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Daily Devotion for January 1, 2011
New Year's Day — Eighth Day of Christmas
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
John 3:1-8 (New Living Translation)
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’
The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
Notes on the Scripture
The phrase "born again Christians" have a negative connotation to many people, both among believers and among nonbelievers. When they hear the word, people picture Jerry Falwell and raucous pentecostal services where people may speak in tongues. More mainstream or Catholic/Orthodox worshippers even use the rather silly term "snake handlers" as a disparaging reference to the public, uninhibited type of worship they associate with the term "born again".
Getting to the truth of the matter — meaning, as always, reading what the Bible actually says — we discover that the author of the term is Christ Himself. Not only does he tell us to be born again, but also, he unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What does He mean by this?
He tells us in the next verse: being born again means being born "of the water and the Spirit". Some denominations consider baptism to be a sacrament; that is, the actual act of baptism confers Christ's grace upon the recipient. Many others do not believe the act of baptism is sacramental, but rather an act that outwardly demonstrates a rebirth in the Spirit that has already occurred in the believers' heart. Wars have been fought and people have died over this issue!
Christ himself, however, said that we do not understand rebirth in the Spirit. He said, "Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit." Since Christ personally told us that we cannot explain it, I listen to explanations and arguments with a little smile inside. If Christ could not explain it, how can we?
The main point is this. Since we do not and cannot explain it, we should not be critical of others' beliefs in how to accomplish it. Paul commanded all those who believe in Christ to set aside their differences and love one another like brothers. We should not compare others' outsides to our own insides. If you are a Christian, you are a born again Christian. Christ's grace extends to all who believe in Him, who confess Him, and are born again of water and the spirit. That's the Gospel truth.
This is the start of a new calendar year, a time when rebirth is especially appropriate to consider. A very happy and successful New Year to you and yours; I hope your New Years' resolutions will include some aspect of your spiritual life.