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He Died on a Saturday – Death and the New Birth

May 23, 2014
Michael died on a Saturday in December. Here is his story.
 
For months, he felt ill at ease. Something just wasn’t right. Although he was a successful businessman and had a beautiful family, he felt somehow empty. He was desperately seeking, trying to find the secret to a happy and fulfilling life.
 
In June of 1990, Michael attended a six-day course that promised personal transformation. What he learned at the course was this: Be a man of integrity. Keep your word. So, for the next six months Michael tried as best he could to keep this advice. But he was still struggling.
 
One day he decided to follow through on one of his commitments.  He understood that to be a Catholic of integrity, he ought to obey the rules of Catholicism. So, on December 8th Michael attended mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of Obligation. After the mass, he learned of a seminar to be held in the fellowship hall of the church. Michael peeked into the room and saw that a friend, his son’s Scout leader, was the one leading the seminar. Michael felt a little sorry for his friend, since there were only a couple people attending. He decided to go in. 
 
Right at the beginning Michael heard something that confused him. One of the instructors exclaimed “My favorite Bible verse is John 3:3 – Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God!” The man said it with such conviction that Michael was curious as to why he was so excited about this verse. But no further explanation was forthcoming.
 
Later in the seminar, his Scouting friend stood up and spoke of how Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, expanded the meaning of the commandments to include matters of the heart. To be angry with another is murder. To look at woman lustfully is adultery. As the seminar leader continued, Michael, who thought he was a “good Catholic” was becoming more and more guilty. “Maybe I’m not as “good” as I think I am. In fact, at times I’m pretty self-centered.”
 
At the end of the seminar, the instructor said, “If any of you want us to pray with you, come to the back of the room.” Michael thought for a few seconds, and decided to ask for prayer. He rose, went to his friend and the man who loved John 3:3, and said to them, “I would like prayer. I want God to forgive my sins.” The two men said, “okay”, and anointed Michael’s head with oil. [This would prepare for Michael’s death]. They laid hands on Michael, and while praying one of them said, “Michael, let go!” Immediately, Michael was flooded with emotions. He realized that he needed a Savior, and cried out, “Yes, LORD! Save me!”
 
 Immediately Michael died. His body hit the floor with a thud.
 
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Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Do not be amazed that I said to you ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
 
Michael came to realize that the Spirit had blown his way. He was born again. The law of Christ killed him: “I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col. 3:3. “I was made to die to the law, through the body of Christ.” Rom. 7:4. “Through the law, I died to the law.” Gal. 2:19. The thunderous law of God had struck Michael down; the resurrection power of Jesus Christ had raised him from the dead. He was a new creation. The “old Michael” had passed away, the “new Michael” had come. 2 Cor. 5:17.
 
Michael had repented (died) and believed the gospel (was raised).
 
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Michael was ecstatic! He had inherited eternal life in heaven and the joy of belonging to Jesus here on earth. But one thing troubled him. Why was he not told of the new birth by his religion? This question sent him on a mission. He purchased the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read it from cover to cover. He found the following concerning the new birth:
 
CCC 1265: Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker in the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”
 
The Catholic Church told Michael that he was born again as an infant when he was baptized. This flew in the face of what Michael saw as the clear testimony of Scripture and his personal experience. This became the first instance of Michael’s questioning the teaching of his Church. It was the seed that eventually grew into his leaving the Catholic religion.  

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When Michael first became a Christian, he was amazed at the glorious book that is the Bible. He also loved to sing the praises of his Savior. One of his favorite songs was “New Lives for Old” by Wayne Watson. Here are some of the lyrics:

They say he ran a carnival, used to come to town,

’til one September afternoon, he just shut it down.
They tell me something happened, some say he lost his mind,
now most September afternoons, this is what you’ll find:
An old man on the corner, where he used to sell the show,
now he shouts what sounds like foolishness, as the people come and go:
 

New lives for old!

Warm hearts for cold!
Have I got a deal for you today,
come on step right this way!
Get your… new lives for old!
 

He puts it in the paper, he goes from door to door.

The people say, “He’s such a fool to come back for more.”

Old friends are mostly puzzled, they don’t know what to say,
’cause ever since that afternoon, he’s just been that way.
It’s like the old man died, and someone came to take his place!
Now he just stands out there bellowing, smile upon his wrinkled face:

 

New lives for old!

Warm hearts for cold!
Have I got a deal for you today,
come on step right this way!
Get your… new lives for old!

———————————————————————————–

Now Michael loved his Catholic family, and was eager to share the story of his death and rebirth. He was surprised when they did not joyfully receive his testimony concerning his new life in Christ. They felt he was attacking their Catholic beliefs, and that he was wrong. His sister, thinking he had “lost his mind” even set up an appointment for him to see a psychiatrist. At first he was frustrated, but then he remembered that the Spirit blew when and where He chose; he would pray for his family. Eventually, Michael left the Catholic religion, and began attending an evangelical church that explained to him more fully the new birth that he had experienced.

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Many times since the date of his death Michael has contemplated his former religion. He has been invited by his family to participate in Catholic masses and celebrations. At first he would attend; but soon he came to understand the importance of testifying to the truth. When invited to the baptisms of his niece’s and nephew’s infant children, Michael declined, explaining his conviction that the new birth did not occur at baptism. When invited to the sacrament of Confirmation he would again decline, explaining that the Holy Spirit is not received through the hands of a Catholic bishop. All the while, he has continued to pray for his family.
 
Although Michael was sad about his unbelieving family, he discovered a new family – his brothers and sisters in Christ. This eased some of the loneliness associated with his Catholic family’s unbelief.

———————————————————————————–

“I, D. Michael Rudiger, have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. I have died to the elementary principals of religion. I have died and my life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ bore my sins on His body on the cross, so that I might die to sin, and live to righteousness. For the love of Christ controls me, having concluded this, that He died for me, therefore I died; and He died for me, so that I might live no longer for myself, but for Christ who died for me and rose again for my behalf. Jesus was delivered over for my transgressions, and was raised for my justification. Having received the gift of repentance and faith to believe in Jesus, I have peace with God. I have been raised up with Christ and in my spirit I am even now seated in heaven with Christ at the right hand of God. I have experienced the first resurrection. Therefore the second death has no power over me. Halleluia! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

 
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Identified with the righteous life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus,
 

Dale (11/23/56-12/8/90; 12/8/90 to forever)

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