And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. Luke 22:31-34 KJV
To be converted is to revert back or turn back to the Lord. There are two kinds of conversions: (1) In the case of a sinner, he or she turns to the Lord in godly sorrow; it is called repentance; and, (2) With respect to a believer, a believer returns to the Lord after straying away or backsliding; it is called restoration. And, as a believer in Jesus Christ, the Satan wants to crush you as a grain of wheat and destroy your faith in God. The good news is: if your faith should ever falter, God won’t let it fail.
Like he did with Job (Job 1:6-12), Satan desired permission to sift and shake Simon Peter like wheat in a sieve, metaphorically, thus destroying him in an overall strategy to destroy the rest of Jesus’ disciples because Peter was regarded as the “rock.” And, if this rock were to fail, then surely the rest of the disciples would have fallen in their faith in Jesus, as well. Like in Peter, Satan hopes to find that your faith is nothing more than chaff, dirt or dust that he can blow away.
Notice carefully that Jesus didn’t pray for Peter not to fail, but He prayed that his faith failed not. Jesus knew all along that Peter would become weak and cowardly after His arrest. But He prayed for his faith not to fail. Even today, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father on high making intercession for you that your faith will never fail (Heb. 7:25). It isn’t the test or trial that will destroy you; it is a lost of your faith in God during, through and after the test and trial (Jas. 1:2-4).
Peter had a false sense of his true strength even though he said that he was ready to go to jail and even die for Jesus. But on the same day, three times he denied that he even knew Christ. Jesus prayed not against Peter’s denials, but rather for his faith to remain even when he became fearful and afraid. God knows exactly where you are spiritually, and He knows exactly what’s in your heart—even when you don’t really know, as Jesus knew about Peter. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12), and “if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3). After the test or trial, let your faith in God cause you to return back to Him again, and when you’re converted strengthen your brother!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” 1 Peter 1:3 NKJV
Jesus told a group of religious leaders, who sought to kill Him, that searching the Scriptures for eternal life, apart from coming to the Author of the Scriptures (Jesus) would be futile (John 5:39, 40). You don’t find life in the dead letter of the Scriptures: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). So, before you come to the Scriptures, you need to first come to the Author of the Scriptures and acknowledge that Jesus died and rose again for you to be a son of God (Rom. 8:17), and God as revealed in Christ is the only place where you’ll find life (John 10:10; 14:6). It is your birthright to know and experience and live out this truth that you are born again to a living hope.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). To be born again to a living hope is not just an improvement of your old self–—it is a transformation of your life. You see, the Gospel teaches replacement, i.e., a shift to a new identity. You become a new creation who is capable of doing new, different, and better things; and, you find that new person only in Christ Jesus.
In order to become a new creature, you must be willing to die to your present identity. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Thus, you must die to your old identity and be resurrected to a new identity. You are born again to a “living hope” by the incorruptible Word of God (1 Peter 1:23). The incorruptible Word helps you to release the old identity and be born again. Being born again produces in you a living hope—a hope that is alive—alive with God’s life—a hope that sees all things working together for your good.
As the Apostle Peter stated in the above text, being born again imparts hope for this present dimension here on earth (John 3:3, 5, 12). You’re born again not to go to heaven, but to a living hope—a hope to live by here on earth. Your hope is based on that which was always so in the kingdom of heaven, which can now be manifested in the earthly realm of your experience (Matt. 6:10). A living hope is for now—not for heaven (Ps. 27:13). You are born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” . . . 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? John 3:5-9, 12 NKJV
The born-again experience must be understood according to the revelation of Jesus and not according to the custodians of religious church tradition. According to Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit in the rebirth is like the wind—it’s incomprehensible!
Wind is a movement of air; wind is breath; and, wind is a prevailing force or influence, e.g., “the winds of change.” Metaphorically, as the wind blows, you can experience significant change in your life. Jesus used the illustration of wind to help Nicodemus understand the dynamics of being born again (Text, verse 8)… The new birth is like wind that blows. As the wind blows, it blows where it wishes; you can hear the sound of it, but you cannot tell where it came or where it is going, so is everyone born of the Spirit.
Wind cannot be seen, but its power and work can be seen. The word, “wind” (pneuma) signifies the breath of life. There is life in the breath of God, i.e., the same breath of life that made man a living soul, and the same breath that Jesus breathed into His disciples ( See Gen. 2:7; John 20:22). The wind blows here on earth, not in heaven (Text, verse 12). The new birth is not about heaven (Jn. 3:3, 5; Matt. 6:10). The new birth is for living in the kingdom of God here on earth (Matt. 5:5; Ps. 115:16). As the wind blows, your experience will be that the new birth is not an evolution; it is a revolution!
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:3-5 NKJV
And 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:14-17 NKJV
Spiritually speaking, there are four categories of people: the unsaved, the religious, the saved, and the saved that have been born-again. Jesus seemed to have made this distinction in His discourse with Nicodemus when He referenced Moses and the children of Israel: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life (Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:14-15). It is important to note that every Israelite who had been bitten by a fiery serpent lived if they looked upon the brass serpent on the pole that Moses erected. In the same way every unsaved person who believes in Jesus Christ is promised everlasting life—not necessarily a spiritual conversion, nor a rebirth in this present life. So, this truth begs the question: is salvation enough?
When the Light comes on, you’ll see that there a difference between salvation and the new birth. Romans 10:9-10 teaches that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The operative elements for salvation are belief in and confession of Jesus Christ as Savior. But on the other hand, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). To be “in Christ” isn’t just a promise of everlasting life but it is also a reflection of position of one’s present life. Jesus promised that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The salvation promise is like a “fire insurance policy” at death but the new birth—being a regenerated procreation in Christ—is an empowerment for living life more abundantly (John 10:10). The new birth isn’t preparation to die, but rather preparation to live! (John 3:12).
Salvation by its very definition is a deliverance from the penalty of eternal death and ruination. The Greek word in the New Testament for salvation is sozo which means deliverance, healing, safety, preservation, and wholeness. But contrasted with the new birth, according to Jesus, being born-again is regeneration. In this experience of regeneration ones see the Kingdom of God and enter into the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). To be born-again is to be spiritually procreated, conceived and regenerated of the Father who is the only One who can bring forth and impart new life. Salvation is a wonderful promise against death, hell, and eternal damnation but it will never be enough for the truly hungry.
Salvation is progressive but the new birth springs forth as you grow in grace of God’s Word. For example, salvation can be worked out—not worked for—with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12; Ephesians 2:8). Apostle Paul prayed for the Galatians Christians that Christ be progressively formed in them (Galatians 4:19). But on the other hand, the new birth is like seeing the light come on in a dark room even though you already feel safe and secure. This experience transcends a belief in Christ’s death on the cross only. So, when the Light comes on in your life, you’ll see that God offers so much more for the truly hungry.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” … “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God . . . And 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. John 3:3, 5, 14, 15 NKJV
When Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so that all who looked upon the brazen fiery serpent would live and not die from the bites of the fiery serpents (Numbers 21:5-9; John 12:32), this was a prefigure of Jesus hanging on the cross to die for the sins of the world (John 3:16, 17). Salvation by its very definition is deliverance from the penalty of eternal death and ruination. The Greek words for the noun “salvation” (soteria) and the verb “saved” (sozo) both mean deliverance, healing, safety, preservation, rescue, and wholeness; but, salvation is not the new birth and the new birth is more than salvation.
How so? Again, salvation is deliverance by definition; the new birth is regeneration. Salvation involves confession and belief (Rom. 10:9, 10); but the new birth is seeing and entering the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). Salvation is one’s a legal position as a new creation in this present world, where all things are potentially of God (2 Cor. 5:17-18), with the assurance of everlasting life.
The new birth happens as a result of the Word of God being born (gennao, Greek word) in your spirit. The Word procreates, conceives, brings forth and impart life, regenerated of the Father (1 Peter 1:23). Being born again transcends religion or a mere confession of salvation. The unsaved and the religious may both, in various degrees, be spiritually blind to this truth; the saved has been delivered from darkness, and reborn sees the light of the kingdom and enters into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:12-14).
The Scriptures are clear that salvation is progressive, but the new birth springs forth—much like the exact time a baby is born—on or before, or after the anticipated due date; only God knows the exact time. But on the other hand, salvation is worked out, not worked for, but put into practice (Phil 2:12; Eph. 2:8). Moreover, salvation is progressively formed (morphoo, Greek word). Apostle Paul labored with “birth pains” metaphorically, praying for the believers of Galatia until Christ was formed or reborn in them. The Scriptures shows that the new birth is more than salvation!
And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. Numbers 21:5-9 NKJV
The above text recounts a significant part of Israel’s journey in the wilderness, after leaving Egypt, headed to the Promise Land. The trek had become hard, long and difficult, causing the Israelites to become discouraged and weary. The Israelites, like many people today, choose to complain and assign blame to God and others when faced with these and similar circumstances—rather than put their trust in God. Many Israelites died after being bitten by the poisonous snakes.
When Moses prayed, God instructed him to make a serpent of brass and erect it on a pole, which prefigured and foreshadowed Jesus hanging on the Cross (John 3:14, 15). Every Israelite who had been bitten by a fiery serpent lived if they looked upon the brass serpent (Heb. 12:2). In the same way, every unsaved person who believes in Jesus Christ is promised everlasting life—not necessarily a spiritual conversion, nor a rebirth—but “everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s proposition to the sinful Israelites was: “look and live.”
The serpents were a type of sin; the brass was a type of judgment, as in the case of the Cross upon which Jesus Christ offered Himself much like the elevated brass altar in the Tabernacle of Moses (Ex. 27:1, 2. This brass serpent was a picture of sin judged and punished, and whoever looked at this serpent lived and not died. This is also a wonderful picture of Christ who bore our sins, and of the judgment of God against sin. Now anyone who “believes” on the Son of God and look to Him shall be saved (John 3:16, 17). This is not the new birth—it is salvation. Look and live!
“. . .And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins . . .” Luke 1:76, 77 NKJV
The priest, Zacharias whose wife, Elizabeth, was barren, but God heard their prayer and sent the angel Gabriel to announce the birth of John the Baptist. But Zacharias doubted and was struck dumb and mute, in his unbelief, because he and Elizabeth were too advanced in age to give birth to a child. But in the proper season of time, John was born and at John’s circumcision, Zacharias obeys the angel Gabriel and names the child “John.” Unbelief had closed the lips of Zacharias, now his faithful obedience opened them; then, he begun to prophesy about John’s ministry as a forerunner of Jesus: “to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins” (text, verse 77).
What is the knowledge of salvation? To adequately answer this question, you must go back to the Garden of Eden where man first sinned. The fall of man was about the knowledge of good and evil; the salvation of man is about the knowledge of God (Gen. 2:16, 17). God’s people widely understand how to get saved (Rom. 10:9, 10), but many lack the knowledge of salvation; as a result, the enemy destroys you for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge and “[t]he fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). The knowledge of salvation, spiritually speaking, is like understanding the “ABCs” of the alphabet. For example, the knowledge of salvation is:
A—The remission of sins which is total forgiveness and God totally forgetting your sins ( Matt. 26:27, 28). The remission of sins is not being on spiritual probation, if you will, where if you ever commit another sin, God places in the “jail of hell.”
B—Salvation is always now—here and now! (2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 4:7; Rev. 12:10).
C—The Gospel is God’s ordained method of bringing all who believe into His salvation. There is no other path; no other way. The Gospel is the strait-gate that you must enter (Matt.7:13).
D—Salvation has three tenses: Past, Present, and Future: Past—believers have been saved from guilt and the penalty of sin (Luke 7:36-50); Present—believers are saved daily from the power of sin in their lives (Rom. 6:14); Future—believers will be saved from the presence of sin in their nature (1 John 3:2).
E—Salvation is eternal—yes, everlasting life is everlasting. Once saved always saved as long as you decided to be saved (Heb. 5:9; 10:14). This is the knowledge of salvation, the ABCs of salvation!
So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore . . . Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Exodus 14:30-15:1-2 NKJV
The song that Moses and the children of Israel sang is undoubtedly the oldest recorded song in the world. It was a festive song celebrating God’s victory over Pharaoh. After having been saved and delivered from the bondage of Egypt, Israel lifted their voices loud—with great joy—to celebrate being saved and delivered.
What God did for Israel is a picture and a parallel of what it means to be saved and delivered in Christ Jesus. When God saves and delivers, He delivers you from something to something. And, between the “from and to”, He carries you through. Just like He did for Israel: God saved and delivered Israel from the bondage, degradation, and destitute of slavery by destroying Pharaoh and his army; then God led them Israel through a wilderness onto the Promise Land.
The words for salvation in the Old Testament (yeshuwah) and the New Testament (soteria) are parallel in their definitions. Both of these words mean to save, to deliver, to rescue victory, prosperity, and safety. When God saves and deliver, He becomes your Source—an overflowing fountain (John 4:14; 7:37-38). And, when God saves and delivers, He changes your life for the better. No longer are you in a spiritually dark “Egypt” forced to make bricks with out straw, but rather, you are brought to a “well of salvation” where you can draw from the living waters that never run dry (Isa. 12:3).
Also, when you’re saved and delivered, your life changes, and that positive change convinces people of Christ’s power. Your greatest testimony is not the one you may give at church, but it is the difference others see in your life since your salvation (Acts 4:12, 13). Salvation and deliverance is a significant change and transition in your life which consist of: (1) God’s qualification of you; (2) God’s deliverance of you from evil; (3) God’s rescue of you from darkness to His kingdom in light; (4) God’s redemption of you; and most importantly, (5) God’s forgiveness of your sins (Col. 1:12-14).
The above song that Moses and the children of Israel sang was a proclamation of God great salvation and deliverance: “the Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him”!
So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. 2 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord . . . And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel . . . On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord . . . Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. 1 Chronicles 16:1, 4, 7, 23 NKJV
What is salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What is the essence of true salvation? To celebrate the return of the Ark to God to Jerusalem, David first composed a Song of Thanksgiving and gave it to his chief musician to be used in worship to celebrate and show forth God’s salvation. The Ark had provided Israel great salvation and deliverance in battle against their enemies, David enjoined Israel to celebrate their great salvation. For New Covenant believers, salvation is a proclamation and celebration of new life and liberty in Christ Jesus.
Salvation is not joining the church, church attendance, giving tithes and offerings, nor water baptism. To conflate these things with salvation, borders on idolatry (Ex. 20:3). Then what does it mean to be saved? It is simply: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10). The definition of noun “salvation” and the verbs “save” and “saved” all include deliverance, to revive, to live, and safety (Strong). All these are reasons to celebrate.
Take Noah and his family. During the great flood, they experienced deliverance, revival, new life, and safety. Noah found grace in the eyes of the lord (Gen. 6:8), and by faith, God warned him of things not yet seen, and being moved with godly fear, he prepared an Ark for the salvation of himself and his family (Heb. 11:7). Just like God did for Noah, He delivers you from something to something. And, between the “from and to”, He carries you through as He carried Noah through the flood.
The Ark of God is symbolic of God’s presence and power (Ps. 16:11). God’s presence saves you from the power of sin, the presence of sin, and the penalty of sin (Rom. 6:23). The Ark in your life now becomes a place of the King; a place of revelation; a place worship; and, a place of mercy (Heb. 4:16). Salvation is a celebration that the “Ark of God” has come to you!
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14 KJV
Many people are resigned to live with a physical infirmity and never seek God’s healing or medical care. There are also many people wounded in their spirit, who never seek help or healing. They just walk around wounded—knowingly or unknowingly— inflicting pain upon others. But this begs the question: what is the motive of the wounded?
Well, as a case study, let’s take a closer look at Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve men chosen by Jesus to be an apostle. Judas betrayed and double-crossed the Lord. So, what was Judas’ motive when he betrayed Jesus? How can such disloyalty and unfaithfulness be explained? I believe that Judas was a painfully wounded man, and wounded people are motivated out their own pain to injure others.
At some point in Jesus ministry, the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Him (John 13:2). Wounded people are targets of demonic suggestion and direction in their unhealed state of being —not able to victoriously resist the devil. As a result of little or no resistance, the devil, through one’s pain, will motivate them to injure others. Like many wounded spirits, Judas was wounded without showing any visible signs of his pain John 13:22). None of the other disciples of Jesus suspected Judas to be the betrayer. Yet, days earlier, he went to the Chief Priest and offered to deliver Jesus; he entered a covenant with them for thirty pieces of silver; and, then sought an opportunity to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16). How could this be? Judas was a wound soul acting out of his pain.
People who are motivated to inflict wounds on another are often wounded in some way, themselves. They are the “walking wounded.” But what was Judas’ specific motivation? Greed—the love of money! Like Judas, wounded people in some way have unmet needs, unresolved issues, and unhealed hurts. Satan will always motivate someone close to you or in relationship with you to wound you, as he did with Judas’ double-crossing Jesus.
The world and the Church are filled with wounded spirits. So, how should Christian brothers and sisters respond to the “walking wounded” who wittingly or unwittingly inflict pain and trespass against them? Both Jesus and Apostle Paul taught believers to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Matt. 5:11; Rom. 12:14). Paul further taught us saying, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge . . . It is [God’s] to avenge . . . In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).
To “heap burning coals of fire” does not refer to a type of revenge. It is believed to refer to an Egyptian tradition of carrying a pan of burning charcoal on one’s head as a public act of repentance. Regardless of the motivation, you make the wounded ashamed of their hostility by surprising them with undeserved kindness. “The best revenge is not to be like your enemy . . . [but] to be unlike him who performed the injury” (Marcus Aurelius). So, overcome the wounded spirit with acts of love and kindness!