Pastor Terry Goerz
High Prairie Redeemer Lutheran Church
“Why do I need to be saved?” is a natural question for anyone not involved in Christianity.
Even many Christians cannot fully explain why everyone needs to be saved. Most understand that the problem is sin, but it is much deeper than just sin. Sin is only a symptom of the real problem. The following should give you a clear understanding of the problem all men face related to their eternal destiny. Along the way you will also come to understand what the term “born again” means.
Following is a dialogue between Jesus and a person who would have been meticulous in his efforts to keep the commandments.
John 3:1-7 – Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”
As a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus would have been an Old Testament scholar. Jesus expected him to understand.
For us to understand we must also turn to the Old Testament, to the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were created God gave them a command; that they were free to eat from any tree, but they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because when they ate of it they would surely die.
Well, we all know the story, Satan deceived them and they ate.
But they did not die when they ate; rather they continued living for many centuries before dying.
But they immediately changed. They realized they were naked, they were scared of God, whom they had fellowshipped with in the garden, and hid from God. When confronted with their disobedience they failed to accept responsibility for their disobedience, blaming others. Adam even implied that God should share some of the blame for his disobedience with his words, “The woman you put here with me” gave me the fruit I ate.”
These changes were symptoms of the death God spoke of. Man was created in the image of God as a spiritual being. A combination of flesh and blood and a spirit. An order of creation above animals, not evolved from them.
Both the spiritual part and the flesh and blood part of Adam were in the image of God. Spiritual death is spiritual separation from God. In this condition a man is no longer spiritually in the image of God.
Beyond doubt God does not lie. Nor does he make false threats.
Man died a spiritual death in the garden. When Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again before he could enter the Kingdom of God, He was implying that he was spiritually dead, and telling him that what happened in the garden had to be undone. He had to be born again spiritually, that is, he had to be spiritually reconnected to God.
This spiritual death brought evil and sin into the life of Adam and Eve. Once no longer in the image of God, they became naturally inclined to sin – having a sinful nature. This spiritual death or separation from God fundamentally changed man’s relationship with God.
People who are not born again are described in scripture as alienated enemies of God. And the loss of the image of God, and resulting sinful nature is not something that happens to us after we sin. Rather, it is a condition we are born with.
King David says he was born with this sinful condition in Psalm 51:5 – Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Martin Luther called this sinful nature we are born with original sin.
To illustrate the sinful nature we are born with let me tell you a story that any parent can relate to. A mother is at home with her toddler son [Johnny] who is just learning to speak. She has a nice large potted plant in the living room next to the window. This plant is an attraction to Johnny, and she has had to scold him a few times for playing in the dirt in the pot. While she is doing dishes in the kitchen Johnny plays in the dirt in the pot, spreading it around on the carpet. He then goes to the couch across the room leaving a trail of dirt and crawls onto the couch with his very dirty hands. Mom comes in to check on him. Although the situation is obvious she asks in frustration, “Johnny, have you been playing in the dirt!”
“No, mommy,” Johnny replies innocently.
“How did you get the dirt on your hands,” mom asks?
Looking at his dirt cover hands Johnny replies, “I don’t know, mommy.”
So ask yourself, who taught Johnny how to lie?
We are all born with a natural inclination to sin – a symptom of being spiritually dead.
Jesus told Nicodemos that despite the fact he was a member of God’s chosen people, [he was a Jew] and despite the fact that in that society he would be considered as righteous among the righteous [he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin], he still had a problem that prevented him from understanding or entering the kingdom of God [Christianity]. That problem faces every human being who ever lived on the face of the earth. So all of mankind must be saved because we are all born “spiritually dead”. Unless this condition is reversed we will remain alienated enemies of God and objects of his wrath.
For some, in this life, that may not seem to be of much importance. However, when one considers we are all spiritual beings with an eternal existence it becomes very important.
There is no “neutral position” in your relationship with God. Non-Christians have no hope of eternal life with God and are destined for eternal separation from God in a place of torment called hell or the Lake of Fire. Jesus called it a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy”, has provided the means by which we are born again and inherit eternal life through faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We access this grace of God when we are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit.
Read again what Jesus said to Nicodemus. “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
It is from God alone that we receive the Holy Spirit so we should also understand that there are not various routes to salvation and eternal life. It is only available through Jesus Christ.
Acts 4:10a and 12 – “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”