(Text of Book)
A quick review of my life brings into focus a number of people who helped me to evolve into the person I am today. Though yet imperfect and far from where I desire to be, I am so thankful to God for people He placed in my life who were in the right place at just the right time to encourage me in my journey. Both those that knew they were helping and those that challenged me were so essential.
Some people count the most important things in life to be their material wealth, but I have learned that more important are those things intangible that we carry in our heart for people and the things that will prepare us for eternity. Those are things that cannot be bought nor taken from us. I am so glad for the things the Spirit of God has taught me over the years; and the most valuable ones I have learned, I share with you in this short book.
This book is dedicated to the heroes of my life, whom I think on frequency and whom I carry in my heart.
In the creation of the earth, man was made last which probably helped in preventing him from a claim that he had made it. Even though man was not there when the world was divided into light and dark, day and night, vegetation and animal life; our world today often tries to operate in grandeur and celebration of mankind as if he was the center of the world without regard to the God who created all things and centered everything around Himself and for His glory.
Our world had already experienced the best and worst of everything whether people, patriarchs, kings, or priests and their religions before Jesus came to His chosen people and declared: “You must be born again” (Joh. 3:7). Every person born after the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden had been birthed into Adam’s sinful nature and was in desperate need of the Savior.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is that gift given by God, the Creator, so that all mankind could know there is still hope and a way to come out of this world’s degradation and enter into a restored relationship with the Father through salvation. The gospel compels man to turn away from the ways of error and turn toward the path of redemption through Calvary’s cross. Jesus Christ invites everyone to take the journey with Him into a born again experience.
The Role of Religion
Many people have entered through the doors of religion to find truth; and they consider adherence to their religion as a very necessary part of life, particularly people born in America. While some people may cling to the religious tenets of their faith more than others, most people basically understand the need to have a relationship with God. There is a sense that something is missing when there is no spiritual connection. From barbarous times of past history to the pagan regions of our present world, people have always sought some kind of spirituality where they could appeal for help in times of need and offer up something of value, even acts of obedience, for that help. Religion helps us to have hope in desperate times as we try to negotiate the circumstances of our life and approach our environment in a socially acceptable way to provide our needs. From creation, God gave guidance to the family on how to interact with Him and receive their necessary needs through faith and obedience. Parents were to teach their children this obedience and establish its repetition in descendants throughout the generations.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Pro. 22:6).
All religions are not equal. I think we try to do the best we can with what we have been taught and then spend our life searching for more understanding. People have always longed to know more about this God who has seemed so mystical and far from us. It has resulted in many kinds of teachers and religions until it would take a lifetime to understand them and figure out which one is right and true. It was well into my adult life before I read the bible for myself. There is no better starting point for understanding life than going to the Creator’s guide book (the Holy Bible) to find His recorded instructions for us. Many religions have extracted a portion of this biblical truth as the basis of their faith but are poor imitations of the real. Creator God has promised to lead and guide the true seeker to His light.
Within the short pages of this book, I will share a few incidents from my own life and journey as a context of struggling through one’s religion to find the truth. Even though everyone has their own story, there are some experiences we share in common; and each story teaches a lesson.
The children of my family were brought up in the Holiness faith. We had little understanding of what that meant other than that we were expected to have different behavior from the children and families around us who were not of the same faith. We were not allowed to follow others in dancing, use of profanity, smoking, or alcoholic drink. The females of our faith were expected to dress modestly, not wear pants “like men,” avoid wearing jewelry, and makeup was out of the question. Some after-school sports or extracurricular activities were denied as being too worldly. It was a strict life, but then my childhood did take place in the 50’s and 60’s. It was a different time! As children, we went to church several times a week and still had little understanding of why our religion was different. Both the church and parental standards forbade behavior outside of “Holiness” and the rod of correction did a good job of persuasion.
It was not until recent years that I actually understood the transitions within church doctrine and that Baptist Churches were formed before Holiness churches. It seemed strange to me because we were taught Holiness traced back to the Upper Room experience on the Day of Pentecost as if there had been no break in the chain of succession. I had no understanding then of church history and many people in the black community during those times learned to accept what they were told without question. Religion for black people in America was taught and experienced through the prism of slavery, black codes and discrimination that came packed with fear and misinformation. Much of our religion was caught rather than taught and the congregants were expected to obey leadership. The fervor of our Holiness faith led us to believe we were more obedient to God than some other religions because of our restraint from many “worldly” activities they enjoyed. We were taught to believe sinners were those who rejected this life of holiness and that scriptures forbade our imitation or fellowship (2Cor 6:14).
Religious groups always promote their own beliefs above those of others; and misunderstandings between groups have been the source of arguments, church splits and wars for generations. Christian faith and its disciples should actually cross these barriers to reach all people with the truth through God’s love. Take a moment to examine the church denominational chart below to find your church group. A personal study of church splits over doctrine could enlighten you with important facts about your own beliefs. Bible scriptures do not teach denominations but rather denounce them as Paul questioned: “Is Christ divided (1Cor 1:13)”?
The few questions children of our faith dared ask in church often went without a clear response. That was just the way it was. As you might imagine, my inquisitive mind could barely wait for the time to graduate from high school and leave home. I survived the trauma of adolescence and enrolled in an out-of-state college. As you might also expect, I was pretty ignorant and unprepared for a new life in Washington, D.C., living with an older sister who had long ago thrown off the ways of “Holiness”. Living there allowed opportunities for new freedoms without regard for religion. The rules were gone and the brakes were off. I was well on my way to drowning in sin before God seemed to have grabbed hold of me, signaling that was enough. The bible tells us through the Psalmist:
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up (Psa. 27:10)”.
Spirit, Soul, Body
Can you imagine what it felt like when I learned that all the sin I had committed could be erased and that I had a chance to start over again (2Cor 5:17; Psa 103:12)? I did not understand at that time the importance of Christ’s cross and blood atonement that would wash away all my sins; but it was good news! It was through the trauma of my first experience with family death that I found myself back in church and this time listening to the word of God.
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Ecc. 7:2
When you are young, childish distractions seem more important than listening to sermons during church services. During the sermons as an adult, I managed to hear a surprising revelation: that every person’s life consists of three parts: spirit, soul and body (1Th 5:23). Hearing those words got my attention and sunk down deep. I was beginning to understand that there was more to this life than just the physical body. I realized that there was another side of me that I had not yet messed up simply because I did not know it existed. I was elated as I thought maybe I had another chance to get it right! You might be one who thinks you have messed up too much or have gone too far to be saved; but everyone should learn this truth. If you have thrown caution to the wind and lived life on your own terms without boundaries, you need to know that there is still forgiveness and hope of redemption as long as there is still breath.
A New Hope
Jesus Christ went preaching all about the area of Galilee and He told everyone: “…Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mat. 3:2).” Those that heard were getting another opportunity to become clean and follow God. The Law of Moses was still in force but people had tried it and failed to be faithful to God through the Law. The Ten Commandments and its consequences were taught regularly at the temple by the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. People were taught they had personal responsibility to stop sinning and avoid the temptations offered by the devil because the penalty for disobedience to God was death and eternal damnation. The only way to get forgiveness and avoid the penalty for sin was to bring a sacrifice to the temple priests from among their best possessions in atonement to God as evidence of sincere repentance. A valued possession, such as one’s best lamb, ram, or goat, etc., would be brought to the altar where the owner’s hand was placed on its head to transfer the sin to the animal, and then the animal would be offered up as a burnt sacrifice to God for forgiveness. Over time, the religious leaders became hypocritical enforcers of the Law who made a demand for more resources than was necessary. The Ten Commandments were the first formal laws given by God to the Jewish community through Moses; but the people did not have within them the power to obey the Law, coupled with being extorted for personal gain by their religious leaders. The people were in a desperate situation because their covenant with God to atone for sin had been breached.
When Jesus came to Galilee preaching the gospel to the Jews, the religious leaders knew their preaching was exposed as contrary to the Torah. Rather than repent of their disobedience though, they responded to the new teaching in fear, unbelief and anger. Their contrary actions rejected Christ and His teaching. There was one from among them, a Jewish teacher and Pharisee, who came by night to enquire from Jesus’ own mouth the meaning of His preaching.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, 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. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Joh 3:5
All Nicodemus had ever heard was that they had to obey the Law (The Ten Commandments) in order to be pleasing to God. Nicodemus, as well as the other Jewish teachers, knew how difficult it was to be obedient to the Law; no one had ever managed to obey it perfectly. Could it be possible that there was another way to please God? Nicodemus dared to ask the question and Jesus so willingly answered.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 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. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Joh. 3:6-15
Jesus had come to introduce the Jewish believers to the Father’s love through grace and mercy rather than through the sternness of the Law. The people had been unable to please the Father through their attempts to obey the Law of the Ten Commandments so God offered another way that would entail more than just physical obedience. They were now going to have help from God to walk in obedience through receiving a new heart and a changed mind, if they accepted the Lord. The difficulty and demand of God’s Law to comply with physical obedience would be fulfilled by Jesus’ obedience to a holy life and His death on the cross. The benefits and rewards for that obedience would be given to any man accepting Christ and His sacrifice. What God required from man was repentance and belief in this new truth.
John, the Baptist, came to the Jews before Christ appeared and was sent to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the One who would come afterward to baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The people were to be ready to present a heart of repentance and receive Christ as their Messiah.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Mat. 3:11-12
Some of us like the Jewish believers have been trying to do what is right according to what we were taught. Some people may have been taught right doctrine while others may have been taught incorrectly. We all have had our own response to those rules whether we obeyed or rejected the instructions and our heart may have been made tender or harden by the experience.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Gen 2:17
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. Deu. 18:19
Adam and Eve paid a penalty for their sinful behavior when they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. They were given over to the sufferings of human life without God’s favor and forfeiture of eternal life for one of eventual death. Their sin engulfed all of humanity through their bloodline into the same practice of spiraling to sin and death. God gave everyone free will to choose between obedience and disobedience, just like Adam and Eve, but the consequences were always a reality for disobedience. Parents can only teach their children that which they have learned; but by the end of life, their experiences should allow them to impart some wisdom to the next generation that helps them to move closer to the truth.
The Appeal of God to the Lost
All of creation was made from the love of God; and He has always sought to bring all of His creation, including His wayward children, back into line with His perfect will. He created all things in perfection and pronounced after it was finished, it was all good:
And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Gen. 1:31
It was the sin of Adam and Eve, who heeded the voice of the serpent (the devil), that caused all of humanity to fall into a state of disobedience, where only a Savior could deliver mankind from the devil’s control. After multiple generations of sin and the heralding voices of Old Testament prophets calling man back to God; Jesus came in obedience to the Father to suffer the death penalty in our place and deliver God’s children from bondage to the devil, and from death and hell.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. Joh. 3:16-21
The bible states that God winked at man’s ignorance for a season, but now compels all mankind to repent and come to salvation (Act 17:30). We still have free will. It is still our choice and there are still consequences for refusal. God has made it easier to obey and is offering us the opportunity to live in His grace and mercy rather than live under the harshness of the Law, which no one could satisfy. Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward mankind. We do not deserve God’s grace, but He offers it to us anyway because He loves us. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross removes our sin and beckons God’s lost children to return back to the Father.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luk. 5:32
As It Was Then, So Is It Now
We have the same opportunity today as Nicodemus, the Pharisee, who lived during Jesus’ earthly life. We were born in sin and had opportunities to accept guidance from our teachers in home, school and church; but now we can also draw near to the voice of Jesus personally saying, “Come to Me” for true guidance into righteousness. Regardless of how good or bad our past instructors have been; we all need a Savior who will teach, correct and perfect those things hindering us (Ps 138:8). We all have committed sin and carry, as descendants of Adam and Eve, the inherited sin of our fore parents and their penalty. Accepting Christ is the only way to remove the stain of our sin and break the generational curse from our forefathers and mothers.
Like Nicodemus, so many of us have been taught religion by leaders with perhaps the best of abilities and intentions; but Jesus wants to be our True Teacher, Master and Comforter for the rest of our lives. We have to make a decision like Nicodemus did of whether or not we want to believe Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies proclaiming the coming Messiah and King who would live a life without sin and sacrifice Himself for us. The Law has been fulfilled and now we can be reconciled back to the Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is a personal Savior and He wants to take over our lives from here. You may have been taught by the best teachers and you might have the highest position in life like Saul of Tarsus, but only Jesus Christ can take you on a journey to learn the truth that will set you free. It is your personal decision whether to say “yea or nay.”
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Joh 14:6
Is It Religion or Christ?
I was drawn to religion again as an adult after having had some difficult experiences as a child; but it was really in response to the voice of God calling me to Himself. God allowed some circumstances to occur in my life that shook me to the core; and through it, my heart was made sensitive enough to hear His voice directing me. As He arranged or allowed circumstances in my life to bring me into the place where I could hear the gospel; my heart had become tender enough to respond yes to His command to “Follow me.”
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. Joh. 6:44
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. Joh. 12:32
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? Rom 10:14
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1Co 1:21
There may be many reasons why people join a church or submit themselves in religion to the teaching of a preacher but only God can draw a soul to salvation. The acts of joining a church because of parents, for status, as a career choice or other benefits do not signify salvation. Christ’s ministers are charged with preparing the listener’s heart to receive Christ as Lord, like John did. Their devoted service, life’s witness and love for Christ should lead congregants to want Christ. While God seeks to draw everyone to salvation, only those who respond and follow will be saved.
It is Christ that saves, not the religious rituals. John presented the question: Will you repent? Do you want to be saved? Jesus came afterward to receive the answer of the soul and to offer salvation, as we saw with Peter, Andrew, John and James in their choice to follow Christ.
There is a spiritual process that God is working out in each of us when He starts to draw our heart to Himself. The process He uses to draw a life to Himself and the time it takes to receive a response is unique to each person’s life. The Holy Spirit works in our heart to prepare it to receive the Savior. Our responsibility is to respond with a sincere heart while He is working in our heart. Resistance could cause squandering away precious opportunities. We ought to say yes to the One who is drawing us, not to the form or fashion of the religion; but there is “Someone” who is calling. He is calling us to a love we always desired. We are also called into service to an eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient Lord; not traditions and not a building.
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit…The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ… 1Pet 3:18, 21
We live in a time much like the followers of the Law. We have heard the testimonies of the patriarchs of our religion and what they believe we need to do to be pleasing to God; and many of us have submitted ourselves to the church’s instructions. Like the Jewish believers and Nicodemus who had heard the teachings of the Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes; many people today have become content with their church rituals. Some people may have resigned themselves to believe that God is now satisfied with them just as they, themselves, are. The early disciples and apostles illustrated to us by their lives that there is a continuous spiritual growth we have to pursue in God as long as we live. Our self-satisfaction may represent our complacency rather than our successful attainment of God.
In Ephesians Chapter 4, we learn that all of our efforts in church work are to bring us to a place of maturity or perfection in Christ: “For the perfecting of the saints…unto a perfect man (Eph 4:12-13)”. Scriptures teach us to press for the mark of the high calling in God until we reach that perfection. Obtaining perfection is also defined as attainment of divine love that reveals a changed life. “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (1Cor 13:3)”. With the love of God in our hearts, Ephesians 4 goes on also to talk about working in His service. Once we learn the will of God for our life, we should walk in that calling just as secular school prepares a student for a worldly profession.
When our service is finished or perfection obtained; we, too, may be caught away to be with God as was Enoch, who “walked with God and was not” (Gen. 5:24); or Elijah, who was caught up to God in a chariot of fire (2Ki 2:12); or we may exit by death or rapture with the saints. If that is true, then the fact that we are still here indicates either our work is not done or perfection has not yet been obtained. While we live, we are to continue striving to be more like the Lord. The closer we get to Him, the more we will see our own flaws and need of perfecting as did the Prophet Isaiah:
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Isa. 6:1-7
Paul taught us through scripture how to continue working toward our perfection.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2Ti 2:15).
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Php. 2:12
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Php. 3:8-14
Paul was told his calling by Jesus after being born-again and he carried out the assignment of ministering to the gentiles. He taught them about Christ and united them in the faith with other believers. After he established the church in this new doctrine with faithful leaders, his work was finished and he went home to be with the Lord. John 15:3 states there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends; and Paul gave his life for the gentiles. Paul concluded:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2Tim 4:6-8
Changing the Mind
After reading to this point, you may have determined your standing whether under the original sin of Adam and Eve, following religious traditions like Andrew, in zealous rebellion through a wrong religious focus like Pharisaical Saul, or maybe more like Priscilla and Aquila (walking in all you know but in need of more understanding). Regardless of where you are now, you can be truly saved and walk in the fullness of the knowledge of Christ if your heart is receptive to hearing His voice.
Admitting to a wrong path and changing to a new one can be difficult for some people who have spent a lot of time in their religion and even the more so for those that have obtained social or religious status. Saul of Tarsus was such a person. Saul of Tarsus (later called Apostle Paul after his born-again experience) was a Pharisee taught “at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers (Act 22:3).” He had reached a level of success in his religion. Saul had acquired special permission to persecute Jews who believed and followed Christ, hauling them off to prison.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. Act 9:1-2
While pursuing and tormenting Christian believers, he ran into Jesus on the Damascus Road. He was blinded by Christ’s appearance and someone led him to be ministered physical healing and spiritual truth. Christ will walk with us through our journey as a personal Savior. Saul experienced a change of mind and a new heart, as he became born again and Spirit-filled. He began to do a new work in service to the same Christ he formerly persecuted.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. Act 9:6
Saul’s encounter with Jesus Christ changed his heart from one of stone to one that was sensitive to the voice of God. A true encounter with Jesus Christ can change any heart for God. Even though Saul was determined in his hatred to destroy the Jewish believers, God knew how to reach Saul’s heart and turn it around. Regardless of your past experience or status, whether you are in prison, on death row or on the death bed; Jesus is still able to save you right where you are. Just open your heart and be willing to accept Christ as Savior. The Holy Spirit knows how to minister to stony hearts.
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. Eze. 36:26
The Only People Jesus Could Not Save
What does it take to be saved by Christ? Jesus made our part of salvation relatively easy because He draws us to Himself and He works in our heart to bring spiritual reconciliation. The only sin that is not acceptable to Christ is that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If you have a desire to be saved, it is very unlikely that you have committed this sin that consists of rejecting Christ’s saving grace. The religious leaders who accused Jesus of using the power of the devil to heal were blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. They refused attempts of the Holy Spirit to draw them to God and their accusations were blasphemous against the Holy Spirit.
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. Mat. 12:24
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. Mat. 12:31
In scripture, we will find that God redeemed people who were former liars, murders, adulterers, prostitutes, thieves and persecutors of believers. Some of them became the renowned followers of the Lord like Moses, David, Rehab, Peter and Paul. We are called to be translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and the beginning of that process is to believe the gospel of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
You Must Be Born Again – spirit, soul, body
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. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. Eze. 36:26-27
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2Cor 5:17
If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Eph. 4:21-24
The good news of the gospel is that whatever the nature of one’s sin, Christ has already accepted the punishment for all sin upon Himself. He now offers us forgiveness of sin, opportunity to be made a new man (person) in Christ, adoption into a new spiritual family, receive a new destiny and obtain everlasting life. The choice for everyone is whether or not to believe the gospel truth about Christ as written in the Word of God.
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mar 1:15
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Joh 3:18
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Eph. 2:4-5
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom. 10:9
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 1Joh 5:1
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Rom. 6:4
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. Col 2:12
Some religions teach people to perform some kind of work or reach some level of obedience to be acceptable to God or Christ; but there is no work or service that mankind can perform, however noble or righteous it may be, that will save him other than believing on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. The believer must have a personal encounter or time where he willingly surrenders to Christ’s Lordship over his life. A real conversion will bring about a real change in the person that others also will witness. A person is made brand new when Christ comes to live in the heart. When Christ was asked by his disciples how to do the works of God, His response was to “believe on him whom he hath sent” (Joh. 6:29).
The blood atonement of Jesus Christ is better than the best sacrifice that the Old Testament saints offered up for sin. Jesus Christ offered up His own pure blood upon the altar on high once and that was the only acceptable sacrifice God was willing to receive. None of us are good enough or can work hard enough to earn heaven. The penalty of sin was death and the cost of redemption was pure, sinless blood that no man was able to pay. Christ paid the penalty of death and offered up His own pure, uncontaminated blood in atonement for the sins of every man, woman and child throughout the whole world. Our debt has been paid. The only way to salvation is to accept that free gift of salvation through putting faith in Christ, God’s Son sacrificed for you.
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Act 4:12
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Heb. 9:11-12
A true confession of sin and profession of faith in Christ’s death will bring one into a born-again experience, transformation into a child of God and status as a joint heir with Jesus Christ.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. Rom. 8:16-17
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Joh. 3:3
Many people seeking God may be like I was after water baptism as a child and also after going to the altar as an adult to surrender to Christ. I wondered, “What’s next? It is difficult to seek something when you do not know what it looks like and cannot tell when or if it has arrived. Teaching is very important to one’s understanding. Let’s read Rom. 8:17 again.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God … (Rom 8:17)
Notice that the verse states the “Spirit”, which is the Holy Spirit, will give a witness or a sign to our spirit when we become a child of God. That means God will not leave us wondering did God receive me or if I am now saved. There will be tangible evidence that you were received by God as His child. Scripture tells us that the angels rejoice when a soul is won: Luk 15:10 “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Would there not be a response in the earth at such a wonder? The Holy Spirit from heaven will give witness with our spirit in the earth that we have become a child of God.
Signs of Repentance and Acceptance
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Mat. 3:9-12
As Jesus came to John the Baptist for the baptism of repentance and was confirmed by the Father and the Holy Spirit; we should all likewise follow the pattern of water baptism and confirmation by the Holy Spirit. Religions teach what they believe is required to be saved based on church traditions and one religious teaching may be different from another; but it is God’s true word that counts. We should each prayerfully read the Word of God for ourselves and seek God for understanding. God will hold us responsible to obey His word, so we should make sure we read, pray and seek understanding of scripture to be acceptable of the Father. Jesus rightly said that some religious leaders “…strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel (Mt. 23:24). Men have struggled and argued for generations over religion and how to find the right way and they have led many to serve religious rituals rather than Christ. The religious Jews were those who crucified Jesus so we need to be more than religious, but rather faithful and true. God will lead the true heart that seeks Him. It is always good to pray and seek God for direction. It is He Who is drawing you. Just as James, John and Peter had to leave their religious traditions to follow Christ; we should be willing to follow Christ beyond our traditions to a more excellent way (Joh 1:35-37).
Jesus Christ was acceptable to the Father as witnessed by the Holy Spirit speaking from heaven: “This is my beloved Son… (Mat.17:5)”. Because we could not live a life pleasing to the Father under the law; God sent us help through the life and witness of Christ, where the Holy Spirit empowerment helps us to live a life pleasing to Him. We should follow the example of Christ into that obedience. It is not obtained by our will power, strength, or obedience to the Law; but it is by grace and through faith in the finished work of Christ that we gain salvation. Christ fulfilled the Law’s requirement for us and we owe God all the praise for sending His Son to save us.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. Mat. 3:5-6
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. Mat. 3:13
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Mat. 3:16-17
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Act. 2:1-4
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Act. 2:36-38
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 1Pet 1:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Th 5:23).
It was not the religious rules and Holiness demands of my family or church that drew and saved me. Regardless of how holy a life we try to live, we could never live holy enough to be acceptable to God because we are born sinners through and through. It was not in wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, trying to live holy or in going to church religiously that would save me or any person. Christ was the one who lived holy. Only through Christ’s satisfying the Father’s requirement of obedience to the Law and our faith in His finished work on the cross for all of us are we saved. Salvation comes through a surrendered heart that says yes to the Lord. It is through Christ living in us by the Holy Spirit as Guide and Restrainer that allows us to live pleasing to the Father.
I was set free from bondage to religious rituals and brought into the liberty of knowing and serving Christ. There was an encounter with the Christ of the bible that set me free. I was brought spiritually into a new relationship with God, into a new spiritual family, received a spiritual inheritance, and a new eternal destiny. Being born again from above and allowing Christ to live His life in me by the Holy Spirit made me brand new. Sometimes people look for the preacher to tell them whether or not they are saved, but it is the Holy Spirit working in the heart who determines when the heart is truly receptive and ready to receive Christ as Savior. We must know for ourselves that there has been a change in our heart. It does not come from performance of a ritual or recital. It is Christ who does the work in our heart and our own answer from the heart with own mouth and willingness to submit that will bring about a change like that of the first century believers (1Pe 3:21).
The eunuch on the road to Ethiopia was reading scripture about Christ by himself. When the preacher joined him and explained the scriptures to him, he immediately asked for baptism in the nearest water. He had heard the truth and responded from the heart. The rest of the work was left for God to finish (Act 8:36). Get to Jesus and He will set you free! Someone might ask: How do I get to Jesus. At whatever time you have learned the truth and are fully persuaded in your heart that you are a sinner in need of the Savior and truly desire salvation that is the time to yield to the Father, pray and accept Christ. In your own words tell God that you believe Jesus Christ is the Savior who died on the cross for you. Acknowledge you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness of all your past sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord. God will hear you right where you are and do a work in your heart and life. As Christ illustrated, submit to baptism for remission of your sins according to the word (Acts 2:38, 19:5) and watch the Spirit of God go to work and take control of your life. You can be confident that God will finish the good work He has started in you and He will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Php 1:6). Christ came to set us free from past errors and sin and to give each of us an opportunity to live in truth and communion with our God and our fellow man. Where religion sometimes leads us into giving obedience to meaningless rituals, Jesus Christ wants us to know and follow the truth that will set us free. He will correct and guide the heart that welcomes Him. If you are hungry for Him, He will meet you right where you are. “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart…”(Psa 95:8). When you know that He is moving in your heart for salvation, don’t hesitate but talk to your Father because He is ready to welcome you into the Kingdom family.
Regardless of your status in life, age, race, pedigree or material riches of this world, you must be BORN AGAIN!
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. Joh. 3:7
Why I Wrote This Book?
American citizens have had the privilege and liberty to pursue Christ for generations and yet our nation and world is in great trouble. Things are quickly changing in the nation. People’s hearts have not stayed committed to the faith of their fathers and the gospel message is becoming contaminated with a false message and manipulated by those seeking wealth above devotion to God. Devaluing the Christian standards on which the nation was built means eroding the foundations of society and the law that protects the believer. While the truth is being challenged, Christian voices are being silenced as well. A personal relationship with God and spiritual empowerment are needed to successfully maneuver these times and secure eternality in heaven.
The early Christians were able to survive many temptations and hardships in their environment because they were committed to the faith, had strong leadership who fought off enemy forces; and they sought the voice of God to lead as the people prayed. We are living in a time when God is dealing with sin in the church and world. People are in need of a true spiritual connection with God for direction and real believers are needed to speak the truth of God’s word to put us back on the right course. Not everyone will have a Damascus Road experience like Paul; some people will have to learn the truth from witnesses of the faith until they have a personal encounter with God for themselves.
The early saints walked daily in fellowship with God because perils of persecution or death were everywhere and hearing the voice of God was the difference between life and death. More and more in our days, it is becoming apparent that we too are dealing every day with life and death decisions in the midst of the Covit-19 pandemic, racial discord, economic crisis, climate threats, political upheaval, and pollution of the gospel. Many past elders who stood up for righteousness are quickly leaving the scene and it is time for new soldiers of faith to step up and stand up with Holy Spirit empowerment for truth that is too quickly being diminished.
In my search for truth, I had to survive many difficulties while developing my faith; but my desperate search was met by a God ready to supply the answers I needed. I pondered questions about myself, my family, the world and God. I found some answers in the church, but I also ran into much unexpected confusion. King David prophesied “… The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Joh 2:17). Sometimes church can have so many rituals until it hinders God’s purpose in saving the lost soul. That was also Jesus’ complaint when He went into the temple for the Passover and instead found the distractions of merchant tables with buying and selling going on (Mat 21:12).
We have an assurance from God that if we seek the Lord, we will find Him and He will walk us through any darkness to the light. I found that to be true and was led beyond rituals into a born again experience where I found my answers over time. I feel compelled to help others find their way through the maze of confusion as well. Christ is the way!
Many people have questions about God’s existence in their life in the midst of the things that have gone so wrong. They may wonder why life turned out the way it has. I have been there! We may find fault in parents, siblings, church, school, children or mate. In order to help us understand, God has to deal first with us and our sin issues, both personal and inherited. Being born again opens the spiritual eyes to understand the truth that we are all born into sin; and it has corrupted us, our relationships and everything around us. God’s love floods our heart to help us love people. The bible also teaches us that we have an enemy set on destroying us. We have to learn to discern the things that are working for us and those working against us in order to prevail.
Some people choose to go to psychiatrists for analysis and diagnosis of their past problems and they may spend an endless amount of time and money to find out what is their problem and solution. Having never taken that route, I cannot personally state any qualification for their methods, value or success. I do know a Perfect Analyst named Jesus who can diagnose any case and I recommend Him very highly.
Saul of Tarsus was a terrible person (Act 9). He was born a Jew but had Roman status for protection during Rome’s occupation of the Jewish nation in Jerusalem. He was educated, religious and in high esteem by his society. He had authority from the Temple leaders to hunt down and kill those who opposed the Jewish faith or Christians. He thought he was righteous; but he was actually an enemy of Christ and a menace to the community, destroying innocent lives … until he ran into Jesus. In a moment, Jesus analyzed Saul’s case, diagnosed his problem and gave him the solution that got him turned around from the wrong road and headed on the right one. It only took a moment’s intervention because the Holy Spirit knew Saul intimately and He dealt with Saul’s mind, spirit and soul in a way that no psychiatrist ever could. An uncooperative Saul became as putty in the hands of Christ and Saul would honor God in thankful service for the rest of his life.
Christ dealt with Saul out of love for him, and put love in Saul’s heart for lost souls. The bitterness was gone and hatred no longer led Saul’s life. He no longer hunted souls to persecute them, now He wanted to help them to find the Christ. He had been born again from above and had a new start, a new life and new destiny. There are many people who need that change and I hope these words will minister to some of them.
God teaches us that love is the answer and He sent to us Jesus to take our punishment for sin and to show us the way back to the Father. Jesus established help for us through the Christian church with Holy Ghost-filled and trained leaders to direct us into the right path to find the Lord; however, the message has been distorted in some churches and emphasis is being placed on seeking the material things of this world more than the God who owns everything. They are directing the seekers of God to strive for wealth and happiness instead of the God, who promises us richly all things to enjoy.
Father God has promised and will provide us everything we need that pertains to life in this generation as He did Adam and Eve in the Garden. God is a good Father and faithful Shepherd who knows our needs and provides for all His sheep as written in Psalms 23; but that does not mean the evil one will stop actively working to steal those blessings and peace. Believers must be taught.
Some people may be disappointed over a certain thing that seems to be missing out of their world that prevents their feeling comfortable, happy or complete. Finding God, who owns everything, will make them feel complete because God is love and what everybody really craves most is to know they are loved. Many people are ill-prepared for the things they crave until they find God. Once we find that comforting love, God promises to add everything else as written in Mat.6:33.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Mat 6:33
We encounter people in our life who are “acting out” because they have not found that love that makes one feel complete. They may be acting out in religious terror like Saul or may be through drugs, alcohol, crime, anger or some other abnormality. We have all seen people like that and knew something was wrong even if we did not know what it was. It is our responsibility to God to tell them where to find the love of God that will complete them as well.
The problem with our world is not that there is not enough money, food, housing, clothing or healthcare. God provides those things freely to His children. The problem is that there is not enough love among us. We can fix that by sharing our love and telling others about Jesus and the love the Father showed for us in sacrificing His only begotten Son so we could live. That “enemy” in your home, on the job, or in your community that you are dealing with needs God’s love.
As I sat to write these final thoughts, the Spirit of God revealed to me the heart of a person who acts out in my environment and that it is because of feeling unloved. Many people from childhood have felt unloved and in adulthood act out in anger because they lack the emotional support of love. Now I have insight into the answer for that problem. When you have Christ, answers and solutions are readily available. If you or people you know are acting out in ways that are unseemly, the answer is Jesus Christ and His love. Will you share this good news with them?
I wrote this book because we are all on a road to somewhere and may not be sure of our destination. I hoped that this booklet would help people to see where they are in life, which road they are on and whether or not it will bring them out where they are expecting. We all start life at birth, but our choices determine which of two roads we are on and its end. Life’s roads permit detours and course changes before reaching the destination.
It has become apparent to our nation and those around us that our leaders from the church house to the White House have chosen an unsteady path for us to travel due to the lure of greed and self-promotion. It is the sin that the church fathers warned us of and the same sin that was cancerous in Europe when the founders of our nation sought to escape Europe in search of a new start in America. Our churches have been found asleep, diluted, distracted, or silenced while the enemy sowed his seeds. The wonder of our God is that He can always change the heart of our leaders or birth new leaders who will follow the Holy Spirit to establish a community of love. That mission can start with you and me as we pray and share the knowledge of Christ and His love. It can begin in our house and spread city-wide until we change our world as the first disciples did because of God’s love. “God so loved the world that He gave…” (Joh. 3:16). Our love should cause us to give.
Each generation must help the next generation to keep the faith. I wanted to share with others knowledge of the Christ who helped me find my answers and peace. The same Lord can help them to have a rebirth and peace that only God provides. He longs to handle all of our problems and administer peace for the soul. The world is acting out because it has not found this love that makes the heart complete. Let’s go back to the love of God and empower a world where all our needs are met through the love of God as we share with others. That is what God has been trying to tell us:…
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Joh 15:12
If after reading this material you would like to ask any question or make a comment, please feel free to contact me at my email at: email@example.com or by postal mail at P. O. Box 3325, Durham, NC 27702 or through the following list of on-line contacts .
Joyce Reba Payne
The author has been inspired from the early days of her spiritual journey to write in various formats such as gospel tracts, books and articles. The Spirit of God was speaking and she recorded what it seemed few people were saying. A review of the published writings will reveal the timely and accurate recording of church experiences about which she has written.
Religious leaders have often been reluctant to accept women in certain ministerial or authoritative positions and especially that of the prophetic. God has made no such distinction and continued to speak as she followed His voice from the prophetic to the apostolic calling. Now is an important time to speak to a generation that has found many Christian virtues diminished due to liberties taken by the church today.
God’s word has not changed and the Spirit of God is still requiring boldness and truth, rather than the rituals of religion. This present generation must know that God is still requiring His children to stand up for truth in the midst of darkness. In this book like others, the author pulls off the veil of religious rituals to expose what God has to say about salvation and serving God. Birth can be a messy experience and it requires help from those nearby. Being born again similarly requires the help of a spiritual family to provide strength and nourishment for growth. God entrusted that performance to His church to help grow up His family, but now the church also needs help. We need more accuracy and direction for new saints and the old. May the Christian beacon continue to sound for the lost and witnesses continue to shine the light of Christ.
Other Books by the Author
- Christianity and Ethnicity: Is Christ Concerned about Race? (2017)
- Elephant in the Room: The Economy and Whose Job It Is To Fix It (2012)
- Silencing the Voice of the Prophets
- The Father (2010)
- Black Church Identity Crisis: Pimping the Church (2008)