“Starting a New Life in Jesus”
Hello, my name is Bret McCasland. Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” Perhaps all of us have experienced the need to start over. Maybe we had to start over when we messed up on a school project. Perhaps we started over with a career or job change; or, possibly we had some things go wrong in our own personal life and we needed to simply start over. Oh, starting over can be a good thing. It gives us new opportunities. It provides new challenges and the chance to move beyond the mistakes of the past. After Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, Jesus gave him another chance to be His follower and a church leader. A man named Saul was totally opposed to people following Jesus, and he persecuted them for it. And yet, God allowed him to start over as he was given the task of sharing the message about Jesus with people everywhere. God does the same with us. We read in the Bible how through His son, Jesus, God lets us start over in our relationship with Him. We do not have to live in I state of brokenness and loss. We can put the past behind us and begin a new life in Jesus Christ. In today's lesson on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will study what that looks like in several different passages of Scripture. We will consider the process God has put in place for us to start over and to make a new beginning with Him. As we study the Bible today, I trust each of us will think carefully about the need we may have to receive a fresh start in our relationship with the Lord.
There always seems to be a sense of excitement in starting something new; and, that appears to be true when we start a new year, a new sports season, when we began to attend a new church, or perhaps even engage in a new relationship. Oftentimes there are some ups and downs that come with that, and perhaps things do not go exactly as we had planned. We might experience some problems or some challenges along the way. Overall, however, we anticipate what that new thing will look like and we embrace the opportunities and experiences which await us. Well, in several passages, in the New Testament part of the Bible, we read about starting a new life spiritually; and, those passages come from the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul. There was even one statement, made by Jesus, Himself; and, those are statements, those passages, describe the process of starting over, having a second chance or embracing a new life, provided by Jesus Christ, Himself. I want us to begin, today, by looking at a passage found early on in Jesus’ ministry. He met a man by the name of Nicodemus, and that man was a religious man. He knew something about the old Law. And he came to Jesus with some things on his heart, and they had an amazing conversation. The story is recorded in the gospel of John chapter 3. We begin reading with verse 1. < Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling court. 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.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “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!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and of the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.”> Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the cover of darkness for the simple fact he did not want other people to know that he believed in Jesus. And as he approached Him, he recognized Jesus indeed was someone very special. He said, “You cannot do the signs or the miracles You are doing unless you come from God;” and indeed, that was true. Well, based upon his recognition of Him, Jesus then begins to do some important teaching and asking some questions, and they had this conversation. Jesus tells him that a person needs to be born again. Well, that was confusing to Nicodemus. He did not understand how that could happen physically when someone had already been born once. It was then that Jesus began to teach about being born of the water and of the Spirit. That involved, no doubt, a purification process. Now Jesus might have been referring to something that took place previously. Perhaps you remember the ministry of John the Baptist. He was the one who prepared the way for Jesus. He went about the land teaching people about changing their hearts and changing their attitudes, as Jesus was about to come and offer them deeper teaching; and then, the people would be baptized for repentance. They were repenting or turning away from that sin, as they made that significant change or adjustment in their life. Perhaps Jesus was talking about a future baptism that would come through the ministry of the apostles and the disciples, later on; and, that baptism would be for the forgiveness of their sin. You might remember a story that's retold there in Acts chapter 2, how thousands of people were immersed into Christ and they repented. They were baptized and received the forgiveness of sin; but also, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind when he was talking with Nicodemus. But the point simply is, one needed to be pure and right in the sight of God, and then God's Spirit would work to renew that heart and to bring about a fresh start with the Lord. And that might look differently, because no one can gauge how the Spirit might move or act within a person's life, but whenever that process takes place, one is able to enter into God's kingdom. So Jesus teaches here in John chapter 3, the Holy Spirit gives us a new life when we are born again. One of Jesus' apostles, named Peter, talked about a new life in Christ, and he did that from a firsthand experience. He knew what it meant to receive that second chance or a new beginning. He, along with other apostles, were with Jesus one day when they went into the area called Caesarea Philippi. And this was a very pagan place, filled with many false prophets and idols and worship; and, Jesus took His disciples there. And in the midst of all of that, He asked them an important question: “Who do people say that I am?” And they gave several answers. But then Jesus said, “Well, what about you?” And it was Peter, on that occasion, who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Oh, that was a great confession. Peter recognized Jesus, indeed, was someone special, and that He had come from God; and because of that, he would be a great asset in the advancement of God's kingdom. Well, toward the very end of Jesus' life, He is standing on trial, He had been arrested, He had been falsely accused, and now He did not know for sure what was about to happen; and, Peter witnessed all of that. Peter was there in the audience of that trial taking place. And on three separate occasions, someone came to Peter and said, “Well, you are one of his followers. We saw you in the garden with Him. Surely you know Him.” And on all three occasions, Peter denied knowing Jesus. And on that third denial, the rooster crowed. And Jesus looked at Peter and Peter recognized, sure enough, he had messed up. He denied knowing Jesus. He did not stand with Him when Jesus needed him the most; so, he went out and he wept bitterly. Well, after Jesus' resurrection from the dead, He met some women, there in the garden, and He told them to go and tell the disciples, and Peter, that He wanted to meet with them. One can just imagine the anticipation with which Peter went to meet Jesus. And it was on that occasion that Jesus re-instated Peter, He gave him another opportunity to represent Him. That is exactly what Peter did. He became a great spokesman for the Lord and a great leader among God's people. As Jesus met with Peter, He basically gave him a second chance. He gave him another opportunity to be a part of His mission in this world, and no doubt Peter was excited and thankful for that. Well, Peter took that opportunity and he made the very most of it. He began to tell other people about the new life or the second chance they could have in Jesus Christ. And we find that taking place in the book of Acts, chapter 2. This was just after Jesus' ascension into heaven. It was on the Day of Pentecost, in the city of Jerusalem. Thousands of people had come to worship God. It was called the Day of Pentecost, and many were there. And Peter took the opportunity to stand up before those people and to give somewhat of a history lesson. He told them about things which had taken place a long time ago, how the prophets had prophesied and foretold about the coming of a Messiah, and he would be someone very special. And Peter said Jesus was that Messiah. Jesus was the one who had come from God. He had a special message. He had a ministry, and yet you had refused to hear Him. You rejected Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. In fact, you even called for His execution. You wanted Him to be put to death. Well, the people recognized, indeed, they were guilty. They had messed up. They had rejected God's one and only Son. And so they ask a question of Peter. They said, in verse 37, “Well, what shall we do?” In other words, how do we respond to what we did in the past and start over again? And Peter told them these words, in verse 38. He said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Well, we read on and we know, in verse 41, that those who accepted that message were baptized and about 3000 were added to their number that day. Some 3000 people started over. Some 3000 people entered into a new life with Jesus Christ, with their sin forgiven and now empowered with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Well, likewise today, when we repent of our sin and are baptized for the forgiveness of that sin, and when we receive the Holy Spirit, then we too have a new beginning in Christ. The apostle Peter made another statement, in Acts chapter 4. He, along with the apostle John, we're still in Jerusalem sharing this same message with other people; and again, many people weren't responding to it. So, the authorities were upset. They did not like the fact that the people were giving their allegiance to Jesus instead of to themselves, and so they put Peter and John into prison. Well, the next day they call them out to give an account of what they were doing. And it was on that occasion that Peter spoke these words: “There is no other name under heaven, given to men, by which we must be saved.” And, no doubt, Peter was referring to the name of Jesus Christ. There is no other name, there is no other person, there is no other source through whom you can receive salvation from God. Likewise, that is still true for us, today. There has never been, nor will there ever be, another religious leader like Jesus. No one can make the claims He made. No one can do the signs He did. No other religious leader has ever died and then come back from the dead, like Jesus did. And so with that statement, we know that only in Jesus Christ can we receive a new life and salvation. I want to move now to the apostle Paul. He wrote a letter to a group of Christians living in the city of Rome. Oh, he had never met these people before. He had never worshiped with them. He did not baptize them into Christ, but yet he had heard of their conversion to Jesus. And so, he wrote to them a letter reminding them of the process they went through in order to get where they were that day. A relationship with Christ was now theirs to enjoy, and he writes, telling them, this is how it all came about. I want to notice the passage that begins in Romans chapter 6 and verse 1, and read through verse 6. <What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, and we should no longer be slaves to sin.> Paul's view of making a new start in life spiritually is compared to what Jesus did. Well, we know Jesus died on a cross, He was buried in a tomb and He also rose again from the grave; and Paul states, you did that same thing, figuratively. They quit sinning. In fact, Paul said, “There's no need to live in sin any longer, because you have already died to it.” He states there in verse 6, “No longer are you slaves to sin.” In other words, that is in the past, you have moved on from those days and that sin is not a part of your life now. And to illustrate that, the people were baptized into Jesus Christ. They were baptized into His death, symbolic of Jesus being buried in the tomb and then rising again on the third day. And then that's what these people did. They came up from that water grave, if you will, to live a new life, as we notice there in verse 4. And that new life was now a life in Christ. It was their new start, their new beginning, spiritually. And as a result of all of that, they were now a part of God's family and they could receive all of the blessings and the promises that belong to God's children. Again, today, when we die to our sin, are buried in baptism, and rise up again, we can begin a new life in Christ. Well, there is one final passage I want us to consider, and it too comes from the apostle Paul. It reminds us that our salvation does not come from our own efforts; rather, our salvation come from what God has already done on our behalf. Listen to these words from Paul, in Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9. < For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.> A new life in Christ can never be achieved. It can never be gained by our own efforts. No amount of good deeds, no amount of prayers, no amount of money given or church services attended can ever put us into the graces of God. We can never say to God, “I am worthy of, or I deserve this free gift of salvation.” No, it does not happen that way. God has already provided the sacrifice for us. Jesus paid the price so that we can overcome the sting of sin and the sting of death. And our response is to believe that, as we notice there in verse 8 and 9. We believe Jesus is God's one and only Son. We believed He died, was buried and rose again. We believe in God's gift of grace, and that is not something we just say with our mouth, but rather we act upon that faith. It is demonstrated by being baptized into Christ, just like we have seen from these other passages of Scripture. So God provides a way for us to have a new start. It is through believing in Jesus and receiving His free gift of salvation; and only by God's amazing grace is that made possible. And so without God's grace, we can never receive His salvation and a new life in Christ. Oh, there are many other passages in the Bible that describe the importance and the process of starting over spiritually, of having a new beginning in Jesus and experiencing God's love and salvation and the free gift that is offered to us. And obviously, it is there for us to receive, and that is exactly what God wants us to do. But in light of what we have seen in the passages today, here is a question for us to consider, as we draw our lesson to a conclusion. Am I ready to begin a new life in Jesus Christ, as I make him my Lord and my Savior? Oh, that is a question that all of us need to ask ourselves, at one time or another. Do I fully recognize and appreciate God's love for me, the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf? Am I willing to turn away from the sin in my life and to bury it in baptism, and then to start all over in a new life with Jesus? Oh, that is what we have seen today, and hopefully that is something that all of us have done. And then we begin the process of growing and maturing in the Lord and experiencing all of the wonderful blessings and privileges and promises come to us as God's children. My prayer and my desire for you, today, is that you are willing to make that new start in Christ and to have that new life, today.
**BONUS VIDEO CLIP
The birth of a child is always special. This little girl was born about three and a half years ago, and she is really special to me. You see, she is my granddaughter, and my wife and I were so excited when she was born into this world; and, we have been so excited to watch her grow up and mature. She was crawling, she was walking, she began to say words and make sentences, and her eyes are open to all of the things going on in the world around her. And it's exciting to watch all of that take place, and we anticipate good things to happen as she continues to grow and mature and experience life. Well, that's the way it is when we become Christians. We are born into Jesus Christ, but that's only the beginning. After our faith and baptism into Jesus, we begin to grow and mature. We grow up in the Lord. We learn more, each and every day, about what it means to follow Jesus Christ. And more than anything else, He wants us to grow up spiritually, to mature. He wants to us to be no longer a simple follower but a devoted disciple of the One who gave His life for me. Yes, it's special to see little children, like this, growing and maturing and experiencing life. But perhaps even more important, it is necessary for us to grow, to mature and to experience the wonderful life that God has in store for us, through His son, Jesus Christ. I hope and pray you will do that today. Make an effort to grow just a little bit more in your relationship with the Lord.
Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. As we studied about beginning a new life with Jesus, I trust you considered the importance of doing just that. If there are some things you would like to hear or consider again, you can download this message in a variety of formats. Go to keytothekingdom.com, and, there, you can access it free of charge. There are many other lessons on our website, and you are more than welcome to listen to any that might be of interest. Daily devotional thoughts, along with short inspiring videos, can be found as well. Please feel free to access anything we freely offer, which might assist you in your relationship with the Lord. If you want to call the number on the screen and leave a message, we will be happy to return the call. Several other ways to access this ministry are also available. A free phone app can be downloaded onto your smartphone. Find us on Facebook®, where you will receive weekly posts, which provide spiritual encouragement. We also have a dedicated channel on Roku® television. All of these are available without any kind of cost or commitment. We simply want to provide sound biblical teaching, which will hopefully bless you in some way. Again, I want to say thank you for being our guest today. I do hope this message about receiving a new life in Jesus was beneficial. I also hope you'll tune in again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”