The beginning

Many people think that the Christian life begins at birth. If you are born into a Christian home, or in a country with a Christian heritage, then you must be a Christian. However, the Bible teaches that the Christian life doesn’t begin at birth. The Christian life starts with being ‘born again’. This is what Jesus Himself told Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3). Nicodemus didn’t understand, and so he asked the question we all might ask: ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?’ (John 3:4). Jesus told him being born again was not a physical birth like being born the first time when we came out of our mother’s womb with water. Being born again is a spiritual birth that is by faith.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee (a religious leader). He knew the history of God’s people. When they were in the desert, God sent poisonous snakes to bite them. Once bitten, they died. Thousands died. The people urged their leader Moses to do something, and when he asked God what he should do, God told him to make a bronze serpent, like the real ones, and set it up on a pole in the desert. If anyone that had been bitten looked at that bronze serpent, they would live and not die. It was a matter of faith. If someone who had been bitten didn’t look at the bronze serpent because they thought it was a waste of time, they died.

Jesus then explained all this to Nicodemus saying, ‘as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:14). The Bible teaches that we have all been bitten by a serpent, the devil. We are all born to our parents as sinners. Ignoring God, we live lives that are disobedient to His will and God calls this sin. Romans 6:23 tells us clearly, ‘For the wages of sin is death’. But that is not the end of the verse, for Paul goes on to say, ‘but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

God’s gift to us is His Son, Jesus Christ. He was lifted up on a cross outside the city wall of Jerusalem. If we look to Him, repent of our sin (say sorry and intend to turn away from it) and by faith ask Jesus to be our Saviour, God will forgive our sin, and we are born again of the Spirit. The Bible says that everyone who is born again is a new creation.

The middle

Once someone is born again, the broken relationship with God is restored. From then on, a real Christian lives to please God by keeping His commands and growing more Christlike day by day. They will now have a desire to read the Bible and spend time with God in prayer. They will have a longing to join with God’s people in worship. In short, it is a completely new lifestyle. This change is the evidence that someone is a real Christian. The Christian life is a difficult life. Jesus warned those who wished to follow Him: ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it’ (Mark 8:34-35). Despite all these difficulties, God promises that He will work all things together for the good of a real Christian.

The end

A real Christian is not someone who hopes to be accepted by God one day. A real Christian can be sure that they will enter God’s presence when they die, not because of their performance or religious works, but because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible says, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). The day of judgement is not a terror for a Christian, but a day of joy, because Jesus has died for their sins and given to them a perfect standing before God.

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