Believe:879. How far will you go to find the truth? A journey through the gospel of John with Skip Heitzig.
Let's pray together.
Heavenly Father, we thank You, we thank You for the time that has been carved out, moreover, the time that You have devoted to making us Your children, sending Your Son to die on the cross, the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Thank You for the family, the camaraderie that we feel with one another. It's just so great and so free to be Your kid. And we pray now, Lord, as we discover once again this great conversation with Nicodemus and what the new birth is. We pray, Lord, that our hearts would rejoice, and if they're not in that position yet, would come to that place of being born again. In Jesus' name, amen.
Change is a part of life. We're always changing. We are aging right now as I speak. We don't notice it because it's incremental, but I guarantee you, if somebody who knows you sees you sporadically and they haven't see you for awhile and they catch up with you, they notice it. We're always changing. We might change locations, we might change jobs. Did you know the average American worker, by age 40, will have had eight different jobs? Change is a part of life. And part of the change is brought to us by technology. Example, it'll help put it in perspective: up until the 1800s, we human beings traveled no faster than about 20-25 miles an hour on horse---horseback. In the 1800s, the locomotive, the train, was invented and so suddenly we were going 50 miles an hour. I know that doesn't sound like much; some of you haven't gone 50 miles an hour on a freeway for years. But 50 miles an hour---it was, wow! And then 75 and then 100 and then the jet aircraft was developed and people could travel across the world at 500 miles an hour. And just a few years after that in 1979, the concord jet was invented. It put us at 1,200 miles per hour. And now astronauts will orbit the earth at 16,000 miles an hour. All of that change in a little period of time.
But that's outward change; that's technological change. What about personal change? Do people want change, personally? Well that depends. A lot of polls have been conducted about this and people have been asked, "If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?" Almost invariably the answer has been appearance. Body type, age. Rarely will you ever hear somebody answer saying, "I want the inside of me changed. I want my character different; my disposition; my personality." It's typically outward stuff. Knowing this, ABC capitalized on it pretty well in a show called Extreme Makeover. They assembled what they called the Extreme Team: cosmetic surgeons, cosmetic dentists, stylists, wardrobe specialists, the budget to go along with it. Making someone into the most beautiful them possible. But what about, what about the soul? What about that part of you that nobody sees, the part of you that will live forever? The soul. I want to talk to you today about the soul. I call this message "Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition" because that's the most important part of us. It was Jesus who said, "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul and what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" That's really the conversation we're dealing with between Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night in John chapter three. Jesus cuts right to the chase and talks about inward change---the soul change.
Jesus' own words: "You must be born again, Nicodemus." If ever I felt sorry for a phrase, I feel sorry for the phrase born again. Everybody from Oprah to every social scientist to politician the last twenty years has, I think, ruined the phrase born again. R. Kent Hughes says it best, "The term born again has been pirated, emptied of meaning, dragged through the gutter, and then given back to us minus its power." Let's find out exactly what it is. We saw that last week, but let's read further. Nicodemus is a grown man. He has lived his whole life with the outward stuff: religion, hard work, sincerity. And Jesus comes to him and says, "You need a do-over. You've got to start from scratch and you have to be born again." The first part of John chapter three is a dialogue. They're having a conversation. The second part is a discourse. In verse nine, the second question of Nicodemus is what launches Jesus into the discourse. Nicodemus says, "How can these things be?" I love the Phillip's Translation: "How on earth can things like this happen?" How is it possible to start again? How can there be a real change of new life that would happen inside of me? How could I ever see real change? "This makeover you talk about, Jesus, sounds so extreme---how is it possible? How can these things be?"
So verse 10 down to verse 21 is the answer to the question. It tells us how a man can be born again. Here is then the anatomy of the new birth, if you will. The mechanical view of what it is to be born again. It comes to us in four stages. First of all, the source. The source of new life: that's from heaven, not from earth, not from manmade systems of religion. It comes from heaven. "Nicodemus [verse nine] answered and said to Him, 'How can these things be?'" Jesus answered and said, 'Are you the teacher [not a teacher, as if to say, the illustrious teacher] of Israel, and do not know these things?'" Can you hear the sarcasm in that? "Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven."
Now this is a pretty simple message. It's a simple, straightforward message. I don't want to complicate it. It's simply this: new life is possible because Jesus Christ, who is life, brought it down from heaven. That's the source of new life. The source of the new birth that comes from heaven and that's the message of Christianity. What's impossible for man to reach for, God has brought down to us. See, we have a problem. We are creatures of time and space---we're in a box. And the box has walls called time and space. We're in the time-space continuum. Being natural creatures, we can't escape into the supernatural. Now people will try and every time somebody comes along and says, "I've found a way to escape the natural and transcend into the supernatural." Every time somebody says that, a new religion is born. That's what religion is: it's man's attempt from earth to reach into heaven. And so the Buddhist will say that if you work and think yourself into nirvana, you'll find God. And the New Age proponent will say if you gain a Christ-consciousness and a higher self, you'll see God. And the Hindu will say by the transmigration of the soul, reincarnation, and eventually the absorption into Brahman, you will see God. But it won't work. You can never from earth reach out and find God. The natural can't peek or peer or go into the supernatural. So we're in the box; we're stuck.
Well, if we can't get out of the box, what has to happen? God has to come inside the box. Did that ever happen? It happened once. Only once. It's called the incarnation. It's when God in the person of Christ stepped out of eternity onto earth in time and space and showed us exactly what God is like and brought new life and made it possible. "So Nicodemus, you've been trying so hard to reach out through your religion and your works to find God and you can't reach far enough, man. You can't do it." I've always loved the story of the cosmonaut who came back from outer space and he said, "I have traveled to space and I did not see God." Well he didn't go far enough! Somebody heard him and said, "If you'd have stepped out of your spacesuit, you'd have seen God like that!" So here's the deal. Either we take what Jesus said or we're stuck, because no man has ascended into heaven. We can't get up there to see what's up there and bring the plan back. God, through Christ, had to step down from heaven to us. But you know what? Most people would rather spend their time reaching up from earth rather than accepting and taking what has been handed down from heaven. And that's why they're so frustrated. They're so frustrated because it never works.
There's an old legend about a man who was walking and he got lost and got off a path and got stranded, fell into a bog of quicksand and was drowning in the quicksand, and he cried out for help. Finally, Confucius walked by and noticed him and said, "Hmm. Confucius say it is evident that men should stay out of such places." And he walked off, leaving the man still struggling. After a few more minutes, Buddha walked by. He stroked his chin and he said, "Let this man's suffering be an example for the rest of mankind." And he walked away. Later on, Mohammed walked by and saw the man struggling and said, "If God wills. Whatever is the will of Allah," and he walked by. But then finally Jesus walked by, put out His hand and said, "Grab hold. I'll save you." Now that is Christianity---it's God bursting into our world, reaching down from heaven to save mankind. So the source is from heaven. That's the source of new life.
Let's look at the force of new life and that is the atoning death of Christ. Verse 14: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." I'm not going to dwell too much on that verse, even though that's the verse. Next week for communion, I'll zero in on just that verse. But for the sake of context, we read on. Verse 17: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." So Jesus brings the new life down from heaven to the earth, but the question is: so how does it work? What is the power behind it, what is the force behind it? Here it is. Ready? Death! Death. New life will operate on the basis of death. Somebody has to die enabling others to live. First, death must occur. Now that's a New Testament theme all the way throughout the New Testament, we read that we live because Christ died. I think it could be summed up by a lot of different verses. I've chosen one tucked away in 1 Peter, succinctly put this way: "Christ died for sins once for all; the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God." So here is Jesus predicting His death to Nicodemus. You might say it's a veiled prediction, but it will be uncovered as time goes on, as Moses lifted up the serpent, the Son of Man must be lifted up. He's predicting His death and it's His death that will enable life.
So it's interesting. The example Jesus uses with Nicodemus is Numbers 21, the whole wilderness-serpent thing. Now Nicodemus hearing this would've perked up---he's on familiar turf now. He knows his Old Testament. He's a teacher of Israel. So he was familiar with the story. It's an interesting story. Let me just tell you to familiarize you and bring you up to speed on it. The children of Israel are wandering through the wilderness and they do what they do best, they gripe and complain and bellyache and murmur about everything. For years. Even when God miraculously gave them manna, bread from heaven, miraculously wherever they were they had bread, they woke up one day and this is what they said: "Our soul hates this worthless bread!" It was manna. Well you know, you can only do so much with manna. I mean you cook manna, bananamanna bread, and mannacotti, and a few other dishes, but you've kind of exhausted the cookbook after a few days. But it kept coming and they complained. So God, in judgment, sent a bunch of venomous snakes that bit people and caused a fever, a burning, and caused the death of thousands of them. Thousands of them were dying off and God in His mercy said, "Moses, I'm going to tell you what to do that will save people from this death. You take up a brass pole and a brass serpent, put it together, and lift it up, lift it up in the wilderness, and tell people to look at it. If they look at it, they'll be cured." Now, just imagine. You couldn't see that thing. There's two million people plus in the wilderness. That thing for some people was way off. So for anybody to look in that direction it would be a look of faith; they would have to believe two things. They'd have to believe number one that they were a sinner. It was their sin that caused this condition they're experiencing. Number two, they had to believe that it was going to work. It was going to work. Now that would be counter-intuitive. I mean, imagine telling the logical mind, "You have a physical condition that's creating fever and death. But if you just look over there at that thing, you'll be cured." It didn't make sense---it's not logical---it's counter-intuitive. But it was a look of faith and the best part of it all? It worked! It worked because God said it would work.
And that is the analogy. It's very, very similar to how people feel about the cross. You mean to tell me, they would say, that just a simple look of my faith in Christ is enough to save me from hell and from eternal distress? Just that? They would say, how can these things be? It just doesn't make sense. See it's much easier for people to look to themselves. That's why they do it so much. They won't trust Christ; they'll look to themselves. Well, I'm religious. Well, I do this. Well, I work hard. How arrogant. It's much harder to admit, "I am a sinner and I need a Savior," than it is to look to faith in Christ. Did you notice a word in verse 14? If you didn't, you will in a moment. It's the word must. Remember I pointed that out to you last week in the first part of John 3. Here it is again, but notice it: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." Must. The cross was a divine imperative. Jesus had to die. Why? I don't know how many times I've been asked, "Why did Jesus Christ have to die?" Two simple reasons, two simple words. Number one, justice must be served. Justice. The Bible says in the Old Testament, "without the shedding of blood there's no remission of sins." You know why that is? Because sin is so bad, even though we might not think so, God thinks so; it's so bad, that only the shedding of blood, innocent blood, could ever atone for it. And so, for God to be just, He has to punish sin. And He's either going to require our blood or the blood of a substitute which He did through His Son Jesus Christ.
Here's a second word and reason, not just justice, love. Love. It was love that drove Jesus to the cross. Verse 16: "For God so loved the world." Did you get that? He didn't just love you, He so loved you. In other words, a lot. The Bible says something beautiful. It says, "For the joy that was set before Jesus, He endured the cross." Have you ever thought about that? What would give anybody joy facing a cruel, ignominious death? What possible joy could there be? Here it is: it's the joy of Jesus being able to look through the lens of history and see you and you and you and you and you and you one day call on Christ and be saved forever. And He looked at that and said, "It's worth it. That is worth it. And that will push Me and drive Me on to do the Father's will." Out of joy; out of love.
So here's Nicodemus. He's thinking the whole time, "How can these things be? How does the new birth happen?" Here it is: it comes by Jesus bringing it out of heaven to the earth and second by Jesus going to the cross to die, being lifted up. He'll say it again in chapter 12 of John: "If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to Myself." He's speaking of the cross. John even says so afterwards. I've heard that verse so misquoted over the years. Worship leaders stand up and say, "Jesus said if I be lifted up, I'll draw all men, so let's lift Him higher"---it's almost a blasphemous thought. Because the idea of the text is lifting Him up on a cross to die. And that's what He is referring to here. And that is the force of the new life. There's a book, it's a Christian classic, if you have never read it, read it at least once before you die. It's called Pilgrim's Progress. Charles Spurgeon read it twice a year, that's how important he thought it was. It's a story of a man called Christian; he's the pilgrim on the journey from his hometown, the city of Destruction, on the way to the Celestial City. And he's carrying a backpack, it's called the Law, he can't keep it---it's a burden to him. Wherever he goes, it's just burdening him down like Nicodemus. Here's the part in the story I want to read to you: "I saw in my dream that just as Christian came up to the cross, his burden loosed from his shoulders, fell from off his back, and began to tumble until it came to the mouth of the tomb where it fell in and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome and said with a merry heart, 'He has given me rest by His sorrow and He has given me life by His death.'" That's the key thought here. Life by His death.
Catch a glance at verse 17 before we move on. I tend to think that this is where Nicodemus' jaw again dropped. I'll tell you why in a minute. Jesus said, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." I just see Nicodemus going---and here's why. Did you know the Jews at that time believed that one of the first things Messiah would do when He came would be to wipe out all the heathens, all the pagans, all the Gentiles, and establish only Israel as the pinnacle, the peak. Jesus said, "Nicodemus? I didn't come to do that. I didn't come to condemn. I came to save the world. And My salvation is for the world. Not just for Israel, but for the whole world." Now, he should've known that. Nicodemus should've known that; all the Jews should have known that. That's part of the Abrahamic covenant. You've studied that if you've been with us on Wednesday nights. God said to Abraham, "In you all of the families of the earth will be blessed." That's a prediction of Christ who would come through the lineage of Abraham. That's not what Nicodemus thought; that's not what he believed. He thought, "He's going to wipe out the Gentiles and it's just going to be us." In fact, the very opposite happened because Israel rejected her Messiah, the door of salvation was opened to the Gentiles, and blindness happened to Israel.
Before we move on, I just want you to capture this thought. I want you to know how much Jesus loves you. I want you to know that Jesus Christ would do anything to get you to heaven. In fact, He did everything He could. Stepping out of heaven, coming to the earth, robed in a man's body, suffered the rejection of people and death on a cross, to get you to heaven. Which brings us to the third point, that is the course of new life and that is faith---belief. That's the road it travels on. It's the course of believing in Him. Now, you'll notice the banner above me, see the word on top, even in the back I think you can read it, "Believe:879." That's because there's 879 verses in the gospel of John and the key theme is the word believe. That's why we're not surprised 98 times in this book the word believe, believe, believe, believe occurs, because that's his theme. He wants people to believe. Well, we're not, then, surprised to find it here on a few different occasions. Look at verse 12: "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" Verse 15: "That whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." Verse 16 is the same thought and verse 18: "He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who believes not is condemned already." Key thought is belief, but there's another key thought right next to it in this paragraph. What is it? Unbelief. Notice these two things side by side---believing and believing not. Belief and unbelief.
Now, verse nine is essentially a statement of unbelief. When Nicodemus asks, "How can these things be?" It's a statement of incredulity. He doesn't believe it. You say, "Skip, how do you know that?" Because Jesus said so. In verse 12, after Nicodemus asks the question, Jesus says, "If I have told you earthly things [notice] and you do not believe." The you is plural in the Greek. "You and the rest of you, Israel, leaders like yourself, by and large don't believe." Now something else I want you to follow. Look at verse 10 and 11 and 12. Notice in verse 10 the phrase, "[You] do not know." See that? In verse 11, "You do not receive." In verse 12, "You do not believe." Nicodemus didn't know because Nicodemus didn't receive because Nicodemus didn't believe. Now listen carefully. There's an important truth. This is pregnant with this truth. Unbelief is what causes ignorance. You say, "Well I don't know if I think that. I think that ignorance causes unbelief." Nope. It's unbelief that causes ignorance. You see, the gospel is simple. The gospel is so simple even I understand it. The gospel is so simple a five-year-old can get it. I've seen little kids here at church tell me what they learned in Sunday school and think, "They have a grasp of the gospel." It's so easy to understand. But when a person says, "I just can't understand," often what you find is it's because they don't believe it. And if you probe a little deeper, it's because they won't believe it. They refuse to believe it. You'll see why in a couple of verses.
Again, here's Nicodemus. He's thinking, "Man, this whole born again thing, starting all over again. I don't get it. Forget that---it's too hard!" Because he's on earth; he's been trying to get into the kingdom from down here. It will never work. I heard an example and it was so good I wanted to use it. Let's say you had a pet fish and you would keep the fish in an aquarium where there's water. One day you decided, "I'd like to take my pet fish for a walk." So you take the fish out of the aquarium, you strap it to a skateboard, and you get a little leash and you walk the neighborhood and you want to walk your fish. Well somebody should tell you, eventually, that that fish can't breathe air. That fish requires a different system to breathe---that's water. Well Nicodemus has the wrong system. He's been trying to breathe kingdom air from down on earth. When Jesus said, "You've got to be born again," the kingdom from heaven comes to the earth and is operational because Jesus Himself will go to the cross and you must believe, engage by belief.
Believe what? See, a lot of people say, "I believe. I've always believed." Believed what? Believed that Jesus existed and hung out with twelve dudes? Believed He was a good guy who taught a few good things and gave a nice example? No. It says, "Believe in Him." That's very different from chapter two, verse 23, remember that? Where many people in Jerusalem believed in His name when they saw His miracles and Jesus wouldn't commit Himself to them. He knew what was in their hearts. They believed He was a healer; they didn't want Him as a Savior. There's a big difference between acknowledging and receiving. "As many as received Him, He gave the power to become children of God." William Barkley put it this way, that "faith is the clutching intensity of a drowning man." Isn't that great? Picture the guy in the quicksand. He's drowning and when Jesus put His hand out, he grabbed it and Jesus pulled him up. Believe.
It takes us to the fourth and final, we'll debrief on this, I'm calling it the remorse of new life which is judgment. Verse 18: "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation." This is powerful. Here it is; here's the reason. This is the condemnation: "That the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." Here's the great remorse of new life. The great remorse of new life is that not everyone will enjoy it because not everyone will believe it. And thus, will incur judgment. It's interesting that Jesus doesn't say, "One day they will be judged at the great white throne." That will happen. But He says, "They're condemned already." Now that's interesting because the great white throne judgment for unbelievers won't happen for a long time. End of the millennium. So what does He mean that they're condemned already? The sentence will happen at the great white throne. The trial is now. The trial is now. The choice that we make now determines what will happen then. That's what this is about. It's like the guy who went to the Louvre, that little museum in Paris. They have a couple good pictures. Mona Lisa is one of them by DaVinci and a few other greats. He walked in, he didn't quite get art and he's looking around at it. He walks out of the museum, chewing his gum, and he says to the curator, "I didn't get much out of it. I'm not into all your pictures." The curator smiled and said, "That's ok. The art isn't on trial---you are." It doesn't matter what you think of them---the greats will still be the greats---but it tells a lot about who you are with that statement. So Jesus isn't on trial. "Well, you know, I've always thought Jesus---" So? Your thoughts won't diminish who He is. He's not on trial---we are. We are.
Verse 19 is powerful: "And here's the condemnation, light has come into the world." That's Christ and the truth that He brought, this message, the gospel. "And men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." A lot of people will say, "Well, you know, people don't believe in Jesus Christ because they don't understand." Wrong. People won't believe in Jesus Christ because they love their sin. I don't know how to say it any delicately or more so than that. That's just the truth. They won't come because they love their sin and, like bugs scurry under a rock when you turn on the light, any kind of light, they will flee from it, they'll walk away from it. Men loved, they loved, their darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
Verse 21 is the last verse. We haven't addressed it yet. So we'll end here. I think it's the best part; it's an invitation really, I think to Nicodemus, but in contrast to that. "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." I think that this is an invitation directed toward Nicodemus. As if to say, "Nicodemus, do the right thing. Step out of the shadows. Step out of your darkness. Step into the light." It's the truest thing you could ever do. I want to close with someone who wrote a great little story. He articulated it much better than I ever could so I'll use his words: "Long ago, or maybe not so long ago, there was a tribe in a dark, cold cavern. They cave dwellers would huddle together and cry against the chill. Loud and long, they waited. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the caves were mournful but the people didn't know it for they had never known joy. The spirit in the cave was death but the people didn't know it for they had never known life. But then one day they heard a different voice. 'I have heard your cries,' it announced. 'I have felt your chill and seen your darkness. I have come to help.' The cave people grew quiet. They had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange to their ears. 'How can we know you've come to help?' 'Trust me,' he said. 'I have what you need.' The cave people peered through the darkness at the figure of the stranger. He was stacking something and then stooping and stacking more. 'What are you doing?' one cried nervously. The stranger didn't answer. 'What are you making?' one shouted even louder. Still no response. 'Tell us,' demanded a third. The visitor stood and spoke in the direction of the voices, 'I have what you need.' With that, he turned to the pile at his feet and lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern. The cave people turned away in fear. 'Put it out!' they cried. 'It hurts to see it.' Light always hurts before it helps, he answered. Step closer, the pain will soon pass.' 'Not I,' declared a voice. 'Nor I,' agreed a second. 'Only a fool would risk exposing his eyes to such a light.' The stranger stood next to the fire. 'Would you prefer the darkness?' he asked. 'Would you prefer the cold? Don't consult your fears. Take a step of faith.' For a long time, no one spoke. The people hovered in groups, covering their eyes. The fire builder stood next to the fire. 'It's warm here,' he invited. 'He's right,' one from behind him announced. 'It is warmer.' The stranger turned and saw a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. 'I can open my eyes now,' she proclaimed. 'I can see!' 'Come closer,' invited the fire builder. She did. She stepped into the ring of light. 'It's so warm,' she extended her hands and sighed as the chill began to pass. 'Come, everyone, feel the warmth,' she invited. 'Silence, woman!' cried one of the cave dwellers. 'Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us! Leave us and take your light with you!' She turned to the stranger. 'Why won't they come?' He said, 'They choose the chill for though it's cold, it's what they know. They'd rather be cold than change.' 'And live in the dark?' she asked. 'Yes,' he said. 'And live in the dark.' The now warmed woman stood silent looking first at the dark and then at the man. 'Will you leave the fire?' he asked. She paused and she answered, 'I cannot. I cannot bear the cold.' But then she spoke again, 'But nor can I bear the thought of my people in darkness.' 'You don't have to,' he responded. Reaching into the fire and removing a stick, 'Carry this to your people. Tell them the light is here and tell them the light is warm. Tell them the light is for all who desire it.' And she took the small flame and stepped into the shadows."
That's what Jesus did. Leaving the glory and the light of heaven to this dark earth to bring light. But men loved darkness rather than light. I just wonder this morning if some of you have gotten close enough to the light to feel its warmth and its power, but not stepped in to get yourself really, really warmed by it. And I just wonder if some of you who have been very good and well-meaning and religious and sincere, whatever the case might fit, but you are not born again. Your life has not been entrusted to the Lord. You haven't personally invited Him as Savior, as Master. It feels so good over here. Take that step.
Our Father, as we close this morning, with that little story in mind, moreover the great and grand story that preceded it, of Jesus Himself telling a man with questions who was religious how to get into the kingdom, a man who struggled because he could not breathe kingdom air by trying with his own works and legal system from earth. And so, now we know how these things can be. It must be brought to earth from heaven and it was. Death must occur, and it did in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. But faith must engage that process. There must be a commitment. And whoever does will not be condemned. And whoever doesn't is already there, living in shadow land. I pray that some would step out of the shadows today and into life. As our heads are bowed, as we're praying, as we're thinking about this, if today, you are one that I described, you're not following Christ, you haven't been born again, you haven't experienced that new life that comes from new birth, that comes by an act of your engaging with sovereign God by faith, but today you want to believe, you want to step into the light, you want the past to be gone and a new start, a brand new start to be yours. If that describes you, whether it's the first time or it's a recommitment to Christ, I don't know who you are, I just want you to be sure. If that's what you want to do, I want you to raise your hand up in the air as we're praying, just so I can see your hand. I'm going to pray for you as we close. In raising your hand, like the man drowning, you're saying, "I need God to save me. I'm going to give my life to Christ." God bless you, I see your hand, right up toward the middle, and on the left, and in the back toward the middle, and on my right, and again on my right further over. Anybody else? Raise it up high. God bless you, couple of you in the back, and in the front, couple of you. Anybody up there in the balcony? Just slip your hand up. Right on, I see it. Right over here. Lord, I pray, we pray, for these, what a joy to do so! We pray, Father, that that raised hand would translate into a commitment of the life, a faith that would take the step, life change would occur, joy would be the byproduct. We pray, Lord, that You would do that wonderful work of changing from the inside out. It can only be described by that wonderful term, "born again." In Jesus' name, amen.