Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Testimony about My Being Born Again

I was born again 20 years ago. This experience had nothing to do with any cult involvement or cult recruitment. Recently, I celebrated this date and gave my testimony. Below is an excerpt of this testimony.

My conversion to faith in God took place 20 years ago. In the morning, I was an atheist. In the evening, I became a Christian and could not help but believe in God. My conversion took place at a gospel meeting where the subject of the sermon was God Gives Hope to the Hopeless. It matched my condition at that time. The preacher spoke a lot about God's love and salvation through Jesus Christ. It touched me very much. At that evening, I not only received Christ as my Savior, but I also received God as the meaning of my life. I gained hope given by God. My whole life changed and I began to look at the world in a different way. I was unhappy person and did not know what I lived for. But I became a happy person and my life became meaningful. My conversion was very dynamic.

Why do I call it "spiritual birthday"? 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.

What is the result of the spiritual birth? 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.

Here Jesus says about a case described in the Old Testament (Numbers 21:5-9). When Israelites were in the wilderness and serpents bit them, God told Moses to make a brass serpent and to lift it on the pole. Everyone who was bitten by a serpent and who looked at the brass serpent, survived. The brass serpent on the pole was a type of Christ's crucifixion on the cross. 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.

It is impossible to lose eternal life after receiving it. In John 10:28-29 (NIV), Jesus says:
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Those who received eternal life, are unable to perish. That is, they are unable to lose eternal life. Those who received eternal life, have been delivered from eternal perish forever. Jesus and God the Father hold them in Their hands. Nobody and nothing are able to snatch them, that is, to deprive them of eternal life.

20 years ago, I was born again, was born from above, was born of the Holy Spirit, was born of God, became a child of God, received eternal life, and was delivered from eternal perishing forever. Therefore, this is the day of my spiritual birthday. Although my spiritual birthday took place 20 years ago, this day is still very important and precious for me because it changed my whole life and my eternal destiny. After my life on the earth is over, I will be with Christ forever.

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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life after Death Question

John Knapp highly promotes a book written by a member of his non-profit CHSCA, Nori Muster. The book is entitled Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement. The overview posted in CHSCA website implies that Nori considers herself as an "expert" in religious matters. Since I was interested about her credentials, I checked her educational information: "Her degree is in Interdisciplinary Studies, which was a combination of Psychology (Psych.), Criminal Justice (CJ), and Clinical Child and Youth Work (CCYW)." There is no indication that she has ever studied theology, religious studies, history of religion or something like this. I do not consider myself to be an "expert" in religious matters. However, I graduated from an evangelical Bible institute. So, I have a theological education.

I guess the beginning of the description of Nori's book is quite intriguing for many people:
We cannot know for sure what is waiting for us on the other side in dreams or death, or even know if there is another side. The feeling I get is that if there is, it is much like what we have here, but better. Maybe it is ideal, as the Classical Greek philosopher Plato said. Maybe we see long lost loved ones, or experience a paradise like some religions promise. Or, maybe it is a purgatory or hell. Maybe the soul ends and there is nothing after death. But none of us can say for sure; the other side and death will always remain a riddle to us who are living.

Let me share my personal situation. Recently, my mother died. She was my only close relative and I loved her very much. What Nori's book tells me? "Well, I do not know, maybe, your mother's soul is in a paradise or, maybe, she is in a hell. Maybe, her soul does not exist any more. Maybe, you will see her again or, maybe, not. I do not know." Nori's book will not give me any hope. A person who has my situation and the same beliefs as Nori has, will have a serious depression.

However, I do not experience a severe depression now. Do you know why? Because I am not an agnostic. I am a born-again Christian and my mother was a born-again Christian also. I believe what the Bible says:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NIV)

Thus, the Bible says that at the time of Christ's second coming (or more strictly, at the time of rapture) the dead Christians will be resurrected and the living Christians will meet them. It means that I will meet my mother again.

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8, NIV)

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:21-24, NIV)

2 My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3, NIV)

So, the Bible says that the dead Christians are with Christ in the Father's house and that it is better for them to be there than to be here. Therefore, for them, to die is gain. Even though I would prefer my mother to continue to live on the earth, I know that she is with Christ now and it is much better for her to be there than to be here.

God, the Bible, and my Christian faith give me a tremendous comfort, peace, and hope at this time. Repeating Paul's words, I "do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope." Of course, I would have been without comfort, peace, and hope if I had had similar beliefs to Nori's.