“3, 2, 1… Happy New Year!” Yes, more than likely many of you spent Sunday night preparing yourself for the ever important New Year’s countdown. You’ve counted down, watched the ball drop, and celebrated the beginning of 2018 with a bang. The question is, “Now what?” Perhaps you have big plans for this new year, new horizons in life you are heading toward. Or maybe you want to keep it simple, a resolution or two to focus on. Whatever may be on your mind, I would like to encourage you to consider this year as the year you begin taking God seriously.
It has been my experience that most people say they “believe” in God, but nothing in their life reflects that belief. They have no desire to read God’s word, pray to God, or to worship God with His people. God is treated with mere apathy; they just don’t care. Is that you? Maybe you know someone like that.
Would you call yourself a Christian but you don’t really care about the things of God? Reflect upon yourself and be honest. For example, if I told you I loved a certain person but I didn’t ever spend time with them, never talked to them or listened to them, would you believe that I actually loved them? Of course not. Why then do you think we can say we love God or have a relationship with Him and yet we never do those basic things which are involved in every relationship?
If you can see yourself in the above description, consider it a grace from God. To be able to truly see ourselves and our failings in light of God is always a good thing. Ask yourself this: “Have I truly been born again by the Spirit of God?” Becoming a Christian is first and foremost a work of God in the heart of a sinner. Yes, we do respond to God in repentance and faith. And yes, we should take steps of obedience in following God. However, doing a religious act alone will not save you. If you raised your hand at a revival meeting and walked down an aisle, that doesn’t save you. If you were baptized, that doesn’t save you. If you took catechism or confirmation classes, that doesn’t save you. God is the Savior and if you have not been born again by His power, no religious act will do you any good. So I am not asking if you have participated in any of these acts but if you have been born again.
The natural question is “How can I be born again?” In fact, it is the very question Nicodemus asked Jesus. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’” (John 3:3-4) What Nicodemus failed to recognize was that Jesus was not speaking of a natural birth but of a spiritual birth. We are spiritually dead and we need new spiritual life (birth) in order to be in relationship with God. (Ephesians 2:4-5) How does this happen? Jesus answers Nicodemus thus: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Meaning, the new birth is a sovereign act of God. The Spirit alone brings new spiritual life to a person. So what do we do? We trust God.
The Bible says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) If you can test your own heart and see you have not been born again, then hear what God’s word says to you. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) See your sin and how it separates you from our holy God. See that all sin deserves punishment. “For the wages of sin is death…” Yet, see the hope we can have in Christ. “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Do you believe this? Do you believe that Christ paid for your sins with His precious blood? Do you believe that Jesus went to the cross in your stead? Do you believe that Jesus rose from the grave three days later, defeating sin and death? Then the Bible says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
Finally, if you can say you have been born again, I encourage you to cultivate that relationship with God this year. Don’t treat God as a superstition, something you turn to only when you want something. Instead, enjoy having daily fellowship with your Creator and King. Spend time hearing His voice as you read through the words of Holy Scripture, the Bible. Spend time pouring out your heart time Him in frequent, daily prayer. Spend time worshipping Him in a corporate setting with others who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Finding a Bible-believing church is an important part of being a follower of Christ. (I’d be glad to give you a few recommendations.)
Each new year is a new beginning, an opportunity for change or improvement. As this year is just dawning, move forward in your relationship with God. Take the next step of following Him and serving Him. If you are reading this little article, take this as a sign that it is time to get serious about God.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ