Like physical birth, spiritual birth is the entrance into my new life with God, prepared by Him to completely meet my every need as I fit into His plans.  

1) Mercy and Grace

Many Christians are familiar with these two words but don't really understand the concepts. Is mercy and grace the same thing? Or are they opposites? Or are they cousins?

“Mercy” = When I am not given what I deserve.

“Grace” = When I am given what I don’t deserve.

Illustration of Speeding Ticket 

“Good fortune” - if you’re not caught.

“Justice” - if you’re caught and given a ticket.

“Mercy” - if you’re caught, but not given a ticket.

“Grace” - if you’re caught, given a ticket, but the officer pays the fine.

2) The Apostle Paul describes what I was like before God saved me, and what God has done for me.  

Romans 3:10-12  As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one.

Romans 5:6-10  For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly.… But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!

Ephesians 2:1-9  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s giftnot from works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:12  At that time you were without the Messiah, … without hope and without God in the world.

Ephesians 4:17-19 darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God,…

NOTE: God does not judge us “on the curve”. We tend to evaluate ourselves as compared to others, whereas God compares us to Himself.

3) God’s principle of substitution

a) God’s grace was evident even when Adam and Eve first disobeyed Him.

Genesis 2

:15-17  The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

2:25  Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.

Genesis 3:

:6-7  Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

:8-12  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Then the man replied, “The woman You gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

:13  So the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.”

:21-24  The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove man out and stationed the cherubim and the flaming, whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.

Adam and Eve were given one commandment, which they disobeyed. Then they tried to make themselves acceptable to God - represented by the fig leaf cover-up. They each blamed someone else.

They got what they deserved - Justice.

Then God gave them what they didn’t deserve – Grace - represented by His animal substitute. An innocent animal’s life was sacrificed as a result of their sin. This animal sacrifice was a representation of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sin of the entire human race.

b) The Passover - another picture of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice.

Exodus 12:

:1  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

:12-13  I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and strike every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. I am Yahweh; I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt. The blood on the houses where you are staying will be a distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

:21-22  Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select an animal from the flock according to your families, and slaughter the Passover animal. Take a cluster of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and brush the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin. None of you may go out the door of his house until morning.”

:23  “When the LORD passes through to strike Egypt and sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, He will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you.”

:24-27  “Keep this command permanently as a statute for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as He promised, you are to observe this ritual. When your children ask you, ‘What does this ritual mean to you?’ you are to reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, for He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and spared our homes.’” So the people bowed down and worshiped.

:29-30  Now at midnight the LORD struck every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and every firstborn of the livestock. During the night Pharaoh got up, he along with all his officials and all the Egyptians, and there was a loud wailing throughout Egypt because there wasn’t a house without someone dead.

John 1:29  The next day John (the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

1 Corinthians 5:7  … for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.

The Israelites were in slavery to the Egyptians. A lamb was killed as a substitute. Wherever there was blood the inhabitants of the house were spared from God’s judgment. When the Lord saw blood on a doorpost, He could say, Judgment has already been here.

c) Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as our “Substitute” was God’s plan for our salvation.

Isaiah 53:4-6  Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains.… But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

2 Corinthians 5:21  For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].  (Amplified New Testament)

Galatians 3:13  Christ purchased our freedom [redeeming us] from the curse (doom) of the Law [and its condemnation] by [Himself] becoming a curse for us, for it is written [in the Scriptures], Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (is crucified);  (Amplified New Testament)

1 Peter 3:18  For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.  In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit,  (Amplified New Testament)

4) I have been saved by His love, not because I am deserving.

I need to clearly understand that “salvation” is God’s work, start to finish. I have been accepted as a child of God, not based on any merit on my part, but only by the “grace” and “mercy” of God (as explained in Point #1). The expected result of a correct understanding should be "a thankful heart” for the great gift I have freely received.

Secondly, and of significant importance, this correct understanding will strengthen me whenever the enemy attempts to condemn and deceive me to focus on my own unworthiness and lack of godliness, which can cause me to question and doubt the validity of my salvation.

John 6:37  (Jesus saidEveryone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.

John 6:44  (Jesus saidNo one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Romans 3:10-12  as it is written: …There is … no one who seeks God.…

Romans 4:4-8  Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.

Likewise, David also speaks of the blessing of the man God credits righteousness to apart from works: How joyful are those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered! How joyful is the man the Lord will never charge with sin!

Ephesians 1:3-8  Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Titus 3:3-8  For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy.…

5) What is the difference between “religion” and “Christianity”?

“Religion” worldwide teaches that there is something you can do to make yourself acceptable before God. “True Christianity” teaches that only what Christ has done on your behalf makes you acceptable before God.

John 14:6  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Acts 4:12  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.”

6) Jesus gave an overview of salvation.

John 5:24 (Jesus said)  “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.”  (John 5:24 is  a great verse to memorize)

Eternal life is not an object, but rather an endless quality of existence with God.