grace, and that teach that faith in Jesus Christ is continuous, and that we must continue in the faith we had at first if we want to have the hope of eternal life with God. So, there is the danger we might go back to living in darkness if we do not remain vigilant in our spiritual walks of faith.

As well, there are many people who profess to be Christians who are still walking in darkness, who are only going through the motions of Christianity or forms of religious practice, but their hearts are far from God. They have not turned from their sin nor have they truly turned to Christ to walk in obedience to his commands (his instructions), some of whom don’t because they have been taught they don’t have to, which just makes a mockery of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins whereby we could be set free from sin. They will face the wrath of God if they do not repent and believe Jesus.

Together with Him (vv. 9-11)

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

One of the reasons Jesus died on the cross for our sins was that we might escape the coming wrath of God. This, however, does not preclude divine disciple (correction, judgment) from coming upon us when we need it. He saved us from the pit of hell and promises us heaven when we die if we continue in him in faith until the end. Yet, he also promises us hardships, discipline, correction, and persecution, etc. as part of the process of pruning us and maturing us and conforming us to the likeness of Christ. So, we should not be surprised when trials come, or when we are hated or persecuted severely for our faith in Jesus Christ. These things must happen.

And, yet, the context here appears to be in the form of a warning to true believers in Jesus Christ that they not fall back asleep spiritually, but that they remain spiritually alert, because we have the hope of salvation and the promise of heaven when we die for those who believe (present tense). Therefore, we are to encourage (inspire, hearten and urge) one another with these words, and build up (strengthen, promote the spiritual health) of one another, so that we continue in the faith, steadfast, and don’t fall asleep.

Unless You Are Born Again
An Original Work / November 3, 2013

Based off John 3:1-21

Nicodemus came to Jesus.
He acknowledged God was with Him.
Jesus said, “You can’t see heaven
Unless you are born again.”

“How can a man be born when he’s old?
Can he enter into his mother’s womb?”
Jesus answered, “Flesh is flesh,
So of the Spirit, you must be.”

Jesus said to Nicodemus,
“You’re a teacher, and yet you don’t
Understand of what I tell you,
Because you will not believe.

“For God so loved the world that He gave
His one and His only Son for your sin.
So, whoever believes in Him
Has eternal life in heav’n.

“Light has come into the world,
But human beings love the darkness,
Because their deeds are so evil,
So in truth, they stand condemned.

“Everyone who practices evil
Fears that the Light will expose his sin.
Yet, whoever lives his life by the Light
Does so through his God.”