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954. The New Birth

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
March 25, 2021 7:00 pm

954. The New Birth

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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March 25, 2021 7:00 pm

Dr. Kerry McGonigal continues the series entitled “I Believe,” with a message titled “The New Birth,” from 1 Thessalonians 1:9.

The post 954. The New Birth appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University. Today we're continuing a study series based on the creed that students recite each day in chapel services, which is a summary of the doctrines of our Christian faith. Today's sermon will be preached by Kerry McGonigal, a professor in the School of Religion.

He'll be teaching us about the new birth. At the Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in London for some 38 years, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And Spurgeon was known as the Prince of Preachers. He was quite a communicator of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I came across an interesting narrative about his first convert. Spurgeon actually written down in one of his sermon notebooks the name of his first convert. He had inscribed Mr. Charles.

Thomas Charles. And Spurgeon indicated that Charles was really known as a troublemaker. He was kind of the ringleader of all that was bad, he said. He was the terror of the neighborhood.

He would be drunk for two or three weeks at a spell. He raged like a madman. And yet Mr. Charles was converted. And Spurgeon relates that that man came to hear me preach and I recollect the sensation that went through the little chapel when he entered. So imagine somebody from your community that is known as a conspicuous sinner coming into the assembly and he sat there, listened to Spurgeon preach. And Spurgeon relates that he became outwardly quite a changed character.

He gave up drinking and swearing and was in many respects an exemplary individual. So if there was rough or heavy manual labor to be done at the church, Mr. Charles was there. If there was a Sunday school to be maintained, even if it meant walking six to seven miles, Charles was there.

So you read something like that and you think, wow, what a great story conversion. And yet, after nine months, Spurgeon's first recorded convert returned to his former lifestyle and left the church. And so, as you can imagine, Spurgeon was just broken hearted at this and he wrote, He began to think, speaking of Mr. Charles, he began to think that he had been a little too fanatical, a little too earnest. He slunk up to the place of worship instead of coming boldly in.

He gradually forsook the weak night service and then neglected the Sabbath day. And though often warned and often rebuked, he returned his old habits and any thought of God or godliness that he had ever known seemed to die away. Spurgeon says this, Before I left the district, I was afraid that there was no real work of grace in him.

And perhaps you could multiply scenarios, examples of this very kind of thing. Is it possible that someone sitting here today in this amphatorium has said the sinner's prayer, has been baptized, claims to be a Christian, goes to church, lives a nice clean moral life, and yet is thoroughly unconverted, unregenerate. You've never been born again. Well, the answer to some of those questions has to do with our topic for this morning, the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Now, how many of you have missed this on a Creed quiz because of the wording?

All right, this tends to trip up a lot of students. The new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Let me just go ahead and I'm going to give you the big idea.

And let me just forewarn you, it is a big idea. OK, so, but I'm going to leave it up there so you'll have time to chew on this. You'll have time to meditate on this statement. It's basically a definition or description of regeneration, the new birth. So as I talk through certain passages and highlight certain themes, you can kind of connect the dots with this statement.

Here it is. Regeneration, or the new birth, is the merciful work of God. It's the gracious work of God. And it's based on the past historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, coming back to life. And based on that resurrection of Christ from the dead, God grants to certain kinds of people this new creation, this creation of Christ. He grants it to a spiritually incapable, as we're going to see, a spiritually insensitive sinner, who by the work of the Holy Spirit turns in repentance and in faith, trusting in Christ, resulting in a radically new orientation of life. And we can summarize that as love for Christ. So something happens fundamentally at the core that causes a person who was once spiritually insensitive to really have great, deep, abiding affection for Jesus Christ. And this new birth then commences a process of growth, likeness to Christ, that will ultimately culminate in their final salvation, which is when we're with Christ, the presence of Christ, the appearing of Christ. Okay, so, my task is as a minister of the new covenant, as a preacher of the gospel, not just to preach about the new birth as a doctrine, but to preach Christ to you this morning. So that's why I have those little insertions in there, because all of this has to do with Jesus.

He's the one that is responsible for this new creation. It's love for Christ, and trust in Christ, and likeness to Christ that we're ultimately concerned about. And we can't really discuss regeneration, the new birth, without also discussing conversion. So would you turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Thessalonians chapter 1.

1 Thessalonians chapter 1. Conversion, I would say, is the human side, predominantly, though I'm going to argue that there's also a divine component there, is the human side of regeneration in the sense that it is the turning to God that includes both faith and repentance. And regeneration, the new birth, is the divine side.

It's what God does. It's the act of transformation. So conversion is the human act of turning, and regeneration is the divine act of transformation, of renewal. If you look with me at 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 verse 9, Paul says of these Thessalonian believers, they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you. So when Paul came to this group of people and preached the Gospel, this is the manner of entering. These Thessalonians turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus which delivered us from the wrath to come.

So, notice a couple things in that text. Ye turned. That's conversion.

Ye turned. Now notice, they turned to God, that's the faith component, from idols. That's the repentance component. So in general, conversion has to do with our orientation, has to do with our fundamental disposition, turning to God from idols.

So, a couple of observations about this. Number one, conversion includes both, both the from, repentance, and the to, conversion, or excuse me, faith. So what is repentance? Well, one standard Greek lexicon defines the most common term used in the New Testament for repentance this way. To change one's way of life as a result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness. So it's a change of life that stems from a change of thought, specifically regarding sin and righteousness. You know, let's say you've asked, let's say some of you guys have asked a girl out for artisseries and she said no, and here you are making your way out of the alumni building and you want to go to the dining common and you see her coming up across the bridge and all of a sudden you just change, right?

You change your orientation, you immediately turn around, you change your direction, and you go the other way. Okay, that's repentance. That's repentance.

So we'll know if we see some poor guy turning around on the bridge this afternoon, what happened. What is faith? Well, if you look up the way the Bible uses the words faith or believe you would find, as one theologian put it, that faith is both believing that and believing in. The believing that is believing that something is true. What God has revealed about the Gospel, the facts of the Gospel, the propositions of the Bible, believing that those are true, but also it is a believing in Jesus Christ. It is a commitment to someone.

If that's true, then how should we understand conversion? Knowing what is true and believing that it's true doesn't necessarily mean that you have biblical faith. Just to assent to the facts is one component, but there's also this trusting in Jesus.

There's this commitment to him that is part of this relationship. And what is the relationship between these two, repentance and faith? I think you could argue that logically repentance would precede faith because you start somewhere and then you move from that to something else. So logically repentance precedes faith, but in reality the two are inseparably linked. Like if I wanted to turn to Dr. Pettit here, if I wanted to turn to him, that necessarily means I have to turn away from you in order to do that.

I can't turn to him and also be oriented in your direction as well. The two are inseparably linked. So when somebody turns to Christ, they necessarily are turning from the other alternatives. They're turning away from sin and they're turning toward righteousness. Those who emphasize faith to the exclusion of repentance end up encouraging what has been called an easy believe-ism or cheap grace that you don't really need to turn from your idols.

You can turn to Jesus and you can take Jesus and you can get all that Jesus gives. You can take eternal life, but you don't have to turn from your idols. And I don't know anybody that actually says that out loud, but that's essentially what we do when we're reducing conversion to take these simple steps, fill out the paperwork, and there you go, you have eternal life. So we end up reducing conversion to saying a sinner's prayer.

Just repeat after me, say these words, say the formula, and boom, eternal life. I remember traveling on a ministry team for Bob Jones as an undergraduate student and we were in a Christian school where we ministered and after I had preached, the Christian school principal got up and he led all of the students in that assembly in the sinner's prayer. So he had every individual young person in that elementary school say out loud the sinner's prayer. And then he essentially encouraged them that if they had said that prayer, they had the assurance that they were going to go to heaven when they died.

And I remember my heart just sank when I saw him do that. I'm not imputing the man's motives, I'm not saying there weren't kids there who may have understood and cried out to Jesus in that moment and were saved, but I want you to think about what that kind of approach says about conversion. Is that really consistent with the Bible, turning from idols to God? It's not surprising that people would turn to Jesus if there's something in it for them. That's behind a lot of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel.

Look at what you get when you come to Jesus, but it's separated and divorced from the idea of repentance. I mean, when I was in elementary school, I experienced the conversion. I converted from being a Raiders fan to being a Steelers fan. But I want you to know that I was really a Raiders fan, but I converted for political expediency because I grew up in the Pittsburgh area, everybody was a Steelers fan, everybody at my school was a Steelers fan, so I felt this immense pressure to be a Steelers fan. So I became a closet Steelers fan.

Didn't tell my parents about this, it just took place at school. Because there was obviously a lot of pressure to conform in that situation, it made sense for me to be a Steelers fan at school and a Raiders fan at home. That's political expediency, that's not conversion. We need to call people to repentance and faith, right, not just the quick, high pressure, emotional kinds of decisions. I mean, God has used, historically God has used crisis decisions and high pressure approaches over the years to bring about true conversion, and that may be your story.

But these kinds of approaches have also produced numbers and scores of false converts. People who, in the words of one author, are excited about heaven, but bored by Christians in the local church. They think heaven will be great whether God is there or not. Like Jesus, they liked Jesus, but they didn't sign up for the rest, obedience, holiness, discipleship, and suffering. They can't tell the difference between obedience motivated by love and legalism.

They're bothered by other people's sins more than their own, and hold grace cheap and their own comfort costly. We just have to be careful that our methods of evangelism don't encourage those kinds of false conversions. So number one, conversion includes both the from and the to. Number two, conversion is not a turning from hell to heaven. Conversion is not a turning from hell to heaven. Many well-intentioned Christians have distorted the Gospel in presenting it in those terms. It's a turning from idols to serve the living and true God.

It's a reorientation upward. It is a heaven focus based on 1 Thessalonians 1, but notice they turn upward to wait not just for heaven, but to wait for his Son from heaven. So what do we make of professing Christians who read their Bible, they go to church, they do the right things, and yet they have no apparent relationship with Jesus Christ, no apparent affection or love for Christ. American theologian Jonathan Edwards described a true Christian as someone who had been given a taste for God, that experienced the sense of sweetness of knowing God. Going back to Spurgeon in relationship to his own conversion. As you may know he was in a snowstorm and he ducked into a primitive Methodist chapel and there was a substitute lay preacher preaching that day and he read his text Isaiah 45-22, Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth for I am God and there is none else. And Spurgeon relates how he just kept kind of saying that basically reiterating that at one point in the message he looked at Spurgeon and he said, That young man looks very miserable.

And he shouted as a primitive Methodist could do, Look, look young man, look now to Jesus. And Spurgeon writes, Then I had this vision, not a vision to my eyes but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was and now I can never tell you how it was but I no sooner saw whom I was to believe than I also understood what it was to believe.

I did believe in one moment. That's the object. That's the right object of faith. Turning from idols to God, to Christ. The object of our faith is not our prayer. The object is not the date of that prayer. The object is not the recollection, the clarity of our recollection of the details of that prayer. The object of our faith is not our mother's reassurances and reminders. It's not the sincerity of our prayer.

It's not our going down an aisle and filling out a decision card. The object of our trust must be in Christ and Christ alone. So question, have you turned, have you turned to Christ? And in turning to Christ have you abandoned all other alternatives, all other forms of righteousness and your sin which keeps you from Christ. My own testimony is that for numbers of years I was making decisions on a regular basis to be saved and I would record those decisions in the flyleaf of my Bible. And so every time I got saved I would put the date in that blank page at the beginning of my Bible. And it got to the point where I was scratching those dates out, putting the new dates in that I started writing them in pencil because I assumed that I'd have to come back and erase it and put the new date in. At that point the object really of my assurance and trust was a particular date written in my Bible. It wasn't on Christ and it wasn't until I came here as a freshman and one of my professors pointed out that belief in the New Testament is a present tense verb and it's something that is focused on the object Christ and it finally made sense to me.

I'm not looking back, I'm looking down, I'm looking up, I'm looking at Christ who saves. What would you think of a guy who says he has a girlfriend because he's got a picture of her hidden under his pillow. So you're like, do you guys get to hang out very much? It's like, no, we don't really spend any time together. We really don't even get along that well together. But your boyfriend, girlfriend, yeah, I've got this picture. See the picture. Here's the proof of the relationship.

After a while you begin to question whether that was a true relationship. If there's any looking back in Scripture, it's looking back and basing our trust in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Number three, conversion is evidence of God's election and Gospel power in the work of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1 verse 4. And I'm not going to take the time to go into that, but look at that passage and Paul will give evidences of the Thessalonians conversion, specific evidences, fruit, manifestation, evidence that there is true life. That's conversion, that's the human side of turning in repentance and faith.

Then there's regeneration. That particular word occurs two times in the New Testament. But there are lots of concepts that are similar, like John 3, born again, born of the Spirit. John 1, born of God, 2 Corinthians 5, new creation. Titus 3, 5, renewing of the Holy Spirit.

Let me just give you a couple of observations quickly about regeneration. The new birth assumes that a change is necessary. The fact that we need to be born again assumes that a change is necessary.

Why is that? Because the Bible describes us in very unflattering terms. The Bible describes us as being blind, as being deaf, as being dead. There's something wrong with us at the core and that's why it requires transformation at the core, fundamental reorientation at the heart level. From being an idolater to being a lover of Jesus Christ. We need to be born again, that's exactly what Jesus says in John 3. Number two, regeneration is a reversal of what we are by nature.

So it is a fundamental reorientation. And we go from being dead in our trespasses and sins to having new sensitivities, new spiritual inclinations, new spiritual affections, a love for Jesus Christ that wasn't there before. I remember as a teenager, my idol was baseball and I lived for baseball, loved baseball, pursued baseball and when I became a Christian, when I was finally converted as a high school student, there was something that changed.

There was a fundamental change in my disposition, in my orientation so that those things that I loved so much that were governing my life no longer held that power and sway, something was broken, something snapped. Conversion and regeneration don't make nice people or good people, they make new people. I remember my freshman roommate when I was a sophomore in school came from a really good home, he was actually a ministry student, he loved to study the Bible, he had all these theology books on his shelf and I'm talking to him in the first couple of days and I realized this guy is not converted, this guy doesn't even know Christ and I talked to him about the Gospel and I shared with him the good news and he trusted Christ and was truly converted and now it was no longer a matter of theology and doctrine and morality now it was a relationship with Jesus Christ. Regeneration number three requires supernatural divine transformation. This isn't just self-help, this isn't just personal reformation, this isn't just educating ourselves, this is divine transformation and renewal at the core.

And then number four, regeneration is the beginning of a process of growth. It's the implanting of God's life in us that then begins this process of growth and development and so one of the ways that you know that you really have experienced this conversion and this new birth is that there's life in you. So I wouldn't get up here today and say, well, you know, if somebody said to me how do you know you exist? Like, how do you know you're really in existence? I wouldn't, you know, look for a copy of my birth certificate and hold that up and say, well, I know I exist because I have this document, I have this certification, I have this piece of paper that says that I was born.

None of us would do that. We would look to the fact that we're here and we're living and we're breathing, there are evidences of life. And so one of the things that I want to do is just give you, I know you can't really, I know you can't see the details of this, but I kind of wanted to extend the sermon a little bit and give you a Bible project.

So if you're interested in writing down, maybe take a snapshot of that short link there. This would be a Bible project from 1 Peter 1, running through chapter 2 verse 4, which is really the text that I wanted to preach on this morning, I just knew I wasn't going to be able to get into it. But I would like for you to consider taking that passage, chapter 1 talks about the new birth two times, and it also gives evidences of the new birth. How do you know you're alive in Jesus Christ? Because there are manifestations of life, like loving Christ, like joy, like a desire for the Word, for the Scriptures. And one of the things that we need to do, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13.5, is to examine ourselves to see whether we be in a faith.

Test yourself, prove yourself, and do that by looking at Scripture and what God actually says. Regeneration is the merciful work of God based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To grant new life to spiritually incapable, spiritually insensitive sinners, who by the work of the Holy Spirit turn in repentance and faith, results in this fundamental reorientation of life. And it's not toward religion, and it's not toward do-goodism, and it's not toward being nice, it's toward Christ. It's a loving, committed relationship with Jesus Christ. And that new birth begins as process of growth. And of course, when something grows, it can be in its seed form, it doesn't mean that every person is going to have the full flower, but there's got to be some evidence that there is the life of God in us. So we've got to test ourselves and assess ourselves on that basis.

You might need to have a conversation with somebody that knows you well. You might just need to talk to God and spend some time in prayer. And then this salvation will ultimately culminate in our being with Christ when He appears. That's going to be a beautiful day, and that's the thing we really want.

Not just heaven, but Jesus. Let's pray. Father, we do ask that you would grant to us a greater understanding of this work that you have done in our hearts. And I pray for those in the student body that you would open up the eyes of any who are self-deceived, open up the eyes of any who might be sensing that there's nothing going on in their hearts with you. That there's a spiritual insensitivity, there's a callousness to spiritual things that at the very least ought to concern them, at the very least ought to drive them to some conversations with others and with you. And I pray that that kind of thing would be happening on this campus today, and that you would be merciful as you are and gracious to implant your life into those who turn to you in faith and in repentance. We pray in Christ's name. Amen. You've been listening to a sermon preached by Kerry McGonigal, a professor in the Bob Jones University School of Religion. Join us again tomorrow as we continue this series summarizing the doctrines of our Christian faith here on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-11 09:21:02 / 2023-12-11 09:31:03 / 10

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