The Greatest Question

When was your birthday?


All of us have a specific day of the year that we call “our” birthday. This day is the day that we commemorate our birth into this physical world. It is a good day to have family over and celebrate (although some would rather not be reminded that they are now a year older.)  But there is a birthday that most do not celebrate that is infinitely more important and yet often over looked, and that is our spiritual birthday! Now, before we bake a cake and start the birthday celebration, the question must be asked: were you truly born spiritually? Jesus says that this is not optional but necessary, in order to enter into the family of God and have an inheritance in His Kingdom. John 3:1-7 says:


 “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s  womb , and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again”


  Nicodemus believed in Jesus. He knew that Jesus was sent from God, but there was something that our Lord could tell that Nicodemus was not understanding. In this case, Jesus did not mince words: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This idea of being born again was so important that Jesus said without it no one could spend eternity with Him! He said that no matter what else we tried and what else we did, it would not be enough to get us to heaven. We must be born again. Unfortunately, just as many people are today, Nicodemus was greatly confused by this idea. He seemed to be waiting for Jesus to name some great work that he could do or a law he must keep to gain entrance into heaven, and he was caught off guard by this idea of being “born again”. In essence he said, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! What am I supposed to do, get back inside my mother’s womb and be born again? Not only is that impossible, but it is also absurd to even think about!” Jesus then kindly explained that He was not talking about another physical birth but a first and only spiritual birth. These are completely separate. He says, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which born of the Spirit is spirit.”


Many people say, “I’ve been a Christian all my life!” But Jesus Himself refutes this idea. He points out that there is a time when we are not alive spiritually followed by a specific point in time when we are born into God’s family.


 We all have physical birth certificates, although some of us probably could not find them if put on the spot; but nonetheless, we know that they exist. These certificates tell us of a specific time, date, and place that we were born into this world. Let me ask you dear friend, can you say the same about a spiritual birth?


There are many ideas about how to gain access to heaven. Some say you must be a good person, having done more good than bad. Some would say that as long as you go to church and give and pray and do good to others you will be ok. But Jesus gives us a story in His Word that illustrates the fallacy of this thinking. Matthew 7:21-22:


    “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven…Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”


The people in this story seemed to be very surprised when Jesus would not grant them access to heaven. These men spent their entire lives working for Jesus Christ and that is what they were trusting to grant them access into heaven. Some of them seemed to be pastors who even preached the Scriptures in His name. They cast out demons in His name. They even spent much of their lives in doing good works and helpful deeds all in the name of  Jesus Christ! If it were possible to make it to heaven by doing good works and living good lives, surely these people would be home free! Yet, look at Jesus’ response to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Why would He say that? Because entering the kingdom is not about our works or our “religion” but about our relationship. He says “I never knew you!” Yes, they did many good works, and we should have a life that is characterized by good works, but good works cannot get you to heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.” These people missed out on the most important thing when it comes to eternity, and that is being born into a real relationship with God.


Still others will trust that because they were born into a “Christian family” and went to church from the time they were children that they will be assured entrance into heaven. But the reality is that eternal life cannot be physically inherited, we must be spiritually born into it! In fact, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day thought they were safe because of their physical birth. They were Jews. They were born of Abraham who the Bible says was a “friend of God.” They were brought up in seemingly godly homes, learning God’s Word from a very young age! Yet look what Jesus says in response to this logic. John 8:40-44:


…but now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God…Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they unto Him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, if God were your Father, ye would love me…Why do ye not understand my speech?…Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”


These men did not understand that one cannot inherit eternal life. It does not flow in a blood line; it cannot be passed down in the genes from generation to generation; it cannot be obtained from attending a certain church or growing up in a Sunday school. This gift of eternal life is only attained when the Holy Spirit convicts an individual’s heart of his personal sin and guilt before God. This guilt leads us to sorrow and repentance from our sin, and turns us to the only One Who can cover our sin with His blood - the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a personal decision that each individual must make as the Holy Spirit moves in his or her heart.


Now let’s try to get some background. Why must we be born again?


We need to understand that our first birth was a birth of the flesh and of sin! Romans 5:12 tells us:

“Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”


Because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, sin and death passed upon all people! Now, all are born in sin! In Psalms 51:5, David says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Many people are repulsed at this idea and try to point to the innocence of babies to say they have no sin! But anyone who has children quickly learns that no child is inherently perfect! I have three beautiful daughters that I love more than life itself, but I will be the first to tell you that they are not perfect. I have never had to sit my girls down and teach them the correct way to throw a temper tantrum! I never had to take them by the hand and teach them how to tell a lie! I never had to show them the right way to directly disobey the command their mother just gave them! Why? It comes naturally! It is in their nature even from birth. Sin is not just in a few of us, but all of us! Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Every person on this earth was born in sin and is therefore a sinner: pastors, deacons, nuns, grandmas, the Pope, every person that’s ever lived! That’s what the Bible says. How about you? Have you ever lied; ever stolen anything, even if it was very small; ever taken God’s name in vain or lusted after another person or even a thing. God is a righteous judge who must judge sin. There is a price to be paid. The question is what is that price?


The Bible answers that question as well. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Not only are we sinners and unable to make it to heaven; but also because of our sin, we must face spiritual death, which is separation from God forever in a place called hell. Now the Bible says that the “wages” of our sin is what earns us “death.” If you have ever had a job, you know what a wage is. It is the payment earned for what you have accomplished. What we earn for our sinning is eternal death in hell. Sin must be paid for! Many will say, “Yes but, if I ask for forgiveness and try to live better, God will forgive me and I will be ok.” But if we think about this idea logically for just one minute, we will understand that this cannot be true. Let’s look at an example. If there was a man that became very angry at your brother and killed him, would this “forgiveness” defense work for him? Let’s try it. “Judge”, the man says, “I realize that what I did was wrong, and I really do feel bad about it, I would like to ask for his family and you to forgive me of this and let me go free.” Will that defense get the man off for the crime he has committed? Of course it would not. If the judge is a good man, he will say the same thing that God does, “There is a penalty that must be paid.” As we have seen already, the penalty for our sin is eternity in hell which Romans 6:23 told us.


Now, if this were the end of the verse, it would leave us in a very bad predicament, but praise God that this is not the end! The rest of the verse reads, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He provided us a way of escape! He loved us so much that He could not leave us in this horrible predicament. So what did He do? What is this gift He gave us? He gave us His own Son.  John 3:16-17 says,


“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”


What a gift He gave! He sent His Son to die on the cross of Calvary to cover our sins so we could spend eternity with Him in heaven! He actually paid our penalty for us. Remember, sin has to be paid for, but praise God that His Son Jesus has already come and paid that penalty for us by shedding his blood on the cross of Calvary. This is the very reason Jesus came to this earth in the first place. He did not come to be a good teacher, or to love and heal people, but to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins; A price that we could never pay.


I believe the understanding of this sacrifice becomes just a little more personal when we have children of our own. Our children are our blood, our heritage, our pride and joy. To even think about sacrificing one of our own precious children to spare someone else’s life is unimaginable, but that’s exactly what God did for us. He knew there was no other way. It was the only sacrifice that would completely cover our sin! Because He loved us that much, He gave us His own Son. Maybe this will help us begin to realize what a sacrifice God the Father really made, and why He seems so adamant about Jesus being not just a way, but the only way!


This realization gets even better when we understand that God did not send His Son only for the really good people that already loved Him. He sent Jesus to die for all the world, even the people that hated Him and would eventually crucify Him. That is true Love! Romans 5:6-8 says,


 “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Please, go back and read that verse again, and think carefully about the words. It says you may be able to find someone who would give his life to save a righteous or “good” person, but who would give his life for a person who truly hates him or one who seems to do only evil? The Bible says that “while we were yet sinners” and turning our backs on God, He sent His Son to die for us!


So as we come to this sobering realization, it should cause us to repent from our sin, put our faith on Jesus Christ, and trust Him as our personal Lord and Savior. You see, just because Jesus died for the sins of the world does not mean that the world will all be saved. In fact Jesus says in Matthew 7:13&14,


“enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”


Jesus is saying that more people will actually go to hell than to heaven. This is startling news to many people. So, how does this free gift of salvation that is offered to all, actually become ours personally?


It has been said that the difference between spending eternity in heaven or hell for many comes down to about eighteen inches. This is referring to the amount of distance between the head and the heart. The truth of this statement is astounding! I John 5:13 says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Twice in this verse we are told that we must believe “on”  Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this is where many fall short.


It is important that we understand that there is a difference between believing in something and believing on something. Believing in something is believing that it is real. Someone may say “I believe in Santa Clause,” that is to say “I believe that he is real.” Many people use this same kind of attitude when it comes to God. They think, “I am going to heaven because I believe in God.” Although believing in God is a good first step, it is only that, a first step. In fact, the Bible says in James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The devil and his angels believe in God with all their being. They have seen Him and even had dealings with Him, but does that mean they are going to heaven? Absolutely not! It is not our belief in Jesus or believing that He is real but the placing of our faith and trust on Jesus Christ that will gain us entrance into heaven. The idea is to put our faith and trust on Him alone as the perfect sacrifice for our sins and believe on Him as the only way to gain entrance into heaven. At this point the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell inside of us transforming us from death to life. This is being born into a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says that this is the only way to heaven.


So, the question I have for you is this: have you truly been born again? Has there ever been a specific time that you can remember, that you realized you were a sinner, and that if you died that day, you would spend eternity in hell? Has there ever been a time when that sorrow for your sin turned you to the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you repented of your sin and placed your faith and trust on Him and His shed blood on the cross of Calvary as your only means of salvation? This is what is meant by being “born again.” This is truly being born into the family of God. It is not something to take lightly. We must search our souls to make sure that we are not depending on anything else to get to heaven! In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the father but by Me.” This is the only way and the most important decision one can ever make. Jesus says it this way in Mark 8:36-37: “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” There is nothing in this world that is worth spending an eternity in hell.


So, do you have a spiritual birth date? If so, the Bible says that you will forever be different. I Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things are past away behold all things are become new!” This does not mean that we will be perfect, because we can never attain sinless perfection in our flesh; but it does mean that there should be a marked difference in our life! Our motives and desires should be different. Our standards should start to change because everything in our life now is based upon what the Bible tells us we should do and what would please our Lord. This difference is huge, because now we have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside of us! Instead of doing what we want all the time, now we have a still small voice inside of us guiding us into what we should do and where we should go! What an amazing transformation this is! And all this happens simply because of being born again!


It’s more than just believing in God. It’s more than trying to be a good person or attempting  to turn over a new leaf. It’s more than praying or going to church. It is a real relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and remember, Jesus says this new relationship with Him can only come about by being “Born Again.” Have you ever taken this step of faith? I pray that you won’t put it off any longer. II Corinthians 6:2 tells us,  “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” He is knocking on your heart’s door today. Won’t you let Him in?


Pray to Jesus personally. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart, He will lead you to repentance (which simply means a changing of your mind about sin, or seeing sin how God sees it.) This will cause you to turn from your sins with a hearts desire to never commit them again, and to turn to Jesus Christ with a hearts desire to truly follow Him. Confess your sins to Him, even naming some of them specifically. Tell Him how sorry you are for these sins, and for the fact that He had to come to die personally for them. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and accept His shed blood as payment for your sins. There are no Magical words that can save you, because it is not words but a sincere belief and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on Calvary that saves. Just talk to Him - that’s all prayer is. And if these things truly come from your heart, you can know that he will hear you. Acts 16:31 says, “…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…” That is a promise from God. Notice,  He did not say that you might now make it to heaven, but that you shall make it! John 3:36 says it this way, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life…” You have it. And the great thing about Everlasting life is that it lasts FOREVER! If we could lose it at some point, it would not be everlasting life.


Hopefully, now you understand that every person can truly know where they will spend eternity when they die. The question for you is this: what will you do with this new found knowledge? Will you keep trusting on yourself and your works for salvation, only to find out one day that hell is real and Jesus was the only way to heaven, or will you accept His free gift today and be born into God’s family? Why not make today your spiritual birthday?