The woman sitting across from me looks confused.
"I just told you I am a believer."
"Satan is a believer, but he's not going to heaven. If you want to get to heaven, you have to be born again."
She stares at me as though I have three heads.
"What do you mean by 'born again'? I've never even heard that."
I take a deep breath. This is a woman who has been in church for years. She attends faithfully. She tithes. She volunteers. She is a good church going believer. And she has no clue what being "born again" means.
Sadly, I find this very typical among "believers". Like this woman, they believe in God. They believe in Jesus. They believe He came and He loves them and everything was taken care of at the cross.
But that is not being born again.
In John 3, Jesus talks to Nicodemus about being born again, and Nicodemus doesn't get it. He can't figure out how to crawl back into his mother's body. Jesus shakes His head.
He tells Nicodemus what is born of flesh acts like the flesh, but what is born in the spirit acts accordingly. In simple words, if something is born as a bird, it should act like a bird. If it is born a turtle, it should act like a turtle. A giraffe should act like a giraffe. You get the point.
Jesus is saying, "Unless you are born again--unless you die to the sinful life you've been living and live according to the Truth of the Spirit--you will not enter into heaven."
I hear some of you protesting, "But, Jerri, I believe."
James tells us the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19), but I can give you my word there will not be one demon in heaven.
The demons know Christ is the Son of God.
They know He was born to Mary.
They know He lived the perfect life.
They know He died on the cross for the sacrifice of sins.
They know He rose again defeating death.
They know all of those things, and yet, they are still going to hell.
Because they chose their way and not God's way.
There were kicked out of heaven because they didn't want to worship God. They wanted to do what they wanted to do, and He let them. Because of their choice, they will spend eternity in hell.
If He is willing to kick heavenly beings out of heaven, do you think He won't keep mud-made humans who choose their way over worshipping and serving Him out of heaven even if they "believe"?
Hitler believed in Jesus.
Pontius Pilate believed in Jesus.
The Roman soldiers believed in Jesus.
Judas Iscariot not only believed in Jesus but knew who He was, and yet, because he chose to do things his way instead of submitting to the lordship of Christ, he was bound for destruction.
So if belief isn't enough for salvation, what is?
Jesus came to save us from our sins. If He is going to save you from your sins, do you really think He is okay with your continuing to live in them?
This whole idea that Jesus came to save us for eternity has become so skewed. Yes, He did come to save us for eternity, but eternity does not start when you die. Eternity started with Him before this earth was ever created. Eternity is here and now, and Jesus wants to save you from your sins here and now.
Repeatedly He told people, "Go and sin no more."
I know. Pastors like to talk about grace and how God loves you even if you sin and He knows you won't be perfect. But JESUS--you know, the one sent to die for you in the first place--says, "Go and sin no more." Obviously, He thinks a sinless life is attainable, or at least something we should desire to live.
Again, I hear protests, "Jerri, I'm not perfect. Are you perfect?"
Nope. I'm not. I'm not a perfect friend either, but I want to be. I'm not a perfect mom, but I pray and seek to be. When the Lord allows me to marry again, I won't be a perfect wife, but I want to be.
And there is the real issue. I'm not a perfect Christian, but I want to be. I want to love like Jesus, and when I don't, I repent--acknowledge that He is right and I'm wrong--and ask Him to help me change. When I don't serve well, I repent and ask Him to help me be more like Him. When I get angry without cause, I ask Him to forgive me, ask Him to help me humble myself and set things right with that person, and pray to see with His eyes.
Being someone's friend doesn't give me the right to act any way I want toward that person.
Being a mom doesn't give me the right to treat my kids anyway that fits my mood.
Being a wife doesn't allow me to have multiple lovers because my husband said he wouldn't leave.
Being those things is saying, "I know this relationship has responsibility, and I'm willing to take that responsibility, live accordingly, and value deeply."
I don't become those things for what I get out of them. I become those things because I want to be part of them.
I don't become a Christian because of what I get out of it. I become a Christian because I want to become part of Christ, and I want Him to become part of me.
I know people who believe in friendship but are lousy friends. Everyone I know believes folks come from a momma and a daddy, but that doesn't mean they are willing to be parents. I know people who believe in marriage...as an idea...but they don't want the responsibility of it.
People seem to think they can believe in Christ, like the idea of eternity, and go to heaven without ever taken any responsibility for the relationship. That simply isn't true.
Birds, turtles, and giraffes are just what they are. They don't have a choice, but being born again, is a choice.
Being born again isn't a packaged prayer you pray.
Being born again means...
...you know Jesus came, died, and served as the sacrifice for your sins.
...you know you are a sinner and need to be saved (amazing how this part gets left out so often)
...the only way to heaven is putting your faith in Christ as Savior and placing Him in charge of your life as Lord.
Pastors use phrases like "He paid for your sin." Yeah. He bought you. Satan had every right to you because you were sinful, but when Jesus paid with His blood, He offered you the invitation to let Him pay your debt so you could be free. The thing is, you aren't just emancipated so you can go right on living like you were without consequence. You've been bought. You belong to Jesus, and believe it or not, He expects you to act like it. He saved you, and that gives Him the right to be Lord. You don't get one without the other.
For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
--1 Peter 1
Do you believe in Christ? So do the demons.
But they are going to hell because they neither receive Him as Savior or worship Him as Lord.