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."