by Tad Lindley
Perhaps you have seen the following sign in a restaurant or grocery somewhere in your travels:
It makes it hard for folks on a limited wardrobe to get a bite to eat.
Would it surprise you to know that there are some signs that have been posted concerning the kingdom of God and heaven? Here’s one from Revelation 21:8. I wish it wasn’t there, but only Jesus can remove it.
The severity is compounded by two passages in Romans: All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (3:23) And then The wages of sin is death… (6:23) Many of us might think, “How could a loving God exclude people. Are there no exceptions to the rule? What about somebody who did good and tried to help people? What if I give 15% of my income to worthy causes, and I never swear or lie again? Surely there must be an exception, otherwise there is no hope.”
There is an exception
We find the exception in John 3. There are really two parts to it. Jesus said to Nicodemus, Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (3:3) That is our exception. We might be fearful, unbelieving, promiscuous, or all of the above. Without some exception being made, we cannot even see the kingdom of God.
If we are born again, God will make that exception. Nicodemus asked Jesus, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (You see Nicodemus did not grow up with the expression “born again”. It was being invented right before his very ears.)
Jesus broke down the term “born again” into very specific terms. He said to Nicodemus,Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom.
Do I have to?
Some people will ask this question, “Do I have to be born again?” As if being born of the water and of the Spirit is going to be a big inconvenience for them. We should be excited. This is awesome. Jesus has extended to us through John 3 a legal loophole. He has made a way for our death sentence to be erased. This is very good news for us. Instead of “Do I have to?” we should be asking this question, “Does it really apply to me?”
Who is eligible for the exception?
According to Jesus, all of us are eligible for the exception: If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he concerning the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39)
Anybody is eligible for being born of the Spirit. The only requirement for being eligible for the exception is a thirst for the things of God, and a willingness to believe on Jesus “as the scriptures hath said”.
Born of water and of the Spirit
Could even a murderer or a molester be born of the water? Yes they can! When the Jews of Jerusalem realized that they had the blood of Jesus on their own hands, making them in effect murderers, they said to the apostles, Men and brethren, what should we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ [born of water] for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost [born of Spirit]. (Acts 2:37-38)
Throughout the history of the New Testament church found in the Book of Acts, we see people being born of the water in baptism, and born of the Spirit when they received the Holy Ghost. This is available to all people, from the chiefest of sinners to all the Cornelius’s of this world.
In the words of Jesus Christ, Marvel not that I say unto you, Ye must be born again. (John 3:7) Except you accept the exception, you cannot be saved.
Reverend Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.