Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Three questions this text asks of us and I want you to consider. Number one is why you must be born again and what does it mean anyway? Number two, how you can be born again? And number three, are you born again? I want you to ask yourself, are you sure that you're born again?
Are you really sure? Welcome to Summit Life with Pastor and Author J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, Pastor J.D. is diving into a new teaching series called Start that's all about the foundational elements of the Christian faith. Whether you're a new believer trying to figure out this whole Christianity thing or you've been following Christ for years but want to get back to the basics, this teaching series is for you. This is also a great message to share with your friends who aren't yet following God, so give them a call and have them join you in listening and learning today.
Be sure to listen until the end to learn how to reserve your copy of the 2023 Summit Life Planner. Today is the last day, but first grab your Bible and turn to the book of John. We are starting off by talking about finding the assurance of salvation. What do Christians mean by salvation and how can you know for sure that you have it? I've learned as a pastor that a lot of Christians, if they are honest, admit to struggling to know for sure.
You're like, I kind of know. I mean, I went through the rituals my church had me go through. I went through confirmation class or I prayed the prayer.
Walt the Owl got baptized on the car, whatever it was. And you're like, I feel like I'm in pretty good shape, but if you're honest, there's still this kind of lingering doubt in the back of your mind. If you've been here at church for a while, you know that I for years struggled to find the assurance of salvation through middle school, high school, and even a couple of years of college. I even wrote a book about it called Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. I explained in that book that if there were a Guinness Book of World Records for how many times someone has said the sinner's prayer, I am absolutely positive that I would hold that record. I kid you not, between the ages of seventh grade and probably my second year of college, I prayed the sinner's prayer no less than 5,000 times.
And I wish that were an exaggeration. I got saved at every youth camp I ever went to. I've been saved in every denomination, I think. I got baptized in my church four times.
I mean, talk about embarrassing. I was like a staple at our church's baptismal services. Anyone else besides JD getting baptized this year? They gave me my own locker in the baptismal changing area. That's how frequent that it was.
But I just, I didn't want to be wrong. It really all started for me in seventh grade when I had a seventh grade Sunday school teacher that invited our seventh grade boys Sunday school class over to his house on a Friday night. We were going to go bowling and he wanted to do a devo before we went bowling. And so he gets us, you know, in his living room and he reads to us Matthew chapter seven, where Jesus explains many are going to say to him on the last day, judgment day, they're going to say, Lord, Lord, and many mighty works did we in your name. And we went to church, what a mission trips. We even cast out demons in your name. And Jesus, according to Matthew seven, is going to look at that group of people. And he's going to say to a lot of them, depart from me.
I never knew you. And my Sunday school teacher, I never forget him explaining this. He was like, you know, these are obviously people who have invited Jesus into their heart because they're calling him Lord. And they obviously go to church and they've been on mission trips. They're on the demon exorcism squad. I'm just, I don't know what kind of church you grew up in, but if we select you to be on the demon exorcism squad, you're varsity, right? He said, these are not marginal Christians.
These are people very involved. And Jesus looks at him and he says, depart from me. I never knew you. And then he looked at the group of seventh grade boys. Some of you boys are going to be in that group.
All right, let's go bowling. And that's how, and I threw me into a tailspin for six years because I didn't want to be wrong. I didn't want to be wrong about it.
That's the question. What is salvation and how do you know for sure you have it? You see, when I was in seventh grade, I had prayed to be saved, but for me it was like a get out of hell free card, right? I mean, that's what Jesus was. I had no real relationship with Jesus. I didn't know what it meant to love Jesus, for him to be Lord.
What is salvation? How can you know for sure you have it? The good news is that you can know definitively. Your heavenly father wants you to know definitively.
And I believe by the end of today, I will hopefully have shown you how you can know definitively. If you've got a Bible, John chapter three is where I'd like for you to open it. It's a story of a religious man named Nicodemus who comes to Jesus to talk about these very things.
We're actually going to begin his story in chapter two, verse 23. Now many believed in his name, Jesus' name, when they saw the signs, the miracles that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them because he knew all people. He didn't need any testimony about mankind for he knew what was in each person. In other words, he knew that though this group said they believed in Jesus, he knew their faith was superficial.
He knew their love and their commitment to him did not go very deep. This is the exact same group that he's talking about in Matthew chapter seven, who look at him and say, Lord, Lord, did you know that 67% of Americans say they have a relationship with Jesus? 50% of Americans say that at some point they have prayed a prayer to invite Jesus into their life.
Yet of that 50%, two-thirds of them have lifestyles that do not differ in any significant way from people on the outside, and about half of them are not even involved in a church. That is certainly part of the group that Jesus was talking about. They believe. They say they believe in Jesus. They go to church from time to time.
They are very religious. Nicodemus' story is Jesus' answer to that group of people. By the way, it's an unfortunate place for a chapter break.
In the original writing, there was no chapter break there because chapter three is the answer to the problem raised at the end of chapter two. So here's the answer. Here's Jesus' answer. Chapter three, verse one. Now, there was a man of the Pharisees, which is a really religious group, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man, Nicodemus, came to Jesus by night. That's why we call this story Nicodenite, 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. In other words, Nicodemus was one of the guys in chapter two that saw the signs and believed. Verse three, Jesus answered him, truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Well, now Nicodemus is really confused because he thinks Jesus is telling him and he needs to crawl back up into his mommy's tummy. And so he says, verse four, how can that be? I'm too big. That seems kind of awkward.
I think it's illegal in every state except for Tennessee. Verse five, Jesus answered, truly, truly. By the way, Jesus does not normally say untrue things. So why is he dropping the truly, truly here? Well, that's not his way of saying, okay, guys, now I'm really being serious. No, that's like when my mom used my full name. Joaquin D'Angelo Greer. No, I'm kidding. That's not my full name.
James David Greer. When she would say that, it meant like, oh, this is really important. Pay attention. Truly, truly, I say to you, you must be born again. Unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. And that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel. See that I said to you, you must be born again. Three questions this text asks of us and I want you to consider. Number one is why you must be born again and what does it mean anyway? Number two, how you can be born again? And number three, are you born again? I want you to ask yourself and are you sure that you're born again? Are you really sure?
By the way, this concept, maybe more than any other regarding salvation, shows you that you're either in or out, right? When it comes to pregnancy, you either are or you aren't. My wife's been pregnant four times. Not once has she ever brought me the little stick and said, I'm sort of pregnant.
You either are or you aren't. Same thing with the new birth. There is a circle. Think of it like that. And you're either inside the circle or you're outside and you better make for sure which side of that line that you are on.
Do you know for sure? Number one, why you must be born again? Why you must be born again?
To need new birth implies that there's something wrong with our first birth. According to the Bible, we are born into a state of spiritual death because of the sin of the human race, the collective sin of the human race. God had declared to our first humans, Adam and Eve in Genesis, the one who sins will surely die. And when we sinned, that is exactly what happened.
Adam and Eve were driven out of God's presence and their relationship with God was severed. At that point, our bodies began to die. Our bodies that God had intended to sustain eternally for us began to corrode and die. And our spiritual hearts went bad. It's almost like our spiritual hearts, our hearts got sick. We quit loving what we were supposed to love.
And we started to love what we shouldn't love. We were made, you see, so that our hearts were turned outward to love God and to love others. But after sin, they begin to turn inward, seeking first to love and serve ourselves.
Martin Luther called this in curvatus in se, in Latin means curved inward on itself as the condition of the human heart. Scripture is not sparing in its description of the state of our hearts. Jeremiah 17, 9, the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately hopelessly wicked. He's talking about your heart. Paul would say this in Romans by saying that we are disordered in our emotions and defiled in our bodies.
Disordered in our emotions means we love the wrong things and we love things out of proportion. It means that we often love God's gifts more than we love God. And a lot of times we serve God just as a means to get to his gifts, which is why when God doesn't give you something that you want, you're always looking at him going, God, I did everything you told me to do and this is how you repay me. So in that you weren't really concerned about bringing honor and glory to God.
It was just a means to get the thing from him that you wanted, right? We seek to serve ourselves before serving him. We prioritize ourselves over him or others. We're disordered in our emotions. We are defiled in our bodies because that wicked heart begins to express itself, right? So that our mouths are dirty because they speak condemnation and hatred and slander toward others. Jesus said that when we destroy others with our words, when we write people off like, I'm so done with him, right?
That what we're doing is we have the spirit of murder and we may not be actually killing them, but in our hearts we're treating them that way. And he said, your mouths are filthy. Our lips are dirty because we lie.
Y'all, when I really want to get depressed, I think about how naturally and instinctively I lie. For me to tell the truth is a discipline because I am constantly, I will stretch that and I'll massage that truth so that I look good and so I'm not, it's just filthy. Sexually our bodies are defiled because we use our bodies to gratify our lusts rather than give ourselves to the one person in the sexual relationship that God designed. Genesis 6 says that our thoughts are laced with evil continually. It means I've never had, I have never one time had a thought or an emotion that did not have the trace of sin all through it. The Puritans used to say it this way, even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the lamb.
You know what they meant by that? It meant that even when I repent, that's a pretty good emotion, right? When I'm weeping in repentance, I don't know how well you know your heart, but when I weep in repentance, always lurking in the background of my heart is, wow, you're pretty awesome to repent this way. I wonder if other people repent as hard for their sin as you repent of yours. That sin of pride is, I don't know, it's just there. Unbelief is there. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. I'm like, I bet God, God's done with me. I bet he doesn't love me and I don't believe what he says. This is Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. Find out more about this ministry by visiting jdgreer.com. We'll get right back to today's teaching in just a moment, but first I wanted to let you know that today is the final day to reserve your copy of the 2023 Summit Life Planner. You know, setting health goals, education goals, financial goals, those are all great, but the most important thing that we can do with our time is investing in spiritual things.
This planner is aimed at just that. We've included a Bible reading plan to help you maintain that most important spiritual discipline, and the scripture we're reading together aligns with the teaching you'll hear us focus on here on Summit Life in 2023. So grab a copy today by calling 866-335-5220.
That's 866-335-5220, or visit us online at jdgreer.com. Thanks for being with us. Now let's get back to the final moments of today's message on Summit Life. Here's Pastor J.D.
Paul says in Romans 2 that we're hypocrites based on whatever standard you have. Francis Shaver had a great illustration of this. He said, imagine that God put a little invisible tape recorder around your neck that only activated whenever you said the word ought. And whenever you said ought, like you ought to, or he or she ought to, that's when it turned on, recorded what you said, and then shut off. When you get to heaven, God takes that tape recorder from around your neck, and you're like, I didn't even know it was there. And he was like, it's invisible, duh.
And he takes it off. And then he plays back every time you said the word ought and then judges you by that. There is not a person in the universe, he said, regardless of what standard they hold that would pass that test. Paul says in Romans 2, none of us live up to our standard. We do not do what we know is right.
We are hypocrites. Louie Giglio, who preached at our college conference last week, says it is impossible to overestimate the corruption that sin caused in our hearts. Sin did not knock us down to God's JV team.
It didn't put us on probation. It didn't put us on a slower track to get to our mansion in heaven. Sin wiped us out.
It killed us. We are stained now through and through with sin we are, Paul says, by nature children of wrath. And we cannot possibly hope to stand before God stained so thoroughly with sin. Imagine you had a new baby. Imagine you had a new baby and in that hospital room with your new baby, somebody walked in a stranger and asked if they could hold your baby. And before you have a chance to say yes, they pick up the baby and begin to cuddle it. And someone runs in after them and says that person has the Ebola virus. That causes horror in you.
Why? Because your baby is precious and your health is important. God is more pure than you are healthy and God's creation is more precious to him than your baby is to you. So your revulsion to Ebola is nothing compared to God's revulsion to your and my sin. And we cannot possibly do anything to fix ourselves because the problem is in my heart. And if I decide to fix myself, I got to draw on the corrupted resources of my heart. You see the dilemma? I'm going to be righteous and I'm going to do right.
That's coming out of my heart, which is laced with sin. In college, as a joke, a friend of mine and I took a hard boiled egg and peeled it and put it in the bottom of the heating unit of our friend's dorm. We did it in October so that when he turned on the heater in November, he would have a nice little surprise.
It worked like a charm. He turns on the heating unit and he cannot figure out for three weeks what on earth is causing this smell. So he's got air fresheners everywhere. He's doing his laundry night and day. He's got his door open.
He's complaining about his roommate's irritable bowel syndrome or something. But the problem was in the heating unit itself. That's like my heart. I can't change it through willpower or covering it up with religion because the problem is so deep.
I can't change anything. My heart says I want to be righteous. That's going to be laced with sin too. So if Jesus said verse six, that which is born of flesh is flesh. In other words, you can't save your corrupted flesh through the efforts of your corrupted flesh. Sin killed us.
And there's nothing we can do that can change that. That's why we need something more, something different, something from outside of ourselves. So he continues, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Now, what does it mean to be born of water and the spirit? Well, there's some people who say that means water is like human birth and spirit is like your second birth. Other people say, well, no, that's baptism. You got to be baptized. And then you're born by the spirit. Here's why that's not right. Here's your nerd moment.
You ready? There's one article in Greek that identifies with water and spirit. So he's not talking about two separate things. It's not born of the water and the spirit in Greek. That's his way of saying born of the water and spirit.
So he's talking about one instance and he's talking about the gospel. He is alluding to a prophecy made in the book of Ezekiel about what the gospel would do with us. Let me read that prophecy to you.
Ezekiel 36, 600 years before Jesus. I will sprinkle clean water on you. This is the Messiah talking and I, you shall be clean. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit. I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone and give you a heart of tender flesh. I'll put my spirit within you and cause you to want to walk in my statutes. I'm going to give you a desire to obey my rules. I'm going to put the desire in you where you're going to obey me, not because you have to.
You're going to obey me because you want to. God then gave Ezekiel one of the coolest visions in the Old Testament of how this was going to work. He takes Ezekiel out to this valley that's filled with dead men's bones, dry bones. And he says to Ezekiel, Ezekiel, can these bones live again? And Ezekiel says, they look like they've been dead to me for a long time.
So I think, no. God says, watch this. And it says, Ezekiel said that he hears the sound of the, in Hebrew it's the word ruach, which means either wind or spirit.
It's a play on words. He hears the sound of the wind blowing, the spirit blowing, and all of a sudden these bones begin to rattle and they start to form into skeletons. And then sinews and tendons begin to connect them. And then tender flesh comes and coach these bones. And then these bones stand up now as this mighty army of the Lord. And God says to Ezekiel, that's what I'm going to do in the church.
And by the way, that's what you need. You don't need more religion and more rules and more resolutions, just stitching the bones back together. You need the wind of the spirit to make you alive, to give you a new heart. See, it's like, I tell you all the time, God doesn't want to just change your behavior. He wants to change your desires. It's not pleasing to God if you obey him because you're forced to.
Man, I've asked you this before. If your wife acted loving to you, if she was the perfect wife, but you knew in her heart she loved somebody else, is that pleasing to you? No, even if she acts right, what you want is not her actions.
What you want is her heart. Jonathan Edwards said that if you had a little wooden statue, a little wooden puppet in your house, and right before you walked in a room, somebody went ahead of you and took that wooden statue and arranged it so that it was bowing down or had its hands over its heart like it was saying it loved you. Is that pleasing to you?
No, it's mechanical. God did not create you because he needed somebody to obey him. God did not create you because he needed robots. God did not create you because he needs servants to get stuff done. God has existed eternally in love in the Trinity, and God created us so that we could share in that love. So God does not want people in heaven who actually want to be somewhere else because they don't really love God. God wants people there in heaven who share his love, who want to be with him, who serve him because they love him, who do righteousness because they crave righteousness. It's like I tell you all the time, God's not just interested in your obedience. He's interested in why you obey.
He wants a new kind of obedience. The dilemma of the human condition is not that we don't behave right. The dilemma of the human condition is that we don't love right. That's why you must be born again, because you can't change what you love, and God's got to change that. Number two, that's why you should be born again, why you must be born again.
Number two, how you can be born again. Well, down just a little bit farther, Jesus is going to explain. Verse 14, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Now there he refers to another really cool Old Testament story. We went through the reverse zombie army.
This one's almost just as cool. Children of Israel are on their way to the promised land, and they begin to doubt God. They doubt his goodness. They even doubt his existence, and so they begin to complain, and their hearts begin to wander after other gods. So God, in judgment, sends thousands of fiery serpents.
Fiery refers to what you felt like when they bit you. It was excruciatingly painful, and so many of these people, thousands of Israelites, began to writhe in pain and cry out to God for mercy. And so God tells Moses, I want you to make a bronze image of one of the serpents.
I want you to put it on top of a pole, and I want you to put it on the top of the highest hill that you can find. And you tell people that if they will go to that hill, they will look at that serpent on the pole, and if they'll believe that I will heal them, then as they look at that serpent on the hill, they will be healed and they will live. And Jesus says, just like Moses did that, I'm going to be lifted up.
I'm going to be put on top of a pole like a serpent on top of a tree, on top of a cross. The serpent was the result of their sin, right? That's what it symbolized. Jesus on the cross was the result of our sin. God made him, Paul says in 2 Corinthians, who knew no sin, heaven's perfect son, the essence of God's glory, God made him to become sin.
He became the snake. He became the serpent so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. That if we look to him, dying there in our place, like they looked at the serpent on the hill, believing that God will heal us, we'll be healed just like they were. Born again, out of the curse of death, into the promise of new life. For God, Jesus goes on, for God gives the shortest, most concise explanation of the gospel anywhere in the Bible. For God so loved the world. A friend of mine said that his life was transformed when my youth pastor said, I wasn't really a church going person, but I occasionally visited this youth group.
And that youth pastor one Friday night said to me, he said, everywhere you see in verse 16, the world or whosoever, you put your name. He says, while he was talking, I read that verse for God so loved Alex, that he gave Alex his only son, that if Alex would believe on him, Alex would not perish, but Alex would have eternal life. He said, it's hard to describe what happened. He said, but he said, my dad growing up, you see, had left us.
I'd never known that kind of father's love. He said, and now I'm hearing about a father who, after I had spurned and rejected him, came to earth to rescue me, chased me to a cross. I killed him. The irony is as I killed him, he was paying the penalty for my sin so that if I would just look and I would believe, and I would recognize that this was him coming for me, then I would be healed. I would be saved. Just like they looked at that serpent and were healed. You look, you look and you live, you believe and you live.
Truly important. And when you give, you're ultimately helping more people hear the gospel this year. Will you join us today? And when you do, we'll say thanks by sending you the annual 2023 Summit Life Planner to help you stay focused on the gospel this year. Today is the final day to ask for a copy of the 2023 Summit Life Planner. When you give a generous gift by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.
Or request the planner when you give online at JDGrier.com. And if you aren't signed up for our email list, be sure to do that today. It's the best way to stay up to date with Pastor JD's latest blog posts and to make sure you never miss a new resource or series.
It's quick and easy to sign up at JDGrier.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch, and I'm so glad that you joined us today. And be sure to listen next time when we are continuing this message on finding the assurance of salvation. That's next week on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
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