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Born Again – The Wind and the Spirit

WindThis is my final post in a series about how the Bible defines being born again. Being born of the spirit requires a spiritual work. Jesus tried to describe it in parable form to a Pharisee He was meeting with.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:8

It’s important to understand the Greek language at this point. The word wind and the word spirit are the same in ancient Greek. The only way that the translators differentiate them is by the context in which they appear. As always, context is everything.

Think about it. The natural wind has no mind. It can’t want anything. It can’t try to do anything or go anywhere. The emphasis of this passage is not the wind that we feel in nature. Christ is talking about the Spirit.

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit moves wherever He determines to go. He decides on the direction and the outcomes that He’s working towards.

The Lord literally says that you cannot know by seeing where the Spirit is originating, or where it’s going to. You can only hear the sound of the Spirit as He moves in your life at the present time. He concludes by saying that this is how it works for everyone born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus is floored by this concept.

“How can this possibly happen.”

But for us, looking back, this should sound very familiar. There is a gifting through which we can hear the sound of the Spirit, even though we don’t understand what He’s trying to accomplish in us.

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
1 Corinthians 14:14

Your mind has no clue what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing in you as you pray in the spirit. The wind is blowing, but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going to. Regardless of this fact, your life is changed. The Holy Spirit is bringing you through the birthing process. You are being born again by the spirit into your inheritance.

When you pray in the spirit, you don’t need to understand the syllables you’re speaking. It’s the exchange that’s taking place in your spirit that makes the difference. You hear the sound, and you know that the Holy Spirit is at work in you.

This is the key to experiencing the glory of the Kingdom of God. It’s not about through following a set of rules, but by becoming a new person. We must be born of God into the inheritance of the kingdom.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
Romans 14:17-18

Remember that only those who are born of God can do righteousness. Peace is living rightly with others in the kingdom. Joy is experiencing the power of our inheritance in the kingdom. All of these together speak of the blessing of being born of God by the spirit.

This verse clearly states that living at this level is pleasing to God. That should be our goal. All of us are accepted by God in Christ. We should want to go the distance to the point where we are pleasing to Him. This requires that we be born of the spirit.

Question: How would living at this level change the face of the church?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

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Two Births – Water and Spirit

BirthI’ve been posting about the Biblical definition of being born again. It’s more than just praying a single prayer. It’s the whole process of putting off the old man and putting on the new nature in Christ. In my last article we saw that it’s in this way that we experience the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in our lives.

This is one of the failures of the church of our generation. We’re learning the lesson Paul warned the Corinthian church about.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
1 Corinthians 4:20

When Jesus performed a miracle or healed the sick, the kingdom was present in that place. Now we’ve watered it down. We tell everyone who accepts Christ that they’re born again and in the Kingdom of God. The result is a church with no power. There are few manifestations of the Kingdom in our present culture.

We desperately need a reawakening of the new birth. We need to see it the way the Lord described it. That’s what will change the spiritual landscape of our nation. It will bring revival to our famished souls.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
John 3:5

In this verse, Jesus literally says that unless you are born out of water and spirit you have no power to enter the Kingdom of God. Being born again is a spiritual work that requires spiritual power. The next statement of Christ emphasizes this truth.

“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
John 3:6

These verses are foundational to our faith. That which is born of the flesh is fleshly in nature. That which is born of the spirit is spiritual in nature.

The question in all of this is; how is this spiritual work accomplished? Remember, we have the luxury of being able to look back on what Christ has done. This was all new to Nicodemus.

In order to explain the concept to this teacher, Jesus uses a parable.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:8

Because of our position in history, we should be better equipped to understand what Christ is trying to get across. Notice that the Lord is speaking about being born of – or literally out of – the spirit.

Jesus was trying to get across a spiritual truth to this Pharisee. In my next post I’ll conclude this series by showing exactly what Jesus is referring to, and what this means to us. We must be born of the spirit if we are to experience the manifestation of God’s power in our lives and ministries.

Question: Why is our spiritual man so important in accessing the power of God?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Born Again and the Kingdom

CastleI’ve been posting about the Biblical definition of being born again. It’s quite different than how we use the term in this generation. In this post I want to look at how Jesus describes it to a believing Pharisee who met with Him.

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
John 3:3

In answering his statement of faith, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. In the book of John, the gospel that was written to the church, that’s a ground shaking statement. Telling a believer that he needs to be born again is something unheard of in our generation.

According to Jesus Christ Himself, believers must be born again. Obeying the law isn’t enough. Trying your best to be good isn’t enough. The Good News is not “believe in Jesus and follow the law.” It’s all about becoming a new person.

The Lord tells Nicodemus and us that unless we experience the process of this new birth, we will not see the Kingdom of God. At this point it’s important that you understand what Christ is saying in this passage. He’s not saying that you must be born again in order to be saved. That’s how we describe it.

The Greek language has two words that translate to the word see in English. They are blepo and eidon. Blepo means to look at with your eyes. That’s what we normally think of when we hear that word.

That’s not the word in this verse. Instead it’s the word eidon, which literally means to know by seeing. In other words – to experience something. Christ was telling this Pharisee that unless he is born again, he will never experience the kingdom of God.

You can sit back and watch things happen in the Kingdom of God. But if you want to be a part of what’s going on, experiencing the manifestation of the kingdom, then you need to be born of God.

At this point Nicodemus was thinking merely in the physical. He asked about how you could return to your mother’s womb. In later years he probably looked back on this and laughed. Jesus explained it further.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
John 3:5

The Lord wasn’t talking about physical birth, but entering the kingdom. That’s the definition of being born again – being given access to the Kingdom of God.

Then again, that brings us to another sloppy definition of the modern church – exactly what is the Kingdom of God? Listen to how Jesus described the Kingdom to the Pharisees that opposed Him.

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
Matthew 21:43

The Kingdom of God is about producing its fruit. It’s not just reciting a prayer, then sitting back and doing nothing. Paul gives us even more insight.

…strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Acts 14:22

Paul and Barnabas, as they were encouraging the disciples, told them that in order to enter the kingdom, hardships would have to be overcome. When was the last time you heard that preached on a Sunday morning? Well, you’re reading it today. It’s hard! You must be born again!

Question: How does the church react to the thought of hardships these days?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk

 

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A Pharisee Comes to Jesus

HandsI’ve been posting about how Scripture describes the born-again experience. It’s deeper than simply reciting the “Sinner’s Prayer.” It’s about clothing ourselves with Christ by the power of the spirit.

There’s only one way to put on the new man. Unfortunately, it’s also a concept that the church has pushed to the side in many instances.

To understand it, we’ll now look at the most recognizable Scripture concerning the concept of being born again.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
John 3:1-2

We need to look at a conversation between Jesus and a young man named Nicodemus. To understand what takes place, we must look at the background. First of all, this event is only recorded in the Gospel of John. That’s an important point.

All of the other Gospels were written to the unsaved people groups of world. Matthew was written so that the Jews would see Jesus as their promised Messiah. Mark was written so that the Romans would understand that Christ was the conquering servant-king. Luke was written so that the Greeks would know that perfection can only be found in Christ.

John, on the other hand, had a totally different purpose. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give the church a deeper view of Christ Jesus, the Living Word, God taking on flesh. This is important for us to realize in grasping what’s being said. It’s a story that directly applies to the church – those who are already saved and want a more intimate knowledge of Christ.

The second thing we find out is that this man, Nicodemus, is a Pharisee. Often, the Pharisees get an undeserved bad reputation in Christian circles. Of all people that lived back then, the Pharisees were the closest to us in doctrine.

They believed that God took notice and acted in the affairs of men. They believed the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. They knew that there was a spiritual realm that included the demons as well as ministering angels. They also believed that there would be a resurrection day at the end of the age. It’s unfortunate that the few who hated Jesus are the ones who get all of our attention.

Nicodemus was his own man. Think about the facts of the situation. He begins by calling Jesus Rabbi. This was a term that literally meant my great one. It was reserved for those who you felt were an example to you. It implied that I want to be like you. So it’s significant that a Rabbi is calling Jesus a Rabbi.

Furthermore, Jesus, Himself commends Nicodemus. In verse 10 of this chapter Jesus calls him the teacher of Israel. Obviously the Lord was pleased with his work.

Another event of note is the fact that when Christ was taken down off the cross it was Nicodemus who prepared the body for burial. (John 19:38-40) This was unheard of. You would never see a Pharisee handling a dead body on the eve of the Passover feast.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Nicodemus is a believer. He is someone trusting in Christ and looking for the next step in the process. We need to listen carefully to the teaching of Christ in this conversation.

In my next post we’ll see exactly what Jesus said was needed for Nicodemus to reach the next phase of his walk with the Lord.

Question: How would you counsel someone who wanted to progress to their next step in Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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Born Again – The New Man

SproutIn my last post I looked at a verse that talked about the possibility of becoming born again.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
John 1:12

To have the right, simply means that believers have the permission to become sons of God. Do you do everything that you have permission to do? Of course not.

The next verse goes on to tell exactly how this change takes place.

…children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John 1:13

The term natural descent is talking about our flesh. This born again process is not a work that our flesh can do. Neither is it accomplished by human decision or the will of man. It’s not a process of my mind. I could decide to receive Christ and be saved – I cannot just decide to be born again and have it automatically take place.

God is Spirit. Being born again is a work of the spirit. Yes, we have permission to let it take place in us. But in order to go through with it we must yield to the Spirit. This is a work that can only take place in the spiritual realm.

That brings us full circle to the passage we looked at in the first post of this series.

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:5-7

Paul continues on to say that we have been justified by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s our salvation. It’s the free gift to all who believe in His name. But there’s more. Having entered His saving grace there’s the hope that we might become heirs.

As I said before, Scripture is clear that not all believers will inherit anything. Some will make it to Heaven with no rewards. Their works will be burned up. In order to receive your inheritance you must put on the new man. They’re the ones who overcome the world and receive their reward.

We must come to the understanding that it’s those believers who are born again that can walk in the authority of Christ. It’s not enough to give lip service to the Word of God. It must be a part of your spiritual DNA.

John had a deep understanding of this truth, but so did Peter.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:22-23

Peter is talking to a church that had purified themselves. They allowed the life changing work of the Word to take root in them by immersing themselves in Christ. To these people Peter says, “You have been born again.” He shows us that it’s through the Word of God – the imperishable seed – the work of the rebirth is accomplished in us.

This is an important concept because it shows us what it takes to yield to the Holy Spirit. In my next post we’ll see how Jesus described it in detail to a Pharisee.

Question: How would the church of our generation look if we were all immersed in Christ?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Born Again – Letting the Scripture Speak

BibleI’ve started a new series on what being Born Again means according to the Scripture. I want to show that how the Bible describes it is very different from our current vocabulary.

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
1 John 2:29

The phrase does what is right is literally does righteousness in the Greek. John is not talking about doing good things. It’s more than that. He’s referring to living the life of righteousness as Jesus did.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
1 John 3:9

I’ve heard self-righteous people use this verse to prove that others in the body of Christ are not even saved. Usually they only apply it to the externally evident sins that others commit, and not the internal ones that they enjoy.

The original language of this verse says that those who have been born of God do not have the power to go on sinning. This is because God’s seed remains in him. That’s the important point – God’s seed. What many like to do, is to go in and out of God’s presence. We don’t let the seed remain in us for very long before we go off on our own.

This verse is easier to understand if we realize that being born of God is the act of putting on the new man – created to be like God. We must come to the understanding that you can be saved and on your way to Heaven, yet not be born again. The term born again means that your life has been changed.

…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:4

Are there believers who don’t overcome that are going to Heaven? Of course. The Bible clearly talks about people who are going to make it into Heaven by the skin of their teeth. (I Corinthians 3:14-15)

The problem of believers who don’t overcome the world is not that they aren’t saved. It’s that they have yet to put on the new man. We’ve missed this teaching in the modern church. As a result, we’re suffering from an epidemic of unproductive and defeated Christians.

The Apostle John understood this concept. He wrote about it in his Gospel.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
John 1:10-11

He came to the world that He made. Yet most of the world did not even recognize Him. The coming of Christ went largely unnoticed by the ancient people.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
John 1:11

Of course there were those – a small group – who did recognize who He was. But even among them, there wasn’t total acceptance. Only a small percentage of them received Christ.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
John 1:12

Now we get to the even smaller group of those who received Christ. Those who received Christ are described as those who believed in His name. That means that they were saved – they are now a part of the kingdom of God and on their way to Heaven.

This group of believers has been given something unique. Notice that they’re not automatically born again. On the contrary, they are merely given the right to become sons of God.

In my next post we’ll continue looking at this truth in more detail. Please hear my heart. I want to see the church of our generation arise to its potential in Christ Jesus.

Question: How do these verses differ from our current definition of being Born Again?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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What does it Mean to be Born Again?

ButterflyWe’ve been told throughout the New Testament that we must clothe ourselves with Christ. Anything less is a refusal of the blessings that have been obtained for us. To ignore this call is a willful decision to live outside the kingdom blessings that are only available in Christ.

But the real question is; how do we clothe ourselves with Christ? I believe this is something that the church has lost sight of over the past 2000 years. We need to get back to the basics of Christianity. We need to relearn things that were a way of life to the early church.

I need to warn you. What follows is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to teach. In many ways it goes against 100 years of church teaching. But as I study the Word of God, I’m convinced that it’s the only way to experience the abundant life that Jesus spoke about to His disciples.

We need to put on Christ – the new man. If we’ll do this, then we’ll walk and minister as Christ did. We’ll see an increase in the miraculous. We’ll also see a great harvest of souls as the world sees the church walking in the glory of God. In order for this to happen, it will require a change in our mindsets.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
Titus 3:3

This verse is talking about what should be our past lifestyle. It also reveals a sad truth. Read it carefully – slowly. Do we know any Christians that are still living like some of the descriptions given? This actually describes a large segment of the church today.

This is the old man. It needs to be released and we need to take on the life of Christ. Where does this change come from?

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…
Titus 3:4-5

We are saved by the kindness and love of God, manifested in Christ. This is the on-going work of the Lord in us. But do we really hear what’s said in this passage? Paul explains that the change in our lifestyle is accomplished by the washing of rebirth. This is a foundational principle.

Washing is a choice, but so is the rebirth. Somewhere along the line we’ve missed this basic truth. Washing and renewal is the putting on of the new man. This is a very tough revelation for us to grasp. It was for me.

Let me state it as plainly as I can. The laying down of our sin, renewing our mind, and the subsequent putting on of the new man is the essence of being born again. This term, born again, has become so watered down that it’s barely recognizable in our generation. The fact is, putting on the new man is being born again.

Let that sink in for a while. We’ve been taught that the initial act of receiving Christ – praying the sinner’s prayer – is being born again. As I’ve studied Scripture, the Holy Spirit has impressed me that this is not the case. Being born again is something that we must attain to.

Please understand what I’m saying. You can be saved and on your way to heaven and yet not be born again in the Biblical sense. I believe that our modern terminology is at odds with what Scripture teaches.

I’m not going to try to change hundreds of years of Christian vocabulary; but when we read the Scripture, we need to understand what it’s saying. I pray that you won’t shut me off at this point, but read this series with an open heart. In my next post, I’ll bring you through the Scriptures that show this to be true.

Question: How do you define the phrase Born Again?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in Revival, Spiritual Walk, The Gospel

 

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