ESV 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”…16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Born again is an intangible idea. There is no document that can verify its reality or prove it has happened. Every detail of that new birth is internally stored in you. You are the safekeeper of your salvation through Jesus. I wonder if that’s exactly what this Word from Philippians 2:12 is speaking about? Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Born a second time is a mysterious internal awareness that allows our heart to “see” the Kingdom of God has been placed within us for safekeeping. That awareness is the gift of the salvation God has worked in us. Our new birth is confirmed to us by personal growth and discovery that equips us to live a life of faith, despite our fear and trembling, because…God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
I Peter: 1:10 The prophets searched carefully and tried to learn about this salvation. They prophesied about the grace that was coming to you. 11 The Spirit of Christ was in the prophets, telling in advance about the sufferings of Christ and about the glory that would follow those sufferings. The prophets tried to learn about what the Spirit was showing them, when those things would happen, and what the world would be like at that time. 12 It was shown them that their service was not for themselves but for you, when they told about the truths you have now heard. Those who preached the Good News to you told you those things with the help of the Holy Spirit who was sent from heaven—things into which angels desire to look. NCV
Walking through the Coronavirus pandemic has been like a daily reminder of exactly how a walk of faith begins. We’ve realized an awareness of needing to be saved. Circumstances have revealed our best efforts to live well are not powerful enough to make us feel safe without help and following certain guidelines. “Feeling safe is not proof you are safe…You can need to be saved and not know it. For example, if a jet taking off from the airport were losing altitude and heading straight for this sanctuary right now, you would need to be saved; but you wouldn’t know it unless someone came running in here and shouted what was happening. So you can see that feeling safe is no proof that you are safe.a”
“About this salvation:”
“Salvation [soteria from soter = Savior] is a broader term in Greek than we often think of in English. Other concepts that are inherent in soteria include restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction.b“
“About this salvation:” salvation is the inheritance of a believer in Jesus Christ and Grace is the promised allowance for the expenses of life. That’s the “Good News.” Your life as a follower of Jesus Christ is now under a contract revealed long ago by diligent people writing on behalf of the Holy Spirit, “not for themselves but for you” today. Today…when many of us see “suffering” as never before, we need an outpouring of that allowance of “grace” and “restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction” because the expenses have been too great for us to handle without help. Come Holy Spirit!
Inheritance: property passing to those entitled to succeed
Allowance: a sum granted as a reimbursement for expenses
a John Piper, Desiring God
John 15:15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. [NASB]
Moving from slave to friend is a progression. Long before I was even aware of a thing called a “personal” relationship with Jesus, I believed Jesus was God’s son and I was a faithful church member. Faithful in the sense I was there and I was active. There were very good reasons to be there. Church was a place where people put their best face forward. The activities were at an obvious level of insulated kindness and integrity. It was a place we went every Sunday as a family without question. I was a willing, and content, “slave” to religion. Thankfully that was enough to keep me there because as it turns out “religion” is the very busy place the Spirit of God often chooses to reveal the truth that Jesus was born for slaves in the midst of religion!
That’s the progression of how my friendship with Jesus became a reality. Friendship is what connects John 15:15 and my Advent celebration this year. It was friendship that revealed the Cradle as more than the destination of an annual Advent celebration. That long-ago Cradle is where God revealed His desire for our future: Jesus, God in-the-flesh, born to be our pathway from slavery to salvation and friendship.
I Corinthians 7:8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
Paul’s reference to sorrow caused by his letter has been my Advent preparation trigger. I read his words as if they were God’s words. Sorrow began in that place of creation where those first two people lost their perfect status as companions of God. Life would go on…and on…and on…and that lack of perfection would continue to be a source of sorrow, so God wrote a letter to his people on tablets of stone. That “letter” clearly showed the solution to worldly sorrow but their damaged mindset was still the problem. They “thought” the answer to their loss of perfection, and the sorrow it caused, was to be more committed to trying harder.
Fast forward from God’s letter to that “first season” we now call Advent. God was going to show his creation a new message: Jesus Christ, Son of God born as the antidote to the poison of man’s damaged mindset. Jesus Christ, Son of God born as the image of restored perfection and new life. Jesus Christ, Son of God born to overcome the futility of worldly sorrow and reveal the power of Godly sorrow. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…” Jesus Christ, Son of God, born to be our Christmas Joy.
Isaiah 12;1 In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. 2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Today I will praise you Lord:
You are faithful even when I deserve anger:
Faithful to intervene because of need
Faithful to love even before obedience
Faithful to teach that need can lead to obedience
You are the Comforter:
When I am uncomfortable
When I am sorrowful
And finally when I am repentant
You are Salvation:
From life with no purpose
Or purpose with no life
You are the reality of life and purpose
You are the power and defender of my salvation:
You make known what seems unknowable
You defend the faith you’ve given
You draw life-giving water up from the deep wells of salvation so we can drink together.
You have become my Salvation for the sake of your own joy:
Your joy has become my shared joy.
Thanks for sharing Lord!