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"Opinions are like noses. Everybody has one." Or so the old saying goes. And it's true. Regardless of the topic (sports, politics, even the weather), everyone seems more than willing to offer his or her personal wisdom and insight on the subject.
This holds true in spiritual things as well. Varying opinions about heaven, hell, and salvation abound.
Now, adopting someone else's opinion on who's going to the Super Bowl is generally harmless. But when it comes to matters of life, death, and eternity, you'd better have something more substantial than some mere mortal's opinion. Tragically, many people don't.
Far too many individuals are staking their eternal destiny on what their parents, professors, or denomination told them was necessary to enter heaven.
Others aren't quite sure how they came to their conclusions about God and His kingdom. They just shrug their shoulders and say, "I've always believed this way."
The truth is, there exists only one reliable source of truth concerning matters of the soul and spirit-the Bible.
The Holy Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. Yet millions of people today assume that their ill-founded opinions are good enough to answer eternal questions.
The tragic result in each case is an unfulfilled life here on earth and an awful eternity in hell.
Going to the Source
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16,17
The Greek word translated "inspiration" in this passage of Scripture literally means "God-breathed." All Scripture is breathed from the very mouth of God Himself: God cannot lie. Therefore, you call rely on the Bible as an infallible source.
Notice what else this passage says about Scripture.
l. It is profitable for doctrine-meaning it provides the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
2. It is profitable for reproof and correction-meaning it tells us what we should not do.
3. It is profitable for instruction in righteousness-meaning it tells us what we should do to live a godly life.
Finally, verse 17 tells us the end result of all these things. "That the man of God may be perfect (mature, complete), thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
In the next few pages we'll open the Word of God and see what this trustworthy source has to say about the most important question you'll ever face. Namely, what does it mean to be born again and filled with God's Spirit?
These are the most basic of life-and-death issues. Yet your human mind alone will never comprehend the secret of life. And try as they might, scientists will never unlock the mystery of the spark of life or see beyond the veil of death.
Only the Word of God penetrates the cloak of mystery that envelops these questions.
To truly understand what it means to be born again, you must understand the nature and composition of who you are.
According to the Bible, the real you is not what you see looking back at you in a mirror. That body is merely a vessel-a container for the real you.
The Word teaches that you are a three-part being. The real you is a spirit. You have a soul. And you live in a body.
We see this division in 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These are the three realms of human existence: the spirit realm, the soulish realm, and the physical realm.
The new birth and the baptism of the Holy Ghost impact each of these realms in different ways. To understand either of these things, you must first recognize the three-part nature of who you are.
The Reality of Heaven and Hell
One of the most widely held beliefs today is that death means annihilation. In other words, when you die, that's it. It's over.
Please don't fall for that lie. Death does not mean a termination of existence.
In the Bible, the word death is translated from Greek and Hebrew words meaning "separation." Physical death is simply the separation of the spirit and soul from the body.
No, death is not the end. On the contrary, death is merely a door that leads to one of two possible eternal homes: one in heaven, the other in hell.
Spiritual death results when you are separated from God, the source of all life. Spiritual life, on the other hand, results from oneness with the Giver of Life.
One of the most vivid scriptural pictures of what happens after death was painted by Jesus Himself.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. Luke 16:19-24
Did either of the men in Jesus' account cease to exist when they died? No, they both continued a conscious existence even while separated from their physical bodies.
The beggar was carried by angels into "Abraham's bosom" (also referred to as paradise). This was the place where the saints of God were housed prior to Jesus' resurrection.
The rich man, who was not saved, went to hell where he continued to feel pain, sorrow, and anguish.
You are an eternal being. Death means only a change of residence from this earth to either heaven or hell.
What determines your destination? One thing and one thing only-your relationship with Jesus Christ. Why is that so important? You'll find the answer back in the Garden of Eden.
Adam's Double Defeat
The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7
When God first created mankind, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. That included life for his spirit, life for his soul, and life for his body. That very same word "life" is used in Genesis 2:8,9.
The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The phrase "tree of life" should actually be translated "tree of lives." It was specially created to supply life to the spirit, soul, and body of Adam.
That's why God commanded Adam to eat of it and every other tree in the garden except for one.
The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:15-17
God gave Adam two commands. First, he was to eat of the Tree of Life so God's "life" and power would be imparted to him on an ongoing basis. Second, he was never to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The penalty for violating the second command was death. Not physical death, mind you-spiritual death. Separation from God would be the result.
Thus Adam's disobedience was twofold. In eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam partook of that which he was commanded not to eat. This resulted in death and separation.
Secondly, he neglected to eat that which he was commanded to eat, which would have resulted in eternal life.
As Adam's descendants, we each have a twofold decision to make as well. We must not only reject evil, we must also partake of life.
Many people have fulfilled only the first half of that equation. They live good, moral lives by most standards. They don't smoke or drink. They display honesty and integrity. They generally shun evil. Many even go to church and have been baptized in water. Yet they still face an eternity in hell because they have neglected to partake of the Tree of Life.
Jesus, the Source of Life
For us, Jesus is the Tree of Life. He said:
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10
We must partake of Jesus if we are to experience life in all three facets of our being.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation: but is passed from death unto life. John 5:24
What, then, must you do to partake of this life? How does one partake of Jesus, the Tree of Life?
Jesus answered a similar question for a man named Nicodemus in John 3:3.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Jesus explicitly told Nicodemus that in order to see heaven, he must be born again. This "new birth" is the process by which we partake of the Tree of Life.
Notice, Jesus didn't tell him that joining a church would give him eternal life. He didn't prescribe being sprinkled as a baby, living a good life, or any other good work.
There is only one way to see the kingdom of heaven. "You must be born again."
The concept of being born a second time confused Nicodemus. Thinking only in natural terms, he protested that it was impossible for a man to reenter his mother's womb. Jesus explained it to him in verses 5-7.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of 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. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
Here, Jesus explains that the second birth occurs not in the physical realm of man's three-part nature, but rather in the spiritual.
Some people have misinterpreted Jesus' declaration that a person must be born both "of water and of the Spirit." They claim that this scripture proves that water baptism is a means of, and therefore is necessary for, salvation.
This is simply not true. Of course, water baptism is an important point of obedience in the life of a believer. But in the New Testament, water is frequently a type, or symbol, of the Word of God. In this instance Jesus is merely saying that man is spiritually reborn through the Word of God and by the Spirit.
This is confirmed in 1 Peter 1:23.
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.
Here the Holy Spirit clearly links the process of being born again to the Word of God.
As you can clearly see, being born again is the most important thing you can ever do. All other goals and aspirations in life pale in significance alongside the knowledge that you are going to live forever with a loving heavenly Father.
As a result, you might presume that being born again is a difficult or complex process. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are basically three components to receiving the new birth.
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:3
To repent, the first component, means to change or turn around.
True repentance means recognizing that your sinful life is wrong and that a change of heart, attitude, and direction is required. To repent is to reject evil.
2. Believe on Jesus
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting lift. John 3:16
The second component of the new birth process is believing in the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 10:9
3. Confess Jesus as Lord
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:10
The third component of the new birth involves your mouth. You must use it to sincerely confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
When you believe on Jesus with your heart and confess Him with your mouth, you are partaking of the Tree of Life.
You now know the three steps a person must take in order to be born again. However, you must understand that these steps do not cause the new birth to happen. It is a miracle that can be performed only by the Holy Spirit.
When you take these steps, you give the Holy Spirit permission and freedom to do what only He can do.
If a person could be saved by merely following a three-step formula, salvation would be based on works rather than God's grace.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9
Your heart-belief and mouth-confession simply bring the Holy Spirit on the scene to create the miracle of the new birth.
Excerpted from Water, Wind, & Fire by Mac Hammond Copyright © 2001 by Mac Hammond. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted June 22, 2014