During the war in Vietnam, I met a lot of men who claimed to be atheists. But the philosophies they were so sure of during times of safety quickly evaporated when danger approached. As soon as the bombs started dropping and the bullets were flying, those same people were crying out to God at the top of their lungs. The reason people facing death call on God, instead of just giving up, is that they intuitively know He is real—they also know He can save them. It doesn’t matter what intellectual arguments a person gives. At the heart level, everyone knows there is a God.
Of course, some will claim that they are atheist or agnostic and say they don’t believe in God, but it’s just a mind game. It’s a convenient thing for them to say in order to justify the way they live or to get attention, but in their hearts they know better. At some point in their lives, everyone has known that God exists. It is possible to harden your heart so that you are no longer sensitive to the presence of God, but God has revealed Himself to everyone who has ever been born (Romans 1:18-20). It’s like there is a homing device on the inside of every person that is constantly revealing the reality of God, and drawing them toward relationship with Him.
Still, crying out to God in a moment of stress doesn’t mean you have a relationship with Him. A true relationship with God is more than just mentally acknowledging that He exists. Jesus said that not all who say unto Him, “Lord, Lord” are going to enter the kingdom of heaven. Many are going to say, “Lord, haven’t we cast out demons in your name? Haven’t we prophesied in your name and in your name done many mighty works?” But Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you, depart from me” (Matthew 7:21-23). These people claimed to know God, but they didn’t have a relationship with Him. Notice that Jesus didn’t say He knew them at one time, but they lost relationship with Him or fell away. No, He said, “I never knew you.” The people crying out to God in that parable were only religious. They didn’t have a true relationship with Him.
The scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day lived very holy lives. They lived up to a rigorous standard of outward behaviors, but it was just religion. They dressed a certain way. They blew trumpets before them when they gave away their alms. They prayed on the street corner where everyone could see them. They did all of these rituals, but they didn’t know the Lord. Jesus called them hypocrites and white washed tombs that looked good from the outside but were full of dead men’s bones (Matthew 23:27). Obviously, not every person who acknowledges that God is real has relationship with Him.
Scripture makes this clear in the book of James, which says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” ( James 2:19). That is one of the most sarcastic statements in the entire Bible. It says you believe that there’s one God, good job, but you haven’t done anything that the devil hasn’t done. Satan believes in God, yet we know he isn’t in right standing with Him. Satan isn’t saved; he’s going to spend eternity in the lake of fire that was prepared for him and his angels where they will be tormented day and night forever (Matthew 25:41 and Revelation 20:10). The devil believes in God, but his entire life and everything he does is in rebellion against God. So, just believing God exists doesn’t put you in right standing.
To be in right relationship with God you have yield to Him. You have to submit yourself to Him in order to receive relationship.
One night, a religious leader named Nicodemus went to see Jesus to ask Him some questions about the things He was teaching. Nicodemus didn’t want to speak with Jesus openly during the day because of the criticism he would suffer, but his heart was sincere enough that he sought Jesus out at night. He was in conflict because he saw the anointing of God in the miracles Jesus was doing, but Jesus himself was contrary to everything that the religious system of his day was educating people to believe. After Nicodemus questioned Jesus, He replied,
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
This is an amazing statement, and Nicodemus was overwhelmed. He asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” ( John 3:4). Nicodemus was thinking about a physical birth, but Jesus went on to say,
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.
Some debate the meaning of being “born of water,” but I believe it is simply a reference to natural birth. A woman about to give birth is said to have her “water break,” meaning that the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb has dispersed in preparation for childbirth. This scripture is saying that unless you have a natural birth—when you were born in water—and then the second birth when you are born of the Spirit of God, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The second birth is what we call being “born again.” So, just as surely as people have to be born physically to exist in this world, you have to be born again of the Spirit to enter into the kingdom of God. In fact, some Bible translations actually render this verse “born from above” or “born of God.”
When God created Adam, He made his body and then He breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). The same Hebrew word that is translated “breath” is the word that was used for “spirit” all the way through the Old Testament. In other words, when God breathed into man He literally put His Spirit into him. I’m sure that if we could have looked at Adam’s physical body before God blew the breath of life into him, it would have looked just like our physical body looks. But there was no life in it until God put His Spirit in him.
Your spirit is the life-giving part of you. The New Testament confirms this fact when it says that it is the spirit that gives life to the body (James 2:26). Most of society is missing out on what life is all about because they are focused on the wrong thing. They give all of their attention to the body by indulging and attempting to satisfy every appetite and emotion that comes along. The body is not the most important part of life. The spirit is the real, lifegiving part of a person—that’s the reason someone can have all of the money, fame, and possessions imaginable and still be miserable. It’s why people turn to drugs and other addictions. They are trying to find life and happiness in the flesh, not realizing that what they are seeking only comes through the spirit.
When man was created, his spirit was alive because it was born of God, but the spirit of man died when he sinned. The Lord told Adam that in the day he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Yet Adam and Eve lived for hundreds of years after they ate of the tree, so it wasn’t physical death God was talking about. They died spiritually when they sinned, not physically.
The word “death” has come to mean a variety of things to different people. Some people interpret death to mean that you cease to exist, but in reality you never cease to exist. Although the physical body dies and ultimately decays, our spirit and our soul go on to exist eternally somewhere - for those who have been born again, we will be with the Lord. We also have a promise that God will one day resurrect our bodies, and our bodies will be reunited with our spirit and our soul (1 Corinthians 15). The natural mind thinks of death as the end, but the Bible teaches that there is no end.
Scripturally, death means separation. When Adam sinned, he died spiritually. His spirit didn’t cease to exist, but it was separated from God. He no longer had the life of God inside of him. Originally, humans were created to be God dependent ( Jeremiah 10:23). We were in union with Him. Sin, however, caused a separation, and the spirit that was within us died. After sin entered the world, we were abandoned to our own wisdom. The very nature of man became dominated and controlled by the devil. It became lustful, selfish, and full of hatred and misery. The sin nature present in man means that hurt, pain, and negative influences don’t originate from an outside source; they come from the inside.
After Adam and Eve sinned, they began to produce children and they passed on their sin nature to every person who has ever been born of the flesh—which excludes Jesus. Since Jesus was born of a virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 1:26-38), He is excluded from this sin nature. He didn’t get His life through man. He received a physical body through a woman, but His life came directly from God. So, with the exception of Jesus, every person who has ever been born on this earth has been born into sin with a nature that is separated from God and corrupted. This explains why Jesus said you must be “born again,” because the spirit of every person who has not accepted Jesus as their Lord is still dead.
Man’s separation from God isn’t about individual actions, or sins; your actions of sin are a result of your sin nature. You don’t have to teach a child to do evil; he or she will do it naturally. The sins we commit don’t give us a sin nature. It’s the other way around: the sin nature we were born with makes us sin. The Apostle Paul wrote,
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.
True Christianity is not behavioral modification. It isn’t merely learning to control your actions. It isn’t possible to behave perfectly, and God doesn’t grade on a curve, so you can’t just live better than somebody else and earn salvation. You either have to be perfect, or you have to trust a Savior who was perfect for you. There is no other option. Even if you could behave perfectly from this moment on, it wouldn’t change the fact that you sinned in the past. Most people think that God has a scale on which He will weigh their good actions against their bad actions, and if the good actions outweigh the bad, then they’ll be accepted. That isn’t what Scripture teaches. Salvation is not the result of doing the right things or living a good life.
The Bible says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God isn’t asking us to meet some minimum standard of holiness. He created man to be perfect, and all of us have sinned and fallen short of that standard. Jesus is the perfect representation of the perfect standard of God, and none of us meets that standard. The payment for the sin we’ve committed is death. Somebody has to pay, and you can’t pay for your own sins, so God sent us a Savior.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is where true Christianity and religious Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, diverge. The majority of religions teach that there is a supreme being who created all things, and he is an angry god. To appease this angry god and overcome his wrath at you for your sins, you must promise to behave rightly and deny yourself. In a sense, these religions put the burden of salvation on your back; it’s all up to you whether or not you can live holy enough to earn salvation.
Every other major religion, and even a large portion of what is called Christianity, is preaching that you have to earn relationship with God by being good. I’m making a distinction here because not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a true Christian. True Christianity teaches that we could never pay the debt we owe for sin, so God himself became a man and paid the debt for us.
Jesus Christ was God in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16), and He lived a sinless life (1 Peter 2:21-22). He earned relationship with God through His own goodness. Although Jesus had done no wrong, He was killed on the cross and suffered for our sins. He took our punishment. He sacrificed Himself for us. God’s anger against sin fell upon Jesus, and He forever satisfied the wrath of God against the sin of the human race. Jesus has paid for all sin for all time, and because of that you and I can have eternal life. Not by being good, not by earning it ourselves, but by receiving the salvation paid for by Jesus. Scripture says,
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus has already paid for your sins. The extent of your sin or how good you’ve been are not the issue. There is only one sin that separates you from God, and that is failing to believe in Jesus ( John 16:9). Salvation comes down to one thing: will you accept what Jesus has done for you?
False Christianity and false religions teach that you have to try to maintain your own goodness and somehow earn relationship with God, but it can’t be done. Imagine the time when you will stand before God. If He asks, “Why should I accept you into heaven instead of banishing you to an eternity in hell,” what are you going to say? I was a good person? I wore a saffron robe? I went to church and paid my tithes? I read the Bible and tried to be as holy as I could? Any of those answers will cause you to be rejected and sent to hell. The only correct answer is, “I put my faith in Jesus.” You might have lived a good life, but without Jesus you can’t be saved. And who wants to be the best sinner that ever went to hell?
If you try to stand before God in your own goodness, you are going to come up short. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The only thing that will make you worthy to enter heaven is that Jesus paid for your sins, and you have claimed Him to be your Lord and Savior. You have to put your faith in the goodness of God through Jesus. Everyone who trusts in Jesus will be made in right standing with God. Anyone attempting to trust in their own goodness will never be able to live up to God’s standard of perfection. The only way to have relationship with God is to have it through faith in Jesus.
Relationship with God is something you receive; it isn’t something you earn. When you accept Jesus, you get changed on the inside—you are born again from above. Now, true Christianity does preach that you should live a good life, but a good life isn’t the root of your relationship with God—it’s the fruit of relationship with Him. You start living holy as a result of having a relationship with God, not as a means of obtaining it. Those are subtle distinctions, but the difference is profound, and it is what divides true Christianity from every other religion in this world.
Salvation and eternal life are all about Jesus. Some people try to say that Jesus was a great example of love, but that He is only one way to God. Jesus isn’t a way; He is the only way to the Father.
The Bible says,
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus proclaimed that He was absolutely the only way, so either He is who He claimed to be, or He was a deceiver and a charlatan. There are no other options. You can’t merely look at Jesus as a good man. Either He is God, or He was a liar.
My testimony, and the testimony of countless others, is that Jesus is Lord. He is exactly who He said He was: the Son of God. The miracles He performed, the prophecies He fulfilled, and the testimony of God the Father all prove that Jesus is our Savior. Jesus is real, and He is alive. He changed my life, and He can change yours. You can know Jesus as your personal Savior and be born again today.
The Word says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Notice that it has to be more than an internal decision. Jesus said that whoever confesses Him before men, He will confess before the Father. But whoever denies Him before men, He will deny before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33). Receiving salvation has to be real enough that you live it and share it with other people.
Choosing to receive Jesus as your Savior and be born again from above is the most important decision you will ever make. Everything that is seen in this world is going to pass away, but those who know Jesus as Lord will never die ( John 11:25-26). If you have come to realize what true salvation is and you’re ready to receive it, then say this prayer out loud and you will be born again. It’s that simple.
Father, I’m sorry for my sins. I believe Jesus died to forgive my sin, and I receive that forgiveness. Jesus I make You my Lord. I believe that You are alive and that You now live in me. I am saved. I am forgiven. Thank You, Jesus!
If you said that prayer and believed it in your heart, then you are born again! You might look the same on the outside, but you are a whole new person. Your spirit is now alive with the life of God. You have been set free from the powers of darkness, and delivered into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.
Being born again is about more than just getting into heaven when you die. Jesus died to give you eternal life, and eternal life is relationship with God—relationship that begins the moment you are born again (John 17:3). Now that you are born again, it is essential that you learn your new identity in Christ so that you can walk in victory and fulfill the plans God has for your life. God desires to pour out His blessings upon you, but you have to know how to cooperate with Him to receive all that He has for you. So, don’t stop here; there is a lot more to learn. In the meantime, go tell someone about the decision you have made.
If you have made the decision to receive Jesus, or if you have any questions, we would like to hear from you. Give us a call on our Helpline in Colorado at (719) 635-1111, Monday through Friday from 4:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.