LandMarks Magazine  
   

October 1997 Table of Contents

 
 

Ye Must Be Born Again
By John Berglund

As God’s people standing at the border of the Promised Land, God wants to give us a very special experience. We are all longing for Jesus to come, but do we realize that if we want to go home with Him, we need the experience Jesus told Nicodemus about in John 3:3: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

If you and I want to see His kingdom and be ready when He comes, we must be born again. When Israel was at the border of the Promised Land something very special happened. God permitted twelve of the leaders, one from each tribe, to go into the Promised Land to find out if the Lord’s promises were true.

The Lord tested these leaders to see whether or not they were prepared to enter the Promised Land. As they came back with the report, all the people gathered to listen. They told them that it was a good land, and they had substantial evidence to prove their claims. They brought back such a large cluster of grapes that it required two men to carry it. Others came laden with many other types of fruit. The people could see that it was a good land—truly a land flowing with milk and honey.

The multitude was ready to go in immediately upon hearing the reports, but then something happened. Suddenly ten of the twelve spies, who had seen the land, seemed to become confused. Everything the Lord had done for them was forgotten. They no longer trusted Him or His promises. All they could think of was their fear of the people that they had seen in Canaan. They said, “There we saw the giants . . . and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” Numbers 13:33. They were so afraid that they told the people that there was no way they could take the land. Only two of the twelve said, “The Lord is with us, we can go in.”

But the majority of these men managed to brainwash the multitude. The ten spies said, “We cannot be victorious; the enemy is bigger than the Lord.” And the people believed them.

When I read that story, I wondered why the children of Israel, did not accept what the two faithful spies said. But they did not. They should have prayed to the Lord and said, “Lord, help us. Give us wisdom to do the right thing.” The Holy Spirit would have reminded them of all the miracles the Lord had wrought for them, and of all the past promises He had given that they had seen fulfilled. He would have reminded them of the plagues in Egypt and of the crossing of the Red Sea. Of how Moses hit the rock and water flowed forth for them to drink. How the bitter water at Mara had been made sweet. He would have reminded them of the battle with Amalek when they were victorious as long as Moses had his arms raised toward heaven. And the pillar of cloud, cooling them by day and giving them light and warmth by night, was a continual testimony of God’s protective care.

They could have said to the ten negative spies, “We do not believe you. We remember how the Lord led us in the past. We trust Him because He has been with us in the past, and He will be with us when we enter the Promised Land.” But these people had the mentality of slaves.

For at least four generations they had been slaves. They were accustomed to listening to and obeying the slave master. So when the spies said, “The enemy is stronger than the Lord, you cannot have victory,” all the people believed them instead of realizing they could have asked the Lord for guidance.

God’s people stand at the border of the Promised Land today. The devil is still using exactly the same method with just as much success. The good news is that we can choose for ourselves. We can read the Word and have an experience with the Lord. We do not have to go along with the majority.

The Israelites then decided to elect new leaders, who believed that they could live as slaves and still be God’s people. Then they wanted to kill that minority who believed that God could give victory. Finally the Lord Himself came down to settle the dispute and to show which ideology He stood for. He said, “Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.” Numbers 14:22, 23. Because they would not believe God’s promises, they would get their wish to stay in the wilderness and wander there for forty more years, until all who had seen the mighty works of God bringing them out of Egypt, were dead.

The Lord has led the Advent Movement to the border of the Promised Land before. I believe we are there now for the last time. This time the Lord will take His people home. There will be a minority who will accept the fact that the Lord is stronger than the enemy and victory can be ours.

A Night Visit

In John 3 we have a little parallel. You are familiar with the story of Nicodemus’ night visit with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. As an educated man, he had the answers and was influential with the people. He belonged to the elite class in Israel. As he had observed Jesus and listened to His words, he came to the conclusion, in his own heart, that Jesus had something special, something that he needed.

Nicodemus’ education gave him an advantage and he realized that in the past God had permitted difficulties and trials to come to the children of Israel because the leaders lacked faith. He realized that they had been in captivity because the leaders led the people astray. He did not want to be part of that. One day he decided to find out the truth about Jesus and His kingdom for himself.

Despite all of Nicodemus’ earthly advantages, he was in a state of spiritual darkness. Nicodemus lacked the experience of being born of the Spirit. Jesus saw this and He wanted to guide him into a deeper experience with Him.

Nicodemus came to Jesus with flattery, according to the Jewish custom. He said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” John 3:2. But Jesus did not answer Nicodemus’ flattery. He pointed immediately to what this man needed to hear.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. Nicodemus had not asked about that at all, but that is what he needed so he could take his next step in spiritual growth. Jesus “knew what was in man.” John 2:25. He knew the attitudes, feelings, thinking and experience that Nicodemus had.

Jesus looked at the Pharisee sitting beside Him, and He felt a longing to lead him all the way. He went right on to tell him that unless he gained this experience he would not see the kingdom of God. His physical circumcision was meaningless without a circumcision of the heart. To be born of the Spirit means to be made into a new person. If you do not have that experience as part of your Christian life, you will not enter the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus was not ignorant of the expression “born again.” The Jews used it to refer to a Gentile becoming a Jewish convert—leaving one set of beliefs and doctrines and accepting another set. It was impossible for him to imagine that Jesus was telling him that he needed a different religion. After all He was a Pharisee—he had the truth.

Nicodemus asked, a little incredulously, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” John 3:4. To answer his question, Jesus led him step by step through the process of the new birth. In verse 8, Jesus said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

The word used here for wind is exactly the same word as Spirit. And the word for blowing is the same as to lead. The word for sound is the same word as voice. So, the Spirit leads where He wants and you hear His voice. You do not know where He will take you. You do not know the future, but you trust, obey and accept. If the Lord wants me to go this way or do that, I reply, “OK, Lord, this is what I want to do.” This is what Jesus is telling us.

Nicodemus did not have that experience, and neither did the children of Israel as they stood at the border of the Promised Land. But that is the experience you and I need if we want to enter God’s kingdom. We have to be born again.

When Jesus said, “You must be born again,” He used the Greek word, anothen, meaning born from above, the movement from a high place towards a low. When Nicodemus countered with how can a man be born again? He used the word, deuteron, meaning, “How can I change my mind and start again with a new set of doctrines?”

Nicodemus referred to the horizontal plane while Jesus is trying to tell him that the born again experience comes from God, that is from the vertical plane. Many Seventh-day Adventists and many Christians in other denominations think that to be a Christian is to believe a set of doctrines. That is not enough! We need to be born again. We need to have an experience where we are totally committed to the Lord. We say, “Lord, whatever is right, whatever You want to do in my life, through me and with me, I want it to happen.” This is an experience where self is dead, crucified on the cross and the Lord is Master in our lives.

There is only one way the everlasting gospel can be a personal experience for every one of us, and that is through the experience of being born again. When a child is born, it is a miracle. It is a new being. There are no old parts. This is the expression that the Bible uses to explain what God wants to do with us. He wants us to be made of all new parts.

Without this experience we cannot enter His kingdom. If we are standing at the border of the Promised Land and this experience is not ours, then this is the message from the Lord for us. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26. He wants to give us a heart that will do what the minority did when the children of Israel stood at the border saying, “We trust Him. We have had experiences with Him in our lives. Whatever He says, we will trust Him.”

One Important Thing

“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” 1 Corinthians 7:19. It means obedience. It means doing what the Lord wants us to do. In the Greek text it says that there is only one thing that is important, and that is to keep the law of God. There is one thing that matters, and that is to be obedient to God’s commands.

If we ask the Lord how we can become obedient, He will answer, “You must be born again.” We all have evil minds and hearts that are at war with God’s principles. The carnal mind alone cannot be obedient. (Romans 8:7.) We can behave decently because we are afraid of the consequences, but that is not what Jesus was talking about. He was talking about an inner experience that wherever we are we will live according to the Lord’s will, because His law is in our minds and when we would not want to do anything that would grieve Him.

The Bible makes this experience an absolute prerequisite for heaven. Nothing could be more important than for you and me to find out what our part of the work is, while He is doing His work in the Most Holy Place. Our part is to permit Him to cleanse all sin from our lives and ask the Holy Spirit to show us anything that is not according to His will. If you dare to pray that prayer, the Lord will answer. He is gracious and patient with you. He will not show you all the bad things at once, because that would discourage you. But, He will point out some things in answer to your prayer. Then go to the Bible and find the promises.

If I am a man who has a quick temper, becomes jealous or hurt easily, or has unclean thoughts, I must go to the Bible and say, “Lord, I claim Your promises.” And every time the devil tempts, say, “Lord, help me,” and repeat the promises. Resist the devil and victory will be won. That is the only way to live in a born again relationship.

I have met many Seventh-day Adventists who have heard and read about the new birth. They have a vague idea of what it means to be born again. But they do not know how to experience it. They long for it and want it, but how do they obtain it? We must know now. We stand at the border of the Promised Land. The Lord wants to invite us in. But we must be born again from above. There is no other way to find enterance.

The apostle John said, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4. First we are told that those who are born again will be victorious over the world. When you are tempted, you will be victorious. It also says that the secret, the tool that makes this experience ours, is faith. I have met Seventh-day Adventists who believe that faith does not involve gaining victories, but the Bible tells us that it is faith that gives us the victory as we claim His promises.

“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” Verse 18. This experience makes it possible for us to live without breaking God’s law. “Sinneth not,” means not breaking God’s law, since sin is the breaking of God’s law. (1 John 3:4.) The devil can tempt, but the temptations can be resisted through God’s power.

The Bible reveals how this victory, this born again experience, takes place in our lives. 1 John 3:9 tells us that he who is born again does not sin. It does not say it only once but twice, “He cannot sin.”

Some theologians have made a big issue over this verse, promoting the idea that you can be born again and still sin sometimes, but not habitually. If that is true, then 1 John 5 simply means that the person who is born again will be kept and protected by God most of the time but not all the time. And the devil will successfully tempt you sometimes, but not all the time, and you are still born again. This is a false gospel that does not belong to the everlasting gospel of salvation from sin. I have a problem with this interpretation. If the Lord can only keep me sometimes and the devil can get to me once in a while, I need to know when it is that the Lord cannot keep me. In truth, if I let go of His hand and I say to the Lord, “In this situation I want to be master of my own life. I want to stand at the steering wheel; get away, Lord, I want to take over.” It is then I will fall.

Some of our Christian friends say that if you fall like that, you are still born again. In answer I use this illustration. While traveling, you realize that you brought too little money. Suddenly you see a woman leave her purse on a seat in the restaurant you are in. After the person leaves, you pick up the purse, open it and find lots of money. You stick the money in your pocket and leave. You are tempted and you fall. Are you in a born again relationship with the Lord as long as that money is in your pocket? You stole the money and used it. You are not now in a born again relationship with the Lord. Only when you make restitution and seek forgiveness from the woman and the Lord are you right with God again.

Some of the preachers I hear in Norway give us the impression that all Adventists, as soon as they recognize they have done something wrong, fall on their knees and ask forgiveness. That is why they can say that you can sin from time to time and still be born again. That is not right. There are many Adventists that live with known, willful sin in their lives. The standard has been lowered and this is happening all the time. They still believe they have their names written in the Book of Life; they still believe that they are born again.

When Jesus comes and they stand at the border of the Promised Land, with this kind of experience, they will be disappointed. The Lord will say to them, “I do not know you. You did not trust and obey Me. You trusted self. You produced a different gospel.” Then they will weep.

Many are Seeking

Frequently we meet people from other churches and we find that many of them are tired of listening to this New Theology, which says sin and live. They are seeking the gospel we preach. They come to our churches, and there is no everlasting gospel presented. So they leave.

A Catholic priest in Oslo sent us a letter telling us that he studied with a group of members in his church. They all realized that they belonged to the wrong church. The church they belonged to was the harlot, Babylon and the antichrist. He said, “Keep on warning the people about my church, but be very careful.”

Then in another letter he wrote: “Many years ago we heard people telling people in Norway that the Catholic Church is the harlot of Revelation. But we have not heard those words for many years.” It is so sad in my country that Adventists have been reading in our church paper that we should not tell anyone who the Catholic Church is. All the members seem to listen to the leaders, as Israel did as they stood on the border of the Promised Land. We have a whole generation of Adventists growing up that do not know the real Adventist message. They have never been to an evangelistic campaign. They know nothing, but they are going to continue the work of this church! Impossible! We have to get back to the everlasting gospel.

This Catholic priest went to Germany to attend some meetings. Other Catholic priests were there as well as some bishops. Some of them had been very concerned about what is happening within the Catholic Church. Several of the people attending those meetings had questions and realized that something was wrong. In those theological meetings this priest stood up and gave a testimony. He told everyone the conclusion he had come to. He was a bold man. He said, “I believe that the church I have served all my life is the false church described in Revelation.” He told them everything. Three days later he died in his hotel room. The only information we have been able to get is that the German police are investigating his death.

The time will soon come when you and I will have to do the same. We will have to stand up and tell everyone who wants to listen what the Bible says is right and wrong. We have to take our stand now and accept God’s prohibitions and His remedy and plan for our lives. If we do not, we will end up with the great majority.

Revelation 12, 13 and 14 tell us that the whole world will follow the beast except for a little group. When Daniel’s three friends stood before the image and everyone fell down, only these three young men stood among thousands.

Very soon every faithful Seventh-day Adventist will stand, and everyone else in the world will fall down to worship. If we do not have the born-again experience at that time, we do not have a chance. When we are brought to the point that we have to choose between sinning or dying, we will have to have this born again experience if we are going to be faithful.

We need to know that all our sins have been cleansed from our lives. We need to know that we are forgiven. We need to know that Jesus Christ is our Lord. If there is something in your life that you have not committed to the Lord, ask Him to give you victory over that thing. We have no time to waste. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, to change your life. Pray to the Lord and ask Him for the born again experience in your life. May the Lord help us to stand among those who will say, “Here is our Lord, we have waited for Him and He will save us.”

October 1997 Table of Contents

 

       
 

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