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Showing posts with label Born Again. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Born Again. Show all posts

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wrestling With God, Part 1

            Have you ever wrestled?  When I was a young kid, my older brother used to like to wrestle with me.  Of course, he was 8 years older, so it wasn't much competition.  However, he always let me do well enough so it was still fun for me.  I used to wrestle with my kids when they were younger in much the same way.  We would wrestle on the bed and I would tickle them and it was fun for us all; I had to be careful, though, not to hurt them since I'm was so much bigger and stronger.
            One of the most fascinating stories in our Bible is the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  Can you imagine? A mortal man wrestling with the Creator of the universe?  It's almost unthinkable!  This is one of the pivotal stories of the Bible. It is where the name Israel comes from—the name of God's chosen people and the name of the country we know even today as a key player in our world’s geopolitical power struggles.
            As we study this intriguing passage over the next few weeks, we will consider the ways we wrestle with God and the effect it has on us, on our circumstances, and on the people around us.  I invite you to read the blog each week as we study this story together.

22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

Key Points
            Let's begin by pointing out a few key elements in this story.  First of all, you need to understand the larger narrative of Jacob's life and relationship with his twin brother Esau.  There was a great sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau and it was fueled by their parents favoritism.  Their father, Isaac, favored Esau, but their mother, Rebekah, preferred Jacob.  Jacob was a cunning man and he found a way to trick Esau out of the family blessing and inheritance.  It infuriated Esau so much he vowed to kill Jacob.  Jacob had to run for his life to a foreign land.
            Well, years went by and Jacob grew up and grew wealthy with wives, servants, children, and possessions.  He decided it was time to finally face his brother Esau.  He began the journey home, not knowing if Esau still wanted to kill him.  And that's where we come to the strange story in Genesis chapter 32.  Jacob has sent all his possessions across the Jabbok River and he is all alone on the other side of the stream.
            There is a great element of fear in the story.  There is the fear of what Esau might do.  There is the fear of the darkness of nigh and it is terrifying that a strange “man” attacks Jacob.  A deadly struggle ensues that seriously injures Jacob.  And thenperhaps the most terrifying element of allwe find out the "man" is actually God.
            We know the “man” in this episode is God for several reasons.  First of all, the “man” himself claims Jacob has "fought with God".  Second, Jacob renamed the place “Peniel” at the end of the story (Peniel means “face of God”).  Third, Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”” (Verse 30)  As strange as it is, the story clearly indicates God—in human formis the man who wrestled with Jacob.
            But it gets even more strange because Jacob wins!  Jacob must have been an incredible wrestler, because the passage plainly says the “man” (who was God) realized He would not win.  That's incredible!  How can a man win a wrestling match with God?
            Well, in a sense, Jacob was a wrestler all his life—the Bible says he came out of his mother’s womb grasping the heel of his twin brother Esau.  His name, Jacob, literally means “heel grabber”.  Still, how can any mortal wrestle with God and win?
            Jacob didn’t actually "win".  He just sort of fought God to a stalemate.  Jacob managed to hold on to the point that God couldn’t get away.  Even when God dislocated Jacob’s hip, Jacob would not let go.  It may be that God realized the only way he could win the match was to kill Jacob or hurt him so grievously he might as well be dead (and God didn’t want to do that).  God also knew the sun was going to rise soon and Jacob would be able to see God’s face in full light.  It has been said that no one can see God’s face a live.  God’s face is so glorious a sinful human being cannot endure the pure, sinless, glorious face of God in its fullness.  Such a sight would overwhelm and consume anyone without the protection of Christ’s atonement.  (Since Christ had not yet atoned for our sin on the cross, Jacob was without protection and unable to look upon God's face in the full light of day.)
            Yet Jacob was determined hang on to God until God blessed him.  He was even willing to risk death to receive God’s blessing.  Time was running out.  Every minute that passed brought the rising sun closer to the horizon; God’s face became more and more visible in the growing light.  There was no more time for God to wrestle.  For Jacob’s own safety, God needed Jacob to let Him go and so God gave Jacob the blessing he wanted.  That’s pretty amazing!

A Lesson for Us
            There is a lesson in this for us.  How badly do you want God's blessing in your life?  How far are you willing to go?  Jacob was willing to risk death for the blessing. How about you?
            We say we want God to bless us. We say we want Jesus to save us and be our Lord. But how far are we willing to go?  Are you willing to pray regularly?  Are you willing to read your Bible everyday?  Are you willing to attend a church with other believers and learn how to live as a Christian?  Are you willing to be held accountable by others on the same spiritual journey (and hold them accountable as well)?  Are you willing to love others and serve as Jesus did?  Are you willing to make sacrifices for your goals as a Christian (sacrificing your time, your pride, your energy, your resources...)?  How far are you willing to go for God's blessings in your life?
            I don’t mean that we must do something to earn God’s blessing or to win salvation. We cannot do anything to earn it. It is given freely by God’s grace.  However, blessings come to those who are determined, not those who could care less.  And the Truth is, becoming a Christian—a follower of Christ—will change you permanently.  Jesus said it is like being “born again.”  Just like Jacob limped for the rest of his life due to his encounter with God, you will be permanently changed if you become a follower of Christ.
            There is another lesson here.  God’s wants to be directly involved in your life. He doesn't stand off at a distance; He get's up close and personal.  I have been learning Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu for over 2 years.  People like to joke that their pastor does Karate, but BJJ is not punching and kicking.  It is more like wrestling than Karate.  I have invited my wife to come try it out she won't do it.  She says it's gross.  I guess she may be right.  Jiu-jitsu is very strenuous and you're soon drenched in sweat, but not just your own sweat; it's everyone else's sweat too.  You see we are rolling around on the mats dripping sweat all over each other.  It's up close and personal work.
            Now think about that.  God wrestled with Jacob all night.  They were rolling around in the dirt together sweating and bleeding all over each other.  God was willing to get Jacob's sweat and blood and maybe even tears all over Him.  You see, God doesn't stand off at a distance.  God wants to be directly and intimately involved in Your life.  Are you willing to wrestle with God?
            As God wrestles with you, He may push you to your limits and test your determination.  All of this helps you grow.  It might hurt and it may even leaving you limping, but God will always keep you safe. Remember, He was willing to let Jacob win in order to save Jacob’s life.  We see an even greater example of God's protective nature in the New Testament.  Jesus shows just how far God will go for our benefit. Jesus (who was God incarnate) sacrificed his own life on the cross for our sake. God was willing to die so we can live.
            There is one last lesson I want to point out today.  No matter what you are wrestling with there is hope.  You don't have to win; you just have to hold on to Jesus long enough for the blessing to come.  So take courage today.  Whatever you are facing, don't give up.  Cling to Jesus.  Don't let go. Just hang on until Jesus give you the blessing.

[i] Paraphrase from Luke 2:9-11

Monday, April 20, 2015

I've Been Made NEW!

Copyright April 13, 2015
Galatians 6:14-16

            My wife, Kelly, went shopping together last night.  I got a new pair of shoes and she got a new smart phone phone.  Her old iPhone finally bit the dust and wouldn't turn on anymore.  I'm so proud of her.  She finally ditched the iPhone and opted for the better android system with a brand new Samsung Galaxy s5!  So she's is learning how to use a new phone today and I'm wearing a new pair of shoes.
            There’s just something about getting something new.  Isn’t there?  Doesn’t it feel great to own a brand new smart phone or put on a new set of clothes?  And who wouldn’t love to sit behind the wheel of a brand new car? (You can even buy air fresheners scented with that “New Car” smell to trick into the good feelings that come from owning a new car.)  There’s just something great about new things.
            Of course, lately the thing that has been in vogue in home decor is the “distressed.”  Do you what this is?  It’s where you take a new piece of furniture and rough it up so it looks like it’s an old piece of furniture.  There are all kinds of pointers on how you can do this.  One method calls for you to use a chain to flog the wood until it is sufficiently “distressed.”  All this reminds me of a fashion trend for denim jeans when I was in high school.  It was the style to wear jeans with holes in them.  So some kids I knew would actually buy a new pair of jeans and cut holes in them.  Then they would wash over and over again to give them a worn appearance.  Clothing stores caught on pretty quick and soon were selling their own jeans that came already tattered.  Most parents were just dumbfounded with the whole thing! 
            But you know what I think’s really cool.  It’s when you take something old and make it new again.  There’s nothing like a classic car that’s been restored to be like new!  Or how about a piece of truly beautiful and interesting antique furniture?  I recently had the privilege of refinishing an old phonograph.  This is one of those old wind-up record players back from before they invented radios.  This particular phonograph was built in 1917 and has been in my family all my life.  It existed as a dilapidated piece of junk with chipped wood and broken parts. But it always fascinated me and I had the chance to bring it back to life.  Now it is NEW again and it is beautiful to me. 

            I think my love of making old things new springs from my understanding of what Christ has done for me.  You see, Jesus is making me NEW.  Ever since the day I gave my life to Christ, He has been renovating me.  He has been changing the old person that I was into the NEW person He wants me to be.  And that’s what I want to talk about with you today, because it is far more important than classic cars or old furniture.  I want to share how you can be made NEW. 
The Bible teaches that what marks a person as a Christian is they have been made NEW.  They have new desires.  They have a new way of thinking.  They have a new purpose in life.  And these changes are so real and dramatic in a person’s life, that the best way to describe them is to say, “They are a NEW person.”  Jesus even used the term “born again” as if to say the person they used to be was dead and they have been born again—a new person.
            Over the next few weeks, we will study what it means to be made NEW by God.  Let’s start today by looking at Galatians 6:14-16.

Galatians 6:14-16
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

Exegete the Passage
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to Christians living in a city called Galatia to bolster their faith in Christ.  Some false teachers were confusing them they by teaching the Galatians needed to believe in Christ and…  I.E. Believe in Christ and be circumcised.  Believe in Christ and follow the Jewish law… 
This is false because no external thing we do can save us.  It is only Christ who saves us and to tag on any additional stipulation as a requirement for God’s grace is an offence to the absolutely free gift of God’s grace.
The Galatian Christians were often persecuted for not being circumcised by both Jews and Romans.  You see, Roman authorities officially recognized and allowed for the practice of the Jewish religion; whereas, Christianity was not sanctioned and often severely persecuted.  Circumcision was the religious mark of a Jewish person.  Some thought that by being circumcised they might fall under the Jewish umbrella and thus be protected from persecution from both Jews and Romans.  Couldn’t these Christians just go along with the crowd, be circumcised and keep being good Jews?
We face similar temptations in our own time.  Though we aren’t pressured to be circumcised, we are pressured to be like everybody else around us.  Most non-Christians will tolerate Christians so long as we don’t cause a fuss (as long as we remain pretty much like them).  But if we really become a NEW person and take a stand on something that is contrary to popular opinion, we face ridicule and ostracizing.  For instance: we do not support gay marriage because it is clearly contrary to biblical teaching.  However, popular opinion disagrees with biblical teaching.  An active, growing, and vocal majority in our country advocate for gay marriage.  And when Christians refuse to go along, when we stand on solid biblical teaching, we are ridiculed, ostracized, and possibly even penalized.  There is a great temptation among many Christians to avoid all that and just “go along with the crowd.”
Paul says, “No!  All you need is to believe in Christ.  All the other stuff doesn’t matter.  Religious ceremonies can’t save you.  The approval of others can’t save you.  All that really matters is that you believe in Christ.  For when you do, you will be transformed into a new creation.”  The key verse for us is - 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.
A NEW Allegiance
When you truly believe in Christ, it means you have chosen to follow Him.  You have become His disciple.  Disciples forsake everything else and choose to follow their master.  You think about the Disciples we read about in the New Testament.  They left their homes, their jobs, their families, everything to follow Jesus.  And Jesus transformed them into new people. 
In the same way, when we chose to follow Jesus, we put Him and His teaching above all else in our lives.  Jesus said, If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).  Jesus is not advocating a life of hate--especially for your family.  The point is:  Our love and devotion for Jesus must be so strong, so committed, that it surpasses all our other commitments.  It means, that we will always choose to follow Christ even at the expense of these other natural, familial obligations. And the truth is, when you give your heart to Christ, you will actually become a better father, mother, husband, wife, son or daughter or friend.  You will become a better person, because when you choose to believe and follow Christ, he transforms you into a New Person. 
A NEW Creation
            What does it mean to be made NEW?  I will be talking about this over the next few weeks in worship.  But let me just give you a summary today.  When Jesus makes you NEW, it  means you will have a heart.  Your desires will change.  The sinful, selfish things you used to desire, will be replaced by things that are good, wholesome, and fulfilling.  You will find peace because your heart will desire things that are good for you, things you were originally designed to have.  And God will give you the desires of your heart and you will be fulfilled.
            When Jesus makes you NEW, He will give you a NEW mind.  He will help you a new way of thinking where you see yourself and others as He sees you—as the beautiful, unique, wonderful masterpieces He created.  Instead of seeing your flaws and weaknesses as mistakes, you will start to see them that God has transformed them into your greatest attributes--for in your weakness His glory shines through most clearly.  False pride will disappear and be replaced by a true knowledge of who you are and who you belong to.  You will find the confidence that comes from being a child of God.
            When Jesus makes you NEW, He will give you a NEW purpose.  Jesus will give direction to your life.  You will find a true sense of purpose, knowing that your life matters.  You will no longer chase after meaning in your days—jumping from one cause to another, and losing your identity every time your life’s purpose changes.  You will have an eternal purpose that transcends your age, gender, where you live, or your station in life.  It will be a purpose that brings everlasting rewards you will celebrate for all eternity.
            Lastly, when Jesus makes you NEW, He will give you a NEW eternal destination.  You see, those who have not been made NEW are dying.  They are headed down a road to destruction.  Their destination is eternal separation from God, the source of life.  It is a Hell of eternal torment, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But those believe in Christ, whom Christ makes NEW, have a NEW destination.  They will have eternal life in heaven with God and all His saints.  It is a glorious place of eternal joy where there will be no more sickness or sadness or death.  All the injustices of this world along with the worries and suffering and evil will be swallowed up and forgotten forever in the wondrous glory of God.           

            If you would like to experience all these good things, why don’t you decide to follow Christ today?  Don’t cling to your old life any longer.  Let go of the past and embrace the glorious NEW future Jesus wants you to have.  Pray to Jesus and ask to be His disciple today and He will make you NEW. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Born Again - 3 Ways of Grace

I had the privilege of preaching to a Spanish speaking congregation who meats in the chapel of my church.  Here is the message I preached through a translator on April 12, 2015.  They were very gracious host and I look forward to having their pastor preach at Pleasant Grove UMC on May 31st.

Copyright April 8, 2015 by Chris Mullis
John 3:1-8, 1 Peter 1:3-4

          I believe we are all part of the   If you believe in Jesus Christ, if He is your Lord and Savior, you are my brother or sister.  I know this is true because Christians are born again.  So even though you and I have different parents on earth, our heavenly Father is the same.  I want to read the place in the Bible where Jesus first said the phrase “born again.”  Then I want to talk about being born again, and 3 main ways we experience God’s grace. 
same family, regardless of what church we go to or what language we speak.
t is such a privilege to speak to you today.  I love to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ any chance I get.  Thank you for welcoming me today. 

John 3:1-8 (NIV)
1Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The key verse for us today is John 3:6 (NLT) – Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.

Prevenient Grace
            Humans can reproduce human life by having children.  I have three children.  My oldest is in the 11th grade.  Lord willing, he will graduate high school next year.  He will be an adult soon.  But I still remember when he was a baby.  I remember when he took his first steps.  I was not there, I was in my class at seminary, but my wife got it on video and I watched it that night when I got home. 
            Soon my son Gavin was learning to speak and then to read and to add and subtract.  He was also learning about Jesus.  We took Gavin to church from the time he was a baby.  It took some time for him to mature enough to be ready, but when he was 10-years-old, he was “born again” when he decided to follow Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  Now he is almost an adult and he continues to grow in strength and wisdom and faith.
            Praise God!  All of my children have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  My youngest daughter just turned 8-years-old.  She was born again last summer at Vacation Bible School.  She is still young, and doesn’t understand everything about being a Christian, but she understands enough and she is growing—both her body and her spirit.
            I love each of my children.  I loved them even before they knew it.  Even when they were babies and couldn’t understand anything, I took care of them.  I loved them.  This is like one of the ways God’s grace works for us.  He loves us even before we know it.  Long before we ever think about God, He is already thinking about us. 
You see it was nearly 2,000 years ago that Jesus came to earth and lived, died on the cross, and rose from the grave.  You weren’t even born yet, but God was already thinking about you.  He was thinking how you would struggle with sin.  He knew how you would feel ashamed for things you had done or things you left undone.  He knew how your sin would separate you from Him and He didn’t want that.  So He sent His son, Jesus, to die for you to pay the price for your sin and to rise to new life so you could also be “born again.”  He did all this before you ever had a single thought.  That’s how amazing God’s grace is.  It comes before anything we do and is already starting to make a way for us to be born again.  In my church, we call this Prevenient Grace.  It is the grace of God that draws us to God and prepares us for salvation.

Justifying Grace
            But at some point, we become aware of what God has done for us—just like my daughter last summer who finally was old enough to understand what Jesus did for her and wanted to be a Christian.  At some point, you start to understand that Jesus is alive and he can change your life and that he deserves your complete devotion.  And if you ask to be his disciple, he will let you and you will be “born again.” 
            This new birth is not a result of human effort.  It is a birth that comes from the Holy Spirit.  1 Peter 1:2 says “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”   And verse 3 says, It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”
When you are born again, you become a new person.  2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
When you are born again, all your past sins and mistakes are washed away in a flood of God’s grace.  1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
When you are born again, you are adopted as God’s very own son or daughter.  1 John 5:1 – Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.”
And along with these honors comes the inheritance of eternal life.    1 Peter 1:4 says, “We have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” And John 3:16, “...everyone who believes in [Jesus] will not perish but have eternal life.”
The moment you say “yes” to Jesus, you are “born again” by God’s grace.  In my church, we call this Justifying Grace.  It is the undeserved grace of God that justifies us—or makes us righteous in God’s sight.

Sanctifying Grace
            What happens after a person is born again?  Well, what happens to a child after it is born?  A child begins to grow.  Soon they are crawling, then walking, then talking, then running, then playing soccer.  Then they become teenagers and make their parents crazy.  Then maybe they go to college or start working, get married, have children of their own.
            The same is true of Christians that are born again.  We start to grow in our Christian faith.  We do not stay the same as we were when we were “born again.”  “Instead,” as Ephesians 4:15 says, “we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”
            If you are the same today as you were when you first became a Christian, something is wrong.  If you saw a baby who still looked like an infant, but was 5 years old, wouldn’t you think something is wrong?  You would think, “What has happened to this poor child that has kept it from growing up?”  Sometimes, I look at some Christians and I think, “What is wrong with this poor Christian?  They were born again (maybe 5 years ago), but they have grown very little in their faith.  They haven’t learned anything about what the Bible says.  They haven’t put their faith into practice.  They haven’t changed the way they live—they still live like the people outside the Church who aren’t Christians.  They haven’t been a witness for Jesus—telling people what he has done for them.  Even worse, they don’t love people the way Christ teaches us to love.”
            It’s OK to be a baby Christian right after you are born again; everything is still new.  But we shouldn’t stay like babies for long.  But how do you change?  It is the grace of God that helps us to grow—to become more and more like Christ.  In my church, we call this Sanctifying Grace.  It is the grace of God that perfects us—that helps us grow more and more like Christ.
You see, you can’t make yourself grow.  You can’t work harder and make yourself perfect.  Only God’s Holy Spirit can change you.  Can you imagine a little child who wants so badly to grow up?  He says, “I don’t want to be a little kid anymore!  I want to be like my big brother (or big sister)!”  And so this little child closes his eyes and grits his teeth and stiffens all his muscles and tries to make himself grow up.  It won’t work—no matter how hard he tries.  Who makes him grow?  Isn’t it God who makes the child grow?  The child can do some things to help the process.  He can eat good food to make his muscles stronger.  He can go to school and learn.  He can make sure to get enough sleep at night.  These are all things that help, but only God can make him grow.
It is God who makes your spirit grow too.  It is His Spirit that helps you to change.  Maybe you were born as a very selfish person, but with God’s help you can grow out of it and become more like Christ—caring more about others than yourself.  Maybe you are too shy to tell people about Jesus, but God can help you grow into a great evangelist.  Maybe you don’t know much about the Bible, but God can help you learn and grow into a Bible teacher or a pastor.  It is God that makes you grow.  He can make you grow into whoever He wants you to be.  But you have to let Him.  You have to cooperate with Him.  You have to follow the steps He gives you.  You have to listen to your pastor who was put here to guide you.  You have to study your Bible, which is God’s Holy Word.  You have to worship God and listen to His voice.  These are all things that help.  If you cooperate with God, He will make you grow.

            I do not know you very well.  I don’t know where you are in your Christian journey.  Maybe you are not a Christian yet.  But God’s grace has brought you here.  God was already thinking about you before you ever thought about Him.  He has been working many things out to bring you here today.  Maybe He has been protecting you from danger or illness or trouble, so that you could come here today and hear the Gospel.  Maybe—because God loves you so much—He has allowed some bad things to happen to you in order to turn your heart to God. 
If you are not a Christian, why don’t you become one today?  You can be born again!  You can become a new person!  All your sins can be forgiven!  You can put your past behind you and start all over—with a new beginning, and a life full of possibilities!  Don’t put it off.  No one knows how much time they have left in this world.  You must be born again in order to see God in heaven and avoid His punishment.
Maybe you are already a Christian.  You were “born again.”  God’s grace has washed away your sins through the blood of Christ.  Just as he died and rose again, you have died to your sins and risen to a new life—a Christian life.  You are born again.  I am so happy for you!  You are my brother or sister in Christ!  But have you been growing?  Are you doing things that help you grow?  Are you cooperating with God’s Spirit?  Are you letting Him make you more like Christ?  Are you letting Him change you?  Or are you’re the same today as you have always been—still just a baby in Christ?
It’s time for you to make a choice.  You need to say, “I don’t want to be a baby Christian anymore.  I want to grow up.  I want to be more like Christ.  Lord, help me to be more like Christ.”  Maybe it’s time for you to start studying your Bible more.  Maybe it’s time to be more regular in your church attendance.  Maybe it’s time for you to ask your pastor how you can serve your church.  Maybe it’s time to be a witness for Jesus at your school or where you work or with your family and friends.  Doing things like this will help God change you into the person He wants you to be—to be more like Christ.  Ask God to help you grow.  Let Him help you change.
Where ever you are in your journey with Christ, I hope you will take at least one step forward today.  If God has spoken to you today, I urge you to talk to your pastor, Isabel.  She loves you very much and wants you to know Jesus and to grow.  She is the person God has chosen to be your shepherd.  She can help you know what to do next.