I’m excited this morning about a couple of things. First, we are planning on re-opening for worship on August 30th. We are going to wear masks and practice social distancing, but I’m still excited that we are meeting together. I can’t wait for us to worship together. I can’t wait to meet you. And if you are looking for a time and place to start back to church. This is a great time and place to begin. This pandemic has caused a lot of us to reset our lives. Set new priorities. It’s time to get back on the spiritual path. Join us Sunday morning at 9 for Sunday School and Worship will be at 10. I can’t wait.
The second thing I’m excited about is we are starting a sermon series – our spiritual DNA. What makes us “Christians?” What does it mean to experience salvation? What should our spiritual journey look like? The text this series is based upon is in 2 Peter 1:3-4 (Read this text)
God has given us everything we need for a Godly life and through Christ we can participate in the divine nature. Those aren’t words we typically use. The next time someone asks how you are, say: “Man I’m awesome. I’m participating in the divine nature.” You will probably get some looks. It’s funny, but there’s a point here. Coming to Christ, receiving salvation is the beginning of a journey towards becoming divine. And it doesn’t start after we die. You see God has given us everything we need for dying. No… to be … a people whose spiritual DNA is infused with the divine nature. What does that look like?
Well, if we read further in Peter’s letter, he describes a long strand of things that we need in addition to faith. But before we can participate in God’s plan, we have to be born. You can’t build until there is a foundation. We must be born again. You can go ahead and turn to John 3 if you would like to follow along. You must be born again. Do you ever think maybe some of our churches have gotten away from this truth? Jesus said, no man can come to me except the Father call him. No man can come to the Father but through Me. You must be born again. What does that mean. What does that look like? Jesus explains it to a pharisee named Nicodemus. This is perhaps one of my favorite moments in Jesus ministry. Let’s read it. John 3:1-8
I don’t know where Nicodemus ended up after he left this life. That’s not for us to say is it? But I know that in this particular instance, Nicodemus was not sold on Jesus Christ. He came to Jesus in the dark where he would not be seen. He came with some nice words, supportive words, as we do. But when it came right down to owning Jesus as Christ, the Son of God, he chose to come under the cover of night. There are believers who go to Church every Sunday. Raise their children in the Church. Give to the Church. Some serve positions in the Church. They have fondness for the Church and know how important Jesus is. Ask them if they believe and they will tell you of course. What do you mean? I’ve gone to church all of my life. But I have sad news. When we get our names on the Church role, nobody sends a carbon copy to the pearly gates so it can be stapled in to the lamb’s book of life. You must be born again. Nicodemus came at night so that he could go back to his job and not be ridiculed or rejected by his peers. I wonder if anyone else does anything like that. It is in a Christian’s DNA to live openly for the Lord. Not only that, but being born again puts you in a relationship that you were not in before that moment.
Jesus ignored Nicodemus’ kind words and went straight to the point. It’s not good enough to be fond of the Bible or the church because you will never be able to see what is really important. There are wonder ful people in our churches that have never been born again. (Preacher you are judging) No, I’m not. Look it up, Mathew 7:22 sometime. Jesus said that many on the last day will say to me “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out demons? And in thy name done many wonderful works? You see the problem with those folks (none of US of course) is that for them, doing good is what Christianity is about. It’s about doing stuff, going to church, giving money, taking care of people. Doing wonderful things. Jesus didn’t say, “No you didn’t. You didn’t do any good things in my name.” What He said is depart from me because I never knew you.” You must be born again. I won’t ask if you have come to Christ. Here is a question for you. Has Christ come to you? We have wrapped salvation up nice and tidy. All you have to do is come forward. Sign on the dotted line. Do you believe? Yep, I believe. You will get the churches stamp of approval. If you come here and want to be a part, hey I’ll take you in and love you. But only you can work out your own salvation.
Uh oh. Now I’ve done it. I used the word work and salvation in the same sentence. Salvation is by grace and grace only. We cannot earn salvation. We can’t work our way to God’s favor. That work is done. But working for God, and allowing God to lead and transform us is not only consistent with Salvation, salvation is accompanied by the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives. We are so afraid of associating works with salvation that we have thrown the baby out with the baptismal water. Someone needs to read the book of James. That book makes everyone uncomfortable. Faith without works is dead. We can explain it away. It means this, it means that. But what it means is that faith is evidenced by things seen.
The Pharisees came to John the Baptist to be baptized signifying they had repented. He refused He said “show me the fruits.” He was saying, “You haven’t changed a bit.” The Pharisees didn’t really even understand what was happening there. They couldn’t see the kingdom of God. They just knew the people were all on board so they jumped in too. That’s what some people do. There are those who will stand before Christ who have attended church their entire lives and have no relationship with the living Lord. Jesus said, that which is born of flesh is flesh. Nicodemus, you have been going at this thing all wrong. You think that by all of your efforts you are spiritual. But you can’t even begin a spiritual journey until you realize that there is a huge difference between the physical and the spiritual. Flesh is just flesh, but spirit is spirit. You must be born again.
I knew a woman who was 76 that, for the first time, experienced God’s call and Christ’s forgiveness and the Spirit’s presence. She had been in church all of her life. Life began at 76.
Jesus explains what it’s like to be a born-again believer. John 3:7-8
The wind, the pneuma, is the same word used for Spirit in the Greek. Did you know that? And Jesus says that the wind goes where it pleases. The Spirit of God is God’s person. Jesus sent the Spirit, the advocate, to remind us of all the things He teaches, to empower us to preach, and to transform our lives. But we have to follow. And so often we wonder where the Spirit is coming from. Do you ever feel that way? The Spirit impresses you to walk up to someone and give them a message. Do you know why this doesn’t happen? It’s because we are not open to the Spirit. We quench the Spirit. We ignore the Spirit’s leading. The Spirit says, make a phone call, we say “I don’t want to.” The Spirit says, give that person $100, we say “I can’t afford it.” Nonetheless, the wind blows and we don’t really understand where it is coming from. Do you ever stop and rationalize… that’s not really God telling me to do that. It’s just me. I think I got a bad potato at lunch. Well, what is the worst thing that could happen? Someone might look at you funny. What is the best thing that could happen? You could be the instrument God uses to change a life. The wind blows where it wishes and we don’t know where it’s coming from or where it is going. You hear the sound of it. God’s Spirit usually just whispers, scratches at our hearts. “So it is with everyone that is born of the Spirit.”
Are you born again? I want to get into the heart of serving God. Learning to understand His will. Becoming the people we need to be. Adding to our faith. But in order for us to infuse our Spiritual DNA with all the right stuff, we have to be alive. The dead don’t have Spiritual DNA. And I’m not asking you to accept Jesus. I’m asking you to go to Jesus. Becoming a child of god is not something you do. It is something God does for you. And I still believe Jesus when he said it was that sinner in the floor on his face that found forgiveness. I believe we meet Jesus. God is right there with you a breath away. The Lord is waiting on the right word, He wants to make you His. He has proven His love for you on a Cross and He wants to make you His child. That I know.
And to you who know Him. I still happen to believe that repentance and humility are involved in the process of walking with Christ, following the pneuma, God’s spirit wind. There are still prayer altars in our churches. How often do we use these altars to pray for the lost and to get ourselves right so we can hear when the Spirit speaks? I love and old hymn. It was one of my favorites. How long has it been since you talked with the Lord and told him your hearts hidden secrets? How long since you’ve prayed? How long since you’ve stayed on your knees til the light shown through? How long has it been since your mind felt at ease? How long since your heart knew no burden? Can you call him your friend? How long has it been since you knew that he cared for you?
You must be born again, and then we must add to our faith. Infuse our Spiritual DNA with the rest of what God has for us. Amen?