Today we are into the fifth day of Lent. We are one-eighth of the way to the Resurrection of our Lord in us individually, when we should hope to be born from above.
Through the sacrifices of this Lenten period we hope to be reborn in Christ Jesus and understand heavenly things.
Today, we read how the LORD told Abram, “Go,” and he went. God said, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.” In other words, “Go from all you know and love.”
To that command, God added, “I will show you the place.” It turned out to be one that Abram would love more.
Abram and Sarai would see a lot of the world because their faith had them following God’s command to, “Go.” The land of Canaan would be promised to Abraham’s descendants, but Abraham would see Heaven by following God’s instruction.
Abraham’s faith was tested when God gave him that command. Lent is a time when we take self-initiated steps to test our own faith.
It is a time set aside by the church, which recognizes Jesus’ self-initiated test of faith in the wilderness, where Satan tried to tempt Jesus after he was in a weakened physical state.
The psalm today is a song of praise, which focuses on faith. We read, “My help comes from the LORD.”
“The LORD himself watches over you.”
“The LORD shall preserve you from all evil.”
David never saw the LORD, but he had faith in the LORD, and the LORD rewarded that faith with protection. He knew the LORD protects those who have faith enough to test theirs.
Paul wrote to the Romans about faith, using Abraham as an example.
We see in the Genesis reading that Abraham was named Abram when God told him to pack up and leave his comfort zone and go to a place God would show him.
Paul wrote how “Abraham believed God … and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” That means God and Abram had a relationship, where Abram had faith in God, and God was known by Abram because Abram was righteous … meaning, by definition, Abram was “morally upright, without guilt or sin.”
That righteousness was not a trait of Abram’s because he tested the LORD, saying, “Show yourself and let me see my reward first. Tell me where you are sending me and let me decide if I want to go there.”
Abram went when God said “Go.” Period. No questions, no test was necessary, because Abram had faith.
Abram’s name was changed to Abraham when God made a covenant with him. Abraham was then 99 years old.
God came to Abram and said, “I am the LORD Almighty. Walk before me faithfully and be blameless.” That is what Abram had done. He had walked the walk of faith. He had been tested and he passed.
Paul stated this about faith: “Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.”
That means, if you look out upon the world and you see no favoritism from God to the people who live ordinary lives as sinners – then there is nothing – no proof, no favor received for works not yet done, no reason [MENTAL INTELLIGENCE] to think there is a God, much less reason to do any work without promise of payment. That means: faith in an unseen God, leading to works done without proof … are righteous.
Paul then brought in the aspect of law. Abraham, when God made His covenant with him, was told a number of things that had to be maintained.
Moses brought down a lot more things that had to be maintained, through another covenant God made with the Israelites.
Paul wrote that God’s promise was not made because Abram obeyed laws that did not yet exist. He wrote, “Where there is no law, there is no violation.” Only “through the righteousness of faith” did any promise come. Then, with promise came conditions, but faith is not conditional.
The reason Paul wrote about faith and the law and God’s promise was his first question to the Romans – most of them Jews in Rome – which was, “What have Jews [the flesh descendants of Abraham] gained by the faith of Abraham?”
The Jews thought they were chosen as special people, and it was their birthright to receive the promise made to righteous Abram, who had faith. They thought the promise was made to them on the condition of the laws. They assumed that Abraham’s faith meant they did not have to do the works of faith, only obey the laws. The Law was not based on promise of rewards. The reward had already been received, so they saw themselves as righteous in the eyes of the LORD. All the Jews had to do is learn the Law.
This is like a poor man becoming rich through hard work. Once a fortune has been made, all his descendants just have to keep from spending all the fortune, by learning how to make a fortune keep making a fortune … without any real work done.
As Christians, we are no different, in the sense that Jesus did all the initial work, which inspired all the Apostles to continue doing work, and then more Apostles doing work, until the fortune of Christianity was built. The fault of both Christians and Jews is thinking we are born to a fortune, when all fortunes come from works of faith. Rewards of faith must be reborn every time there is a change of “ownership,” with claims to be made.
The Jews of Rome, to whom Paul wrote, were under the same assumption as the Jews of Jerusalem, to whom Jesus preached. It was a Pharisee of Jerusalem whom Jesus met, in Nicodemus. Nicodemus visited under the cover of darkness, so not to be witnessed being in Jesus’ company.
Nicodemus snuck into where Jesus was staying and told him, “Hey man, we believe you are a prophet of the LORD and that God is present about you, because of the special things you have done.”
Nicodemus was buttering up Jesus, because he wanted to know Jesus’ secret. “How do you do it? How do you get the LORD to draw crowds to you?” He wanted to know the same thing others had asked Jesus, “How can I, Nicodemus, be sure I am going to heaven?”
Jesus told Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” If you want to go to heaven, you must first be reborn.
The Greek written is “gennoth an-o-then” (“γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν”), which means, “born all over,” “born again,” or “born from above.” However, the words spoken to Nicodemus were heard as, “born again” or “reborn.”
We know that because Nicodemus thinks Jesus meant a return to one’s mother’s womb – an impossibility.
Jesus then told Nicodemus, “Do not be astonished that I say, ‘You must be born from above’ or ‘You must be born again’ because this means you must be “born of the Spirit.”
What is of the earth is matter. What is of above – of Heaven and God – is spiritual.
Jesus explained, “Just as you know the wind blows [a physical sense], you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” That is how the Spirit works. “The wind blows where it chooses,” not where we choose it to blow; and likewise, the Spirit moves where it chooses to move.
Nicodemus was shocked. He asked, “How can these things be.”
I imagine if Nicodemus were a meteorologist, with an advanced degree in the knowledge of how wind is caused by low and high pressure systems, he would challenge Jesus by saying, “How can you say that?!?! We have sensors and satellites that monitor and track the wind’s movement, so we have a good idea what the weather will do these days.”
In response to that Jesus might say, “Bet your life on your faith in science.”
Jesus said, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” That does not mean, “Rain and wind.”
Water is symbolic. It is one of the four basic elements, along with fire, earth, and air. Water is fluid, thus it changes its shape to adapt to its container – it flows towards the lowest point, taking the way of least resistance. It changes states, from liquid, to solid, to gas. It is necessary for life in the physical realm. Our bodies are 70-75% water. The earth’s body is also about 75% covered in water.
Our bodies developed in embryonic fluid, taking in oxygen absorbed from our mother’s blood. Babies can be born in water tanks. When a mother’s water breaks, her baby is born into the world, where it then must breathe in air.
We gain our souls from God’s breath, and our souls touch our emotions through the earthly element of water that courses through our bodies. Water cleanses us, so we use it in religious rites, where sin is washed away.
But Jesus referred to the water of our emotional nature. We must be emotionally connected to God to be led by faith. We must then be led by our emotional link to faith in God to let the Spirit rise within us, showing us the way to Heaven.
Thus, we are born again – we are born from above through our love of God, without having ever seen God. We are born again through the Spirit moving us to do works without a promise of anything known in the material realm.
Jesus looked into Nicodemus’ eyes and asked him, point blank, “If you do not know how emotions cause faith, which leads one to do spiritual works, then how can you ever lead anyone else, much less yourself, to find that is the only path to Heaven?”
Jesus said the Son of Man descended from heaven, and no man has been to Heaven other than that one man. That Son of Man was Adam.
Jesus is the soul of Adam, as the Son of Man reborn. Jesus is the flow of least resistance to the LORD, which maintains the Spirit from above within. He exemplifies what he told Nicodemus – born of the water and the Spirit.
Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” God gave the world Adam, its first priest, who would lead mankind to follow the One God so they could be moved by the Spirit to have faith and do works that will reward them with eternal life.
When Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Moses had already received the tablets and the children of Israel had signed off on the Law; but they were bellyachers. They cried for this and moaned for that, like newborn babes.
The cried out, “Oh why have you brought us out into the godforsaken place so we can suffer?” They moaned, “We were better off back in Egypt, in bondage. At least there we had material things to hold and behold.”
They always wanted things given to them, without any sweat or pain, even long after they received the Promised Land.
Because of their bellyaching in the wilderness, God plagued the Israelites with some poisonous snakes appearing in their midst. The snakes bit many of the Israelites, causing them to die.
Then everyone came admitting they had sinned against the LORD, begging Moses to ask the LORD to take away the snakes so they could live. Moses then prayed for God to help and the LORD told him to make a bronze serpent and raise it on a staff [something like the Greeks called the Rod of Asclepius – the symbol of medicine and healing]. Once that was made, it was to be placed among the people, so that anyone bitten by a serpent could look upon that staff and find life.
Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so the Israelites could find life – through faith in God, leading them to do works based on that faith.
If you recall, Adam descended from Heaven due to the influence of the serpent – the craftiest of the wild animals created by God.
The serpent symbolizes the influence to sin. Its bite is venomous and causes many to lose eternal life. When the snake is on the ground, where moaners and groaners lie and wallow, the snake can whisper in one’s ear, like it did when it had legs, in Heaven, where it raised itself to a level of influence over Eve.
A bronze serpent acts as a reminder not to sin. Anyone who looks upon the serpent as the crafty trickster it is can then say, “Get thee behind me Satan.”
Adam had sinned. Adam had to be lifted up, so that he could demonstrate to his descendants, saying, “See I am punished for having sinned; but see how I refuse to sin again so I can be ascended to heaven again, where eternal life is found.”
That was what Jesus said to the devil when he tried to take advantage of Jesus, when he was weakened physically in the wilderness. Weakened physically did not make Jesus lie down on the ground and welcome the influence of evil. He stood tall, through the Spirit born from above.
Nicodemus and his Pharisee buddies condemned the Jews who strayed from the laws, even when they longed to have a leader like Moses pray to the LORD to help them. The people admitted their sin, feeling the emotional guilt sin brings, making their souls tremble at the thought of losing eternal life. But the Pharisees still condemned them, mercilessly. The rabbis, like Nicodemus, had no miracles within their grasp, no hotline to the LORD. They had no answers, other than the Law to quote.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Adam began a line of priests that would lift up sin as nothing to fear, but instead something overcome by rejecting its venom. Moses continued that Spirit, so did David, Solomon, and the prophets; but then the Spirit was lost.
All failed. People died. People were again slaves, scattered around the world.
Jesus was the reborn as the Son who came into the world to save it … not condemn it.
The purpose of Lent is to find that Spirit, through your own personal test of faith.
Do not think you have a gift you have not worked to receive. Do not believe your birthright, as a Christian, is a Promised Land that requires no effort or sacrifice to enter.
There are 35 days left in Lent. Do not let the snakes in the grass bite you. Realize you have dominion over sin, such that through faith you have the works in you to say, “Get thee behind me Satan.”
Lift up your eyes to the LORD.