Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I Had Never Heard the True Gospel By Peggy O’Neill

Irish Roman Catholic nun, Peggy O’Neill, served as a sister in a religious order for almost fifty years. During that time, she had never heard the true Gospel. When it comes to the Gospel there can be no compromise, because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation.  

I served as a sister in a religious order for about fifty years and during all that time, I had never heard the true Gospel. Certain things may be let ride, but when it comes to the Gospel there can be no compromise, because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. A false gospel cannot have that power and any church that preaches a perverted gospel is depriving its members of the foundational and most essential message, the message of salvation.

False Teachers in the Early Church

In the Bible we read of the churches in Galatia where false teachers were leading people into another gospel. They were going back under law, for as well as believing in Jesus Christ, they had to observe certain religious laws making Christianity a set of rules and laws whereby they had to earn heaven. Galatians Chapter Three tells us that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and that He is the end of the law for righteousness. If we take Jesus plus any religious law as a means of salvation we are fallen from grace. We cannot trust in law and grace at the same time, so trying to combine the two, we put ourselves under law. By adding anything to the finished work of the cross, Christ will profit us nothing. Galatians 3:21 says that if righteousness comes by the law then Christ died in vain. This is the seriousness of being under the law–we have to be our own saviors and the Bible says that no man can be saved by keeping the law. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians used strong words to say that if anyone, even an angel from heaven were to preach another gospel, let him be accursed.

My Attempts to Live by the Law

Like the Galatians, I was trying to save myself by a combination of law and grace. I was putting my faith in Jesus but also in my own actions, trying to earn heaven and the things of God by doing the best I could instead of receiving salvation as a gift. The Gospel was no longer Good News, for the burden of salvation was on my back. In the end, I could only hope to be saved in spite of all my attendance at Mass, the sacraments, prayers, and other good works. By offering my own righteousness as a means of being accepted before God, I was, according to Galatians 5:3, making myself a debtor to the whole law. I was obligated to meet a standard of perfection that equals that of God. I had never understood how to trust Jesus and Him alone as my Savior. I had not known that it was not by my performance, but by just believing and accepting the perfect price Jesus paid when He shed His blood for me on Calvary that I would be saved. When I heard the true message of the Gospel, the truth set me free. I praise God that I am learning to depend more and more on the Lord Jesus for my needs, both in this life and for eternity.

Famine in Ireland

A catechism of the Catholic Church gives this teaching, “The Bishops have the mission of p reaching the Gospel to every creature so that all may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.” This preaches a gospel of works. B y mixing law and grace, the Catholic Church has fallen into the same error as the Galatians. A church that acknowledges much of the truth of the Word of God, but that misrepresents the Gospel is the kind of church into which I was born in Ireland. I was told it was the one true Church and for over sixty years, I never once doubted or questioned that.
The second of ten children, I had the example of good parents who were faithful members of their Church. Were my family to be judged by the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church, we could all reasonably hope for a place in heaven. But the Bible tells us that we will be judged, not by the teachings of any Church, but by the Word of God. “ The Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). In my young days, there was not a single copy of the Bible in our home. Happily, today things in that regard have changed.
Here in Ireland, we still talk about the Great Famine of the 1840’s when the potato crop failed and a million people died of starvation, while another million emigrated to America never again to return home. Ireland in the 1990’s is a land of abundance, but there is a famine of a different kind, a famine described in the Bible “Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, That I w ill send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the Words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Those days of famine have surely come to Ireland, yet it is encouraging to know that more and more people have been meeting together for some years to study the Bible and feast upon the Word of the Lord.

My Mother’s Death in Ireland

In England where I spent most of my religious life, I was an enthusiastic believer in the Charismatic Movement, considered to have been a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. I also attended some Christian meetings with thousands of Christians from many nations. When I got permission from my religious superiors to come home to care for my mother in the last six years of her life, I had the opportunity to listen to Christian radio programs where the Gospel of salvation was regularly preached. When my mother died, aged ninety-five, I did not have an understanding of the Gospel so I was unable to help her have an assurance of her salvation. However, I recall with joy her words to me on the day she died, “I want Jesus to come for me today.” These were precious words. Also during th ose years at home, I had contact with a nephew of mine, Tom Griffin, who had a godly influence on my life. He had joined a Christian church and he introduced me to J.P. Walsh who was the leader of a local group in weekly Bible study. All this eventually led up to my discovering the unconditional love of God and the liberating message of the Gospel.
Christ’s Righteousness Available to Me “ Righteousness” was the key word that opened for me the truth of the Gospel. I found the word in Paul’s description of the Gospel in Romans 1:16. The Gospel “… is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth ; …for in it is the righteousness of God revealed.” The righteousness of God–this is what is required to get to heaven. What God demands is perfection: nothing less than His own righteousness. This was something new to me for all I was ever conscious of was my own righteousness and how I could save my soul. I could have been compared to those Jews in Romans 10:3, “ For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” I was ignorant of God’s righteousness. What it t akes for salvation is a righteousness that equals that of God and I knew that no one could ever reach that standard. This then is what the Gospel is all about: what God demands, He provides. The Good News is that if we believe in Jesus Christ whose death on the cross, burial and resurrection has paid the price of our sin, we will be saved. The Bible puts it this way, “ Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In exchange for my sins, God will give me the righteousness of Jesus, God’s righteousness for my sins! This is the Good News, the Gospel in a nutshell.

Salvation by Grace

God’s Word tells us that salvation is by grace alone. I soon found out why salvation is a gift from God and cannot be by works. Isaiah 64:6 says, “ All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” when compared with the infinite righteousness of God. All my best efforts, my faithfulness, my good works are nothing but filthy rags when it comes to earning heaven. I could never earn heaven, so Jesus did it for me. I just come to God empty handed, not with all my “great” keeping of la ws, my penance and my holiness. My dependence is totally on Jesus and what He has done for me. Paul, once a religious Jew who had strictly adhered to the law, came to the place where he said he wanted to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. We too must come to that place of dependency, not on ourselves, not on Mary or any Church–all our dependency must be on Christ. We look to Him and Him alone. Even though our good lives will never gain heaven for us, there is a purpose in living an upright life in our day-to-day relationships with our families and others. This, too, is provided for by God’s grace in the direction of His Word and the power of His Spirit given to us the moment we believe. Salvation is on the basis of our faith in Jesus Christ, not on the basis of our conduct. That same faith keeps us trusting in Jesus Christ as we walk daily by His Spirit.
I had never heard the full story of Redemption, how completely Jesus had dealt with sin to save us from hell, “ the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). Jesus did not partially deal with sin. He did such a complete and finished work that all sin was blotted out and washed away by His precious blood. Sin, past, present and future, even those sins not yet committed were forgiven two thousand years ago when Jesus died on that cross on Calvary. God does not keep a record of the believer’s sins. “ I, even I, am he who blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and I will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25). The debt of sin has been completely paid, yet not everyone will be saved. There is one thing that will send people to hell. Jesus Himself spoke about it in John 16:9, “ they believe not on Me”, a rejection of Jesus and the salvation He gained for us. God does not violate the will of any person, nor is salvation automatic. Man is born condemned, separated from God as a son of Adam, but God’s will is for all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For those who believe in Christ, “There is therefore now no comdemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

God’s Justice Satisfied

“ The jury is still out” is what a priest recently said in this context. According to Romans Chapter Three, the jury has already pronounced the verdict, “Guilty”. “ There is none righteous, no, not one.” The religious and the unreligious are all guilty before God. In His justice, God had to impose a penalty for sin, and since man could never pay that penalty, God in His love found a way to do for us what we ourselves could not do. He gave His Son, Jesus, who took all the blame for us and in our place He was condemned to death. He died on the cross. Jesus was forsaken by His Father. He descended into hell and took from Satan the keys of hell and death. The heavenly courts of eternal justice were satisfied and the believer’s debt was fully paid. On the third day Jesus was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit, Jesus the first born-from the dead, the first born of many brethren. Man must accept Jesus’ sacrifice to be saved and when he does, God accepts him on the basis of His Son’s righteousness.

Relationship with God Restored in Christ

As time went on, I saw that in the Scriptures our relationship with God is based on both God’s grace and faith. His plan for our salvation is that we should believe in Christ Jesus by grace through faith. “ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is not a gift we get from our parents or from the church, “ Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17). In God’s plan for salvation, faith itself, by which we trust only on Christ and His completed work, is of itself the work of God. This was the message Jesus gave the people in John 6:28-29 when they asked what they should do that they might work the works of God. Jesus said to them, “ This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he [God] has sent”. I would have said that I had always believed in Jesus, yet now I realize that I had not known the real Jesus, the Jesus revealed in the Scriptures. I had known nothing of the gift of righteousness He had to offer or of the complete forgiveness of sin brought about by His death and resurrection. Titus 1:16 says, “ They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him…” I was carrying out religious practices that showed that I did not know Him. I thought it was essential for my salvation to attend Mass because I had not fully accepted His propitiatory sacrifice on the Cross. I sought forgiveness for sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, not knowing that Jesus had already reconciled me to God. As well as depending on Jesus, I also depended on Mary , the saints, my penances and good works, my hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, rosaries, scapulars, indulgences, purgatory. Paul uses a word to describe the value of anything we try to do to add to the work of Jesus, it is the word “ dung” (Philippians 3:8). All our good works are displeasing to God if offered as a means of gaining heaven for ourselves or for others, implying that what Jesus did on Calvary was not enough.

Repentance from Dead Works

According to Hebrews 6:1, one of the foundations of the Christian life is repentance or turning away from dead works. By dead works is meant religious practices and good works performed either by oneself or through the ministry of the church so as to obtain salvation. All these works, no matter how righteous, are the filthy rags referred to in Isaiah 64:6. They are what is called religion and religion is man’s counterfeit for Jesus Christ. There is no promise in the Bible that says religious people will go to heaven. On the contrary, Jesus called the most religious people on earth in His time, the Pharisees, to repentance. The Bible tells us that to be declared righteous before God, the first thing we must do is stop working for it. This was very strange to me, who as a Catholic had been led to put so much emphasis on my own performance as well as on the ministry of priests. Once heard, the Word of God must take first place and God’s Word in Romans 4:5 left me in no doubt, “ But to him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
I had never really believed, as I had never accepted salvation as a gift. By God’s mercy, I was convicted of the sin of not totally trusting in Jesus and His finished work. I repented from dead works and from trusting in my own righteousness and I accepted the finished work of Jesus on the cross. I had now really heard the Word of salvation and with the Word came God’s gift of supernatural faith. As in 2 Corinthians 4, I believed therefore I spoke and committed my life to Jesus Christ trusting in Him as my Savior. At that instant, God imparted to me His righteousness. In my new born-again spirit, I was as righteous as God, not because of any goodness of mine but because of Jesus. What had happened to me is described in 2 Corinthians 5:17. I experienced salvation. I was born again in the way that Jesus said to Nicodemus, “ you must be born again”. I was baptized with the only baptism that bring s salvation, identification with Jesus Christ. For the first time I knew that my name was written in the Lamb’s Bo ok of Life.

Baptism into Jesus Christ

What had happened to me is what the Bible calls baptism into Jesus Christ. Romans 6:3 , “ As many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death”. Galatians 3:27 “ for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” There was no external ceremony, no priest, no godparents. It was a matter between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and me. I had received the one baptism that is necessary for salvation.
A short time afterwards I was baptized by immersion in the Atlantic Ocean at a place called Banna Strand in my native County Kerry. This baptism in water by immersion is an expression of the inner change that had already taken place in my spirit. It was a public confession of my belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and a showing forth of His death, burial and resurrection. Baptism in water does not make a person a Christian, it shows that he already is a Christian. The Catholic Church has lost this truth of the baptism into Jesus Christ, the baptism that translates us from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. For this reason it can be said that many Catholics are Christian only in name.

Catholic Infant Baptism

Paul in reference to the baptism into Jesus, speaks in Colossians 2:11 of the circumcision of the heart, a circumcision made without hands. I was one day old when I was taken to the local Catholic Church to be baptized. The hands of the priest signed me with the sign of the cross, anointed me with oil and chrism and put salt on my lips. There was a laying on of hands and hands were used to pour water on my head. My baptism, outwardly a beautiful and symbolic ceremony, was in reality nothing but an empty ritual. Baptism in water is a biblical ordinance that Christians obey after believing in Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles 10:44-47, there is an example of Christian baptism for New Testament believers. In verse 47, baptism in water is given only after Cornelius and his household were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. In Ireland there was an incident recently where a baby died, days before it was to be baptized. That the baby died without baptism added to the parents grief. The Catholic Church in her liturgy could only invite them to trust in the mercy of God and pray for their child’s salvation. However, according to the Word of God, that child went straight to heaven. It is true that everyone is born in original sin (in Adam), but Romans 5:13 tells that “ sin is not imputed where there is no law”. The law does not apply until a child comes to t he use of reason or the age of discernment. Paul wrote, “ For I was alive apart from the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:9). The false doctrines relating to baptism are a betrayal of the trust of millions of sincere Catholics who are misled as to their true standing before God in an area where their quality of life here on earth and their eternity is at stake. Until about eight years ago, I would have strongly opposed anything said against the Catholic Church, and even as I set about writing this testimony, my intention was to avoid any adverse criticism. But things have not worked out that way and any criticism of mine is only of the system into which I was born.

Understanding the Bible

Some people say that the Bible is hard to understand and this is true if one fails to grasp certain foundational truths. One of those truths is the concept that man is a spirit being with a soul (mind, will emotions) and he lives in a body. In I Thessalonians 5:23 we see how God divides man, “spirit, soul and body” and Hebrews 4:12 talks about the Word of God “ piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit”. Catholic doctrine attributes to the soul what t he Bible attributes to the spirit making no distinction between the two. Without a knowledge of this distinction, there was much in the Bible that I could not understand. I could not understand Scripture truths like the righteousness of the believer or “as He is, so are we in this world”. To live the Christian life it i s important to know how our spirit, soul and body function and relate to one another so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the recreated spirit may dominate the body and soul which will not be free from the presence of sin until the believer experiences physical death.
Some time ago, a story was told in our church of a poor man who owned one field. He had barely enough to live on, but had he known, he could have been a wealthy man, for underneath that field was an oil well. This man’s story is that of many of us Christians today. Inside us is a spiritual “oil well”, and we are not aware of the limitless resources of God within us. It is possible that the early Christians knew and lived by the power of the Holy Spirit that was available in their born-again spirits. With the true Gospel message, they turned the then known world upside down in the first twenty to thirty years of Christianity. In our born-again spirits, God has provided everything we need and His life will be manifested through our lives to the degree that we renew our minds with His Word and use the grace He makes available moment by moment. The Bible tells us in I Corinthians 1:30 that Jesus “ …is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” .

My Religious Order

At seventeen, I left home to enter the Order of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. This is an International Order founded by Fr. Jean Pierre Gailhac at Beziers in the South of France. I spent the first seven years of my religious life in France and then after training as a teacher in England, I devoted thirty-five years to teaching in parish schools governed by the Local Education Authority. Side by side with life as a teacher was my religious life considered by me to be the highest calling. During all my years in the convent, I never had any reason to think otherwise. After the period of six years at home caring for my mother, I would have returned to the convent to work and share with the nuns I respected, loved and knew so well. A younger sister of mine, Carmel, is a member of the order and she is presently teaching African children in Zambia. However, it was not possible for me to return to the convent as I no longer could agree with the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Soon, I no longer viewed the religious life as being the highest calling. Richard Bennett, once a Dominican priest writing in an article, “Is the Religious Form of Life Designe d by God?”, says that the Bible has ordained only three different institutions: the family, the church and the state. Religious life could not be reconciled with the Word of God.

Freed from the Law

Having been under law for so much of my life, the Epistle to the Galatians is of particular interest to me. In addition to being subject to the Ten Commandments and other church laws, religious life has its own rules, constitutions and vows. The Bible, however, speaks of only one law for New Testament believers, not the law of works, but the law of Jesus Christ, a law written on our hearts. Jesus Himself is the reality of the Mosaic Law which like everything else in the Old Covenant was only a type and shadow of things to come. “The Commandments of Ordinances were nailed to the Cross”, and the part that remained was the spirit a nd intent of the law – that we love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. This law is the very nature of Jesus Himself living today through an individual in the flesh. He is not looking at our outward observances. He wants to find people who yield themselves to Him so completely that He can live His nature in them from the inside out. We have a description of the nature and character of Jesus in Galatians 5:22-23, “ the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control”. On earth Jesus was a living manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit. This is not a list of pleasant qualities that improve our personalities, but the character of Jesus Christ. In our lives it is manifested when by grace through faith we allow His Spirit rather than our sinful natures to be in control. Romans 8:29 says that God has predestined believers to be conformed to the image of His Son. In our lives there can be joy instead of discouragement, peace rather than confusion and strife, the loving, wholesome word instead of the impatient or unkind word.
Instead of subjecting ourselves to the law of Moses, we let Christ live His life in us through His Spirit who enables us in our weakness. This is the law Jesus referred to in Matthew 5, “ that whoever shall do it and teach by example shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Religious life with its rules and vows is not God’s way as defined in the Scriptures. Religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are not found in Scripture. Jesus directs us in Matthew 5:34-37, “. .Swear not at all, neither by heaven, for it is God’ s throne, nor by the earth, for it is his footstool…neither shalt thou swear by thy head…but let your communication be ‘Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatever is more than these cometh of evil.” What is spoken of in the New Testament is the priesthood of all believers. Peter writes that every true believer is a member of a “ royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus is our High Priest and beli evers in Christ are priests with a divine call and purpose to offer up spiritual sacrifices, the sacrifice of a yielded heart, offering praise to God in all things and invited to a ministry of intercession on behalf of others.

One Mediator, Jesus Christ

The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to bring people from the Old Covenant way of serving God into the New Covenant realities that Jesus Christ brought into effect. Sad to say, the transition has not yet been made two thousand years later. The Catholic Church still has the law and the priesthood. In her liturgy there is the sacrifice and the altar, priestly vestments, incense, candles, all of which were essential to Jewish religion and worship. These were Old Testament types and shadows of things to come. The Catholic Church has Christianized Judaism and not come into the New Covenant established by the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. For years, at Mass, I heard the words, “This is the blood of the New and Everlasting Coven ant.” I knew little or nothing about that Covenant. I was operating under an Old Covenant mentality. The Catholic Church ordains priests to perpetrate the Sacrifice of the Cross, claiming that God still needs to be appeased for sin. To quote from a Catholic catechism, “Each sac rifice of the Mass appeases God’s wrath against sin.” Contrary to this, God says in His Word, “ So have I sworn that I would not be wrath with you or rebuke you.” And in Hebrews 8:12, “ I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more”.

A priesthood and sacrifice of atonement to cover for a broken law were imperative under the Mosaic

Law, but in New Testament times, there is no law, no priesthood (apart from the priesthood of believers) and no sacrifice (Jesus Christ paid the sin debt in full). We no longer need priests to stand before God as mediators, nor has any believer more direct access to God than another. We are all invited to come boldly to the throne of grace, to come to our Father, standing in the righteousness of His Son which is imputed to all who believe in Him. We can directly worship, find mercy and help in every need. Like so many men and women in religious orders, priests are men whose desire is to love and serve God, but the Roman Catholic priesthood dishonors Jesus Christ and His once-for-all Sacrifice on Calvary. Their role as mediators usurps the present-day ministry in heaven of Jesus Christ, our only Mediator, Advocate and High Priest.


The same can be said of the place given to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is given titles that rightly belong to God, even the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She is called Mother of Mercy , the All Holy, Mother of the Living, Seat of Wisdom, Gate of Heaven, Advocate, Mediatrix, Co-Redeemer, the litany goes on and on. Pope Benedict XIII wrote, “The Blood shed for us an d those members which He offered to the Father, the wounds He received as the price of our liberty are no other than the flesh and blood of Mary. Thus she with Christ redeemed mankind.” Medical science, however , confirms that a child gets its blood from the father.
Therefore, the blood of Jesus was the blood of God (Acts 20:28) the precious blood of the Everlasting Covenant. We were redeemed with “ the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Pope Paul VI in “The Credo of the People of God” gave Mary her newest title, Mary, Mother of the Church. In John 19:27, the words of Jesus from the cross, “ Behold thy mother!” , are interpreted as a declaration of Mary to be mother over the whole church. It is significant that in John’s three epistles there is not even a mention of Mary’s name, neither is there a reference to her in any of the other New Testament epistles which were written to the churches for guidance in matters of doctrine, worship, and church discipline. Had John interpreted the words of Jesus from the cross as the Catholic Church has done, he would surely have exhorted people to look upon Mary as their mother to whom they could entrust their cares and petitions.
There is no biblical evidence of anyone praying to Mary or giving her the hyperdulia type of veneration recommended by the Catholic Church. The present Pope, John Paul II, speaking of Mary’s suffering said, “It was on Calvary that Mary’s suff ering beside the suffering of Jesus reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view, but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world.” It is not surprising that a church which emphasizes the necessity of good works for salvation would find in Mary a supreme example of human merit. Notwithstanding her exalted position in Catholicism, Mary was a human being and like any believer, she performed works of righteousness during her lifetime. However, the words of Isaiah 64:6 apply to her, the same as to all mankind, “ All our righteous nesses are as filthy rags.” Mary’s suffering therefore could make no contrib ution to the redemption of the world. With no support from God’s Word, the Catholic Church in numerous papal encyclicals has loaded Mary with every honor, unrestrainedly exalting her power and excellency thereby laying the foundation on which has been built the great edifice of Mariolatry–the idolatrous worship of Mary. We thank God for Mary, a wonderful woman of faith and obedience to God. Elizabeth in her greeting said, “Blessed is she that believed”.
For centuries, Satan has been using a counterfeit Mary to deceive millions of devout Catholics. Deception was the device he used in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Eve and it is the device he uses today. The Bible, in 2 Corinthians 11:14, tells us that Satan comes as an angel of light. Examples of this are apparitions at places like Lourdes and Fatima. People are called to pray the rosary, do penance, make reparation to Mary’s “ Immaculate” heart. Only fai th in Jesus Christ can save us, there is nothing we can do apart from Him that has eternal value. These messages are lies of Satan, twisting the truth of the Gospel. The only means of uncovering these deceptions is the Word of God. Jesus Himself dealt with the temptations of Satan in the wilderness by using the words of Scripture (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).

The Good News

At one of the last provincial assemblies of the order which I attended while still a religious, I remember a Scripture that was read: “ See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, and to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10). Jeremiah lived to see this prophecy come true. People world-wide as they hear the Gospel and look to the Word of God for truth, are able by the grace of God, to leave behind religious traditions and unbiblical beliefs long held sacred by themselves, their fathers and their forefathers. New wine has to be put into new wineskins. People are leaving denominational churches, each with its own particular religious laws which only serve to divide the Body of Christ, and coming out into fresh ground to live the Christian life as outlined in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles.
In Romans we read of Gentiles, sinners who were not seeking after God but who were made righteous by faith, while the religious Jews who were very zealous, doing everything they could, were not made righteous before God. The religious Jews were holy and zealous but misdirected as it says in Romans 10.2, “ They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Some people find it hard to accept salvation as a gift. “That makes it too easy”, was one comment I hear d. And another, “There must be a catch somewhere.” Obviously for some, the Good News is t oo good to be true. That salvation is unmerited and undeserved is the offence of the Gospel. That is what upset the Jews in Jesus’ day and what upsets religion today. Religious Jews crucified Christ and persecuted the early Church and it is still religious people today who come out against the Gospel. Good people who want to maintain their own goodness are sometimes hard to reach with the true Gospel. For them, the Good News becomes bad news. If God were to ask us what we had done to entitle us to enter heaven, a true Christian would say it was nothing he had done, but that he had put all his trust in Jesus. An axiom to remember is: “Religion is built on what man does for God. Christianity is built on what God has done for man.”

The Great Commission

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave the Great Commission to His disciples, “Go into t he whole world and preach the Gospel.” God has given us a ministry of reconciliation and we need to make sure that we ourselves have the true message described in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. We are not to be engaged in reconciling people to God either by the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) or by any other action of man. Reconciliation is something that happened at the Cross of Calvary. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 we read that we are to be ambassadors for Christ, His personal representatives, pleading with people to be reconciled to God. God is extending the hand of friendship to us. Will you grasp that Hand, will you believe in what God says His Son did for you on Calvary? Will you repent of your dead works and accept God’s gift of Righteousness in order to be saved?
To carry out this ministry, Jesus told His first ambassadors to wait until they would be “endued with power from on high.” Here Jesus was referring to t he baptism in the Holy Spirit, He Himself being the Baptizer. His disciples needed the power of the Holy Spirit that would enable them to preach the Gospel. Like them, we all need the special anointing of the Holy Spirit to help us to carry out our ministry, “ Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). The Holy Spirit is now here on this earth convicting the world of sin. The sin He is most concerned with is the refusal to believe in Jesus Christ and His work of salvation. Our ministry is to tell the Good News to everyone we can. The price of redemption for all men has been paid. Forgiveness is available to all who will believe. Peace is possible even in this life. It is the responsibility of every believer as an ambassador for Jesus Christ to make known to the world, the Good News of the true Gospel.

The Power of the True Gospel

Ever since I came to know Jesus, my desire has been to share with others about the salvation we have in Jesus. “ There is none good but one, that is God” (Matthew 19:17). Once we understand this truth, we know we cannot depend on ourselves or any person living or dead. We need Jesus and belief in Him is what God asks of us. My favorite salvation Scripture is what Jesus Himself said to Nicodemus, “ Unless a man is born again he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Being born again and believing in Jesus is ther efore one and the same. I had often heard the story of Nicodemus but it took over sixty years for me to understand the message. I had followed the traditions and doctrines of men never asking myself what Jesus meant by the term ‘born again’. Jesus referred Nicodemus to the brazen serpent that was lifted up by Moses in the desert, symbolic of Himself Who would be lifted up on the Cross. Believe in Jesus and you will be born again, you will be saved.
The first Christians preached with great power as we are told in the Acts of the Apostles and Paul said that his message was not with wise, persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that people’s faith might not be in men but in the power of God. The Gospel is not only about what Jesus did two thousand years ago but about what He is doing today. It is the power of God to those who believe.

A Message for the Reader

In this testimony, I have taken the opportunity to share some of the truths from God’s Word that were unknown to me for years. I wish to conclude by returning to the wonderful message of the true Gospel. It is a simple message, yet one that is hidden from millions of people today. The Gospel is the story of the power of the precious blood of Jesus, shed for you on the cross at Calvary, “The Story of the Great Exchange ”, God’s righteousness for our sins! For he hath made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Dear reader, the moment you are convicted of your sin and see that there is no way to save yourself, that salvation is only possible by believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ–His death, burial and resurrection–is the moment of your salvation. You can know for certain that heaven is yours for all eternity. It is the grace of God made available to us as a gift that is received by faith, “ while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God is faithful to all who seek Hi m, “ a broken and a contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

James Crichton V.C.

Cautiously, Private James Bell Crichton commenced
his nerve-shredding task. As he removed explosives
from under the bridge, he was isolated, totally alone
and operating close to the enemy lines. It would take
Crichton several solid hours to complete the mission.

James 'Scotty' Crichton was born into a humble home
on 75 Woodburn Road, Carrickfergus in the province of
Ulster on 15th July 1879. His parents were Scots/Irish,
and later they moved to the little hamlet of Northrigg, near
Blackridge, Lothian, Scotland. His upbringing was tough.
By the time the little fellow was ten he was working as a
miner in the local coalpit. In his environment of danger
and strenuous labour, little James gradually developed
the courage and character for his later exploits.

At the age of sixteen, James Crichton left mining to
enlist in the Royal Black Scots; two years later he
transferred to the Cameron Highlanders, joining at
Edinburgh Castle. His plan was to seek adventure,
for South Africa to fight in the second Boer War.
Between 1899 and 1902, Crichton would receive five
clasps to the South Africa medal for his service.

Always on a quest for excitement, upon returning from
fighting the Boers, James Crichton then emigrated to
New Zealand.  A period of civilian life followed until the
outbreak of the First World War in 1914. James
re-enlisted, this time with the New Zealand
Expeditionary Force in Auckland. He was first posted to
Gallipoli in 1915, then to the Western Front in 1916 with
The 1st Field Bakery NZ Army Service -- a coveted posting
in which most soldiers would have wanted to remain.
But, Crichton was no ordinary soldier; he transferred to
the 3rd Entrenching Battalion -- a back breaking choice.
However not experiencing action, he went a step further.

In seeking to make a meaningful contribution
to the war, he requested to be transferred
to the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry
Regiment.  Crichton was sternly warned by a
Senior officer 'You will lose your present rank
and your chance to become an officer', James
unmoved. He voluntarily took the lowest
rank -- that of private, losing all the privileges
and pay that come with rank. He also lost the
safety of rear echelon service as a warrant
officer second class. He was now heading
head long into the heat if the battle, and that by
his own deliberate choice.

The time of 'Scotty' Crichton's act of heroism was The
Hundred Days Offensive, 1918. The place was near the
village of Crevecoeur by the St Quentin Canal and the
Scheldt River; the date 30th September 1918.

A patrol under Corporal Stewart fell into a prepared
German ambush. After he and his men crossed a
footbridge, they were pinned down under machine
gun fire; it was an obvious chokepoint. They were now
entrapped in a narrow triangle of land, unable to either
advance or retreat  to safety. Scotty volunteered  to brave
the weight of fire and swim the river to advised HQ of
the plight of the lost patrol. He swam furiously, pursued
by a hail of bullets, but emerged on the other bank
and sprinted to HQ. By this stage Scotty had sustained a
painful wound in his foot.

On his return, he re-crossed the river back to
Corporal Stewart, carrying instructions that
explosives must be cleared from the next
objective -- a stone bridge -- by nightfall at
the latest. Upon relaying the others from HQ for the
patrol, Corporal Stewart asked him to check the area
around the footbridge for injured men. There were
none. The place was strewn with the dead.

Scotty Crichton now acted entirely on his own initiative
turning his attention to the stone bridge wired with
explosives. Crawling on his belly, under the cover of a
narrow ditch, he made his approach. anytime He raised
his body, even slightly, a volley of shots would whistle
through the hedge or slam into the ground around him.
Then in an instant, Scotty was on his feet leaping from
cover into the river. A few strokes took him under
the shelter of the arch.

The amount of explosives on the bridge was colossal;
seven separate devices, with double detonators, bound
by wire to wooden planks, were jammed into the arches
of the bridge. As he began the difficult  task of removing
the detonators,  dismantling the explosives and dropping charges
into the deep fast flowing water, there was an
ever-present danger of being ambushed - a German
combat engineer would not take kindly to his plans
being thwarted or to the bridge being overrun by
the Allies. Scotty had only a bayonet with which to
defend himself!

Pte James Crichton then began the perilous journey
back through water and bullet swept ground after
being missing for several hours. He came back, as it
were a man from the  dead. Upon delivering the news
of the path across the bridge having been
cleared, Scotty Crichton was eager to return
to the action. He was  ordered nor to go
because of the severity of the wound to his
foot. To ensure that he went personally to
the first aid post, he was made a stretcher
bearer helping to carry a more seriously
wounded soldier. Finally, after examination by a doctor,
Pte James Crichton then was removed from active
duty and later medically discharged from the army.

We turn in thought from the battlefields in France,
one hundred years ago, to a six hour struggle against
the forces of evil by sacrificial and decisive action of One
Man on Calvary's cross. By contrasting some points of from the
exploits of  James Crichton, we can learn some valuable spiritual
lessons to prepare us for eternity. The Bible reminds us  that
death is our enemy. 'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death'
(1st Corinthians 15v26). We are also reminded of the
supreme sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ,  'this man...
offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10v12).
Personally, we also can come into the good of Christ's
trtriumph and the eternal benefits of His decisive victory
even today.

Pte James Crichton then loyally brought a message concerning
the plight of the lost patrol. Similarly, we are reminded
that 'this is a faithful saying and worthy of acceptarion,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'
(1st Timothy 1v15). God's message, coming to us through
the Bible, reminds us of our plight as helpless sinners in
tremendous need of Divine deliverance and in real and
present danger of being forever lost. Have you ever at
any time clearly understood and accepted your position
as a sinner in need of rescue from the consequences of
your sin? ''When we were yet without sure fry in due
time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5v6).

Crichton's willingness to sacrifice rank, pay and
potentially his full displays the purity of his
motives. This is but a faint illustration of a greater step
taken by the Son of God when He left the glory of Heaven
to save sinners from eternal death. 'We see Jesus who
was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering
of death... that he by the grace  of God should taste death
for every man' (Hebrews 2v9). The Bible tells us that
although He was in 'The form of God... He made Himself
of no reputation... being found in fashion as a man He
became obedient unto death even the death of the
Cross' (Philippians 2v6-8).

Scotty's actions saved the vital bridge and opened the
way for others who could not follow the safely in his footsteps.
This illustrations a basic and essential Bible truth about
the only way to God and eternal safety. 'Jesus said, I am
the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the
Father but by me' (John 14v6). There are not several
ways to Heaven, as many people presume. The Bible
is emphatic: 'Neither is there salvation in any other, for
there is none other name under Heaven, given among
men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4v12).

Some of his comrades never expected to see James
Crichton alive again. However, he returned, wounded
but successful.  In a far deeper sense, the Lord Jesus
actually died and literally rose again; this is the very
bedrock of Gospel truth, I declare unto you the gospel:
how that Christ died for our sins... He was buried... He rose 
again according to the scriptures. And that He was
seen... (1st Corinthians 15v1-5). Without a risen Christ,
following His sin--atoning death on the cross, there could
be no hope for mankind. 'If Christ be not raised, he are
yet in your sins' (1st Corinthians 15v17). We ask the reader,
'Are you still in your sins? Or have you been forgiven on
the basis of personal faith in the sin--atoning, victorious
death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Pte James  Scotty Crichton's chaplain remarked
that most men would have quit after sustaining a
very painful wound -- instead Scotty pressed on to
ultimately win the Victoria Cross.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Chasing the Dragon Jackie Pullinger

Chasing the Dragon: One Woman's Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong's Drug Den   Jackie Pullinger

 Until it was pulled down, the Walled City was Hong Kong's most foreboding territory. It was a lawless place, dominated by the Triads, and which the police hesitated to enter. Strangers were unwelcome. Drug smuggling and heroin addiction flourished, as did prostitution and pornography, extortion and fear.
When Jackie Pullinger set sail from England in 1966 she had no idea that God was calling her to the Walled City. Yet, as she spoke of Jesus Christ, brutal Triad gangsters were converted, prostitutes quit, and Jackie discovered a new treatment for drug addiction: baptism in the Holy Spirit.

 One of the most powerful books I have ever read and I feel that whoever reads this book will not come out the same. The story of Jackie Pullinger's missionary work is humbling, miraculous, and beautiful. She was a lone 20 year old baby-believer without a missionary society behind her, jumping into a mission field of prostitutes, gangs, and drug dealers. Though the 'Walled City' in Hong Kong, a semi-anarchic settlement, presents incredible challenges, she sees Jesus come through time after time in miraculous provision and circumstances, healing miracles, deliverances, and Salvation. That being said, there is quite a pentecostal fervor in this book and most of the testimonies in this book about deliverance from drugs and criminal lifestyles include the use of praying in tongues. If this does not line up with your theology, this book will be challenging. What is undeniable, though, is the love of Christ shown in every page of this book. Like Heidi Baker says, (who I believe was mentored by Pullinger) love looks like something. It looks like sacrifice. It looks like laying yourself down. It looks like giving it all away. Even for just one soul. In Jackie Pullinger's life, this can be seen very clearly.


 Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; Rev. ed. edition (16 Feb. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340908807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340908808

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Where Was the English Bible Before …1611? By Jack McElroy (printed by permission).

Where Was the English Bible Before …1611?

August  12,  2018

The easy answer to the question above is that the Bible in English was a work in 

The final expression of God’s inerrant words in the English language is in the 
Authorized Version 1st published in 1611.

Until that time, this final expression did not exist as a finished product.  Rather, it existed 
in component parts (i.e. words). Many of the words were from the previous English Bibles 
that had been harvested since the year 1525 when William  Tyndale published 
the first printed edition of the New Testament in English.

Lest someone object to this observation, consider the fact that even the Scripture itself 
didn’t come in one delivery. It came over a period of about 1,500 years with somewhere 
in the vicinity of 40 authors.

The  King James translators actually started construction with The Bishops Bible as  a 
base and incorporated other  biblical building material.

Previous  English Bibles Used in Its  Construction

Other English Bibles that were delivered to the job site included Tyndale, Matthews, 
Coverdale, The Great, Geneva, and Bishops.

Author Lawrence Vance says:

“In the ‘Rules to be Observed in the Translation of the  ible.’ These general rules, fifteen in 
number, were advanced for the guidance of the translators.

The first and fourteenth, because they directly relate to the subject at hand, are here given in full:

"1. The ordinary Bible read in  the  Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, 
and as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit.’ 

14. These translations to be used when they agree better with the Text than the Bishops Bible: 
Tindoll's, Matthews, Coverdale's, Whitchurch's, [a.k.a. Great Bible] Geneva.’

These previous English Bibles are part of the form and substance that provided the
English building material (words) for The Authorized Version.

But they didn’t limit themselves to these. They also used Greek and Hebrew editions as 
well as foreign language versions

Many foreign language Bibles and Testaments were examined. They had  a multitude of 
sources from which to draw from:

"Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, 
Syrian, Greek, or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch." The Greek editions of 
Erasmus, Stephanus, and Beza were all accessible, as were the Complutensian and Antwerp 
Polyglots, and the Latin translations of Pagninus, Tremellius, and Beza.”

What this means is that all those previous English Bibles (although good) needed to be 
improved upon. That’s why no one is using them today.

It was a translators intention not only to improve presentation of God’s words in English 
but also to improve the presentation of God’s words that had previously appeared in 
other Reformation era Bibles.

Here’s what they said:

"Yet for all that, as nothing is begun and perfited at the same time, and the later thoughts are 
thought to be the wiser: so, if we building upon their foundation that went before us, and being 
holpen by their labours, doe endevour to make that better which they left so good;  no  man,  we 
are sure, hath cause to mislike  us; they, we persuade our selves, if they were alive, would  thanke 

Truly (good Christian Reader) wee never thought from the beginning, that we should neede to 
make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one, (for then the imputation of 
Sixtus had bene true in some sort, that our people had bene fed with gall of Dragons in stead of 
wine, with whey in stead of milke:) but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, 
one principall good one, not justly to be excepted against; that hath bene our indeavour, that our

. . . we are so far off from condemning any of their labours that travelledbefore us in this kind, 
EITHER IN THIS LAND OR BEYOND THE SEA, either in King Henry's time, or King 
Edward's, (if there were any translation, or correction of a translation, in his time) or Queen 
Elizabeth's of  ever renowned memory, that WE ACKNOWLEDGE THEM TO HAVE BEEN 
they deserve to be had of us and of posterity in everlasting remembrance.

. . . we do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in 
English set forth by men of our profession. . . containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of 
God: as the King's speech which he uttered in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, 
Italian, and Latin, is still the King's speech, though it be not interpreted by every translator  with 
the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, every where. . . .

. . . nothing is begun and perfected at the same time. . . so, if WE BUILDING UPON THEIR 
do endeavour to make that better which they left so good; no man, we are sure, hath cause to 
mislike us; they, we persuade ourselves, if they were alive, would thank us. . . .

"we never thought from the beginning that we should need to makea new translation, nor yet to 
make of a bad one a good one; (for then the imputation of Sixtus had been true in some sort, that 
our people had been fed with gall of dragons instead of wine, with whey instead of milk;) but TO 

What About the Printed English Bibles Before 1611?

They don’t all say and mean the same thing although they come from the same basic 
texts.  The King James Bible itself is a revision of the Bishops Bible. Each translator was 
provided with a copy of the 1604 Bishops.

Here’s my view:

The testimony of history shows that the compilation of Scripture in the various
languages of the world is a process and not a one-time event. In other words, the Lord 
didn’t present his final version in any particular language on the first pass.

Using English as an example we see that the first New Testament translated from a 
Greek text was produced in 1525. Coverdale’s complete first edition of the Bible in 
English was published in 1535.

Where would you find “the Scripture” in English 1525?

If you could get a hold of a Tyndale New Testament you would have the New
Testament Scripture as God provided it at that time.

In 1535, you could you would have “the Scripture” as God provided it at that time in the 
form of the Coverdale Bible and Tyndale’s NT.

In 1537 you could add  Matthews Bible to the list. Likewise, the Great Bible in 1539 and 

In 1560, you could get a better presentation of “the Scripture” that God provided in the 
English language from the Geneva Bible.

Some people call this a process of purification and cite Psalm 12:7 and maybe that’s so 
but the fact is that God did not produce a final version or presentation of his word in 
English until 1611.

How do we know?  The witness of  its blessing in history.

It’s like a lot of things concerning the Scriptures. Sometimes you can’t tell what’s going 
on until you look back. And we’re in a position to be able to do so.

My view is that the English Bibles previous to the Authorized Version were a work in
progress and can rightly be referred to as the Scriptures as given by God for that time.

He has moved on and if you’re looking for “the Scripture” now in English it’s found in the 
King James Bible. In effect, the Lord moved the locus of “the Scripture” from 
the previous English Bibles and finally was located on the pages of the King James Bible.

Eventually believers followed suit.

Like the translators said in the preface:

"Truly (good Christian reader) we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to 
make a new translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one,  ... but to 
make a good one better."


 Which Bible did Jesus use can be purchased on Amazon

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

And it was the third hour, when they crucified him.
And the inscription of the charge against him read,
"The King of the Jews."                                       
                                                   - Mark 15:25-26 
A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion
A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis
Several years ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, or suffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in Jim Bishop's book, The Day Christ Died.  I suddenly realized that I had taken the crucifixion more or less for granted all these years - that I had grown callous to its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details.  It finally occurred to me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause of Christ's death.  The gospel writers do not help much on this point.  Since crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, they undoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous.  For that reason we have only the concise words of the evangelists: "Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified ... and they crucified Him." Despite the gospel accounts' silence on the details of Christ's crucifixion, many have looked into this subject in the past.  In my personal study of the event from a medical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French surgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wrote extensively on the topic.
An attempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of the Incarnate1 God in atonement 2 for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope of this article.  However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord's passion we can examine in some detail.  What did the body of Jesus of Nazareth actually endure during those hours of torture?
The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane.  Of the many aspects of His initial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is the bloody sweat.  Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the only evangelist to mention this occurrence.  He says, "And being in an agony, he prayed the longer.  And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44 KJV).
Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away the phenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that it simply does not occur.  A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting the medical literature.  Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented.  Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat.  This process alone could have produced marked weakness and possible shock.
Although Jesus' betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, the next event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective is His trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest.  Here the first physical trauma was inflicted.  A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas.  The palace guards then blindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face.
Before Pilate
In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from a sleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.  We are familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to shift responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea.  Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate.  It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate ordered Barabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.
Preparations for Jesus' scourging were carried out at Caesar's orders.  The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head.  The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand.  This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each.  The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back and legs.  At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only.  Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.
The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open by subsequent blows.  Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue.  When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.
The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood.  The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king.  They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed a stick in His hand for a scepter.  They still needed a crown to make their travesty complete.  Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonly used for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaited in the shape of a crude crown.  The crown was pressed into his scalp and again there was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue.  After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stick from His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper in His scalp.  Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe from His back.  The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, caused excruciating pain.  The wounds again began to bleed.
In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments.  The heavy patibulum3 of the cross was tied across His shoulders.  The procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we know today as the Via Dolorosa.
In spite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much.  He stumbled and fell.  The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders.  He tried to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance.  The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion, selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross.  Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock.  The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finally completed.  The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loin cloth which was allowed the Jews.
The crucifixion began.  Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic, pain-reliving mixture.  He refused the drink.  Simon was ordered to place the patibulum on the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood.  The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist.  He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood.  Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement.  The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes4, and the titulus5 reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" was nailed into place.
The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot.  With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed.  The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross
As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrist, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain.  The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand.  As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet.  Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of his feet.
At this point, another phenomenon occurred.  As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain.  With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward.  Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act.  Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled.  Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath.  Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.
The Last Words
Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.  It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences that are recorded.
The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice6 for His seamless garment: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."
The second - to the penitent thief7: "Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."
The third - looking down at Mary His mother, He said: "Woman, behold your son."  Then turning to the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John, the beloved apostle, He said: "Behold your mother."8
The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross.  Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart.
The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled:  "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."
The end was rapidly approaching.  The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air.  The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain.  Jesus gasped His fifth cry: "I thirst."  Again we read in the prophetic psalm: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15 KJV).
A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus' lips.  His body was now in extremis, and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues.  This realization brought forth His sixth word, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: "It is finished."  His mission of atonement9 had completed.  Finally, He could allow His body to die.  With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit."
The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg.  This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred.  The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.
Apparently, the make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart.  John 19:34 states, "And immediately there came out blood and water."  Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart.  This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.
In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man can exhibit toward is fellowman and toward God.  This is an ugly sight and is likely to leave us despondent and depressed.
But the crucifixion was not the end of the story.  How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man - - the gift of atonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Easter morning.
1  Incarnate.
2  Atonement.
3  Horizontal portion of the cross.
4  Vertical portion of the cross.
5  Small sign stating the victim's crime.
6  Gambling.
7  The one who felt remorse for his sins and asked Jesus to help him.
8  As Jesus was dying, He gave his trusted friend responsibility for the care of His mother.
9  Taking our place by suffering the death penalty for our sin.
Dr. C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.  He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a book about medicine and the Bible.

From New Wine Magazine, April 1982.  Used with permission.  Originally published in Arizona Medicine, March 1965, Arizona Medical Association. Editors' note: If Jesus had remained dead, Christianity would be nothing but an empty promise.  But three days after His death, He rose again from the dead.  This is the miracle of resurrection, which is what Christians celebrate at Easter.  To learn more about the resurrection, read John chapter 20 and 21.
A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion by Dr. C. Truman Davis was copied by permission of Mark G. McNutt, from the Calvary Chapel of Santa Maria web site at -
Saint Bernard Abbey Cemetery Crucifix (Cullman, Alabama) photo by © Eric Shindelbower

Mark 15:25-26 - from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version.  Published by ©1962 The World Publishing Company.

Christ Crucified between the Virgin and Nicodemus, study by Michelangelo.  c. 1552-1554.  Black chalk, brown wash and white lead, 43,3 x 29 cm.  Musée du Louvre, Paris.  Courtesy of the Web Gallery of Art.  Used by permission of Emil Kren.
The Web Gallery of Art -

George Carneal grew up in the ’70s, raised by a Southern Baptist minister in the ultra-conservative Bible Belt where his world revolved around the church, country fried chicken and trying to fit in with other boys. As disco music pulsated through the speakers in his bedroom, he plotted his escape from the misery and boredom of Southern suburbia before landing in Los Angeles; a city of glitz and hedonism. Much like Alice as she traveled through the looking glass, this is George's journey through a queer culture fantasyland filled with drag queens, drugs and dangerous situations before discovering healing, joy and peace in Christ. This true story details his struggles in a religious world at odds with, and often hostile toward, homosexuals.

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About the Author

For years I struggled with my Christian faith and homosexuality. Raised in the South (the Bible Belt) by a father who was a Southern Baptist minister, I wanted to share my painful journey through a secular world at odds with homosexuality and a religious world that is hostile to homosexuals. Perhaps sharing the journey through the eyes, and mind, of a confused child dealing with homosexuality will give some insight into the pain and difficulty of navigating these two worlds. I eventually spent approximately 25 years immersed in the world of homosexuality and will briefly share the pitfalls of that life. This is not an attack on, nor am I a spokesperson for, the LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) or Christian communities and my story is not a representation of what all LGBT individuals experience. This is merely my journey and what I learned along the way. Thank you for reading.

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This is a short, readable biography.
The enemy of our souls led George Carneal along a brutal path by means of lies.
But Jesus, who is the truth, set him free.
I hope this book gets into the hands of many, to be set free from whatever lies they believe.
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I read the book in 3 days, could of read it in 1 if I had the time, I didn’t want to put it down. The writer did an amazing job and didn’t mince words but came from a place of no judgement, just love and honesty. I highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with SSA or if you have a loved one who struggles, I also think every pastor needs a copy in his library....thank you Mr. Carneal for sharing your story.
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Some parts of the book made me uncomfortable,
It definitely opened my eyes into a different culture. I thought it was extremely brave of him to lay his sins bare for all the world to see!
Even though I personally disagree with the authors free will and choice,
I think this book could help other individuals or their family members in the same situation, regardless of your individual religious beliefs or if you have non religious beliefs.

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  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: George Carneal; 1 edition (28 Aug. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0692768394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692768396
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.8 x 22.9 cm

Saturday, June 23, 2018

No New Birth – No Heaven John 3:1-8

Now will you turn with me please to the gospel according to John, a book that we have been working through in our consecutive reading in our Lord’s Day morning services over a number of weeks?  And we will regress numerically from chapter 20 where we had our reading this morning all the way back to chapter three.  Chapter three and I shall read in your hearing verses one through eight.  John chapter three verses one though eight. 

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came unto him by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him.  

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew [or born from above or born again], he cannot see the kingdom of God.  
 Nicodemus saith unto 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, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be 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.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew.  The wind bloweth where it will, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Now let us ask again as we have in the hymn we have sung that the Holy Spirit spoken of in this passage by our Lord Jesus will himself be present to be our teacher through the Word of God. Let us unite our hearts and seek God’s face to that end.  

Holy Father, we are thankful that when we read your Word we find you complaining again and again when men merely go through the forms of worship, when they draw near with their lips and not with their hearts, but we thank you that we never find you complaining.  When your people come in felt need and sincerely cry to you again, again and again and again, rather we find you encouraging us to be like that friend who at midnight went to his friend’s house and knocked and knocked and knocked and knocked again until he had all that he needed to give to his wayfaring friend. 

You have encouraged us to be like that widow who troubled the judge until out of carnal irritation he responded to her need. So, Lord, we are not fearful that you will chide us for coming again. We have already been led to your throne of grace in prayer.  Together we have sung a prayer addressed to you, oh Holy Spirit, and we come again, oh holy Father, and ask that you would grant the Spirit’s illumination as we consider these vital words of the Lord Jesus.  We pray that you would capture the mind and heart of every man, every woman, every boy, every girl and, Lord, give sight in the inner man where you alone can give sight. Here our cry and meet with us. Bind the powers of darkness.  We pray that the devil will not be able to pluck up the seed sown in our hearts.  Hear us we cry to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now there are times when an anemic brand of Christianity and even the world so misuse, distort and abuse precious biblical terminology that the true people of God find themselves reluctant to use that terminology even though it is biblical for fear they will be associated with its misuse and its distortion.

However, this is not the right response to such a situation. Rather, the people of God and the servants of God in particular should take those very biblical terms which are buried in the rubble and rubbish of misuse, tarnished and scarred by misconceptions, reach in, take them out of the rubble, scrub off the rubbish, rub off the tarnish, seek to repair the scars and hold up those truths in all of their inherent biblical beauty and even majesty.

Now, such is the term “born again” and “the new birth.”  

I frankly confess I am ashamed at how long it has been since I have preached a sermon focusing on the doctrine of the new birth, on the necessity of being born again. And I believe one of the major reasons is because the term, “the new birth” or “born again” came into such tragic misuse, distortion and abuse—as I have already described—in the late 60s and early 70s when almost everything but the lamppost on the corner claimed to have had a born again experience. Everybody and anything was born again.  About the only thing I didn’t hear about was born again hookers and muggers.  

But you had born again everything until in the soul of a true child of God who appreciated something of the biblical doctrine of the new birth there was a tendency to distance ourselves from the tragic misuse and misconceptions that clustered around that terminology.  

However, tonight, in our eighth message in this series entitled, “Simple Signposts to the Celestial City,” we are going to be looking at our Lord’s teaching on the new birth or being born again.

 And the sign post upon which we will look has inscribed upon it five words, only five words; three words, a hyphen and two words.  And as we draw near to that sign post we see not etched upon it, but this one is constructed of bright orange day glow neon materials.  And it says, “No new birth – no heaven.  No new birth – no heaven.  No new birth – no heaven.” 

And the passage out of which that sign post is constructed has peculiar relevance because our Lord’s clearest, most focused teaching on the subject of the new birth was given not to that immoral woman with whom he discoursed at the well, not with the publicans and sinners who met with him in the house of Levi as recorded in Matthew nine and again in Luke chapter five.  Our Lord’s most concentrated focused teaching on the new birth is found as he is interacting with a man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, a teacher of great notoriety in Israel. 

For you will notice that our Lord says in this very passage, verse 10, “Are you the teacher of Israel and understand not these things?”

So he is not speaking to one who is the riff raff of society. He is not speaking to someone who staggers about in a drunken stupor who has needle track marks up and down his arms and his thighs who is a junkie who turns over in the street at night groaning for his next fix.  He is speaking to a man of excellent religious background.  He comes out of the Hebrew nation with all of the privileges that that entailed. He came from the strictest sect of the religious groups within that nation. He was a Pharisee.  He had excellent training in religious things.  He apparently had a keen mind and a bearing and a demeanor which saw him rise through the ranks of his peers until he held a place of special influence as a ruler of the Jews and as a notorious teacher of the truth of the Scriptures and the tradition of the elders.

So we are seeing our Lord’s most focused emphasis upon this teaching of the necessity of the new birth, a fundamental, radical, all pervasive, spiritual birth from above given to one who outwardly would seem to least need such a radical religious experience.

Looking at Nicodemus, hearing Nicodemus speak, watching his activities we would think, well, this man is surely on the very border of the kingdom of heaven.  All he needs is just a little bit of nudge and he will be over the line and in.  

Jesus said to this man, “You need nothing less than a birth from God himself or you will never see nor enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

And therefore if he said this to one who had all of what we would call the benefits and all of the plus marks of his background and heritage and training and knowledge and influence, then surely if it is true of him, no new birth – no heaven, it is true of all others who have lesser privileges and lesser measures of knowledge and less religious instruction and background et cetera, et cetera.

Now as Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, I want you to notice with me the two major points of emphasis under two very simple heads: The necessity for the new birth.  And then, secondly, the nature of the new birth illustrated.

First of all, the necessity for the new birth and our Lord underscores this necessity in two ways. We have, first of all, the necessity affirmed in verses three, five and seven.  And then the necessity explained in verse six.  So the necessity for the new birth is first of all affirmed and then it is explained.  

Now how does our Lord affirm the necessity of the new birth?  Well, let’s look at the texts, verse three.  

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Nicodemus, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Nicodemus, singular, except one, anyone, anywhere at any time in any place in any circumstances of any background, except one be born anew or born again or born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”

Now what is the peculiar emphasis of verse three.  It begins with a double amen. 

amhn amhn (am-ane’ am-ane’). 

These are what some have called the magisterial pronouncements of the Lord Jesus.  He did not use this as some kind of religious shibboleth to appear spiritual.  But when he had something that was particularly solemn to say he would introduce it with the amen, the verily. And when you have the double amen—which is peculiar to John—there is an intensified sense that something of critical importance is about to be stated.  So the necessity affirmed in verse three begins with this pointer that he is about to say something very important. 

“Amen, amen. I say unto you.”

Now, he didn’t need to say that.  Who else would be speaking to Nicodemus?  But he uses the word, “I say unto you,” in order to draw attention to his own unique authority.  Nicodemus has acknowledged to some degree that this is no ordinary person. He has said, “No man can do the miracles you are doing except if he is sent of God.”  

And if so, the Lord Jesus said, “Do you accept me as a messenger sent from God?  Then in the name of God I say this to you.”

So you see the importance is not only underscored by the double amen, but by our Lord drawing attention to his own authority.  And then he states it in language that one cannot avoid, “Except one...”

Using the most general term for any person in any place at any time in any set of circumstances, in any country, in any culture, of any racial, ethnic, economic group, “Except one be born anew, born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Now when he says he cannot see the kingdom of God what did he mean?

Well, the commentators debate the question and it means one of two things and both things are true so I will not weary you and I am unsettled in my own judgment. 

It could mean he cannot see, that is, enjoy by experience the kingdom of God in its consummate glory and blessing. It would be entering the kingdom in the last day. And our Lord may be saying, in these very words, “No, new birth – no heaven.  Except one be born anew, born again, he cannot see, he will not look upon and experience the kingdom of God in its consummate manifestation at the end of the age.”

Or he could be saying, “Except one be born again, he cannot see, he cannot inwardly perceive and understand the kingdom of God.”

A parallel passage would be 1 Corinthians 2:14.  “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them for they are spiritual discerned.”

But, you see, that only leads to the greater. So if that is the lesser. If our Lord is saying, “Nicodemus, look.  Look.  The kingdom of God is come to you in the presence of the king.  You see the insignia of the king in his works. You acknowledge that God must be with me.  But my true identity and my true mission will be utterly hid from your eyes. You will never understand the nature of my kingdom and who I am as the king of grace and glory and power unless you are born again. So whether he is saying you cannot see in terms of experience, entrance into at the end of the age or whether presently, this much is clear.  Without the new birth there will be no perception of and no experience of the kingdom of God.  

But now in verse five our Lord begins in the same way.  After Nicodemus responds by saying, “Can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Which, by the way, makes me prefer the translation born again rather than born from above, for Nicodemus seems to take from the language that Jesus would have been speaking in, the Aramaic, a word that would have led him to believe that Jesus was saying you need a second birth.

So Nicodemus responds saying, “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, now notice, again, one of the rare places where you will find our Lord in such an immediate context using the double amen again. “Verily, verily I say unto you, Nicodemus, except...” And now the general term.  “Except one, anyone, anywhere, at any time, under any circumstances, of any background, of any racial, ethnic identity, except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Now you have an additional thought here.  In verse three he said that one must be born again. Now that birth is described as a birth of water and of the Spirit.  And, again, I will not weary you with all the theories about what this means.  To me it seems the simplest explanation is that which would have been most patent to the mind of this teacher in Israel and Jesus himself charges him with a kind of guilt that he did not immediately perceive the emphasis of his words for he should have known well the promise of God in Ezekiel in which God joins these two realities in Ezekiel 36:25 and 26 in which God promises, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your filthiness and I will give you a new heart and I will place my Spirit within you.”

So that to be born of water and of the Spirit refers to a spiritual renovation that involves the purging of defilement and the creation of new life, the negative and the positive, the purging away of defilement.  For this Pharisee, he was in constant contact with water of purification. And, therefore, it is right to assume there would come to his mind that he needs a spiritual birth that has an intimate connection with that which is symbolized by waters of purification. This separated one, this pure one, this Pharisee is told he is so defiled and polluted that he needs a spiritual birth that involves the cleansing of his soul.  

And with all of his knowledge and all of his privileges and all of his activity, he is nothing but a walking, speaking dead man. He needs life. He needs to be born of water and of the Spirit. And without these, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  He cannot enter it now. He cannot live in it now. He cannot enter it in the last day.

No new birth – no heaven.  

The necessity is affirmed by our Lord in verse three.  It is affirmed again in verse five.  Then in verse seven he affirms it in a most pointed, specific personal way to Nicodemus. 

“Marvel not that I said unto you, Nicodemus, you must be born again.  Now, Nicodemus, you may have missed my point when I said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, except one, anyone, anywhere, at any time, in any circumstances, be born again, he cannot see the kingdom.’  You may have missed it when I repeated the words ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Nicodemus, except anyone be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter.’  But now, Nicodemus, how can you miss my point?  I am not speaking of anyone else but you.  Do not marvel that I said unto you, Nicodemus, you must,” and there is that little particle of necessity that carries the tremendous weight of inescapable necessity. “You must be born anew. You must be born again. Nicodemus, no new birth, for you – no heaven.”

And I, therefore, say to every man, woman, boy or girl within the sound of my voice tonight, “No new birth for you – no heaven. No new birth for you – no heaven.”

And it was this conviction that burned very deeply in the breast of that man whose name many of us feel unworthy to even mention among human servants of Christ, George Whitefield who, in his early 20s, was so mightily wrought upon by the Spirit of God that all people needed to know was that Whitefield was going to be in an area in 10, 15, 20, 25,000 people would gather.  People described dust clouds being raised by the horses that would speed on their way to the place where it was... and their notification was given that Whitefield was going to preach.

None of this five year, multi million dollar mass evangelistic campaign that is just Madison Avenue gone amuck where everything is organized and all the bus crews are lined up and all the promotion is done. The Holy Ghost, I say it reverently, could depart to another galaxy and the campaigns would still be a success.

They are all run on marketing principles, not with Whitefield. That humble man of God in his youth upon whom the Spirit came was mightily wrought upon and the Spirit of God was moving mightily upon the hearts of men. And very early in his ministry Whitefield began to preach wherever he went, “You must be born again. You must be born again.”

It is estimated that in his whirlwind ministry that he preached probably at least 300 times in different ways on this text, “You must be born again.” And toward the end of his relatively brief life, for he died in his late 50s, Whitefield was asked, “Mr. Whitefield, it is known that over these years you preach again and again and again and again on the text, ‘You must be born again.’ Why do you preach so often on the text, ‘Ye must be born again’?”

His answer was, “Sir, for the simple reason that you must be born again.  For the simple reason that you must be born again.”

And surely the necessity of the new birth, in order to see—whether that means perceive it now or to see it and experience now and in the age to come—surely the language of verse five is unambiguous. Without it we cannot enter. We should be convinced of the necessity of the new birth as affirmed by our Lord and say to ourselves sitting here tonight, “For me, Albert N. Martin, no new birth – no heaven.”  

For you, put your name, put your name, for you, say your name in your mind, not out loud.  For me, say your name, no new birth – no heaven. And for you folk over here it is the same.

Say your name.  No new birth – no heaven.  

The necessity for the new birth affirmed, but then notice the necessity explained, verse six. The necessity explained.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.  Do not marvel that I said unto you, ‘You must be born again.’”

Now notice the context of this statement. It is sandwiched in between our Lord pressing the absolute necessity for the new birth, Nicodemus’ question: How can I be born again when I am old, and Jesus’ final statement in verse seven of the absolute necessity, “Marvel not that you must be born again.”

In between those assertions he explains why it is that nothing less than a new birth, nothing less than a birth from above, nothing less than a birth of water and of Spirit will enable us to see and enter the kingdom of God.

He says it is because that which is born of the flesh is flesh. And I think William Hendrickson’s comments are the most accurate and simple to grasp. He said an accurate paraphrase of the thought of our Lord would be this, “Sinful human nature, produces only sinful human nature.”

That’s it.  That which is born of the flesh... Fathers and mothers, who are inherently sinful men and women with sinful human natures, what can they beget in natural generation? That which is born of the flesh is flesh so that our children born of us by natural generation can only receive from us that which is fleshy, that which is sinful human nature.  

Job asked the question in Job 14 that is very relevant to the concern that is before us, Job 14.  For you children Job is just before the book of Psalms, 14:4.  

“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.  Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?  Not one.”

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

Sinful human nature can produce only other sinful human nature.  And in those simple words our Lord is seeking to go to the heart of Nicodemus’ problem.  He is seeking to show to him that though he was born of sinful nature that was exceedingly religious and though he was privileged to have his own sinful nature surrounded with all the benefits of the covenant people of God and the intensified benefits of intimate contact with the Scriptures and the temple and synagogues and instruction in the Word of God and the tradition of the elders and all of the life bound up in religious things, he is still sinful flesh because that which is born of the flesh is flesh.  And nothing that has only what mummy and daddy gave me can either see or enter the kingdom of God.  

And in a day when we are being told on every hand that what we are by nature is fundamentally, essentially good and noble and praise worthy and, therefore we must stroke ours self worth and self esteem, it is vital to thunder into the ears of this generation, drunk with the poisonous deadly wine of self deception, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

Sinful nature can only produce and beget sinful nature

According to Scripture, what are the characteristics of sinful nature?  Let me just give you a couple of them as samples.  Same family of words is used in Romans eight and verse seven. 

“For the carnal mind, the mind of the flesh is enmity against God. For it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can it be.”

Flesh produces flesh and the mindset, the prevailing disposition of every son and daughter born of fleshly parents, the disposition is one big clenched fist in the face of God.  The carnal mind is in its very essence enmity against God. It is not subject to the law of God neither, indeed, can it be.  That which is born of the flesh and as flesh it has a clenched fist in the face of God and it will live and die and go to hell that way unless almighty God intervenes. It is enmity. It is not subject to God, neither, indeed, can it be.  

Furthermore, take a text like 1 Corinthians two. “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God.”

The man, woman, boy or girl who only has what his mom and his daddy could give him by conception and birth and training and education and culture and nurture, still a natural man. He has never been born of the Spirit. He only has that which nature and training and culture can give him. 

“The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them.”

He has no faculty to truly know and perceive them because they are spiritual discerned and he does not possess the Holy Spirit because that which is born of the flesh is flesh and it is not only one big clenched fist in the face of God, it is one big blind eye to the things of God.  

Now I know that is not very, very helpful to self esteem to be told, “I am one massive clenched fist in the face of God and I am one massive blind eye before the things of God.”  But that is reality, my friend. That is reality.  It was reality of Nicodemus. He wasn’t a bum. He wasn’t whoremonger. He wasn’t a thief.  He was a Pharisee. He was the teacher in Israel. He was a ruler in Israel, a religious, a devout, upright, influential man. But he was, by nature, one mass consist and one big blind eye.  

Or take another text, Galatians 5:19-21. 

“The works of the flesh are manifest which are these.”

Where there is that which is born of the flesh, it will bring forth works consistent with what it is. And Paul says they are very evident. You don’t need to go on some kind of an exotic hunt to the back woods of an Amazonian jungle to find these things.  Just open your eyes. Open your ears. Look around and everywhere you will see the works of the flesh. 

And what are they?  Listen to them.  They are manifest: Fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness.

My friends, open your eyes.  Fornication, the stuff of which all the plots of soap operas are made, the stuff of which even so called good movies are made that only have, quote, one moderate sex scene, some married people hopping into bed like animals in heat.  The works of the flesh are manifest.  Fornication, fornication, uncleanness, double innuendo, filth coming out of the mouths now even of women.  They have got to show that they are equal to men and they can be as foul mouthed as men without twitching an eyebrow, female comedians who traffic in uncleanness, idolatry, surely manifest today.

Half of the inhabitants of the nation.... What is our present population?  It is estimated 240 million, the advertisers were planning on having 135 million people bowing before their electronic god on the Lord’s Day, idolatry, worshipping electronic tubes while a nation totters under the evident tokens of God’s displeasure, striking vacation land in Florida with the worst hurricanes in remembrance, then a 500 year flood in the quiet subdued, conservative Midwest. There is the Mississippi broke her banks for hundreds of miles.  Shaking the plates of the earth’s crust in California, dumping the east coast into a deep freeze and God is thundering to us in the elements that he controls.  

And rather than falling before that God in a national day of repentance, it is Superbowl Sunday. The works of the flesh are manifest idolatry.  Sorcery, sorcery. Think of it.  Unashamedly, in the middle of [?] a woman operates her shop and she has been there for years and she has not be subsidized by the town taro card readings, palmistry, works of the flesh, horoscopes screaming out from newspapers, TV Guide, call the National Weather Service and the 976-1212 and you can’t get the weather without saying, “Now that you know your weather, get your horoscope” and they give out the number.  Sorcery. 

Count off the living God, personal, loving, intimate God. 

Men must have some god so they will go to the impersonal forces of the stars to control them.  God, have mercy on us.  Sorcery.

Enmities, strife, race against race. 

White supremacist groups breaking out by the dozens all over the country, Farrakhan preaching his get whitie and kill him. 

Strife, factions, divisions, envyings, drunkenness, revellings and such like. 

The list is not complete.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh.  Where does all this horrible cesspool come from?  It comes out of flesh that has been born of flesh.  

That is why our Lord said, “When I make my statement, ‘Verily, verily, except one be born again, he cannot see the kingdom.  Verily, verily, except one be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter. Marvel not that I said unto you , “You must be born again,”’”

I am not overstating the case.  The explanation for this necessity is what man is by nature ever since our first father Adam sinned.  And add to all of this he is not only a clenched fist, a blind eye, a moral cesspool, in that condition he is so spiritually impotent he can’t even get to the remedy.

John 6:44, “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”

It is one thing to be in a sad state and need a doctor and want a doctor and have the power to get to him. It is quite another that one is in such a state that he cannot even get the remedy. 

“No man can come to me.”

Dear people, that is why Jesus said, “Except one is born again, he cannot see, he cannot enter.”

No new birth – no heaven.  

We have it in the Word of Christ.  

Now then consider with me in the second place, having looked at the necessity for the new birth both affirmed and explained, now the nature of the new birth illustrated, verse eight, verse eight, the nature of the new birth illustrated.

“The wind blows where it wills and you hear the voice or the sound thereof, but you do not know the place of its origin,” is the way we would say it today, whence it comes. You don’t know the precise place where that wind began to build up its force, nor do you know the precise place where it spends itself and is no more. You do not know its origin nor its destiny, but you can hear its sound when it passes by.  

If it is a gentle wind, you can hear its sound rustling the trees. If it is a fierce wind you can hear its sound whistling and screeching through the trees and other elements that are in its way.

And then the Lord concludes by saying, “So is every  one that is born of the Spirit.”

And the word translated “so,” outwv (hoo’-toce) is an adverb which means, “In this way, in this way.”

In other words, the Lord is saying, “Nicodemus, there are analogies between the operation, the origin, the destiny, the effect of the wind that will help you to understand the nature of this birth of which I speak.  You know the laws that govern human conception and human birth.  But, Nicodemus, this birth is of an entirely different kind and it has an analogy, there is something analogous in the activity of the wind.  In this way, so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.”

And there are three aspects of the nature of the new birth that our Lord highlights in this analogy of the wind. The first is this.  It is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.  

Look at the text.  “The wind blows where it wills.”

Now our Lord personifies the wind and gives it a will.  We know that he was not teaching that the wind is some independent agent with a mind and a will that operates outside of the mind and will of God. He is using human language.  We speak this way. He is underscoring the fact, “Nicodemus, if there is an unusually hot day in the place where you live and you would love the refreshment of a cool breeze upon your cheek, do you go out and snap your fingers and say, ‘Oh, wind, come and blow and please come off the Mediterranean with a little bit of refreshing coolness or come down from the mountains bringing some of the cool mountain air. Wind, wind, come.”

Oh, no. Nicodemus knew well there was an element of unpredictable, uncontrollable sovereignty in the activity of the wind. 

“The wind blows where it wills. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

It is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.  And there are two texts which nail this down in language that takes us out of the realm of an illustration.

For some might say, “Well, the Lord is just using an illustration. Don’t build doctrine on illustration.”

Well, my friend, if the illustration is given to elucidate doctrine, you better build doctrine on it. Don’t just build more than is warranted.  But Jesus is saying, “So is everyone born of the Spirit.”

This is not a Harold Camping arbitrarily saying, this number means this and this number means that. And you say, “Who says so?”  And the answer is, “Harold Camping says so.”

Jesus said, “So is everyone born of the Spirit one aspect or analogy is the wind blows where it wills. It is sovereign in its activity, underscoring that in the nature of the new birth we must understand it is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.”

Two texts that state this in categorical language: John chapter one verses 12 and 13. 

“Having come to his own and his own received him not,” John says, but, verse 12, “As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become the children of God even to them that believe on his name who were born, who were begotten.”  Here is our word for birth, “Who were begotten.”

May I paraphrase and say, “Who were born again”?

How?  Not of blood, not according to natural blood lines, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  Their new birth is attributed solely to the sovereign activity of God.  It doesn’t come because you have got the right blood lines or you have got good and godly people around you who will and even pray for your new birth.  You will be born again if God begets you again by his Spirit. That is the emphasis of the text. 

And in James one and verse 18, though it is a different word and could be rendered “brought us forth,” it still is in the category of the new birth, James chapter one. Here we read in verse 18 of his own will.

“He brought us forth by the Word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

When a man or a woman is brought forth to spiritual birth, God using the intstumentality of the Word as an accompaniment of his mighty working, whose will makes the difference? Is it the sinner’s will?  No, of his own will he brought us forth.  

The wind blows where it wills. The nature of the new birth is underscored, first of all, by our Lord as being a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.  

Now, my unconverted friend, listen to me.  This is not a doctrine of fatalism. But this is reality and it is meant to undercut every last vestige of pride and creature confidence.  You kids who have the benefit of godly moms and dads and godly nurture, you have been instructed, you have been catechized, you have been fairly and consistently disciplined and trained and taught. Listen, listen, kids.  You ain’t going to make it because mom and dad long with all their being to get you in with them.  If God doesn’t beget you to spiritual life you will go to hell as sure as if you had a cussing, drinking, fighting mom and dad who only use the name of Jesus as curse words and never taught you one verse of the Bible and never took you to church and go to the same hell.  

And all of you kids who are just rocking along on mom and daddy’s coat strings thinking, surely somehow I will be pulled in while grabbing to theirs, you kids listen to me.  You cannot and will not. You must be born of God. That is why you have got to get beyond just being carried along by mom and dad’s influence to instruct you and teach you and pray for you and with you. And you must personally cry to God. 

“Oh, God, I thank you for a mom and a daddy who teach me your ways and your word and who catechize me and spank me and train me. And I know they want me to go to heaven, but, Lord, you said, ‘Except I am born again, I cannot see, I cannot enter.’ And you have said that being born again is a sovereign work that you alone can do. Oh, God, do it in my by your power.”

When you start having dealings with God himself, kids, that is no doctrine of fatalism. That is shut you up to God where you need to be shut up.  And to us, the people of God, it is a doctrine of hope.  What gives us any hope?  Some of us have spent our lives pouring ourselves into our kids and some have chosen to defy the God of their mother and their fathers.  

What is our hope?  Here is our hope. If God is out to get them an beget them, he will do it.  He will do it.

“Of his own will he brought us forth.”

And, therefore, we are not dependent on hopeful signs as we perceive them. And we cry to God. If our prayers must track our children down to the very gate of hell we will pray for them, right to that gate, believing that almighty God can intervene and give them new life. 

Furthermore, if we believe that it is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, we will have no sympathy for this notion that the new birth is just a kind of an emotionally triggered religious birth. 

That is what a lot of people think the new birth is, an emotionally triggered religious birth in which Jesus has a little something to do somehow or other and you feel better about yourself and about other people.

I have been appalled when they talk about Jesus this and Jesus that.  All they have had is some kind of an emotionally triggered religious burp.

Do you know what? What you have a good burp how you just feel so good afterwards? You just feel relief. That is why I use the term [?].

I see you are all laughing because you didn’t admit it.  You feel good after you have a burp, don’t you?  Sure you do. You are getting rid of gas that doesn’t belong there.

Now, you may be embarrassed. If you are a mouth breather like I am and you have an obstructed nose and you happen to be breathing and a burp comes out it is really embarrassing because the mouth becomes a beautiful echo chamber and it would make you very acceptable in certain cultures where such a belch is saying a nice thank you to your host and hostess, but it is not so kosher in our society.  

But now seriously. Do you see why I use the term?  Having an emotionally triggered religious burp that makes you feel good and Jesus is somehow in the midst of that. That is not the new birth.  Anyone can produce that. It can be self induced psychological experience.  

The new birth is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, it is an effective work of the Holy Spirit. Or you may want to use the word discernible. I wrestled with which one to use.  One is in the main notes, one is in brackets.  It is an effective work of the Spirit.

How do we know that? Look at the text.  

“The wind blows where it wills,” sovereignty, so is everyone born of the Spirit. “And you hear the sound thereof. How do you know the wind is present?  Not because you can tag when it began and where it will go and end, but because of its immediate present effect upon you.  You can hear its sound.  

The Lord could have said, “You can feel its pressure, you can see its activity.” It is an effective working element in God’s creation. So is everyone born of the Spirit.  

This is why in the book of 1 John, John can state at least five things that are true of everyone who is born again. 

“He that believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God,” 5:1.  

3:9, “He that is begotten of God does not make a practice of sin.”

2:29, “He that is begotten of God practices righteousness.”

3:14 and 4:7, “He that is born of God loves the brethren.”

Chapter five and verse four, “He that is begotten of God overcomes the world.”

Chapter five and verse 18, “He that is begotten of God keeps himself and the evil one touches him not.”

John says wherever there is the new birth, there is an effective work of the Holy Spirit. And, listen carefully. He doesn’t say one word about hearing voices, seeing angels, speaking in tongues, having goose bumps. The tests are all ethical, moral and doctrinal as our English friends would say.

Those are the tests that the Spirit has done his work of a new birth, if we have truly cast the weight of our souls upon Christ Jesus of Nazareth as our only hope of life and salvation. We have done so because we have been begotten of God. Faith in Christ is the first motion in acting of a regenerate heart. 

“Whoever is born of God does not make a practice of sin.”

In the divine begetting there is a vomiting out of sin, a turning from sin as a way of life, a turning from sin’s dominion and lordship and the commitment to universal holiness.

“He that is begotten of God practices righteousness,” 2:29.  He is committed to an active pursuit of evangelical obedience to the law of God. He takes the law of God seriously in all of its length and breadth in spirituality. He loves the brethren with all their warts and molds and quirks and irritants. He loves them because they are brethren, because they are born of the same God, indwelt by the same Spirit and the image of the mutually trusted Christ has begun to be formed in them.  He overcomes the world. He that is begotten of God overcomes the world.  

The world does not squeeze him into his mold and hold him there so that we are worldly in how we view our dress.  

Don’t talk about spirituality if it doesn’t touch your wardrobe.  More of that when we come to, “Love does not behave itself unseemly.” The Bible does talk about modest apparel.  And God doesn’t give us a 10 page manual saying so many inches off the floor and so many inches from the sternum to the cleavage, but he does say modest and he does say there met him a woman with the attire of a harlot, assuming that in every given culture there are the symbols in our clothing of modesty or immodesty. And the woman begotten of God is prepared to be considered a little dotty if to the immodest she is called dotty.  

And the world has its music and it standards of lechery and uncleanness and godlessness and materialism and moral relativism with hatred and violence and brutality and sadism breathing out from everything, so called soft rock to hate rap.  

“He that is born of God overcomes the world.”

He rejects that as any part of his entertainment. 

How can one born of the God of truth and the God of love and the God of righteousness sand the God of order entertain himself while listening to that which breathes of the Spirit of darkness and hate and disorder?  

My friends, stop playing games.  You listen to the same music as your neighbors who don’t profess anything of Christian faith.  What proof do you have that you have overcome the world?  

I am talking in generic terms. The world comes in its specific propositions to us, with its styles, with its entertainment, with its music, with its avocations, with its recreations, with its standards of what is worthy of being pursued. God says we are to pursue holiness. We are to seek first the kingdom. 

The world says, “No, seek riches.”

And God says, “No.  Charge them to be careful about seeking riches, for they that would be rich fall into manifold snares and drown themselves in perdition.” 

If riches come God says, “Set not your heart upon them.” They can go a lot quicker than they came.  

Do you overcome the world?  Do you keep yourself from the enemy, the evil one?

You see, the new birth, my friends, is not being able to look back to some time when you had a nice warm feeling because you had some kind of an emotionally triggered burp. It was a morally, ethically, religiously, transformed work of the Spirit of God.  

“The wind blows where it wills, so is everyone born of the Spirit. You can’t tell where it comes, where it goes, but you hear its sound.” 

So it is an effective work of the Spirit.

And thirdly, and finally, it is a mysterious work of the Spirit.  

Look at the text.  You can’t tell its origins.  You cannot designate its destiny. You hear the voice, but you don’t know where it came from and where it is going. There is an element of mystery. The wind is just there.  I will never forget.  

My wife came up to my study a few months ago. We have been in that one house in Cedar Grove for 27 years now.  This summer I think it will be 28 years and we have watched our neighbor’s beautiful blue spruce grow from about this high to where it was about 50 feet high, one of the most beautiful, symmetrical blue spurces I have ever seen.  Its fronds were about that thick, just beautiful, exquisite.

She came up to my study blanched white and she said, “Honey, honey, the Mouldin’s tree has gone over.”

I went downstairs and looked out the window and there it was lying flat amidst a big mud ball.  In less than an hour [?] was there and he made quick work of that [?].  Chopped it up, put it in his shredder and it was gone.  

The wind. Where did that wind come from? Where did it go?  I don’t know, but every time I look out to where that tree once stood and I envision it in my mind I know that the effect of that wind was real.  And it was permanent and radical.  It changed the whole face of the front part of that southern side of their lot.  

But there is a mystery about the wind. Where did it come from? Why did it come with such intensity right there and where did it go to do other...?  I don’t know. There is an element of mystery.  

And so, likewise, with the new birth. And one hymn writer captured that beautifully in the gospel hymn, I Know Whom I Have Believed.  Do you remember the third stanza, I believe it is?

I know not how the Spirit moves, Convincing men of sin, Revealing Jesus thro' the Word, Creating faith in Him.
I don’t know how.   I don’t know how...

But I know whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I've committed Unto Him against that day.

And I know that my faith is not the faith of the demons or mere historical, dead, temporary faith.  For it is a faith that has united me to Christ and in the virtue of that union has transformed me into a new creature so that those effects of the new birth I see not perfectly, but fundamentally and growing in my life. I do believe in Christ. I do no longer practice sin as a way of life.  I do practice righteousness. I love the brethren. I do overcome the world and I do keep myself from the evil one.  

How precisely, even in my case, when the Spirit did his work I can point to neither day nor hour nor even week.  I can only point to a bracket of several months when on the front end of that bracket was a tortured conscience and fear of hell and of judgment and at least a dozen false starts of Christian profession. And on the other end it was something God did that ain’t stopped to this day.

Blessed be God. And it isn’t going to stop until I am in heaven and I am like the Lord Jesus.  And then it is still going to go on because we are going to grow more and more in heaven.

Now, my friend, I ask you as we close tonight, having looked at what our Lord Jesus has told us, that I have called this eighth sign post to the celestial city, “No new birth – no heaven.”

We have seen our Lord’s statement of the necessity of the new birth asserted, three times he asserts it.  Then he explains that necessity. It is because of what we are by nature.  

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

Then he turns us to something of the nature of the new birth. It is something like the activity of the wind. It is a sovereign work of the Spirit. It is an effective work of the Spirit. It is a mysterious work of the Spirit.  And my question to you as we bring the message to a close tonight is this.  Have you been born again?  Have you been born anew? Have you experienced the new birth? And can you back up your answer, if it is in the affirmative, with an honest consideration of those five accompaniments of the new birth which John outlines in his first epistle? 

John Owen said in what is roughly quoted Owen, “Two of the greatest undoing and damning delusions with which the devil destroys the souls of men are these.  Number one, that without the new birth they are ready to die and go to heaven and, secondly, that they have experienced the new birth without a life of universal holiness to prove it.” 

He said, “Those two lies are taking more people to hell than any others.”

Are you believing either of those?  

“Oh, ho, maybe Nicodemus needed the new birth, but not me.”

My friend, I have emphasized that when Jesus underscored the necessity only once, only once did he exclusively direct his words to Nicodemus.  In the two other assertions he generalized, “Except one be born again, he cannot see.  Except one be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter.”  

Don’t believe the lie that for you there is an exception, that on that sign post no new birth, no heaven, somehow God has inscribed in invisible ink your name saying, “Except for,” and then your name. And in the day of judgment he will run a brush over the invisible ink and then your name will stand out as the one exception.

God will not do it.  If you are not born again, you will not enter.

John Owen says that is the great delusive lie of the devil that without the new birth you can enter heaven. And the second great lie is that you have experienced the new birth without the fruit of that new birth manifested in a commitment to a life of universal holiness, not the attainment of perfection in any area, let alone every area, but a commitment of the heart, that there is no area that you are not prepared to have controlled by Jesus Christ and his Word.  

Is that where you are?  

“Oh, yeah, I am born again.”

Oh, are you?  

The wind blows. You hear the sound.  What sounds of the Spirit’s work are echoing out of your life that cause people to look at you who know you intimately and say there is only one explanation for that man, that woman, that boy, that girl?  That explanation is the life of God is in him. The power of God has transformed her.   He or she is begotten of God.  

As I said last week, dear people, my greatest fear is that once again we have drawn near to the very nerve centers of the issues of life and death and you have listened so attentively. I never preach anywhere, but what I am delighted to come back and preach to you and pull the word out.  With but few exceptions your attention is commendable.  

But, dear friends, you can be attentive to the Word and perish.  The Word must be embrace and no one can embrace it for you. And I beg of you to stand before that sign post in the secret of the place where you would have dealings with God before you pillow your head tonight and look him straight in the eye and say, “Yes, no new birth, no heaven, Lord.  Do I have biblical grounds to believe I am born of you?”

Then take the time to read those passages in the book of 1 John with judgment day honesty.  And if those things are not present, all of them to some degree, then face the reality: You may be deluded. And, if so, then go to the God alone who can give you life and say, “Lord, surely you wouldn’t have shown me my delusion here to mock me, but you have shown me my delusion that you might show me mercy.”

And then you read on in John chapter three and the gospel is there set out. 

You see, the doctrine of the new birth is not the gospel.  The gospel is the good news of what God has done in Christ for sinners.  And it is always in the context of the preaching of the gospel that God brings people to new birth. For if whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God, when God does the divine begetting, unless it is in a gospel context there could be no faith in Christ.  

So, my friend, if God has found you out, don’t go looking into your heart. Look to him who was lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness and cry to him for mercy. Cry to him for grace. Cry to him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself that you might know the mercy and the grace and the sovereign working of God in your life.  

Let us pray.

Our Father, we thank you again for your holy Word. We praise you for the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus who is not only the way, but the truth as well as the life. And we pray that his words would be written upon our hearts and that they may bear fruit unto everlasting life in many hearts tonight.  Thank you for the privilege of being able to meet unmolested and without fear in this public assembly. Thank you for the privilege of opening your Word. And, oh God, we thank you that we are here tonight.  Many of us do not begrudge that we are here and nowhere else. But we can’t it our joy to have this foretaste of the great gathering in that final and eternal sabbath. Oh, Lord, hasten the day and prepare many more for that day we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.