Adapted from a message preached at the Bible Tabernacle in August 2020.
It seems rather obvious that there is an increase in the power of darkness that the Lord has allowed to flood our earth. We are told to expect it, and the Lord is using it, and He’s using it to prove who we are. He’s using it to prove who He is. And I believe He’s using it to bring about a separation in the human family.
What an amazing thing it is that “…he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…” Eph. 1:4! What a God we have, Who knows us ahead of time, and doesn’t choose us because we are worthy somehow and better than everyone else! He has a way of taking the worst of the worst and saying, “That one’s mine. Look what I’m going to be able to do with that one. I’m going to take them out of the gutter. I’m going to clean them up, and they’re going to be part of My Kingdom for My glory.”
We have no reason to live for anything else. And this is an hour when I believe God is calling His children to grow up, to learn to know Him in a deeper way.
But for many, the question needs to asked, how do we become an heir of all these things? When we talk about who we are in Christ and being chosen and loved as God’s children, how do we get to that place? Who is that talking about? Is that talking about you, for example? That’s something to think about, isn’t it?
Obviously, we have all been born into the human family. That’s how we became human. Let’s imagine for a moment that your family name is Smith. How did you become a Smith? Did you adopt a code of ethics, a code of conduct, learn what the family beliefs were and earn that place? Of course not! You became a Smith by birth.
Obviously, after being born, there is a process of growing and learning how to live out that identity, but the identity itself comes about by birth alone.
One of the great dangers when it comes to God’s kingdom is that those born into Christian families imagine that that somehow makes them Christians. After all, they grow up “going to church,” singing the songs, learning the beliefs and practices. But it’s not like that at all.
In John 3, Jesus spoke to a religious leader who came to see Him with questions. And that religious leader was a teacher. He was someone others came to seeking answers. His name was Nicodemus.
Jesus quickly began to speak of things that Nicodemus didn’t understand. To paraphrase, Jesus told him, you have to be born again because if someone is simply born of flesh, that’s what they are. That is why it’s not enough to simply be born into the human family and adopt Christian religion.
The people of this present world are at a crossroads and are going to choose one way or the other if they haven’t done so already. They will either be born into God’s family, or they will remain in the human family. And the future of the human family is not a good one apart from Christ.
And so, Jesus began to talk about a different kind of birth. And the One who gives that kind of birth is God! It is from above. It is something that introduces into the heart, not just a new religion, but a brand-new life! Something has to happen on the inside that doesn’t happen simply because you’re born into a certain family and attend church.
That won’t do you any good unless you really come to that place where God performs a miracle on the inside, gives you a new heart and a new spirit, and comes to live within you! You will not have what it takes to stand in this growing darkness. If you’ve never let Him have your heart and your life, you are still in that darkness.
Mention was made this morning about choices that we make. Even genuine believers sometimes make bad choices. But think about a young man born into the Smith family. If he makes bad choices, is he no longer a Smith? Of course not. He may need correction, but he is a Smith by birth.
I’m so glad the Lord doesn’t throw us out when we fall short. He is faithful to correct His own. His love and faithfulness go way beyond that of the very best human parents. I’m so glad of that, aren’t you?
But one only becomes part of God’s family by the birth of which Jesus spoke. There is a radical choice that has to be made at some point in a person’s life. And until that point is past, they are still on the outside looking in, trying to be this or trying to be that, trying to find who they are. I’ll tell you, I want to be His child!
We recently heard the testimony of one of our ladies concerning her baptism. She said that the thing that was most real at that time was this: “I’m losing my life.” Well, that life needs to be lost. After you live a while, you begin to realize that this is a very temporary place. That lady, and many others here, were just teenagers then. Some of you were just kids and others weren’t even born yet.
And now look at us. And here we are, feeling the infirmities of our age, and we’re having to make new arrangements and see doctors. And we’re burying people from time to time. That’s the way of the world. That’s the world you’re born into. Don’t just feel your youth and say, oh, I can make choices, it’s my life, I’m going to do what I want with it.
Remember Jesus’ words: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” Matt. 16:24-27.
Those are pretty plain words! Now did He say those things because He is a mean tyrant, seeking selfish control over your life? No! It was because His heart was to share, at great personal sacrifice, the only life that truly is life!
Do you know why you’re here? There’s no other purpose in your being here except to come to know the One who made you! You have a temporary life in a temporary world — something we’ve said many times. But oh, the choices that we make when He begins to convict and to call people out of the human family into His family! Eternity hangs in the balance.
For those who respond, all earthly identities go away. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Jew or a Gentile, or slave or free, or any of the things mentioned in the scriptures that tend to divide people. All those identities go out the window when we become a member of the real family!
That’s the family that’s going to live forever! And it certainly won’t be because they’re worthy, or because of any other thing but what Jesus did on the cross! He is the One who defeated this one who’s fighting against us so hard! The battle was won at the cross! His blood cleanses from every sin that could ever separate us from a Holy God!
Praise God! Oh, but have you ever entered in? Jesus talked about passing from death to life. When a baby is born, it passes out of the mother’s womb into the world outside. There’s a birth. It’s a real event.
Being born again is also a real event. And it’s not like you have to have a certain experience or anything like that. Everyone is different. Someone could have an experience that’s very dramatic and for someone else it’s just a very quiet surrender, very private.
Have you ever passed that point? Have you ever been born of God’s Spirit and become a part of His family? That’s the question that hangs over every single person on this planet.
Every earthly distinction ceases to matter, because the very world in which we live will one day be gone forever. You could live your entire life, and as Jesus said, “gain the whole world” (NIV). You could be the one that owns everything and everyone looks up to. You make all the decisions.
And you live out your life in grandeur and power and riches and pleasure, having anything your heart desires — and then you’re going to die! And you’re going to face Him, and everything you worked for will be burned up and forgotten! Do you realize that?
Does not the Lord say of the new heavens and the new earth, “…the former...” won’t even, “…come to mind”? Isaiah 65:17. Do you think we’re going to go through eternity full of regret, missing the things of this present world? There will be such a newness, such a freshness, such a reality, that God will put everything of the old out of our minds. It will be as if it never happened.
Talk about something being brand new! That’s incredible! That’s the family I want to be a part of! That’s the family that God would build and nurture here! Praise God!
I think of some scriptures in 1st Peter that back this up. Peter is writing to some of God’s children. He calls them God’s elect. He mentions all the places where they live in the beginning of the book. And he says they’ve, “…been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father….” That means God had known them long before they were born.
The fact is, He knew you before He ever started creating the stars. God knew about you! He knew everything that was wrong with you, and He still loved you.
But how does that choice work out? “…Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit….” What does “sanctifying” mean? It means set apart! That’s the clearest meaning of the word.
Imagine if I wanted to acquire some silverware. And imagine that my only source was to go through all the junk shops around, pick through all of the dirty, tarnished, messed-up, bent, discarded silverware that had basically become junk. You and I would probably look for the “best” of the junk and leave the rest.
But God is not like that! He would pick through the junk and say, “There’s one that’s bent and tarnished, but I’m going to take that one. That’s in My pile. And here’s another one. That’s in My pile.” We serve a God who can take you from the junk heap, clean you up, unbend you, and make you fit to serve a king, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
All of the “silverware” is worthless, yet He has the heart and the power to fully restore those He chooses. That’s the God that we serve! Folks, I want to be one of those!
But there is a sanctifying work that God would do. He’s a Spirit and He will come and work on your heart and convict you, dropping thoughts into your mind to show you your need. The real question is, what do we do when He does that? Do we resist and fight and put up our guard and just demand, “Go away and leave me alone; I’m okay; I want to do my thing”?
Or do we say, “Yes, Lord. I’m exactly what You say I am. I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I cannot help myself and I don’t deserve Your help, but I’m listening. And I believe the words of the promise, the hope of the Gospel. I’ve heard your words, Lord, and they have touched my heart and I embrace them. I let go. I gladly hand over this life that I cannot keep anyway. I give it to You, and I receive You into my heart as my life, as my Lord, as my Savior”?
God knew you before He created the first star. He went out to look for you when you weren’t looking for Him. I wasn’t either but He came looking for me.
He didn’t come because He thought I was special, better than anyone else. I have exactly the same need as anyone else! If there’s someone reading this and you’re in prison because you’ve done horrible things, know that I am no better than you are! All human beings are born with a nature that drives us to do the very opposite of how God means us to be.
And there is no religion that can fix that. There is only a Savior who reaches down deep inside, gives us a new heart and a new life, and then helps us learn how to live that life! Listen to how Peter puts it. He’s exhorting us as to how to live and how God wants us to live. In verse 22 of chapter 1, he says, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth….”
See, there’s that choice. Truth is going to come. What do we do when it comes? There’s an obedience that has to happen, from the heart. “…Obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers….” You know, you don’t have anything that could be described as real genuine love, unless He, the Author of love, comes in. We can sort of like each other, for very selfish reasons. But the kind of love that he’s talking about here, only God can put in our hearts. That’s what we need. “…So that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
Okay, how does that happen? How can I do that? “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” When God speaks it’s like planting a seed and there’s life in that seed. And our hearts are like soil.
Remember Jesus’ parable in Matt. 13 about the different types of “soil”: which are you? Hard? Shallow? Weedy? Or good?
Anyone God ever saves, no matter what it takes, is going to look back one day with incredible gratitude that He would go to such lengths to cross their stubborn wills, reveal His love and perfect provision, and bring them to the point of surrender.
When He comes to us, He doesn’t say, “Measure up and I’ll accept you.” He says, “Come broken as you are. Give me your heart, your life. I’m the only One that can rescue you and make you what you need to be! I’m the only One that has the power but you’re going to have to give me your heart and your life! It won’t be yours anymore, it’ll be Mine!”
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed….” Human life just doesn’t have the power to endure. It has been corrupted by death. If you’re born into Adam’s family, that’s all you’ve got. You’re going to die, and so will everyone else that’s born into Adam’s family.
Peter continues, “…but of imperishable….” The kind that cannot perish. If God can die, so can we who know Him and have been born of His life. It’s His own life that He shares with us. “…Through the living and enduring word of God.”
Now, let’s look at the world and see it through God’s eyes: He says, “All men are like grass….”
Do you actually believe it is worthwhile to glory in this present world, to strive to make a life for yourself here, to accomplish “great things” in the world’s eyes?
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fail, but the word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the word that was preached to you. Therefore…” because of all of this, because you’ve got a new life in you, now, “…rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”
So, how do I do that? We’re going to have to go to the Source. We’re going to have to say, Lord, your plan for me is not me, but it’s You in me. I need You. I need You to set me free. I do not have the power to be the person You’ve called me to be, but You do.
There is only One who’s ever lived the Christian life, and that’s Christ! And the Gospel is about Him coming and living that life again through me.
Listen to how that happens. It’s just kind of like a human family, isn’t it? It says, “Like new born babies…” — they’re born, but they’re still babies — “…crave pure spiritual milk…” — we better get something from Him — “…so that by it…” — by that spiritual milk, by what we get from Him — “…by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
I don’t know who this is for, but I just pray that God will work with needy hearts. You may be one that has just gone along, and you’ve never come to that point where you have passed from death to life. That is a one-way trip, all your bridges burned behind you, and you are His, come hell or high water.
If you haven’t done that, you are in an incredibly dangerous place. You have no idea what’s coming! But God loves you enough to look you in the eye and say, “You need Me.”
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
God is building Himself a house. He likens those who are His to the stones that are used to build a literal earthly temple. Though each of us is unique, if we are born of His Spirit, we have been called into a relationship, not only with Him, but with one another! We become an eternal part of something far greater than this world could ever offer.
If you want to enjoy the fruits of truly being a part of the family of God, you had better have Him in you. You need to have been born of that Spirit, because events are going to unfold where, if you do not have Christ in you, you will fall. You will embrace the growing darkness, and you will feel like you did the right thing. That’s a scary thing. That’s where we’re at in the history of this planet.
But I am so glad that God is patient. If He weren’t patient, He would have ended things a long time ago. Look around at the things that are happening in the world — and they’re going to get a lot worse.
But this is who, by God’s grace, I am: I’m His. I cannot look in the mirror and see any reason why God would choose someone like me. And that applies to everyone He chooses. But that’s the kind of a God He is. Thank God!
Peter continues, “But you are a chosen people….” Is that your identity, or are you just sort of going along with what others around you believe? Have you ever truly entered into this? Has it ever really become yours? Have you crossed that bridge and literally burned it behind you? Have you opened your heart and said, “Oh God, I am a sinner, and I need a Savior? Please come in. Take my life. Make me the kind of person You need me to be.” I pray that if you haven’t, you will.
This is the result: “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood….” That means we’re in a position to help other people, because God’s in us. “…A holy nation…” separated to God. That certainly has its implications as to how we live and the kind of people we are! But basically, it means that I am His, period! I’m not the devil’s.
Now the Lord may allow that devil to fight, and he does. We have seasons where we do go through all kinds of battles, but we have a God who fights those battles with us if we’ll trust Him and stand fast. There’s a time when we are called to stand. I mean, having done all, what do we do? Stand, because God is faithful, and God is strengthening the hearts and the faith of those who have to fight. “Fight the good fight of the faith,” He says.
Peter continues, “…a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God….” — Are you part of this? — “…Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
What now? If God’s talking to you, you need to respond to Him. First of all, it has to be you and Him. The Lord does tell you to repent and be baptized, doesn’t He? Repentance is turning from your own life and your own way and giving it to Him and recognizing that if you follow your own way, it’s going to lead to death. You say, “Lord, come and give me Your heart and Your new life, and change my heart.”
And then, there is that testimony, that public testimony. But this is between you and Him. If He’s talking to you, you don’t have to wait. It’s not a fancy prayer. It’s not certain words. It’s reaching out from the heart and saying, “Oh God, I need a Savior today. I put my faith in You now, today. Come into my heart, and be what You have promised in Your Word. Lord, I don’t come because I’m anything or because I’m worthy, none of that, Lord. I just come as I am, ‘Just as I am, without one plea,’ but that Christ died for me.”
If you do that from your heart, you’ll know it. Others around you will begin to know it. And I believe God will put it on your heart to desire to be baptized.
There’s a time that God is going to bring everyone of His to that point of decision, that point of choice. Is this your day? I don’t know. All I can do is put the Word out there and say, God, You’re going to have to do it. Pray, Christians. Pray that God will convict those who need convicting.
The saddest thing is for someone to grow up, to hear all of these things, to go along, to act like you’re part of it, and then you get to a point in your life where you turn and go your own way because it’s never really taken root in your heart. Do you think you’re going to find it somehow in yourself to go on and be a good person? If it isn’t in your heart, the darkness out there will swallow you up.
I warn you, I promise you, that there is Someone who sits on a throne, who went to a cross, because you and I needed a Savior. He willingly came down, humbled Himself to that cross. But He didn’t stay in that tomb, did He? He proved, by His resurrection, that He holds the keys of death and hell. That’s the One I want to serve.
If you miss this, you miss everything. If you see this and humble yourself and put your faith in Him, you gain everything, regardless of how events play out in this world. If you have Him, you have everything. If they walk up to you with a sword and cut your head off, are you going to be the loser? You’ll be the winner. That’s a one-way trip out of this broken world to a perfect place!
Do we really believe the promises of God that this world is not where it’s at, that He has something beyond all this? If that’s the case, then we can say with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” You want to talk about the kind of interest that pays eternally? There’s where your investment needs to be. It’s in Him and in the Gospel.
It comes back to this. Who are you? When we talk about being chosen, being His children, are we talking about you? That’s a fair question. I pray that everyone here who is unsure, will begin to seek God from the depths of your heart until you know, because He will help you, if you really want help. He loves you with an everlasting love. Praise God!