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The Miracle We Need Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
January 21, 2022 1:00 am

The Miracle We Need Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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January 21, 2022 1:00 am

No amount of effort will take you an inch in heaven’s direction. It takes a work of God to bring you to eternal life. Jesus told Nicodemus, a religious leader, that you must be “born again” to see the kingdom of God. In this message, you’ll look at the first of three characteristics of regeneration. God does a miracle within you so that you are reborn as a member of the heavenly family. 

 Click here to listen (Duration 25:02)

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. It takes a work of God to implant eternal life. All the effort we could ever expend won't take us an inch in Heaven's direction. Jesus told us that what we need is the miracle of the new birth, and that's our topic on today's Running to Win.

From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. We're in a series on how you can be sure that you will spend eternity with God. Pastor Lutzer, is the new birth Jesus told Nicodemus about the same new birth we can experience today?

Dave, the answer is a resounding yes. After all, Jesus did say that unless you are born again, you will not see the kingdom of God. And you and I can see the kingdom of God, and more accurately, you and I will see the kingdom of God because we have been born again.

But there's so much misunderstanding as to what it means to be born again. That's why this message is so critical. To the many who are listening today, would you consider helping us get this ministry into the minds and the hearts of more people? Could you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, you need more info. Here's what you can do.

Go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, I'll be giving you this contact info at the end of the message as well, but what we need to do is to listen carefully to the words of Jesus, you must be born again. Perhaps one of the greatest errors that people ever commit when it comes to their relationship with God is that they think of it in terms of a religion rather than a relationship. As all of us know, religion can become boring and very overbearing, and religion is not the way to God.

It is relationship, a special relationship, God's way. Nobody illustrates that better than Nicodemus, and I want you to take your Bibles and turn to the third chapter of the Gospel of John, which is one of the most well-known stories in all the Bible. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night.

Who was this Nicodemus? Well, he was a high-ranking official of the Jews, the Bible says. He was a ruler of the Jews, a man of the Pharisees. Also on the Sanhedrin, he had a position there, which meant he was on the highest Jewish court. And as a Pharisee, he was a meticulous keeper of the law. We're talking about strictness and exactness.

It would be enough to drive most of us silly. But that's how desirous they were of doing things right. We have a negative view of them because of some things that Jesus said of them, but they were probably the best people that there were in those days. Very probably they'd have made good neighbors as long as you would not have walked on their lawn.

That's the kind of people they were. And he comes to Jesus by night. Why does he come by night?

Very probably because he was afraid to come during the daytime when he would be seen. You know, the Gospel of John plays out this light-darkness motif very beautifully. For example, right here in this context, Jesus says later, verse 19, this is the judgment that light has come into the world and men love darkness rather than light for their deeds were evil. So Jesus talks about people who are in darkness and Nicodemus came in the darkness, which was symbolic really of his own heart. But come he did and we're glad that he came. He began by saying, Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher for no one can do these signs except God be with him.

Give Nicodemus some credit. He was recognizing Christ to have come from God. Jesus really does not respond directly to what he is saying but plunges right into the heart of the matter.

I love that. Just cuts out all the underbrush and gets to the root of it and says, Nicodemus, verse 3, truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. The Greek text actually means born from above.

He cannot see the kingdom of God. What does it mean to be born again? Well, it means that God does a miracle by which he imparts into us the very nature of God. It doesn't mean that we participate with God in his nature in the sense that we become one with God but it does mean that God does a miracle within us so that we actually are reborn as members now of a heavenly family.

You're born into your earthly family and that makes you a member of the human race and you are born again to become a member of the heavenly family to better understand. Remember Adam and Eve in the garden when they disobeyed God? God said, in the day that you eat of this tree, the fruit of the tree, you will surely die. Now, they didn't die, did they? They ate of the fruit of the tree and later on they walked around and the sun was still shining and they were able to talk together and they even left the garden so they didn't die. Oh yes, they died.

In the day that you eat thereof, you shall die. They died spiritually. Their relationship with God was broken. They went into the night of sin.

It would be as if you had a lamp that was burning and then suddenly somebody pulled the plug and the switch was turned off and the light went out. And ever since that time as Jesus said, men love darkness rather than light and people stumble around. It says in the book of Proverbs that the wicked stumble and they do not know what it is that they are stumbling over.

They try this path and this path and this path and they always end with a sense of futility and unreality. Now, Nicodemus was a man who had theology but he didn't have God. He had religion but he didn't have reality.

He was still in the night of existence. Now, what regeneration does and that's another word that is used in the New Testament for the new birth. What the new birth does is it flips the switch back on and we are in contact with God once again.

We are cleansed and we become a member of God's family and again God becomes real. That's why Jesus said you must be born again in order to see the kingdom of heaven. Now, Nicodemus didn't understand. He was a ruler of Israel, should have understood but it's amazing sometimes what even religious people misunderstand. The only thing he can think of is obstetrics and he says in verse 4, how can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he? He's thinking, how can I be born again? And then Jesus responds and says in verse 5, truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

What does Jesus mean? We can understand that unless one is born of the spirit, I think that would be clear to us but oh, Jesus used that word water and there are some people who just love that word water because wherever it is, they like to read into it baptism. Well, I want you to know today that I'm positive that Jesus did not have baptism in mind when he used the word water. First of all, the word water when it is used just by itself without any other references never refers to baptism. The New Testament may talk about water to be baptized but never just using the word water. Secondly, Nicodemus would never have understood this to be baptism because that ordinance had not even yet been instituted really by Christ. How would Nicodemus have understood this?

Well, as a ruler of the Jews and a meticulous scholar pouring over those Old Testament scrolls, he would have thought of Ezekiel chapter 36. It says there, I will sprinkle clean water upon you, I will cleanse you and I will put within you a new heart. There you have the new birth in the Old Testament. The water you see is another way of talking about the Holy Spirit. That's why you could translate this unless one is born of water namely or even the spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God. When God does a miracle in our hearts, it is a miracle of cleansing and it is a miracle of change. So Jesus said to him, unless you are born of water, unless you are cleansed and transformed, you will not enter into the kingdom of God.

Well my friends today, that's my introduction. What we'd like to do now is to look at three characteristics of this wonderful miracle of God that some of you have experienced and some of you still need to experience, and let's look at its characteristics. First of all, I want you to know that it is a miracle, it is a work of the Father. It is the work of the Father.

The Father is begetting children. Now, when you are born physically, you have the ovum and the sperm that unite together and that creates life. In the very same way, the Father when he begets us uses two agents really. First of all, there is the Holy Spirit who is the Father as God is looked at as one in three persons, the Holy Spirit a member of the Godhead, and then he also uses the Word, the truth of God, and that ignites in the human heart and together that produces the miracle of the new birth. You say, well why do you bring the Word of God into it?

In 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 23, this is what the text says, you have been born again not by corruptible seed but of incorruptible seed by the Word of God which lives and abides forever. God speaks. God has spoken through his Word. He takes the Word of God and the Spirit of God and those together produce the miracle of God of the new birth.

But the Bible says that we are begotten of God. God does the work of begetting. It is a work of the Father. In fact, if I would like to explain this just a little bit more, I would want you to emphasize that it is the work of the Father alone. It is a miracle that God does independently of any human agency, independently of any help from us.

It is a miracle done by God, unassisted by human beings. You say, well where do you find that in the Bible? Let me remind you that in the scripture there are three different illustrations actually of what happens when a person is born again.

Let me give them to you. One is the Bible says that the act of being born again causes us to be new creatures. We are a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5 17 says, if any man be in Christ he is a new creation. It says in Ephesians chapter 2, we have been created for good works. God exercises his creative activity when he saved you.

Let me ask you, when God decided to create the world, did he say, you know, this is a big project putting those stars up there. I can't do this alone. I'm going to have to find some human assistance. Somebody's going to have to build some ladders or something.

How can they expect me to do this alone? Oh no. No, we'd have just been in the way. In fact, if we had been there, it's because he would have created us. How did God do it? He did it ex nihilo, out of nothing. He spoke the word and they came into existence. Now you just stop to think about it. Where was your new nature before you were saved?

It wasn't in existence. God created within you a new nature. He implanted that new nature within you and he did it by speaking a word and doing a miracle.

It is the miracle of creation and just as no one helped him create the worlds, no one helped him create the new nature implanted in the life of every believer. Here's another illustration, light. How would you like to say to someone who is in a cave without a flashlight, what's your problem? Just make some light. We can't make light and the Bible says that everything was dark and God said, let there be light and there was light created out of nothing.

There it was. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4. Take this slowly, but let it be absorbed into your soul. He said, the God who said let light shine out of darkness has shone in your hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of Jesus Christ in the face of Christ. The same God who created physical light and took all the darkness from the universe by a single word is the same God who created moral and spiritual light within us, created as a miracle of God without any human assistance.

Well, some of you need another illustration because you're not believing me. Resurrection says in Ephesians 2 that when we were dead, God raised us up. Does God need any human assistance when he does resurrections? Did Jesus come to the tomb of Lazarus and say, now look, Lazarus, I want to raise you from the dead, but don't think that I can do this on my own. You at least, minimally, I expect you to wiggle your toe, minimally.

If you can do more, do it. No, he never even asked him. He said, if Lazarus has to be raised, I can't depend on Lazarus. I can't even enlist the help of the disciples. Lazarus, come forth. Lo and behold, he staggers out of the tomb and he's alive. And there he is, a miracle of God. And when you were born again, when you were recreated and your new nature was given to you by God, it is because God said there needs to be a miracle. Let the miracle happen.

And it happened. It was a miracle, holy and totally, of God. Now there are some things we can do. Yes, we can do some things, but one thing we can't do are these kinds of miracles. And the new birth is a miracle. Now, you say, well, Pastor Lutzer, is it really, though, as great a miracle as putting all the stars up there? I mean, that's power.

Billions of them. Is it as great a miracle as speaking and suddenly you have all of this light going on in the universe or raising the dead? I want you to know today that when God saved you, he did a bigger miracle. Now, you know, the physical miracles, he had to overcome the barriers that existed, but that was no trouble because they were miracles of power. But when he saved us, it was not only a miracle of power, it was a miracle of love and grace because he had to overcome the barrier, the tremendous moral and spiritual barrier that would allow him to save us.

You say, well, what are you talking about? That message that I preached last week, I hope that you get a copy of it if you weren't here because it is on justification by faith. Until God declared us to be as righteous as Jesus Christ, he could not have done this miracle within us. So he had to overcome all of the legal barriers and the entanglements. That's why the new birth is a miracle of love and grace, not just of power, though of power, too. It's the greatest miracle that God ever performed is to save you. Remember Beverly Shay singing in Haringey Arena in 1954?

Billy was in Haringey, I think, 96 nights in a row back then. But Bev Shay sang this song that we should get Keith to sing sometime. It took a miracle to put the stars in place. It took a miracle to hang the world in space. But when he saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole, it took a miracle of love and grace.

That's a greater miracle. Now just remembering the difference between what we can do and God can do, I should remind you that when he finished singing, you remember there was that angry English woman who met him in the lobby and said, Mr. Shay, what do you mean by saying it took America to put the stars in place? Well, I need to tell you there are some wonderful things that America can do. And America has done some of those wonderful things.

But so far, America has not been able to put the stars in place. There are some things that God can do. And the new birth can only be done by God.

Before I leave this point, let me emphasize something else. Did you know that this is the only religion in the world that has something like this? No other religion has this. You remember I told you at the Parliament of World Religions, 100 booths from all over the world of all the different religions. And I went from booth to booth looking for a Savior. And not one of them said, we have a Savior.

Not one. Gurus aplenty. All kinds of prophets that tell you how to live better. But while all the other religions of the world have prophets who try to take good men and make them better, only Christianity has a Savior who takes dead men and makes them alive. Only Christ can flip the switch back on within the human heart.

Would you remember it? That to be born again is a work, a work of God. Secondly, we are born not only the work of God, it is also the will of God, the will of God. Now I'm going to tease you a little bit and stretch your theological horizons. And some of you may feel uncomfortable about what I'm going to say, but I'm going to say it. I always say, you know, that if you disagree with me, that's fine.

You can come up later and apologize for having done that. I need to ask you a question. Did you choose to be born physically? Was that your choice? Did your parents say, well, now, you know, really we can't bring this child in the world unless we ask them first. No, that choice was made for you by your mom and dad.

Did you choose to be born again or could it be that it was the father who chose to beget you? Well, my friend, this is Pastor Luther. You had better listen to Running to Win next time to find out an answer to that question.

And a lot of other questions also will be answered. We're so glad for the many people who stand with us here at Running to Win, helping us get the gospel of Jesus Christ to 20 different countries in three different languages. I'm holding in my hands a letter written to us. I have been an active church member for over 50 years. And even though I work in my church, I have fallen into such a low that I recently told a fellow staff member that I can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. And then this listener goes on to say that they listened to the ministry of Running to Win. And in that message, I assured them that they are still loved even in the darkest hour. Thank you, says this listener.

He is not finished with me yet. I thank God for you and your glory. Well, would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.

Well, I hope that you have a pencil handy. You can write this down. You can go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thank you to the many of you who stand with us. You are a part of the testimonies that we receive. You can go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or as I've mentioned, if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.

You can pick up that phone and you can call right now, 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. A great joy awaits those who, through the new birth, begin their own race on the track of the Christian life. After the finish line of this life lies an eternal future. Next time on Running to Win, why the new birth is a miracle only God can perform. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-20 09:19:06 / 2023-06-20 09:27:35 / 8

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