We live in an age where most people think they are going to heaven – and I am not just talking about church people – although they are certainly a part of this conversation. I am talking about most Americans, even if they have little, if any, church, or knowledge of the Bible. I’ve met many people over the years that are confident they will go to heaven when they die, and yet, they are not the least bit interested in anything spiritual.

Recently, I read about a Hollywood personality who had just lost her son. From what she shared about him, I doubt if he knew anything about Jesus, other than His Name being used as a swear word. It is always sad to hear of anyone losing child, and of course, that happens every day. But what struck me the most was her assurance that her son was now looking down from heaven. Her story is not unusual. Not a single word was ever mentioned about Jesus, God, or any religious affiliation. Most people assume that everyone will go to heaven when they die, especially here in America. After all, we are a Christian nation – right? Not really. People can be Christians, but there is no such thing as a Christian nation – even though ours was founded upon Biblical principles.

Somehow, we have come to believe that heaven is the default for all Americans when they leave this life! I’ve yet to attend a funeral where we aren’t told the deceased is not now in heaven; it seems to be a given. It doesn’t matter how good or bad that person was. None of that really seemed to smatter. When you die, you go to heaven – or so many have been led to believe. How did we ever arrive at this way of thinking? It certainly does not come from the Bible!

I recently read an article from a pastor who had a shocking wake-up about salvation. He had pastored a church for several years and led many people to the Lord. Then, he moved to another state to begin a church and found himself struggling in finding any success in ministry. He wasn’t sure if the devil had arrayed an army against him or if God was trying to get his attention. So, he prayed and asked his wife to pray for him. A short time later, he had a dream that he referred to it as a nightmare. In the dream, he was standing at the Judgment Seat of God, along with rows of other pastors. They were all standing in front of Jesus and facing a huge crowd of people. As he looked out at the crowd, he recognized people he had led to the Lord. However, they did not seem to be very happy. It was then that he realized that the gates of hell were about to opened, and many he thought he had led to Christ were entering those gates. It was then he realized his preaching was more about making people feel good about themselves, than preaching the whole truth of God’s Word.

A shift has happened in the American Church. To fill the pews, we have lowered the standard of the gospel to not offend anyone. Words like ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ are rarely mentioned in many churches today – again, not to cause offense. I recently heard a pastor share how his church experienced phenomenal growth during Covid. While many churches closed their doors during that time, his church remained open. People started to come from other churches, and for many, it was the first time they had heard a message on sin and repentance, including what the Bible actually teaches about being born again. A few months later they baptized over 3,000 people that were “churched,” but never born again.

In John 3:3-5, Jesus told a man named Nicodemus that unless he was born again, he could not see or enter the kingdom of God. Nicodemus was confused by that statement. So in verse 4, 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?” (NKJV) Jesus, however, was not talking about being born again through a natural birth. He was talking about being born of the Spirit. Just as a person must experience natural birth to enter this world, s/he must experience a spiritual birth to enter the kingdom of God. A natural birth produces natural life; a spiritual birth produces spiritual life. That sort of makes sense, but how does it happen?

Jesus continued in His conversation with Nicodemus to describe how being born again as like a mystery. He explained that it is like the wind that blows where it wishes. We may be able to hear it and even feel it, yet not know where it comes from or where it goes. And so, it is when a person is born again. It can happen in a moment of time, anywhere, any place. It has to do with the Spirit (or breath) of God blowing upon the human soul. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.” (NLT)

This was true with Jesus’ own disciples as well. They had walked with Him for three years, but it was not until He breathed on them, recorded in John 20:22b, that they received the Holy Spirit “…He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” In a moment of time they came alive! The Holy Spirit ignited their human spirit, and they were born again. That same thing still happens today. When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit awakens the spirit in that person and comes to dwell within. There is a stirring in the soul, an awakening, as we step into a new realm of life.

Some people know the moment they are born again, but for others, not so much. With some, awareness of the experience may seem more gradual, over time. It may take days or weeks before a change of heart begins to stir within. In other cases, it can be immediate. That was true for me. In a moment of time, the Holy Spirit blew upon my heart, and I was born again. Whatever the case…when a person is born again a new creation is born within. Suddenly, there is a hunger to know God and to learn about Him…to read the Bible and pray. It is like falling in love; you want to be with that person as much as possible!

That describes what God does, but what about our part? Is there something we must do to receive the gift of eternal life? Absolutely! We must “believe!” That may sound so simple – and it is. If you continue reading John 3, you will come to the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16: “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.” God so loved the world, and yet the world (the people in the world) will not receive the benefit of His love until they believe in His Son.

We often use the word ‘believe’ in a general sense referring to things we hope will happen. For example, we might say we believe that education will produce success in life, or we believe that politics is the answer for a troubled world. We believe whatever a doctor tells us is true, and that the news media is aways being honest. Sports fans believe their favorite football team will win the Super Bowl this year. Parents believe their kids are more special than other kids. Those are just a few examples of how we use the word believe – but none of these captures the Biblical meaning of the word.

To believe,according to Scripture, means to put your whole life into what (and Who) it is that you believe in – to trust in what you believe with your whole heart. Biblically speaking, salvation is available to those who completely rely upon God’s gift of grace to save them from their sins – and then live like they do! Simply put, believing means to being “ALL IN.”

In the original language, the word, ‘believe’ in John 3:16 is written in the present tense. This means that whoever believes and keeps on believing should not perish but have everlasting life. It is so much more than an intellectual acknowledgment of a set of facts or a momentary acknowledgement of Jesus and what He did for us. We must believe and continue to believe. Basically, Jesus must become the most important person in our life…because He is.

If you have never been born again – or are not sure about whether or not you are really saved – you can have the assurance of eternal life. You can know for certain. Romans 10:13 says, For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And Jeremiah 29:13 declares, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

I know these promises are true because the Word of God declares them so. Also, I have experienced them; they are true for me. On March 14, 1971, I became desperate for God, sought Him with my whole heart – and the next day I experienced His amazing grace! I was born again.

It has been over 53 years since that happened to me, and I can’ t imagine life without Him. Jesus took over my world that day and wrote my name in the His Book of Life. He placed my feet on the narrow path that leads to eternal life, and I have never looked back. He will do the same for you, if you seek Him with your whole heard and surrender your whole life to Him. That’s the assurance of salvation – a promise you can bank on!

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