Identity-in-Christ1

Sermon Script: John 3:8
Sermon Purpose: What do our birth marks look like?
Sermon Title: Birth Marks

Have you ever seen people do this? A new baby comes into the world and right away we’re looking the child over. Pretty soon we start to hear things like, “ooh she’s got her Momma’s eyes,” or, “he’s go his Daddy’s smile.” There is just something about when a child comes into the world that makes people want to try and figure out where the marks of the parents can be seen in that child. It’s happened with both of my kids, and I am sure it will happen all over again when baby #3 arrives in April. I think the same thing can be said of being a Christian. I think all people who hear that you are a Christian, or that I am a pastor start looking for the marks of the Father in us. They all have their ideas about what the marks of a Christian are. This morning we are going to talk about what the marks of the new birth in Christ really look like.

In this morning’s passage a Pharisee named Nicodemus comes to Jesus secretly in the night and wants to see Jesus for himself. Jesus knows Nicodemus is a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews so Jesus let’s Nicodemus have the truth all at once. “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus’ response might best be summed up as, “Do what?!” As a father of two young children with a third on the way it might just be a bit easier for me to relate to Nicodemus’ confusion. I have more recently seen how hard it is for a woman to deliver a 7lb or 8lb baby. There aint no way a woman can give birth to a 100+lb adult. If I were in Nicodemus’ shoes I’d have probably had the same question. Do what?! Jesus continues, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).

Alright, alright, Jesus; I hear you talking about a rebirth in the Spirit and not a physical rebirth. We were brought forth with the water from our mother’s womb, but You, Lord Jesus, are talking about a Spiritual birth. I wonder, brothers and sisters, do you suppose there are identifying marks of the Spiritual new birth much the same as there are identifying marks on a newborn baby when it comes into the world? I think there probably are marks of the new birth in the Spirit much the same as there are the marks of the child’s parents in a new born baby. What do you suppose the marks of the new birth in the Spirit might be?

I think to be born in the Spirit is to be born in the Holy Spirit. As Methodists we believe the Holy Spirit is a part of the Triune God. Triune is a fancy word for three in one; Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Matt 28:19). To be born in the Spirit is to be born in the Holy Spirit and to be born in the Holy Spirit is to be born of God (1John 5:1). God is the one who starts the new birth through God’s grace. God’s grace is prevenient which means goes before. God’s prevenient grace gives us the privilege of being the children of God. You see, God had to work first; by giving to us saving faith in Jesus Christ as both our lord and savior. Then Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice for all of our sins. As the Children of God when Christ died on the cross, we died with Christ. We have also been raised with Christ in His resurrection (Romans 6:1-4). The old sinner is gone. The new child in Christ has been born.

The first mark of the new birth is Faith. Now, saving faith is not just an idea you and I have agreed to. Saving faith is about more than knowing Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that by Christ’s blood all our sins have been washed away. Even the demons know with the academic and scientific certainty of a crime scene investigator that Jesus is both the Son of God, a part of the Triune God, fully God and fully man. The demons know Jesus Christ speaks the words of truth. The demons “believe” all of this and yet they are still “reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” There is a difference between knowing (point to my head) God and knowing (pointing to my heart) God.

The faith I am talking about is a living faith. Living faith cannot start from vanity, and deceit. We have to see ourselves as we truly are. I am not talking about the front we put on for other people when we are in the grocery store, or for some even when they come to church. I am talking about the version of ourselves no one else sees. I am talking about the person we are when we are alone, and when we look in the mirror; when we face our demons; when we face our afflictions. We must struggle with our thorns of the flesh. We must face our fears. Thanks be to God, God is the one who gives us the strength and the courage to see ourselves as we truly are. Thanks be to God for giving us the grace to not only resist temptation, but to conquer temptation.

The second mark of being born again is the Children of God do not sin. Those who call themselves Christians; who are truly the Children of God and not just names on a membership roll do not commit sin (1John 5:18). God’s grace helps us to see the sin in our lives for what it is. Then God’s grace gives us the power to over come sin so that those who are the Children of God do not commit sin. Now some have tried to say those who are the Children of God do not make a habit of committing sin. This is a lie and would destroy the whole verse (1John 3:7). This word “habitually” is not in the text. Those who are the Children of God do not commit sin. I am not arguing the Children of God cannot commit sin. I am not saying nothing a Child of God does can be called sin. Anyone can sin, and many people do sin, but the Children of God do not sin. God has given them freedom and power over sin so that sin no longer reigns in their lives.

Thanks be to God my brothers and sisters that sin no longer controls our lives! Let us remember that wonderful song out of the hymnal, #369. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.” All of our sins are blotted out. In Christ we no longer have fear of condemnation because we have been given that blessed assurance that comes from Christ. With Christ’s assurance comes a peace beyond all understanding (Rom 5:1; John 14:25, 16:33). Oh what a blessed assurance comes with God’s saving grace. What a tremendous witness in this mark of the new birth are assurance and peace.

Along with this witness of confidence and assurance comes the mark of hope. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Out of this hope comes two things. First, we witness to others about God through a simplicity of life.  Second God testifies about us that we are in fact the Children of God. How great it is my sisters and brothers that we should live by faith and that we should be called the Children of God.[1]

Here’s the thing about being a Child of God we should all consider. Life will not be filled with more money. We will not be more famous. We will not receive more attention. Our physical lives in this world will not be radically different. The reason is we were not made for this world. We were made for another world. Through saving faith in Jesus Christ we begin the journey to return to that world. We share the light of that world with others. This is not a work we try to do. This is a life lived letting God shine through us. Through Saving faith we have been given grace that we no longer lash out toward God and we no longer lash out toward one another. We no longer try to take advantage of one another or hold grudges against one another because we have received God’s saving grace and we look for ways to share that grace with others. Why do we share God’s grace with others? We share God’s grace with others because that’s who we are when we are the children of God. Our lives change. Our lives become simpler, and in ways we cannot imagine God speaks through us to tell people we are the Children of God.

In the Name of Jesus Christ – Amen.

[1] “How Great” – 1 John 3:1, 16 / John 3:16 (NIV)
Mac Powell (Third Day)Shane Everett (Shane & Shane), Jonathan Shelton, Brian Littrell

 

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