Sometimes the hardest people to recognize their need of a Savior are “good people” – even “religious people” who are convinced if they’re “good enough” and “religious” enough that will get them into heaven. They may be upstanding citizens, kind neighbors, responsible people, good parents… they may even attend Church regularly (or fairly regularly), but they don’t know Jesus in a personal way. Their hope is their goodness… their “church membership card” will get them into heaven one day. Kind of flies in the face of what Jesus told Nicodemus, a “good man” and “religious” person one day doesn’t it? (the Bible says he was “a Pharisee … a ruler of the Jews.)
Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God!” … And then He emphasized it again, clarifying further, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [a natural birth] and the Spirit [a Spiritual rebirth], he cannot enter the Kingdom of God!” … And then a third time… “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again!” (From John 3:1-9) Wow! I think Jesus was clearly making a point! It takes more than being religious… It takes more than being a good person… to enter the Kingdom of God! It takes a Spiritual transformation – a Spiritual rebirth!
All of this came to mind this morning during my Bible reading. There is an account in Acts 16 that tells how Paul and his ministry associates traveled to Philippi, a leading city in ancient Macedonia and a Roman Colony. There was apparently no synagogue in the city, so Paul and his friends went down to the riverside on the Sabbath day, to see if there was a “prayer group” meeting there. They found a group of “religious ladies” meeting there – but ladies who did not know Jesus personally and had not experienced “Spiritual rebirth.” As Paul shared the “Gospel” with them – the story of who Jesus is and what He had done” – the Bible says, “One who heard was a woman named Lydia [a successful business woman] who was a worshipper of God” [she was both a good person and religious]. The Bible goes on to say this… “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul [i.e. she became a “believer”] and was baptized, and her household.” (From Acts 16:11-15)
Do you know any people like that? Good people… even religious people, who do not know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord… They have not experienced a “Spiritual rebirth” – they have not been “born again” by the Spirit of God! I know several like that… and sometimes they are the hardest to reach, the most difficult to convince of their need of a Savior. What is needed, I believe, is what happened to Lydia… “The Lord opened her heart!”
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I prayed the Lord would do in the lives of my friends like that today – and that’s what I’m going to keep praying for! Then I pray that someone will cross their path at the right time (perhaps even me) with the Gospel of the Living Christ – the message of the One who can bring about “new birth” in their lives! I’m praying for that!