What Does it Mean to be Born Again?

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts

The purest goal of a church planter is to help people see their need for transformation, for new life from another realm, for the intervention of the Spirit of God, which is regeneration, which is being born again; then gathering these newly born spiritual children together as ‘church.’ That being the case, and it is, then it behooves the church planter, and the newly developing church, to understand how this spiritual birth happens. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God?”

To understand this often-repeated and equally misunderstood term, let’s read what Jesus said:

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?'” (John 3:1-10 ESV)

Jesus said the kingdom of God is entered only through being born again. The kingdom of God is the sphere of salvation; it is the people ruled by God, who have eternal life, and are on their way to Heaven. The only way to enter the kingdom of God is to be born again. That’s the only way. Apart from that, no one enters the kingdom of God.

The point of Jesus analogy is this: being born is not something that you have anything to do with. You didn’t have anything to do with your physical birth, nor do you have anything to do with your spiritual birth. Being born physically is something that happened to you, completely out of your control; and, spiritual birth is something that happens to you completely out of your control. In both cases, God created you by the means of your parents, but nonetheless God created you. Your parents could give you physicality, but only God could create your spirit. In the spiritual sense, being born again is an act of God by which He recreates you. It’s a new birth. And that’s the point. It is the doctrine of regeneration. What is regeneration? It is a term that describes the necessity that a person receive a new birth, a new life, a new nature, a new disposition, a new character, a new mind from God. The person makes no contribution to this.

Regeneration (being born again) is a work of God. Jesus was instructive, simple and basic. There is no reason to misunderstand Jesus’ words. To enter the kingdom of God, whatever it is you may have accomplished morally, religiously, ritually, or ceremonially in terms of human goodness is immaterial, because you can’t contribute anything to your spiritual birth any more than you contributed to your physical birth.

This is the beginning point of being a Christian, of following Jesus: it is spiritual birth. Once a person is born again they now have the capacity to follow Jesus, to be his disciple, to obey obey all He commanded them, to do the works they were created to do. Unfortunately, so many people try to do the work of God without the spiritual capacity to actually do it; working hard to be like Jesus, but unwittingly in their own strength, never having experienced new life from Heaven. And, they don’t realize it. Satan has confused them, blinded them, convincing them that religious activity, biblically moral behavior, kindness, gentleness, etc. is the means to salvation; when, in reality, regeneration is the means to salvation, through faith, resulting in good works.

So, what does it mean to be born again? It means that a person’s focus is not on the their humility, brokenness or faith, but on the need for transformation, for new life from another realm, for the intervention of the Spirit of God.

So, the obvious question is, “Are you born again?” Only you can know if there was a time in your life when you surrendered to the call of God, and in child-like trust you turned to Jesus for your salvation, when you experienced His regenerating work and were born with new life from God.

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President Obama on Roe v. Wade

Other Authors

Below is a very significant email I received from my friend, Don Shoemaker, chairman of the Social Concerns Committee for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Although it has no direct relationship to church planting, I believe it is of significant import for most people who read my blog.

FGBC: Social Concerns

Statement by the President on Roe v. Wade Anniversary

On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we reaffirm its historic commitment to protect the health and reproductive freedom of women across this country and stand by its guiding principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters, and women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care. Today and every day, my Administration continues our efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and minimize the need for abortion. On this anniversary, we recommit ourselves to supporting women and families in the choices they make and redouble our efforts to promote safe and healthy communities. (From the Office of the Press Secretary)

It’s Time for National Repentance for Abortion in America

The President’s statement, grievous as it is, speaks for itself.

If there was ever an issue for national repentance, it is abortion. If there was ever a time, it is now. 55 million abortions have occurred since the Roe. v. Wade decision of 1973, forty years ago this month. Through policies and funding and defense of abortion rights, government at many levels has been a culpable accessory to abortion.

If the number “40” has any biblical significance, it is the number of testing, of judgment, of pivotal decision.

At Grace Community Church of Seal Beach I will be leading an Ash Wednesday service on the theme of repentance, and I plan to use this as the key example of our need to pray to God for our nation in response to the Bible’s many examples and exhortations.

For some encouragement to the readers, I have added two very powerful examples of those once connected to abortion practices who have renounced their previous deeds and thoughts.

The second account is about Abby Johnson, who has authored the book Unplanned and founded “And Then There Were None” (www.ATTWN.org), a support program for those who choose to leave the abortion industry.

Don Shoemaker
Chair, FGBC Social Concerns Committee

In a pastoral letter marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Archbishop Aquila of Denver recounted his personal experience in dealing with the aftermath of abortion in his work as a hospital orderly.
“…I spent my first three years of college working as a hospital orderly and assisting in the emergency room, at a university student health center and in a hospital in California during summer break.”
“At that time, some states had approved abortion laws that I wasn’t even aware of. Because of those laws, when I was in college I witnessed the results of two abortions.

“The first was in a surgical unit. I walked into an outer room and in the sink, unattended, was the body of small unborn child who had been aborted. I remember being stunned. I remember thinking that I had to baptize that child.

“The second abortion was more shocking. A young woman came into the emergency room screaming. She explained that she had had an abortion already. When the doctor sent her home, he told her she would pass the remains naturally. She was bleeding as the doctor, her boyfriend, the nurse and I placed her on a table.

“I held a basin as the doctor retrieved a tiny arm, a tiny leg and then the rest of the broken body of a tiny unborn child. I was shocked. I was saddened for the mother and child, for the doctor and the nurse. None of us would have participated in such a thing were it not an emergency. I witnessed a tiny human being destroyed by violence.

“The memory haunts me. I will never forget that I stood witness to acts of unspeakable brutality. In the abortions I witnessed, powerful people made decisions that ended the lives of small, powerless, children. Through lies and manipulation, children were seen as objects. Women and families were convinced that ending a life would be painless, and forgettable. Experts made seemingly convincing arguments that the unborn were not people at all, that they could not feel pain, and were better off dead.

“I witnessed the death of two small people who never had the chance to take a breath. I can never forget that. And I have never been the same. My faith was weak at the time. But I knew by reason, and by what I saw, that a human life was destroyed. My conscience awakened to the truth of the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception. I became pro-life and eventually returned to my faith.”

(source: Catholic World News on line, Jan. 23, 2013)

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director, tells how an ultrasound of an unborn baby’s fight for life led to her departure from the abortion industry and to a program to help others who leave.












In 2009, Abby Johnson left her position as health-center director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, where she had worked for eight years. Her book Unplanned tells her compelling story.

Q – You told your story in the book Unplanned. Remind us: What was the turning point that led you from being the director at Planned Parenthood to leaving the industry?

A – I had been asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. Abortions are typically blind, but the visiting physician that day wanted to show us what it looked like, using the ultrasound as a teaching tool. My job during the procedure was to hold the ultrasound probe on the woman’s abdomen.

As I did so, I saw this 13-week-old child struggle and fight for its life. It was shocking for me.

The most common question women asked during counseling was whether their baby would feel it. Planned Parenthood had come up with scripted answers that a fetus has no sensory development until 28 weeks. I wholeheartedly believed that, so I was stunned when I saw the child struggling to get away from the instruments.

A couple of other things had happened as well. I had been instructed that we needed to double our abortion numbers for the next fiscal year. I had always been told by Planned Parenthood that their goal was to reduce the number of abortions, so this was a change.

I wasn’t sure if the organization was changing or if I was just getting high enough up in the organization to see what was really going on and what the organization was doing.

So, for the first time in the eight years that I had been there, I realized that this wasn’t where I wanted to be for the rest of my life. Yet I didn’t know what to do. Initially, I tried to justify it. I didn’t want to lose my job. All of my friends were there. For the first time in many years, I sat down and prayed. I knew I couldn’t do this anymore.

When I left Planned Parenthood, I knew one day I wanted to work with abortion workers, but didn’t know how. After 40 years of legalized abortion, I thought there would be an organization out there, but there wasn’t.

When my book came out in January 2011, one of my hopes was that abortion workers would pick it up and read it and find some truth in it…

These workers have experienced serious trauma. They’ve seen and heard and experienced things most people cannot imagine. In the first couple of weeks after they leave, they need someone to talk to every day…

(source: National Catholic Register on line, Jan. 26, 2013)

Don Shoemaker
shoemaker@gracesealbeach.org info@gracesealbeach.org http://www.gracesealbeach.org

What is Biblical Worship?

Church Planting, Other Authors

WHAT IS WORSHIP?

If one is to start a new church, it is important to know what a church really is. It is equally important to know what biblical worship is. Dr. Lee Campbell, Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus, OH, provides a scholarly, biblical and practical response to this important question:

INTRODUCTION

If it were not for the traditional use of the word ‘worship’ amongst Christians, substantial arguments could be raised against its continued use. For one thing, the denotative meaning of ‘worship’ is different from the related Greek and Hebrew terms. For another, the connotative meaning of ‘worship’ in the Christian community is substantially different from the biblical teaching on the topic. Since the evangelical Christian community is committed to the use of the term worship, it certainly bears careful examination so that we mean what God intends when we use it.

‘WORSHIP’ IS AN INADEQUATE TRANSLATION OF THE GREEK AND HEBREW TERMS

Our word worship derives from the Old English weordhscipe meaning worthiness or meritoriousness and thus giving God the recognition He deserves. There are some problems with this English translation, however, because the Greek & Hebrew terms do not mean precisely the same thing.

‘aboda (Hebrew; also – abad or asab) and latreia (Greek; also – latreuo) are frequently translated as worship. Although, these are not the only words translated worship and even these words are not always translated, ‘worship’2. When translated as worship in the OT these words typically mean service associated with the work done in the temple. In the NT the related Greek term latreia either refers back to the OT temple cultus3, to the false belief that killing disciples would be regarded as service to God4 or as an OT allusion that Christians should offer their own bodies (i.e. meaning ‘life’) to God as a sacrifice.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.5 (Rom 12:1)

Paul uses the related Greek word leitourgia (i.e. translated service) to refer to a monetary gift collected for the Jerusalem Christians6 and for the assistance he received from others7 and the term leitourgos (i.e. translated serves or servant) is used of Christ8, angels9, rulers10, Epaphroditus’s delivery of the Philippian gift11, and of ministry to the Gentiles12. Thus, the term latreia and its cognates are directly associated with both service & sacrifice when directed toward God. It might have been better if the translators had chosen the words ‘serve’, ‘service’ and ‘minister’ instead of worship.

Other terms are translated as worship including the Greek word proskyneo13 and its Hebrew equivalent shachac.14 Both of these terms refer to a posture of submission and thus an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty. Obeisance requires an attitude of reverential fear. This is evident in the behaviors of bending the knee (i.e. gonu or gonupeteo) and bowing down (histahawa or shachac {Heb.} or proskyneo {Gk. to kiss forward}) which are associated with worship. It should be noted, however, that these postures are associated with other things too (i.e. one can have this attitude in petitions to God, gods or man).

The terms that communicate attitudes of service, submission & reverence (i.e. which are translated ‘worship’) do not indicate how such attitudes ought to be shown. We must rely on context to specify ways that God expects us to worship Him. When we examine the behavior of worshippers what do we see? Worship may be personal or corporate. It took place at and apart from the temple, however, God doesn’t intend that worship be connected with place but with the heart attitude (Jn.4:20ff spirit & truth). It requires unity between believers (Mt.5:23f; Luke 10:25ff). An important term associated with worship is homologia.15 Worshippers frequently spend some or all of their time professing faith, praising God, thanking God and proclaiming truths about God.

Another term often associated with worship is thusia meaning sacrifice. The reason this term should be connected to worship is that such references are allusions to the thank- offerings in the OT which were an important daily ritual of temple worship.16 Interestingly, in the cases where this term is used in the epistles it is usually in reference to self-sacrifice in the service of others.17

…and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Eph 5:2

But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service18 of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. Phil 2:17

‘WORSHIP’ IS ASSUMED TO INVOLVE SINGING AND PRAISING GOD BY MOST BELIEVERS

In Putting an End to Worship Wars, Elmer Towns asked the questions: What do you do in worship? How do you worship? What motivates you to worship? and What are the results of worship? From the responses he identified six worship styles in America: Evangelistic – winning the lost; Expositional – teaching the word; Renewal – excitement, revival, ‘touching God’; Body-life – fellowship, relationships and small groups; Liturgical – serving & glorifying God through liturgy and Congregational – worship expressed by the laity.

Of these, the renewal, liturgical, congregational approaches are arguably what most Christians conceive of as worship – times of personal and corporate singing and praise. As we have seen, however, the biblical principles and commands related to worship are much broader and more integrated into the Christian life. Worship is the response of grateful and humble people to the living God where submission, sacrificial service, praise, profession, testimony and gratitude are freely expressed in innumerable ways. This is a much richer concept than mere corporate singing and praise once each week for 20 minutes – an event that could occur without any actual worship going on at all.

CONCLUSION

As long as we are culturally bound to the unfortunate English word, ‘worship,’ we need to keep our understanding biblical rather than anchored in church traditions. A worshipper must be a humble person who is willing to:

1. Subordinate their goals to God’s goals by prioritizing service toward the Kingdom of God;
2. Express gratitude and praise toward God and
3. Tell others about God, his truths and the love they have enjoyed as His child.

See full full text and end notes Here

Hard Words

Rambling Thoughts, Scripture

The following words of Jesus Christ were hard to understand and accept when he spoke them. They remain equally hard (and for many offensive) today.

“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.'” (John 6:53-56 ESV)

So, what is Jesus saying?

Bakers New Testament Commentary helps with a paraphrase of John 6:53-58: “Jesus said to them, I most solemnly assure you, unless by a living faith you accept, appropriate, and assimilate the Christ, trusting in his sacrifice (broken body and shed blood) as the only ground of your salvation, you do not possess everlasting life (the love of God shed abroad in the heart, salvation full and free). On the other hand, he who does accept my sacrifice with a believing heart, digesting it spiritually, has everlasting life for the soul, and I will raise up his body gloriously at the last day, the great day of judgment. For my sacrifice (broken body and shed blood) is the real spiritual food and drink. He who spiritually digests this food remains in the closest and most vital union with me.”

The Apostle Paul explained it this way. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7 ESV)

This reference to flesh and blood is throughout the Bible, in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews said, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV)

Ephesians 2:13 says, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Have you been brought near? Are you a redeemed one, redeemed through his (Jesus) blood which he shed on the cross for you; meeting the requirement of forgiveness for your sins (and, yes, of mine too)? The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 ESV)

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