Born Again? THIS IS THE DAUNTING QUESTION THAT THE CHURCH NEEDS TO TAKE MORE SERIOUSLY TODAY. It’s so sad to see around our evangelical world, the gospel being undressed to 4 or 5 spiritual laws that person must do or jump through in order to be saved. For example, sign a confession card or say a prayer….and then poof welcome to the family of God. DO WE [the church] REALIZE THE DANGERS OF THIS SORT OF THINKING. THE ONLY THING IT LEADS TOO IS DESTRUCTION AND THE WRATH OF GOD. Ray Comfort said in his book “Hell’s Best Keep Secret” In the late seventies, God very graciously opened an itinerant ministry to me. As I began to travel, I found that I had access to church growth records, and found to my horror that something like 80 to 90% of those making a decision for Christ were falling away from the faith. That is, modern evangelism with its methods is creating something like 80 to 90 of what we commonly call backsliders for every hundred decisions for Christ. Let me make it more real for you. In 1991, in the first year of the decade of harvest, a major denomination in the U.S. was able to obtain 294,000 decisions for Christ. That is, in one year, this major denomination of 11,500 churches was able to obtain 294,000 decisions for Christ. Unfortunately, they could only find 14,000 in fellowship, which means they couldn’t account for 280,000 of their decisions, and this is normal, modern evangelical results, and something I discovered way back in the late seventies; it greatly concerned me. I began to study the book of Romans intently and, specifically, the gospel proclamation of men like Spurgeon, Wesley, Moody, Finney, Whitfield, Luther, and others that God used down through the ages, and I found they used a principle which is almost entirely neglected by modern evangelical methods. See what Ray saw then is continuing to be the trend today in most so-called evangelical churches around the North America. And sadly it leads to…..
- An outward conversion with no inward change
- A false profession that leads them done a path or road to destruction
- A another gospel [man centered and watered-down]
- Cheap grace and builds market driven ministries
- Emotionalism and subjectivism that bear no real fruit
Jesus said in Luke 6:43-45 "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” We come to a meeting that provides a stark contrast to the contemporary evangelical confusion. A meeting that would display a refusal to compromise the truth or give anyone a false hope. We call this the unadulterated gospel truth….something that is desperately lacking in North American evangelical churches.
WE ARE ABOUT SEE HERE IN THIS PORTION OF JOHN’S LETTER....The true, up close and personal gospel of Jesus Christ! The gospel according to Jesus, not man. We come to a private conversation between two people! That was made available for us to read and understand. A man who was highly educated and very religious; versus the God who created everything for His glory who took on flesh.
WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT THIS CONVERSATION WITH JESUS? We see that Jesus’s ministry drew a stir in his heart by the opening remarks of this portion of scripture. (v1-v2). I’m sure like myself, there was something he heard which drew him closer to ask the tough question privately! Why? Most likely he cared about his own soul and where he will spend eternity. So he comes to Jesus in the dark [evening] most likely because of fear that his peers would see or find out. So he comes to Jesus and Jesus says “You must be born again Nicodemus” [add your name here] (v3) What is Jesus saying? You must be born again [born form above] by the regenerating [transforming] work of God. As Paul said in Romans 1:16 “……for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
Regeneration by definition is a sovereign work of God (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:3-8; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3) a radical work or total transformation (Ezek. 36:26-27; 1 Jn. 3:9) not just an addition...The SOURCE of regeneration is Christ (1 Pet 1:3; Eph 1:3, 2:4, 4:24; 2 Cor 5:17) The AGENT of regeneration is the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:3-8; Titus 3:5) The INSTRUMENT of regeneration is the Word of God (Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23, 25) which precedes and causes faith (Jn 6:63-65, 1 jn 5:1, Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13). John Murray said regeneration is "God effects a change which is radical and all-pervasive, a change which cannot be explained in terms of any combination, permutation or accumulation of human resources, a change which is nothing less than a new creation by Him who calls the things that be not as though they were, who spoke and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast. This, in a word, is regeneration."
See! Regeneration is the communication of the new heart to sinners by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word...a Christ-generated act of instantaneously communicating spiritual life to a man convicted of sin. Paul Washer said “Since faith is infinitely beyond all the power of our unregenerated human nature, it is only God who can give the spiritual ears to hear and eyes to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel. God alone disarms the hostility of the sinner turning his heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It is God, the Holy Spirit, alone who gives illumination and understanding of His word that we might believe; It is God who raises us from the death of sin, who circumcises the heart; unplugs our ears; It is God alone who can give us a new sense, a spiritual capacity to behold the beauty and unsurpassed excellency of Jesus Christ.” John MacArthur said “From start to finish, salvation is wholly a monergistic work of God. Just as no man contributes to his physical birth, so also does no sinner contribute to his second, spiritual birth. The new birth, then, is something that happens to a man, not by a man. It is the power, work and grace of God that enables a dead sinner to repent and believe upon Christ. When that sinner is 'born again,' he is 'born from above,' and thus all glory for that salvation must necessarily be lavished upon God for His saving work.”
Jesus told Nicodemus what he must do, but this left him confused like many people today! (v4). So Jesus like any good steward of word should do explains further to what He means (v5-v8). After Jesus explains how…..Nicodemus is left with this one question (v9). I would like to leave with you with 5 simple truths from the word of God to help answer the daunting question that Nicodemus left Jesus with (v9) “How can these things be?”
1. APART FROM THE REGENERATING WORK OF CHRIST THROUGH THE SPIRIT NONE CAN ENTER HEAVEN.
John 3:3 “Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
2. REGENERATING IS THE SOLE WORK OF GOD ALONE
John 1:12- 13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
3. REGENERATION COMES THROUGH THE PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD OF GOD
1 Peter 1:23 “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”
4. REGENERATION IS ONLY MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH GOD’S MERCY ALONE
Titus 3:4-5 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
5. REGENERATION IS ALL FOR HIS GLORY AND YOUR GOOD
Eph 1:3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
SEE WHAT REGENERATION DOES, IS THAT IT PRODUCES…..
- A likeness to God…. Eph 4:24
- A likeness in Christ…. 2 Cor 3:18
- A knowledge of God…. Col 3:10
- A hatred of Sin….. 1 John 3:9
- A victory over the world…. 1 John 5:4
- A delight in God’s Law…. Rom 7:22
- A faith in Christ… 1 John 5:1
1 John 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”
The blessed gospel transforms lives to be born again under His sovereign grace through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. There is a lot we can learn about the gospel and the importance of speaking the truth in love even when it seems hostile to a generation of Nicodemus’s. Jesus never softened the gospel message to make it palatable for His listeners. Jesus wasn't interested in shallow responses or quick pseudo-conversions. Why? He knew what was in the heart of man. Jesus knew what was at stake when He meant “born again” In Matt 19:23-26 we read “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." To be born again we must look to the cross of Christ in repentance and faith!
- The only way you’ll see Heaven
- The only way you’ll see regeneration
- The only way you’ll see God
Let me close with the words of John Flavel “Man, by the apostasy, has become a most disordered and rebellious creature, opposing his Maker, as the First Cause—by self-dependence; as the Chief Good—by self- love; as the Highest Lord—by self-will; and as the Last End—by self-seeking. Thus he is quite disordered, and all his actions are irregular. But by regeneration the disordered soul is set right; this great change being, as the Scripture expresses it, the renovation of the soul after the image of God—in which self-dependence is removed by faith; self-love is removed by the love of God; self-will is removed by subjection and obedience to the will of God; and self-seeking is removed by self-denial. The darkened understanding is illuminated, the refractory will sweetly subdued, the rebellious appetite gradually conquered. Thus the soul which sin had universally depraved, is by grace restored.” Is the Sprit working in your life by replacing the things of self with the things of God? Are you being cleansed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit so that you will see God? Y0u must be born again? So let me ask you the question! Are you born again according Jesus?