If someone who was close to you handed you some directions on a piece of paper and said, “If you go here by 4 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, there will be a certain person who will meet you and hand you a winning lottery ticket for tomorrow-nights, 500 million dollar jackpot. You will be the big winner. This person knows who you are. They will be waiting for you. Oh, one more thing. It’s all tax free!” If those directions were across town or 25 miles away, would you get there by 4 o’clock? Or are you just too busy and can’t be bothered?
Jesus says in John 3:3-8.
What was Jesus talking about when He said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again”? When people are born in the flesh they take on a physical nature, complete with body, soul and spirit.
The body is physical, what everyone sees. Our senses give our bodies input and output. Our soul is made up of our intellect, emotions, our conscience and our will. Our spirit, while often thought to be closely connected, virtually interchangeable with our soul, has another separate side to it.
Our spirit, because of our sin nature, is born separated from God. (Isaiah 64:6), (Romans 3:23). James 2:10 tells us,
It is because we by nature break God’s law that we are in need of a new birth. That new birth Jesus speaks of is a birth from above, a new birth from God. It is this new birth of our spirit that each person needs that makes peace with God an earthly and heavenly reality. How does this new birth happen?
Jesus tells us something about the work of God’s Spirit and the love of the Heavenly Father. In John 6:44 Jesus says that,
The moving of the God’s Spirit is like the wind. I may hear the wind coming, but even though I see and feel it now I will not know where that same wind will be in five minutes. So it is when the Spirit of God moves in the heart of a person.
One moment life seems to be going through the daily routine, and the next moment my heart and thoughts are gripped with the sense that something inside me needs a change.
There lingers a stark reality that all my efforts, my good hard work and intentions aren’t filling me up with the peace I need. When it comes to peace with God, I only hope He sees my good efforts; but I am still not sure where I will end up.
Maybe I haven’t given God a second thought. If I have, those thoughts haven’t been positive. Now circumstances have put me in an impossible situation and I have nowhere to turn. For the first time in my life I cry out inside, “God if you’re there!”
Whatever our circumstances may be, when we sense something different, deep down, moving in our heart, there is a very good chance the Spirit of God is drawing Himself to us and is trying to get our attention…because He loves us.
If we are not sure where we stand with God, His Word tells us that we can know for sure. 1 John 5:12,13 tells us,
If I understand that I have sinned against a Holy God and that sin separates me from God forever then I can know: I am in big eternity trouble if I continue to do nothing and ignore God’s invitation of accepting His gift of eternal life through Jesus to me.
If a friend approaches you and holds out a check made out to you for ten thousand dollars and says to you, “Here, I want to give you this as a free gift.” You may be skeptical and ask why? “Because I see what you’re going through and this will help you. No strings attached. No obligation to repay.”
He holds the check out to you and……..by faith, you reach out and take it. You thank him over and over again fighting back some tears because he was right. A huge burden was just taken off your shoulders. You rush to the bank and cash it. With that free gift, you are now debt free. What a glorious feeling.
If you just stood there looking at his outstretched hand and simply walked away, because of unbelief or pride, the burden would still be there. The creditors would still be calling, calling, calling.
So it is with our hearts, our sin nature; and that is why Jesus came for us.
God the Father so loves you. He loves each of us so much, that He sent Jesus who, extended both hands, for you, to stand between you and every one of your sins and the penalty for those sins. When I say you, that goes for this writer also and for every one of us (John 3:16).
If I see this great sacrifice offered to cover my sins I now have a choice. I can reject God’s offer and move on to plan z, or I can, with all of my shortcomings and total mess ups, be honest with God, turn to Him, and accept His offer of Jesus for myself, all the way through, top to bottom.
So it is like the wind Jesus spoke of. The wind of God’s Holy Spirit comes in our direction seemingly out of nowhere and gives us an opportunity to turn our life and eternal destiny around.
This is what happened in this writer’s view to one of the two criminals hanging next to Jesus. In Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32 two rebels were crucified, one on each side of Jesus.
Both hurled insults toward Jesus. They not only hurled insults, they heaped it on Jesus. The rebels were done for. Why would they hurl and heap insults on an innocent man; a man that had done them no wrong?
But something seems to have happened between insults. Could that wind that Jesus spoke of in John 3:8 have been blowing through the hearts of these two criminals giving them one last chance? In Luke 23:39-41 one of the criminals snapped back at the other criminal. He said, don’t you fear God? We got what we deserved. This man is innocent.
Not only do we discover the one criminal did fear God, he was honest about what he did. He recognized that his only remedy was to look to this innocent man as his Messiah, his eternal deliverer. What did he ask Jesus? He said,
Here something changed in the heart of one of the criminals. He was honest with himself and God. He knew he did a lot of wrong. He didn’t justify himself. He recognized Jesus as his only hope after he died. He didn’t demand salvation or deliverance as one of his rights. He just humbly asked Jesus if he would remember him.
Did Jesus say you better clean up your act first and maybe I’ll think about it. Did Jesus say you need to do a whole lot of good works and prove yourself first. Did Jesus say to go through a bunch of religious ceremonies first? That will impress me and get you in.
Did Jesus remind this criminal of all the insults he heaped and hurled at Him (God), a short time ago and say, you want me to remember you after all the trash talk you said about me? Do you know who you’re talking to? Why should I? Forget it! Serves you right!
No! Jesus didn’t say anything like that. Jesus saw his heart. It was a heart that turned to God, a heart that needed and looked to the only Messiah that could save. It was a heart that experienced humility and humbly asked Jesus to only remember him. The wind of God’s Spirit moved through the heart of this person and Jesus said to this dying criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
My dear friend, Jesus did not come to condemn. He came to seek and to save those that were lost. When we become a child of God we don’t get what’s coming to us. We become His child because of His great mercy and loving kindness to us. It is all His grace towards each of us.
Even at the very end of Jesus’ last breath as a human being on earth, He was reconciling and redeeming the outcasts, the misfits, the hopeless and helpless to Himself. That one criminal to this day is still enjoying being with Jesus. He isn’t a criminal any more. He lives with God and all the beauty and glory that one can experience being in the presence of a loving and forgiving Holy God.
So it will be with each of us when we come to know Jesus personally as our personal Lord and Savior, our redeemer and faithful friend. If He is speaking quietly to you, listen. Take His hand. By faith start having a conversation with God. He knows how to listen. He knows you and loves you.
If by some miraculous timing you may be reading this and realize you do need Jesus in your life but you don’t know how to pray, (have a genuine conversation) and don’t know where to begin. Begin here.
In whatever simple way it comes out, say to God: “I’m sorry, God, for all my sins; my way isn’t working. I now see Jesus dying for my sins when He hung there because He loves me. I thank you, Jesus, for rising from the dead for me. Please...forgive me, come into my heart, be my Lord and Savior. Please make me your child forever. I want to be with You forever. Jesus, thank you!”
Such a simple yet ever so tender prayer, God hears. It is such a prayer that brings great joy to God in Heaven.
What happens when you pray such a prayer? You become part of the family of God. You have been born from above. You have become an adopted son or daughter of the Most High King of Kings. You now have the Spirit of the Living God living inside us.
You have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Ephesians 1:13,14. You will forever be His child and Heaven is your home when you leave this earthly body. John 10:27-30. Believing is seeing.