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GRASPING THE LIFELINE

Lesson 1



Welcome to LifeLine Correspondence!  We are so glad you have chosen to join us in this journey of walking with the Lord Jesus.  What a joy it is to know there are people like you who desire something more.  We believe that as Christians we are not only to experience the new birth but also, we are to grow and develop into His likeness.  We are to experience maturity toward fruitfulness that will not only bring us into a closer relationship with HIM but also spark a hunger and desire in those who do not know Jesus as Savior.  Our lives are active, walking testimonies of the Jesus in us.  To start off this course of study, I want to take you to three words that will serve and follow us all throughout this journey in LifeLine.  Those words are  
BIRTH, GROWTH, and DEVELOPMENT
We all start out with birth.  Would you agree?  After birth we experience growth and then development.  Would you agree with that also?  Of course!  It’s part of the cycle.  It’s just what happens.  As in the physical, so in the spiritual.  No one becomes a Christian unless they experience this spiritual birth.   So, let’s begin and take a look at the first word.   BIRTH.  We find this word in the gospel of John.  Listen to it:
“Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  John 3:3
Do you see the phrase “born again”?  I’m sure that you have heard this many times expressed by people who have come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  They may even use terms or phrases like, “I found the Lord!” or, “I’ve just accepted Christ as Savior!” or maybe even “Guess what, I gave my heart to Jesus!”.  These are expressions used to describe the born-again experience.  But what does it mean to be born again?
I was speaking at a men’s breakfast several years ago in another city.  There were over 100 men in the church fellowship hall.  Men from various denominations; a Superintendent of a school district; mayor of the city; county commissioners; and various business owners and employees.  It was quite a diverse group!  I remember I had a short amount of time to present my devotion to these men.  I realized this may be my only opportunity to present the gospel to them.  Needless to say, I took advantage of this open door staring me in the face at such a time.  I believe in divine appointments, do you?  Well, whether you do or do not, you are actually a part of a “Divine Appointment” as we speak!  This is a divine appointment for both of us.  So, I proceeded to share with the men at the breakfast that it was imperative that we be born again or, as the scripture says, we could not enter the kingdom of God.  We would not be saved.  We could not see heaven.  We would spend eternity in a Christless Hell.  Friends, it is of utmost importance to know not only what the gospel is, but how we can respond to this gospel and make Jesus the Lord and Savior of our lives.
After the men’s breakfast that day, I returned to my church office.  On the following day a dear lady in my church mentioned to me that an 80-year-old man, a life-long Lutheran, had attended the breakfast.  He was her next-door neighbor.  He knocked on her door and mentioned he had just returned from a men’s breakfast and that a preacher was there who talked about being born again.  He said these words to her: “I have been a Lutheran all my life, and today I understood what it means to be born again for the very first time!”  Truly, this is exciting!  It is a wonderful thing to understand what it really means to be born again and to be ready for heaven when you die.  Just like this kind gentleman who had been a Lutheran all his life, you too may have heard about being born again, but have never really understood it.
BORN AGAIN!  What does it mean?
Let’s remind ourselves of the words in John 3,
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?  Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”    John 3:3-7
I want to use an illustration that may help us in our understanding regarding this great truth of Salvation.  Being “Born Again” is an absolute necessity if one is to see Heaven, to experience eternal life.
Let’s begin by reminding ourselves of the scripture in Genesis, the first book in the Bible, in which it states that God said he would make man in His own image.  Yes, this is what the Bible indeed tells us.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”  Genesis 1:26
We are made in the image of God in that He gave us personality.  By personality we mean Intellect, Emotion, and Will.  We have the ability to know, to feel and to choose.  Let me say at this point, that all of us the sum total of the thousands and thousands of decisions we have made in our life.   The scripture goes on and says that God formed man from the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.  Look at the diagram below and follow along with me.
  
First, we see that we have a body.  “God formed man from the dust of the ground…” (Genesis 2:7) Follow the line from the “body” circle to the center of the page.
Secondly, we see our spirit, indicated by the circle on the far right.  “And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” (Genesis 2:7) Follow the line from the “spirit” circle to the center of the page.
Thirdly, we see our soul, indicated by the circle in the center.  “And man became a living soul.”  (Genesis 2:7) Now take those two lines, body, and spirit, and follow them UP through the soul circle.  The soul is the real you!
So, God formed man from the dust of the ground, (Body) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, (Spirit) and man became a living soul.  (Soul) Man became.  BECAME.  We do not have a soul; we ARE a soul.  So, we repeat, the soul is the real you!  Because we are BODY, we are conscious of the world around us.  Because we are SPIRIT, we are God conscious.  Because we are a SOUL, we are self-conscious.  So, the real you, the soul, will never die.  We will all spend eternity somewhere.  There are only two alternatives as to where we will spend “forever” after we die.  It is either Heaven, or Hell.  This is according to the Bible.
“And fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28
And these verses in 1 Peter 1:3-5
“Which according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again (born again) unto a lively hope… to an inheritance incorruptible… reserved in heaven for you.”  1 Peter 1:3-5
Let’s say it again.
BODY:  We can see it, touch it, and know what it is.
SOUL:  The real you.  The seat of the personality.  (Intellect, Emotion, Will)
SPIRIT: That which communicates with God.
Can you see that in the diagram?  Great!  Now, let’s look at the next diagram, much like the first, but moving forward in explanation
We see the same diagram, but the spirit, the part of us that communicates with God, has been, well, darkened, or shaded over and also notice that the communication with the Lord has been broken.  What happened?  In the book of Genesis, the Lord had told Adam:
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”  Genesis 2:17
Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in disobedience, and they suffered the consequences of their actions.  The Bible says their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked, and they hid themselves.  They hid from their Creator.  They didn’t want to be seen by the Lord.  Much like I used to do when as a young boy I would hide from my parents when I had disobeyed them.  Did you ever do that?  Well, Adam and Eve heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.  The Lord called to them and said, “Where are you?”.  
Ok, I have a question.  Did the Lord know where they were?  Yes!  Look at the diagram.  When I was a boy, I used to think when the Lord said, “where are you?” he meant their physical BODY!  But it wasn’t a physical “where are you?”  but rather, a SPIRITUAL “where are you?”.  Does that make sense?  Why, yes, it does.  If God created him, He certainly knew where he was.  But the issue was not a geographical location question.  It was a spiritual communication question.  Something happened that cut off the communication between them and their God.  I like to put it this way:Adam, where are you?  The relationship, the communication line between us has been cut!”  Yes, that is what happened.  So now, the “spirit” circle is shaded, darkened.  The Bible speaks of it in Ephesians chapter 2 as being “dead in trespasses and sin”.  When that communion or communication with God is severed or cut off, there is no real life.  Why?  Because sin has brought this separation.  Sin is the root cause of spiritual death.  The spirit is “dead in trespasses and sin.”  The body is still alive.  See the circles.  The spirit is darkened, meaning it is alienated now from God.  Paul calls it death in Ephesians 2,
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation (behavior) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”  Ephesians 2:2-3
So, this is our condition as human beings when we are born.  Dead in trespasses and sin, alienation from God.  Sin has caused this universal condition of man.  Listen to it:
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

“For by one man sin came into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.”  Romans 5:12
So, we are all in this condition for we all share in the consequences of Adam’s sin.  Six months after my wife and I were married, we had suffered a terrible car accident.  We had only been married a short time and of course, had no children at the time.  By God’s grace and intercessory prayer by someone on our behalf, our lives were spared.  Praise the Lord.  But it occurred to me years later, that if we had perished in that accident, our children (which were not even thought of at that time) would have also perished, since they were “in our bodies” or “in our loins” as they say.  Listen to the scripture in Romans 5.
“Therefore, by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation…”  Romans 5:18
So, the bottom line is that we are all in this condition when we are born.  None of us are born Christians.  This being the case, the “real you” (see diagram below) begins to live or express itself out through the body.  Look at it.
This is how life is.  It’s a pleasing of the flesh.  We follow the appetites of the body.  If it feels good, do it.  It is a saturation of pleasure.  Our lives are LIVED OUT THROUGH THE BODY.  We are described by Paul the apostle in this way:
“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation (behavior) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”  Ephesians 2:2-3
So, it is clear.  The result of this kind of life we all share is that we come to find that life lived in this sinful capacity has no meaning, or fulfillment.  We have no purpose in life.  We wonder why we are here on this earth.  There is an emptiness on the inside that we cannot fill.  It’s like a void or a chasm that seems like a bottomless pit.  It just keeps going and going and we never seem to be able to quench the thirsting of our soul.  We find no rest!  We cannot climb out of this miry pit of sin that has us in its grip; this “slough of despond”, as John Bunyan calls it.  Our lives are spent in endless activity in an attempt to bring joy, happiness and meaning to our lives.  Some try to find happiness in drugs, or alcohol, or sex, or working endless hours making money to fill the void.  I remember when I was a young boy growing up in a small town.  I thought if I only had a skateboard, I would be happy.  I got the skateboard.  Then I thought, if I only had a bike of my own, I would be happy.  I got the bike.  Then I thought, at 16, if I only had a car, I would be happy.  I got the car.  Then I thought if I only had a girlfriend to put IN the car, I would be happy.  LOL.  You know how it is, right?  Then we think if we could only get married, we would be happy.  We get married.  Then we think if we only had a couple of kids, we would be happy.  We get the kids.  Then we say if we could only get out of this apartment and get our own house, we would be happy.  We get the house.  Then we say if we could only get another house on the lake with a boat to get away from the first house and relax a little, we would be happy.  On and on and on it goes, and where it stops, nobody knows!  DO YOU KNOW WHY IT NEVER STOPS?
Because Jesus said,
“A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”  Luke 12:15
You and I will never find meaning and satisfaction; we will never fill the void; we will never find meaning and purpose in life until we surrender our lives to the giver of LIFE ITSELF, Jesus Christ.  It’s called the NEW BIRTH!  It’s what Jesus told Nicodemus.  “You must be born again.”  Do you remember?  Nicodemus said, can a man enter into his mother’s womb and be born again?  What was he thinking?  Yes, he was thinking, BODY. (diagram) But Jesus was saying, no, it’s not a flesh thing, it’s a spirit thing.  We need to be born again in our spirit.  (remember our spirit is dead in trespasses and sin and our relationship with God is broken, severed, cut off by sin and we have no spiritual life in us) Listen to Jesus words.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  John 3:6
Well, how do we enter into this BORN-AGAIN experience?  How can we restore this relationship?  How can we be reconciled to a Holy God?  Well, it’s not by works that we do.  We cannot work our way to heaven or to God.  Many churches and creeds will tell you that you must DO certain things to experience forgiveness of sins and enter into a relationship with God.  But all of that is false teaching.  Some say you need to be baptized as an infant, or join a church, or confess to a priest, or take communion, or a myriad of other things that have no saving value.  Listen, we cannot mow enough lawns to make it to heaven.  The Bible is clear.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9
Hallelujah!  This is great news!  It’s the same for everyone.  All must come the same way.  By grace through faith.  It’s faith in what Jesus did at the cross.  It’s faith in His blood that was shed for my sin and yours.  Faith?  Yes, belief that the blood of Jesus is the ground, the foundation of being justified before a Holy God.  It’s saying, I believe that what Jesus did at the cross in shedding his blood for my sin is the ONLY remedy for that sin.  I realize that I cannot save myself.  We sing an old song that says:
What can wash away my sin?
 Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
 
What can make me whole again?
 Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 
 
Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know.  
Nothing, but the blood of Jesus.
Perhaps you are sensing at this moment the need to surrender your life to the Lord Jesus.  Only He can satisfy your soul.  Only He can bring you new life.  Only He can make you ALIVE unto God and restore that relationship you so desperately need and crave.  So, how do we do that?
1. Admit that you are a sinner, and you need a Savior.  You cannot save yourself!
2. Believe that what Jesus did on the cross in shedding His blood is the ONLY remedy for your sin.
3. Confess your sins and confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  The Bible says, that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved.  For with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  Notice, it’s the heart.  With the heart we believe and with the mouth we confess.  Heart is first.  It’s your heart that matters.  Don’t worry about the words you use.  It can be a prayer that goes something like this:
“Lord, Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner and I need a Savior.  I believe in my heart that what you did on Calvary’s cross in shedding your blood for my sin is the ONLY remedy for that sin.  I now confess my sins, all of them, to you and I repent of them and place my trust and my total confidence in your saving power.  I’m sorry for the life I’ve lived, and I now confess you as Lord and Savior of my life.  Wash me, cleanse me, redeem me, SAVE me.  I want to be born again.  And according to your Word which cannot lie, that if I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in my heart that God has raised Him from the dead, I shall be saved!  In Jesus name, I thank you, and I receive your forgiveness.  I am saved.  I am born again.  I am redeemed!  AMEN.”
Did you mean it?  Yes?  10,000 Hallelujahs!  You are a new creature in Christ.  Old things pass away, and all things have become new.  You have just been reconciled to God.  Did you hear that?  Now, things are different.  Your spirit has been BORN AGAIN!  Look at it in the next diagram.
Notice the spirit circle is now open!  It’s alive in Jesus!  Notice also that communication has been restored and you are now spiritually ALIVE IN HIM!
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ…” Ephesians 2:4-5
Notice something else.  Do you see the arrows moving in another direction?  Yes!  Now the “real you” wants to LIVE out through the SPIRIT!  Woo!  This is great news.  You will notice that you no longer desire to please the flesh.  Your desire is to please the Spirit.  To live out through the Spirit who now dwells within your spirit.  He lives in you!  There is peace.  There is meaning.  There is fulfillment.  There is purpose.  I no longer live for myself, but I live for HIM.  This is being born again.  The things I used to desire to do I no longer desire to do.  The things I did not want to do, I now desire to do.  I desire to read his Word.  I desire to go to church.  I desire to pray and grow and develop in my spiritual life.  I now want to please the Jesus in me.  In the words of an old song:
“What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought,
Since Jesus came into my heart.
I have light in my soul for which long I had sought, 
Since Jesus came into my heart.”
What a great way to say it!  There’s been a great change in me!  There is light in my soul!  Is there light in your soul?  Has there been a change in your heart?  Maybe you are saying, I am a good person and that’s enough.   You may be saying, Pastor Jerry, I don’t believe all of this.  Well, being good enough, or not believing, doesn’t change the truth.  Let me share a humorous anecdote with you.
A nomad who lived in a tent had awakened in the middle of the night.  He was hungry.  He had a bowl of figs next to him beside the mat upon which he slept.  He lit a candle and took one of the figs.  When he had taken his first bite, he noticed a worm in the fig.  He tossed the worm-infested fig out of the flap in the tent.  He took a bite of another fig and to his amazement, there was worm in that one as well.  He disposed of the fig in the same way as the first.  He decided to take another fig and yes, it too had a worm.  Realizing that if he kept this up, he would have nothing left to eat.  So, he blew out the candle and ate the rest of the figs in the dark!
The moral of the story is the man preferred darkness and denial to light and reality.  The reality was that there was a worm in the fig.  The reality of your life and mine is that there is a worm in our life.  A worm called “sin”.  We can say we do not believe it.  But the worm is still there.  We can even blow out the candle and go on as if nothing is wrong.  But the worm is still there.  We can say that preacher doesn’t know what he is talking about. But the worm is still there.  While we are in darkness and denial, the worm is STILL there!  But there is a way we can get the worm out of our life.  God has sent His Son to die and pay the price for our sins so that we may have eternal life.  He wants us to turn to Him and turn from our sin.  It’s called repentance.  The choice is yours.  Stop living in darkness and denial.  Don’t blow out the candle.  Don’t silence the voice that keeps calling you to face the “worm” called “sin”.  Jesus is standing and waiting right now to enter your heart.  In the words of an old song:
The Savior is waiting to enter your heart.
Why don’t you let Him come in?
There’s nothing in this world to keep you apart
What is your answer to Him?
 
If you’ll take one step toward the Savior, my friend
You’ll find His arms open wide
Receive Him and all of your darkness will end
Within your heart He’ll abide
 
Time after time He has waited before
And now He is waiting again
To see if you’re willing to open the door
Oh, how He wants to come in.
When you are drowning you don’t get to choose the method of rescue.  Listen, the lifeline has been thrown to you.  Jesus is that lifeline.  So, grab ahold!  In the words of an old song:
This is the lifeline, oh, grasp it today!
See, you are recklessly drifting away.
Voices in warning, shout over the wave, 
Oh, grasp the strong lifeline, for Jesus can save!
Yes, I have grasped the lifeline, have you?  If you have, you are like me, a loser.  And I am a loser of the greatest kind.  For, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins.  And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. You see, I have lost my guilt, my sin, my shame, my stain, and my pain.  Talk about free! If you grasp this lifeline of freedom today, you will experience a freedom no prison bars can hold!
Pastor Jerry

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