When God appears on the scene, great and marvelous things happen. When the angel Gabriel was telling Mary that she would bear a Child, the Son of God, her uncertainties were overwhelming, no doubt, by the angel’s response: “For with God, nothing is impossible!”
That is readily understood that there are no impossibilities with God. It also says that, with God, it is impossible that there can be nothing. When this thought comes to mind, I recall reading of the glorious entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday before His crucifixion. The religious leaders did not like it: “And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out'” (Luke 19:39-40).
Note that word “immediately” in the quotation. It brings to mind Psalm 46:1, which tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble!”
In John, chapter three, we are told that “you MUST be born again.” (Capitals used for emphasis.) Is it not amazing that such a transformation can happen just by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? 1 John 5:1 reveals that truth: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”
In that context, in verses 4-5, John tells us of the impact that makes in our life: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
So, what happens when that “new birth” takes place? First, it will never happen unless one becomes keenly aware of his own sinfulness and personal offense to God and is willing to give up that offense to God—repent, turn from it—and accepts His forgiveness. Romans 3:20 tells us how that comes to a person: “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” That is, by doing the deeds that the law prohibits, a person knows that he is sinful and morally wrong, guilty before God.
Anyone who has ever run a red light in traffic experiences that truth. When we disobey that law, even not “spiritual,” we look around to see if an officer is nearby—right? Ever since Adam disobeyed God’s command in the Garden, mankind has had within his inner being, his conscience, the knowledge of right and wrong. It is God’s link to that person’s destiny, for therein is the accountability and responsibility before God. It is in the conscience that mankind—male and female—decide their destiny. The purpose of sharing the gospel to any and all, of all ages, is to bring that penetrating law of God into contact with that conscience so that repentance may result. The truth that Jesus taught about two roads: one, narrow and hard to find, the other, broad and well-traveled, thus shows that many are on the latter and do not repent and receive the gift of salvation. Obviously, there is a choice being made.
There is no scriptural basis that says God will choose anyone who refuses to believe and surrender to Him, for no one will be in heaven who does not want to be there—do you agree? It is in God’s eternal foreknowledge that He can see who will believe and be saved and who will not believe. His system of true justice holds Him to offer His salvation to every person, even those whom He knows, in His eternal foreknowledge, will not accept it. Romans 6:23 sums it up like this: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Peter wrote that “God does not desire that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9). Thus, He calls for a response.
Thus, Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for all mankind, even those who will not believe and receive that gift, as the Scriptures tell us, even in the very well-known John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him shall have everlasting life” and restated clearly in 1 John 2:2: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Even John the Baptist, early on, saw that truth: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29).
Therefore, we see the Apostle Paul putting the picture into perspective at 2 Timothy 2:10: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” It is the work of believers, the ambassadors of Christ, to find those who will believe and share the gospel with them. In His foreknowledge, again we must so understand, God’s election is of those who will believe and repent of their sins. They do not know of their potential election, and a confrontation with the gospel is the crucial point of determination. (It reminds me of a story coming from the political arena when a man was tagged to run for a political office, but he did not want to get involved. His retort was, “If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.”) Election seems to require a commitment.
Finally, back to the marvelous transformation that takes place when one is born again, we find that some amazing truths come into being. The Scripture, at 1 Corinthians 6:17, reveals this: “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” This parallels Colossians 1:27: “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Then we can understand how Philippians 2:12b to 13 comes together. That passage says, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God works within us to help us overcome the desires of our flesh, the old Adam nature, to do His pleasure. No, it is not about works to obtain salvation, but about obedience to the cry of our consciences to do right and not wrong. Paul writes in Romans 7:24-25, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
The Apostle continues with a summation of how that “fear and trembling” which occurs is overcome in everyday life: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Verse 2 also reads, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
That exceedingly marvelous transformation we have been writing about is simply stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
And that is how it is.
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