Friday, October 7, 2011

Heaven coming down into the heart

John 3:3 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

We have been exploring Heaven and its major themes in these past several blogs.  We have witnessed the Bible repeatedly telling us that Heaven is God centered, that its glory is Jesus Christ and that it is a real place or destination for the Christian who passes on out of this world.
Heaven's reality though is not just confined to only the future.  As true as the above paragraph is, the foretaste of Heaven begins to be experienced by the Christian not at physical death, but at the moment of their salvation. 

Some fifty conversations are recorded in the Gospel records betweeen Jesus and various individuals.  Out of all of them, the one with Nicodemas in John 3 is the longest and perhaps the most important one.  It is in the text above we find reference to the "New Birth" or "Being born again". 

The New Birth means being born from above
         When Jesus says to Nicodemas that in order to enter into the Kingdom of God (or to experience salvation, in our modern day terms), he needs to be born again.  That phrase "born again" could be also translated from the Greek (the New Testament's original language) with the phrase "born from above". 

The New Birth entails Heaven coming down into the human heart
         As one begins to explore other scriptures concerning the New birth, it is immediately seen that salvation is described as a foretaste of Heaven's joy coming down into the human heart.  Remember how we saw in our previous studies on Heaven that John saw what will be the Heavenly Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven to earth in Revelation 21?  As we look at Galatians 4:26, we discover that when the child of God begins salvation, its source is from God's grace coming from above.  Paul writes - "But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother." 

The New Birth is received by faith alone
         So when God in Heaven above is affecting a person by His grace to see the awfulness of their sin and the awesomeness of Christ, it truly is an event whereby Heaven is coming in contact with the human heart.  No human being can work this by their own effort, nor can any amount of right living lead to the "birth-from-above-experience".  The Bible makes it clear that:

1. Heaven coming down into the human heart is an act of God's grace (John 1:13; James 1:18)

2. The New Birth must include God's word, which alone can convert the heart (Psalm 19:6; 1 Peter 1:23)

3. The Holy Spirit is required to convict the person to truly believe on Jesus Christ (John 16:8-11)

4. The only sufficient way to receive the birth from above is by faith alone (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8-9)

The New Birth makes me a citizen of Heaven
        The New Birth, being "born from above", makes me a citizen of Heaven.  We read for instance in Philippians 3:20 - "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ".  As a person is drawn by saving grace to the Savior, God births in them the desire to seek Christ.  They come by faith, and are declared by God to indeed be a permanent citizen of Heaven.  Hebrews 12:22 describes the Christian's salvation in this way - "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels."

Thus the Christian is somebody who though living in this world, has the reality of Heaven operating in their heart.  Only by God's grace through faith can such a reality take place.  

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