Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The New Birth


baby

by Dennis Pollock

"Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  (John 3:3)

A number of years ago I had an experience which has always stood out in my memory and is illustrative of where so many of America's nominal church members stand in relationship to the experience Jesus calls being born again. I was out witnessing door to door that day, passing out literature and asking people if they had been born again.  I happened upon a man who, as it turned out, was a leader with his particular church.  He had apparently been a member of this church for many years.  When I posed the question to him he gave an answer that surprised me.  He told me that his particular church did not happen to believe in being born again.

I found this incredible, since I knew that many gen­erations ago, this church had been founded by a man whose primary message was the new birth, and had been a firebrand of evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit. I told this gentleman that the concept of being born again was first proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Himself, and showed him in the Bible where Jesus had stated emphatically, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).  When faced with the plain truth of Jesus words, this church "leader" backed off a little from his opening words and assured me that, well, they did believe in being born again, but not in the way I believed it.  This I found pretty amazing since I had just met the man and he could have had no way of knowing just how I believed on this matter.  I could only conclude that he must have figured that anyone who would go around door to door asking people if they had been born again must surely believe in a different gospel than he!

What it isn't

Before looking at what the new birth is, it would be well for us to consider what it is not.  If Jesus' words are to be believed, many will perish and find themselves cast out of God's presence, having spent their entire lifetime thinking that all was well between them and God; that they were true Christians and were assured of heaven when they died.  The reason for this fatal deception is a misunderstanding of what it is that makes one a child of God.  How does one become a Christian?  This question is one worthy of the most diligent effort you possess, since the answer will determine where you spend eternity.

The new birth is not a matter of being a good _____________. (You fill in the blank with: Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, or the denomination of your choice.)  Many times as I have endeavored to share Christ with others, their first response is, "Oh yes, I have been a ___________ for years."  When asked of your relationship with the Lord, it is a clear mark of spiritual uncertainty when you can only speak of your particular church membership.  It seems to me that one who truly knows Jesus would think back to that time when he first gave his heart to Christ and had his life transformed, not merely recite the number of years he has attended church.  Going to church no more makes one a Christian than hanging around an army base makes one a soldier.  You might go to the army surplus store, buy yourself a new uniform and boots, and then go to the base and march with the other soldiers, but until you sign on the dotted line and give your life away you are merely playing pretend.  How many professing Christians will stand before Christ on that final day and receive the shock of their life to find that all their church attendance and committee meetings, their Sunday School awards and charity drives were only a game of pretend!

The new birth is not a matter of turning over a new leaf. The kingdom of God is not attained by resolution, it is attained by a living faith which appropriates the free gift that Jesus died to give us.  A mule cannot turn himself into a thoroughbred race horse by the strength of his own willpower, resolve, or positive thinking.  Although he may succeed in psyching himself into running a few steps faster than before, put him next to a genuine thoroughbred and the attempt would be laughable. The Scriptures tell us that it is "not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:16).

The new birth is not achieved by any physical act we may do. Some mistake baptism for salvation.  Baptism is indeed an important act, and one that every new believer should experience in obedience to the Lord, but baptism alone has never saved anyone.  Jesus wants to cleanse your heart, not your body, and it is only His blood that has the power to do that.

Others put their confidence in the fact that they have been confirmed, or prayed a certain prayer, or gone forward in response to a preacher's invitation at the close of a service.  The Lord may, according to His own purposes, use any of these to bring people to a knowledge of Himself, but these outward physical actions are no guarantee of anything. Salvation is an inward experience of faith and surrender to Christ which may or may not accompany these outward expressions. The apostle Paul challenged those who profess Christ: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith, prove yourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5). There would be no need for examination if salvation was automatically guaranteed by any physical act.

What it is

Having looked at some of the things that the born again experience is not, and how it is not achieved, let us now see what it is, and how it may be obtained:

The new birth is accomplished by receiving Jesus Christ. The term receiving is of the utmost importance.  In the gospel of John we read, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God"  (John 1:12,13).

We cannot take anything away from God.  He is too big for us.  Anything we are going to get from Him must be that which He freely offers us.  And this is at the heart of the business of receiving.  The salvation which Jesus offers includes much:  the forgiveness of our sins, the gift of eternal life, the right to be called a child of God, authority over the devil through the name of Jesus, and so much more. The Bible reveals that this wonderful package of benefits to the human race is a free gift to all who will receive Jesus Christ as their Savior.  The gift is freely offered to all, the Bible telling us, "Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17). Our job is not to try to somehow convince God to save us by begging and pleading with Him over and over.  The gift has already been offered; our job is to receive that which Christ offers.  This is accomplished through faith.

The new birth brings the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So many people have a very erroneous view of how God will judge the world to decide who will be allowed into heaven and who will not.  They suppose that He will look at each individual case, scratch His head, and try to decide if that person has been good enough to make him worthy of heaven.  Or perhaps He will have a heavenly scale in which he will weigh their good deeds on one side and their bad deeds on the other.  Whichever side proves to be the heaviest determines their destiny.

This type of thinking runs in direct contradiction to the Scriptures.  The truth is, God will have no trouble at all deciding who gets into heaven.  He won't have to weigh good deeds against bad ones or even consider deeds at all.  The Bible tells us that there is one distinguishing mark which separates true believers from all the other people in the world.  What I am referring to is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures tell us plainly, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Romans 8:9). The apostle John states: "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit"  (1 John 4:13).

The new birth provides the gift of righteousness. Man's greatest need is not food or clothes or money, or sex; it is righteousness.  Without righteousness none of us can stand before a holy God.  Without righteousness we would all perish without God and without hope.

Our only trouble is that, until now, none of us has ever been able to manufacture a righteousness that impresses God.  Next to His absolute perfection our puny attempts at morality are pathetic and futile.  Stained and defiled by sin as we are, we simply do not have it within ourselves to make ourselves righteous.

Our loving Creator, seeing our need, has provided a righteousness for us.  It is the one and only righteousness in the universe that He can accept, the righteousness of His own Son.  This righteousness is given to us when we are born again in an exchange whereby Christ took our sinfulness upon Himself, in order that He might bestow His righteousness upon us.  This happens when we, in true heart faith, first believe upon Christ.  In Romans we read, "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS and sanctification and redemption, that as it is written, He that glories let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).

This gift of righteousness is given to us in two ways.  First it is legally imputed to us so that we are justified in God's sight.  The Biblical use of the term "justification" means to declare legally not guilty.  This is why the Bible declares, "He who believes is not condemned..." (John 3:18). Very few seem to realize the awesome privilege it is to stand in the presence of a holy God without guilt, shame, or condemnation.  This is a privilege reserved only for those who have put their faith in Christ and received the gift of His righteousness.

Secondly, the gift of righteousness is given to us by the very nature of Christ birthed in our spirit.  When a baby is conceived a very remarkable thing happens.  The seed of a man penetrates the egg of a woman.  Until that time there was no human life, but with the penetration of the egg by the man's seed, life begins.  And when that egg is pierced, the man's seed does a most amazing thing.  Once inside the egg the seed literally erupts and releases the characteristics and qualities of the father in the egg to be combined in a unique way with the characteristics and qualities of the mother.  Thus when the baby is born we see various attributes of the father in the child, attributes which are the result of that early explosion which transmitted the father's nature in a moment of time. This is a beautiful illustration of what happens when a sinner is born again.  Peter tells us, "Having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23).  The word of God comes to a sinner's heart and once penetration has taken place, releases the very nature of God in that individual!

What about you?

Has this incredible experience happened to you?  If not, let me encourage you to call upon Jesus Christ today.  Receive Him from your heart as your Savior and your Lord.  Don't make the mistake of depending upon church membership or baptism or any other religious act to be your guarantee of God's acceptance.  Take Christ and Him alone as your hope of heaven.  He is the one foundation that can hold you up, carry you through the storms of this life, and bring you safely into the presence of the Father, without shame or condemnation.



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