You Must Be Born Again

This is an excerpt from a great post on regeneration that was published today on the Ligonier Ministries Blog. If you have time, I would encourage you to visit their site and read the entire article.

It is for this reason that Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). The spiritually dead cannot enter God’s holy presence. “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In order to see God’s kingdom, then, the spiritually stillborn must be brought to life. There must be spiritual resurrection.

There must be new life, eternal life. “You must be born again.” Jesus’ words befuddled Nicodemus. He said to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). Here Nicodemus gives us a textbook example of missing the point.

Nicodemus is not alone. There are a large number of professing Christians who miss the point. To hear some tell it, you would think Jesus merely said, “You must be well again.” According to many, we are not spiritually dead but are simply sick. We are on our death beds, and Jesus offers us the cure. All we have to do is reach out and take it. Or we are drowning and Jesus offers us a life buoy, and all we have to do is grab it to save our lives. The picture painted by Jesus and the apostles, however, is much more bleak. In our natural Adamic state, we are not on our sick beds. We are in the grave. We are not flailing about on the surface of the sea. We are lifeless at the bottom of the ocean. We are dead.

This is the point that Nicodemus and we must understand. When Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again, He is indicating that this is not something Nicodemus can do himself. Just as we had no control over our physical birth, we do not control our spiritual birth. It is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Those who say that we are only spiritually wounded will say that we can be regenerated, born again, by placing our faith in Christ. This, however, puts everything precisely backwards. We do not believe in order to be regenerated; we must be regenerated in order that we might believe. Regeneration precedes faith.

Our spiritual situation is similar in some ways to that of Lazarus in the grave (see John 11). Lazarus was dead. He could do nothing in and of himself to gain new life. Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grave, but Lazarus could not respond unless God first gave him life. In the same way, we are spiritually dead and can do nothing to gain spiritual life. Jesus commands us to believe in Him, but we cannot respond unless God first gives us spiritual life. Jesus gives us this new life because he has overcome death, once and for all. As Peter explains, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

If you are a Christian, consider what God has done for you. Consider the fact that you were born dead in sin. Jesus came to your grave. He commanded you to come forth and gave you spiritual life and faith. Now you have been born again and are an adopted child of God (John 1:12). You are a co-heir with Christ. And although your physical body will still die, you can rest secure in the hope of the resurrection. Those in Christ will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). Our present body is perishable, but it will be raised imperishable, never to die again. When God raises us, death will finally be swallowed up in victory.

—Keith A. Mathison
Tabletalk Magazine, June 2008

I love the way that Jesus explained this to the Jews when he was at the temple in Jerusalem:

The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

— John 10:25-30, ESV

Jesus makes it clear that belief (or faith) is the result of our rebirth and inclusion in the family of Christ, not the grounds for it. Regeneration precedes faith. Soli Deo Gloria!

Via: Ligonier Ministries Blog

As The Wind Blows

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8).

Mark how striking is the figure. The wind bids defiance to man’s governing power. It is as sovereign in its influence as it is irresistible in its strength. We cannot command it, nor can we control it. It is alike out of our power to summon it, as it is to soothe it. It comes, we know not where; it goes, we know not where. “So is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

We do not say that the Spirit is not resisted – He is resisted, strongly and perseveringly. But He is not overpowered. All the enmity and carnality of the heart rises in direct opposition to Him; but, when bent upon a mission of love, when, in accordance with the eternal purpose, He comes to save, not all the powers on earth or in hell can effectually resist Him. Like the mighty force, He bears down all opposition, sweeps away every barrier, overcomes every difficulty, and the sinner, “made willing in the day of His power,” is brought to the feet of Jesus, there meekly and gratefully to sit, “clothed, and in his right mind.” Who can withstand the power of the Spirit? Whether He speaks in the “still small voice” of tender, persuasive love, or whether He comes in the “mighty rushing wind” of deep and overwhelming conviction, His influence is quenchless, His power is irresistible. He effectually works in those who believe.

But His operation is as sovereign as it is mighty. He comes to whom He will; He comes when He will; He comes in the mode He will. He blows where He wills; we hear the sound, we see the effects; but how He works, why He works, and why in a particular way He works, He reveals not to mortals. Even so, O blessed and eternal Spirit, for so it seems good in Your sight.

—Octavius Winslow
Morning Thoughts

Via: Octavius Winslow

Monergistic Regeneration

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.

The apostle John recorded Jesus saying to Nicodemus that we naturally love darkness, hate the light and WILL NOT come into the light (John 3:19, 20). And since our hardened resistance to God is thus seated in our affections, only God, by His grace, can lovingly change, overcome and pacify our rebellious disposition. The natural man, apart from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, will not come to Christ on his own since he is at enmity with God and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). Shining a light into a blind man’s eyes will not enable him to see, because eyesight first requires a set of healthy eyes. Likewise, reading or hearing the word of God alone cannot elicit saving faith in the reader (1 Thess 1:4, 5) unless God plows up the fallow ground of our hearts and the Spirit “germinates” the seed of the word, opening our eyes to see Christ’s true beauty and excellency and uniting us to Him through a Spirit-wrought faith.

So the problem of conversion is not with the Word or God’s Law but with man’s prideful heart. The humility required to submit to the gospel is, therefore, not prompted by man’s will but by God’s mercy (Rom 9:16) since no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:63, 65). As an example of how the Spirit uses the means of the spoken word to disarm closed hearts, the Book of Acts records the work of the Holy Spirit during the preaching of the apostles and, in one instance, states that “the Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul,” (Acts 16:14). The Spirit must likewise give all His people spiritual life and understanding if their hearts are to be opened and thus respond to Christ in faith.

—John Hendryx

Via: Reformation Theology