Not a luxury but a requirement.
When I first realized my need for salvation I was in college and surrounded by many “nice” campus groups and denominations. Their answer to me was to pray a “sinner’s prayer”. I grew up a catholic and felt this conventional formula sounded quite cheap and token. It was void of the depth and beauty I associated with coming to know a living GOD. For me, there was no more important issue in all of life so I had to get it right. I knew I had to go directly to the Source, all alone. After studying various other religions, I searched the Scriptures for any statement that made it clear. Long story short, I landed upon one verse where Jesus makes it very clear. He declares;
“Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-8).
Can’t be much clearer than the words of Jesus. The gospels clearly reveal salvation is the call of Jesus to “Come to Me”, to know HIM, to love HIM, to serve HIM, to be His sheep and hear HIS voice (Mt.11:27/John 10:27). No church or preacher died on a cross. Jesus says to “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). To go and do what He did is not an option but a command. When you do so, in sincerity, the unspeakable joy of being born from above fills your heart with God’s compassion. This is what Jesus means to “SEE the kingdom of God” here and now, on earth. To see what He sees and want what He wants.
Never did I imagine the false accusations from hatred and jealousy, that I would bear, for giving our life to Christ, and trying to help people to know this marvelous love of the living Father. Jesus says “They hated Me without a cause” (Jn.15:25). There are those who hide away, in self-made castles of delusion, and malign those who challenge their false conclusions on what it means to be born again (John 3:19-20). We pray for forgiveness and mercy on them.
Today, some forty-five years later, the effects of seeing eternity, while bearing, and fighting, against time, sin and persecution, have written many lines of pain in my face. The groaning for Him for Whom I long causes me to both die and rise. To die on this side of the grave, and to rise in Him on His side of the kingdom. To understand my sin and know His redemption. But most of all to be consumed with a compassion that I know is not mine that drives me with a burden for others to see Whom I see. This is all that matters to me.
I am totally unworthy of the beauty I now “see”. Coming out of spiritual darkness into the light of Christ is profound. (The story of my conversion is located elsewhere on my blog so I will not here go into details of that moment in the football stadium of Notre Dame.) My goal here is to focus on the joy of “seeing” into the heavenly realm of God’s ways and to “see” Him put His Character within me.
To see life through the eyes of Christ is like listening and dancing to a perfect song. It reaches into our deepest sorrows then lifts us to the greatest heights. We experience His crescendo of resurrection each moment, each day. It is dying and rising, again and again, and again. It is failing, being forgiven and leaping into another realm of understanding. Are you willing to learn the skill of seeing both His suffering and His glory? Jesus says “Learn from Me”. It is the monster of pride that whispers to your ears “Oh ya. I know all that already?”. As if being born again is the end. It is the beginning of growing by constant discovery, through self-abasement, the eternal ways of the eternal God.
Do I see angels and rainbows? No. I see Jesus, as revealed in the gospels living through me each day. I leap from one world to another by the simple instinct of faith. He reaches down to me in the morning by my bedside and welcomes me into the grace to believe to live this day in HIm. I live to love; to care for others more than myself. Jesus says “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who BEHOLDS (sees) the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 6:40). To love with His love is to live eternal life in Him.
I used to shy away from Matthew 5:8 where Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. Yikes. Me, pure in heart? No way am I going to be a phony and say that about myself. I felt I could never walk in the Spirit or identify with being “pure”. Then I researched this word “purity” and, as with all invested study, received profound revelation and blessing.
The word “pure” is from the Greek word katharos – “cathartic”. Pure is not a finalized absolute moral state but an outcome of a deep purge. Another way of understanding this verse is “Blessed are those who have been intimately dealt with by God, for they will “see” and know His ways and love Him because of it”. To be pure is to honestly break through your sinful ways. It is to attain an objective perspective of obedience to God’s revelation that you are wicked to the core and sick of heart (Rm.3:10/Jer.17:9). There is a world of difference between just admitting this as the token sinner’s prayer and actually understanding the process of conversion and repentance. You got big problems that keep you from God and you NEED to allow Him to come in and deal with you with TRUTH. To “break” through the realm of the fallen soul so as to give birth to “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor.15:45/ John 4:24/Heb.4:12/John 12:24).
I earned a degree in Psychology and studied all the psycho babel that is used to describe common human struggles. None of it offers answers except drugs and never-ending therapy. They define “catharsis” as a moment when a “complex” is eliminated by bringing it to awareness and affording it expression. This “complex” is the result of a traumatic time or event. These are true, in a sense but this cannot happen through drugs or therapy. But rather through the repentance and conversion of rebirth. The Person of the living Jesus offers His cross to discard our ‘old man’, and all “complexes” associated with it. We must be willing to go deeper than a superficial sinners prayer in order to find true healing from past suffering. It is the love and forgiveness of Jesus that “causes” a man to be born again (Read 1 Peter 1:3-9).
People use the word “complex” to describe a vexation of negative attitudes they see in themselves or others. Inner problems can result in any number of bad experiences and repeated cycles of failure. It can result in a group of repressed feelings that put a dominating influence upon our personality. They can make you seem like you just can’t get things “right”. One prisoner, with eyes full of tears, in reflection of murder, said “I can never make things right”. So many think this way because they do not understand true righteousness (what is right). I told him that was a lie. In God’s eyes any man can make anything right by making his life right by faith. Living a right life is “reckoned” not achieved (Rom.4).
The world exerts serious influence upon our mind, both conscious and subconscious. If we do not bring them to the forefront we can never conquer them. The only escape is the purge of rebirth. Our mind must be transformed. We must let God purify everything we think is right. It requires nothing less than our death (Rom.6:6). We must find the repentance expressed in well-balanced sorrow (2 Cor.7:10). Just be real.
We watch countless men who experience our program in prisons go through a type of purging and release of emotional tensions. It a result of strategic work to put proper emphasis on the way, the words and the music we create. It is not bragging. It is the Lord. It is “seeing” the outcome of His wisdom. The realignment of confused thinking leads to the permanent relief of their “complex” by a catharsis in Christ. They are brought to “see the kingdom of God”.
I am not talking about some far-out spirituality. How many times have you heard the expression “Oh, I see” when someone finally ‘gets it’. When things click with God an accurate perception is made to suddenly “see” what you have never seen before. It is marvelous, not a bummer. To be born from above stabilizes distorted emotions by providing the alternative modus operandi called FAITH. Real faith leads to a virtuous disposition where love takes over self. Paul explains “faith works through love” (Gal. 5:6). Jesus washed the filthy feet of His twelve brothers as a way to graphically define the detailed extent to which His love reaches men in practical ways (John 13:7-17). Jesus calls us to ignore the personal risk of helping the prisoners, homeless and mentally ill.
The conscience is an innate faculty we are born with. It renders all men the undeniable accountability to “see” God in creation (Rom.1:20/2:24/ Heb. 2:9/ 1 Cor. 13:12). But it is corrupted by sin and guilt and requires being “washed” in order to see the living Jesus. God reaches into the depths of our existence; i.e. conscience to “…cleanse (purify/purge) our conscience from dead works” (self- redemption) (Heb.9:14). No more “I can serve God in my own way and I can make things better”. You must be born again.
Jesus says “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He purges, (cleans, purifies) so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). God doesn’t throw aside anyone, no matter how carnal. When the seed in a man is divine God sees to it that He is purged to become greater. All of God’s work in us is so that He can work through us. The only hindrance to bearing fruit is our self-obsession and for this Jesus offers His cross. He offers us a death already rendered and just awaiting our participation. He works in us so we see how to work in others.
In prisons, many fear they will commit suicide. Some fear losing their minds. So many are so entrapped in the memory of their crime their emotions are buried as if dead. Every time my wife sings a certain song when we perform I anticipate the crescendo where she reaches a beautiful high tone. There are times when so many “badass” guys are brought to tears because we “see” the Spirit of Jesus reach through her words, singing about the Father’s love for them, and bring men into a purging of their deepest pride and fears.
My dear friend, please listen to me. The command to be born again is not optional. It is the only way to enter heaven because God is holy. The Father is playing a song to the universe. The crescendo is the resurrection of His Son. The only cemetery that failed is the one in which Jesus did not let the grave hold Him down. He lives today waiting to bring you into His kingdom. I have “seen” so many people willing to open their eyes. Jesus says “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and the ears that hear what you hear” (Matt. 13:26). The world says “I’ll believe it when I see it”… God says, “believe and you will see” (Mt.11:40).
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