Sunday, June 24, 2012

Regeneration (Being born again)

In John 3:1-8 (NIV), it is said: "1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 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.”3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “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!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.”"

Here, Jesus tells Nicodemus about being born again. It is a new birth. Then, Jesus explains that it is not a new physical birth, but birth from the Holy Spirit. The Greek word translated here as "again" is "anothen." It derives from the Greek word "ano" which means "above." The original meaning of "anothen" is "from above." Thus, to be born again is also to be born from above. This birth is necessary in order to enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was a very pious person and had deep religious knowledge. However, Jesus told him that he needed to be born again because no person who was not born again is unable to enter the kingdom of God.

In John 1:12-13 (NIV), it is said how this birth takes place: "12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God."

Here it is said that the birth from God which is the same as the birth from the Holy Spirit, takes place through receiving Christ and faith into Him. The faith here is the faith into Christ as the Savior who bore the punishment for our sins on the cross and the receiving Christ here is receiving Him as a personal Savior. Being born from God, a person becomes a child of God.

The spiritual birth is receiving eternal life which is spiritual and not physical. In the Greek original of the New Testament, different words are used for denoting physical life and eternal life. The word for physical life is "bios." The word for eternal life is "zoe." In John 3:14-18 (NIV), it is written: "14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."

Because of His great love to mankind, God the Father sent His only begotten Son into the world in order for him to bear punishment for the sins of all the people and thus He redeemed people from the punishment for their sins. The result is that everyone who believes in the redemption carried out by Christ on the cross, receives forgiveness of sins, is delivered from the condemnation for them, and receives eternal life.

In 1 John 5:10-13 (NIV), apostle John, addressing the believers in Christ, writes: "10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

Apostle John tells here that those who believe in Christ as their Savior and who received Him, have eternal life already. They will not receive it in the future. God has given them eternal life already.

Jesus says about the same in John 5:24 (NIV): "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life."

Jesus speaks here about spiritual death and spiritual life, not about physical ones. A person who does not have spiritual life is in spiritual death, even if he or she is alive physically. When he or she receives the eternal spiritual life, he/she is being delivered from the spiritual death.

I was born again over 20 years ago. This experience has been very important for me because it changed my whole life and my eternal destiny. I thank Jesus Christ who loved me and bore punishment for my sins. I thank God the Father who loved me and gave me eternal life.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Divine Healing

Exodus 15:26 (NIV): "He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”"

In Hebrew, "the Lord, who heals you" is Yahweh Roph'eka. It is one of God's names. Originally, Exodus 15:26 was God's promise given to Israel when they left Egypt. God fulfilled His promise. Psalm 105:37 (NKJV): "He also brought them out with silver and gold, And there was none feeble among His tribes." God is still Yahweh Roph'eka (Yahweh, your Healer).

Isaiah 53:1-12 (Young's Literal Translation): "Surely our sicknesses he hath borne, And our pains -- he hath carried them, And we -- we have esteemed him plagued, Smitten of God, and afflicted."

This is a very accurate translation of this verse from Hebrew. The Hebrew word translated as "sickness" is "choli." This word means "physical sickness." The Hebrew word translated as "pain" 4 is "makob." This word may mean physical or mental pain, but usually it means physical pain.

The word translated as "hath borne" here is "nasa" which means "lift, carry, take; lift up; bear; take away." The same word is used in verse 12 where it is said: "And he the sin of many hath borne." The same Hebrew word is used when it is said that Jesus has borne our sicknesses and when it is said that He has borne sins of many.

The word translated as "hath carried" in verse 4 is "sabal" which means "bear a heavy load." The same word is used in verse 11 where it is said: "And their iniquities he doth bear." The same Hebrew word is used when it is said that Jesus has carried our pains and when it is said that He bore iniquities of many.

The sentence structure of verse 4 implies that Jesus "hath borne" only "our sicknesses" and "hath carried" only "our pains." He did not have His own sicknesses and pains. The first word in this verse is Hebrew word "akel." This word means: "surely, truly; but indeed, but in fact." This word is used in order to to emphasize some truth.

The only time Isaiah 53:4a is quoted in the New Testament is in Matthew 8:17. The context of this verse is physical healing. Matthew 8:16-17 (NIV): "16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.""

The word translated "infirmities" is "astheneia" which means "weakness" or "illness." The word translated as "diseases" is "nosos" which means "pain, disease, illness." The word translated as "took up" is "lambano" which means "take, take hold of; receive, get, obtain; take away, remove." The word translated as "bore" is "bastazo" which means "carry; endure, bear, tolerate; take away, remove; support, sustain; pick up."

Matthew 8:17 says that Isaiah 53:4 was fulfilled in Jesus' physical healing the sick, not in His healing their spiritual diseases.

Isaiah 53:5 (Young's Literal Translation): "And he is pierced for our transgressions, Bruised for our iniquities, The chastisement of our peace [is] on him, And by his bruise there is healing to us."

The word for "healing" here is niphal (passive form) from the verb "rapha" (to heal), that is, "to be healed." This word is used for physical healing in many verses.

This verse is quoted in 1 Peter 2:24: ""He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed."" The Greek word translated "have been healed" is "iaomai." In all the other cases when it is used in the New Testament, it means "to heal physically."

Isaiah 53:10 (Young's Literal Translation): "10 And Jehovah hath delighted to bruise him, He hath made him sick, If his soul doth make an offering for guilt, He seeth seed -- he prolongeth days, And the pleasure of Jehovah in his hand doth prosper."

Why did God make Jesus sick? In 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV), it is said: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us, that is, for our sins. In the same way, He made Jesus who had no sickness to be sick for us, that is, for our sicknesses.

Galatians 3:13-14 (NIV): "13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”, 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."

What is the curse of the law? In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, there are lists of blessings for keeping the law and curses for breaking it. The curses for breaking the law include a lot of diseases while the blessings of the law included health. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law which includes His redeeming us from diseases.

I believe that all these verses clearly say that the divine healing has been included into Christ's redeeming work on the cross and that He is the Healer. I received Him as my Healer and I did experience His healing in many aspects. I know Christ as my Savior, my Sanctifier, my Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, and my Healer.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

In Acts 1:5 (NIV), Jesus said: "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." And in v. 8: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Christians who believe in the baptism with the Holy Spirit, believe that it imparts the power of the Holy Spirit. However, Pentecostals and Wesleyans emphasize different sides of it.

In Acts 2:4, it is written: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." Acts 10:44-46: "44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God." Acts 19:6: "When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied."

In these three cases, it is clearly said that when people were baptized with the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues. Acts 8:17: "Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit." In this case, tongues are not mentioned, however, in v. 18, it is said: "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money..." There must be some outward sign that showed Simon that the people received the Holy Spirit and it is quite possible that it was speaking in tongues.

Acts 9:17: "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”" Again, speaking in tongues is not mentioned. However, in 1 Corinthians 14:18, he wrote: "I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you." So, Paul did speak in tongues, and it is quite possible that he received this gift when Ananias laid his hands on him.

So, it seems that in all the five cases in Acts when people received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues. Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is the outward sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is a biblical teaching.

Wesleyans stress another aspect. In Acts 15:7-11, Peter speaks at the Council in Jerusalem and describes his visit to Cornelius and other Gentiles: "After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”"

In v. 8, he spoke that God gave them the Holy Spirit. In v. 9, he said that God purified their hearts by faith. So, Wesleyans believe that there is an inward aspect of the baptism with the Holy Spirit which is purification of the heart.

There are many debates regarding the baptism with the Holy Spirit among Christians and regarding its aspects. I am not going to get into these debates here. I just want to testify about my experience.

Over 20 years ago, I was baptized with the Holy Spirit and received the gift of speaking in tongues (and I still have it). I received it directly from God as an answer to my prayer. Nobody laid hands on me and nobody "taught" me how to speak tongues. So, I was always convinced that it was a genuine experience. It was several months after I received Christ as my Savior and was born again.

However, like many Christians, at that time, I did not know anything about purification of the heart through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. One week ago, God purified my heart and thus gave me this aspect of the Holy Spirit. It was also God's direct answer to my prayer.

Holiness Pentecostals, unlike other Pentecostals, believe in both purification of the heart and speaking in tongues. Holiness Pentecostals as well as Wesleyans call the first experience "the second blessing" and Holiness Pentecostals call the second experience "the third blessing." Salvation or regeneration is "the first blessing." 

I received the third blessing several months after the first blessing, but more than 20 years before the second blessing. It looks quite strange, but it is so. Anyway, all these experiences have been very important for me. I am not the same as I used to be.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Unreached People Groups

In His Great Commission, Jesus said:
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20; NIV)
He also said:
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14; NIV)
However, until now, there are unreached peoples and people who do not have the Bible in their native languages. Who are unreached people groups?
An unreached people group refers to an ethnic group without an indigenous, self propagating Christian church movement. Any ethnic or ethnolinguistic nation without enough Christians to evangelize the rest of the nation is an Unreached People Group. It is a missiological term used by Evangelical Christians... The term is sometimes applied to ethnic groups in which less than 2% of the population is Evangelical Christian. (From Wikipedia)
At Joshua Project website, there is a listing of unreached people groups: Does it not look impressive?

There are also still many people who do not have the Bible in their language:

There are still many people who have never heard the gospel and have never read the Bible.

The need is still great. Not every Christian is able to become a missionary or a Bible translator, but everyone is able to pray.