Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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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?

The Hope of Spring

Friday, June 07, 2024

The Hope of Spring

By Mark McCrary

Spring is a time of renewal.  After a dark and cold winter, life begins to emerge once more.  Warmth returns, trees blossom, and flowers bloom.  Along the journey of our lives, there are moments that echo the vibrant glories of spring.  Just as the earth emerges from its winter rest, so we also encounter similar moments of awakening and potential for lasting transformation.

Spring is a time of renewed life.  Similarly, this moment in one’s life holds the potential for newfound hope and possibilities.  It may follow a period of uncertainty, when faith has been tested … but resilience forged.  Like the arrival of spring, there is a stirring within the soul – a gentle whisper of hope speaking of brighter days ahead.

Biblically, hope is not merely wishful thinking but a confident expectation rooted in the promises of God (Romans 15:13).  As the psalmist declares, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).  So too we trust that God’s faithfulness will usher in a season of renewal.

As spring unfolds its petals, so too can our faith unfold as well.  Just as seeds planted eventually emerge as vibrant flowers, our faith matures and flourishes through seasons of growth and cultivation.  It is a time to nurture our relationship with God, to deepen our trust in His providence, and to surrender to His will.  As we lean into our faith, we are reminded that God can breathe life into the most barren of landscapes, bringing beauty and abundance beyond our wildest imagination.

Finally, spring is a time when the earth is invigorated with fresh energy and purpose.  Similarly, this moment in life holds the potential for renewed purpose.  New opportunities and dreams beckon before us. God’s servant, Paul, stated confidently, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  As we align our hearts with God, we align ourselves to His divine plan – a plan that is marked by hope, abundance, and fulfillment.

Look around as your drive about and pay attention to the new life springing out around you.  So too God can draw new life out of you.  You can experience the blessings that spring forth from a life nourished by God’s loving care.

Some Marks of the Maturing Christian

Friday, May 31, 2024

Some Marks of the Maturing Christian

By Tom Rose

We all know maturity when we see it in everyday life. Some examples would be: a painter efficiently trimming a window with no paint on the glass; a veteran teacher keeping track of individual student skills while instructing a room full of kids; and an experienced mother exuding patience and persistence calming a distraught child. Likewise, God expects all His believers to improve their life and walk as a Christian. Indeed, Paul reminds the Ephesian church that regardless of their role, they are "all to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect* man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). *[Perfect in this context means “fully developed.”]

In her column, the late Ann Landers described maturity as “the ability to do a job whether you’re supervised or not; finish a job once it’s started; carry money without spending it; and last, but not least, the ability to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.” The writer of the Hebrew letter expressed a similar thought when looking at the lack of spiritual progress among the brethren. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:12-14).

First, maturity in Christ is a shift from reading the Word to believing and living it. God is not impressed with what we know. How could our feeble efforts to know impress Him who is Omniscience? Rather, it is the degree of our faith and devotion to Him. It is not what we eat, but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we read, but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that makes us Christians. This is the place God has chosen for us: to be obedient servants, and not all-knowing scholars.

Secondly, maturity in Christ is developing your faith beyond rules to relationships. Many Jews in the first century were a devotedly religious people, and their religious activity was “doctrinally sound.” Yet, because they did not know their God and did not seek to know Him, it was all meaningless. God wanted a people who wanted Him. Today, we need to emphasize Jesus as the center of a joyful, fulfilled life (see Gal.2:20).  We need to spend hours, days, and a lifetime of seeking to reach His head in prayer and devotion. To some, Christianity is an argument. To others, it is a performance. But, to those who truly want to find Him, it is the experience of a wonderful relationship with Jesus Christ.

Finally, maturity in Christ is integrating childlike qualities into our adult behavior. Children exhibit an openness when meeting a new person. In about five minutes, they relate like lifetime friends – honest, open, and real with each other. Because children don’t expect too much, they aren’t often disappointed. Eager, enthusiastic, energetic, and playful, they have the ability to make even the most mundane task incredibly exciting and special. Additionally, since children haven’t really learned the meaning of the word “failure,” they possess the desire to “go for it” most of the time. They take risks in life because they intuitively know that to risk is to learn and to grow. Moreover, children seem to realize that happiness is an attitude they create. Perhaps that’s why children often act silly or cheery and frequently make jokes. They know how to cultivate a sense of humor that keeps them chronically happy. Lastly, children are filled with unconditional love. Have you noticed how quickly they forget their anger and forgive others, letting go of grudges? Children accept you totally for your good points, and your not-so-good points. Most children are prepared to accept people as people, even if offended or hurt, as they will come back to forgive and love over and over again. Our Lord’s words, "Let the little children come to Me, ...for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mk. 10:14), reminds us of the importance of becoming like children.

In closing, consider that a standard piano keyboard has 88 keys. The same keys can be used to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto, No. 2 in C minor. It just depends upon the time and effort one takes to mature their skill at the piano. The same is true for a maturing child of God. Unfortunately, the religious convictions of many people are but thinly veiled rationalizations for their conduct, rather than a transforming influence upon it.” The aged and worn apostle Paul, taking stock of his own maturity, told the Philippians, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12-14).

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.”

What Do Campbellites Look Like?

Friday, May 17, 2024

What Do Campbellites Look Like?

By Larry Coffey

I recently read a book about the life of Elder John Smith who was born in east Tennessee in 1784, and moved with his family to Kentucky in 1795. He became a gospel preacher and devoted most of his work to central and southern Kentucky during the first half of the 19th century. It was noted he lived in rural areas, among the coons, and that, along with his colorful nature, caused him to be referred to as Raccoon John Smith. He was greatly influenced by Alexander Campbell’s teaching and writing. Campbell was the most noted preacher during the “restoration movement” and those who followed his teaching were called Campbellites.

On a trip John Smith made to Alabama in 1834, he stopped for breakfast at an inn on the roadside near Sparta, TN. He asked the innkeeper about the different religious denominations in the neighborhood. She told him and asked where he was from. When he told her Montgomery County, KY, she put down her coffee-pot, and looking at him somewhat curiously, said: “Travelers tell me that there is a strange sort of people up there in Kentucky called Campbellites.”

“Yes madam” replied Smith, “there are some in my own neighborhood.”

“You have seen some of them then?” she said.

“Yes madam, but they don’t like to be called that name.”

“Well, how do they look? Do tell me sir.”

“Those I have seen look pretty much like other people.”

“I would really like to see one so much,” she said. “I’d give more to see one of those people than any show. I’m told that when anyone wants to join them, they just put them under the water, and then let them go. One man told they would sometimes take people by force, and then drag them down into the water; that they even chased after people, and ran them down; that they once took a fancy to a poor fellow, and ran him five miles before they caught him, and then, after putting him in, they just left him there to get home, or go to heaven, the best way he could. I don’t know what I wouldn’t give to see one of them,” she said pouring out a cup of coffee.

“How do you think a Campbellite would look?” inquired Smith.

She said, “Well, I imagine they have sort of a wild, fierce, fanatical look about them.”

“I think I can manage for you to see one.”

The lady said, “I would give anything almost, if you would, sir.”

“Madam”, said Smith, “look right at me and you will see one. But, don’t be afraid because I am a civil Campbellite, and will not chase you into the water.”

He then asked her to be seated and listen to what he had to say about those people. He told her what they believed, and preached, and corrected all the wicked stories that had been told her about them. He said upon his return he would be speaking in Sparta and got her to agree to come and hear him preach.

Romans 1:16 says, ”For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” After much study, Campbell, Smith and numerous others began preaching this gospel in the early 1800’s and the national census for 1870 ranked the churches of Christ fifth in size in the nation, having 2,822 local congregations. That is unbelievable growth for a group that was not known when the 19th century started. It shows what the gospel can do when taught as it is described in the New Testament.

Today, it would be rare for any of us to be called a Campbellite. It should be pointed out that nothing we teach “originated” with Alexander Campbell. He taught from the Bible as we do. However, one might wonder if we were called Campbellites, would we be compelled to be more diligent in our efforts to teach the truth to others?

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