Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

Author: Paul Earnhart

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What It Means To Be Born Again

Friday, June 14, 2024

What It Means To Be Born Again

By Paul Earnhart

Nicodemus, the great Jewish rabbi, must have been shocked when Jesus said to him, “You must be born again.” (Jn. 3:7)  There was nothing Nicodemus was prouder of than his first birth.  He was born as a descendant of Abraham.  He might well have described himself as another Jewish rabbi did: “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” (Phil. 3:5)  What better birth could a man have?

Jesus, of course, was not speaking of another physical birth.  He was speaking of a figurative new birth.  It was another way of saying that Nicodemus would have to make a completely new beginning.  The first birth of Nicodemus determined his family relations, his nationality, his cultural heritage, his language, and even to a great degree his goals and values.  All of these would have to become new for him.  Many people talk of being born again without realizing the significance of the expression.  The fact is no matter what a person may have experienced, if these changes have not taken place in their life, they have not been born again.

“How can a man be born when he is old,” Nicodemus asked? (Jn. 3:4)  Perhaps you wonder that, too.  Jesus answered the question, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:5)  The Holy Spirit changes the spirit of mankind.  Jesus said, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn. 3:6)  This is accomplished through the word of God which the Spirit has given.  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:23 that Christians have been born again through “the word of God which lives and abides forever.” 

But there is another part of the new birth.  Jesus said that one must be born of water and the Spirit.  The only act the New Testament describes involving water is water baptism.  When the Spirit has changed the inner man, the outer man must be washed in the water of baptism.  Have you been born of the water and the Spirit?

Nicodemus Comes To Jesus

Friday, May 24, 2024

Nicodemus Comes To Jesus

By Paul Earnhart

Early in the preaching of Jesus, He was visited by a prominent theologian named Nicodemus.

I have often wondered why Nicodemus visited Jesus.  I know some of the reasons people today show interest in religion.  Some are driven by intellectual curiosity.  They want to know a little about everything that is going on in the world.  Others are selfishly motivated…they hope for some material gain by connecting themselves with religion.  Still others feel that they have something to offer to help a good cause…perhaps they have money or talents or influence.

Any one of these may have motivated Nicodemus.  He may have heard of Jesus and been interested in learning what he could about Him.  Or, he may have thought that Jesus would gain a large following and hoped that he might share in His popularity.  More likely, I think he felt that he could help this young teacher.  After all, Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews, and he could contribute both influence and protection if they were needed.

Nicodemus came with a compliment for Jesus.  He said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.” (John 3:2)

How surprised Nicodemus must have been at the response of Jesus: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)  It was obvious that Jesus was neither awed nor intimidated by this ruler of the Jews.  Jesus was no respecter of persons.  He was not concerned with what Nicodemus could do for Him.  Instead, He was concerned that Nicodemus should enter the kingdom of God.

What is your interest in Jesus…some material benefit He can give you or some favor you might do for Him?  If so, Jesus would respond to you as He did to Nicodemus: “You must be born again.”

Jesus Knew What Was in Man

Friday, April 26, 2024

Jesus Knew What Was in Man

By Paul Earnhart

From the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus made a great impression on the people who met Him.  Some were impressed negatively.  He did not fit their expectations of the Messiah, and they refused to consider the evidence of His divinity.  Others, who were not prejudiced, saw in Him those qualities which set Him apart from all other men.

This was the result when He first visited Jerusalem after His baptism and the beginning of His personal ministry.  John 2:23 says, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed on His name, beholding the signs which He did.”

But this early faith was not a deep faith.  Jesus knew full well that some of those early believers would turn against Him.  And so the next verses say, “But Jesus did not trust Himself unto them, for He knew all men, and because He needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man; for He knew what was in a man.”  (John 2:24-25)

Two things are evident from these verses.  First: Jesus was divine.  Ordinary men simply do not know what other men are thinking.  Only God can read a man’s mind; so if Jesus knew what men were thinking, He must have been divine.  His ability to know what men were thinking was demonstrated again and again during His lifetime.  It must have been a frustration to His enemies.

Second: If Jesus knew what the people of His day were thinking, He must know what is in our hearts as well.  We can fool our neighbors and the people at church.  We may even fool our families.  But the Lord knows what is in our heart; He knows our motives and what we really think, regardless of what we say.  And He is the one who will judge us.  Eccl. 12:14 says that "God will bring every work into judgment, and every secret thing, whether it be good or evil."  Are you ready for such judgment?

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Friday, April 12, 2024

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

By Paul Earnhart

When Jesus went to Jerusalem for the first time after the beginning of His personal ministry, we are told that He visited the temple and found merchants who were selling oxen, sheep and doves.  There were also money changers exchanging the money which the people ordinarily used into the kind of money that was accepted for offerings in the temple.

Jesus was greatly disturbed by what He saw.  John tells us that “He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.’  His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Thy house will consume Me.’” (John 2:15-17)

God does not have a material house today, such as the temple was in those days.  But the church is His house as Peter wrote to Christians in 1 Peter 2:5 saying, “You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house.”

But most churches today have virtually lost their spiritual emphasis.  In some cases, they have again become houses of merchandise; they seem to exist to make money.  In some other cases they have become country clubs with all kinds of recreation equipment and dining facilities.  Church funds are used more for social purposes than for spiritual activities, and more emphasis is placed on entertainment than on worship and Bible teaching.

I wonder what Jesus would do if He should visit a modern church.  I wonder if He would not again engage in a general house-cleaning.  If we are like Jesus “consumed with zeal for our Father’s house” (John 2:17), we will look again at God’s plan for His house and make certain that the church of which we are a part is what God intends for it to be, not what men want it to be.

Did Jesus Approve of Drinking?

Friday, April 05, 2024

Did Jesus Approve of Drinking?

By Paul Earnhart

According to John 2:1-11, the first miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine.  Many people have used this fact to defend the practice of drinking alcoholic beverages.

Wine, in the Bible, was not necessarily alcoholic.  It refers to all grape juice, whether fermented or unfermented.  Isaiah 65:8 refers to the wine while it is still in the cluster.  At that point, grape juice is certainly not alcoholic, yet the Bible calls it wine.

They used the word wine in those days in much the same way that we use the word cider.  Cider may be either freshly squeezed apple juice, or it may be fermented hard cider.

What did Jesus make?  The word wine does not tell us.  It is a fact that the headwaiter called the wine that Jesus made the “best” wine.  But there is evidence that people in those days did not judge wine by its potency, but by its sweet taste.  Obviously unfermented grape juice is the sweetest of all.

The Bible clearly condemns drunkenness.  Galatians 5:21 states that those who practice drunkenness cannot inherit the kingdom of God.  If the wine that Jesus made was intoxicating, He made enough of it to make everybody at the feast drunk.  Who can believe that Jesus actually did that?

When is a person drunk?  One of the first effects of even a small amount of alcohol is to impair one’s moral judgment.  This is the most serious consequence of alcohol, and it occurs long before one begins to stagger or speak with slurred speech.  The best policy for a true disciple of Jesus is to avoid alcoholic beverages altogether.

By all means, Jesus must not be cited to encourage drunkenness or even the use of strong drink.  The Bible universally condemns them both.

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