Friday, January 4, 2013

And Now for Something New

OK, maybe not really new.  In fact, maybe it is something not new at all, except in the sense that it is not a recycled post.  In any case, to go along with the New Year, here is a little something on the New Birth.

Jesus said in John chapter 3, "... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And then he also said, " ... 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."

Those words of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be lightly dismissed! He did not give us a recommendation there, he gave us an imperative! He did not say 'you should consider being born again" or "you ought to be born again." No! He said you MUST be born again!

But that leads us to a question. Why MUST we be born again. If you are like me, you may not like to be told you must do something without an explanation of why. I do believe that comes from our sinful nature, especially when it relates to God's word. Jesus words should be enough to result in obedience without further explanation, but nevertheless Scripture does provide an explanation.

We find this in Ephesians 2: "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 together with Christ"

That word quickened means to make alive. This is speaking of the second birth. You see, we may be physically alive in the flesh after our first birth, but we are spiritually dead in our sins until we are born again. In Titus 3:5 Paul says this: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"

There again, regeneration means to be made alive again; to be born again. Don't let the word washing in that verse throw you off; if you are thinking baptism, you are reading into the passage what is not there. Paul is telling us that God in his mercy, saves us by the washing or cleansing of the new birth.

But what exactly does that mean, to be born again? Well, right back where we started in John chapter 3 we see Nicodemus asking that very question. In fact, part of what is quoted above was Jesus answer to that question. Being "born again" is not a literal physical event, but it certainly is a literal spiritual event!

Don't take my word for it, this spiritual event is of such magnitude that the Bible tells us that those who undergo this new birth will come forth as a new creation. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Likewise in Ephesians 4 we read this " renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." 

In fact, the Apostle Paul points out that the new birth is more important than any religious ceremony. In Galations 6 he says this: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature"  Let me paraphrase that: Neither following or rejecting religious ceremonies will gain you any favor with Christ. Only the new birth, the new creature, holds any sway. That is not to say there is no place for Christian ceremonies such as baptism or communion, only that without the new birth they are of no effect.

That still leaves at least one question though, doesn't it? How is one born again? If we go back to our starting point in chapter 3 of the book of John, we see that this new birth thing is not something very easy to pin down. Jesus said that it is like the wind, in that you can't see it, you can't see where it comes from or where it goes, you can only see its effects.

So, how does one go about experiencing this new birth?
In 1 Peter 1:23 we see a Christian being described like this: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

That certainly puts a large emphasis on the Bible, because that is where we find this incorruptible seed which is unquestionably linked to the second birth. Does that mean you need to know the whole Bible, in and out, before you can be born again? No. But if we were to try to summarize the main points of the Bible, how would we do it? Well, the Old Testament, and especially the Law, does a pretty good job of showing us to be sinners who deserve judgment at the hand of God. But the New Testament shows us a Saviour who came and took that judgment upon himself. A Saviour who rose again from the dead and now sits at God's right hand. These are some of the things which are contained in this incorruptible seed; this seed which has the power to produce the new birth.

Let's sum this up. We have seen the imperative, as stated by Jesus, that you must be born again. It is an absolute necessity to be born again if one is to enter the kingdom of God. We also looked at the reason that one must be born again. It is God's method of bestowing mercy upon us and saving us from the judgment we deserve. We looked at the fact that the new birth changes us into a new person. Last, we attempted to answer HOW one is born again. That one makes the other questions look easy, and there is no simple formula to follow. But there is this, and I will close with it:

Romans 10: 9-10 "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."


Wes said...

Amen brother!! I appreciate the points on baptism and communion. Keep the truth comin'! Now, if only the bible could lead us to the answer of why we burn up pistons, lol!

St. Lee said...

Wes, I think it might be there in the Bible, so we should probably keep looking for it. Certainly would not be a waste of time, even if we don't find anything about pistons ;-)

Anonymous said...

The radio program dimmed signalling an ad. But not so on this station, no ads. Still, a a one minute digression.

"Knock, knock" As someone knocking on a door.


"Hi, I'm Jason Goodboy and I'd like to move into your house."


"Oh, it's okay. Just ask Mrs Smith from down the street about me. I bring her groceries every week and don't even ask for pay. I mow Mr. Williams' yard for free. I help everyone; just ask; I'm a really great guy"

"Yes, but you see, my house isn't a place for wonderful people, it's a place for my family."

How many times have I heard people say "God made me this way; He should love me this way." As Christians we reject this thinking because our nature rebels against it. But as Christians are we not a little uneasy? Did God create us as imperfect? We recognise our sin nature and hate it. But is sin what keeps us from our God or is sin the result of the rupture of our relationship with God?

I do not mean to create lesser and greater sin, the Bible answers that in the negative. Nor do I mean to downgrade the seriousness of sin in our lives and our need to turn from it.

In the beginning all was perfect; God pronounced it "good." Still, sin entered the world. First Eve then Adam ate of the forbidden fruit and then knew the difference between good and evil. Prior to eating the fruit they did not know sin. After eating the fruit they knew shame for their nakedness. The wrong they committed was not the sin of nakedness but rebellion.

After their rebellion God cast thorns on the goodness of the garden. Perhaps he cast the thorns of sin nature upon Mankind. The thorns we fight to this day. The thorns we cannot avoid.

If Mankind's wrong had been sin the answer would be un-sin. Retribution. To say "I'm sorry" and to pay recompense but this isn't the way Scripture paints it (as I see it). The Law came to point the way, not to salvation, but to our inability to conform. Almost in spite of the Law God found good men. Abram, David, Job... Even they sinned but were (and are) held as examples to us; not as sinless men but of righteous men. They pointed the right way without touching the right way. They, and we, cannot touch the right way because of our sin caused by our rebellion.

If we cannot un-sin our way to redemption then what is the way? If rebellion was our downfall then un-rebellion must be our redemption. But how? Could we even know the way? We need a Shepard to guide us; a Saviour to burn the thorns off; a Counsellor to intercede in our behalf.

On that appointed day many will be cast into the eternal fire with entireties that they had done the right things but Jesus will reply that He "knew them not" because doing the right thing is not the point. Sin isn't the problem (specifically), rebellion is. Sin is the price of rebellion and the price of salvation is our awe of the sacrifice to pay the debt of that rebellion. Jesus came to save us from sin (and by extension, death) by gathering His people out of their state of rebellion.
(continued; sorry for the long post!)

Anonymous said...

The rich young man came to Jesus and declared his righteousness and Jesus put a command to him to show how he had missed the point that he cannot un-sin his way to redemption and by his walking away from God's command he remained in rebellion to God.

The point of the Law is not to light a path to redemption but to demonstrate how far from God we are. The law, civic & sacred, informs only those abiding the giver of those laws. The Law convicts the saved and the unsaved alike but the saved suffer the conviction and the unsaved wear their convictions as badges of honour. The unsaved have no respect for the Law and benefit only materially by their adherence to the Law; the saved have already gained their salvation and their respect for the Law is the sign of that salvation. To force the unsaved into a sinless life would be as pointless as holding sin against the saved.

Our path is to rejoin God's family and God will then heal the sin we all still suffer from. To accomplish this we, first, stand in front of a crowd of our peers and declare our break with the family of Mankind and our joining of God's family. We then ceremoniously bury our old selves and are reborn a new person. We are, by that path, a member of God's family. Not because we are better people but because we have rejected Adam's rebellion and we are then able to live in His house.

BTW in a lighter note: If a motorcycle is a sentence then the spinning wheels are the adverbs and the pistons are the verbs. Pistons are the actors of motion. In the Bible we might find such actors in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Pistons of the story, in a way. In seeing it this way we learn that to keep from burning up in the furnace of combustion we must keep to the right path; we must consume the right fuels; we must be covered in the protection of righteousness.
[\opinion] ;-)

Anonymous said...

GAD! I am such a DOLT!

Brad Ervin